Spring/Summer Programme

Date           Subject                                                                                           Speaker

15 April     Social Justice                                                                                 Robert Buckland MP           ( Joint event with Swindon Churches Together)

22 April    Windows into the Soul                                                                Marina Strinkovsky

29 April    Humane or Humanitarian – Dilemmas of an Aid Worker     Anna Hirsch-Holland

6 May       6.30 The Idler  – Thoughts on Loafing                                     Tom Hodgkinson                                 8.00 The Difference between Bad and Good Psychopaths           Kevin Dutton
( Joint events with Swindon Festival of Literature at the Arts Theatre)

13 May     6.30 Values Fit for a Pluralist Society                                          Christine Odone                                 8.00 Followed by the Annual Think Slam
( Joint events with Swindon Festival of Literature at the Arts Theatre )

20 May    tbc                                                                                                          Peter von Lany

After Chris’ talk the next meeting will be on Friday15th April

We will be taking a three week Easter break this year so the next meeting will be on Friday 15th April. In the meantime here are some links to short articles on the OUP website.

To blame or to forgive?

Saladin’s Islamic State

Philosopher of the month: David Hume

Why we do what we do

What is our moral obligation to the stranger?

Are you really free? Yes: a new argument for freedom

When probability is not enough

Does the ‘Chinese room’ argument preclude a robot uprising?

Shakespeare and conscience

Can a robot be conscious?

Supernatural punishment: the common denominator

Religion is not primitive science

Religious belief, fundamentalism, and intolerance

Let us not run blindfolded into the minefield of future technologies

A memorial for Gallows Hill

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense turns 240 years old

“Our fathers lied”: Rudyard Kipling as a war poet

The ISIS emergence: Enemy of the international community

Old Nick on the ‘net: on Satanic politics

Predictive brains, sentient robots, and the embodied self

Fri 18th Mar. – Chris Eddy – Sailing To Byzantium

This Friday, from 7.40pm at the Friends Meeting House, Chris Eddy will be speaking on the poem Sailing To Byzantium by W.B.Yeats.  Here is the poem:


That is no country for old men. The young 

in one another’s arms, birds in the trees – 

Those dying generations – at their song,

The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,

Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long

Whatever is begotten, born and dies.

Caught in that sensual music all neglect

Monuments of unageing intellect.


An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless 

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing 

For every tatter in its mortal dress, 

Nor is there singing school but studying 

Monuments of its own magnificence; 

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come 

To the holy city of Byzantium.


O sages standing in God’s holy fire

As in the gold mosaic of a wall,

Come from the fire, perne in a gyre

And be the singing-masters of my soul.

Consume my heart away; sick with desire

And fastened to a dying animal

It knows not what it is; and gather me

Into the artifice of eternity.


Once out of nature I shall never take

My bodily form from any natural thing,

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of hammered gold and gold enamelling

To keep a drowsy emperor awake;

Or set upon a golden bough to sing

To lords and ladies of Byzantium

Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


Chris says:

I start from the fact that the study of poetry, i.e., texts in verse unaccompanied by music, is a compulsory element in a compulsory subject in our compulsory education system.

(1a) I argue that poetry as defined above is of interest only to a minority, so that, to justify its inclusion in a compulsory syllabus, a poem should have something meaningful to say, i.e., some summarizable content, that everyone, even those who have no interest in poetry, could reasonably be required to study.

(1b) In this I am opposed by advocates of the aesthetic ideology who claim that “A poem should not mean,/ But be” (Archibald Macleish), i.e., that it should be valued for its form rather than its content.

(2a) I argue that, if the study of poetry is to be compulsory, then “Sailing To Byzantium”, by W.B.Yeats, should be included in the syllabus because it gives profound intuitive access, through its vivid dramatization, to the ideas of “God”, “Soul” and “Eternity”, which are necessary to any adequate understanding of personal existence.

(2b) I am opposed in this by atheists who claim that the universe was not intentionally created, so that “God”, supposedly the intentional creator of the universe, doesn’t exist; also that consciousness is a function of the brain, so the “soul” can’t exist since it represents consciousness as something distinct from the brain; and that “eternity” can’t exist since it implies the continuation of consciousness after the death of the brain; and therefore that no one could reasonably be required to give their attention to the ideas of God, Soul and Eternity.

(3a) I argue that the Speechworld, – constituted by commitments between speakers implied by their speaking, – can be understood as “God”, i.e., as the intentional creator of souls (though not of the universe), and, between souls, of relations which are logically necessary and therefore eternal, i.e., true at all times and in all possible universes, – but that this does not entail post-mortem consciousness.

(3b) I am opposed in this by traditional theists for whom “God” is the intentional creator not only of souls with post-mortem consciousness, but also of the universe.

My aims are, firstly, to sketch a vision within which it would make sense to require everyone to know this poem, and secondly, to provide those who love this poem with an opportunity to celebrate it.”

Fri. 11 March – The Future of Nuclear – Gerry Hannon and Paul Archer

The subject is ‘nuclear con-fusion’ which will a two-hander with Gerry Hannon and Paul Archer.  Gerry Hannon will start proceedings by unpacking issues around Nuclear Power followed by Paul Archer addressing the issues around Trident and Nuclear Weapons.

Gerry and Paul will start at 7.40 pm sharp to make sure there is time to present some short video clips.

Gerry says:

Nuclear Power seems at first sight to have something to offer as part of a future facing energy policy. It does not depend on oil, gas or coal as a primary fuel.  It is based on a process which does not, in itself, produce carbon dioxide.  It is concentrated in a relatively small number of very large plants, so that if fits into the national grid. And there is even the theoretical prospect of it being able to breed it’s own fuel. So – what’s the problem? I’ll do my best to unpack the issues.

Paul says:

The arguments about nuclear disarmament have taken centre stage again following the Labour Party review of policy on the renewal of Trident.  It looks likely that unilateral disarmament will become the policy of the Corbynista Labour Party.  This makes it a good time to take a close and critical look at the good and bad arguments that are presented by both sides and then ask ourselves whether deterrence works.