IAI_Admin OP t1_je4z927 wrote

It's over a century since Metamorphosis was published. Yet Kafka’s work still resonates with the realities we face today. In this entertaining talk, acclaimed actor and director Steven Berkoff draws on his years of experience with Kafka’s work to provide a unique insight into how Kafka can help us to better understand the world and our place within it. Franz Kafka’s stories do not follow the usual pattern of building up the narrative into a climax; they start with the climax. In Metamorphosis, for instance, Gregor Samsa wakes up from a night of uneasy dreams only to find that he had been transformed into a gigantic insect. This surreal scenario is likely to have been inspired by a letter Kafka had sent to his father, who was deeply disappointed by his son’s sensitive, curious and artistic nature. Kafka believed that he failed to fulfil his father’s expectations of what it means to be a man and, thus, that he appeared in his eye to be no better than an insect. Kafka did not think in a linear, realistic fashion – reality to him was merely the trivial surface of life, merely a skin. In his work, the banalities of everyday life make way for the surreal, unconscious elements of our existence worth investigating, our absurd inner lives, our dreams.


IAI_Admin OP t1_jdvdx8l wrote

In this talk, philosopher Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad challenges the politically powerful notion of individualism via two Sakskrit concepts: TheSelf and The Person. Far from delivering on the moral imperatives it claims -tolerance and equality – individualism has contributed to a widespread inequality of expression of agency and values. But it is built on an incoherent sense of what makes us who we are. If the individual is defined via the concept of the self, as individualism appears to require, it is distinguishable from others formally, but lacks the rich interiority we hold makes us who we are. If we are to retain that rich inner life – all of our desires, experiences, memories etc - we do so via the concept of the person. But what defines a person is not their distinction from all others, but rather their intersectional connection with countless others.


IAI_Admin OP t1_jcjvnjy wrote

Abstract: Both Hegel and Schopenhauer departed from Kant’s ideas about the relationship between our sense and the mind which organises them and the mental categories necessary to learn the truth about the world. But the two thinkers arrived at very different conclusions, writes Joshua Foa Dienstag. For Hegel, the unfolding of truth could be revealed in history – human culture was a process of becoming something better, which reached its culmination in the period of the Enlightened Europe. Schopenhauer, on the other hand, thought the exact opposite: truth was not to be found in history but only outside of it. He saw reality as detached from our notions of space and time because our human understanding, reliant, as Kant argues, on mental categories, always contained something illusory. Thus, Hegel’s optimistic idea that humanity was following a predictable pattern of growth towards an ultimate stage of development clashed with Schopenhauer’s pessimism about our capacity to fundamentally change. He recognised an immutable essence that ran through all of history, despite its periods of growth and deterioration. Schopenhauer’s solution was resigning from Hegel’s deceiving optimism bound to lead us to disappointment and to “lose ourselves” in activities that allow us to contemplate the eternal, such as art.


IAI_Admin OP t1_jc6itm9 wrote

Abstract: The evidence is that dark energy is responsible for the rate of the universe’s expansion. While the name makes it sound like a spooky force, it’s the cosmological constant Einstein added to his theory of gravity in 1917. There is a backing of sorts from quantum theory, which predicts a cosmological constant but of a substantially different value. Unifying the value predicted by quantum theory with the value observed from the expanding universe would be a great discovery, but even the most sophisticated theory is constrained by observational evidence which will always be imperfect and incomplete. Theories will always be an approximation, and never an account of ultimate reality, argues James Peebles.


IAI_Admin OP t1_jc1leuh wrote

Abstract: Using intuitions as evidence is a common practice in analytical philosophy, but critics have argued our intuition cannot be trusted, quoting examples of thought experiments where cognitive biases and demographic differences have impacted their outcome. Nevin Climenhaga comes to the defence of common sense, arguing that there can be good and bad intuitions and there are ways in which we can differentiate the first from the latter. Intuitions can be tested either through experiments or “armchair” philosophical reasoning which help identify whether the content of a particular intuition is based on truth or not. One avenue for testing our intuitions in the absence of reliable experimental data is to see how well it fits in with other intuitions. If a single philosophical theory can explain a diverse set of intuitions, this makes it unlikely that either of those intuitions can be explained away through experimentation or armchair error theories. Validating philosophical beliefs using intuitions is not a simple task, but this should not mean we must dismiss intuitions as generally unreliable, argues Nevin Climenhaga.


