Socrates Society

About this group

This group profile is no longer maintained - the information below may be outdated or the group may be no longer active.

Socrates Society is a student philosophy group at Oxford University. We meet roughly every week during term time in a central college to discuss philosophical topics selected and presented by members or visitors.

Presentations usually last between 20 and 30 minutes and are followed by about an hour's discussion accompanied by wine or soft drinks.

Socrates Society was founded in 2007 and continues the tradition of socratic dialogue established by its predecessor at Oxford: the Socratic Club.

Contact Name: Ben Ralph
E-mail:
Tel: 07587178127
Category: Common Interest > Wine
Networks: Oxford University

News & Announcements

How can Juliet be the Sun? Thursday, 8pm, Jesus College

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Tuesday, 11th March 2014 @ 1:51pm

Dear all,
The time has finally come to announce the last meeting of term and with it, my presidency. Fittingly, the duty of seeing my tenure out falls to someone whose membership predates my own. I feel as confident as ever in promising you an excellent talk on the philosophy of metaphor from Raffi.

I should take this opportunity to thank everybody who has attended SocSoc this year, especially those who have spoken, for a thoroughly enjoyable and intellectually invigorating time as president. Special thanks should go to Guy and Max, who have been consistently helpful finding rooms in which to drink wine and philosophise.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for life; as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Thursday 13th March (8th Week)

Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College

Speaker: Raffael Krismer (Brasenose)
Title: How can Juliet be the Sun?

Abstract:

None of has any trouble understanding Romeo when he exclaims that ‘Juliet is the sun!’ But note how different this sentence is from saying that, for example, ‘There is a desk-lamp in my room.’ The difference is, of course, that, when taken literally, Romeo’s statement is seriously flawed. Still we do think that first of all whatever it was that he said is significant and secondly that he has said something interesting. This example is a standard one for the linguistic phenomenon of metaphor. In my talk I will introduce a distinction between pragmatics and semantics in order to explain how we do understand metaphors of the above kind. I will show how, given the various contextual rules that guide our interpretation of other people’s intentions, grasping a metaphor is a creative process and how much of language happens outside of the conventional rules of semantic meaning. Roughly speaking, this leads to a view in which interpretation lies at the heart of communication.


I hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Reminder: Meeting TONIGHT and The Ethics of Climate Change

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 3rd March 2014 @ 10:00am

Dear all,


Firstly, I probably didn't make it sufficiently clear in the last email that this week's meeting is tonight (Monday), not Thursday.  It is still in the Harold Wilson Room in Jesus College.  Please do come along for what promises to be an excellent talk and discussion.

Secondly, I have been asked to promote an event run by the PPE society on Tuesday.  As it is the right P, I'm sure it will be a fascinating talk.  Here is the information:

The Ethics of Climate Change: a talk by John Broome (7:30pm - 8:45pm, Tuesday 4th March, Danson Room - Trinity College) with the Oxford PPE Society

What can moral philosophy tell us about climate change? Much of contemporary discussion about climate change and how we should respond to it is philosophically impoverished. This is unfortunate. Moral philosophy provides a unique perspective on the matter. The issue of climate change intersects with important problems in ethics, such as how we are to make sense of our obligations toward future generations, what values we (should) cherish the most and how burdens should be distributed.

John Broome is the White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy and a fellow of Corpus Christi, Oxford. The author of the seminal 'Weighing Lives' (OUP: 2004) and more recently, 'Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World' (Norton: 2012), Broome began his academic career in economics but moved towards moral philosophy where he has written extensively on the logical structure of rationality and how to make sense of the idea of value. In 2013, Broome was named as one of the lead authors for the IPCC’s next report on climate change mitigation, where his job has been described by The Times newspaper as being 'to rein in the economists'.

The event is free for students and staff from the University of Oxford. To see the Facebook event, click here: https://www.facebook.com/events/295871120561505/

Yours,

Ben 

Vive la revolution: a surprising link between the philosophy of science and the history of sport, 8pm, Jesus College

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Sunday, 2nd March 2014 @ 1:06pm

Dear all,

Let it not be said that philosophy is irrelevant to the modern world. Here at Socrates Society we consider it a categorical imperative to address issues that affect every single one of us. Tomorrow, therefore, we shall make a long overdue foray into the philosophy of ski-jumping, via Thomas Kuhn and the philosophy of science.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for life. As always, the philosophy is free, but for one night only, crash helmets are optional.


Date: Monday 3rd March (7th Week)

Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College

Speaker: Jack Webb (Wadham)
Title:
Vive la revolution: a surprising link between the philosophy of science and the history of sport.

Abstract:

In 1962 Thomas Kuhn published his ground-breaking ‘Structure of Scientific Revolutions’, advocating a historical approach to the philosophy of science and introducing the phrase “paradigm shift” to the world. In the 50 years since, his ideas about revolutions in science have spread widely to many other areas of human culture. However in this process his thoughts have not always been represented faithfully or understood correctly.

In this talk I will present my understanding of what Kuhn was trying to say in 1962. In the spirit of the recent Winter Olympics, I will attempt to explain his ideas by showing how they apply usefully and interestingly to sports as well as to science. In the course of the discussion, I hope to introduce for the first time the (pitifully overlooked) philosophy of Ski-Jumping.


I hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Why don't ethics professors behave better than they do? Thursday, 8pm, Jesus College

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Tuesday, 18th February 2014 @ 11:37am

Dear all,

So here we are, over the half way point of both the term, year and maybe even some of your degrees, hopefully feeling more philosophically informed and developed than you did at the start. But what effect has philosophy had on your life, beyond tutorials, exams and your supply of cheap wine? This week we will be considering an extreme case of the relation of philosophical inquiry to everyday life, that of ethics professors, from which I am sure there are more abstract lessons to be learned. Please do join us for what promises to be a fascinating and stimulating discussion.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for life and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Thursday 20th February (5th Week)

Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College

Speaker: Andrew Lee (St Peter's)
Title:
Why don't ethics professors behave better than they do?

Abstract: 

There is a really interesting area, an overlap between philosophy (well practical ethics) and psychology concerning the ethical behaviours of ethics professors. Ethical philosophers (That is academic philosophers who specialise in ethics, not just really kind philosophers..) don't live lives markedly different from other philosophers and academics; they are no more likely to eat less meat, or be helpful to their students, indeed, there is evidence to suggests they are more likely not to return library books. The "headline" claim is "Ethical philosophers are no more ethical than other academics".
My talk will look at the issues surrounding this fact. I will be presenting the evidence of recent studies, arguing what it is useful research. I will look at what conclusions we can draw from it. Should we be surprised by the results? Should we expect more from ethical philosophers? Should ethical philosophers be more 'evangelical' in encouraging people to live as their theories suggest?


Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

The Noble Lie? Deceit in Plato's Republic, Thursday, 8pm, Jesus College

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Tuesday, 11th February 2014 @ 4:59pm

Dear all,

A term of Socrates Society wouldn't quite be complete without a return to the Classical Athens, paying homage to the masters of the alchemical practice of combining philosophy and wine to create something beautiful. But while the subject is ancient, it is by no means irrelevant, for we live in an age where we have come to expect dishonesty and deception from those who rule us.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for life and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Thursday 13th February (4th Week)

Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College

Speaker: Guy Brindley (Jesus)
Title:
The Noble Lie? Deceit in Plato's Republic

Abstract: 

In his famous Republic, Plato lays out an elaborate scheme for both personal and civic justice and happiness. This requires an elaborate process of philosophical education, culminating in knowledge of the perfect harmony which exists between the eternal Forms, and an instantiation of this truth in the arrangement of one's soul and city. However, despite the constant emphasis throughout this work on the importance of objective truth and knowledge, it is striking that Plato's ideal city is built upon and maintained by a selection of troubling falsehoods of varying magnitude. Should we take these moments of deception as a necessary evil required for a greater social and philosophical good, or are they indicative of more significant flaws and hypocrisy in Plato's grand designs? In this talk, I hope to consider the effect of Plato's lies on his own work, and also the implications for such an elastic approach to the truth in contemporary politics, morality and thought.


Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

A Design for Life, Thursday, 8pm, Jesus College

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Thursday, 6th February 2014 @ 11:00am

Dear all,

Apologies for the tardiness, there were a few last minute details to sort out, but we do have a meeting this week. Tonight we should have a fascinating and engaging talk about the way we could, but perhaps don't, live.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for life and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Thursday 6th February (3rd Week)

Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College

Speaker: Asha Fereydouni (Mansfield)
Title: A Design for Life


Abstract: Lifestyle design, the idea of finding the ideal way to live, is a subject of ever-increasing popularity in a modern world where time is a precious commodity and so many are looking for an edge that can set them apart. To us especially, smart people with a plethora of options open to us, learning more about our passions and considering career plans and short and long term goals, it is hugely relevant and thus it deserves consideration.


Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

No meeting this week, but a recommendation.

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Tuesday, 28th January 2014 @ 8:19pm

Dear all,

Unfortunately, as we have had a speaker drop out at fairly short notice, there will be no meeting this week.  However, it has been brought to my attention that the very same night the meeting would have been held, AC Grayling is giving a talk at Blackwell's at 7pm in support of his new book "Friendship". More information can be found here: http://stores.blackwell.co.uk/stores/oxford-bookshop/events/.  Grayling can be a little pleased with himself at times, but did study here under Strawson and Ayer, and thus has good philosophical pedigree.  Hopefully this will provide those of you who would have been philosophically malnourished with some succour for the week.

Apologies for the cancellation, but these things happen.

Yours,


Ben

Just Giving?, Thursday, 8pm, Jesus College

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Tuesday, 21st January 2014 @ 6:34pm

Dear all,

To see the new year in, I thought the first meeting of term would be an excellent opportunity to take advantage of post-Christmas cynicism with a philosophical examination of that much hated part of our society, the charitable sector.  Just to clarify: if you want to come, all you need to do is turn up, there is nothing more to it. 

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for life and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Thursday 23rd January (1st Week)

Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College

Speaker: Ben Ralph (Brasenose)
Title: Just Giving?
 

Abstract: Chairty is a ubiquitous and important part of our society, and is becoming ever more central. To take one example, David Cameron's Big Society is in many ways the idea that charity gradually replaces parts of the Welfare State.  However, sometimes the charitable sector can be somewhat of a sacred cow, not put to the sort of intellectual and ethical scrutiny that perhaps it ought to be due. 

I will be exploring issues of a widely ranging scope: from the ways in which charities raise awareness and funds; to the ethical underpinnings of charity, and how they relate to the system that is in place.  I should stress that this talk will not be attempting to convince you to donate time or money to particular charities over others, but trying to encourage a candid and interesting debate about a topic that is often shied away from.



Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Happy New Year & Request for Speakers

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Sunday, 12th January 2014 @ 3:01pm

Dear all,

Firstly, I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and are as close as possible to a state of Eudaimonia in this brave new year. Socrates Society is of course returning in 2014 for my final term in office and our first meeting will be in 1st week.  I will send out the details next weekend. 

As is now a SocSoc tradition, the new term brings with it a new request for speakers.  Speakers make (and hopefully do not break) each meeting so please do get in contact if you would like to give a talk at some point this term. Here's what I said about speaking last September, which should answer any questions you have:

Socrates Society is built around volunteers who kindly offer to prepare talks on a wide range of philosophical subjects, for without the talks, we would be nothing more than a group of students   drinking silently in a room. As nobody wants that, I am sending out this clarion call for anyone who has pondered about speaking, or has a subject in mind they think could spark an interesting discussion. 

Preparing and giving a talk is an incredibly rewarding and suprisingly simple task to carry out.  Most of the time talks are just adaptions of a tutorial essay which you found particuarly interesting, tweaked a little to make it suitable for a more forgiving and gentle audience.  It is far more pleasant to receive applause and a lively discussion after a talk, rather than the red pen and grilling which too often follow a tutorial essay.


There are no strict guidelines on what you can talk about, we are primarily looking for an interesting subject, thought about in a philosophical way and there are no taboos on the more esoteric applications of philosophy.  All I would recommend is that you remember that you are giving a talk to an audience who are not all specialists, so the less knowledge on the subject assumed, the better.  However this has not prevented fascinating, yet accesible talks on subtle and intellectual material.  
 
Yours excitedly,

Ben Ralph
President, Socrates Society

Should Philosophers Meditate? Tuesday, 8pm, Ferrar Room, Hertford College

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Sunday, 1st December 2013 @ 6:58pm

Dear all,

For our final meeting of term, we will be broaching a topic probably not discussed much by the haughty, fusty and over-stereotyped dons of Oxford, not studying philosophy per se, but how, as philosophers, we should be going about it.  To add some festive spirit to the occasion, I may leave some red wine by the radiator in an attempt to mull it, but I do request that people refrain from bringing mistletoe, as it would be anathema for any love to go beyond the platonic at SocSoc.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for lifetime and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Tuesday 3rd December (8th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Ferrar Room, Hertford College

Speaker: Jack Webb (Wadham College)
Title:
Should Philosophers Meditate?

Abstract: 

In a hotbed of rigorous analytical thinking like Oxford, it is easy to be overly cautious when judging new philosophical tools. That it may be useful for philosophers to meditate is one such suggestion for a novel philosophical plan of attack. In my experience, this suggestion has often been quickly dismissed by that most devastating of arguments: the incredulous stare. It is a tradition of philosophers to counter this incredulous stare, wherever they should find it, with reason and rationality; this is what I shall try to do in this talk.

I will clarify a modern, mindfulness-based approach to meditation and counter some objections to its use in philosophy. I will also suggest several specific potential avenues of exploration it may bring about. These mostly focus on the use of meditation as a tool to sharpen our powers of introspection and intuition.


Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Is the new riddle of induction really new? Tuesday, 8pm, Ferrar Room, Hertford College

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 18th November 2013 @ 12:18pm

Dear all,

For the 6th meeting of Michaelmas, I'm delighted to announce that it is same time, same place for the first time this term, with what promises to be a fascinating talk on the riddles of induction, old and new, whether they are different and a possible solution.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for lifetime and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Tuesday 19th Novemeber (6th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Ferrar Room, Hertford College

Speaker: Mikey Blake (Regent's Park College)
Title:
Is the new riddle of induction really new?

