William Large (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Is the Universe Moral?

I would like to discuss whether the moral indifference of the universe to the existence of human species undermines ethics per se. Freud, in the Introductory Lectures to Psychoanalysis, talks of there being 3 blows to humanity’s pride: we are not at the centre of universe; humans are no different from other animals; we do not even control our conscious lives. But if our lives are essentially meaningless, what would be the point of being ethical, since it makes no difference to the universe whether we are or not? I would like to contrast this nihilism, if that is what it is, with Kant’s concept of the ‘highest Good’. For Kant, if we cannot conceive of the universe as moral from an ethical perspective, then we would fall into moral despair? Are we still convinced by Kant’s argument, and if not, have we fallen into despair?


Paul Bridges (Gloucestershire Philosophical Society) will talk on Democracy: Is it under Threat? Did we ever have it?

In blacker, more pessimistic moods it would be easy to conclude that democracy in many parts of the West is more fragile than it has been for over 70 years.  The murder of Jo Cox, ’fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, the Daily Mail’s ‘Enemies of the People’ headline, the undermining of ‘experts’, Trump’s sacking of James Comey, plus the resurgence of ‘strongman’ leaders such as Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Duterte and Xi may be signalling a reversal of the worldwide trend towards liberalisation and democracy.  But do these events really indicate a threat to democracy?  Or did we ever really have democracy in the first place?  In this participative discussion we will explore what constitutes a healthy, functioning democracy.  Then perhaps we can start to answer the question posed and more importantly figure out what, if anything, we can do about it.



Alan Ford (Gloucestershire Philosophical Society) will talk on Tales of Despair and Integrity: Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky et al.?

A description of some key features of Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death will provide parameters for our exploration of the nature of despair: its universality, (as Kierkegaard sees it) its relation to self-deception, its lower and higher forms. Examples from Dostoevsky and Tolstoy (perhaps others) will provide flesh and blood examples of despair and integrity in action. I hope to show how the structure of despair follows that of those fundamental binaries, subject/object, mind/body, freedom/necessity, freedom/determinism etc. We shall find how these make thought possible and hence despair and self-deception. It will be shown how these binaries should relate, and that they are not, as is often assumed, necessarily unrelated oppositions. This might then cast light on the nature of personal integrity.



Tom Bradshaw (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Sports Journalism and Moral Philosophy – Why the Sports Media needs to think more.

Sports journalism has been disparagingly referred to as the “toy department” of the newsroom, with reporters often characterised as being too close to the teams and individuals they are covering, but Tom will consider the increasing importance of high-calibre sports journalism that is informed by a strong ethical awareness. The types of practical reasoning used by sports journalists during the course of their professional practice will be explored. A distinction between a duty-based Kantian approach to sports newsgathering and a more professionally pragmatic, consequentialist approach will be explored. Issues of self-censorship in sports journalism – and journalism more generally – will also be discussed. Tom will bring his 17 years of experience as an award-winning journalist to bear in the course of his analysis.



Peter Osborn (Gloucestershire Philosophical Society) will talk on The Tyranny of Religion

Globally and historically, mankind has had an urgent and persistent need to believe and worship God or Gods. Wherever and whenever you look this need is prevalent. However, in parallel with this need is a more sinister one: the need to dominate, bully and coerce. When these needs combine, a potent force emerges: organised religion! In Greco-Roman times polytheism was accepted and, in general, tolerated. However, when the Emperor Constantine came to power, monotheism in the form of Christianity became the only religion allowed. From then on the persecution, by Christians, of other beliefs began. My talk traces the history of this tyranny, and its consequences.


All sessions will be held at the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, at 7 p.m in room HC202AandB.