Public Lectures

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The issues addressed within the project raise questions of fundamental human concern. We believe that these issues both can and should be made accessible and interesting to any educated and inquiring person. To this end the project will hold a series of five public lectures, given by senior members of the project and its network.

These lectures will be recorded and made publicly available through the project’s Outreach pages, with an opportunity for continuing the discussion online.


Wednesday 11 December 2019, at 5.30-7.00: Public Lecture 5
The Court Room, Cottrell Building, University of Stirling

Professor Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa (University of British Columbia)
'Scepticism, Rape Culture, and Oppression'

Questions about knowledge are very practical questions. When you know something, that makes a big difference in how you should respond to it. Abstract philosophical arguments about knowledge, like those involving radical sceptical scenarios, sometimes obscure this important connection. In this talk, I’ll draw parallels between classical sceptical arguments — like the “brain in a vat” hypothesis, or the worry that you might just be dreaming all of your current experiences — and more conspicuously practical and political sceptical arguments — like the argument that you shouldn’t act on a rape victim’s complaint without independent corroboration. Scepticism, I’ll suggest, is often used as a powerful tool against proactive steps towards reform.

The lecture will be preceded by a brief reception from 5.00-5.30.
Attendance is free and open to all.

Poster for the event.

For directions to the venue, please check the campus map here
The Court Room is easily accessed from the main entrance to the on the Cottrell (19).

Wednesday 13 February 2019, at 5.30-7.30: Public Lecture 4
Wellcome West Room, Royal Society of Edinburgh, 28 George Street Edinburgh

Professor Franz Berto (Universities of St Andrews and Amsterdam)
‘Knowledge via Imagination’

The human mind can contemplate the strangest unreal scenarios in imagination, from dragons and unicorns to exotic islands or science fictions. Why? What is the evolutionary utility of such mental escapes from reality?
One promising answer is that imagination helps to answer ‘what if?’ questions. What if I try to jump the stream? Will I get to the other side, or will I get hurt? Will a no-deal Brexit make me lose my job? Instead of actually trying a dangerous jump, or waiting for a no-deal Brexit to come, we imagine these events taking place, and try to guess what would happen then.
Empirical research shows that imagination as mental simulation helps us in a number of ways: skiers imagining the path they'll follow in the ski run perform better in a downhill race. House movers imagining guiding the couch through the living room door can reliably conclude that it will in fact pass through the door.
But how can it be? If imagination is an arbitrary escape from reality, we can imagine whatever we like. How can this give us knowledge about reality, then? Better understanding how imagination as mental simulation works - which traps we are prone to fall into when we use it, when it can give us new, reliably formed and true beliefs - will help us to become better mental simulators, thus better equipped to deal with the uncertainties of the future. This is what this talk is about.

The lecture will be preceded by a brief drinks reception from 5.00-5.30.
Attendance is free and open to all.
Directions and information about the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Wednesday 23 May 2018, at 5.30-7.30: Public Lecture 3
Wellcome West Room, Royal Society of Edinburgh, 28 George Street Edinburgh

Professor Paul Boghossian (Department of Philosophy, New York University)
‘Should we be Relativists about Morality?’
Many people, philosophers and non-philosophers alike, regard themselves as relativists about morality. They are suspicious of there being any objective truths about how we should conduct our lives. In this talk, Professor Boghossian will argue that relativism about morality is not an option: we face a stark choice between eliminating moral discourse altogether or accepting a certain measure of objectivity about the moral domain. He will conclude by arguing in favour of the latter option.

The lecture will be preceded by a brief drinks reception.
Attendance is free and open to all.
Directions and information about the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Monday, 18 December 2017, at 6.30-8.30: Public Lecture 2
Stirling Court Hotel, University of Stirling
Professor Åsa Wikforss (Stockholm University)
‘Fact Resistance: what is it, and how can it be cured?’

Professor Wikforss’s lecture will be preceded by a brief drinks reception.
Attendance is free and open to all.

Directions to Stirling Court Hotel

Sunday, 21 May 2017, at 6.30-7.30 pm: Public Lecture 1
Stirling Court Hotel, University of Stirling
Professor Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins (University of British Columbia)
'Knowing Our Own Hearts'
Directions to Stirling Court Hotel