Events

Our goal is to add momentum to the North-East's philosophical and cultural scene by running events and attracting speakers to the region, as well as one-off events in other parts of the country.

For past events, click here


Tuesday 26th March

Quassim Cassam (Warwick University)
Vices of the Mind

We all like to think of ourselves as open-minded, reasonable and realistic. But evidence from history, psychology and philosophy suggests that we are probably deluding ourselves. Our thinking is heavily influenced by intellectual vices like closed-mindedness, overconfidence, wishful thinking and prejudice. This talk will be about these vices of the mind. What are they, what's so bad about them, and what can we do to control them? Vices of the mind make it harder for us to know and understand the world we live in. Perhaps they aren't always harmful but usually they are. Unfortunately, we are bad at recognizing our own intellectual vices and self-improvement is hard. But there is hope. Self-improvement is possible if we learn to know ourselves and are committed to doing better.

Quassim Cassam is Professor of Philosophy at Warwick University and one of Britain's most distinguished philosophers.

Venue: Lit and Phil, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Time: 7pm to 8.30pm / Cost: £5 (£3 concession)

Event Details




Thursday April 11th

Alexander Douglas (University of St Andrews)
The Ethics of Debt and Finance

Why should we pay our debts? The best answer I can find in the philosophical literature is that if we didn't pay our debts, the institution of lending would collapse. But what is it about the institution that makes its preservation worthy of our sacrifices? My answer is: in its current form, nothing. In its current form, our financial system is inherently unjust. It fosters financial instability. And financial instability is the primary driver of inequality in developed economies: the poorest are the most exposed to its risks, while the wealthiest are the best placed to profit from it. Nobody can be morally obliged to support an unjust institution. It would not, in my opinion, be difficult to reform the financial system to work far more fairly. After explaining why I think our system is inherently unjust, I'll discuss some simple reforms and invite you to speculate on why they haven't been taken up.

Alexander Douglas is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of St. Andrew's. He has written on Spinoza and the concept of debt: axdouglas.com

Venue: Lit and Phil, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Time: 7pm to 8.30pm / Cost: £5 (£3 concession)

Event Details




Tuesday April 23rd

Jemima Repo (University of Newcastle)
Does Gender Exist?

What is gender? Despite being a widely used term, it can mean several things. It can refer to the social construction of sex, a social role, a system of power, an identity, or be used as a 'politically correct' synonym for sex. The meaning of sex is just as undecided in feminist philosophy as it is in common parlance. In this talk, I provide an analysis of the contingency of the concept of gender through an engagement with the genealogical method of Michel Foucault. Tracing the origins of the idea of gender to 1950s psychiatry, I argue that gender is a historically specific apparatus of power, one that cannot be taken self-evidently as emancipatory. The talk therefore troubles some of our deepest beliefs about gender ontology.

Jemima Repo is a feminist political theorist at Newcastle University, and author of the award-winning The Biopolitics of Gender.

Venue: Lit and Phil, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Time: 7pm to 8.30pm / Cost: £5 (£3 concession)

Event Details




Tuesday May 7th

Catherine Wilson (City University of New York)
How to Be an Epicurean

According to the pleasure-centric philosophy of Epicureanism, life can be good without great sacrifice and temptation isn't always the enemy. The riches of the sensory world are there to be enjoyed, so long as your pursuit of pleasure doesn't later bring you pain. No honest philosopher can give you a formula for being happy, but philosophy can point the way to strategies for tackling the things that threaten our happiness. Catherine Wilson will discuss Epicureanism as a framework for living, not only comfortably and happily, but in a responsible and meaningful way.

Catherine Wilson is distinguished professor of philosophy at City University of New York, and a leading figure in the field of the history and philosophy of science. Her new book The Pleasure Principle: Epicureanism as a Philosophy for Modern Living will be published in May.

Venue: Lit and Phil, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Time: 7pm to 8.30pm / Cost: £5 (£3 concession)

Event Details




Tuesday May 21st

Justin E.H. Smith (University of Paris)
Irrationality: The Dark Side of Reason

It's a story we can't stop telling ourselves. Once, humans were benighted by superstition and irrationality, but then the Greeks invented reason. Later, the Enlightenment enshrined rationality as the supreme value. Discovering that reason is the defining feature of our species, we named ourselves the "rational animal." But is this flattering story itself rational? Justin E.H. Smith will attempt to illuminating unreason at a moment when the world appears to have gone mad again.

Justin E.H. Smith is professor of the history and philosophy of science at the University of Paris. His new book Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason will be published in April.

Venue: Lit and Phil, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Time: 7pm to 8.30pm / Cost: £5 (£3 concession)

Event Details




Tuesday June 4th

Michael Bavidge (University of Newcastle)
Philosophy at the Margins

Philosophical reflection begins where attempts to understand the world meet the energies of personal experience - on the cusp of the objective and the subjective. The result is the instability and the reticence of the philosophic voice, even if philosophers pretend to talk of eternal truths in a timeless voice. Philosophy has not only to live with this insecurity, but to cultivate it; to ensure that we are alive to it in our most reflective moments, as well as in our everyday lives. Individuals and cultures change: knowledge is accumulated; skills have to be practised; we grow into a moral life. There have to be transitions in acquiring a language, getting to know someone, coming to live in halfway decent ways. We are not converted or "born again" into being a language user or a social being. People, animals and institutions have thresholds and margins. We approach them, we do not confront them. We respect, not master them. We have confidence in them, not certainty about them. This talk will reflect on what is involved in being domiciled in the physical and social worlds.

Michael Bavidge was a lecturer in philosophy at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, Newcastle University. For ten years before he retired, he ran the Adult Education Programme at the university. His new book Philosophy at the Margins is published in June.

Venue: Lit and Phil, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Time: 7pm to 8.30pm / Cost: £5 (£3 concession)

Event Details