Wednesday 12th October
Born into Conspiracy: Social Media and an Inadequate Understanding of Reality
Dr William Large & Dr Martin Randall (University of Gloucestershire)
There are conspiracies and conspiracy theories. Conspiracies are real, concocted by the shadow modern state machineries of disinformation and espionage. Conspiracies haunt the political spectacle in which we live. Conspiracy theories are fantasies of paranoia and longing. In the Digital Age, conspiracy theories have been intensified and accelerated by the economic model of the internet: surveillance capitalism. How do we resist the seductive allure of the conspiracy theory? With irony? With a better understanding of the nature of how we are born into conspiracy? Or, finally, with ethics and decency?
Both William and Martin teach at the University of Gloucestershire in the School of Education and Humanities.
Wednesday 26th October
Learning to live: Philosophy and Architecture
Rex Richards (University of Gloucestershire)
Today I want to talk to you about the connection between architecture and philosophy, the reason for this is twofold; first I am doing so because it is the chosen topic for my dissertation, and secondly it is because over recent months I have come to the conclusion that there needs to be more open discussion on the subject. Having seen the title to this presentation, it should become clear to those who have read the work of Pierre Hadot which direction I mean to take this discussion philosophically. For those who have not read his work, I am using Hadot’s text on spiritual exercises to help clarify what I mean when speaking about this connection between architecture and philosophy.
With Hadot’s work used as a focusing lens, I will be making a comparison between a positive and negative example of architecture. For the negative example, I will be speaking about prisons and more specifically what Foucault has to say about them, in order to better illustrate how damaging architecture can be. As for the positive example, I will be speaking about the Danish architecture firm the Bjarke Ingels Group so that a clear demonstration of the positive effects of architecture can be articulated.
Wednesday 9th November
Knowing the Future
Andrew Curry (The School of International Futures)
The futurist Andrew Curry will discuss the ideas underpinning futures work, and the claims that futurists make when they talk about the future—from forecasting, to images of the future, to notions of anticipation.
Andrew Curry has been a practising futurist since the turn of the century, working for The Henley Centre, The Futures Company and currently The School of International Futures. He has worked extensively with clients across the public, private and non-profit sectors, while also engaging actively with future theory and practice.
He is on the Advisory Boards of the Institute of Social Futures at Lancaster University and of the World Futures Review.
Wednesday 23rd November
Who dictates the language of violence: ‘terror’ versus ‘security’
Poet and writer Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan will explore the importance of the language employed to talk about violence. Why acts of violence perpetrated by racialised individuals categorised as ‘terror’, whilst state-sanctioned systems of brutalisation are named ‘securitisation’? How does the categorisation of violence hide, displace or reveal its causes? Why is it important to think about violence as relational? And what happens when we change the language that we use to describe it?
Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is the author of the poetry collection, Postcolonial Banter (2019), which features eight years of poetry including her viral poem This Is Not a Humanising Poem, which placed her as runner-up of the 2017 National Roundhouse poetry slam. Her latest book, Tangled in Terror: Uprooting Islamophobia, was published in 2022 with Pluto Press to wide acclaim – described as ‘courageous’ by rapper, Lowkey, ‘one of the most exciting voices of her generation’ by channel 4 journalist Fatima Manji, and ‘fierce’ by feminist activist Lola Olufemi. Suhaiymah’s poetry and prose has appeared across radio and TV, she has written for The Guardian, Independent, Al-Jazeera and gal-dem and has essays in multiple anthologies. Currently she is Writer in Residence at the Leeds Playhouse and under commission to write plays for Kiln Theatre and Freedom Studios. Suhaiymah is the co-founder of the Nejma Collective, a collective of volunteers working in solidarity with Muslims in prison.
Wednesday 7 December
Why are Common Notions anything but Common? An Introduction to the Physics of Thought.
In this talk, I will attempt to communicate my confusion and delight in Spinoza’s concept of Common Notions. First of all, a few words need be said – If you read Spinoza’s ‘Ethics’ somewhat hastily you can almost miss them entirely. They are the second type of knowledge introduced in Book 2, prop. 40, scholium 2, and discussed briefly in subsequent propositions without seeming central to the work.
