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Members' Weekend, 05 - 06 September 2015


Links in the below time-table activate (or will soon activate) MP3 audio recordings of the corresponding talks. Talk recordings and supporting material are (or will soon be) also linked from talk summaries further below.

Saturday 05 September

1.30 pm Registration
1.45 pm Peter Gibson: Introduction
2.00 pm Fauzia Rahman-Greasley: Why Truth Matters
2.45 pm Simon Borrington: Truth – a Philosophical Non-Theory?
3.30 pm Tea/Coffee in the Common Room
4.00 pm Peter Gibson: The Appeal of Truthmakers
4.45 pm Eileen Walker: Truth and Possibility
5.30 pm Panel discussion
6.30 pm Bar
7.00 pm Annual Dinner and presentation of Chadwick & Boethius prizes
8.30 pm General discussion to be continued in the bar
Bar open till 10:30 pm

Sunday 06 September

8.00 am Breakfast (Rewley House residents only)
9.30 am Peter Townsend Truth as Fiction
10.15 am Jonathan Harlow: Truth and the Law
11.00 am Beverages in the Common Room
11.30 am Panel Discussion
12.30 Bar, then Lunch
2.00 pm Course disperses

The Talks in chronological order.

Fauzia Rahman-Greasley: Why Truth Matters
Some contemporary thinkers claim that Truth is an out-dated concept, a myth redundant, of no practical use. I argue that rejections of truth arguments are merely fads. I commence with three reasons for why the zeitgeist has moved in the direction of abandonment of Truth. I will then present thought experiments to demonstrate that Truth matters for instrumental and pragmatic reasons. Truth matters because: (1) of the kind of creatures we are; (2) discarding Truth is both harmful for individuals and dangerous for society; (3) without Truth humanity is unlikely to flourish and our species could become extinct. I will conclude that whilst fashions change, Truth really does matter.
Audio recording (MP3 format)
Handout (PDF format)
Talk text (PDF format)

Simon Borrington: Truth – a Philosophical Non-Theory?
For Richard Rorty, the philosophical problems surrounding the conceptual analysis of what truth is are rooted in the fundamental framework in which such an analysis has to take place. In order to overcome the correspondence vs. coherence impasse that arises from this he argues that the pragmatist position concerning beories of truthbmyth, should be that buthbmyth, is simply not the kind of thing that one should feel inclined to have a theory about. However, by relying on the notion of truth for his critique of the 'philosophical tradition', Rorty demonstrates the inextricable importance of truth to philosophical inquiry.
Audio recording (MP3 format)
Talk text (PDF format)

Peter Gibson: The Appeal of Truthmakers
"Some truths, such as 'I am standing', seem to be made true or false by the way the world is -- that is, they have a 'truthmaker'. This talk will defend the claim that all truths fit this pattern, so that every truth has a truthmaker, and the truthmaker necessitates that the claim is true (or false). Common objections to this thesis will be addressed, concerning necessary truths, negative truths, and universal generalisations. The naturalistic motivation for such a thesis will be considered, and one or two drastic proposals will be explored, in order to accommodate such a strong claim.
Audio recording (MP3 format)
Handout (PDF format)
Talk text (PDF format)

Eileen Walker: Truth and Possibility
What makes modal statements – statements about what might be or what might have been the case – true or false? Normally a statement is deemed to be true if it describes a state of affairs which actually obtains. 'Crows are black' is true if there are black crows. But consider: 'Cameron might have lost the election'. This describes a counterfactual state of affairs – one which does not obtain. If it is true, what makes it true? I shall reject the traditional response, 'Possible Worlds', and propose an alternative.
Audio recoding (MP3 format)
Slides (PDF format)
Talk text (PDF format)

Peter Townsend: Truth as Fiction
If a proposition is fictive, it is not true. Yet we also apply to fiction the criterion of truth: it 'rings true' or is 'true to life'. What is the relation of fiction to propositional or factual truth? I shall suggest that fiction tells a different kind of truth, one that is to do with types, not tokens; that it is exemplary and modal, in that it represents alternative but (usually) possible worlds. Examples will be given from Shakespeare, Proust and myth. I shall extend this idea to religion, which uses narrative fictions in its claims to truth. And, if the truth of fiction is about types, how does it compare with scientific theory and laws, which also deals in types and examples?
Audio recoding (MP3 format)
Handout (PDF format)
Slides (PDF format)
Talk text (PDF format)

Jonathan Harlow: Truth and the Law
Truth is an important social value. and people everywhere, not just philosophers, have always wanted to get to it. An elaborate and expensive system of courts exists to elicit the truth in particular cases. It seems likely therefore that we can learn something about Truth by considering the way that courts seek to establish it. This talk looks at judicial procedures, burdens of proof, admissible evidence and findings.
Audio recording (MP3 format)
Handout (PDF format)
Handout 2 (JPEG format)
Slides (PDF format)
Talk text (PDF format)

The Speakers

Fauzia Rahman-Greasley is Chairman of the Philosophical Society and a regular speaker at the Gerrards Cross philosophy group. After careers in medicine and then business, she studied at London University for her philosophy MA. She is a published poet and playwright of the critically acclaimed farce 'The Philosopher's Tale'.

Simon Borrington studied philosophy as a mature student at Middlesex Polytechnic back in the 80s when it was a centre for 'Radical Philosophy'. He embarked on postgraduate work under the guidance of Jonathan Rée, but life got in the way. For thirty years philosophy has been a persistent background noise to his engagement with the world and his encounters with PhilSoc have provided a welcome opportunity (for him, at least) to re-engage with the conversation.

Peter Gibson is a retired grammar school teacher, who taught English, IT and Philosophy. Since 2007 he has been studying philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, and in 2014 was awarded a PhD for a thesis on metaphysics. He compiles thousands of philosophical ideas at philosophyideas.com, and is currently attempting to write a broad survey of philosophy. He is Secretary of the Philosophical Society, and an Editor of its annual Review.

Eileen Walker's first degree was in French and Spanish and she taught languages for 30 years. She has been a philosophy junkie for most of that time, her habit fuelled by OUDCE weekends. Following a PhD from Reading on natural kind essentialism , she is now trying to keep her research interests going (mainly in metaphysics and the philosophy of language) and doing some part-time teaching for OUDCE. She is Treasurer of the Philosophical Society.

Peter Townsend. Educated at Luton Grammar School, Cambridge, and SOAS; subjects: languages, literature and linguistics. Working life: actor and comedian, advertising copywriter (as in 'Mad Men'), teacher and lecturer, freelance writer, marketing consultant. Came late to philosophy, via linguistics and Wittgenstein, and dropping in on Oxford lectures. And the realisation that most arguments are rooted in confusion (sometimes deliberate) about the meanings of the terms.

Jonathan Harlow BA MBA PhD has served in the Royal Artillery, and worked as a government administrator and business manager in Africa and Guyana. He taught History and Economics in a comprehensive school for twenty years and, part-time, at university for ten. Now retired, he is mainly engaged in local history, but very interested in the philosophy of mind and in ethics.

Some Readings

  • introductions: Michael Lynch True to Life; Pascal Engel Truth; Chase Wrenn Truth; Bernard Williams Truth and Truthfulness
  • the Stanford Encylopaedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/) has at least twelve articles on various aspects of truth.
  • scholar.google.co.uk and philpapers.org connect to a profusion of scholarly papers
  • big collection of papers: The Nature of Truth, ed. Michael Lynch