Thinking in Public Past Events

Design in Nature

This event was jointly organised with the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, LSE |

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Thursday 7 February, 6.30 – 8pm
New Theatre, East Building, LSE 



Sarah Coakley|, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity and Fellow of Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge   





John Cottingham|, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Reading and Honorary Fellow, St John's College, University of Oxford 






John Worrall|, Professor of Philosophy of Science, LSE  




Chair: Tim Marlow|, writer, broadcaster and art historian  

The idea that nature displays an inherent purpose, and more generally the hand of a wise designer, may have suffered a blow from Darwinian science, but it seems not to have been a death-blow. Indeed, from both academic and popular wings of theist opinion there is still considerable interest in arguments from design. The classic arguments contended that the natural world is so complex and suited to our survival that we cannot but credit it to the work of a wise designer. This event explored attempts to revive design arguments in a time after Darwin.

The Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, LSE  | and theForum for European Philosophy| gratefully acknowledge the support of theLSE Annual Fund| 



Paths To Extremism

This event was jointly organised with Inform|

Tuesday 22 June 2010, 6.30 - 8pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, Lincoln's Inn Fields, LSE

Nicholas Royle|, Professor of English, University of Sussex

Sara Savage|, Senior Researcher at the Psychology and Religion Research Group, Cambridge University

Amanda van Eck Duymaer van Twist|, Sociologist and Deputy Director of Inform, LSE

Chair: Simon Glendinning|, Director of the Forum for European Philosophy

By 2011 the British Government plans to spend £3.5 billion a year on what it calls "counterterrorism and security measures". The stated reason for such high levels of public spending is the concern that Britain is facing a real and growing threat from "violent extremism" which results from "the process of radicalisation". The measures included in the Government's planning are not, however, all of the same kind. As well as engaging in security activities aiming to minimise the chance of attacks, the Government aims to develop a "new and deeper understanding of how individuals become radicalised". Aware of concerns that the security response may be disproportionate, the Government also wants to "put respect for human rights at the centre of our response". (Source: Home Office)

The language of "extremism", "radicalisation" and "terrorism" that dominates the Government's policy-planning is, today, ubiquitous in contemporary politics and media coverage. Yet, there is clearly an awareness that this language might also bear closer analysis, and the effort to develop a deeper understanding of the situation is not over. Do those who become involved in what are identified as "extreme" groups regard themselves as extremists? And what are the paths that lead individuals to join such groups in the first place? What is radicalisation? Sociologists might be inclined to seek explanations in terms of alienation and other societal pushes and pulls. Psychologists might look at distinctive cognitive frameworks. Lawyers might ask whether the respect for human rights really is at the centre of Governmental responses today. Literature scholars may also wonder whether a "new and deeper understanding" of "radicalisation" and "violent extremism" is likely to be achieved through the disciplines of the so-called human or social sciences alone. Where should we turn to understand what is clearly one of the major questions of contemporary politics and society? In this special event the Forum for European Philosophy, in collaboration with Inform, brought together thinkers and scholars from across different disciplines to renew and deepen our discussions of "paths to extremism".


The European Exception? The Public Intellectual in Britain

Thursday 26 June 2008, 6.00-8pm
Old Theatre, Old building, LSE

A.C. Grayling|, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbek College, University of London, and Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford
Julian Baggini|, Philosopher and writer, editor of The Philosopher's Magazine
Kate Soper|, Professor of Philosophy at the Institute for the Study of European Transformations, London Metropolitan University

Chair: Melvyn Bragg|, broadcaster, writer and novelist

The idea that philosophy might have a special role in the public life of a culture, that it might even be tied or allied in its own discipline to the virtue of public space, to the res publica, to public-ness, typically goes without saying in continental Europe. The philosopher should always be more than a mere reader and spectator of human thinking and doing, and should contribute to its public formation: the philosopher should be engagé.

In Britain, by contrast, even if there is some appetite to be informed about philosophy, there are, it seems, few calls for our culture and our public space to be informed by it. Moreover, when philosophers do 'take to the streets' themselves they are often derided as mere 'popularisers' by their peers. In short, the 'engagé' philosopher in Britain is neither embraced by society nor applauded by the professional discipline.

In this special event we reflected on this 'European exception', and asked whether society or the philosophical profession in Britain would, in our time, benefit from efforts to make a distinctively philosophical contribution to thinking in public.