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.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j8wakjw wrote

In this debate, Julian Baggini, Güneş Taylor and Tommy Curry analyse the nature of the relationship between reason and emotion. The speakers provide compelling arguments both for the view that reason must be detached from emotions and the argument that reason is crucially linked to emotional experiences. Güneş Taylor argues that it is appropriate to conceive of reason and emotion as separate: reason does not have a biological or physiological basis, while emotions do. Therefore, the power of reason is that it can be divorced from emotions, allowing us to make judgements about a situation even when we are not directly affected by it emotionally, she says. But it is important to understand the interplay between reason and emotion. Julian Baggini contends that we cannot make sense of emotions without reason. Similarly, Tommy Curry rejects that idea that reason can be entirely separated from emotion. Instead, he suggests we must understand it as post-rationalisation of our emotive reactions.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j8d5yrp wrote

In this debate, philosophers Daniel Dennett, Helen Steward and Patrick Haggard debate the nature of free will.

Steward puts forward an incompatibilist position arguing we need not hold that human action is necessarily part of a deterministic causal chain.

Haggard argues we should reject exceptionalist accounts of free will, and that the vast range of the context in which actions happen gives rise to the appearance of complexity, and that we can account for that range with mechanistic accounts.

Dennett argues there is often a mistaken conflation of cause and control, and that while every decision might be part of a causal chain, that does not mean our decisions and choices are necessarily controlled. Protecting against manipulation and control on the part of another agent means protecting the only sort of free will that really matters, he claims.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j71q151 wrote

Abstract: Is the mind just a part of the world? Or is the world all in the mind? Neither, argues philosopher, physcian and poet Raymond Tallis as he puts forward his take onhow we make sense of experience. When neuroscience and Darwinism trespass into the humanities, they become, he says, "neuromania" and"Darwinitis" – unhealthy, mad and malign.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j6rnx88 wrote

In this talk philosopher Massimo Pigliucci argues twobranches of scepticism that have split in recent history – ethical scepticism and scientific scepticism – should be reunited in an attempt to define a good way of living.

Ethical scepticism, he explains, demands that we either suspend judgment on non evident matters, or act on the basis of probability given available facts. If apparent facts change, or our assessment of facts change, our judgment of the probability that non-evident claims are true should also be updated.

Scientific scepticism, he suggests, means we should demand clarity of definition, consistency of logic and adequacy of evidence for anyclaim made. We must recognise that not everyone is equally equipped to assessevery claim – Pigliucci cites Socrates’ discussion in the Charmides dialogue. Andwe must recognise we have an ethical responsibility to ensure we don’t supporterroneous claims – citing Cicero.

There are consequences for ourselves and others if we accept things such as climate denial or ant-vax movements without properly assessing the foundations of those claims.

Therefore, we have an ethical responsibility to adopt asceptical attitude towards all claims in life. We must recognise knowledge is tentative – the probability of any claims truth is never 0 nor 1 – and be open to revising our judgment in light of new evidence.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j5jbv0o wrote

Synopsis: Co-founder and editor of The Philosophers' Magazine, JulianBaggini, explores Islamic, Chinese and Japanese philosophicaltraditions, and how they are expressed in a place's infrastructure, fromsignificant buildings to street signs. Baggini focuses on the theme ofharmony as an example of a common thread in these philosophies, which weshould recognise, but should not essentialise, exoticize ordomesticate.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j462wj9 wrote

Abstract: From the 10 commandments to the Buddhist eight-fold path,traditionally we looked to religion to provide moral rules and values to liveby. Today many would turn instead to self-help books, like Jordan Peterson's 'The 12 Rules for Life', but our need for and attachment to formalised rulebooks for life endures. Yet critics argue all such codes are mistaken attempts to reduce life to a set of ideals, and are doomed to failure.

This debate explores whether having rules to live by is useful and desirable, or oppressive and ineffective.

Sophie-Grace Chappell argues while life can’t be reduced to a rule book, rules are often a useful way of navigating the complexities of life. In particular, argues Chappell, we can use moral rules to help us develop the virtues.

Massimo Pigliucci concurs that we cannot condense how to live into a rule book, but argues that rules are more detrimental than helpful. The rigidity of rules renders them unhelpful in navigating human existence. Moreover, he argues that virtue ethics is not compatible with rule making; the answer to moral questions are often circumstantial.

