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events programme


Café Culture
For discussion and debate café style

All of the events for the Autumn Series are using a digital platform and are all free to watch.

To view a pdf poster for our current season, click here.


1 September 2020 café scientifique

The Idea of the Brain

Matthew Cobb (University of Manchester) in conversation with Stephen T. Casper (Clarkson University)

Today we tend to picture the brain as a computer but earlier scientists thought about it in their own technological terms: as a telephone switchboard, or a clock, or all manner of fantastic mechanical or hydraulic devices. Could the right metaphor unlock the its deepest secrets once and for all?

Galloping through centuries of wild speculation and ingenious, sometimes macabre anatomical investigations, this conversation between biologist Matthew Cobb and historian of neuroscience Stephen Casper will explore how we came to our present state of knowledge. With our latest theories allowing us to create artificial memories in the brain of a mouse and to build AI programmes capable of extraordinary cognitive feats, is a complete understanding of the brain within our grasp?

Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester where his research focuses on the sense of smell, insect behaviour and the history of science. His latest book The Idea of the Brain: A History was published in March and has been praised as “a masterpiece”. @matthewcobb

Stephen Casper is a historian of medicine at Clarkson University. His research interest include the history of traumatic brain injuries and concussions; the politics of neuroscience; and the History of Disturbances of Consciousness. He is currently working on a book about the history of concussion. @TheNeuroTimes

Time: 7pm to 8pm
Event registration link:

15 September 2020café culturel

Is the BBC Worth Saving?

Tom Mills (Aston University) in conversation with Peter York (The Media Society)

The BBC is one of the most important political and cultural institutions in Britain. Though it is seen as a trusted news source in a world of “fake news”, it also faces accusations of political bias from the left and the right. But is there any truth in these claims, and what will the future of the BBC be in the digital age? With the BBC is in peril as never before in its long history, join Tom Mills, author of The BBC: Myth of a Public Service and Peter York, co-author of The War Against the BBC, in conversation on the politics and future of the organisation.

Tom Mills is Lecturer in Sociology at Aston University. He is the author of The BBC: The Myth of a Public Service which is published in paperback in September. @ta_mills

Peter York is a cultural commentator, management consultant, author and broadcaster. He is the President of the Media Society, and his new book The War Against the BBC (co-authored with Patrick Barwise) will be published in October.

Time: 7pm to 8pm
Event registration link: https://bit.ly/39UABBi

6 October 2020café politique

Privacy, Power, and the Data Economy

Carissa Véliz (University of Oxford) in conversation with Alexis Papazoglou

In her new book, Privacy Is Power, Carissa Véliz argues that whoever has the data has the power. If we give our data to companies, the wealthy will rule. If we give our data to governments, we will endure some form of authoritarianism. Only if people keep their data will society be free. Privacy matters because it gives power to the citizenry, which is where it belongs in a democracy. In this conversation with Alexis Papazoglou, Véliz will be discussing the relationships between privacy, surveillance, power, and the data economy. What is privacy? What is the right to privacy? How do we balance our right to privacy against the interest we have in analysing data for the benefit of the economy, public health, security, and science?

Carissa Véliz is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy and the Institute for Ethics in AI, and a Tutorial Fellow at Hertford College, University of Oxford. She works on privacy, technology, moral and political philosophy, and public policy. Her new book Privacy Is Power is published in September. http://www.carissaveliz.com / @carissaveliz.

Alexis Papazoglou is a freelance writer whose essays and reviews have appeared in
The New Republic, The Atlantic, WIRED, The TLS, and The Philosopher. He is currently writing a book on the philosophy behind the news. @philosgreek.

Time: 7pm to 8pm
Event registration link:

20 October 2020café scientifique

Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science

Stuart J. Ritchie (King’s College London) in conversation with Oliver Traldi (University of Notre Dame)

So much relies on science. But what if science itself can’t be relied on? Beginning with some high-profile cases of fraud and dodgy statistics in psychology research, scientists have become increasingly aware that many peer-reviewed scientific studies aren’t up to scratch. This includes research that has influenced endless popular books, important economic policy, expensive educational interventions, and crucial medical treatments. These major problems – and what we should do about them – are the focus of Science Fictions, the new book by renowned psychologist Stuart Ritchie. In this event, Stuart will discuss these issues and more with writer and philosopher Oliver Traldi.