Abstract: 

The problem of induction has for centuries been one of the most notorious problems in philosophy, threatening to cast into doubt not just the rationality of the scientific method, but also any claims of knowledge about the future. Indeed as C.D. Broad once stated "induction is the glory of science and the scandal of philosophy."

In this talk I aim to explore both Hume's original problem of justifying inductive inferences about the future, and Goodman's 'New Riddle of Induction' of why we use certain predicates rather than others in making such inferences. I will argue that in fact the New Riddle is not new at all, but rather just Hume's problem under a different guise. Furthermore, having established that in fact there is just one problem of induction, I will explore Hans Reichenbach's argument that our use of induction is not simply a mental habit as Hume suggested, and can indeed be justified on pragmatic grounds.



Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Are mental states identical to brain states? Tuesday, 8pm, Ferrar Room, Hertford College

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 11th November 2013 @ 1:40pm

Dear all,

For our next meeting of term, we will be continuing from where we left off last week, with a more direct approach to the philosophy of mind.  Philosophy of mind provides us with some of the most intractable and baffling problems of philosophy and thus provides a perfect topic for discussion.  It is one of those subjects which can really challenge one's intuitions and perceptions about things and so I really do recommend coming along, whatever your philosophical grounding.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for lifetime and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Tuesday 12th Novemeber (5th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Ferrar Room, Hertford College

Speaker: Raffael Krismer (Brasenose College)
Title: 
Are mental states identical to brain states? 

Abstract: 

Last week we were discussing questions such as: ‘Can we think of the mind as being the software that runs on the brain?’ in the context of artificial intelligence. This week I would like to stay in this general area of philosophy but widen the context from intelligent behaviour to consciousness as a whole. I will shed some light on the most intuitive position with respect to modern sciences: a view called ‘physicalism’. According to this theory every mental state is identical, in some sense, to some brain state. I will look into this claim, by drawing a distinction between type identities and token identities, and argue that either of these identity claims is implausible given the famous ‘what it is like to be a bat argument’ and the ‘knowledge argument’. It seems that physicalism cannot capture the fact that there are qualitative, first person experiences – in other words: there ways in which it ‘feels’ to see red or hear a piece of music that escape any physicalist analysis. If there is some time left I would like to strengthen my position by introducing an alternative account which draws on the notion of inter-theoretic reduction.


Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

ROOM CHANGE Artificial Intelligence, its pitfalls and a new theory of the mind. Hertford College, Friday, 8pm

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 4th November 2013 @ 10:36pm

Please note: Room change to the Old Library, still Hertford College.

Dear all,

For our fourth meeting, we are delving into some relatively modern but utterly fascinating issues surrounding computers and their relation to perennial questions about the mind.
 This talk should be of especial interest to anyone with an interest in artificial intelligence, the theory of mind, computer science or neuroscience, but do come along if you tick none, any or all of these boxes.
One word of warning, the room booking is not confirmed yet, so do look out for any emails I may send out next week regarding room changes.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for lifetime and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Friday 8th November (4th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Old Library, Hertford College

Speaker: Max Chamberlin (Hertford College)
Title: Artificial Intelligence, its pitfalls and a new theory of the mind.


Abstract: 

In this talk I will look into the problems and challenges facing researchers in artificial intelligence, in particular exploring some of Turing’s early work on computability. I will also explain how Turing, the father of modern-day computer science and an early advocate of functionalism, (functionalism focuses only on successful outcomes rather than intelligent inner processes) has blighted the field of AI. Having considered the problems, I will then explore a novel approach to AI, which focuses on understanding what makes the human brain so different from other intelligent systems. In doing this, I hope to shed light on how we can replicate intelligent behaviour in machines.


Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Artificial Intelligence, its pitfalls and a new theory of the mind. Hertford College, Friday, 8pm

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 4th November 2013 @ 12:17am

Dear all,

For our fourth meeting, we are delving into some relatively modern but utterly fascinating issues surrounding computers and their relation to perennial questions about the mind.
 This talk should be of especial interest to anyone with an interest in artificial intelligence, the theory of mind, computer science or neuroscience, but do come along if you tick none, any or all of these boxes.
One word of warning, the room booking is not confirmed yet, so do look out for any emails I may send out next week regarding room changes.

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for lifetime and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Friday 8th November (4th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Ferrar Room, Hertford College (TBC)

Speaker: Max Chamberlin (Hertford College)
Title: Artificial Intelligence, its pitfalls and a new theory of the mind.


Abstract: 

In this talk I will look into the problems and challenges facing researchers in artificial intelligence, in particular exploring some of Turing’s early work on computability. I will also explain how Turing, the father of modern-day computer science and an early advocate of functionalism, (functionalism focuses only on successful outcomes rather than intelligent inner processes) has blighted the field of AI. Having considered the problems, I will then explore a novel approach to AI, which focuses on understanding what makes the human brain so different from other intelligent systems. In doing this, I hope to shed light on how we can replicate intelligent behaviour in machines.


Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Hume: Theism's Trojan Horse, Jesus College, 8pm Monday

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Saturday, 26th October 2013 @ 5:26pm

Dear all,

For our third meeting we are moving from the logical to the theological, with a defence of theism through an exploration of induction.  Please do come along for a topic both interesting and discussion-provoking in equal measure.  

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for lifetime and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Monday 28th October (3nd week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harol
d Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Calum Miller (St Hugh's School)
Title: Hume: Theism's Trojan Horse


Abstract: 

For centuries, worries about inductive inference have plagued the philosophy of science. From Sextus Empiricus, through Hume and on to Goodman, sceptical concerns about extrapolative inference in time and space have continued to bedevil any neat account of scientific epistemology. Similarly, the threats of global scepticism, instrumentalism and the underdetermination of theories by data form a confluence of attacks on the reasonableness of science. I give an analysis of these problems and discuss some attempts to resolve the problems, arguing that a characteristic feature of scientific epistemology is the use of simplicity as an index of truth. Finally, I discuss some attempts to justify this use of simplicity, developing the thesis that theism leads us to expect a simple/"inductable" universe and is thereby preferable, other things being equal, to other worldviews.

Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Thinking in Slow Motion, Jesus College, 8pm Thursday

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Sunday, 20th October 2013 @ 5:52pm

Dear all,

For our second talk of the term, we will be delving into the fertile territory of logic and language, with a talk on conditionals which may be of interest to any freshers currently discombobulated by their logic course, as well as anyone interested in exploring the logical structure of language.  Don't worry about emailing me if you are coming, just turn up this week. 

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for lifetime and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Thursday 24th October (2nd week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harol
d Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Samuel Hurst (Regent's Park College)
Title: If A, then C.


Abstract: 

Suppose you and I are having a casual conversation, whilst I play with a standard six-sided die in my hand. I then go to roll the die, and say to you ‘If it’s even, then it will be a six’. My talk this week will focus on whether my statement is true in the six potential resulting circumstances of my die roll. Note that the die example will not be the only one considered, and I encourage you to bring you own interesting examples of ‘If A, then C’ statements to the meeting. In my talk I will show how the standard interpretation of conditional statements according to Halbach’s arrow, for example, leads to counterintuitive results. I will then offer you four different solutions from Lewis, Jackson, Stalnaker, and Edgington. It will then be up to you, the SocSoc members, to delve into this fascinating topic which has been so significant in philosophical logic in recent years.

Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Meeting tonight, please read if you are planning to attend.

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Wednesday, 16th October 2013 @ 5:09pm

Dear all,


I am very reluctant to have to do this but I think, to avoid an overcrowding that would probably be to the detriment of the meeting, I am going to have to politely request that only those who have replied to my email by midnight on the 14th October (Monday) or have spoken to me in person turn up tonight.  I will not be in the business of checking names at the door, but if too many turn up, the meeting just won't work properly. I am considering what to do in future if this sort of demand is sustained, but there is no satsifactory way I can think of to increase capacity for tonight at such short notice.  


I really do apologise for those who emailed later, or simply forgot to reply (it is precisely the sort of thing I do!) and I would be most happy to email a copy of my talk to anyone who is very keen to know precisely what I had to say tonight.  However, attendance does normally peak in the first meeting of term, so I hopefully I will not need to resort to such measures again.  

I look forward to seeing those of you who made the rather arbitrary cut tonight!

Yours regretfully,
Ben Ralph

 

CORRECTION Thinking in Slow Motion, Jesus College, 8pm Wednesday

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 14th October 2013 @ 10:39am

Dear all,

Welcome, and welcome back to another year of Socrates Society.  Firstly, many thanks to all who signed up at Freshers' Fair, it was really heartening to see so many people interested in the society.  Due to the unprecedented levels of enthusiasm, it would be useful to us if you could 
please reply to this email if you are planning to come on Wednesday. The Harold Wilson Room, our regular haunt of late, is a wonderful room for the numbers we usually get, as we prefer a more intimate location to help make discussion less intimidating. We will do our best to find a room with larger capacity if that is what is required, but we do need to know rough numbers before we can properly consider such contigencies. 

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for lifetime and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Wednesday 16th October (1st week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College (tbc)
Speaker: Ben Ralph (Brasenose)
Title: Thinking i
n Slow Motion

Abstract: 

How, if at all, can we characterise the activity which we call philosophy and, if it has any, what is its value to us? For want of a
 better starting point, I will start with Socrates and his eponymous method to approach the question, albeit as an imperfect subject, but certainly one which has resonated through history with philsophers of all stripes. Following this idea, I will attempt to characterise philosophy in a way inspired by a description by John Campbell, a Professor at Berkeley: "Philosophy is thinking in slow motion. It breaks down, describes and assesses moves we ordinarily make at great speed - to do with our natural motivations and beliefs. It then becomes evident that alternatives are possible."

Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

Thinking in Slow Motion, Jesus College, 8pm Wednesday

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 14th October 2013 @ 1:51am

Dear all,

Welcome, and welcome back to another year of Socrates Society.  Firstly, many thanks to all who signed up at Freshers' Fair, it was really heartening to see so many people interested in the society.  Due to the unprecedented levels of enthusiasm, it would be useful to us if you could
please reply to this email if you are planning to come on Wednesday. The Harold Wilson Room, our regular haunt of late, is a wonderful room for the numbers we usually get, as we prefer a more intimate location to help make discussion less intimidating. We will do our best to find a room with larger capacity if that is what is required, but we do need to know rough numbers before we can properly consider such contigencies. 

As advertised, wine is £3 per meeting, or £15 for lifetime and, as always, the philosophy is free.


Date: Thursday 16th October (7th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College (tbc)
Speaker: Ben Ralph (Brasenose)
Title: Thinking i
n Slow Motion

Abstract: 

How, if at all, can we characterise the activity which we call philosophy and, if it has any, what is its value to us? For want of a
better starting point, I will start with Socrates and his eponymous method to approach the question, albeit as an imperfect subject, but certainly one which has resonated through history with philsophers of all stripes. Following this idea, I will attempt to characterise philosophy in a way inspired by a description by John Campbell, a Professor at Berkeley: "Philosophy is thinking in slow motion. It breaks down, describes and assesses moves we ordinarily make at great speed - to do with our natural motivations and beliefs. It then becomes evident that alternatives are possible."

Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben

New Term Apporaches and a Request for Speakers

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 30th September 2013 @ 6:20pm

Dear all,

Firstly, welcome back to another Oxford year, which of course brings with it another year of Socrates Society and all the intellectual fun that entails.  

As I am sure you are aware, Freshers' Week fast approaches, at which Socrates Society will have a stand.  Please encourage any freshers you know to sign up and likewise any non-freshers going to Refreshers.

Also, the new term requires that lifeblood of Socrates Society, a selection of speakers from within your ranks.  Please do get in contact if you would like to do a talk at some point this term. Here's what I said about speaking last term, which should answer any questions you have:

Socrates Society is built around volunteers who kindly offer to prepare talks on a wide range of philosophical subjects, for without the talks, we would be nothing more than a group of students   drinking silently in a room. As nobody wants that, I am sending out this clarion call for anyone who has pondered about speaking, or has a subject in mind they think could spark an interesting discussion. 

Preparing and giving a talk is an incredibly rewarding and suprisingly simple task to carry out.  Most of the time talks are just adaptions of a tutorial essay which you found particuarly interesting, tweaked a little to make it suitable for a more forgiving and gentle audience.  It is far more pleasant to receive applause and a lively discussion after a talk, rather than the red pen and grilling which too often follow a tutorial essay.


There are no strict guidelines on what you can talk about, we are primarily looking for an interesting subject, thought about in a philosophical way and there are no taboos on the more esoteric applications of philosophy.  All I would recommend is that you remember that you are giving a talk to an audience who are not all specialists, so the less knowledge on the subject assumed, the better.  However this has not prevented fascinating, yet accesible talks on subtle and intellectual material.  
 
Yours excitedly,

Ben Ralph
President, Socrates Society

Eudaimonia: the meaning of life? Jesus College, Thursday 8pm

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 3rd June 2013 @ 10:27pm

Hello!

For the last meeting of the term, we will really go all out at Socrates Society, attempting to crack the ultimate ultimate question, in the context of Aristotelian virtue ethics. Please do come along to what should be a fitting end to an enjoyable term's philosophical discussion.

As always, the philosophy is free and the wine plentiful.

Date: Thursday 6th June (7th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Louis Geary (St. Edmund's Hall)
Title: Eudaimonia: the meaning of life?

Abstract: Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics express his investigation into what it is to be a good human. Rather than concerning himself with moral decisions, his primary concerns are about character, and the more lasting features that make one person more worthy of praise than another. In this brief presentation I aim to elucidate what Aristotle meant by eudaimonia, and argue that with very minor alterations, we're left with a useful concept for characterising how best to lead our lives.

Hope to see you many of you there,

Ben



The Philosophy of Romantic Love, Jesus College, Thursday 8pm

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 27th May 2013 @ 12:23pm

Dear all, 

True to the eclectic nature of the society, we turn from the philosophy of mathematics to an utterly different philosophical 
subject, romantic love.  Please do come along for a talk and discussion that should not only be fascinating and enjoyable, but with such an amorous topic, could be the start of something special.

