Digest Week 7 Hilary Term 2024

HT24, Week 7 (25th February-2nd March)

If you have entries for the weekly Digest, please send information to admin@philosophy.ox.ac.uk by midday, Wednesday the week before the event. 

Notices - other Philosophy events, including those taking place elsewhere in the university and beyond


Interdisciplinary Psychoanalysis Seminar and the Wollheim Centenary Project

Conveners: Professor KP Tod, Dr L Braddock, Dr N Gildea

'Has what Wollheim offers philosophers -an account that includes emotional life - been ignored or forgotten?'

Speaker: Denise Cullington, Psychoanalyst

Date/Time: Monday 26 February between 6-7pm 

Location: St John's College

Philosophers need to understand not only cognitions, but meaning, emotions that can so often be experienced out of conscious mind, in images, emotions and the body. Richard Wollheim argued that without it, philosophy is thin. At the same time, in my view, in his explications he did not convey the rich complexity of analytic ideas in understanding our human selves. There is projection as evacuation, but not of it as a necessary part of our development and communication (with a receptive other); of our internal world, made up of so many experiences not only repressed, but dating from a time before we had words in which to “think”. Psychoanalysis has so much to say on what an artist is doing when he or she plays with images – and in such a way that it speaks to us, we feel an emotional resonance. Not that it is offers the ultimate answer, but that it offers a rich structure; different layers, in which to make sense and think. 



Joseph Butler Society

'Subjectivity and the beatific vision'

Speaker: David Worsley, University of York

Date/Time: Tuesday 27 February between 8:30 to 10pm

Venue: Large Senior Common Room, Oriel College

Further details here.


Oxford Philosophy Society Event

‘Panel on Liberalism and the limits of tolerance’

Date/Time: Tuesday,27 February between 18:30-19:45pm

Venue: Lecture Room, Radcliffe Humanities

Professor David Enoch, Dr Paul Billingham, and Dr Christina Easton will discuss the relationship between liberal political theory and the practice of tolerance. The panelists will explore questions such as what constitutes the practice of tolerance, the relationship between the fundamental principles of liberalism and the practice of toleration, circumstances under which it is appropriate to act intolerantly towards others, and what J.S. Mill's called the 'tyranny of the prevailing opinion'.

David Enoch is a Professorial Fellow at Balliol College and Professor of Philosophy of Law at the University of Oxford. He has published work in meta-ethics (where he defends a robust, non-naturalistic kind of moral realism), in the philosophy of law (where he criticises some versions of "general jurisprudence", discusses moral and legal luck, and analyses the role of statistical evidence), in political philosophy (where he criticises Rawlsian, public-reason liberalism, discusses false consciousness, and nudging).

Paul is a Research Fellow at Christ Church College and DPIR Associate Processor at the University of Oxford. His research centres on the relationship between the actions of the state and the beliefs and values of citizens, especially their religious beliefs. He considers both the way in which citizens’ beliefs might constrain state action, given the liberal demand that laws be justified to all citizens, and the ways in which the state might permissibly seek to influence citizens’ values, to conform them to liberal ideals.

Christina is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Warwick, where (amongst other things!) she is working on a project on tolerance and education. She is a political and moral philosopher, with an interdisciplinary teaching and research background.

The event is free for Society members and non-members can pay Ј3 on the door or join the Society here.



Seminar in Indian Religions and Philosophies

This series of regular seminars brings together scholars and students working on Indic philosophies and religions. It focuses on topics of current research: in each session, two people will present a context they are investigating for 20min, and then open it for discussion on key questions.

Jacob Fisher: 'Are We Right About Being Wrong? Memory, and the certification of mistakes according to Dharmakīrti and Candrakīrti'

Since we can remember being deceived, we must have on some level been consciousness of the subjective experience. But if we were conscious of the experience of being tricked, why were we deceived? This paper examines possible solutions to this problem as proposed by Dharmakīrti and Candrakīrti (c. 7th Cent.), with the help of Tibetan commentaries by Tsongkhapa and Khédrupjé (14th Cent.). It discusses their descriptions of the mechanism behind memory, and how we can warrant beguiled cognitions. While much research has been done on these subjects in contemporary scholarship (cf. Lati Rinpoche, and Napper 1980, Cabezón 1992, Cozort 1998, Thakchoe 2017), this paper draws out an unexplored and implicit difference in the methodologies of these two luminaries. It argues that while Dharmakīrti (in Pramāṇavārtika) is often forced to retreat into complex metaphysical solutions to these issues, Candrakīrti (in Prasannapadā, and Madhyamakāvatāra) through a consistent appeal to non-analytical worldly consensus (lokasiddha) and usage (lokavyavahāra), offers solutions that are verifiable via personal experience. This is however not at odds with his entrenched pessimism regarding the accuracy of non-yogic perception.

