Philosophy at The Idler Academy
I'm doing a series of symposiums on modern philosophy at The Idler Academy, starting the New Year.
1. Descartes and the birth of modernity Monday 9 January, 6.30pm He stands on the threshold of a new way of being in the world, now called being modern, turning doubt on itself to see what can be known for certain, and controversially concluding ‘I think therefore I am’. But Descartes is widely misunderstood as responsible for mind/body dualism. In this Symposium we will look at what it means to be modern and try to set the record straight.
2. Bishop Berkeley and the empiricist/idealist divide Monday 16 January, 6.30pm After Descartes two different attitudes towards the world took root. Empiricism claimed that only the senses could be trusted as a source of knowledge. Idealism argued that our mental construction of the world must come first. Bishop Berkeley is a fascinating figure in this debate, the man who caused Samuel Johnson to kick a stone, refuting the non-existence of matter.
3. Immanuel Kant and what it is to be enlightened Monday 23 January, 6.30pm Kant is the towering figure of the Enlightenment, writing a series of Critiques in which he attempted to outline the limits of human knowledge. He also wrote a seminal essay on what it is to be enlightened, arguing that it is ‘daring to know’ and kicking off the shackles of received authority. He is a tough read, but full of ideas to engage with by us, children of the Enlightenment.
4. David Hume and the philosophy of religion Monday 30 January, 6.30pm Sometimes known as the greatest philosopher who wrote in English, Hume was famous as a historian of England during his lifetime, but since then his philosophy, particularly of science and religion, has come to the fore. His refutation of miracles and arguments against design in the cosmos are important skeptical statements, and can very interestingly be challenged.
5. Michel Foucault and the philosophy of the self Monday 6 February, 6.30pm In this symposium, we cast an eye towards what is known as continental philosophy, which is generally as interested in questions of how to live alongside those of analytic philosophy’s how can we know. Foucault provides a stimulating entrée into this different world. A disciple of Nietzsche, and theorist of the self and sexuality, his ideas have percolated very widely.
6. Karl Popper and the philosophy of science Monday 13 February, 6.30pm Modern science is indisputably one of humankind’s most powerful inventions, but just what it discovers and how it works is widely contested. Popper is a crucial figure in this debate, with his measure of falsifiability. He also wrote very well about history and Darwinism. We will also consider Thomas Kuhn, and the notion of paradigm shifts, and other contemporary interpretations.