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Next Cafe: The Mindfulness Movement – History, Ethics, & Politics

English: Mindfulness Activities

Mindfulness Activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For over one hundred years, peoples of predominantly European and Anglo-American societies – the Western countries of the ‘Global North’ – have turned to Asian-derived mind-body practices and training regimes, such as meditation, as therapeutic ways of living with rapid socio-economic change and political turmoil. Mindfulness, or Buddhist sati, is a case in point. Emerging out of complex, inter-cultural ‘exchanges’ – notably British colonial expansion in Southeast Asia – mindfulness meditation, or Buddhist vipassana, now features as a prominent feature of the globalised self-help scene, therapeutic culture and ‘happiness industry’.

The National Institute for Clinical and Health Excellence recommends Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on the NHS for relapsing depression The comedian Ruby Wax is opening ‘Frazzled Cafés’ in branches of Marks & Spencer in England And the United Kingdom has recently been described as ‘way ahead of the curve’ when it comes to ‘mindful politics’ following an international gathering of meditating politicians in Westminster What does the exponential rise of mindfulness tell us about the social world in which we are currently living? What are the historical, ethical and political dimensions of mindfulness in the modern world? Dr. Steven Stanley, a social scientist from the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University, will discuss his ongoing research on the ‘mindfulness movement’, including scholarship from his forthcoming co-edited handbook Ethical Foundations of Mindfulness (Stanley, Purser, & Singh, in press; Springer) and his Leverhulme Trust funded research project Beyond Personal Wellbeing: Mapping the Social Production of Mindfulness in England and Wales

Join us at The Gate on Tuesday 21 November from 8.00 pm

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Next Cafe: What is Community? (Made in Roath Special!)

Made in Roath logo

Made in Roath 2017

Community is back! After almost four decades of neo-liberalism and hyper individualism the cost seems to be all around us, at work, in the street, in the lack of care that politicians seem to manifest in their handling of our lives and our safety. From the Grenfell disaster, in almost every aspect of our lives, this lack of care and respect for others seems to call for the return of community to our lives.

But what does this heavily loaded word mean? Politicians evoke it, sociologists deride it, nationalists long for it, people cling to it in unstable times; estate agents tout it.  Solution, panacea,  ‘feel good’ word, community functions in all these roles depending on who is talking and who is listening.

Can we move beyond that simple response to ask what community is?  Want do we want from communing? How can we build it, enhance it, maintain it? Has it really got any meaning beyond serving to pacify, sedate and reassure? What might a political approach based on community look like?

Join us to discuss these and other questions at this special Cafe event as part of the Made in Roath community arts festival at The Gate from 8.00 pm on Tuesday 17 October.



Last Night’s Cafe: Ethics and the Laws of War

Justifying war

Justifying war

When war is unleashed, the philosopher John Locke observed, the combatants find themselves in a situation where no-one is judge or arbitrator, and all that is left is for the warring sides to ‘appeal to heaven’. In other words, the laws and rules that operate with a political community no longer hold, and all that’s left is to hope for divine favour. The just war tradition, however, represents an attempt to lay out moral rules that should govern armed conflict. As such, it represents a philosophical position somewhere between principled pacifism (which claims that war is morally wrong) and realism (which claims that war may be necessary as a means to an end, but that moral rules cannot be applied to it).

In last night’s cafe, Dr Antony Lamb examined the elements of just war theory, and explored some of its shortcomings.

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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.

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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

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