Spring Programme 2019

January 30th

Dr William Large (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Atheism of the Word.

Kant marks a fundamental break in the history of philosophy of religion and the concept of God. God is no longer interpreted as a being necessary to understand the existence of a rational universe, but as an idea that makes sense of our morality. Cohen supplements this idea with the concept of personality, which he argues is the unique contribution of Judaism. For Rosenzweig and Levinas, the monotheistic God is neither a being nor an idea, but the living reality of speech. What would the atheism be that responds to this theism? Linguistics makes a distinction between direct, indirect, and free indirect speech. In the latter form, the origin of speech is not a subject, but narrated language. It is this difference between direct and indirect speech that is missing in Rosenzweig and Levinas’s description of God. It would mean that God is produced by language rather than the subject of language. What menaces the reality of God is not whether God exists, or is intelligible, but the externality of language without a subject.

William Large teaches philosophy at the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham. He is the author four books, Maurice Blanchot [co-authored] (Routledge, 2001) Ethics and the Ambiguity of Writing: Emmanuel Levinas and Maurice Blanchot, ( Clinamen, 2005), Heidegger’s Being and Time (Edinburgh University Press, 2007), and Levinas ’Totality and Infinity: A Reader’s Guide (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015]. His articles have appeared in The Journal of the British Society of Phenomenology, Theology & Sexuality, Textual Practice, Literature and Philosophy, The Journal of Nietzsche Studies, Angelaki, Journal of Cultural Research, The Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory and Religions . He was also special editor of the Parallax issue on Maurice Blanchot. He was elected by the trustees as a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2009 for his contribution to philosophy in the UK and in particular the RAE. From 2010-2104, he was also elected President of the British Society of Phenomenology

February 13th

Professor Paul Innes (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Misogyny Sells: Shakespeare’s Problem Plays.

Less well-known plays by Shakespeare, such as Much Ado About Nothing, Troilus and Cressida, Measure For Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well have become known as ‘problem plays’. The reason for this seems to be their mixed nature: events that take place are often deeply unpleasant in tone, while formally there is no standard tragic ending. This means that they do not fit easily into categories such as comedy or tragedy; instead, they contain elements of both, and they are not the only Shakespeare plays that mix genres. This talk will discuss the ways that women are treated in this kind of drama, pointing towards the ethical dimension of the gendered social worlds created on stage.

Paul Innes is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Gloucestershire.  He is author of five books, including Shakespeare and the English Renaissance Sonnet (1997) and Shakespeare’s Roman Plays (2015), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.

February 27th

David Garnett (Gloucestershire Philosophical Society) will talk on Understanding Anxiety.

The quality of our mental health and the effect of anxiety upon our daily lives can be just something that we take for granted. However, when anxiety starts to control our lives and biases our actions, lives can start to disintegrate and we can become unrecognisable to our friends and family. To support individuals who are suffering with anxiety, I have been liaising with the Independence Trust to create a course with the aim of helping and assisting individuals with anxiety problems. The course is designed to provide help on an individual basis by creating a personalised template to assist with existing and futuristic anxieties. I intend to argue the ideology and research behind the construction of the course, while examining how we construct our knowledge and understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit. The main aim of the course is to provide an insight into the practicality of combating the unhelpful effects of anxiety.

David Garnett has been an attendee of the Gloucestershire Philosophical Society over the last seven years. During this time he has completed a degree in psychology at the University of Gloucestershire. He is now working with the Independence Trust to develop and run courses to help and support individuals with mental health issues

March 13th

Dr Mark Sinclair (University of Roehampton) will talk on Being Inclined.

We commonly talk of being inclined to do something (‘I’m inclined to think …’), or, using the nominal rather than adjectival form, of having an inclination to do that thing (‘my first inclination was to …’). We speak of natural tendencies or inclinations (the OED treats ‘inclination’ and ‘tendency’ as synonyms) as well as of acquired tendencies or inclinations as habits. But such talk is as opaque as it is familiar. What is an inclination exactly? What is it to be inclined? It is difficult to understand inclinations as providing reasons for an action, for when I act by inclination my action is not a function of reflective thought. That said, it is, arguably, not much more feasible to interpret inclinations as causing my action in a mechanical sense, for when I act by inclination it is still I who act. Is there, then, a sense in which inclinations, as the late Paul Hoffman asked in his 2011 ‘Reasons, Causes, Inclinations’, are irreducible to both intellectual ‘reasons’ and physical, mechanical ‘causes’ in action? In this talk, on the basis of the work of Felix Ravaisson, the most influential philosopher in late nineteenth-century France, I argue that there is. In his 1838 Of Habit, Ravaisson claims that in habit there is a form of tendency and inclination that is continuous with but irreducible to voluntary deliberation, and in this talk, I assess his thesis in the light of the contemporary metaphysics of powers, wherein ideas of tendency and inclination have recently come to prominence.

Mark Sinclair is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton and Associate Editor at the British Journal for the History of Philosophy. He is the author of Being Inclined: Felix Ravaisson’s Philosophy of Habit (OUP, 2018), Bergson (Routledge, 2018) and co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Modern French Philosophy

March 27th

Professor Viv Burr (University of Huddersfield) will talk on Being Critical, Being Constructivist, and why it Matters

We live in an era characterised by the search for detailed truths about people. The 20th and (so far) 21st centuries have witnessed the emergence of numerous claims from psychologists and other scientists about the nature and origins of diverse phenomena such as intelligence, mental illness, dyslexia, sexual orientation, gender identity, addictions and personality characteristics.  Drawing on examples from my own current research, I will illustrate why we should adopt a ‘radical scepticism’ toward all truth claims, and search not for truths but for ‘alternative constructions’. I will argue that the moral relativism that appears to derive from a constructivist stance, far from being a weakness, as argued by some critics, is actually a necessary safeguard against the dangers of ‘certainty’

Viv Burr is Professor of Critical Psychology at the University of Huddersfield. She is known internationally for her book Social Constructionism, has also published widely in the fields of Personal Construct Psychology and Gender and is Co-Editor of Personal Construct Theory and Practice. Her research interests focus on the application of innovative qualitative methods to real-world issues. Her recent work includes an exploration of the experiences of and challenges faced by working elder carers, cross-cultural perceptions and inter-generational perceptions, and the psychological meaning of the natural world.

April 10th

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

Event has been cancelled

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.

All sessions will be held at the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, at 7 p.m in room HC202a&b.  £3

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