Stuart Ritchie is a psychologist and a Lecturer in the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London. His new book Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science was published in July. @StuartJRitchie

Oliver Traldi is a PhD student at Notre Dame University. His research interests include social epistemology and the relationship between epistemic norms for belief and other sorts of norms. More generally, he is fascinated by the nature of arguments (in both senses of the term): how to make them, how to evaluate them; how to resolve them, which ones are worth having. https://olivertraldi.weebly.com / @olivertraldi

Time: 7pm to 8pm
Event registration link:


3 November 2020café philosophique

Automation and Utopia

John Danaher (National University of Ireland) in conversation with Brian D. Earp (Yale University)

Human obsolescence is imminent. We are living through an era in which our activity is becoming less and less relevant to our well-being and to the fate of our planet. Technology is replacing us in this role. This trend toward increased obsolescence is likely to continue in the future, and we must do our best to prepare ourselves and our societies for this reality. Far from being a cause for despair, this is in fact an opportunity for optimism. Harnessed in the right way, the technology that hastens our obsolescence can open us up to new utopian possibilities and enable heightened forms of human flourishing.

John Danaher is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway. He is the author of  work has appeared in The Guardian, Aeon, and The Philosophers’ Magazine, and his latest book Automation and Utopia: Human Flourishing in a World Without Work was published last year. Twitter: @JohnDanaher

Brian D. Earp is a philosopher and cognitive scientist. He is Associate Director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy at Yale University and The Hastings Centre and a Research Fellow in the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. His latest book Love is the Drug: The Chemical Future of Relationships was published last year. Twitter: @briandavidearp

Time: 7pm to 8pm
Event registration link:


17 November 2020café politique

The Free Speech Wars

Charlotte Lydia Riley (University of Southampton) in conversation with Gabriel Moshenska (University College London)

Who gets to exercise free speech and who does not? What happens when powerful voices think they have been silenced? Why do some issues become sites of free speech battles and what are the consequences of this? How do the spaces and structures of “speech” – mass media, the internet, the lecture theatre, the public event, the political rally – shape this debate? This conversation between historian and editor of The Free Speech Wars Charlotte Lydia Riley and archaeologist Gabriel Moshenska will explore the numerous and endlessly proliferating debates over free speech, with a particular focus on free speech within universities, exploring why campuses have become such a site for free speech controversy in the British media.

Charlotte Lydia Riley is a Lecturer in twentieth-century British history at the University of Southampton. She is editor of The Free Speech Wars, a collection of essays from commentators, activists, and academics that will be published in November, and she is also writing a book, Imperial Island, which traces the ways that empire and decolonisation have left their mark on British history, society, politics and culture, and shaped the lives of ordinary people. @lottelydia

Gabriel Moshenska is Associate Professor in Public Archaeology at UCL Institute of Archaeology.
His research interests range widely across archaeology, anthropology, history, heritage and memory studies. gabrielmoshenska.com  / @GabeMoshenska

Time: 7pm to 8pm
Event registration link:


1 December 2020café philosophique

Spinoza in the Anthropocene

Beth Lord (University of Aberdeen) in conversation with Chris Meyns

What can the enigmatic early modern philosopher Baruch Spinoza contribute to our thinking about the climate crisis, and specifically, our thinking about the emotions generated by it? For Spinoza, that which increases human action and thinking is good: on this definition, deriving energy from fossil fuels has been a very great human good over the past 400 years. But we now understand our reliance on fossil fuels to be bad for our flourishing and that of other forms of life on earth. We can no longer rejoice in the consideration of collective human power: instead, we now fear its devastating predicted effects. What are the implications of this fear of our own power? What confusions does this fear emerge from? And how can we correct and clarify our emotional response to the climate crisis?

Suggested reading: https://aeon.co/essays/even-the-anthropocene-is-nature-at-work-transforming-itself

Beth Lord is a Canadian philosopher specialising in the history of philosophy, especially the work and influence of Immanuel Kant and Baruch Spinoza, and contemporary Continental philosophy.

Chris Meyns is a philosopher and historian of science based in Amsterdam. They regularly write, give talks in places worldwide, and organize events.
chrismeyns.xyz  /  @chrismeyns

Time: 7pm to 8pm
Event registration link: