Fri 24th Nov – What is Logic and Where Does It Come From? – Chris Eddy

We’ve recently come to understand that someone who was born “male” might declare that he was actually a “woman” or vice versa. We can’t assume that what were once regarded as the most basic words, “man” and “woman”, still mean what they used to. What this shows is that dictionaries, though useful, record only how words have been used historically, and have no authority over their future use. Using old words in new ways is one of the most fundamental forms of creativity, but words are of use in practical situations only if they enable us to agree on courses of action. Whoever wants to use old words in a new way needs to be able to explain what he means by them so that other people can understand well enough to be able to co-ordinate their actions with his and avoid conflict. In this perspective, which I want to explore, logic is a relation not between words, but between speakers who, merely by speaking, commit themselves to making practical sense of their sayings and doings.

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Fri Nov 17th – Automation, Education and Work in the 21st Century – Neil Howard

There is a proliferation of articles in the media about how the accelerating technology of artificial intelligence and robotics will change the world of work radically in the next 30 years. “47% of current jobs are under threat”. “Self-driving vehicles will put millions of truck drivers out of work”. “We are seeing a hollowing out of middle-income jobs.”
Some say this Luddite fear is unwarranted. “Just because we can’t imagine what new jobs will come along doesn’t mean the next generation won’t”. “We just need to educate everyone for the future knowledge economy.”
Others say “This time it’s different”. “We cannot compete with the robots”. “Maybe we need to tax the robots and have Universal Basic Income.”
This talk will look beyond these articles, at how technological revolutions happen, what the new technology actually is, and how things may turn out differently from what we expect.

Fri 10 Nov – Security, Harm and Violence: a conceptual exploration – James Shires

Security is ubiquitous, and comes in many forms: economic, social, and national security are a few of the most frequent uses of the term. However, the relationship of security to harm and violence in all three of these cases is unclear, despite an intuitive association between the concepts. To clarify this link, I argue that we need to not only better define the meaning of security and the process by which something becomes a security issue – ‘securitization’ – but also the other side of the equation. Harm and violence are themselves elastic concepts, and have been extended outside the physical realm envisioned by Hobbes in several ways. This talk examines the case study of modern information technologies, where words suggesting harm and violence – such as attack, damage, and weapon – are common in cybersecurity. I compare this inflated language with the apparently inconsequential role played by information technologies in unarguable cases of violence across the world, and conclude that if we take seriously the conceptual relationship between security, harm and violence, this leads to a substantial reprioritization of security issues related to information technologies.

 

Fri Nov 3rd – The Future of Social Security – Paul Archer

The introduction of Universal Credit is probably the biggest change to the social security system since the Beveridge Reforms established the modern version of the Welfare State.  The amalgamation of all means tested benefits and tax credits into one monthly payment which will go to around one half of all families with children is radical social policy making by any standard.  I want to look beyond the immediate crisis of people having to wait 6 weeks or more for their first payment and think about the key social policy choices underpinning the system and then ask whether this could be considered as a meaningful first step towards the sunny uplands of a universal basic income.

Fri 27th Oct – The Crisis in England – Chris Eddy

THE CRISIS IN ENGLAND: How would English people come to feel about themselves if the other “home nations” no longer wanted to play the British game and left the English really on their own? This may seem improbable in the immediate future, – at least to the English, – but it becomes more realistically imaginable with every passing year.

Suppose after Brexit the UK then broke up. Suppose Ireland, North and South, separately or together, were members of the EU. Suppose Scotland and Wales joined the EU as separate nations. There would then be no longer a United Kingdom, – no longer even a Great Britain, – for England to be part of.   England would be no longer even an Island Nation, since it would have two land-borders with the EU. If there were no longer a UK, then there would be no longer a seat for it on the Security Council of the United Nations and England would find itself relegated from the premier league of world powers while, perhaps, India and the EU were promoted in its place. If the English are attached to an idea of their “greatness”, how will they feel about this kind of outcome?

I want to consider these and other questions about the image the English have of themselves and the images others have of them, including those whose ancestors were either slaves or colonial subjects.

Fri 20th Oct – What do we mean by The Meaning of Life? – Gerry Merrison

So what’s it all about then?”

Many would say that the subject of ‘the Meaning of Life’ is the biggest philosophical question that can be asked, but it’s one that has been largely neglected by contemporary philosophers.

In this talk, previous Philosophical Society Chairman Gerry Merrison will ask (and attempt to address) the biggest questions of all:

  • What do we mean when we talk about ‘The Meaning of Life’?
  • Is there even such a thing?
  • What do the world’s great thinkers, past and present, have to say on the matter?
  • What conclusions can we draw?

Come along on Friday 20th October at 7.40, find out more, and make your contribution to the discussion.