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February 2017

To Be Born: Birth, Existence, and Responsibility (the Forum at the LSE Literary Festival)

25 February, 11:00 am12:30 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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In this event, world-renowned philosopher Luce Irigaray will speak about her new book, To Be Born, which reflects upon the nature of human existence through an analysis of birth. Examining the mysteries of human origins, Irigaray will discuss the ways in which, despite the accidents of our birth, we can take responsibility for our own lives. Respondents Tanja Staehler and Mahon O’Brien will consider the philosophical, practical, and political implications of Irigaray’s claims.

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March 2017

The Minds of Whales (the Forum)

2 March, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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What is it like to be a whale? How do they think and what do they feel? How are their social groups structured, and how do whale ‘cultures’ arise? And how has human thought and human culture been influenced by interaction with whales? In this dialogue, two internationally recognized whale experts — prize-winning author Philip Hoare and marine biologist Luke Rendell — discuss the inner lives of whales.

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To Infinity and Beyond: Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, Literature (the Forum)

7 March, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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What does the infinite mean to us as finite beings? Can we root our thinking in the finite, or does the idea of the infinite always return? Does thinking philosophically about the infinite inevitably lead us to theology? Thinkers from philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literary studies will assess whether the idea of the infinite is something that we should cultivate, avoid, or simply try to understand.

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Citizen Science (the Forum)

16 March, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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From medicine and GMOs to cyber-security and climate change, scientific research is vital to modern life. On the other hand, many of us struggle to get to grips with its increasingly complexity. How does this fit with our ideals of democracy? And in an era of mistrust of experts, does science have a legitimacy problem? Our panel considers a radical proposal to rethink the distinction between scientist and citizen.

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Philosophy and Nazism (the Forum)

23 March, 6:00 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Nazism pervaded every level of German society, and philosophers were not immune. While much scholarship has understandably focused on recriminations of key figures, tonight’s panel reflect on some broader questions raised: Can philosophy help us understand the nature of evil? And does thinking philosophically really help us live better lives?

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April 2017

Hypocrisy (the Forum)

25 April, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, 99 Aldwych
London, WC2B 4JF United Kingdom
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Why do we tend to judge hypocrites more harshly than those whose actions, however bad, appear consistent with their beliefs? Is hypocrisy better understood as inevitable weakness of the will or as inexcusable deception? In this event, the panel will ask: Is hypocrisy a moral dead-end or a step on the path to better behaviour? Is there such a thing as ‘honest’ hypocrisy? Which contemporary issues tend to make hypocrites of us, and are we, the hypocrites, really all that bad?

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May 2017

Prejudice (the Forum)

3 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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With recent political events and a spike in the reporting of hate crime, the concept of prejudice has become prominent once more. But are we more or less prejudiced than at other points in our history? And is prejudice always wrong, or even avoidable? If it is avoidable, how can this be achieved? We put these questions to a philosopher, psychologist, sociologist, and activist.

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Celebrity (the Forum)

8 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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If video killed the radio star, how are we to understand celebrity in a world of Twitter, YouTube, and reality TV? Has the social function of celebrity changed, or are new kinds of celebrities performing the same function in different ways? Our panel will consider what celebrities are for, what their rights and responsibilities might be, and what our attitude towards celebrities ought to be.

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Capitalism (the Forum)

16 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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For much of the early part of the twentieth century, political theorists debated the moral and economic merits of capitalism in competition with communism. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites, and the triumph of the market economy, those on the political left briefly flirted with the idea of market socialism. But critics of capitalism are running out of alternative ideas, to the point that a placard at an anti-capitalism march proclaimed ‘Replace Capitalism with Something Nice!’. Are we stuck with capitalism? How far can it be modified? How far should it be modified?

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Film (the Forum)

23 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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"Film is made for philosophy", wrote Stanley Cavell, "it shifts or puts different light on whatever philosophy has said about appearance and reality, about actors and characters, about scepticism and dogmatism, about presence and absence". Does the language of cinema lend itself to questions of metaphysics and mortality? How can a character, a close up, or a cut represent a concept? In this panel, a filmmaker, a film critic, and a philosopher explore the ways in which film has engaged with philosophy and ask how far we might consider film itself a philosophical medium.

