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Next Cafe: Ethics and the Laws of War

Original document of the first Geneva Conventi...

Original document of the first Geneva Convention, 1864. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are there moral rules that govern the conduct of war? We have a body of international humanitarian law concerning armed conflict, such as the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute (which includes war crimes and the crime of aggression). But what is the moral justification of the existence those laws – if there is any at all? Join Dr Antony Lamb to explore an answer to this question, grounded in the just war tradition. Antony’s book on this topic is available from Routledge.

This Cafe is on Tuesday 19 September, in the Cafe Bar at the Gate from 8.00 pm.



Next Cafe: Philosophy and Shame

Do You Believe in Shame?

Do You Believe in Shame? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shame is often viewed as a particularly negative feeling. It might be defined as a feeling compounded of incompetence, indecency, and blame-worthiness, that can lead to self-loathing as well as anger directed inwardly or outwardly. In more extreme cases, it might be experienced as an attack on one’s identity, caused by a sense of inadequacy. On this view, shame therefore seems to be an entirely negative emotion. Is this correct, however? Or does shame have a significant role to play in our moral lives?

Dr Chris Groves (Social Science, Cardiff University) explores some reflections from philosophers on this under-explored emotion and its moral meaning.

Join us at The Gate on Tuesday 16 May from 20:00.


Next Cafe: Should we legalise the deliberate termination of human life?

English: World map of legal status of euthanas...

English: World map of legal status of euthanasia in 2009. Français : Carte du statut légal de l'euthanasie dans le monde en 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Debates around what has been called ‘assisted dying’ or ‘therapeutic killing’ are complex and often heated. In this cafe, John Saunders and Andrew Edgar (Philosophy, Cardiff University) introduce an exploration of the key moral issues at the heart of this topic to help facilitate further reflection on whether the legal status quo requires change.

Join us at The Gate on Tuesday 21 March from 8.00pm.


Next Cafe: The Martial Arts as Sustainable, Healthy Practices

Hapkido holds many throwing techniques in comm...

Hapkido practitioners. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “martial arts”, as an inclusive umbrella term, provide a wide variety of styles and systems from around the world that have a diversity of human movement and training methods that can heal or even harm student-practitioners. Despite their popularity in contemporary societies, the essence of many martial arts as potential lifelong, sustainable and health-giving or curative practices has yet to be considered from a philosophical and a social scientific perspective.

In this cafe, George Jennings (Cardiff Met) delves into case studies from research on the martial arts of China and Mexico by examining the philosophical concept of self-cultivation from a sociological angle. The aim is to stimulate debate and specialist discussion on those martial arts that strive towards self-cultivation through progressive, long-term practice over decades in order to achieve and to maintain mental, physical and social wellbeing beyond the absence of illness – echoing the well-known World Health Organisation definition of health itself.

We start at 8.00pm in the Gate on 20 February 2017.



Last Tuesday’s Cafe: How can we reduce health inequalities?

The social gradient in health inequalities

The social gradient in health inequalities

It’s become evident in recent years that, even within wealthy countries like the UK, there are wide disparities between different regions, cities and even within cities in levels of serious illness and premature deaths. The so-called ‘Glasgow effect’ has, for example, been much reported on. Within Cardiff, there is a documented difference in life expectancy between Lisvane and Fairwater of around 12 years. In this Cafe, Dr Jeremy Segrott asked us to consider why such health inequalities matter, and presented some options that have been suggested for tackling them, each with different ethical and political implications.

While measures such as life expectancy often hit the headlines, these inequalities are more complex than just these numbers alone, and reflect the influence of other inequalities – such as in educational opportunities, access to healthy food, the quality of housing, the extent of pollution in a neghbourhood, and so on. These other inequalities in turn are the product of broader social forces, which mean that tackling health effects at the ‘end of the pipe’, as it were, may not be the most effective or efficient way of addressing the problem.  While the focus of media reporting of health inequalities often focuses on how to change individual behaviour, social science research indicates that the deeply entrenched nature of these inequalities will make inteventions that focus on getting individuals to do things differently will be largely ineffective. The ‘social gradient’ in health outcomes remains.

Read the rest of this entry »


Next Cafe: How can we reduce health inequalities?

Sir Michael Marmot, NHS Confederation annual c...

