Autumn Programme 2019

2nd October

Professor Ken Gemes (Birkbeck, University of London) will talk on Nietzsche, Trump and Brexit.

  • Man is the animal that seeks meaning, possibly even more than happiness.
  • Narratives, stories, are the primary vehicles of meaning.
  • Religious narratives no longer grip many of us, and liberal democrat narratives no longer serve to ground meaning, merely offering the prospect of better economic conditions.
  • Furthermore, liberal democratic societies are now seen as failing even in their promise to deliver material benefits (economic well being/consumer happiness).

The failure to provide meaning conferring narratives coupled with economic malaise paves the way, as it did in the 30s, for radical populist, nationalist narratives that promise both meaning and material benefits

Ken Gemes was a professor at Yale University for 11 years before moving to Birkbeck College, University of London in 2000, where he continues to teach.  He has published articles on logic, philosophy of science, Nietzsche, and other topics in journals such as the Journal of Philosophical LogicPhilosophy of Science,  SyntheseErkenntnisNousPhilosophical an Phenomenological Research, and The Journal of Philosophy. His work has covered a wide range of philosophical issues, from technical concerns of logical content to Nietzsche’s account of philosophy as the ‘last manifestation of the ascetic ideal’.

16th October

Dr William Large (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Atheism one last time.

This talk offers a broad historical analysis of atheism and a new conceptual definition. It describes three kinds of atheism: atheism of being, atheism of the idea, and atheism of the word. The first is an atheism of a metaphysical order and science; the second an atheism of morality; and the third an atheism of the community and the word. Each atheism comes in an historical sequence but are conceptually distinct. In terms of the traditional divisions of philosophy, the first atheism is ontology, the second is ethical, and the third is aesthetic and political. This historical sequence is not a necessary one, but contingent, and because each atheism is conceptually distinct, they can emerge at any time. Cutting across this horizontal historical series of atheism, is a vertical distinction between essence and existence. Theism responds to atheism through the passion of religion which sets the next form in motion. When, philosophy says, ‘God is being’, religion responds, ‘God is a hidden’. If philosophy replies, ‘God is an idea’, then religion responds again, ‘faith is the passion of a life’. Only in the last form is the dialogue between philosophy and religion reversed. Religion says, ‘faith is the word’, but philosophy responds, ‘the word is spoken by no-one’. The last atheism has a political consequence. What binds a community without a word?

William Large is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham. He is the author of 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), Levinas ’Totality and Infinity: A Reader’s Guide (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), and numerous articles in continental philosophy. He was president of the British Society of Phenomenology from 2010-14.

30th October

Dr Niall Keane (Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick) will talk on Philosophy and the Eclipse of Plurality.

This talk will address Hannah Arendt’s interpretation of Greek thought, specifically her reading of Homer and Socrates as ‘proto-phenomenological’ thinkers of actualized plurality and discursivity. Drawing inspiration from these thinkers, she addresses the means of actualizing plurality today, understood as the ‘existential truthfulness’ that emerges from the conflict in thinking, speaking and acting plurally. She does this by contrasting how, after the trial and death of Socrates, thinking became ‘philosophy proper’, or what she calls after Kant ‘professional thinking’, in shifting its focus from the reciprocal interdependence of thinking and acting well in the political sphere and towards a reflection on truth, unity, and necessity that takes its start from an order that is either outside or beyond the world of appearances. Assessing her claims, this talk will examine the so-called deformation of thinking since Homer and Socrates, the impoverished nature of opinion, and whether its falling away from the human world has had a deleterious effect on understanding the relationship between freedom and politics. This is the idea according to which politics is the means of reaching the highest ends of human freedom, where philosophical freedom is understood as the eventual freedom from politics. For Arendt, this marks the decisive split between philosophy and the world of common sense, between doctrinal thinking and active thinking, between inner freedom and public freedom. The talk will attempt to tease out the implications of Arendt’s claims and their relevance for today’s society.

Niall Keane is Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Philosophy at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland. He has published widely in the areas of phenomenology and hermeneutics and is the co-author of The Gadamer Dictionary (Continuum 2012) and co-editor of The Blackwell Companion to Hermeneutics (Wiley-Blackwell 2016). In addition to his publications on Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Michel Henry, Hannah Arendt, he is Treasurer of the Irish Phenomenological Circle, and cofounder and coordinator of the Irish Centre for Transnational Studies. His current research focuses on the nature of subjectivity and self in Heidegger’s and Arendt’s work, focussing on the themes of singularity, plurality and participation.  

13th November

Dr Sarah Nixon (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on ‘I just want to give something back.’ Peer work and Desistance in Prisoners, Probationers and Former Probationers.

The talk will explore the transformative potential of peer mentoring and peer work upon prisoners, probationers and the wider context in which they occur. Offenders/ex-offenders engage in positive activities that support transformations of self, leading to the creation of new identities that can help to shift away from further offending. Peer work can support the desistance process through creating new prosocial relationships with others, and criminal justice staff are key to supporting these transitions and validating new non-criminal identities. This talk will explore how space and place can be either an enabling or constraining factor in the emergence of a new desisting identity. The talk will reflect on the positionality of the researcher; an ex-prison officer who is passionate about offender rehabilitation and supportive of the utility of offenders/ex-offender mentors as assets to the criminal justice system.

Dr Sarah Nixon is a lecturer in Criminology at the University of Gloucestershire. Her teaching expertise is around prison, penology and desistance/rehabilitation. She worked as a prison officer at HMP Leicester between 2003 and 2009. HMP Leicester is a category ‘B’ prison housing adult male offenders. She started her PhD in 2013 around peer work and desistance, looking solely at adult male offenders, which aligns with her professional work experience. She is in her third year of HE teaching and is currently writing papers around her PhD research, and also looking more widely at her prison experience from a sociological autobiographical perspective.

27th November

Red Kellino will talk on Extinction Rebellion

The planet is in ecological crisis: we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced. Scientists believe we may have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown. This is an emergency.

In this talk, speakers from Extinction Rebellion will share the latest climate science on where our planet is heading, discuss some of the current psychology around climate change, and offer solutions through the study of social movements. There will be time to ask questions and discuss afterwards

Red Kellino is an activist within Extinction Rebellion and has been offering talks about the movement since it came into existence just over a year ago.

11th December

Dr Martin Randall (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on ‘Skip this Ad in 3 Secs.’ Inching towards a Philosophy of Advertising.

What does advertising actually do? What is advertising actually for? How have we reached the point in 2019 that the advertising is now more powerful and more influential than ever before? These, and other, questions have been bugging me for some time now. I’ve been thinking, reading and writing about advertising and I think I’ve inched a little closer towards what might, generously, be thought of as a philosophy of advertising. This has gradually arisen from a broader project of trying to understand (and teach) digital culture. So, I’ll see why our greatest invention, the internet, has contributed, unwittingly perhaps, to an entirely new form of economic exploitation and how advertising has played a defining role.

Martin teachs prose on all three undergraduate levels in Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire, and his specialisms include the American short story, experimental writing, theories of the novel, historical fiction and transgressive writing. His PhD looked at the representation of the Holocaust in contemporary British writing. He has published poetry, short fiction and a monograph entitled 9/11 & the Literature of Terror (EUP, 2011/13).

All sessions will be held at the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham at 7 pm in room HC203, and are free.

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