Archive for February, 2011

Philosophers often use thought-experiments to provoke support for their theories. In these thought-experiments, they describe test-cases that exhibit key philosophical features like cases of injustice, of moral choices, or of beliefs that fail to meet the standard of knowledge.  This Friday, Finn Spice  will examine the use that philosophers make of thought-experiments, and survey some of the recent challenges that radical philosophers have made against this philosophical method.



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Tonight’s discussion is led by Peter von Lamy.  Contributing to a report on Global Water Security: an engineering perspective, published by The Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institution of Civil Engineers in April 2010, made him aware of the growing importance, to international policy and planning, of the interrelationship between water, food and energy security. The report made a wide range of recommendations, including one that, given the strong interrelationship between water, food and energy, global water-security issues should become a core component of UK policy making.

Peter’s talk will explore some of the issues highlighted in these reports, which will, no doubt, form the basis of an interesting discussion.


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This week we’re lucky to have Professor Miranda Mugford, formerly head of the Health Economics Group at the University of East Anglia,  giving a presentation on ‘Health Economics and the NHS’.  Professor Mugford describes the presentation in the following terms:

In the UK since 1948, we have become used to access through the NHS to medical advice and treatment, and prevention of outbreaks of infectious disease, mainly without having to pay directly.  However, the services provided are not free:  in 2009-10 UK government spending on health and social services was nearly £100 billion, about 7 percent of GDP.   Is the NHS the best way to provide health care, and improve people’s health, and if so, can it do better?  Such questions underlie the work of economists who study the field of health and healthcare in the UK.  There is a considerable amount of debate on the role of the ‘free’ market, competition and consumer choice in provision of health care and public health services.  Whatever the structure and funding and scope of the service, concepts of effectiveness, efficiency and equity (what works, value for money, and fairness) are central to judgements about the public value of health services.  Such judgements cannot be made without good evidence. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) was set up in 2000 to help the NHS to adopt the most effective and efficient and fair practices. Ten years later, I am wondering about the role of NICE as the next reorganisation of the NHS is being debated in Parliament.


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This week’s speaker had to cancel at short notice, so we have organised an event entitled ‘Is a Belief in Progress Rational’.

Paul Archer will summarise the arguments of Matt Ridley (author of The Rational Optimist) and John Little will take the position of John Gray (author of Heresies – Against Progress and Other Illusions, and Straw Dogs).  The format is that each will have about 20 minutes to introduce the arguments after which we hope for a lively discussion.


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Whilst the connection between Nietzsche and Islam may, on first impression, seem somewhat incongruous, he makes over 100 references to Islam and Islamic cultures in his writings. At times he pours great praise on Islam, and contrasts it with what he perceives as the life-denying Christianity of his time.

On Friday, Roy Jackson will consider why Islam tends to ‘hover in the background’ of  Nietzsche’s writing, and what this reveals about his own philosophy.


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