Philosophy in the Community

I occasionally run philosophy workshops, previously with Trade School Norwich. To find out about these please join my mailing list at the bottom of the page. Anyone can attend.

These are not lectures. They are dialogues in which anyone who wishes can participate. They are about talking and they are about listening. But most importantly of all they are about thinking, considering and reconsidering not only the thoughts and arguments of others but those of our own. No previous knowledge of philosophy is required.

Open borders and freedom. Immigration as a human right.

If freedom of movement within a state is regarded as a human right should the freedom of movement across state borders also be regarded as such? The right to move freely within a given state is recognised to be an important freedom, one that we value because this freedom may be potentially important in shaping how we choose to pursue our life options, giving us the ability to follow economic opportunities, personal relationships, family life, and cultural or religious interests etc. Migration across state borders may also play this same important role in shaping our life plan, so therefore the right to immigrate should be given the same protections as it may play an equally vital role in the development of our interests.

Does Inequality Matter?

Barrio Juan XXIII

Moral philosophy is about providing arguments for what we regard as good in life and what principles can be used to realise these things. A good life can be thought of as one in which certain needs are met. So the kind of things that we are concerned with are those that the having of brings well being, and the lack of brings distress. These could be things like subsistence, further material goods once subsistence has been met, freedom and autonomy, meaningful social and personal relations, and avenues for cultural and artistic expression.

Coffee and Consciousness

Imagine two coffee tasters, Chase and Sanborn. Every morning they drink the same coffee at the same coffee house. One morning while drinking their coffee they both decide that they no longer like it. Although the coffee they taste has not changed, the pleasure they get from it has ceased to be. Chase says “My tastes have changed. I’ve become a more sophisticated coffee drinker. I no longer like that taste at all.” Sanborn rationalises “But my tastes haven’t changed; my... tasters have changed... I think something has gone wrong with my taste buds...”.

How to Avoid the Backfire Effect and Change Minds

Contrary to what we might think, when presented with facts that run counter to what we currently believe we have a tendency of hardening, not softening, our currently held beliefs. This tendency is called the backfire effect and was discovered by researchers investigating how memory and knowledge are updated after correcting information has been received. The backfire effect works in several ways. Firstly there is the familiarity effect, the more someone is familiar with a claim the more likely they are to accept it as true.

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