31st Oct.: Professor John Cottingham on “Philosophy, God, and the Meaning of Life”

This week we are very pleased to welcome Professor John Cottingham to the Phil Soc.

A distinguished academic,  John Cottingham is Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, University of London, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Reading University, and an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford.  His books include On the Meaning of Life, The Spiritual Dimension, Cartesian Reflections, and Why Believe?.  His latest book, Philosophy of Religion: Towards a More Humane Approach is published by Cambridge University Press this November.

John asks: “Can philosophy offer advice on happiness? Can it help us to find meaning and purpose in life?” Traditionally, philosophers saw it as part of their role to offer an account of how human beings can live a worthwhile life, but many contemporary academic philosophers steer clear of such questions. John Cottingham will argue that philosophy can and should address these issues, and will examine some of the obstacles to finding true meaning within the framework of modern secularism.

Do join us this Friday.



24th October: ‘Piketty and the History of Inequality’.

This Friday at 7.40, Paul Archer will be speaking on ‘Piketty and the History of Inequality’.

Paul says: “The book ‘Capital’ by leading French Economist, Thomas Piketty, was published earlier this year and has been the most influential (and certainly the most popular) book on economics for a very long time. The central idea is that, contrary to established thinking/faith in the economics profession, the natural tendency is for inequality of wealth to increase indefinitely.”

Paul will highlight the key data and identify the central arguments set out by Piketty, before thinking about whether and how this matters and what, if anything, can be done about it in a globalised economy.

We hope to see you on Friday.

10th October: The Gap – Human Uniqueness

John Little returns this week to follow up his talk on ‘Dognition’ at the start of term, and says:

“From an evolutionary viewpoint, there must be continuity between the mind of an ape seven million years ago and the human mind. Yet today there exists an undeniable gap between the capacities of humans and those of animals. Over the 20,000 years that our brains have been shrinking, our minds have spawned civilizations and technologies that have changed the face of the Earth, while even our closest animal relatives sit threatened in their dwindling habitats.

Despite longstanding debates, the nature of this apparent gap has remained unclear. What exactly is the difference between our minds and theirs? Last time I didn’t have time to discuss the new theories contained in such recent books as Michael Tomasello’s  ‘A Natural History of Human Thinking’, Bruce Hood’s ‘The Domestic Brain’, Coolidge and Wynn’s ‘The Rise of Homo Sapiens’  and of course Thomas Suddendorf’s ‘The Gap’. 

Can we account for the unique nature of human cognition ?”

Come along this Friday to find out.

3rd October: The Importance of Religious Freedom in an age of Fundamentalism

This week, the Philosophical Society welcomes the Roman Catholic Bishop of Swindon, The Right Reverend Declan Lang. His talk is titled “The Importance of Religious Freedom in an age of Fundamentalism”, and in it , he will explore the challenges of diversity and the hope of oneness.


Do join us for what promises to be an interesting and  topical evening’s discussion.