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May 2017

Celebrity (the Forum)

8 May 2017, 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 2017, 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 2017, 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 2017, 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 2017, 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 2017, 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 2017, 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 2017, 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 2017, 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 2017, 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 (the Forum)

20 November 2017, 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 2017, 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 2017, 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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January 2018

The Philosophy of Race (the Forum)

8 January, 8:00 am5:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Race continues to shape the political, cultural, and economic character of our societies, with communities and resources determined along racial lines. But what is race and why is it so significant? Is it simply another form of social classification grounded in inequality, conflict, and violence? If so, how are we to understand race as a resource for cultural cohesion rooted…

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Streaming Consciousness (the Forum)

9 January, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Is it possible to express the richness, variety, and depth of our inner experience, our thoughts and feelings? If so, what is the best way to do it? Should we turn to literature or to philosophy? And what can they teach each other about understanding, expressing, and performing the self? In this event, award-winning novelist Eimear McBride will discuss these…

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Culture under Fire (the Forum)

17 January, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Old Theatre, Old Building, London School of Economics, Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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From the recent destruction of Palmyra and the looting of the National Museum of Iraq, cultural artefacts are one of the many casualties of armed conflict. What exactly is cultural property and whose property is it? How should we weigh its value against other priorities during times of conflict? What risks should be taken to protect it, and who is responsible for rebuilding and restoring when the conflict is over? Our speakers discuss the political and ethical issues around culture in war zones.

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Being Alone (the Forum)

24 January, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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‘Hell is other people’, noted Jean Paul Sartre—rather rudely, it might seem to an outside observer. But is the pursuit of philosophical understanding an inherently solitary pursuit by its nature? From Augustine to Kant, philosophy has cherished the image of the deep thinker immersed in solitudinous reflection. But how does solitude differ from loneliness? And in an age of increasing…

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The Politics of Marriage (the Forum)

31 January, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, 99 Aldwych
London, WC2B 4JF United Kingdom
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Marriage is an odd mix of sex, religion, and politics. Our speakers ask what marriage is and whether there is there any distinctive moral value in it. Should the state promote it? Is it possible to have an ‘equal’ marriage, or is marriage fundamentally an oppressive institution? Should marriage be rejected in favour of civil partnerships, or something else, or perhaps nothing else?

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February 2018

What Is It Really Like to Be a Bat? (the Forum)

14 February, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Are bats conscious, and how can we tell? What is it like to use sound to navigate? In a classic paper called ‘What Is It Like to Be a Bat?’, Thomas Nagel used the bat’s capacity for echolocation to introduce philosophical problems concerning conscious experience. But the example is usually discussed in ignorance of what the lives of bats are actually like. This dialogue brings together a philosopher and a bat scientist to discuss the latest research into the minds of bats.

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The Evolution of Altruism (the Forum)

24 February, 11:00 am12:15 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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If evolution is a "struggle for existence", why do we witness so much altruism in nature? From bacteria to baboons, the natural world is full of spectacular examples of organisms cooperating with one another. In the early 1960s, W. D. Hamilton changed the way we think about how such behaviour evolves, and his pioneering work kick-started a research programme now known as "social evolution theory". Our panel of biologists and philosophers of biology will discuss the legacy of Hamilton’s ideas, and the evolution of altruism in microbes, insects, humans, and the cells of our own bodies.

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