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OUDCE Philosophy Weekends at Rewley House

Future Events Programme

Phlsoc members are entitled to a 10% discount on weekend courses listed below
(not applicable to the unaccredited lecture series).

12 Feb (one day): John Rawls at 100
Dr Doug Bamford and Dr Sabrina Martin (Chair Ms Audrey Borowski)

Rawls is widely considered the most important political philosopher of the 20th century, recipient of several prizes including the National Humanities Medal. His works have been used in court rulings and invoked by politicians. People who have not read his works may find themselves using his ideas.

Rawls is best known for his defence of liberal egalitarianism in his first book, A Theory of Justice (1971). This book took elements of the social contract tradition to argue for principles of justice with a liberal and egalitarian slant over the Utilitarian approach which prevailed at the time.

In the first half of the day we will look at Rawls’ way of approaching moral and political philosophy, considering whether this is still relevant. We then look at how he applied his approach to the basic institutions of society, his theory of justice. The most discussed of his principles of justice is his famous ‘difference principle.’ This holds that inequalities should be allowed to the extent that they benefit the worst off. How does Rawls argue for this and does this influence economists and politicians today?

In the second half of the day we will consider Rawls’ later work, Political Liberalism and its ongoing influence on politics and the law. Rawls argues that political life should be conducted according to a secular ‘public reason’ which shows respect to those who disagree. Questions of tolerating the intolerant are a perpetual theme in liberalism. Those who are unable to sign up to the requirements of political liberalism are labelled unreasonable. Is this fair?

Rawls’ book A Theory of Justice is one of the most cited works in the humanities and social sciences of the 20th century. It has influenced not only moral and political philosophy but also economics and law.

This day school will summarise Rawls’ contribution and consider its ongoing influence in both academic discourse and in the wider world.

February 26: A Day with the Stoics
Peter Wyss

Stoicism is an ancient school of philosophy that is gaining prominence again. One reason for this revival is the Stoics’ concern with making philosophy relevant as something that ought to be lived, or somehow be connected to our life. Doing philosophy is taking care of oneself, and considering how best to live a life that is also worth living.

In four thematic and interactive sessions we discuss a range of exemplary passages from the works of Seneca (e.g., from On the Happy Life) and Epictetus (e.g., from the Discourses). We focus on the period of the early Roman Empire (roughly 30–180 AC), but occasionally glance at the original Athenian Stoics (roughly 300–50 BC). We explore a variety of central ethical themes, and examine to what extent, and in what ways, Stoic ideas matter for our own lives now. Stoic teaching was public and open to anyone in antiquity: and so beginners in philosophy are most welcome today too.

A course pack with the relevant passages and sources will be available in advance.

05 March (one day): Meaning and Use: Philosophy of Language
Dr Hossein Dabbagh (Chair Dr Doug Bamford)

What kind of actions can we perform with our words? What is the relationship between the meaning of an utterance and the context in which the utterance is produced?

This day school attempts to introduce you to one of the dominant contemporary traditions in the Anglo-American analytic philosophy of language. Philosophy of language is mostly concerned with the role that language plays in our thinking. We will explore how language works, to determine when (and how) we speak meaningfully in different contexts. How do we understand each other’s intentions in our communications? How language users interpret words and signs?

We will also examine how people use their cultural background and assumption, even unconsciously, in their interpretation and conversation. To get a grasp on this, we will particularly study the Speech Act theory, Implicatures and the Cooperative Principle, Embodied Cognition, and Conceptual Metaphors. These theories and principles give us different tools to analyse natural language in a consistent way.

16 April (one day): Games, Pictures, Rules and Therapies
Dr Roxana Baiasu (Chair Ms Audrey Borowski)

Wittgenstein is one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century, both in Europe and in the Anglo-American tradition. In the 1930’s he announced his break with the tradition of philosophy. His work revolutionised the evolution of Analytic philosophy and shaped a significant part of its future development.

This day school focuses on a few central themes of his major later work, the Philosophical Investigations, themes which include: the Augustinian picture of language, language-games, general concepts and family resemblances, rules and rule-following, and philosophical methodology. The day aims to develop an understanding of these themes, an awareness of Wittgenstein’s particular style and method of philosophising and a grasp of the distinctive role of his thought in the history of philosophy.

May 07-08: Might Ignorance Be Bliss?
Rachel Fraser and Bernhard Salow

Might our judgements or what we take to be evidencebe systematically biased or irrational? To what extent are we able to transcend our current perspectives? How do we handle the potential conflict between past and future versions of ourselves? And how do we resolve the conflicts between the demands of the evidence, the search for truth, and the moral and practical constraints we are subject to?

This weekend will introduce you to philosophical tools for thinking about how to manage and respond to evidence. On the one hand, evidence is usually valuable: the more we know, the better our decisions tend to be. On the other hand, sometimes knowing more makes us worse off---for example, when the evidence we gather is misleading, or we interpret it in a biased way. We will explore how to reason about these trade-offs in a precise way, to determine when (and why) it does (and doesnt) make sense to continue gathering evidence before making a decision.