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May
24

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.

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May
10

Next 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. In this Café, Dr Hilary Rogers (Cardiff University, Biological Sciences) and Karolina Rucinska (Cardiff University, Geography and Planning) introduce a discussion on the issues that now circulate around GM. What is the current thinking on the benefits and risks that GM crops may hold for industrialised countries, on the one hand, and for agricultural developing countries on the other? Has GM technology changed the way we think about agriculture and the causes of hunger? What are the ethical issues surrounding consumer choice?

Join us to explore these and other questions at The Gate on Tuesday 17 May from 8.00pm.

In the meantime, here’s an opinion piece on why the issues on which public debates on GM crops often focus are the wrong issues. Are public discussions of GM often just repetitions of opposing myths?

Here’s US TV host Jimmy Kimmel getting some vox pops:

And here’s Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark’s take…

You can also take our poll, below. Do you think GM crops might have a role to play in the future of agriculture? It’d be great if you could comment on why you voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (or maybe why you’re not sure one way or the other) using either the blog comments box below, or if you’re on Facebook, you can use the FB comments function.

Mar
10

Next Cafe: Defining Love – Applying Aristotle’s Principles to Present Day Relationships

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a ...

Bust of Aristotle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is love? A question that we have all asked and will no doubt ask again – and a pre-occupation of Western and Eastern Philosophy fo rmillennia.

One of the difficulties with understanding what love means is that it seems to mean lots of different things. Humans experience attraction to and intimacy with others in various shapes and forms. Aristotle recognised this, distinguishing between agape (unconditional love, associated with the highest form of spiritual belonging) from eros (romantic and serial love) and also from philia (close friendship or ‘brotherly love’). These ideas might seem old hat, but these concepts – together with other types of love defined by Plato – can help us to better understand the nature of love and how we express it towards ourselves and family, towards other ‘significant others’, and contribute to our communities. How do the ways in which we understandromantic, family and unconditional love in the contemporary world relate to these philosophical definitions and qualities?

Join coach Lana Morris and Reiki practitioner Steve Carroll to explore the meaning of love on Tuesday March 22, from 8.00pm at the Gate.

In the meantime, why not watch this video and take our poll below?


Jan
20

Last Night’s Cafe: What Makes Us Human?

"Skeleton of human (1) and gorilla (2), u...

"Skeleton of human (1) and gorilla (2), unnaturally stretched." Size: 4.9 x 5.5 in² (12.4 x 13.9 cm²) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does ‘being human’ rest on a particular set of capacities we possess but animals do not? And if it does, do this capacities somehow make us better – more valuable? – than non-human animals? These questions and others were discussed at last night’s CPC, led by Dr Chris Groves. The possession of language, the capacity to use formal systems of thought (reason in a broad sense, including mathematics and scientific methods), but also the ability to feel sympathy and compassion, are just some examples of the capabilities that have been put forward as part of the defining essence of human beings.

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Jan
12

Next Cafe: What makes us human?

Faroe stamp 430 The First Human Beings

Faroe stamp 430 The First Human Beings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Traditions of Western and Eastern philosophy have long puzzled over the question of what makes human beings different from other living beings. Religious doctrines offer up concepts of the soul and capacities for moral choice as distinguishing features. Rationality, the capacity to choose one’s ends, language, social complexity, the ability to make art from poetry to music, the ability to grieve – philosophers have offered all of these and more as evidence of a qualitative difference between the kinds of beings that humans are, and all other living things. But scientific research on the one hand, and technological advances on the other, have undermined these kinds of distinctions. Elephants that appear to mourn their dead; gorillas that learn sign language and paint; birds that create sculptures; complex social structures among primates, cetaceans and other creatures; artificial intelligences from Deep Blue to Siri.

Our understanding of our place in the world has changed significantly over the last couple of centuries. So can we be confident any more about what makes us distinctively human?

Join Dr Chris Groves from Cardiff University to debate these issues next Tuesday, 19 January 2016, at the Gate from 8pm.

This Cafe introduces a new programme of events for this year, looking at a range of topics: genetically modified food and food security, existentialism, love, mindfulness with/without Buddhism, empathy, equality, assisted dying, art and urban regeneration, and authenticity. Sign up for our mailing list to stay up to date!

Ahead of this month’s topic, why not take a look at this TED talk from zeFrank…

…this film from Yann-Arthus Bertrand….

…and respond to our poll below. Are there really significant differences between humans and animals? Which of these viewpoints is closest to your own? You can add comments below explaining your choice.


Dec
16

Last Night’s Cafe: Life, Love & Theory – A Verse Chronicle

Martin Heidegger Blick von seiner Hütte über d...