As always, the philosophy is free and the wine plentiful.

Date: Thursday 30th May (6th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Martin Smith (Wycliffe Hall)
Title: The Philosophy of Romantic Love

Abstract: Romantic love plays an almost quasi-religious role in our culture. Most of us think that a romantic relationship is one of the most meaningful things we could have in life, perhaps the most meaningful thing. It's worth, then, giving the phenomenon of romance some serious philosophical reflection - why rely solely on pop songs for "wisdom" on love? I will outline a few accounts of what exactly is involved in the "intimate concern" of romantic love and argue that our culture, for all its emphasis on romantic relationships, offers us ideals that work against their flourishing.

Hope to see many of you there,

Ben

To Infinity and Beyond, Jesus College, Wednesday 8.15pm

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Tuesday, 21st May 2013 @ 12:32am

Dear all,

I'm very excited to be able to present to you all the only other Brasenose Mathematics and Philosophy student, to provide an upgrade from last week's.  It should be a fascinating talk on one of the most astounding and unexpected mathematical developements of the 20th century, yet a problem which is simple enough to intrigue even the proverbial layman.

As always, the philosophy is free and the wine is plentiful.   

Date: Wednesday 22nd May (5rd week)
Time: 8.15pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Frederick Martin (Brasenose College)
Title: To Infinity and Beyond

Georg Cantor revolutionised the concept of infinity with his development of set theory. This talk will address one of the most interesting questions raised by his work: 'What is the cardinality of the Continuum?', or in simpler terms, 'How many real numbers are there?'. For reasons that I shall explain, many philosophers have concluded that the question does not have an answer, that there is no objective matter of fact about its size. I will consider a few simple arguments to the contrary, expounding both the strengths and limitations of each, concluding that the question has a truth-value but that it may be unknowable. 

Hope to see many of you there,

Ben Ralph

Oriel College Philosophy Society

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Saturday, 18th May 2013 @ 1:22am

Dear all,

If a weekly dose of philosophy doesn't sate your intellectual appetite, there is a meeting of the Oriel College Philosophy Society which I am sure will be of interest to you all.  Socrates Society itself will convene as usual next week; I will send out details shortly.

Oriel SCR, Tuesday of 5th Week: Implicit Bias and the Nature of Belief

Professor Anadi Hattiangadi (St. Hilda’s) will be addressing the Oriel College Philosophy Society next Tuesday. She will be speaking on the topic of implicit states and the nature of belief, a subject that should of interest to anyone with an interest in epistemology and philosophy of mind.

Recent work in social psychology has brought to light a range of human behaviours that are thought to give evidence of implicit attitudes. These are postulated to be implicit versions of more familiar propositional attitudes such as beliefs, yet which differ from beliefs and other familiar attitudes in being inaccessible to self-report or introspection. 

The claim that we have implicit beliefs is neither novel nor particularly controversial. However, some of the cases that are sometimes treated as implicit beliefs are somewhat puzzling. Though the implicit states of subjects in these cases are belief-like in some respects, they are not belief-like in other respects, which go beyond their unavailability to self-report or introspection. The question is whether implicit states really are beliefs. Professor Hattiangadi will investigate this question, with the aim of shedding some light not just on the nature of implicit states, but also on the nature of belief.

The talk will start at 8.30pm in the Oriel SCR. Admission is free, and drinks and snacks will be provided.

 
Yours,

Ben

Ignoramus et Ignorabimus: Facing up to the Sceptical Challenge, Jesus College, Thursday 8pm

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Tuesday, 14th May 2013 @ 12:29am

Dear all,

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I will be speaking for this second time this term - I apologise for the repitition, but the ever enjoyable discussion has always been the keystone of the society, the talk being merely a means to that glorious end (not in any way to belittle our excellent speakers!).  

Date: Thursday 16th May (4th week)
Time: 8pm

Venue
: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Ben Ralph
 (Brasenose College)
Title: 
Ignoramus et Ignorabimus: Facing up to the Sceptical Challenge

Abstract: Scepticism and the responses to it consist of perhaps the distillation of philosophy to it's purest form, a subject that resonates through the ages, the sceptic being the target of any philosopher trying to base our knowledge on a completely secure foundation. I discuss an interesting defence of our knowledge of the external world, combining contextualist and truth-tracking accounts of knowledge, before examining what is acheived if indeed we have successfully fought off Descartes' Evil Demon.


Hope to see many of you there,


Ben

The City and the Soul in Plato's Republic, Jesus College, Thursday 8pm.

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Sunday, 5th May 2013 @ 11:31pm

Dear all,

We are back to Jesus College for this week's Socrates Society as our discussion proceeds from two modern greats to one of antiquity.  Our Treasurer will be giving a talk on Plato's Republic, which should be an equally fascinating and informative topic whether you are taking a finals paper on the masterpiece or you thought that Plato's cave was Greece's top tourist attraction.

May I also take this opportunity to encourage and remind anyone who is interested in speaking to get in touch either by email or in person at a meeting.   

Date: Thursday 9th May (3rd week)

Time: 8pm

Venue
: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Guy Brindley
 (Jesus College)
Title: The City and the Soul in Plato's Republic


Abstract: 
The relationship between the state and morality has long been a matter of some controversy. In the Republic, whilst inquiring into the nature of justice, Plato presents a hypothetical ideal state which serves as an analogy for the just human soul, an environment for the production of just citizens, and even itself a product of individual justice on the part of its residents and ruling classes. Although some points of this analogy may be confused or unconvincing, and indeed certain aspects of the supposedly 'ideal' state farcical or even rather sinister, this nonetheless presents a fascinating starting point for the consideration of the state as an instrument for encouraging or dictating morality, and whether this can - or should - be the case.

Hope to see many of you there,

Ben

A Field of One's Own, Thursday 8pm, Hertford College.

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Monday, 29th April 2013 @ 11:59pm

Dear all,

Out with the old and in with the new: after Alex's excellent swansong last week, I will attempt to take up the baton with a talk of my own. Note the change from the usual location!

Date: Thursday 2nd May (2nd week)

Time: 8pm

Venue
: Old Library, Hertford College
Speaker: Ben Ralph
 (Brasenose College)
Title: 
A Field of One's Own.

Abstract:  Philosophy in the twentieth century went through an existential crises the likes of which had never been seen before.  The ideas of two of the most influential philosophers of the period, Wittgenstein and Quine, proposed not just to revolutionise philosophy, but to overthrow it.  They saw the role of philosophy in fundamentally different ways, both from each other and from the philosophical tradition.  I will attempt to summarise and compare their thoughts as best as I can, then see what can be salvaged from the rubble. 

Hope to see many of you there,


Ben Ralph

President, Socrates Society

Speaking at Socrates Society this term.

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Thursday, 25th April 2013 @ 11:06am

Dear all,

Socrates Society is built around volunteers who kindly offer to prepare talks on a on a wide range of philosophical subjects, for without the talks, we would be nothing more than a group of students drinking silently in a room.    As nobody wants that, I am sending out this clarion call for anyone who has pondered about speaking, or has a subject in mind they think could spark an interesting discussion.

Preparing and giving a talk is an incredibly rewarding and suprisingly simple task to carry out.  Most of the time talks are just adaptions of a tutorial essay which you found particuarly interesting, tweaked a little to make it suitable for a more forgiving and gentle audience.  It is far more pleasant to receive applause and a lively discussion after a talk, rather than the red pen and grilling which too often follow a tutorial essay.

There are no strict guidelines on what you can talk about, we are primarily looking for an interesting subject, thought about in a philosophical way and there are no taboos on the more esoteric applications of philosophy.  All I would recommend is that you remember that you are giving a talk to an audience who are not all specialists, so the less knowledge on the subject assumed, the better.  However this has not prevented fascinating, yet accesible talks on subtle and intellectual material.  

If you are interested in giving a talk, please email me as soon as possible, so that I can arrange the schedule for this term, which saves me having to chase people around during my finals.  

Yours,

Ben Ralph
President, Socrates Society

What does anarchy look like? Wednesday, 8:15pm, Jesus College.

E-mail sent by Ben Ralph, Saturday, 20th April 2013 @ 3:54pm

Dear all,

Welcome back to another term of oenophilic philosophical discussion.  I am delighted to have secured our ex-President Alex Franklin to talk for us on the philosophy of science, to commemorate the end of his tenure.  Please come along to celebrate his time as president in the best Socratic fashion. 

Date: Wednesday 24th March (1st week)

Time: 8:15pm

Venue
: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Alex Frank
lin (Brasenose College)
Title: 
What does anarchy look like?

Abstract: 
How little metaphysics can we get away with? And what are the most conservative implications we can take from empiricism? I will attempt to answer these questions among others by considering a picture of the world in which there are no laws of nature, and no natural kinds. Hume famously concluded his Enquiry: “commit it [metaphysics] then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.” I will aim to synthesise Hume's conclusion with Descartes' methodology by constructing an image of reality from the most basic realist assumptions.

Hope to see many of you there,


Ben Ralph

President, Socrates Society

Jacques Derrida and the Deconstruction of Language, Wednesday 8:15pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 24th February 2013 @ 10:40pm

Dear all,

Do come along to the last Socrates Society of term (depending on demand we will have a social in 8th week) and learn about an approach to language in Continental philosophy.

Date: Wednesday 27th February (7th week)
Time: 8:15pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Joshua Roe (St Cross College)
Title: Jacques Derrida and the Deconstruction of Language

Abstract: The French philosopher Jacques Derrida is most commonly associated with the philosophy of deconstruction. This has often been regarded as destroying meaning; although this is not an accurate representation. Instead his thought should be understood as a way of revealing the vulnerability of meaning rather than ensuring the destruction of meaning. This will be shown through introducing one aspect of his thought; his approach to language. He has two basic lines of thought: firstly, that a term is defined by saying what it is not, rather than what it is; and secondly, that the final definition of a term is persistently postponed. I will show how the idea of defining things by what they are not and the idea of postponing final definition reveal the vulnerability of language. If there is time, I may also consider the more positive aspects of Derrida’s thinking, in which he indicates how hope arises from this vulnerability.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

*Changes*: What's in a name?, Friday 8:15pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Tuesday, 19th February 2013 @ 10:03pm

Dear all,

Due to events at least partly beyond my control, the venue and date have changed for this week; but do still come along.

Date: Friday 22nd February (6th week)
Time: 8:15pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Ben Ralph (Brasenose College)
Title: What's in a Name?

Abstract: Wittgenstein diagnosed much of western philosophy to be assuming that the essence of language is such: "Every word has a meaning.  This meaning is correlated with the word.  It is the object for which the word stands."  I will consider how pervasive this picture of language is both pre-philosophically and within philosophy itself, and then attempt to show that it is a pernicious picture that is rife with absurdities and one which has led to a topsy-turvy understanding of language in much of philosophy.  

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

What's in a Name?, Thursday 8pm, Oriel

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 18th February 2013 @ 6:29pm

Dear all,

We are more than half-way through term! And to celebrate Socrates Society is treating you to an iconoclastic talk on the philosophy of language.

Date: Thursday 21st February (6th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: JCR Annexe, Oriel College
Speaker: Ben Ralph (Brasenose College)
Title: What's in a Name?

Abstract: Wittgenstein diagnosed much of western philosophy to be assuming that the essence of language is such: "Every word has a meaning.  This meaning is correlated with the word.  It is the object for which the word stands."  I will consider how pervasive this picture of language is both pre-philosophically and within philosophy itself, and then attempt to show that it is a pernicious picture that is rife with absurdities and one which has led to a topsy-turvy understanding of language in much of philosophy.  

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

Fine-Tuning Arguments for Theism, Wednesday 8:15pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 11th February 2013 @ 2:04pm

Dear all,

This week, I am excited to advertise a theological discussion at Socrates Society (details below). In addition committee appointments will take place next week: if you are interested in applying for any of President, Treasurer or Secretary, then please let me know.

Date: Wednesday 13th February (5th week)
Time: 8:15pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Calum Miller (St Hugh's College)
Title: Fine-Tuning Arguments for Theism

Abstract: Arguments for theism have seen a revival in recent decades, and arguments based on the fine-tuning of the universe for life have become popular among theists, as well as multiverse theorists. With the tools of confirmation theory, I hope to outline the logic of such arguments and discuss a variety of objections, some of which fail badly and others which might have more merit. I conclude that such arguments show that there is at least some evidence for theism here, and that the debate should focus around just how strong the evidence is.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

An Experiential Nightmare?, Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 3rd February 2013 @ 5:57pm

Dear all,

Do come along to Socrates Society this week to learn about why we should be more tentative in referring to the external world.

Date: Thursday 7th February (4th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Ryan Simonelli (New College of Florida)
Title: An Experiential Nightmare?

Abstract: According to the British Empiricists, words are primarily employed to name experiences.  At the time, the reasoning here seemed relatively clear: we don’t have immediate awareness of the external world—only to our experiences of it—and so what we directly refer to with our words in the most basic cases must be our experiences.  This view now is extremely unfashionable, and for some good reasons.  For one, it seems to impose an impenetrable barrier between us and the external world, leaving us “trapped” in subjective experience.  With W.V. Quine as my foil, I will try to resurrect this view in a modified form, arguing that observation sentences must be thought of as first-personally located experiential reports.  Of course, there are great philosophical risks here, but I will try to offset some of the worries and argue for the potential upside of this view from both a descriptive and prescriptive angle.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

The Laws of Nature, Tuesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 27th January 2013 @ 6:13pm

Dear all,

With Friday's reflections on objectivity still fresh in our minds, I am delighted to advertise another meeting during which we will discuss a seeming prerequisite for any practice of science.