Sir Michael Marmot, NHS Confederation annual conference and exhibition 2010 - Liverpool ACC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why does it matter if factors such as gender, class or location make a difference to people’s health over the course of their lives? And if such differences are important, what’s the best way of tackling them?

In 2010, Sir Michael Marmot’s report Fair Society, Heathy Lives affirmed that health inequalities prevent children from getting a good start in life, and obstruct people from enjoying a full range of capabilities. He offered an approach to tackling these inequalities that follows neither of the usual paths taken by health policy. Typically, health interventions are either universal (available to all) or targeted at specific groups or levels of need within society. Each has its own problems. Targeted approaches often struggle to accurately identify those with higher levels of need or disadvantage, and can stigmatise those who are in receipt of them. Universal approaches (traditional in the NHS), for their part, often have poor reach among disadvantaged groups, thus potentially increasing health inequalities. In this Cafe, Dr Jeremy Segrott (Social Sciences, Cardiff University) explores these issues and Marmot’s suggested response to them, which he calls Proportionate Universalism/ How feasible is this way of tackling inequalities? And how likely is it to succeed?

Join us on Tuesday 17 January 2017 from 8.00 pm at The Gate to discuss these issues.

You can watch a talk by Sir Michael Marmott on the report here.



Next Cafe: What is Humanism?

English: Happy human Humanist logo, white and ...

English: Happy human Humanist logo, white and golden version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How does a humanist approach to life, ethics, politics and our place in the universe? How does humanism differ from religious traditions’ ways of answering the ‘big questions’? Join us from 8.00 pm on

Tuesday 19 July at The Gate where we’ll be discussing these and other issues with Mike Reynolds from Cardiff Humanist Society


Last Night’s Cafe: Sexism, Racism and Existentialism

Are sexist, racist, homophobic or other forms of widespread prejudice always a matter of conscious beliefs? In the UK, ever since the trial of the men suspected of killing Stephen Lawrence, the idea of ‘institutional racism’ has been part of public discourse. The idea that racism – the systematic disadvantaging of people based on the colour of their skin or other markers – could be ‘written in’ to institutional practices and rules was hard for some to accept. There is also a substantial body of psychological research, however, to suggest that systematic biases of one kind or another – sexist, racist, homophobic, ‘fattist’ – can exist at the level of preconscious beliefs.

The topic of implicit bias was the subject of last night’s Cardiff Philosophy Café, with a discussion led by Dr Jonathan Webber (Philosophy, Cardiff University). Implicit bias, in Jon’s view, is a topic on which psychological research sheds interesting light, without necessarily allowing us to fully understand all its implications. To do this, a little philosophy is needed, which for Jon means the thought of key figures associated with French Existentialism, namely Simone de Beauvoir and Frantz Fanon.

Read the rest of this entry »


Next Cafe: Sexism, Racism and Existentialism

English: Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvo...

English: Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir at Balzac Memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Experiments show that someone’s behaviour can manifest racist or sexist attitudes that they don’t agree with. This is a hot topic right now. How does it happen? What can be done about it? We will consider the contributions that two existentialist philosophers, Simone de Beauvoir and Frantz Fanon, can make to understanding this ‘implicit bias’. Their thoughts will help us to see that these experiments may only be picking up one feature of a broader problem.

Join Dr Jonathan Webber (Philosophy, Cardiff University) to discuss the contemporary significance of existentialism on Tuesday 21 June, from 8.00pm at The Gate.

In the meantime, watch Jon talk about central themes from his new book on existentialism for the 21st century.


Last Tuesday’s Cafe: Genetically-modified food crops: scary monsters or helpful friends?

Elements of genetic engineering

Elements of genetic engineering (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here in the UK, it’s now 13 years since the GM Nation debate created a highly charged atmosphere around the use of genetic modification in food crops. Since then, the prospect of climate change coupled with its likely effect on food insecurity in many regions of the global South has placed questions about the social acceptability of GM crops in a new context. On Tuesday 17 May, Dr Hilary Rogers (Cardiff University, Biological Sciences) and Karolina Rucinska (Cardiff University, Geography and Planning) surveyed the current state of play in relation to GM crops, and the persistent ethical questions that surround them.

Read the rest of this entry »

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