Lecture Series

Lectures given by external speakers with complimentary wine reception. We have previously had speakers from the Universities of Oxford, LSE, Reading, Toronto, Charles Sturt and Kingston. Topics ranged from Freud to Hume, Pragmatist Cognitivism to religion. Events are planed to take place at 17:00 on Wednesdays.

Here is a list of upcoming talks:


21/10/2015 – Bob Breche

Morality is nothing if not active. So the central obstacle to any cognitivist account is Hume’s insistence that reason can’t motivate action. Having introduced the problem, I go on to attempt to dissolve it by arguing that we do not need to be motivated to act in order to do so, since we are already, and fundamentally, agents. That we act, then, whether in a moral or in some other context, does not require reasons. Rather, it is our acting like this or like that that requires reasons; and there being such reasons is all the explanation we need for particular actions. Motivation drops out of the picture altogether, and moral cognitivism escapes Hume’s objection. The talk will take place at Founder’s West, Room 101 at 17:00.


11/11/2015 – Professor Steven D. Brown

Michel Serres’ work, spanning over forty years, follows a particular trajectory: from the formal philosophy, to that which lies in the realms of literature and poetry. Steven Connor (2009) has described this trajectory as driven by the interplay between notions of the ‘hard’ and the ‘soft’. To this can be added a dynamic of the ‘ecstatic’ and the ‘apocalyptic’. Taken together, these two sets of relations unfold a problem space in which to think what Serres claims as the inherent violence in human relations, and the manner in which this results in a progressive estrangement from the ecological (or ‘Biogea’). The talk, given by Dr. Steve Brown, will try to map the contours of this problem space, with particular reference to its relationship to contemporary social science concerns around value, transition, connectivity and the transition to the Anthropocene. Three tendencies can be situated in this space: Parasitism, Disconnection/Detachment and Mixing/Mingling. Dr. Brown will discuss the relative merits of these tendencies as intellectual strategies for engaging with pressing contemporary socio-ecological concerns. The talk will take place in Founder’s West, Room 101 on the 11th on November at 17:00.


18/11/2015 – Joshua Shepherd

The talk is called ‘Agentive experience and knowledge of action’. According to Shepherd:

Writing in the wake of Elizabeth Anscombe, many have insisted that an agent’s knowledge of her action as it unfolds is in many senses special. Philosophers have variously emphasized at least five ways, which we might consider desiderata for an Anscombian account of knowledge of action. On such an account, an agent’s knowledge of her action is:

(1) necessary for (or constitutive of) intentional action
(2) in some sense practical (i.e., non-theoretical or non-speculative)
(3) in some sense non-observational
(4) non-inferential
(5) immediate, i.e. not based in prior evidence

Each of these claims is the source of contention in the literature. It would be possible to spend much time divvying strands of argumentation and interpretation. I do not engage much with this kind of task here. Nor do I engage with argumentation surrounding (1), though philosophers interested in (1) will hopefully find much of interest below. My quarry is (2) through (5). I offer interpretations of (2) through (5) on which all come out true. The interpretations depend on an account of the conscious experience of acting, which I also offer.

The talk will take place at 17:00, the 18th of November.


16/03/2016 – Colin Koopman

The talk is called ‘Conduct and Contestation in Pragmatist Political Philosophy: Mobilizing the Political’. According to Koopman:

From a pragmatist perspective, the political world political appears dynamic. On one analysis, this is a function of conflict and ongoing contestation. On another analysis, it is a feature of progress and repair. Both analyses are correct, but there is a difference of emphasis. I begin by introducing William James’s early conduct pragmatism. James’s pragmatism wells up within both a progressivist-instrumentalist current and a contestational-ironic current. The first is well known in the progressivist work of John Dewey, but the work of his contemporary W.E.B. Du Bois motivates us to temper the place of progress in pragmatist political thought. Similar motivation can be found in the work of political theorists of other stripes, such as Michel Foucault.

The central theme in Du Bois I seek to retrieve into pragmatism is his emphasis on contestation. I argue that this is what defines his contribution to the politics of race in the twentieth century. In developing a reading of Du Bois as contestatory, I argue that he manages to maintain hope without resorting to a moralistic tone. Where one’s moral truths cannot simply be pressed onto others, contestation must be strategic and politicizing in intent. The moralistic option too easily amounts to a pressing to no avail, with the inevitable endgames of bitter despair. In contrast to this, a politicizing contestation works to mount, and to maintain, an apparatus of hope that can outlast forces of defeat. What Du Bois’s manner of contestation offers, I argue, is a way of maintaining itself, and therefore hope, midst conditions of strife so severe that they would reduce mere moralizers to hopeless despair.

The talk will take place at 5pm, Wednesday 16th March 2016. It will be given in Founder’s West, Room 101 (FW101) in the Founder’s Building.


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