Date: Tuesday 29th January
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Raffael Krismer (Brasenose)
Title: The Laws of Nature

Abstract: In this talk I will focus on the laws of nature. My most important concern will be to ask how our ordinary, pre-theoretical conception of those laws holds up to philosophical analysis. I will outline how laws of nature were traditionally perceived as metaphysical entities, somehow ‘over and above’ the totality of facts in the physical world, and argue that this account is inadequate. As an alternative I will propose what’s called the regularity account of laws of nature. This amounts to the claim that laws are nothing more than true, universal statements about the physical world. At the end I will discuss some consequences of this account – in particular how it relates to the problem of scientific realism and the problem of free will. 

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

Location for Friday 8pm: Oriel College, JCR Annexe

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Wednesday, 23rd January 2013 @ 11:57am

Dear all,

Do come along this Friday to philosophise with Dominic Hall in Oriel College's JCR Annexe. The details again for those who missed them last time:

Date: Friday 25th January (2nd week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: JCR Annexe, Oriel College
Speaker: Dominic Hall (formerly of St Hilda's)
Title: The Hopeless Search for the Objective

Abstract: The 'objective test' is seen as a cornerstone of decision-making both in modern science and in everyday life. Using examples from the scientific world and from our everyday experience I will show that there can be no such thing as an 'objective test'. What a set of data shows depends entirely on the prior beliefs of the observer, making every test subjective. I will then discuss what hope this leaves for meaningful discourse about 'hard facts' in science and beyond.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

The Hopeless Search for the Objective, Friday 8pm, Location tbc

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 21st January 2013 @ 10:13pm

Dear all,

This week, I am terribly excited to welcome back a former president of this society to make the case for subjectivism.

Date: Friday 25th January (2nd week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Location tbc (sorry about this!)
Speaker: Dominic Hall (formerly of St Hilda's)
Title: The Hopeless Search for the Objective

Abstract:
The 'objective test' is seen as a cornerstone of decision-making both in modern science and in everyday life.  Using examples from the scientific world and from our everyday experience I will show that there can be no such thing as an 'objective test'. What a set of data shows depends entirely on the prior beliefs of the observer, making every test subjective.  I will then discuss what hope this leaves for meaningful discourse about 'hard facts' in science and beyond.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

Making Sense of Identity, Wednesday 7:30pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 13th January 2013 @ 4:01pm

Dear all,

Welcome back to Oxford, and an exciting new term of Socrates Society! This week we are deconstructing the notion of personal identity.

Date: Wednesday 16th January (1st week)
Time: 7:30pm (NB different time from usual)
Venue: Harold Wilson room, Jesus College
Speaker: Ksenia Harwood (Oriel College and Treasurer of Socrates Society)
Title: Making Sense of Identity

Abstract: 
I will be talking about personal identity, which is one of the most essential questions in philosophy. What makes you the same person across time? Do you even remain the same person throughout your life? I will show that Locke's celebrated theory of personal identity implies that you do not and so has to be rejected. I will then propose a defense of the psychological continuity theory of personal identity against the animalist approach and the view that personal identity is just a forensic term.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

Power, Poetry and Philosophy: Lucretius' 'De Rerum Natura', Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 18th November 2012 @ 7:35pm

Dear all,

This week Socrates Society returns to the classical era to gain insight from one of the modern West's intellectual ancestors:


Date: Thursday 22nd November (7th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson room, Jesus College
Speaker: Guy Brindley (Jesus College)
Title: Power, Poetry and Philosophy: Lucretius' 'De Rerum Natura'

Abstract: Amidst the increasing violence and disruption engulfing the Roman Republic in the first century B.C., the Roman poet  Lucretius sought to save the political elite from themselves by presenting a radical alternative to the prevailing ethical viewpoints of the time. Taking as his basis the Greek philosophy of Epicureanism, Lucretius presented an account of a universe composed merely of atoms and void, in which the gods are distant and utterly uninterested in human affairs, the soul mortal, and fear of death a futile and damaging conceit. Vehemently rejecting both organised religion and political ambition, he instead used poetry to promote a quiet and anonymous life free of all involvement in public affairs, with pleasure the greatest good and all strong emotion and ambition to be avoided. His efforts to promote such a worldview to the Romans, even through as beautiful and often moving a poem as 'De Rerum Natura', were largely unsuccessful, but his work stands as a remarkable synthesis of Greek thought and Roman literature, and in its combination of philosophical, political and literary concerns raises issues which are pertinent even today.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

The Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty and his Critique of Empiricism, Thursday 8pm, Oriel

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 12th November 2012 @ 5:56pm

Dear all,

The venue is now confirmed as Oriel College JCR Annexe. Here are the details again in case you missed them last time:

Date: Thursday 15th November (6th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Oriel College JCR Annexe
Speaker: Joshua Roe (St Cross College)
Title: The Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty and his Critique of Empiricism

Abstract: Empiricism has dominated our representation of the world in both popular understanding and Anglo-American philosophical discourse. The development of the phenomenological method in Continental Europe has challenged the validity of this model. Phenomenology has claimed that it is based upon a dogmatic assertion of the object. In particular, Maurice Merleau-Ponty's development of phenomenology showed that it can provide a richer account of our experience of the world without having to make the speculative move of empiricism. He did this through extending the examination of physiological problems into wider philosophical significance. His ideas, developed over sixty years ago, have also had an impact outside of philosophy, most notably in neuroscience. I will argue that the structure Merleau-Ponty develops requires we take a different approach to understanding the world.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

The Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty and his Critique of Empiricism, Thursday 8pm, Venue tbc

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 11th November 2012 @ 6:08pm

Dear all,

The talk this week should challenge some of the presuppositions at the core of much of our philosophical discourse:

Date: Thursday 15th November (6th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: tbc
Speaker: Joshua Roe (St Cross College)
Title: The Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty and his Critique of Empiricism

Abstract: Empiricism has dominated our representation of the world in both popular understanding and Anglo-American philosophical discourse. The development of the phenomenological method in Continental Europe has challenged the validity of this model. Phenomenology has claimed that it is based upon a dogmatic assertion of the object. In particular, Maurice Merleau-Ponty development of phenomenology showed that it can provide a richer account of our experience of the world without having to make the speculative move of empiricism. He did this through extending the examination of physiological problems into wider philosophical significance. His ideas, developed over sixty years ago, have also had an impact outside of philosophy, most notability in neuroscience. I will argue that the structure Merleau-Ponty develops requires we take a different approach to understanding the world.

Hope to see many of you there, and I will send a further email to confirm the venue.

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

Bonus talk in Oriel this week - 'The Moral Case for Genetic Enhancement'

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Tuesday, 6th November 2012 @ 2:56pm

Dear all,
 
Looking forward to discussing Philosophy of Maths tomorrow. We thought that the following talk on Thursday might be of interest:

Are you morally culpable for not genetically modifying your child? Professor Julian Savulescu says yes. He is coming to Oriel at 8:30 on Thursday the 8th of November to explain why and discuss the ethics of human enhancement

Professor Savulescu is the director of Oxford's Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and Fellow of St. Cross College. He believes that we should attempt to engineer a more ethical generation of human beings so that our species can negotiate the increasing moral demands of the future. If you agree, come to hear an expert explain the urgency of the issues; if you disagree, come and respond to him in person; if you aren't sure, then just come to make your mind up. You can get a flavour of his ideas here: http://philosophynow.org/issues/91/Moral_Enhancement.

The talk will be held in the Harris Lecture Theatre. Wine and nibbles will be provided afterwards.

Regards,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

What makes 2+2=4?, Wednesday 8pm, Oriel

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 5th November 2012 @ 6:01pm

Dear all,

Happy Bonfire Night! Some interesting, but accessible, questions about mathematical truth this week:

Date:Wednesday 7th November (5th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: JCR Annexe, Oriel College
Speaker: Ben Ralph (Brasenose College)
Title: What makes 2+2=4?

Abstract: These days, we seem to know an extraordinary amount through the scientific study of the world, from the discovery of tiny particles such as the Higgs Boson, to the properties of stars billions of light years away.  But how can we account for mathematical truth and our knowledge of it: it seems that mathematical facts such as 2+2=4 are far more certain than any physical theory, yet when really pressed, it is extremely hard to say what it is a fact about. I will try to provide a brief overview of some of the basics of the philosophy of mathematics, without getting into too much detail, and to explore some of the fascinating and puzzling facets of this important part of philosophy that is too rarely touched upon at SocSoc.  

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

 

Responsibility, Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 29th October 2012 @ 10:48am

Dear all,

I hope you're all settled in by now; this week we have a guest speaker all the way from London:

Date: Thursday 1st November (4th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson room, Jesus College
Speaker: Dan Wainwright (formerly of Brasenose College)
Title: Responsibility

Abstract: Mitt Romney claimed that 47% of Americans would never take personal responsibility for their lives. In doing so, he tapped in to a common political theme. The belief that people are responsible for their actions and decisions in a meaningful way rests on misguided assumptions about free will and the self. But given the role that these concepts play in our lives and relationships, it is equally misguided to try to get rid of them completely. I'll be talking about how we can make space for responsibility in a deterministic world, and what implications this has for framing the debate about public policy.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

Christianity: true or irrational?, Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 22nd October 2012 @ 9:32am

Dear all,

An unusual subject-matter for Socrates society this week should, as ever, be both informative and entertaining.

Date: Thursday 25th October (3rd week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson room, Jesus College
Speaker: Martin Smith
Title: Christianity: if true, then rational, if false, then not.

Abstract: Can we object to the rationality of Christian belief without first objecting to its truth? Can we think that Christianity may be true but nonetheless hold belief in it to be irrational? I'm going to explicate Alvin Plantinga's argument that in fact, we can't. I shall commend Plantinga's proposal that, if Christianity is true, then probably Christian belief is warranted (at least, absent defeaters) and thus there can be no objection to the rationality of Christian belief without an objection to its truth.

See you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

The case for many worlds, Wednesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 15th October 2012 @ 3:15pm

Dear all,

It was great to see so many people last week; this week we are delving into the realms of possibility:


Date: Wednesday 17th October (2nd week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson room, Jesus College
Speaker: Alex Sayers (Brasenose)
Title: The case for many worlds
Abstract: What makes something true by necessity rather than by accident? What lets me say that something was a possibility, even though it didn't happen? What are the truthmakers of counterfactual statements? I'll be arguing that an elegant explanation can be found in a kind of multiverse theory: the theory of Modal Realism. Come along and decide whether its explanatory power is worth the ontological baggage.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

What is problematic about induction?, Wednesday 8pm, Oriel College JCR Annexe

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 8th October 2012 @ 7:05pm

Dear all, 

Location is confirmed as the JCR Annexe in Oriel college. 

As before:

The philosophy is free, but the wine costs £3 per meeting or £15 for life.

Date: Wednesday 10th October (1st week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Oriel College, JCR Annexe
Speaker: Alex Franklin (Brasenose)
Title: What's problematic about induction?

Abstract: The problem of induction has troubled philosophers for a number of centuries, yet staggeringly few seem to have realised that this problem was solved in the 1950s. I will set out the problem, and show why it might worry us. I will argue that Nelson Goodman's solution rightly dissolves such worries by likening inductive to deductive inference.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

What is problematic about induction?, Wednesday 8pm, Oriel

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 7th October 2012 @ 1:15pm

Dear all,

Welcome and welcome back to Socrates Society! We expect to meet weekly during term time in the centre of Oxford for a presentation, discussion and wine. The philosophy is free, but the wine costs £3 per meeting or £15 for life.

Please reply if you intend to come this week, so we can ensure the room is large enough.

Date: Wednesday 10th October (1st week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Oriel College, room tbc
Speaker: Alex Franklin (Brasenose)
Title: What's problematic about induction?

Abstract: The problem of induction has troubled philosophers for a number of centuries, yet staggeringly few seem to have realised that this problem was solved in the 1950s. I will set out the problem, and show why it might worry us. I will argue that Nelson Goodman's solution rightly dissolves such worries by likening inductive to deductive inference.

Hope to see many of you there,

Alex Franklin
President, Socrates Society

The Simulation Argument or why you live in the Matrix, Tuesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 10th June 2012 @ 4:20pm

Dear all,

The last Socrates society meeting of term is fast approaching, and, this week there will be even more wine than usual because your beloved president will not be drinking.

Date: Tuesday 12th June (8th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Delyan Kratunov (Keble)
Topic: 
The Simulation Argument or why you live in the Matrix

Abstract: Through some disputable mathematics and rather controversial estimates, Nick Bostrom reached one of the more shocking futuralist predictions of the past decade. In essence, he claims that we are either going to exterminate ourselves before anything fun (in the science fiction sense) happens, our descendants will be exteremely boring (in that same sense), or we are living in a simulation. Yes, it's that weird. 
        In this talk, I'll try to untangle the web of estimates upon estimates upon hunches in the paper and hide all the maths behind a wall of skepticism and plain old reason. Do we live in a simulation? Should we care? What happens when we make our own simulations? Should we simulate the complete human experience? I hope together we'll figure out the answers to at least some of these questions.


Hope to see many of you there,

Alex

No meeting this week, but a whole night of philosophy in London!

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Thursday, 7th June 2012 @ 10:08am

Dear all,

I'm sorry to say that the last minute confirmation, for which I was holding out, fell through, and there will be no Socrates Society this week. However, the consequent void need not remain unfilled:

The French Institute will host a free ‘philosophy night’, all in English, from 7pm to 7am, 8-9 June. Big names and emerging thinkers, actors and musicians, will spend the night lecturing, debating, reading texts, and performing. There will be films too – and a café philo, of course, from midnight to 1am. The subject will be “Is philosophy about interpreting the world, or about changing it” (you’ve identified, of course, Marx’s 11th thesis on Feuerbach). Details and programme on www.mynightwithphilosophers.co.uk/programme/ 

For those of you interested there may be a contingent from the Society attending, so let me know and I'll put you in touch.

Until next week,

Alex

Who was Socrates, and why should we care?, Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Monday, 28th May 2012 @ 11:50am

Dear all, 

This week, in a move unprecedented in recent times, Socrates society is to discuss its venerable founder:

Date: Thursday 31st May (6th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Guy Brindley (Jesus)
Topic: Who was Socrates, and why should we care?
Abstract: 
Pioneering philosopher, enemy of the state, and the most irritating man in ancient history; Socrates was an enigmatic and controversial figure even in his own lifetime, but his contributions to Western thought are vast. So who exactly was this troublesome man, what did he say - can we know? - and why is he important enough to have everyone's favourite wine-fuelled philosophy society named after him?


Hope to see many of you there,
Alex

Is science ethically neutral?, Wednesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 20th May 2012 @ 8:17pm

Dear all, 

Last week we may or may not have concluded that science's progress is rational; this week we will discuss the ethical standing of such progress.

Date: Wednesday 23rd May (5th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Benjamin Ralph (Brasenose)
Topic: Is science ethically neutral?
Abstract: In his book "Science and Human Values"  Dr Jacob Bronowski proposed that "Those who think that science is ethically neutral confuse the findings of science, which are, with the activity of science, which is not."  I will aim to explore this thought, examining examples from history as well as the more general philosophical principles.  I aim to distinguish this discussion from one about ethics per se, but about the practical ethical dilemmas one encounters when doing science. 
As an excellent interview in itself and because it influenced and informed my talk I really recommend watching this interview with Bronowski himself: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00nyy41/Parkinson_Dr_Jacob_Bronowski/

Hope to see many of you there,
Alex

Can science be rational?, Wednesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 13th May 2012 @ 8:56pm

Dear all,

We are delving into the philosophy of science this week, but the discussion should be accessible to all:

Date: Wednesday 16th May (4th week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Raffael Krismer (Brasenose)
Topic: Can science be rational?
Abstract: Thomas Kuhn's book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is one of the most influential books in the philosophy of science ever written. In this book Kuhn confronts us with an argument, based on a theory of meaning of scientific language, that poses a huge threat to those who want to see science as a rational enterprise. The aim of my talk will be to to outline this argument and to explore whether Kuhn's account conflicts with the traditional conception of science as aiming for a true description of reality.

Hope to see many of you there,
Alex

Can I really be sure that anyone is listening to what I'm saying?, Wednesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 6th May 2012 @ 5:09pm

Dear all,

This week we have the rather difficult task of establishing if our discourse is understood; although the subject matter may be harder than last week, the chairs should be softer!

Date: Wednesday 9th May (3rd week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Zac Spiro
Topic: Can I really be sure that anyone is listening to what I'm saying?
Abstract: In order to be able meaningfully 
to communicate with anyone else, it is important that two things be true: I know what I mean with my words, and the listener knows what I mean with my words. However, how can I be sure that either of these things is true? When I think about it, what do I really mean when I talk about abstract concepts?

Until Wednesday,

Alex

Am I a good person?, Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 29th April 2012 @ 9:52pm

Dear all,

Another week, another fascinating topic for Socratic discourse:

Date: Thursday 3rd May (2nd week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Seminar Room A, Jesus College
Speaker: Jonny Brown
Topic: Am I a good person?
Abstract: Most (if not all) of us like to think of ourselves as 'decent' people.  Yes, we have our faults but we're mostly pretty ethical.  We're basically OK.....or are we?
I'll be arguing that, in reality, we're far from being 'OK'.  This isn't about utilitarianism, or deontology, or even being virtuous (well, perhaps a bit). It's about what it might mean to be more fully human...
Come along and prove me wrong!


Hope to see many of you there,

Alex


Arguing about God, Thursday 8pm, Oriel

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Sunday, 22nd April 2012 @ 7:59pm

Dear all,

Welcome to a new term of Socrates society; we are diving straight into deep and meaningful theological questions with a talk from Zack this week.

Date: Thursday 26th April (1st week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Sanders Room, Oriel College
Topic: Arguing about God
Speaker: Zack Shapiro
Abstract:  Philosophers have long been interested in the ethical, metaphysical, and epistemological questions surrounding the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent deity. This talk will explore various philosophical proofs for the existence and for the nonexistence of God. I will focus on some of the most common topics related to the "God Debate" such as first cause, intelligent design, modal necessity, and jumbo jets (a la Richard Dawkins).

Hope to see you all there,

Alex

'Saving Scientific Realism', Wednesday 8pm, St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 5th March 2012 @ 12:23pm

Dear all,

This is the last time I will write to you as President.  A great many thanks to all of you who have contributed to the society in my time, especially anyone I've cajoled into speaking.  I'd like to offer particular thanks to Alex Franklin for all his help.  In his words this week we have my 'swansong', I'd be delighted if you could join us.

Dom

Date: Wednesday 7 March (of 8th)
Time: 8pm
Venue: St Hilda's college, Lady Brodie Room
Topic: Saving Scientific Realism
Speaker: Dominic Hall
Abstract: Scientific realism is the view that what our best scientific theories tell us about the world is approximately true.  I will look at examples from the history of science which suggest that this is not the case.  I will then present the view of Semirealism which looks to save the truth of what our theories say about the world by only endorsing belief in parts of what they say. 

Realism about Causation, Friday 8pm, Oriel

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Tuesday, 28th February 2012 @ 6:50pm

Dear all,

A week of change!  In an unprecedented turn of events this week we'll be on Friday at Oriel where we'll be discussing causation.  I also have the pleasure of announcing the new committee of the Socrates Society with effect from 8th week this term.

President: Alexander Franklin, Brasenose
Treasurer: Ksenia Harwood, Oriel
Secretary: Guy Brindley, Jesus

I wish them all the best of luck.


See you on Friday,

Dom

Date: Friday 2 March (of 7th)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Room TBC, Oriel
Speaker: Alex Franklin, Brasenose (President-elect)
Topic: To be realist about causation do we just have to get metaphysical?
Abstract:

Many attempts have been made to analyse causation by various philosophers throughout the ages. Hume famously favoured the regularist account, and more nuanced, recent attempts by Mellor and Cartwright among others have involved complex probabilistic notions; but the overwhelming feeling suggested by a review of the relevant literature is that causation is a brute, inexplicable concept. I will argue that that view is mistaken and that causation can be analysed, but only by recourse to abstruse metaphysical concepts.

Private Language, Wednesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 20th February 2012 @ 8:41pm

Dear all,

This week we'll be using public language to discuss private language.  We'll also be using private drink to get publicly drunk...

Date: Wednesday 22 Feb (of 6th)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Seminar Room A, Jesus College
Speaker: Dan Wainwright, Brasenose
Topic: Wittgenstein's Private Language Argument
Abstract:
The coherence and possibility of private language has been accepted by most of philosophy through the ages. It involves a number of basic positions that feel intuitively right, such as the idea that you cannot have my pain, and that I have privileged access to my inner life and mental goings on. In a sweeping and devastating attack, Wittgenstein shows how this cornerstone of thought is build on sand. I'll try to elucidate his main concerns and follow his argument through to its inevitable but often controversial conclusion.

Hope to see you there,

Dom

'Is ethical discourse possible', Think Week, The Truth

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Thursday, 16th February 2012 @ 5:59pm

Dear all,

A quick reminder about tonight, a plug for an interesting university-wide event and a play with a philosophical title.

Hope to see you tonight,

Dom

'Why ethical discourse is impossible', Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Tuesday, 14th February 2012 @ 8:00pm

Hi all,

Happy Valentine's Day!  This week we'll be discussing whether it's even possible to talk meaningfully about ethical matters- or does an ethical debate between a Kantian and a Utiliatrian have all the cognitive content of a slagging match between two opposing sets of football supporters?

As always there will be wine!
Date: Thursday 16 Feb (of 5th)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Seminar room A, Jesus College

We'll also be holding 'elections' for a new committee at the end of this term.  We need a Presdient, Secretary and Treasurer.  None of these roles is particularly demanding, so let me know if you're interested.

See you there!

Dom

Thinking, Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 6th February 2012 @ 4:56pm

Dear all,

We wondered if sticking to Tuesdays wasn't constraining our thought, so please note that this week we are on THURSDAY.  We've got an exciting talk on the nature of thought this week, and I hope to see you there, details below.

Best wishes,

Dom

Date: THURSDAY 9 Feb (of 4th)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Seminar room A, Jesus College
Topic: Thinking
Speaker: Zack Shapiro
Abstract:
What is someone doing who is actively sitting and thinking? e.g. What is Rodin's
"Le Penseur" portrayed as doing.

The theory I will present to answer this question is based on Gilbert Ryle's essays
from his collection "On Thinking." Essentially, the account of thinking that I will
try do defend is that "thinking" is not an action which can be performed by its
self (sans phrase) but is essentially an adverbial modification of other action-
words (like speaking, writing, composing music) which applies in certain
contexts but not in others. I will contrast this to the "accepted" notion of
thinking as some private, internal process having something to do with
Cartesian "mental substance" or some other such nonsense.

'Free Will', Tuesday 8pm Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 30th January 2012 @ 1:17pm

Dear all,

Happy 3rd week! This week we'll be discussing free will, and it's predetermined that we'll see you there so there's no point me trying to persuade you any further...  A useful paper to consider on this topic is Harry Frankfurt's 'Alternative Possibilities and Moral Responsibility': http://hamishpat.com/Courses/99631/631-article-frankfurt-alternate-possibilities.pdf.

Date: Tuesday 31 Jan (Tuesday of 3rd)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Seminar Room B, Jesus College

I'll see you there!

Dom

'Sceptical about Scepticism', Jesus, Tuesday 8pm

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 23rd January 2012 @ 4:19pm

Dear all,

I hope you've had a restful holiday and are enjoying your Hilary.  I predict that your level of enjoyment will increase regardless tomorrow as SocSoc is back with an enticing talk on Knowledge and Scepticism.  We're also planning a trip to Magdalen Film Soc, so please send me any suggestions for which of their films this term we should go and see.

See you there,

Dom

'What is it like to be a bat?' Tuesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Sunday, 27th November 2011 @ 6:07pm

Hello everyone,

Congratulations on reaching 8th week.  This week we've got an interesting talk on the impossibility of describing subjective experience based around the work of Nagel.  I hope you'll be able to join us.

Dom

'Do we create values or do we respond to them?', Tuesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Sunday, 20th November 2011 @ 10:05pm

Dear all,

Welcome to 7th week.  This week we have an absolutely fascinating talk from Jonas Beaudry.  Jonas' DPhil centres around Applied Ethics, and his talk promises to address one of the most interesting questions in the field.  If you keep meaning to come to Socsoc, but haven't quite made it yet, then this is the week to set that straight!  As ever the talk and following debate will be lubricated with plenty of wine.  I've also put in a note about Memento which is on at Madgalen Film Soc on Thursday.  I hope you can join us. 

Dom

 

'Time Travel in Fiction', Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Tuesday, 15th November 2011 @ 6:22pm

Greetings,

This week's Socsoc comes to you from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  That's right: get in your Tardis, set your phasers to stun, and prepare for a whistlestop tour of Space and Time (mostly Time)!  This week's talk will be exploring various manipulations of time in fiction, and the philosophical conundra* it generates.  As always, there will be plenty of wine, and I should have thought that the discussion this week will be very lively. I hope you can join us.

Dom  

Date: Thursday of 6th (17/11/11)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Seminar Room A, Jesus
Speaker: Luke Vorhies, Oriel
Title: Time Travel in Fiction
Abstract:

I will look at the different ideas for time travel, parallel timelines, etc. in fiction. Using plenty of examples, and (fingers crossed) not spoiling any plots I will examine the different rules set out for traveling through time and what consequences these have.

*Conundra/conundrums: readers are referred to this truly excellent web-discussion http://www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-5253,00.html which in finest philosophical tradition provides no answers but is highly entertaining.  The gist of it is that etymologically speaking it's a C16 English faux-Latin word and hence you can really do what you like with it.  Incidentally it technically means 'a riddle where the answer is a pun'.  I am particularly interested by the comment to the effect that anything that you say as a native speaker that would be understood by all similarly educated native speakers is in fact grammatically correct, and that Wittgenstein would agree.  A topic for another week's talk perhaps... 

'Possible Worlds', Tuesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 7th November 2011 @ 12:05pm

Dear all,

Happy 5th week!  To cheer the cockels of your hearts this week we have an exciting talk on Possible Worlds.  As ever there will be ample wine and lively discussion.  I hope you can join us!

Dom

Date: Tuesday of 5th (08/11/2011)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus
Title: Possible Worlds
Abstract: The concept of possible worlds has given philosophers a clear, logical way of talking about ideas such as necessity and possibility. But what can we say about these worlds? Do they exist? If so, in what sense do they exist? I will also be addressing the issue of whether every world we can conceive of is possible and whether every world that is possible is conceivable. Possibly.

'Who am I, and does it matter?', Thursday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Wednesday, 2nd November 2011 @ 8:43am

Hi all,

Hope you're having a fantastic fourth week.  This week we'll be discussing why a person at one time can be said to be the same person as at another time.  The details are:

Date: Thursday of 4th (3/11/11)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Seminar Room A, Jesus
Speaker: Dan Wainwright, Brasenose 
Abstract:
Questions of personal identity have puzzled philosophers down the ages. How are we able to say that someone is the same person over time? Are there certain features which are essential to being a person, and can only humans have them? I will look at some answers that have been put forward to meet these kinds of problems. But if none of these are satisfactory, what are we doing wrong? I'll also explain why I think the question itself is flawed, and argue that the methods used to motivate the discussion have created a problem that is not really there.

People new to the topic might like to read the first few pages of David Lewis' paper 'Survival and Identity'.  As always we will have wine, and if Alex S brings some, port.

Look forward to seeing you there,

Dom

'Time', Tuesday 8pm, Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 24th October 2011 @ 1:24pm

Dear all,

Please join us this week for what promises to be a very exciting discussion of the nature of time itself.

Date: Tuesday of 3rd (25/10/2011)
Time: 8pm (assuming times exist)
Venue: Harold Wilson Room, Jesus College
Speaker: Alex Franklin, Brasenose
Abstract:

Time affects us all. Does it flow? Or is it just a system for tracking physical change? If the latter, what happens when nothing changes? Did it begin? Will it end? Is the present somehow epistemically privileged?

Should all of these questions just be referred to physicists? Our conception of time has profound consequences for philosophy, particularly given the centrality of inductive scepticism, which seems to rely on a well-defined distinction between past and future. I am going to introduce some of these topics and hope to explore more of them in discussion.