Daniel Ruin: 'Buddha-Nature and the Figure of the Angel: Henry Corbin’s writings on Buddhism'

This presentation introduces and evaluates Henry Corbin’s (1903-1978) contribution to the study of Buddhist philosophy. Primarily a specialist in Iranian Sufism, Corbin was a protean scholar who worked at the intersections between religious studies, phenomenology, and depth psychology. Corbin’s previously unpublished writings on Buddhism were made available in a 2019 English translation and feature readings of an eclectic mix of Mahāyāna texts. I will use this talk to introduce the major themes of Corbin’s thought as these are put to use in his interpretation of the texts. These themes include Corbin’s subtle critique of religious monisms and his original philosophy of the person as it incorporates the esoteric figure of the angel. I will close with some reflections on the Tathāgata-garbha doctrine, which informs the philosophical dispositions of the Buddhist sources in question. I suggest how a Corbinian reading may shed light on certain issues faced by some modern philosophical interpretations that attempt to square this doctrine with a broader understanding of Mahāyāna metaphysical commitments.

Time/Date: Wednesday 28 February 4.30pm

Venue: The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS) Library, 15 Magdalen Street, OX1 3AE

All researchers, graduates and finalists in all areas are welcome to join.


Interdisciplinary Psychoanalysis Seminar and the Wollheim Centenary Project

Conveners: Professor KP Tod, Dr L Braddock, Dr N Gildea

'The Presence of Absence' (Film)

Speaker: Ela Gorkay, Film-maker

Date/Time: Wednesday 28 February between 6-7pm 

Location: St John's College

The work of making the film.


'What is "Crazy Ethics" and Why Does it Matter?'

Conveners: Professor Roger Crisp & Dr Umut Baysan

Speaker: Professor Saul Smilansky (University of Haifa; also Plumer Fellow at St Anne's College, Oxford)

Time: Wednesday 28 February between 5.30pm - 7pm

Venue: Tsuzuki Lecture Theatre, St Anne's College

"Crazy Ethics" (CE) is a radical, ambitious view of the content of morality. It claims that while morality as such can make sense (e.g. is not just a relativistic cultural product or a way of manipulating people emotionally), it is full of PPP – Perplexities, Paradoxes and Perversities. Absurdity prevails in central areas of the moral universe. The craziness or absurdity I am discussing does not indicate that we are making a mistake, but absurdity can be a feature of true, or at least quite plausible, beliefs, or descriptions of states of affairs. Seeing the absurdity is a revelation of reality. The craziness of ethics has been almost completely neglected; unlike in other areas of philosophy (paradoxes are central in logic, epistemology, or the philosophy of science, for example). This neglect is not innocent – we are motivated to try to avoid the indications of absurdity, for psychological and social reasons. Hence, uncovering CE is not only a matter of discovering truths about morality and the meaning of life, but of overcoming ourselves. 

The event is open to all students, faculty, and staff. Please arrive a few minutes before the talk at the Lodge on Woodstock Road and ask for instructions for the Tsuzuki Lecture Theatre.




Oxford Jurisprudence Discussion Group

'Choice and Service in the Justification of Authority'

Speaker: James Edwards (Oxford)

James Edwards presents the seventh of Hilary Term 2024: "Choice and Service in the Justification of Authority".

Date/Time: Thursday 29 February 5-7pm

Venue: Arthur Goodhart Seminar Room, University College. The Room is located in Logic Lane and can be accessed from High St. or Merton St. without having to go through the main entrance to University College.

Pre-reading is desirable and strongly suggested, but not a requirement to attend.

If you want to receive the papers we discuss in our seminars join our mailing list by sending a blank email at jurisprudence-discussion-group-subscribe[at]maillist.ox.ac.uk.

This event is open to anyone. No registration needed.


