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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.

December 09: Living in a Material World: A Philosophical Perspective
Prof David Papineau & Dr Stephen Law

A day exploring key philosophical topics relating to mind, meaning and metaphysics with Professor David Papineau, one of the world’s leading researchers in these fields. Papineau is one of Britain’s best-known and most highly-regarded philosophers, with a reputation for writing very accessible, inclusive books intended for a wide audience.

Papineau believes that we live in a natural, material world. However, there are notorious philosophical puzzles about how such a material world is able to accommodate things like consciousness, moral value and meaning. How, in particular, is it even possible for a material thing, such as a human being, to be conscious? Is it possible for a pain or some other conscious experience to be something physical, such as a brain state? And how do these squiggles, or sounds in the air, come to mean something? What is meaning, exactly?

Once we start thinking philosophically about mind and meaning, they can begin to seem almost magical – as something that the natural, material world could not possibly, by itself, contain or produce. So can mind and meaning be naturalized, and if so, how?

The day comprises three lectures – on mind, meaning and metaphysics – and a final session in which David Papineau is in conversation with Stephen Law.

February 24: Self in a Future Society: A Philosophical Enquiry
Dr Julia Weckend

The concept of self has undergone significant changes throughout its long history. At a time when old controversies on how to best think about the nature of the self are still very much alive, new conceptions are starting to come into focus (data-selves, extended selves) which may once more require radical rethinking.

Human beings, minds and selves are inevitably shaped by their environments, and in return they determine their institutions, governmental bodies, and ultimately political systems. ‘Smart’ devices, virtual agents and generative AI already play an increasing role in the way humans structure their activities and think of themselves. ‘Intelligent systems’ are expected to become more and more autonomous and agentive to the point that they are perceived as potentially posing unprecedented threats. How might this new cognitive ecology where social mining and data-tracking are commonplace and where AI is said to know us better than our partners and friends, threaten privacy, restrict the scope of human action, and change the fabric of society

On the optimistic side, in our gradual transitioning into a posthumanist world we expect that developing technologies will greatly enhance human intellectual, physical and psychological capacities and afford us new ways of expressing ourselves. The capacity to tackle all forms of diseases relieves us from our dependence on the body and promises an existence free from physical and emotional suffering and (near-)immortality. But with it come considerations that put our current notions of human subjectivity and particularly human embodiment under substantial stress

On the same token a counterpart question arises for artificial intelligences, machine consciousness and selfhood. There are ethical implications on how to expand the circle of moral concern when extending subjectivities beyond the human species to include non-human or silicon-based agents and their selves.

April 06: Animals: Rights and Wrongs
Anna Charlton & Gary Francione

This day school will introduce the basic elements of animal ethics.

Animal rights, animal welfare, the status of animals as property, and the concept of personhood (as applied to humans and nonhumans) will be discussed.

Questions asked include:

  • Are animals merely things or do they have moral value?
  • If animals have moral value, what are our moral obligations to them?
  • Is vegetarianism sufficient?
  • Is veganism required?
  • Can we justify domestication?
  • What are the implications of the status of animals as property?
  • Does (or can) the law sufficiently protect animal interests?
  • Is there any relationship between human rights and nonhuman rights?

June 15-16:
Circumcision, Abortion, Compulsory Vaccination: Philosophy of Bodily Integrity
Dr Brian Earp, Dr Lisa Forsberg & Dr Stephen Law

Do we have the right to cut or modify a child’s genitals for religious or cultural reasons (for example, through penile circumcision or ‘ritual nicking’ of the vulva)? Should teenagers be allowed to alter their bodies through tattoos, piercing or cosmetic surgeries? When, if ever, are doctors justified in medically treating or vaccinating people against their will, or, if children, the will of their parents? Can governments legitimately limit the right to abortion?

This two-day event will explore these and other philosophical puzzles about our bodies and our rights over them, many with a medical dimension.

The speakers are two leading researchers in the field, having lectured internationally and published peer-reviewed articles on these and related topics in top bioethics journals.