Hope to see you there,

Dom

'What do you know?' Tuesday 8pm Jesus

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 17th October 2011 @ 3:42pm

Dear All,

This week we'll be discussing the nature of knowledge. The basis for our discussion will be Edmund Gettier's seminal paper 'Is Justified True Belief Knowledge' which at 2 1/2 sides of A4 has to be the most efficient piece of philosophy in history.  I'd encourage you to read it if you haven't (it'll take 5 mins!), you can find it here: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3326922.  From there we'll be looking at whether Gettier cases really are a problem and some of the solutions that have been offered to them.  There will be more FREE WINE this week, so come on down.

Date: Tuesday 2nd week (18/10/2011)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Seminar room B, Jesus College

Hope to see many of you there,
Dom

Meeting moved: now THURSDAY at 8pm, St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 10th October 2011 @ 5:16pm

Dear all,

Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control we have had to move this week's meeting to THURSDAY.  Details below.

Cheers,
Dom

Welcome and FREE WINE, Tuesday 8pm, St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Sunday, 9th October 2011 @ 1:18pm

Dear all,

If you've just joined our mailing list, then a hearty welcome to the Socrates Society.  If you are an old hand, then welcome back.  This email contains details of our first meeting of term where we will be discussing Idealism with FREE WINE and a brief overview of the activities and aims of the Society.  I really hope that you'll be able to join us for what should be a fantastic year of philosophy.

See you soon,

Dominic Hall
Socrates Society President 2011-12

'Solutions to the trolley problem' 8pm Wednesday St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 6th June 2011 @ 4:07pm

Hi all,
 

I hope that 6th week finds you well- this week at SocSoc we'll be discussing the trolley problem- a common thought experiment in Ethics designed to test our intuitions about how we should or should not act in certain situations.  I hope to see lots of you there!

Dom

Date: Wednesday 8th June (6th Week)
Time: 8pm
Venue: Sibthorpe room, St Hilda's
Topic: Solutions to the trolley problem
Speaker: Diana Sofronieva

'Vive la revolution'-Wednesday 8pm St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Tuesday, 24th May 2011 @ 11:11am

Hi all,
 

This week we'll be discussing the different conceptions of scientific practice and what each of them means for the scientific knowledge we can have.
 

Date: Wednesday 25th May
Time: 8pm
Venue: Lady Brodie Room, St Hilda's College
Title: 'Vive la revolution'- Differing conceptions of science
 

Hope to see you there,
 

Dom

'"Is it me you're looking for"- Questions of personal identity''- Friday 8pm St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 16th May 2011 @ 3:45pm

Hi all,

This week's meeting will be on Personal Identity- when can two people be said to be the same.  The discussion will focus on David Lewis' paper 'Survival and Identity' (reprinted here: http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=WuwcURLcu4sC&oi=fnd&pg=PA144&dq=david+lewis+survival+and+identity&ots=EyaJCJLso6&sig=a8kYteF15FdURRfuXmLXEhx-4f8#v=onepage&q=david%20lewis%20survival%20and%20identity&f=false) although reading this is not a prerequisite.

Title: '"Is it me you're looking for"- Questions of personal identity''
Date: Friday 20th May (3rd week)
 Time: 8pm
Venue: Sibthorbe room, St Hilda's

I hope to see you there,
 

Dom

SocSocSocial Wednesday 8pm Wheatsheaf and other events

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 7th March 2011 @ 5:48pm

Hi all,

A packed last week of term, do have a look at the two exciting PPE Soc events and come and see us for a bit of light relief at the SocSocSocial, philosophical banter guaranteed.  There's also a notice about a new philosophical magazine seeking submissions.

Have a great 8th week and Easter,

Dom

'Virtue Ethics is a non-starter'- Wednesday 8pm St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Tuesday, 1st March 2011 @ 4:57pm

Hi all,
 

This week we'll be investigating Virtue Ethics and I anticipate a lively debate!

Date: Wednesday 2nd March (7th week)
Time: 8pm
Place: Sibthorpe Room, St Hilda's College
Speaker: James Hutton (Hertford)
Topic: 'Virtue Ethics is a non-starter'

Abstract:  Virtue Ethics has enjoyed a renaissance of late, but I will show that its recent success is not justified.  I will highlight major problems with the theory and conclude that Virtue Ethics cannot be considered as a serious contender for a correct moral theory.
 

If you've not been to Socsoc before, now is your chance! After the short speech (15-20 mins) there is free debate, so come along and tell us what you think. If that's not enough there is also plenty of wine!

Hope to see you tomorrow,
 

Dom

Feminism Debate Wednesday and Charitable Giving Talk Thursday

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Tuesday, 22nd February 2011 @ 5:34pm

Hi all,

No sole SocSoc event this week, but two interesting philosophical events that you might like to attend, a debate on equal pay for men and women at St Hilda's this wednesday and a talk on how to do the most good with your career at Exeter on Thursday.  I hope to see many of you at both events.

Dom

Can we deny the knowledge of theoretical entities?- Wednesday 8pm St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 14th February 2011 @ 4:47pm

Hi all,

I hope you'll be able to join us for an exciting discussion of what exists!

Date: Wednesday of 5th (16/2/11)

Time: 8pm
Place: Lady Brodie Room, St Hilda's College
Speaker: Alex Franklin (Brasenose) 

Title: Can we deny the knowledge of theoretical entities?

Abstract:

While a scientific anti-realist might differ from a general anti-realist by accepting the claim that there are tables and chairs, she will deny that there are such things as electrons or other ‘theoretical entities’. The fundamental issue at stake for her is whether our scientific theories can give us true insight into the nature of the physical world. I am going to discuss a possible solution to the many problems associated with scientific realism, called ‘structural realism’: this theory suggests that Science tells us about relations but not about the entities which are related; I will explore the coherence of such an approach. I will be careful to give a background at each stage of the discussion, such that the discussion will not be inaccessible for those without a philosophical background.

As ever there will be wine.

See you on Wednesday,

Dom

Is logic empircial?- Thursday 8pm St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Tuesday, 8th February 2011 @ 11:18am

Hi everyone,
 

SocSoc is back! Please come along this Thursday

Place: Sibthorpe Room, St Hilda's College
Date: Thursday of 4th (10th Feb)
Time 8pm
Speaker: Dominic Hall (St Hilda's)
Topic: Is logic empirical?

Abstract: Decuctive logic and empirical science are often contrasted as the two different methods by which we can gain knowledge.  I will examine whether logic is in fact completely different in this way or if it should be considered as another branch of science.  Having seen that in principle logic can be informed by empirical considerations I will look at developments in modern physics and show that they empirically suggest a new logic, better suited to describing Quantum phenomena. 

See you there,

Dom

Giving What We Can- THURSDAY of 6th 8pm St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 15th November 2010 @ 5:28pm

Dear Socsocers,

This week Socsoc returns with an exciting talk about Giving What We Can. Please note the change of day- Thursday this week.  Please also see the note from our sponsor, Awesome Storage.

Time: Thursday 18th November (6th week) at 8pm  

Place: Rosalind Hill room, St Hilda's College

Speaker: William Crouch

Topic: Giving What We Can

Abstract:

Giving What We Can is an international society dedicated to eliminating poverty in the developing world. Its members come from many different walks of life, but are united in the belief that global poverty is one of the most important problems in the world today, and in the desire to do something about it. We see that our comparative wealth can prevent a significant amount of suffering if only we allow it to do so, and thus we have each taken the Pledge to Give: we will give at least 10% of our incomes to wherever we think it will do the most to relieve suffering in the developing world.  I will be discussing the philosophical reasons for this pledge and demonstrate why this is genuinely the moral course of action.

As ever there will be discussion after the talk with wine and orange juice.  The Rosalind Hill room is in the Christina Barratt Building, ask at the lodge for directions.  I do hope you can join us.

Dom

Phenomenalism- Wednesday 8pm St Hilda's

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 1st November 2010 @ 10:52am

Hello!

This week we're back at St Hilda's and will be examining the very fabric of reality.

Time: 8pm Wednesday of 4th (3rd November)
Place: Sibthorpe Room, St Hilda's College
Speaker: Alex Sayers (Brasenose)
Topic: Phenomenalism

Abstract:

We think of material objects as a very important part of our day to day lives.  I will examine the justification for external material objects, and will find it wanting.  Instead I will propose that we cannot say there are material objects, but that what we perceive as such are in fact permanent possibilities of sensation.  I will demonstrate why this is the best way to think about the world, and dismiss some common criticisms of phenomenalism.


As ever there will be wine and orange juice.  Any questions to dominic.hall@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk.  Hope to see you there!

Dom
 

'An Introductory Analysis of the Philosophy of Mind'-Wednesday 8pm Brasenose Platnauer Room

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Sunday, 24th October 2010 @ 1:33pm

Hi all,

Socsoc goes on tour this week: I hope you'll be able to join us in Brasenose for this exciting talk.  As usual there will be plenty of discussion with wine following the presentation.

Time: 8pm Wednesday of 3rd (27th October)
Place: Platnauer Room, Staircase 11, Brasenose College
Speaker: Stephen Wan  (St Catz)
Topic: An Introductory Analysis of the Philosophy of Mind

Abstract:

What is a mind? What is its relationship with the body? How does it operate within the physical world? Can we ever understand the mind purely through the physical sciences? These questions and more have been puzzling problems for philosophers for centuries, and despite recent collaboration with other disciplines as varied as neuroscience, psychology and computer science, no definitive answer seems forthcoming. In this Introduction, I will seek to break down the complex topic of the Philosophy of Mind into smaller components in order to gain a better understanding of it. In particular, I will ask what the precise aims and goals any theory of mind should have. I will also speak about the "Marks of the Mental", the things we understand by mental activity, and the types of mental phenomena that exist. I shall then finish by contrasting the three main "schools" of thought that separate the theories of mind: Substance Dualism; Reductive Accounts, Non-Reductive Materialism.

For anyone who wants to read some basic introductory text, I definitely recommend " Philosophy of Mind: An Introduction (Introducing Philosophy)" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2nd ed, 1998) (ISBN: 0631205411) by George Graham, which helped me inconsiderably during my A Levels. If anyone is interested in gaining a rudimentary understanding of theories of mind, my own website has some pages on the various different theories, http://longwalkshome.110mb.com/index.php?p=2_5. However, no reading is expected or required for the upcoming talk.

Hope to see you there,

Dom

Are we all equal?- Wednesday 8pm St Hilda's Lady Brodie Room

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 18th October 2010 @ 5:08pm

Hello!

I hope first week has been good to you, but second week promises to be even better as we have a real treat of a talk at Socsoc!
 
Time: 8pm Wednesday of 2nd (20th October)
Place: Lady Brodie Room, St Hilda's College
Speaker: Alex Franklin (Brasenose, Socsoc treasurer)
Topic: Are we all equal?

Abstract:

Many of us seem to share a strong intuition that not only are we equal but that people should be treated equally; yet we all differ significantly in both appearance and aptitudes. I want to investigate the respect in which we are equal and to understand why the 'Doctrine of Equality' might be normative. I also want to explore the notion of partiality and see if there is an ethical basis for our preferential treatment of family, friends and community. Lastly, I hope to show that partiality and equality are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

As ever there will be wine and orange juice.  Any questions to dominic.hall@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk.  Hope to see you there!

Dom
 

First meeting Wednesday 8pm St Hilda's: FREE WINE

E-mail sent by Dominic Hall, Monday, 11th October 2010 @ 3:59pm

Hello!
 
To our new members- welcome!  To seasoned veterans- welcome back! I'm Dom, this year's President and I'm looking forward to a great year of philosophy ahead.  I hope as many of you as possible can be at our first meeting of term.  If you've got any questions feel free to email me at dominic.hall@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk

See you on Wednesday,

Dom

Plea for volunteers at the Freshers' Fair

E-mail sent by Alex Franklin, Thursday, 30th September 2010 @ 3:23pm

Dear all,

Welcome back to your weekly email from SocSoc, you will be sent details about talks and other exciting stuff in the near future; but for now, until Dom returns to Oxford on Thursday, I just need someone to help me man the SocSoc stall at the Freshers' Fair on Wednesday the 6th. 

It would be ideal to have someone there for the duration, that is 09:30 to 16:30, but any help would be much appreciated. Also, I reckon that entry to the Fair more or less guarantees free pizza! Be in touch...

Regards,

Alex,
Treasurer, Socrates Society

Reminder: SocSoc this evening (Fraenkel Room, Corpus Christi)

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Tuesday, 15th June 2010 @ 11:06am

Dear all,

Just a reminder that Robby Finley of Exeter will be giving our final talk of term about the Liar's Paradox:

The first sentence in this abstract is not true. If the first sentence is true, then it tells us that it is not true, and if it is not true, then what it tells us (that it isn't true) is not true, and the first sentence is true. This is the intuitive force of the Liar's paradox - whatever truth value we give the Liar sentence it seems to tell us that it has the opposite, and if it does then we have a contradiction (the sentence is both true and false)...

Date: 15th June // Tuesday of 8th week // today
Time: 2000-2130
Venue: Fraenkel Room, Corpus Christi College

Wine as always. Write if you have any other queries.

Nakul.
President, Socrates Society

SocSoc on Tuesday: The Liar's Paradox

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Sunday, 13th June 2010 @ 11:13pm

Dear all,

For all final meeting of the year, we have Robby Finley of Exeter College talking to us about

The Liar's Paradox and Dialetheism

The first sentence in this abstract is not true. If the first sentence is true, then it tells us that it is not true, and if it is not true, then what it tells us (that it isn't true) is not true, and the first sentence is true. This is the intuitive force of the Liar's paradox - whatever truth value we give the Liar sentence it seems to tell us that it has the opposite, and if it does then we have a contradiction (the sentence is both true and false). In classical logic this allows us to prove anything and makes the system in which the sentence appears trivial. In my talk I will be looking at the details behind the paradox, looking at the requirements on a language, both formal and informal, that are needed for the paradox to arise. I will look at and deny the major (logically) classical responses and argue that a non-classical approach is best. This means roughly that rather than modifying our concept of truth into a hierarchical one or denying essential elements of our concept of truth (the T-schema), we should instead take a critical look at the logic which leads to triviality, the classical logic fathered by Frege and Russell. I will look at both Field's paracomplete logic and Priest's paraconsistent logic, and following Priest argue that we should accept dialetheism (characterized by him as the view that there are some true contradictions).

