Autumn Programme 2018

Wednesday 26th September

Chloe Mullet (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on a question of refinement: towards exposing the means and methods of musical creativity

As a musician and music educator for the past twenty years, I became fascinated with how music I created could be, in one moment, ‘fantastic’ – and ‘absolutely awful’, just a short time later. The PhD I am engaged in takes elements of questions implied by this familiar problem, to explore musical processes, by applying Gibson’s theory of affordances (1977) to a series of reflexive case studies. The research reflects the range of my musical interests, and encompasses solo projects, including collaboration/arrangement for John McGrath with the Immix ensemble, multimedia music and dance with Sarah Black and Gemma Breed, structured improvisation as part of a.P.A.t.T., and arrangement for Liverpool’s New Romantic pop-rock group, China Crisis.

This paper takes a closer look at contrasting examples of my practice, in which possibilities are proliferated, accepted and rejected, to propose/expose the interrelatedness of different forms of agency, that ultimately impact the experienced meaning of the music made.  The findings are framed by a series of broad themes that unify the research, namely ‘person’, ‘project’, ‘people’, ‘place’, ‘tools’, and ‘process’, which enable the application of Gibson’s theory of affordance in a range of time-scales and contexts, for the purposes of comparison.

Part of the ambition of this research is that it benefit others, including creative practitioners, so the feedback of the Society will be of great interest.

Chloë Mullett is a Senior Lecturer in Popular Music at The University of Gloucestershire; her PhD research has been generously supported by Manchester Metropolitan University.

Wednesday 10th October

James Woodard (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Rebooting the Human Race: Philosophy of Religion and Extra-Terrestrial Human Society

At 2018, the time of writing, there is every reason to know with certainty that the colonisation by humans of a planetary body is both a technological feasibility and a human objective. Although for lack of resources and engineering time this project is out of our present reach by some decades, theoretical and practical advances in rocketry and very many other sciences are in place for what can viewed as the next ‘great leap forward’ for Homo Sapiens. The object of the evening’s discussion is to examine the religious, philosophical and ethical implications and impositions upon the people of a future extra-terrestrial colonised earthling society. These people will be obliged to function under the new set of societal demands of hostile environment, small gene pool, lack of resources and the profound ecological considerations of an artificial biosphere. This human progression may be viewed as a fresh start or a ‘re-boot’.

James Woodard was previously theatre Master Carpenter, Lighting Designer, Production Manager and a tutor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. His interest in philosophy was sparked by Russell, R.D. Laing and Eratosthenes. James is presently an undergraduate Religion, Philosophy and Ethics at the University of Gloucestershire.

Wednesday 24th October

Dr Charlotte Alderwick (University of the West of England) will talk on Why Value Nature?

Unfortunately this talk as had to be cancelled due to the illness of the speaker.

It’s clear that as humans we have a variety of impacts on the world around us – some positive, some negative – and that we have the ability to radically change and even destroy some parts of our environment.  And we generally think that some of the things that we do, or could do, to the natural world are bad; for example if a species is made extinct because of our activities.  But why is this?  Is it bad for us to treat nature in certain ways because it means that the world is a worse place for humans?  Or is there something about nature that means it is valuable in its own right?  In this talk I discuss two different philosophical views of the value of nature, and explore the implications of these views for the ways that we should live and interact with the world around us.

Charlotte Alderwick is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of the West of England, Bristol.  Her research applies work in the history of philosophy to contemporary debates, and she is especially interested in human freedom and agency, the concept of nature, and our relationship to the natural world.

Wednesday 7th November

Dr Stephen Law (Royal Institute of Philosophy) will talk on Four Wittgensteinian Defences of Religious Belief and Why They All Fail

Religious belief is criticised from various directions. Many – like Richard Dawkins – believe that much of what the religious believe can be shown to be unjustified or false. In response, some religious believers go ‘Wittgensteinian’ – insisting that the critics have an unsophisticated grasp of and have misunderstood what religious people mean when they say ‘God exists’, ‘Jesus rose from the dead’, and so on. The critics’ criticisms consequently miss their target. I tease out various versions of this style of immunising strategy, looking at examples from Karen Armstrong, John Cottingham, Denys Turner, Giles Fraser, and others. I conclude that none of the versions examined succeed. All fail either because they are implausible as accounts of what the religious believe, and/or because they fail to deliver the required immunity.

Stephen Law is an English philosopher and was reader in philosophy at worked at Heythrop College, University of London until its closure in June 2018. He also edits the philosophical journal Think, which is sponsored by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and published by the Cambridge University Press. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts and Commerce, and in 2008 became the provost of the Centre for Inquiry UK.

Wednesday 21st November

Professor Constantine Sandis (University of Hertfordshire) will talk on Understanding Oneself and Others

How can we come to better understand someone? I argue against the popular conception of understanding as a matter of accessing information that is in some sense stored within the mind of the person or other creature in question. In so doing, I reject both empathetic and rationalistic models of how such knowledge is obtained and subsequently applied to explain behaviour. Instead of beginning with such a general theory of ‘mind-reading’, I consider a range of cases pertaining to other species, distant and/or past cultures, one’s own loved ones and, indeed, oneself. I conclude that these collectively demonstrate that while one cannot specify necessary and sufficient conditions for understanding across all such scenarios, the degree to which we gain understanding is positively correlated with that to which we share practices and related behaviour.

Constantine Sandis is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire, Secretary of the British Wittgenstein Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is the author of The Things We Do and Why We Do Them (2012) and Character and Causation: Hume’s Philosophy of Action (2018), and editor or co-editor of numerous books including Hegel on Action (2010), Human Nature (2012), and Cultural Heritage Ethics (2015). He is currently writing a book on the topic of this talk for Yale University Press.

Wednesday 5th December

Professor Nathan Widder (Royal Holloway, University of London) will talk on The Time-Politics Assemblage

Recent political philosophy, and particularly those strands that have been influenced and inspired by French post-structuralist thought, has increasingly explored ontological questions about time and temporality as a way to understand complex processes of political and social change.  This has built upon a previous focus by scholars on questions of difference in relation to identity that often brought with it a deconstruction and seemingly a complete dissolution of the human subject, but through this turn to time many have found a way to build new positive conceptions of what the human self or subject can be.  My paper will explore these issues of time and difference in relation to a politics and a micropolitics of the self.  It will look particularly at the temporality and the sense of an event, and how the self relates to the clash of forceful differences that an event entails.

Nathan Widder is a Professor of Political Theory at Royal Holloway, University of London.  He is author of three books, Genealogies of Difference (2002), Reflections on Time and Politics (2008), and Political Theory after Deleuze (2012), as well as numerous articles exploring thinkers and issues in ancient, medieval, and contemporary philosophy.  He is currently working on an extensive study of the role played by the concept of sense in the work of 20th Century French philosopher Gilles Deleuze.

All sessions will be held at the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, at 7 p.m in room HC203.  £2 students/unwaged £3 waged.

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