Panel Discussion: 'Social and Cultural Differences in Mental Health'

Stanford University Centre in Oxford

Date/Time: Thursday 29 February 2024 between 16:30-17:45pm


Dr Hasanen Al-Taiar (Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists - Cultural Psychiatry Group; Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust) 

Dr Francesca Brencio (Associate Researcher in Philosophy at the Research Group Filosofía Aplicada: Sujeto, Sufrimiento, Sociedad, University of Seville – Spain, and member of The Phenomenology and Mental Health Network, The Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice, S. Catherine College, University of Oxford – UK

Dr Roxana Baiasu (Assistant Professor, the University of Birmingham; Associate Member of the Philosophy Faculty, the University of Oxford; Fellow in Philosophy, Stanford University Centre in Oxford)

The understanding of mental health and illness is shaped by cultural, social and political frameworks and values, which are often permeated by biases and power relations. The view that psychiatry is an institution of social control shaped by colonialist, gender and racial prejudices is perhaps one of the most revolutionary ideas developed in the last century. This interdisciplinary event brings together different experts in the field of philosophy and mental health to discuss how cultural and social differences shape psychiatric research and practice, both positively and negatively. Dr Francesca Brencio considers, from phenomenological and ethical perspectives, how social values, cultural norms and collective emotions inform clinical decision making and practices of care. Dr Hasanen Al-Taiar focuses on culture-bound syndromes (CBS): these are psychological and/or physical symptoms that are recognized only within particular cultural or ethnic groups; he considers how these often reflect the beliefs, norms, values, and social structures of a specific culture. In her talk, Dr Roxana Baiasu is concerned with certain ways in which the intersectionality of gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic and political factors shape differences in mental health. 

Venue: Stanford University Centre, 65 High Street, Oxford

The event is organised with the support of Stanford University in Oxford, the Philosophy Faculty at the University of Oxford and the Oxford Forum.

Conveners: Dr Roxana Baiasu and Professor Stephen Mulhall.

For more information contact theforumatoxford@gmail.com.


Oxford Public Philosophy Event

'The Indigenous philosophies of northern America, The Environment and Sentience'

An evening of art, poetry, and philosophical discussion! All welcome.

Speakers include:

Perry Ground

John Shoptaw

Briana Muñoz

Oscar Horta

Date/Time: Thursday 29 February between 7-8.30pm online only

Speaker Biographies:

Perry Ground is a Turtle Clan member of the Onondaga Nation and has been telling stories for more than 25 years as a way of educating people about the culture, beliefs and history of the Haudenosaunee (sometimes known as Iroquois) Confederacy. Perry shares his stories in a very energetic, fun, and engaging style and makes the audience part of the story experience. Also an accomplished Educator, Perry has worked with students from Pre-K through college. The classroom programs that Perry offers are taught in the same engaging style and enhance each student’s study of Native Peoples. Perry is available to visit schools, museums, libraries, festivals, and more to share stories and programs that will educate and entertain audiences of all ages.

John Shoptaw is a poet, essayist, teacher, and environmentalist.  He teaches poetry and environmental poetry & poetics at UC Berkeley, where he is a member of the Environmental Arts & Humanities Initiative.  Shoptaw’s first poetry collection, Times Beach (Notre Dame Press, 2015), won the Notre Dame Review Book Prize and subsequently also the 2016 Northern California Book Award in Poetry. Shoptaw focuses on contemporary experience: on what it means to live and write among other creatures in a world deranged by human-caused climate change.  These questions are also at the center of his essays “Why Ecopoetry?” (published in 2016 at Poetry Magazine, where a number of his poems, including “Near-Earth Object,” have also appeared) and “The Poetry of Our Climate” (forthcoming at American Poetry Review).  

Briana Muñoz is a poet from Southern California. She is the author of two books of poetry including Loose Lips (Prickly Pear Publishing) and Everything is Returned to the Soil (FlowerSong Press). Her work has been published in the anthology How to Reimagine America, Cultural Daily, the Beat Not Beat Anthology, the Oakland Arts Review, Dryland Literary Journal, the Angel City Review, the Somos Xicanas anthology, and several other publications. Briana is the founder of Poetry as Harm Reduction and currently serving as the board of directors secretary for the Los Angeles Poet Society. She has performed poetry in places like the International Poetry Festival of Havana, Cuba, the 2015 Festival de Poesia in Tijuana, Baja California, MX, as well as at the XXI Congreso Internacional de Literatura y Estudios Hispanicos in Quito, Ecuador.

Oscar Horta is a philosopher at the University of Santiago de Compostela, where he leads the Wild Animal Ethics project. He's also the co-founder of the charity Animal Ethics and the author of Making a Stand for Animals (Routledge, 2022).

Please email Virginie Simoneau-Gilbert for online joining instructions. 