Date: 15th June // Tuesday of 8th week
Time: 2000-2130
Venue: Corpus Christi College (room tbc)

Wine as always. Write if you have any other queries.

Nakul.
President, Socrates Society

Reminder: SocSoc tonight

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Wednesday, 2nd June 2010 @ 1:16am

Dear all,

Just a reminder that tonight, we have Jeremy Entwistle of Mansfield College talking to us about 'Truth and Argument: How Humans Do Philosophy'

The kind of scientific objectivity idealized from the enlightenment onwards is largely an impossibility in the humanities, and even in the sciences. The scientific method is fair enough, but who determines the value of experiments, the acceptability of results, and the goals of study? I'll be discussing just how much of a problem the 'myth of objectivity' really is for the field of philosophy. Before we get into complex metaphysics and analytic philosophy, it's important to recognize that we, as thinkers and as people, are driven largely by factors other than the simple and unrelenting desire to discover 'truth'. We are not, after all, truth machines. We are people with our own desires, goals, and values. I will touch lightly on the role of emotion in philosophical investigation, but I will focus more on the structure of argumentation, and whether or we people are any good at 'getting to the bottom of things'.

Date: 2nd June // Wednesday of 6th week // today
Time: 2000-2130
Venue: Fraenkel Room, Corpus Christi College

Wine as always. Write in if you have any queries.

Nakul.
President, Socrates Society

SocSoc this Wednesday: Truth and Argument

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Sunday, 30th May 2010 @ 10:24pm

Dear all,

This week at SocSoc, we have Jeremy Entwistle of Mansfield College talking to us about

Truth and Argument: How Humans Do Philosophy

The kind of scientific objectivity idealized from the enlightenment onwards is largely an impossibility in the humanities, and even in the sciences. The scientific method is fair enough, but who determines the value of experiments, the acceptability of results, and the goals of study? I'll be discussing just how much of a problem the 'myth of objectivity' really is for the field of philosophy. Before we get into complex metaphysics and analytic philosophy, it's important to recognize that we, as thinkers and as people, are driven largely by factors other than the simple and unrelenting desire to discover 'truth'. We are not, after all, truth machines. We are people with our own desires, goals, and values. I will touch lightly on the role of emotion in philosophical investigation, but I will focus more on the structure of argumentation, and whether or we people are any good at 'getting to the bottom of things'.

Date: 2nd June // Wednesday of 6th week
Time: 2000-2130
Venue: Fraenkel Room, Corpus Christi College

Wine as always. Write in if you have any queries.

Cheers,
Nakul.
President, Socrates Society

Reminder: SocSoc tonight (Seminar Room, Corpus Christi)

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Thursday, 27th May 2010 @ 3:39pm

Dear all,

A reminder that Santi Sanchez of Exeter College will be talking to us this evening about philosophy and the emotions.

Emotions are an essential part of our lives, as in many ways they make life worth living. They, however, have a complicated relationship to rationality, another central part of our lives. After all, it seems that some emotions, such as anger are irrational and "cloud the mind," but it also seems that emotions are "just there" and there is nothing we can do about them no matter what we think about them. In response to this problem, I plan to give one account of how we can make normative judgments about emotions, about what emotions we rationally ought and ought not to feel. I will do so by first arguing for an account of emotions as a kind of perception that occurs through bodily sensations. With that in mind, I will argue for our only rationally feeling emotions that accurately represent.

Date: Thursday of 5th week // 27th May // today
Time: 8 pm
Venue: Corpus Christi College (Seminar Room)

Remember, you don't need to be a member to attend. Wine and nibbles as always. Do write in if you have any queries.

Nakul.
President, Socrates Society

SocSoc this Thursday: On the Emotions

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Tuesday, 25th May 2010 @ 1:13am

Dear all,

First in our truncated programme for exam-heavy Trinity, we have Santi Sanchez of Exeter College talking to us about philosophy and the emotions.

Emotions are an essential part of our lives, as in many ways they make life worth living. They, however, have a complicated relationship to rationality, another central part of our lives. After all, it seems that some emotions, such as anger are irrational and "cloud the mind," but it also seems that emotions are "just there" and there is nothing we can do about them no matter what we think about them. In response to this problem, I plan to give one account of how we can make normative judgments about emotions, about what emotions we rationally ought and ought not to feel. I will do so by first arguing for an account of emotions as a kind of perception that occurs through bodily sensations. With that in mind, I will argue for our only rationally feeling emotions that accurately represent.

Date: Thursday of 5th week // 27th May
Time: 8 pm
Venue: Corpus Christi College (room tba)

Also for your diaries: Robby Finley, Exeter, on the celebrated 'Liar Paradox', Wednesday of 6th Week // 2nd June.

Remember, you don't need to be a member to attend. Wine and nibbles as always. Do write in if you have any queries.

Nakul.
President, Socrates Society

Reminder: Wittgenstein film social

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Sunday, 7th March 2010 @ 9:23pm

Dear all,

Last SocSoc event of term, a screening -- in conjunction with the PPE Society -- of Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein.

Date: Monday 8th Week // 8th March

Time: 7.30 pm - 9 pm

Venue: Latner Room, St. Peter’s College

A dramatization, in modern theatrical style, of the life and thought of the Viennese-born, Cambridge-educated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), whose principal interest was the nature and limits of language. A series of sketches depict the unfolding of his life from boyhood, through the era of the first World War, to his eventual Cambridge professorship and association with Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes. 


The film is 75 minutes long. Refreshments will be provided. The event is open to all. I look forward to seeing you there.

Nakul Krishna

<nakul.krishna@ccc.ox.ac.uk>

President, Socrates Society

Reminder: SocSoc on genocide this evening

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Thursday, 25th February 2010 @ 4:16pm

Dear all,

A quick reminder about the SocSoc meeting later this evening. 

Speaker: Mike Coombes, Exeter College.
Date: Thursday, the 25th of February
Time: 8 pm - 9.30 pm
Venue: Seminar Room, Corpus Christi College


It has been suggested that genocide is to be conceptualised as the evil beyond all others; the ultimate measure of human rights violations; the crime of crimes; the worst of the mass atrocities. But what are the differences between genocide and other moral infractions resembling it? Genocide appears to resemble mass murder insofar as it consists in the intentional destruction of people, but is (legally) distinguished from mass murder insofar as its target is groups. But what are these groups, and how and in what ways are these groups distinct from mere aggregates? Taking the ubiquitous condemnation of genocide as its starting point, this talk aims to examine the morally distinctive features of genocide in asking why the destruction of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group is considered a greater evil that the mass murder of human beings.


I look forward to seeing you there.

Nakul Krishna
Corpus Christi College
President, Socrates Society
<nakul.krishna@ccc.ox.ac.uk>

Spam + SocSoc tomorrow

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Wednesday, 24th February 2010 @ 4:01pm

Dear all,

I have clumsily managed to send out an e-mail intended for the Plato Society to half the SocSoc mailing list -- an embarrassing but easy mistake to make. My apologies.

To clarify: SocSoc will be meeting tomorrow at 8 pm in the Seminar Room at Corpus Christi College to discuss genocide. As always, write in with any queries.

Sheepishly,

Nakul Krishna
Corpus Christi College
President, Socrates Society

SocSoc+PPE Soc this week

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Tuesday, 23rd February 2010 @ 11:18pm

Dear all,

After a short hiatus, the Socrates Society returns this week -- in collaboration with the PPE Society -- to discuss what, specifically, is bad about genocide:

It has been suggested that genocide is to be conceptualised as the evil beyond all others; the ultimate measure of human rights violations; the crime of crimes; the worst of the mass atrocities. But what are the differences between genocide and other moral infractions resembling it? Genocide appears to resemble mass murder insofar as it consists in the intentional destruction of people, but is (legally) distinguished from mass murder insofar as its target is groups. But what are these groups, and how and in what ways are these groups distinct from mere aggregates? Taking the ubiquitous condemnation of genocide as its starting point, this talk aims to examine the morally distinctive features of genocide in asking why the destruction of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group is considered a greater evil that the mass murder of human beings.

Speaker: Mike Coombes, Exeter College.
Date: Thursday, the 25th of February
Time: 8 pm - 9.30 pm
Venue: Seminar Room, Corpus Christi College

Do write if you have any queries. I look forward to seeing you there.

Cheers,
Nakul Krishna
President, Socrates Society

SocSoc goes to the theatre

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Monday, 15th February 2010 @ 1:35am

Dear all,

If some among you might be interested in joining a SocSoc contingent to watch the Thursday show of Tom Stoppard's 'The Invention of Love' at the Playhouse this week, do drop me a line <nakul.krishna@ccc.ox.ac.uk> before noon Tuesday the 16th, and I'll try to get us a group discount. The play's not nearly as philosophically heavy as Stoppard's later 'The Coast of Utopia', but there are many 'Socratic' themes we might enjoy discussing afterwards at a nearly pub. 

http://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/show/?eventid=1318

'University of Oxford Student Company, Old Street Productions, present Tom Stoppard's poignant masterpiece which explores the life, loves and scholarship of A.E. Housman. Led on a journey of recollection which begins in the classical underworld and takes us through 1870s Oxford - a place of amiably comic dons and flamboyant Aesthetes - Housman must confront his love for Moses Jackson, friend and colleague, which was unrequited, and question his devotion for the classical scholarship in which he sought refuge.'

Nakul Krishna
President, Socrates Society
<nakul.krishna@ccc.ox.ac.uk>

Reminder: SocSoc tonight

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Thursday, 4th February 2010 @ 1:09pm

Dear all,

Just a reminder about the combined Socrates and PPE Society meeting tonight to discuss scepticism. Claire Kirwin of Magdalen College asks:
 

'Does Scepticism keep you awake at night?'

You think you know a lot of things about the world around you. You think you know that the world contains friends, beds, oranges, cups of tea, and all manner of other things, and you think that you know that you interact with these things in all sorts of ways. But what if, in fact, you are a brain in a vat, with electrical impulses stimulating your neurons, so that it merely appears to you that these things are the case? This is the worry that gets (one version of) the sceptical argument moving, and the sceptical conclusion - that we know nothing, or at least virtually nothing, about the external world - is undeniably troubling. How should we respond to it? I will argue that the external world sceptic may be basically right, but that the details of the sceptical argument should be reinterpreted. On the reinterpretation I will present, the sceptical conclusion can be understood in a way that need not greatly trouble us. 


Date: Thursday of 3rd week // 4th of February (tonight)
Time: 8 pm - 9.30 pm
Venue: Fraenkel Room, Corpus Christi College

Wine and juice on hand as always. We look forward to seeing you there.

Cheers,
Nakul Krishna
President, Socrates Society

SocSoc+PPESoc this week: Does scepticism keep you awake at night?

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Monday, 1st February 2010 @ 5:40pm

Dear all,

SocSoc and PPE Soc get together this week to bring to you a talk by Claire Kirwin of Magdalen College, titled

'Does Scepticism keep you awake at night?'


You think you know a lot of things about the world around you. You think you know that the world contains friends, beds, oranges, cups of tea, and all manner of other things, and you think that you know that you interact with these things in all sorts of ways. But what if, in fact, you are a brain in a vat, with electrical impulses stimulating your neurons, so that it merely appears to you that these things are the case? This is the worry that gets (one version of) the sceptical argument moving, and the sceptical conclusion - that we know nothing, or at least virtually nothing, about the external world - is undeniably troubling. How should we respond to it? I will argue that the external world sceptic may be basically right, but that the details of the sceptical argument should be reinterpreted. On the reinterpretation I will present, the sceptical conclusion can be understood in a way that need not greatly trouble us.


Date: Thursday of 3rd week // 4th of February (NB. *Not* Wednesday)
Time: 8 pm - 9.30 pm
Venue: Corpus Christi College (room tbc)

Wine and juice for members as always. We look forward to seeing you there.

Cheers,
Nakul Krishna
President, Socrates Society

Reminder: SocSoc tonight

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Wednesday, 27th January 2010 @ 11:15am

Dear all,

Just a reminder that SocSoc will meet tonight to hear Dhananjay Jagannathan of Balliol College on

Plato's Protagoras and Education for Citizenship

Date: 27th of January // Wednesday of 2nd week // Tonight
Time: 8 pm - 9.30 pm
Venue: Fraenkel Room, Corpus Christi College

Do write if you have any queries. I look forward to seeing you in the evening.

Nakul Krishna.
Corpus Christi College
President, Oxford University Socrates Society
<nakul.krishna@ccc.ox.ac.uk>
 

SocSoc in 2nd week: Plato's Protagoras and Education for Citizenship

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Friday, 22nd January 2010 @ 12:51am

Dear all,

Our next talk this term will be given by Dhananjay Jagannathan of Balliol College on

Plato's Protagoras and Education for Citizenship

 

Plato's Protagoras is a long, complex, and often puzzling dialogue that demonstrates the author's mastery of representing philosophical argument with a vivid mise en scene.  The main feature is a contest of wits and wills between Socrates and the sophist Protagoras.  Their discussion, which takes up the bulk of the dialogue with few interruptions, covers a breathtaking array of topics, including the earlier intellectual history of Greece, the nature and teaching of virtue, the origins of political society, the role of literature in education, the methods of philosophical discourse, and the nature of the good.  The style varies from typical Socratic dialectic to long rhetorical displays to close textual analysis of poetry.  The dialogue thus presents a stern challenge to those seeking a consistent and coherent interpretation of its diverse elements.