IAI_Admin OP t1_jbnxkpx wrote

Abstract: In the 1980s the Libet experiment tried to prove free will is an illusion using empirical evidence. Despite some criticism, many philosophers and scientists still believe the experiment has demonstrated the validity of their belief that humans are merely biological machines.

In this debate, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Julian Baggini and Sarah Garfinkel try to answer whether experiments can ever be value-free and settle once and for all such questions as the existence of free will.

Critics of the Libet experiment suggests we can never obtain unbiased interpretations of experiments and that they inevitably represent a function of our desire to believe a certain outcome. When it comes to free will, however, to answer whether experiments can validate or invalidate its existence relies on the way in which we conceptualise free will.

On the one hand, it can be understood as our freedom to make decisions and act in accordance with our desires and preferences without external control; other conception stress the alienating role of the causal mechanical or chemical process in the brain or body that determine what our perceived desires and intentions ought to be.


IAI_Admin OP t1_jbf3d42 wrote

After a career spent in the pursuit of truth, Simon Blackburn explains how the deflationist approach, one which demonstrates why there's nothing to say about truth, changed his mind. While truth may be found to correspond to facts, many philosophers agree that correspondence in itself cannot account for a theory of truth. We can try instead to assess truth in light of other things we believe to be true, meaning that fundamentally truth is coherence across all beliefs. But coherence does not exclude the possibility of falsity – we can easily conceive of coherent stories that are nonetheless fictional. An alternative approach is pragmatism, which supposes that truth is that which is useful, but this view also fails to capture the essence of truth as it cannot be guaranteed that what one finds useful has any valid relation to reality. Therefore, the question “what is truth?” ends up dissolving into another: “what are you interested in finding out?” Such an account renders the word ‘truth’ redundant, since saying something is true does not bring any new information to what had already been stated.


IAI_Admin OP t1_jar3eqh wrote

Abstract: In this debate, Philosopher Philip Goff, human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti, and physicists George Ellis and Carlo Rovelli debate the role of faith and belief in politics and science.

Ellis argues an element of faith is necessarily required to navigate our everyday lives, but we must question those beliefs – in science and politics as in anything else.

Chakrabarti agrees that being human necessarily involves both faith and reason – emotion and logic – and argues we must examine and interrogate the intersection of those drivers, claiming the dichotomy between science and religion does not map onto the divide between emotion and reason.

Rovelli argues it makes no sense to draw a line between so-called blind faith and provable facts. Instead, our views about the world should always be up for debate in an effort to find the best possible answer. The best of humankind, he claims, is bourn of openness and a willingness to be convinced your ideas might be wrong.

Goff claims that the only thing we have direct access to is our own conscious experiences, and that in trusting our sensory experiences we must deploy and element of faith. While he advocates for this leap of faith, he argues it’s a contradiction of trust our sensory experiences to tell us something about the world in a way we do not trust our moral, or emotional experiences, to reveal something about the world.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j9t8ybr wrote

Abstract: We usually conceive of the world as being made up of different components and we set ourselves the task of identifying and understanding what each of these elements of reality represents. But with postmodernism came the realisation that we may never be able to fully grasp what the world is really made of. Instead, Hilary Lawson proposes a radically-different approach and supposed that the world is an unspecified other or an “openness” that we close into our ideas and the properties we assign to it. In doing so we give ourselves a means to intervene in the world but also distance ourselves from its openness. These closures can be developed and refined but they are not an ultimate description of reality, only a way for humans to be able hold the world.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j9jd7ik wrote

Philosophers, metaphysicians or social psychologists frequently employ thought experiments, such as the Trolley or Gettier cases, to study important epistemic notions or how people think about what is right or wrong, what is morally permissible or not. But these experiments suffer from significant limitations, argues philosopher of science Edouard Machery. In the Trolley case, for instance, people respond differently depending on the way in which the test is phrased and the order in which they read it. This is what psychologists refer to as “framing effects.” Moreover, demographic and cultural factors can have a significant effect on how people respond to these experiments. Edouard Machery asks us to recognise that intuition is not as reliable as we would like to think and to be more critical of the conclusions we draw from thought experiments.