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Philosophy For Our Times


Philosophy For Our Times

The quest for reason | Alister McGrath

Tue, 22 Nov 2022

Can science and religion coexist? Listen to find out!

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In this interview, Alister McGrath, the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, explores the relationship between science and certainty. He charts his path from atheism to Christianity, and discusses how his faith is consistent with his scientific beliefs. McGrath asserts that reason is not a universal concept, but rather only a culturally contingent framework. He argues that a cross-cultural framework of reason is an essential tool that must be developed to ensure greater harmony between nations and cultures.

Alister McGrath is a theologian, intellectual historian, scientist, and public intellectual. He currently holds the Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion, at the University of Oxford, McGrath is noted for his work in historical theology, systematic theology and the relationship between science and religion. 

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The trauma of the everyday | Joanna Kavenna, Ian Parker, Sarah Garfinkel, Mark Salter

Tue, 15 Nov 2022

Have mundane setbacks become catastrophic? Our experts discuss.

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Trauma was traditionally associated with events such as war, assault and natural disasters. Now it is increasingly used to describe everyday experiences like personal criticism or romantic rejection, and of becoming an empty therapeutic buzzword. Some psychologists argue that we risk undermining diagnoses of serious disorders by treating the mundane as the catastrophic, at the same time as making us less resilient.

Should we stop describing everyday setbacks as trauma? Or is a looser understanding of trauma to be encouraged so that individuals can come to terms with their suffering? Or is this all a symptom of a broader cultural focus on our emotional lives which once promised better mental health, but which has now turned out to have undermined an entire generation?

Neuroscientist Sarah Garfinkel, bestselling author of Zed Joanna Kavenna and fearless psychoanalyst Ian Parker explore modern trauma and what we can do about it. 


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The knowledge delusion | Santiago Zabala, Corine Besson, Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad

Tue, 08 Nov 2022

Beyond right and wrong?

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Politicians, scientists, experts, specialists and even philosophers frequently claim to be right and to have understood how things ultimately are. Yet at the same time they know this can't plausibly be the case. In the history of humankind there is no theory that has been shown to be definitive, no claim that cannot be disputed. Nor can we imagine a time when such dispute will come to an end.

Should we give up the very idea that it is possible to be definitively right? Would this usher in a new era of compromise? Or is the possibility of being right essential to progress and culture, without which we risk violence and conflict?

Author of Freedom in Age of Alternative Facts Santiago Zabala, pragmatic epistemologist Corine Besson and expert of Indian thought Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad clash over whether it is ever possible to be definitely right about anything.

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Postmodernism in the dock | Julian Baggini, Mina Salami, Hilary Lawson and Julie Bindel

Tue, 01 Nov 2022

Are we right to abandon objective truth?

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It has been forty years since postmodernism swept through the academy changing the character of the arts and social sciences, impacting everything from literary criticism to anthropology, art history to sociology. Soon after it invaded culture generally and technical terms such as 'deconstruction' became widespread. Yet now its critics, including members of the British Cabinet, argue it ushered in an era of tribal conflict, woke culture, and populist deception and is at the source of a pernicious decline in reason and objective truth.

Should we seek to reverse the changes that postmodernism brought about and overturn its attack on the intellectual tradition of the West? Or was postmodernism a progressive force whose insights were largely correct? Or, do we need a new radical approach altogether?

Co-founder and editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine Julian Baggini, award-winning journalist Minna Salami, radical philosopher Hilary Lawson and boundary pushing feminist Julie Bindel line up as prosecution and defence with postmodernism in the dock. Hosted by journalist and author David Aaronovitch.

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Is moral responsibility an illusion? | Galen Strawson, Massimo Pigliucci, Sarah Garfinkel

Tue, 25 Oct 2022

Are we incarcerating the innocent?

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Note: this episode was recorded live at our philosophy festival HowTheLightGetsIn.

Some argue behaviour is a product of our genes. Others that upbringing and environment play the primary role in determining who we are. So do we carry no responsibility for our actions? Courts have on occasion made judgments in this light. In 2006 Bradley Waldroup was acquitted of murder because he was found to have an unusual variant of a 'warrior gene' and to have been abused as a child.

Is responsibility for our actions an illusion? And should we as a result abandon moral responsibility to build a fairer world? Or is the notion that our actions are determined by our genes, our upbringing or some combination a dangerous mistake? Many want to have it both ways: we are the outcome of our genes and upbringing but also responsible for our actions, but how is this possible?

Eminent philosopher and literary critic Galen Strawson, stoic philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, and neuroscientist Sarah Garfinkel debate the essence of innocence and guilt. Hosted by novelist Joanna Kavenna.

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