Research Conference

The Department spent the 18th and 19th of October, in the inspiring surroundings of Chicheley Hall, reading and discussing research papers.

Christopher Yorke submits PhD then criticizes supervisor

Congratulations to doctoral student Christopher Yorke, who submitted his dissertation on the work of the philosopher Bernard Suits at the end of September. He will also be presenting a paper on Suits to the Atlantic Region Philosophers Association conference hosted by St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. His title: ‘A Suitsian Critique of Pike’s Account of Sport’ (that is to say, Jon Pike).

Visiting speaker: talk on AI and poetry (Oct 3rd 2018)

Philosopher Jonathan Phelan will be a guest speaker on Wednesday October 3rd 2018, at 2pm-4pm in Room 006 of Gardiner Building 1. Everyone interested is very welcome to attend.

Title: ‘A. I. Richards’: can artificial intelligence appreciate poetry?

Abstract: Artificial intelligence (artificial eloquence) ‘writes’ poetry but can A. I. critically appreciate poetry? This talk looks at the prospect of ‘artificial interpretation’. By ‘interpretation’ I have close reading in mind, which, in broad terms, can be divided into four stages: first reading, close analysis, the forming of an overall interpretation of a work and a final evaluative judgement. I shall argue, along with Lamarque, that emotional responses to poetry are not integral to literary critical interpretation and so not crucial in any debate about artificial interpretation. On the positive side, A.I. can detect patterns such as rhyme schemes and repeated words, as well as make illuminating links to etymology, allusion and historical context. Artificial interpretation may also be able to register self-reference, guess at neologisms and identify absent detail through comparison with similar poems. The problem is that A. I. has no way of detecting what matters in a poetic work i.e. a sense of significance is lacking. I offer this by way of an answer to the question ‘Can A. I. appreciate poetry’ and by way of a challenge.

Please contact Sheree Barbateau for information if intending to come (e.g. in case of an unexpected change to schedule).

‘Brilliant Darkness’ in Hanover, 9th October 2018

David Roden (Associate Lecturer on several philosophy modules, as well as a global figure in thinking about posthumanity) will be giving at talk in the Sprengel Museum in Hanover on October 9th. The event, entitled ‘Brilliant Darkness’ will involve David’s talk, a performance and a multimedia presentation. The theme will involve ‘different aspects of darkness in terms of things inaccessible for our thinking or possible strategies of thinking the unthinkable’. David’s talk will explore posthuman theory as an experimental practice, as opposed to a metaphysical theory of posthumans.

Transwomen and Adoptive Parents

The OU’s Sophie-Grace Chappell has written a blog post exploring the merits of an analogy she draws between transgender women and adoptive parents. Here is the start:

Maybe we should think of it like this: Transwomen are to women as adoptive parents are to parents. There are disanalogies of course, and the morality of adoption is a large issue in itself which I can’t do full justice to here. Still, the analogies are, I think, important and instructive.

For the rest, go to the philosophy blog, Conscience and Consciousness.

OU student begins a PhD at the Royal College of Art

David Johnson, who did his MA with us, has received funding to do his PhD at the Royal College of Art. He will be working on his dissertation, ‘Blind Aesthetics-Memory, Materiality and the Tactility of the Senses’. In the project he will test the idea that blindness can provide radical new insights into our understanding of the world and that the plastic arts can be a powerful way for blind people to express these insights. David is himself blind.

Many congratulations to David!

John Shand on Martha Nussbaum

John Shand, a long-standing tutor and research associate of the department, has published a review of Martha Nussbaum’s new book, The Monarchy of Fear in the Times Higher Education Supplement. The review is available here.

To read it, you have to register with the THES, but doing that does not commit you to anything.

Ex-OU student success!

Henry Pollock, who did his MA with the OU (2013-2015), and who then went on to do his PhD in Leeds, has had his first paper published. It is called ‘Parfit’s Fission Dilemma: Why Relation R Doesn’t Matter’ and is now open access in Theoria.

Click here to find the paper.

Congratulations to Henry!

Inaugural lecture: Professor Derek Matravers (July 17 2018)

Open University Inaugural Lecture

(A live video-link to this event is now available via the official event page.)

Heritage in War: Protecting Cultural Property and Human Harm

Derek Matravers, Professor of Philosophy
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Tuesday 17 July
6:00 – 7:00 pm
The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA

We are delighted to invite you to Professor Derek Matraver’s inaugural lecture on: Heritage in War: Protecting Cultural Property and Human Harm.

Derek Matravers is Professor of Philosophy at The Open University. Before joining the OU, he was a research fellow at Darwin College Cambridge. He is the author of Art and Emotion (OUP: 1998), Introducing Philosophy of Art In Eight Case Studies (Routledge: 2012), Fiction and Narrative (OUP: 2014), and Empathy (Polity: 2017). He has also published on aesthetics, ethics, mind, and politics.

In his inaugural lecture, Professor Matravers, will explore whether we should risk lives to protect historical buildings. He will go on to assess the values of buildings and our deeper obligation to not kill human beings. As the UK recently ratified the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, the UK Military are now bound by the articles of this convention. As a result, failing to protect cultural property, or damaging it unless there is a military necessity to do so, is a war crime. Professor Matravers will explore the ethical dilemma around this which is bound up with ‘just war theory’, which goes back at least to medieval times.

Event programme:
18:00-18:45 Heritage in War: Protecting Cultural Property and Human Harm
18:45-19:00 Q&A
19:00-19:45 Drinks and canapes

Can’t join in person? Watch the event live online (link will be live before the event). If you are viewing the event by livestream, please do take the opportunity to have your questions answered by our speakers LIVE during the event by posting in the COMMENTS BOX
There will be time for questions and comments. We very much hope you will be able to attend what promises to be an inspiring event and have your say.