 

In my talk, I'll take up what I think is the most fascinating part of the dialogue: the so-called Great Speech of Protagoras.  Instead of reading it as an isolated piece of rhetoric inserted (perhaps even copied from a text) to give the dialogue a Protagorean flavor, I take it as a well-crafted response to Socrates' challenges to the possibility of teaching excellence in the dialogue.  While the connections between Protagoras' speech and the humanism current in the late 5th century BC are fascinating, I want to persuade you that you should take Protagoras' philosophical position seriously and not merely as a historical artifact.  I also want to see if I can construct a charitable interpretation of what exactly Protagoras professes to teach in his 'university course' from what he says about basic education in the text.

Date: 27th of January // Wednesday of 2nd week
Time: 8 - 9.30 pm
Venue: Fraenkel Room, Corpus Christi College

Do write if you have any queries. I look forward to seeing you next week.


Nakul.
Corpus Christi College
President, Oxford University Socrates Society
<nakul.krishna@ccc.ox.ac.uk>

Reminder: SocSoc meeting today

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Wednesday, 20th January 2010 @ 1:16am

Dear all,

We'll be having our first meeting of term today, and we'll be discussing moral disagreement and judging people. The meeting is open to all. Drinks are free for members and cost £2 for non-members. 

Time: 8 pm - 9.30 pm
Date: 20th of January // Wednesday of 1st week
Venue: Fraenkel Room, Corpus Christi College.

Do write if you have any queries. I look forward to seeing you this evening.

Nakul Krishna
President, Oxford University Socrates Society

SocSoc in Hilary

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Monday, 18th January 2010 @ 12:59am

Dear all,

I hope you have all enjoyed your Christmas, New Year, and (if applicable) collections. 

The Socrates Society has an exciting term lined up, with a planned collaboration with the PPE Society on events and socials later in term. We'll have discussions of moral disagreement, citizenship, scepticism, genocide, spying and fair trade, and perhaps a Symposium at the end of term.

Our first event of term has me talking about:


Is eating meat gay?

People have strong moral convictions on a whole range of things: for example, on the morality of eating meat, capital punishment, homosexuality, and abortion. Sometimes we disagree with our closest friends on these things. But often, friendships and other close relationships survive even the most intractable of disagreements. Some of us hate the sin but love the sinner: I think you're wrong to eat meat (or be gay, or have an abortion, etc), but I don't think you're a bad person for doing (or being) that. Can this distinction be made to work?

Again, important philosophers through history have held what we would now think to be the most appallingly sexist, racist and homophobic views, and it's usually not enough to say that they were 'men of their time'. But is that so bad a defence? And what does this mean for how we relate to those who hold ostensibly sexist/racist/homophobic positions today?


As always, membership cards available at the venue. Drinks and nibbles on hand, free for members, £2 a meeting for non-members. 

Date: 20th of January // Wednesday of 1st week
Time: 8 pm - 9.30 pm 
Place: Corpus Christi College (room tbc)

I look forward to seeing you there.

Nakul.
Corpus Christi College
President, Oxford University Socrates Society

Reminder: SocSoc meeting today

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Wednesday, 2nd December 2009 @ 1:09am

Dear all,


Today, we have Santi Sanchez of Exeter College talking to us about Kantian constructivism:
 

We make choices everyday of our lives. When we choose, however, we must ask ourselves if there are reasons for our choices in order to be able to justify them. This presentation will deal with the topic of reasons, focusing on moral reasons, and I will concentrate on the three accounts of moral reasons that I find the most plausible: realism (the view that there are intrinsically reason-giving moral facts which are independent of what humans think,) Humean expressivism (the view that moral reasons come from the best possible set of sentiments or attitudes), and Kantian constructivism (the view that moral reasons come from the autonomy we have as human beings). I will develop realism and expressivism and raise some of the objections they face. I will then give an account of constructivism and argue that it makes sense to adopt it, as it justifies moral norms through rationality instead of through an external moral reality or purely through sentiments or attitudes.
 

Date: Wednesday of 8th week // 2nd of December
Time: 2000-2200
Venue: Stapledon Room, Exeter College
 

I hope to see you there.


Nakul Krishna
President, Oxford Socrates Society
<nakul.krishna@philosophy.ox.ac.uk>

SocSoc Meeting

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Sunday, 29th November 2009 @ 11:21pm

Dear all,

It was lovely to see so many of you at our film social. I hope you enjoyed the film. I'd love to hear from you about anything to do with the Society -- ideas for future activities would be welcome, and if you have a talk you might like to give next term, do get in touch.

Our last speaker meeting of term will be Santiago Sanchez Borboa of Exeter College, who will take a shot at solving the fundamental problem of moral philosophy:

Why we should be Kantian Constructivists

We make choices everyday of our lives. When we choose, however, we must ask ourselves if there are reasons for our choices in order to be able to justify them. This presentation will deal with the topic of reasons, focusing on moral reasons, and I will concentrate on the three accounts of moral reasons that I find the most plausible: realism (the view that there are intrinsically reason-giving moral facts which are independent of what humans think,) Humean expressivism (the view that moral reasons come from the best possible set of sentiments or attitudes), and Kantian constructivism (the view that moral reasons come from the autonomy we have as human beings). I will develop realism and expressivism and raise some of the objections they face. I will then give an account of constructivism and argue that it makes sense to adopt it, as it justifies moral norms through rationality instead of through an external moral reality or purely through sentiments or attitudes.

Date: Wednesday of 8th week // 2nd of December
Time: 2000-2200
Venue: tbc

See you there,

Nakul Krishna
President, Oxford Socrates Society
<nakul.krishna@philosophy.ox.ac.uk>

Reminder: SocSoc goes to the movies

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Wednesday, 25th November 2009 @ 1:19am

Dear all,

Tonight, we meet at 8 pm at the Jericho Tavern on Walton Street, and then walk down to the Phoenix Picturehouse to catch the Coen brothers' new film 'A Serious Man', for which doors open at 8:35 pm. The Phoenix might be busy, so it might be safest to book yourself a ticket online here:
http://www.picturehouses.co.uk/new_cinema_home_date.aspx?venueId=oxfd

Do write to me <nakul.krishna@philosophy.ox.ac.uk> if you have any queries.

Nakul
President, Oxford Socrates Society

Film and pub social this week: A Serious Man

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Sunday, 22nd November 2009 @ 2:27pm

Dear all,

This week, for something slightly different, we'll have a pub and film social on Wednesday the 25th of November. The plan is for us to start congregating at the Jericho Tavern on Walton Street in (surprise!) Jericho around 8 pm, get in a pint or two, before walking down to the Phoenix Picturehouse to catch the Coen brothers' new film 'A Serious Man' which starts at 8.45 pm. The film is 105 minutes long, so we might just be able to catch a post-film pint at one of the many fine pubs on Walton Street to talk about the film for a bit.

My favourite critic Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian called the film a 'sublimely funny, involving, utterly distinctive serio-comedy of mid-life crisis set in the American midwest in the 1960s':

'[The life of] Larry Gopnik, a professor of theoretical physics ... reaches a menopausal climacteric in mysterious tandem with his son's approaching barmitzvah and the astonishing announcement from his wife ... that their marriage is over. ... Larry's life becomes unmoored, and in his desperation this not-particularly-religious man becomes convinced that only the local senior rabbi can help him: a very elderly man who has retreated largely into gnomic silence. The movie convincingly brings us into Larry's spacey state, somewhere between shock and trance, and brilliantly suggests that he is on the verge not of a breakdown – nothing so banal – but rather an epiphany, a vision of how he has erred, how he has lived, and what the essence of his life should be as an observant Jew, a righteous person and a serious man. This state of enlightenment, if any such can exist, is still impeded by the bizarre wreckage of his life: a malign neighbour, a malcontent student, a dangerously sexy neighbour who sunbathes naked, and his useless, unemployed brother Arthur... working on his private work of kabbalistic mathematical philosophy.'

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/nov/19/a-serious-man-coen-brothers)

I don't expect tickets to be sold out, but you can book yourself a ticket online here (remember to get that student discount):
http://www.picturehouses.co.uk/new_cinema_home_date.aspx?venueId=oxfd

It's fine if you just turn up at the Jericho Tavern, but it would be good for me to have an idea of numbers. So do hit reply on this message if you might be interested. Feel free to write with any questions.

Cheers,
Nakul Krishna
President, Oxford Socrates Society
<nakul.krishna@philosophy.ox.ac.uk>

Reminder: Meeting today at Exeter College

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Wednesday, 18th November 2009 @ 12:37am

Dear all,

Just a reminder for today's talk by Robby Finley from Exeter College about

Weakness of Will and a Look at Blame from the Agent's Point of View

It seems that in common talk about irrational action we often hear phrases such as, “My anger made me do it,” or, “I just couldn't help myself.” In this talk I hope to explore such responses through classical examples of irrational action, in particular Euripides' Phaedra and Homer's Agamemnon, in order to come to a better understanding of the motivational structure behind their actions.

Place: Quarrell Room, Exeter College, Turl Street
Date: 18th November // Wednesday of 6th week
Time: 8 pm - 10 pm

See you there!

Nakul Krishna
President, Oxford Socrates Society

On weakness of will

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Sunday, 15th November 2009 @ 6:08pm

Dear all,

This week, we have Robby Finley from Exeter College talking about


Weakness of Will and a Look at Blame from the Agent's Point of View

It seems that in common talk about irrational action we often hear phrases such as, “My anger made me do it,” or, “I just couldn't help myself.” In this talk I hope to explore such responses through classical examples of irrational action, in particular Euripides' Phaedra and Homer's Agamemnon, in order to come to a better understanding of the motivational structure behind their actions. In doing so, I will explore several models of akrasia, or weakness of will, and argue for taking a modernized Platonic approach to explaining the phenomena, and then look at issues of identity and blame that arise through that model.


Time: 2000-2200

Date: 18th November // Wednesday of 6th week

Venue: tbc


See you there (wherever)!

Nakul Krishna
President, Oxford Socrates Society
 

Meeting today: change of room

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Wednesday, 11th November 2009 @ 12:09am

NB. Please note the change of venue.


At SocSoc this week, we have Doddy Marsh of University College talking about:


Why I am amoral: a sinner's world view

Against moral realism and the moral law. I will address morals from my 

own intuitive notions based on science, and Buddhism. I reject the 

absolute good in the context of cultural relativism, and scientific 

realism. We will journey beyond good and evil and meet a babel fish 

along the way. I address survival of the fittest as a possible 

scientific moral law that is a counter to my views. Morality is then 

addressed through Kant's ideas of the categorical imperative and freedom 

of the will and I show what I believe to be a proof that we can accept 

these statements but still avoid an absolute moral law. This leads me to 

address questions of consciousness where we will meet strange loops, 

irreducible conscious substrates, and matrioshka brains.
 

Date: Wednesday, the 11th of November
Time: 8 pm - 10 pm
Place: Sibthorpe Room, Hall Building, St Hilda's College

Nakul Krishna.
President, Oxford Socrates Society
 

Why I am amoral: a sinner's world view.

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Monday, 9th November 2009 @ 6:01pm

At SocSoc this week, we have Doddy Marsh of University College talking about:

Why I am amoral: a sinner's world view


Date: Wednesday, the 11th of November
Time: 8 pm - 10 pm
Place: Canada Room, St Hilda's College

Reminder: Socrates Society meeting today

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Wednesday, 4th November 2009 @ 2:19pm

Second meeting of MT '09: the 4th of November, Wednesday of 4th week, in the Canada Room at St Hilda's College.

Dominic Hall, St Hilda's College will be talking about...

Why grue isn't lovely

The old problem of induction has puzzled philosophers since Hume. With Goodman's development of the 'new problem', can we have any basis to make inductive inferences at all? In this talk I'll explain the new problem and then outline my theory of how it can be avoided, using the technique of Inference to the Loveliest explanation.

http://socratessociety.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/inference-to-the-loveliest-explanation/

Why grue isn't lovely

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Sunday, 1st November 2009 @ 8:26pm

Dear all,

This week, we have Dominic Hall of St Hilda's College, and SocSoc Secretary, talking about:


Why grue isn't lovely

The old problem of induction has puzzled philosophers since Hume, and with Goodman's development of the 'new problem' can we have any basis to make inductive inferences at all.  In this talk I'll explain the new problem and then outline my theory as to how it can be avoided, using the technique of Inference to the Loveliest explanation.


Date: Wednesday of 4th week // November 4th, 2009
Time: 2000-2200
Venue: tbc.


You can get membership at the meeting. It's £2 for a meeting's worth of wine, £5 for a term's worth, and £10 for a lifetime's right to imbibe.

Oh, and would the two or three people who've enquired about giving talks later in term write to me about what they had in mind.

I hope to see you on Wednesday.

Nakul Krishna
President, Oxford Socrates Society
<nakul.krishna@philosophy.ox.ac.uk>

Inaugural meeting: Why Socrates would have made a lousy tutor

E-mail sent by Nakul Krishna, Monday, 26th October 2009 @ 9:21pm

Hello all,

You're getting this e-mail because you signed up to the Oxford Socrates Society at Freshers' Fair earlier this month. The Socrates Society is a society for the discussion of philosophical questions in a friendly, informal setting, open to philosophers and non-philosophers alike.

Our first meeting happens this Wednesday -- the 28th of October at 8 pm in the Fraenkel Room in Corpus Christi College. I'll be doubling as speaker for this meeting, which will be on the subject of:



Why Socrates would make a lousy Oxford tutor (and not just because he was smelly)

The Socratic method -- learning by question and answer -- is often taken to be the appropriate model for the Oxford tutorial system. But is this right? With its emphasis on testing the person rather than the philosophical position, Socrates' alarming penchant for passing off implausible theses off onto his callow young interlocutors, and potential allegations of what we might now call sexual harassment, one wonders if the model is quite the right one for tutors to aspire to...



Our membership rules have it that it's free to attend a meeting, £2 for (theoretically unlimited) wine (non-alcoholic substitute) for a single meeting, £5 for a year's right to wine (--do--). £10 will get you membership for the rest of your life, and beyond (if applicable). 

Look forward to more meetings, film screenings, symposia -- in the Platonic sense, and pub socials. Do write if you have any queries.


Nakul Krishna
President, The Oxford Socrates Society
<nakul.krishna@ccc.ox.ac.uk>

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