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November 2017

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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The Algorithmic Age (the Forum)

27 February, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Looking for love? Ask your computer, since 1 in 5 couples now first meet online. Have we outsourced love to abstract algorithms? And what about elections or our summer getaways? From the targeted marketing of political campaigns to the predictive typing that preempts your Google search, machines may know us better than we know ourselves. We explore how far modern life is mediated by the computation of data, and ask whether we should trust in the algorithm or find ways to outwit it.

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March 2018

Being Disabled (the Forum) (CANCELLED)

7 March, 7:30 pm9:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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What is disability and how has it been understood historically and across different cultures? How is disability presented in the arts and in our changing idea of what it means to be human? Is the term ‘disability’ useful for the development of disability rights or does it fail to capture the diversity of disabled experience? We will address these questions and consider the nature of disabled experience and the ways in which society is disabling.

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The Philosophy of Race (the Forum)

14 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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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 in shared histories? Our speakers will consider what we understand by race, and the relationships between race, inequality, and prejudice.

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The Trouble with Numbers (the Forum)

19 March, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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How seriously should philosophical worries about mathematics be taken? And should mathematical results ever force our philosophical hands? Philosophers and mathematicians have often found plenty to disagree about throughout history, but there have been many fruitful interactions too. We indulge in a bit of group therapy, examining some key cases of philosophical and mathematical interaction. Does infinitesimal mathematics commit us to an infinitely divisible world? Do the prime mating cycles of cicadas tell us something about the existence of mathematical objects? Let’s run the numbers…

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April 2018

Free Will (the Forum)

23 April, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Is everything we do the product of unconscious brain processes that are beyond our control? If so, what happens to moral and criminal responsibility if a defendant can always argue, ‘my brain made me do it’? And if free will does exist, could other animals possess it too? We bring together a philosopher, a psychiatrist, and a neuroscientist to discuss what recent research into the brain might mean for our understanding of free will.

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Shakespeare (the Forum)

30 April, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Old Theatre, Old Building, London School of Economics, Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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For Victor Hugo, "all forms of the multiple reality, actions and ideas, man and humanity" can be found in Shakespeare. Perhaps this is the reason why, over 400 years after his death, we continue to study, perform, and re-read his plays in search of truths about ourselves and the world. Should we think of Shakespeare as a philosopher? Can reading him philosophically add to our understanding of his work, or is it simply another way of trying to contain this "myriad-minded" (Coleridge) thinker?

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May 2018

Affirmative Action (the Forum)

9 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Old Theatre, Old Building, London School of Economics, Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Women and minority groups are significantly underrepresented in politics and various other walks of life. "Affirmative action" is one response in tackling this enduring issue. But what is it? Who is it for? And why does it generate so much controversy? We discuss these questions and explore the relationship between affirmative action and social justice.

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Animals (the Forum)

15 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Humans have always co-existed with animals, using them as tools, resources, and, more recently, companions. More abstractly, animals help us to understand ourselves; they are ‘good to think with’ (Claude Lévi-Strauss). What roles do animals play in our understanding of issues as wide as ethics, art, friendship, and technology? And what does it mean for understanding ourselves if we seriously acknowledge our relationships with other animals? Coinciding with the publication of The Edinburgh Companion to Animal Studies, we will consider the relevance of animals to a wide range of contemporary concerns.

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Reason (the Forum)

21 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Old Theatre, Old Building, London School of Economics, Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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"Reason" and "knowledge", and the relationship between them, were major themes in Enlightenment philosophy, and drew the attention of some of the most respected philosophers of the time, including Decartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza, often referred to as the rationalists, and Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, the so-called empiricists. Since then, the empiricists have tended to have the upper hand in intellectual life, if not always in philosophy. In this event, we discuss what was at stake in these debates, what we might say about these ideas today, and whether we’ve been too quick to dismiss rationalism.

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June 2018

Football (the Forum)

4 June, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Old Theatre, Old Building, London School of Economics, Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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"All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football", observed Albert Camus. And it is football, above all other sports, that so many philosophers revere. So there’s everything to play for in this panel discussion exploring the relationship between football and philosophy. We give it 110% in our exploration of what makes for a "good game" and whether philosophical principles can be put into play on the pitch.

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