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Graduate Discussion Group

We welcome all University of Oxford Graduate Students to the return of this seminar series led by Dr Rebecca Brown. The aim of this seminar is to provide an opportunity for graduate students, from all departments, whose work has an applied ethics dimension, to present their works in progress to fellow students as well as OUC research staff. The seminars also provide teaching on practical ethics topics, taught by researchers from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

The seminars will be held during weeks 2, 4, 6 & 7 on Fridays from 2pm-4pm with the opportunity to join OUC staff at The Royal Blenheim Hotel afterwards.

Seminar format: This seminar will be run both in person, and on zoom for those unable to attend physically. Each week, for the first hour of the seminar, one of the researchers from the OUC will introduce a key topic in Practical or Medical Ethics. During the second hour of the seminar students will be given the opportunity to present a work/idea in progress, draft papers or thesis chapters for constructive comments and discussion with other graduate students, led by Dr Rebecca Brown.

Part 1: Becky Brown: 'Methods in Applied Ethics'

Required Reading: TBC

Suggested Further Reading: TBC

Part 2: 'Work in Progress'

Student Presenting: TBC

Student Responding: TBC

Venue: Oxford Uehiro Centre, Seminar Room, Suite 1 Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbes St. OX1 1PT

Please email rocci.wilkinson@philosophy.ox.ac.uk now to sign up for this seminar, to be placed on the mailing list and/or to sign up for a presentation or response slot in Hilary Term.


Interdisciplinary Psychoanalysis Seminar and the Wollheim Centenary Project

Conveners: Professor KP Tod, Dr L Braddock, Dr N Gildea

'What Makes a Picture Sad?' (The Presentation of Absent Emotion)

Speaker: Vanessa Brassey, Centre for Philosophy and Arts, KCL  

Date/Time: Friday 1 March between 6-7pm 

Location: St John's College (Kendrew Barn - arrive in good time and ask at the lodge)

Pictures have always fascinated artists, historians, and philosophers. While artists like Vincent van Gogh and art historians like Neil MacGregor might focus on a picture's content, background, or various interpretations, philosophers tend to ask more general questions. For example, 'How can a two-dimensional (flat) surface with marks on it represent three-dimensional objects?' In other words, how do images come into existence? A second related question is: 'How can a picture, which doesn’t have a mind, convey emotions (which require a mind)?' Or, more simply, 'What makes a picture sad?'

In this talk, I’ll introduce the main rival theories that attempt to explain what makes a picture sad, using the shorthand ‘Feelists’ and ‘Lookists’. Feelists believe that a picture is sad if it makes you feel sad. On the other hand, Lookists argue that we can recognize a sad picture without necessarily feeling sad ourselves; for them, what matters is that the picture LOOKS sad. Both are problematic. Feelists get the location of the emotion wrong (in YOU rather than in the picture). Lookists seem to kick the can down the road or back to those working on the first question ‘How do flat surfaces come to look like things we can see face to face?’ So, who should we believe? I'll explore Feelism and Lookism using Patrice Moor's moving collection ‘The Presence of Absence’. And I’ll conclude by revealing which one I believe is most credible and how a nuanced understanding of it helps us appreciate aspects of Moor’s work that might otherwise remain inexplicable.



Taunton Talk 

'Legacy, Jeopardy, and Opportunity: The Challenges Facing the West'

Convened by Dr Paul Shrimpton

Speaker: Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali

Date/Time: Saturday 2 March 2024 at 12noon

Venue: Grandpont House, Abingdon Road, Oxford OX1 4LD

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali read Economics, Sociology and Islamic History at the University of Karachi, and Theology at Fitzwilliam College and Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He was the Bishop of Raiwind, Pakistan, then Anglican Bishop of Rochester, and is now a priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walshingham and Prelate of Honour to Pope Francis. From 1999 he was a member of the House of Lords where he was active in areas of national and international concern. He has both a Christian and a Muslim family background and is now President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue.

He is the author of numerous articles on mission, ecumenism, the Anglican Communion, and relations with people of other faiths, as well as thirteen books, including Faith, Freedom and the Future: Challenges for the 21st Century (2016), Triple Jeopardy for the West: Aggressive Secularism, Radical Islamism and Multiculturalism (2012) and Conviction and Conflict: Islam, Christianity and World Order (2005).

The talk will finish with an optional buffet lunch costing £5. The number of lunch guests is restricted to 12; please contact Alex Norris at alexander.norris@sjc.ox.ac.uk to be added to the mailing list and to book a place at lunch.

The Taunton talks are intended to appeal to students who wish to engage in serious thinking beyond the confines of the tutorial and are motivated by the pursuit of truth. This talk may be of interest to any undergraduate or postgraduate students studying either politics or philosophy, though all are welcome.