Simon Baron-Cohen argues that we could reduce morality to the rule of ‘do no harm’. This rule, combined with a compassion-based approach to our experiences of others, could be an effective way of navigating life.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j3vo48x wrote

Janne teller argues that disinterested pursuit is acontradiction in terms – you wouldn’t pursue anything if you didn’t have a motivation. Philosophy, she argues, is the interested pursuit of truth. All humans pursue truth, but they come from particular social perspectives which affects what they are looking for. Barry Smith concurs that the reason why anindividual is doing philosophy cannot, by nature, be disinterested; you have tobe motivated to ask philosophical questions. But he argues that once you get possibleexplanations up and running, then you have to be disinterested and not allow yourown desires to prejudice what answers you arrive at. Silvia Jonas adds thatwhile philosophy strives to arrive at unbiased conclusions, philosophers must acknowledgethat philosophical theories are always established from a particular socialcontext and likely don’t reflect ‘The Truth’. The value of philosophy, Jonasargues, is that it allows us to establish various theories and then adopt acritical stance towards them, allowing us to identify outside motivations wherein other disciplines these biases go unnoticed.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j36l3qw wrote

Abstract: An important recent distinction in the empirical literature about self-control is between resisting and avoiding temptations.

While we have some evidence that avoiding temptations is the more efficient method of the two, philosophers have focused almost exclusively on resisting temptations.

The aim of this talk is to examine what the ability to avoid temptations depends on and argue that it depends primarily on how fragmented one’s mind is: on the inconsistencies in one’s mental setup.

The fragmentation of mind requires a significant amount of mental effort to conceal from oneself and this leads to a weakened ability to resist temptations.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j290l41 wrote

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell examines the tribal nature of morality, with barrister and founder of Effective Giving UK Natalie Cargill, and political theorist David Miller. The panel unpick the binaries of tribal vs. universal morality, and moral psychology vs. ethics, to put forward their understanding of where society is at the moment, and what scope there is for social progress through better employment of our moral sense.


IAI_Admin OP t1_j0grrw2 wrote

This debate focuses on whether the dichotomy of good and evil in Western morality does more harm than good. Tommy Curry argues that the terms good and evil have been
used as a form of control throughout history by the dominant ethno group to
impose norms and structures on other groups. This has significance in the
modern world where what we think constitutes good and evil influences economics
and use military force.  Massimo
Pigliucci adds that the categories of good and evil are unhelpful because they
create a sharp distinction where there is actually a lot of nuance. They are
also pernicious because they encourage us to think of ourselves as good and
write off our opposition as evil, prompting us to act in a way that is uncharitable
and uncaring. Joanna Kavenna notes that the language of good and evil has
practical origins rather than some absolute transcendent source. She concurs
that reference to good and evil is increasingly used as a means of control
through an evocation of this absolute moral realm that cannot be challenged.
This is a corrupt use of the good and evil terminology is a trap that must be


IAI_Admin OP t1_iz9nte1 wrote

In this short interview, philosopher Jan Westerhoff discusses what illusory experiences can teach us about the nature of reality. He considers philosophical efforts to explain the representational nature of both veridical and falsidical experiences with idealism, and discusses the ethical implications of an idealist metaphysics. Westerhoff argues that rather than holding that mind comes before matter in a foundational account of epistemology, coherentism offers and more satisfactory approach. He then discusses his own work on solipsism and considers its emergence in both ancient Indian philosophy and contemporary analytic philosophy, and concludes that if correct solipsism must explain the apparent existence of other minds.


IAI_Admin OP t1_ivy46c2 wrote

Rebecca Roache, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, argues that philosophy provides us with a set of valuable strategies, tools and techniques that can be applied to real
life situations to help us lead better lives. Firstly, philosophical logic
allows us to have substantial and meaningful arguments with people, because
rather than blindly talking past people and simply pronouncing our own
position, we learn to identify the hidden assumptions and flaws in the others
argument. Secondly, in philosophy we learn to ask why ad infinitum, allowing us
to get deeper into the foundational claims that justify what someone is saying.
Thirdly, it allows you to argue via analogy, to explain why certain like
situations should be treated alike. Through exploring her personal experiences,
Rebecca Roache unpacks how these tools can be used to help us tackle the
challenges we face every day. For example, philosophy allows us to see how we
don’t see the world as it really is, we see it through a kind of subjective
lens. But this idea is also applicable to how we see ourselves. We have
deep-seated ingrained beliefs about ourselves that aren’t immediately visible
to us, but they show up in the choices we make. Using the philosophical toolkit
to examine these choice enables honest reflection on the underlying factors
that have shaped past decisions and allows us to make more free and informed
decisions going forward.