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October 2017

Is Post-modernism to Blame for Our Post-truth World? (the Forum)

2 October, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Did Derrida make us do it? Is our current situation the inevitable outcome of the intellectual adventuring of the twentieth century that critiqued grand narratives and challenged absolute truths? Or should we call upon the critical scepticism of post-modernism and post-structuralism with renewed vigour, to better see through the smoke and mirrors of contemporary culture? We ask what the relationship is between facts, alternative facts, and fiction, and explore the precarious status of truth in the twenty-first century.

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Invasive Species (the Forum)

10 October, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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From parakeets to grey squirrels, signal crayfish to Japanese knotweed, with the help of human beings, non-native species have adeptly squawked, crawled, and rooted themselves in unfamiliar ecosystems. Should we welcome these invaders as a sign of cross-species cosmopolitanism or attempt to remove them? Are some non-native species friends and others foes? When does conservation become ‘green xenophobia’ (Fred Pearce)?…

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Digital Selves (the Forum)

17 October, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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How does our ubiquitous digital culture affect our sense of self? Is the self distorted, or do we now possess an invigorating digital selfdom? Should we revise our philosophical conceptions of the self in the light of social media? Our panel of writers, artists, and political theorists explore what happens to memory, emotion, and thought in the age of Google.

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Parallel Universes (the Forum/BSPS Lecture)

23 October, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Is Schrödinger’s cat alive or dead? This thought experiment was devised to illustrate a fundamental puzzle in quantum mechanics. A radical solution is that the cat is both alive and dead, but in different, parallel universes. This is the ‘many-worlds interpretation’ of quantum mechanics and our panel of philosophers and physicists will discuss why it is controversial and its strange consequences.

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Who Is a Refugee? (the Forum)

30 October, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Some people crossing borders are called refugees while others are not. But who is a refugee? What precisely is the relationship between migration and seeking refuge? Can we justify the distinction between refugees, migrants, and displaced people? Our panel discuss whether current legal definitions are need of modification, and if so, what should be altered and why.

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November 2017

The Politics of Mental Health (the Forum)

8 November, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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At the intersection of the personal and the political, we explore the relationship between mental health and economics, politics, and society at large. Is it even possible to distinguish between mental illness that derives from an individual’s physiology or childhood experience and that which has broader social or political causes? Why do particular mental illnesses appear to characterize certain eras? Could social change limit the spread of mental illness in contemporary society?

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Strong Feelings (the Forum)

14 November, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Does anger impede political progress or is it essential for change? Does love make us biased or is it the foundation of ethical thinking? Might shame alter not merely our perception of the world, but the very world itself? Reason is often contrasted with emotion, but what if emotion is essential for understanding traditional philosophical ideas? And how did we end up thinking that reason could ever do without emotion?

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The Minds of Birds

20 November, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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What is it like to be a bird? What do they think and how do they feel? What can comparative psychology tell us about the intelligence of birds? And what can we learn about birds, and about ourselves, from our encounters with them? In this dialogue, world-leading comparative psychologist Nicola Clayton and author and naturalist Mark Cocker give us a bird’s eye view on the world, and consider how human thought and culture have been shaped by interaction with birds.

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Sovereignty (the Forum)

29 November, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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The Brexit debate saw a revival in talk of ‘sovereignty’. But what exactly is it, and why is it so highly prized? What are its essential features and what are its limits? In a globalized world, is sovereignty something modern states can achieve? We will explore this elusive concept, and ask whether it is still a useful concept in the twenty-first century.

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December 2017

Time Travel (the Forum)

5 December, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Born of science fiction, thinking about time travel has allowed us to visit possible and lost worlds, and rediscover the past through modern eyes. It also raises big puzzles: If you travelled back in time and killed your grandfather when he was a young man, would you still exist? Would changing the past mean you returned to a different present? What about travelling to the future? Two philosophers and a science fiction writer discuss time travel, and how thinking and writing about it has changed science and philosophy.

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