Fri Oct 19th – On Love – Juliet Platt

What’s our understanding of Love?

How far must we understand it to acknowledge it?

What’s missing from our current reality?

How, if at all, does it need to change?

And why?

Join us for a discussion about our favourite secret obsession….


Fri Oct 12th – Pacifism – Elspeth Wollen and Friends

Sydney Bailey, a notable Quaker peacemaker wrote, “Peace is a path, not a possession”.  Quakers are well known for their longstanding commitment to the path of peace, but it is not uncommon to hear doubts expressed about our “peace testimony”


A mistaken idea is that pacifism is passive: a refusal to take action in the face of of evil. This is far from the case.  There are numerous examples of Quaker work to help prevent violent conflict; of individuals’ courage when caring for victims during war or mediating between warring sides, and of effective programmes of trauma healing and reconciliation after the initial cessation of violence.

On Friday, three members of Swindon Quaker Meeting will explore and describe some examples of non-violence, relief work and peacemaking.  We’ll also tackle the question of whether  pacifism can work in the ‘real world’.  Is a refusal to fight an escape from responsibility in international affairs?  And is it possible to hold to a peace testimony when none of us knows if we can, or should, always act peacefully in all circumstances?

Fri 5th Oct – Elites, Elitists and Elitism – Neil McCallum

Accusations of Elitism and denunciations of elitists are a regular part of current political dialogue. Are these always and inevitably negative terms? On Friday 5 October I hope to discuss with the Philosophical Society the origins of Elite Theory and explore how it has developed. To what extent does it help us understand our current world and perhaps more importantly, could it suggest what the immediate future may hold?

Fri 28th Sept – Making Sense of Carl Jung – Paul Archer

There has been a surge of interest in the work of Carl Jung associated with the huge popularity of Jordan Peterson.  My feeling is that some of Peterson’s popularity comes from being a wonderful exponent of the best insights into the human condition of Jung.  I have been greatly influenced by Carl Jung but (to use his own language) Jung has a long shadow and it is helpful to stand back and take a critical perspective on his work.  I want to say that we can discard the nonsense but hold on to his insights about evolutionary thinking, meaning, dreams, ethics, and religion.  I also want to say that we can reconcile Jung’s work with good politics and (at last to some degree) with modern neuroscience.  And we can certainly do without psychoanalysis.

Fri 21st Sept – Enlightenment in the Middle East with a Focus on Azerbaijan – Rahman Khatibi

My talk will drill into the European Enlightenment, a bottom-up movement driven by newly emerging evidence-based science which exposed religious decadency, attacked dogma and despotism and changed the world for the better.

After the 17th century a technological gap developed between European states and the Ottoman Empire and this triggered  new thinking within the Ottoman Empire. It gave rise to the emergence of an appropriate level of enlightenment  in the 18th and 19th centuries bearing fruit in the form of Kemalism. I will argue that beyond Turkey and Egypt, the Arab and Muslim world really did not formulate any notion of bottom-up enlightenment with a down-to-earth focus on improving the way of life for their population but were embroiled in past glories or in jingoistic ideas and imitated ideologies. However, the case was different in Azerbaijan which produced a homegrown enlightenment to the extent that universal suffrage in Azerbaijan (1919 both male and female) even predates that of UK (1928), quite unique for the Muslim world.
You will find quite few surprises, for instance that the first opera in the Muslim world was staged in Baku on 12 January 1908, the soprano role being performed by females in subsequent productions. You will also find out that a new wave of enlightenment is currently gathering strength in parts of Azerbaijan.

Fri Sept 14th – Enlightenment Now! : Pinker on Progress – John Little

If you follow the headlines, the world in the 21st century appears to be sinking into chaos, hatred, and irrationality. Yet Steven Pinker claims that this is an illusion – a symptom of biased memory, historical amnesia and statistical fallacies. If you follow the trendlines rather than the headlines, you discover that our lives have become longer, healthier, safer, happier, more peaceful, more stimulating and more prosperous – not just in the West, but worldwide.
Moreover such progress is no accident: it’s the gift of a coherent and inspiring value system that many of us embrace without even realizing it. These are the values of the Enlightenment:  reason, science, humanism and progress.
Pinker acknowledges that the challenges we face today are formidable, including inequality, climate change, Artificial Intelligence, and nuclear weapons. But the way to deal with them is not to sink into despair or try to lurch back to a mythical idyllic past; it’s to treat them as problems we can solve, as we have solved other problems in the past.
Pinker shows how we can use our faculties of reason and sympathy to solve the difficulties that inevitably come with being products of evolution in an indifferent universe. We will never have a perfect world, but – defying the chorus of fatalism and reaction – we can continue to make it a better one.