Thursday 26 September 2013

Philosophy at 40: Celebrating 40 years of Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University

Philosophy at 40: Celebrating 40 years of Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University

Date: Saturday 9 November 2013

Venue: Lord Ashcroft Building 006, Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge Campus

Standard registration: £20.00; Student concessions: £10.00
Teas, coffees and lunch all included
Optional 3 course dinner with wine: £35 (limited places)

Bookings: Anglia Ruskin Online Store

Conference theme: The Futures of Philosophy

Speakers: Andrew Bowie, Katerina Deligiorgi, Peter Dews, Jonathan Derbyshire, Neil Gascoigne, Colin Harper, Chris Lawn, Chris Horner, Tristan Moyle, Alison Stone and Tim Thornton

Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University celebrates its 40th anniversary this year! Current and former staff and students will participate in a conference and reunion on 9 November at Anglia Ruskin's Cambridge campus, looking back on past successes for the degree and discussing future themes and directions in the discipline of philosophy. Some very distinguished alumni will return to their former university, including Professor Andrew Bowie, now at Royal Holloway, and Professor Peter Dews, now at the University of Essex.

Philosophy has been taught on the Cambridge campus since 1973. It began as part of a broader European Thought and Literature undergraduate degree which covered the history and culture of many writers and thinkers from ancient Greece to the modern world. These days the course covers key topics in debates about the mind, moral and political questions about the good life and further questions about art, religion and literature. It also fosters crucial skills including clear communication, problem solving and creative thinking.

The Philosophy degree at Anglia Ruskin scores well in The Guardian league table (24th in 2014) and continues to recruit strongly in today's challenging HE context. This is noteworthy in an era of fierce competition and high fees. Students rate the teaching on the degree very highly year on year in the NSS as well, with scores of around 95% satisfaction, well above the national average.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

A talk for the Chaplain

I've been asked to give an early morning talk, on the 18th November, in a series of informal breakfast discussions by the UCLan Chaplain, Andrew Clitheroe (pictured). I plan to discuss what we talk about when we talk about the meaning of life (to misquote Raymond Carver).

We give much of our lives a purposive or narrative structure. We think of it as involving actions undertaken for reasons which not only explain why we do what we do but also what we do. For example: “Why did you raise your arm?” “I was voting”. Given the wish to vote, raising an arm may be the right and meaningful thing to do. But the general features of action explanation suggest a further question, waiting in the wings: “Why were you voting?” The answer may be an appeal to a yet broader context such as: “I wanted to change the government” or “I was exercising my hard won democratic rights” but in either case, a yet further question may be suggested. Typically, this regress of possible questions and broader contexts does not bother us in the hurly burly of practical action. But sleepless at 5am it may. And then we may wish to invoke a context to give meaning to all our actions for which the further question “Why...?” cannot get a grip. Such a context may be the meaning of life itself.

I will discuss whether anything could possibly fill this role and how we might respond to a negative answer.