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Showing posts from January, 2013

Hear Holocaust escapee and survivor Jack Kagan next Monday

Hope to see some of you at this next Monday - S.L. It is a great honour for Heythrop College Jewish Society, together with Heythrop Student Union and UJS, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day by hosting Holocaust survivor and ex-resistance fighter Jack Kagan. Mr Kagan came from Novogrudek, a small town in Belorussia. He is the only member of the Bielski partisans in the UK. He will recount his amazing story of escape through a tunnel from a labour camp to join the Bielski brigade as a young teenager. Jack along with 1,230 plus men, women and children lived and survived in the forest as a whole community who managed to create synagogues, bakeries and even an airstrip. This was used by the Soviet air force to fly in supplies and fly out the wounded. As part of his talk, he will be showing us a film made in 1931 showing his home town as it was before the war, when 50% of its inhabitants were Jewish. He is also the co-author of a book about life in the community of partisan

In Conversation with Richard Dawkins

Location: Sheldonian Theatre Friday, February 15th, 7:30 Professor Dawkins and philosopher Stephen Law discuss the major issues of import to humanists and atheists at a time when opposition to rationalist thought appears to be on the rise. Other Oxford THINK week events here . Tickets on sale though the above sold out. I am also chairing the Wednesday 13th event "Do you fear death, or dying?" 7pm.

Heythrop College MA taster day (I am speaking)

MA Taster Day 25 January 2013 10:00 Category: Open Days and Evenings Want to try a university course before you apply? 10.00 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. This MA Taster day will provide prospective postgraduate students with a taste of what a course at Heythrop is like. You will have the opportunity to hear and meet some of our most experienced lecturers and gain an insight into the additional facilities available in the College. Stay all day (with lunch included) or dip in and out – all for free! A provisional programme for the day is as follows: 10.00    Arrive, register, coffee                            10.30    Interreligious Relations / Abrahamic Religions     The Impact of Modernity on Abrahamic Religions: The Muslims' Reactions, Dr Ahmad Achtar                         Contemporary Ethics                                 Ethics and Contemporary Morality: What’s the Difference?, Dr Anna Abram 11.30    Biblical Studies     Society Structures and Paul&

Podcast interview with Kylie Sturgess

January 11th – 365 Days Of Philosophy Podcast – An Interview With Stephen Law Kylie Sturgess The interview for January is with Stephen Law. Download audio here: January – Interview With Stephen Law Stephen Law (BA, BPhil, DPhil) is a philosopher and senior lecturer at Heythrop College in the University of London. He also edits the philosophical journal Think , which is published by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and aimed at the general public. Professor Law is the author of a number of books, including  The Philosophy Files, The Outer Limits, A Very Short Introduction To Humanism, The War For Children’s Minds  and  Believing Bullshit.  He is also the  Provost for the Centre for Inquiry, UK . He blogs at Stephen Law and  Believing Bullshit , and uses Twitter at . For this interview, I opened with a question that my students always had about his career – how and why did he ge

Podcast interview with Alan Litchfield

The Odds of an Evil God & The Truth of Moral Questions For podcast go here .  By Alan Litchfield Stephen Law Stephen Law Discusses His Interesting Thoughts on Morality, His “Evil God Hypothesis,” and His Views on Religion Philosopher Stephen Law challenges theists to explain , “. . . why the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god should be considered significantly more reasonable than the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil god. Theists typically dismiss the evil god hypothesis out of hand because of the problem of good – there is surely too much good in the world for it to be the creation of such a being. But then why doesn’t the problem of evil provide equally good grounds for dismissing belief in a good god?” Law is the editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK. He has published several books and is senior lecturer in philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London.

Oxford Think week approaching

Peter Atkins, Richard Swinburne, Ard Louis and myself drawing straws to see who goes first at one of last year's events. Go here .

Is religious freedom threatened by gay rights?

Last year I was a participant in a conference on Religious Freedom at Magdalen College, Oxford. The conference focused particularly on "the emerging conflict between new equal rights claims on behalf of homosexuals and existing claims of religious freedom."  Cases such as the right to wear a visible cross at work, or to turn homosexual couples away from your B&B, or of registrars to refuse to conduct civil partnership ceremonies, were discussed. Many religious people at the conference felt that they were being victimized. Here's my paper and my post script conference responses to the responses made to my paper by John Finnis and Christopher McCrudden. I post it today because the landmark ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on various claims of anti-religious discrimination - a case in which McCrudden has been involved - is due today. SHIFTS IN THE MORAL AND LEGAL LANDSCAPE The UK has seen a revolution in its moral and legal attitudes over the

What's wrong with gay sex?

Here's a chpt of my book The Philosophy Gym on gay sex. It's topical again given current traumas in Church of England. Mr Jarvis, a Christian, was asleep in bed, dreaming of the Last Judgement. In his dream, Jarvis found himself seated next to God in a great cloud-swept hall. God had just finished handing down judgement on the drunkards, who were slowly shuffling out of the exit to the left. Angels were now ushering a group of nervous-looking men through the entrance to the right. As the men were assembled before Him, God began to speak. God: So who’s next? Ah, yes, the active homosexuals . So tell me, Jarvis, what shall we do with them? Jarvis: You’re going to punish them, aren’t you? God: Why do you say that? Jarvis: Because to engage in homosexual behaviour is wrong, of course. The Appeal to The Bible God gently rubbed his chin and looked quizzically at Jarvis. God. Wrong? Is it wrong? Jarvis: Yes. You say so yourself in The Bible. God: Ah. The Bible. J

Good and bad ways of influencing the beliefs of others

There are many ways in which we seek to influence what other people believe. We might employ procedural reason and rational persuasion of course. We might try to formulate a cogent argument. Or we might try to shape their beliefs in other ways, by means of threats, brainwashing, peer pressure, and indoctrination (through endless repetition, etc.), for example.   As a philosopher, I value reason. Indeed, like most people nowadays, I consider the use of reason to shape the beliefs of others to be, on the whole, a good thing, and the use of techniques like threats, brainwashing, peer-pressure and indoctrination to be a bad thing. But why should reason be preferred to these other methods of shaping belief? One important difference between using reason and those other methods is that threats, brainwashing, peer pressure, etc. can be just as effectively employed to produce false beliefs as true ones. They are not truth-sensitive. Try using reason to influence the beliefs of others,