View from Martin Heidegger's mountain hut over Todtnau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is the relationship between philosophy and poetry? Philosophers have often taken inspiration for their analytic work from poetic language – as in the case of Martin Heidegger ‘s appreciation for Georg Trakl or Friedrich Hölderlin. Poets have sometimes returned the favour, as in the case of Coleridge’s reading of Friedrich Schelling. Sometimes, poets have mocked philosophers for their pretentions to absolute knowledge, from Aristophanes to William Carlos Williams. Rarer are efforts by philosophers to write poetry, and rarer still attempts to philosophize through the medium of poetry. last night, Prof. Christopher Norris from the Philosophy Department at Cardiff University presented and discussed examples of his own efforts to explore philosophical themes through poetic writing. The title of the session comes from a project on which has been working for around five years, producing individual poems that deal with the work of specific modern philosophers.

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Dec
09

Next Cafe: Life, Love and Theory: a Verse-Chronicle

Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle Arator, a...

Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many philosophers have also written about poetry. Some philosophers have also been poets. Next week at Cardiff Philosophy Cafe, we’re lucky to have joining us Prof. Christopher Norris (Philosophy, Cardiff University) to give us some examples of how the two can be melded. In this year’s Christmas Cafe, Prof. Norris offers us a series of villanelles which take off from the ideas of various theorists and philosophers (Descartes, Leibniz, Heidegger, Lacan, Althusser, Derrida, Deleuze, Badiou, Agamben) and then move out to address larger matters of life and love.

As usual, we’re in the Cafe bar at The Gate from 8.00 pm, on Tuesday 15 December. Hope to see you there!

Nov
04

Next Cafe: SeaChange – Visualising Climate Change

SeaChange Exhibition: 28 October - 20 November 2015

SeaChange Exhibition: 28 October - 20 November 2015

The SeaChange exhibition is being held at The Gate until 20 November, featuring the work of photographer and Cardiff University researcher Merryn Thomas.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing society. As part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, and in the run up to the December UN Climate Conference, the SeaChange project draws on social science research at Cardiff University within the Understanding Risk Group to explore visualisations of this important issue.

Fusing art and science, an interactive exhibition at The Gate Arts and Community Centre uses images and interviews to explore representations of sea-level change on the Severn Estuary. An open evening (beginning from 6.30pm) and a special SeaChange themed Philosophy Café (from 7.30pm) will be held on Wednesday 11th November, where participants will be invited to explore issues drawn from the exhibition. A presentation from the project team will be followed by small-group discussions, exploring the meaning of climate change for us here and now, and how our perceptions of climate change here in Wales relate us to processes of environmental change happening elsewhere in the world and to the future.

Jul
14

Next Cafe: Design meets science – from crystallography to architecture

A segment of the crystal structure of a zeolite. Imaging by Sergio Pineda

A segment of the crystal structure of a zeolite. Imaging by Sergio Pineda

Interdisciplinarity is a dominant buzzword in academic research – but can it really enhance how people from different disciplines work together, and what challenges does it represent?

The philosophy of science has often been about the clarification of what a reliable method for establishing reliable knowledge about the world might be. But outside the natural sciences, other disciplines are based on their own assumptions about how they should investigate and intervene in the world. One consequence of this is that it becomes hard to promote a ‘philosophy’ of collaboration, a clear approach to what it means for scientists and others to work together.

In this cafe, Sergio Pineda (Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff) looks at the philosophy of collaboration from the point of view of a new project that brings together a team of architects in partnership with a team of crystallographers. The project proposes that designers can learn from the structure of matter at the atomic and molecular level, and that features found within matter at the nanoscale yield potentially transformative diagrams for design at a variety of scales. By exploring what happens when researchers invite collaborators from seemingly ‘foreign’ disciplines into their workspace, this cafe will also explore how advances in scientific imaging make possible new visions of aesthetics, art and design.

Join us next Tuesday, 21 July, from 8.00pm in the cafe bar at The Gate.

Jun
17

Last Night’s Cafe: The Philosophy of Cycling

The Cyclist as Man/Woman-Machine

The Cyclist as Man/Woman-Machine

Asking whether it makes sense to talk of ‘the philosophy of…’ something is a question that immediately launches other ones. It makes sense to talk about ‘the philosophy of physics’ or ‘the philosophy of biology’, insofar as it’s possible to explore the fundamental presuppositions of a science (e.g. what kinds of things are there?) and see if they cohere together. On the other hand, to talk of ‘the philosophy of nanotechnology’, or ‘the philosophy of mobile phones’ would be a stretch – perhaps ‘the philosophical implications of x‘ would make more sense. At last night’s Cardiff Philosophy Cafe, Clive Cazeaux, Professor of Aesthetics at Cardiff School of Art and Design, offered some reflections on the nature and meaning of cycling. While these focused on the philosophical implications of the experience of riding a bike, Clive suggested at the same time that, among these implications, is that cycling provides a particular way of ‘knowing’, or revealing, the world that makes up a coherent worldview. This, indeed, may be at the root of why cyclists and motorists sometimes find it difficult to share the same piece of tarmac.

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