Now for me personally it was the great French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who points out in his otherwise problematic book ‘Expressionism’, the unsatisfactory nature of such a rendition.
Common notions are after all, the one form of knowledge that significantly changes during the course of Spinoza’s life in its meaning and power. In this discussion I will look at the ‘monster’ (a Deleuzian term) which they become by the end of Spinoza’s thought, and exactly how he replaces reason, formal reason, with common notions – which open up the body and therefore the mind, to the world beyond, in ever-changing and evolving patterns, rooting reason in physics and physiology. My reading is unashamedly idiosyncratic and it will attempt to understand the monster which Spinoza is breeding by breeding new ‘monster crosses’ of my own.
A close reading of ‘Ethics’, it seems to me, reveals that Spinoza introduces and develops the theme of ‘common notions’ four times. These four, form an effective schemata which criss-crosses ‘Ethics’. However, in order to understand this monstrous schemata, I will look to four characters from a very different time, author and book. This author and this book being Charles Dickens ‘Bleak House’. A book remarkable in so ways. One of which is absolutely in it’s sustained attempt to understand the power of reason to grasp at a world of madness and greed, and change it for the better. So that the theme of Dickens is the theme of Spinoza – How reason can still leave one to scream – ‘I see and approve the best but must do the worst’ – a theme so very relevant today.
By breeding a ‘monster’ suspended between ‘Ethics’ and ‘Bleak House’, I will develop the fourfold schemata of Spinoza’s ‘common notions’; of habit, of reason, of the surprise and of the unknown. All these common notions have their own timbre and rhythm, but all, at different levels and in different ways, ask that most pertinent of modern questions: How can I set myself free? As an individual within society, but also set society free, from the tyranny of ‘great men and their reasoning’?
This might all sound a little abstract, but as I will try to show, for me, understanding Common Notions is very much the stuff of life and livelihood, and this for the most practical of reasons. In a parallel world, I am a maths teacher and I daily use my understanding of Spinoza’s common notions to navigate pupils through the rigours, trials and tribulations of higher maths, and do it in two countries. Common notions don’t just set one personally free, they necessitate sharing that freedom, and the understanding that is integral to it, wherever that is found.
Matthew Hammond was educated at Cambridge, and Keele Universities, and then taught Maths, self-employed, working in the afternoons and evenings, so that he could study Philosophy every morning. He has tutored political philosophy at Exeter University and at the LSE Summer School in Philosophy.
He is a professional artist and independent thinker, mixing the two whenever possible, especially in his ‘performance philosophy’ shows, where when he lived in the UK, he brought alive both the history of philosophy, and ideas that people might find useful to think with – billed up as ‘Matthew Hammond jumps about the stage, making theatre out of all those books you meant to read but never got around to…’ As a professional storyteller he has performed at countless events, in the UK and France, including returning from where he now lives in the south of France, to appear regularly at the Glastonbury Festival.
He has presented many papers including one on Jane Austen at the Centre for Research in Philosophy & Literature at the University of Warwick’s conference on ‘Coleridge, Friendship, & the Origins of Modernity’, on Philosophy as Comedy at the ‘Philosophy As…’ Conference at the Senate House, in London, a paper on Foucault’s middle period, at the Brave New World Conference in Politics at the University of Manchester, on Hume at The Strange Encounter of Kant & Deleuze Conference at the University of Greenwich and on Philosophy as Performance at the University of Leeds.
His paper on Deleuze, Leibniz and Spinoza, delivered at the Deleuze & The Fold Workshop at the Centre for Research in Philosophy & Literature, University of Warwick, features in “Unfolding the Deleuzian Fold; Gilles Deleuze’s Fold: A Critical Reader’ edited by Darren Ambrose and Siobhan McKeown, (published by Palgrave Macmillan).
You can see some recording of his performances on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6849E6A1C17FA1FA.
All the talks (apart from talks that will take place on Zoom) will be at FCH campus, University of Gloucestershire, Rm. HC202
All talks will begin at 7 pm and will usually last for 1 hr.