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.

Fri 6th Oct – Ancient DNA and the Birth of Modern Europe – Ned Pegler

How do you feel about Stonehenge? Are the people who built it your ancestors, passing down traditions of warm beer and quality beards, or just a bunch of hairy tribal weirdos from a long time ago? How do you feel about your mother country? What about immigration? Do you even feel you have a right to an opinion on this if your parents don’t even come from these isles, or Europe for that matter?

The last three years have seen a revolution in genetic analysis of ancient DNA that has made some of the questions above seem a lot more complex and interesting (well, to me anyway).  We’re learning surprising things about Europe’s turbulent distant past. More is undoubtedly to come.  History will probably need rewriting again.

But this will not just affect Europe. The Middle East, Africa and America are starting to be subjected to the same analytical gaze and India and China will no doubt follow. I’m not sure that we’re all prepared for the histories that it will provide.