The role of finance in society has been under the microscope since the financial crisis of 2007-08. Since then, we have discovered that money can, under certain circumstances, seemingly be created out of nowhere. The bank bailouts of 2008-09 were not paid for out of taxes; somehow over £1.3tn in the UK was used to buy out bad debts to keep banks solvent. Yet at the same time money, in the form of credit, seems scarcer than ever for businesses and other organisations seeking loans from banks. How can money possess such divergent characteristics? Justin Lilley from Positive Money/Arian Cymru led our discussion on this topic on Tuesday 19 November, with an introduction from Chris Groves to some philosophical reflections on the nature of money, presenting it as at once utterly familiar and entirely strange.
What is money, where does it come from, and what are the consequences of how it is created?
In this Cafe on Tuesday 19 November 2013, Justin Lilley (Positive Money/Arian Cymru) and Dr Chris Groves (Social Sciences, Cardiff University) offer some perspectives on these and other questions. Money is a commodity that can be bought and sold on the currency exchanges, but more importantly, it is what Karl Marx called the ‘universal equivalent’, a measure of the value of anything that can be bought and sold. The creation of money, as we have seen in recent years in the UK and elsewhere, is a particularly politically sensitive process.
How is money made? Banks are granted licenses to create money through making loans, and earn interest as a result. This can lead to a ‘leakage’ from the real productive economy to the speculative financial one that has grown up around trading in loans, and thereby in debts. Debt-fuelled speculation led to the financial crisis of 2007-08. The ripples from this crisis continue to spread, with the latest concern being that banks could do as they did in Cyprus and reach into depositors accounts seizing funds to capitalize themselves. These so called ‘bail ins’ could be devastating to stability. Are there now so many holes in the current system of money creation that more ‘bailing’ is not going to keep us afloat? Is it time to abandon ship?
As usual, we start at 8.00 pm in the Cafe Bar at the Gate.
….or more specifically, ‘Really Trying and Merely Trying’. Dr Paul Faulkner (Philosophy, Sheffield University) introduced us to the connections between philosophy (and epistemology in particular) and running, last night, using the theory of knowledge to shed some light on the experience of running, and the experience of running to illuminate some issues in theories of self knowledge and the nature of action.
A keen runner, Paul discussed the difference between his experiences of two recent races, the Brighton marathon in 2010 and the London race in 2011. The latter case, he felt, was a race that ‘went badly even if it didn’t go wrong’. What could this mean? He drew on the epistemology of self-knowledge to explore the experience. Some actions, he pointed out, are ‘basic’ in the sense that one knows what is going on ‘from within’, simply by doing something. For example, one knows one has raised one’s arm simply by carrying out the action of raising one’s arm. The ‘first-person’ epistemic authority possessed by reports of such experiences is different to that which attaches to observational ‘third-person’ reports.
This month at Cardiff Philosophy Cafe, we change tack from recent events to focus on issues surrounding self-knowledge – and particularly in relation to our bodies and what we do with them. On the 15 October, we welcome as our guest Dr Paul Faulkner from the University of Sheffield, a runner and a philosopher.
How do you know what you are doing? Here is one answer: I know I am raising my arm because this is what I am trying to do (and trying is all I need to do to raise my arm). The philosophical view behind this answer is the standard view of our knowledge of our own actions. This view, Paul will argue, is threatened by cases of effort. By ‘effort’ is meant cases of action where all one needs to do something is to try to do that thing, but where trying is hard. To argue this, and to explore the implications of effort for self-knowledge, Paul will focus on running, and specifically what goes on in running a race. A related paper can be downloaded here, and you can watch a talk from Paul on this topic below.
We begin as usual in the Cafe Bar at the Gate at 8.00pm. Paul will also be giving a talk at Cardiff University the following day as a guest of the Department of Philosophy. More details here.
If we want the future, in Wales and elsewhere, to be one in which unsustainable societies become a thing of the past – in which the urge to consumer is replaced with a broader, more authentic drive towards well-being, where energy is produced cleanly and used less intensely – then how societies manage their relationship with waste will be central to bringing this about. We are used to receiving a variety of messages about waste, with the emphasis generally falling on the need to reduce it. In the shape of waste, the relationship between sustainability and our personal lives becomes particularly immediate and tangible. But is waste simply an aspect of contemporary life where we can ‘do our bit’ to reduce the impact we collectively have on the earth, or is there more significance to our relationship with it than this? In last night’s Cafe, Dr Chris Groves (Social Sciences, Cardiff University) explored four different ways of thinking about the philosophical significance of waste.
Cardiff Philosophy Cafe returns this month on 17 September for the final thematic session of our Future for Wales series, before our end of programme event at the Senedd on 27 November (about which more soon…).
This month, we turn to the last of our keywords, waste, with Dr Chris Groves (Social Sciences, Cardiff University). We are increasingly familiar with pronouncements about the need to move towards a ‘zero waste‘ society. The means of achieving this are generally presented as a mixture of measures, some popular and some much more controversial. In Wales, recycling and composting target, together with other measures, have been set out in a number of Welsh Government measures, the latest of which is the Waste Measure 2010. At the same time, the problem of nonrecyclable, non-compostable landfill waste has led an increase in the popularity of incineration as a disposal method, which many see as posing persistent ‘waste’ issues of its own, in the form of pollution.
Yet underlying these governance measures is a social, economic, psychological and philosophical relationship with waste that is extremely complex. Mainstream economics refused to acknowledge the existence of waste, with the well-known problem of externalities being a major manifestation of this refusal. Ecological economics, with its focus on energy as the basis of life, has striven for the creation of closed loops in production and consumption to ensure nothing is wasted. But do waste and acts of wastage play other roles in human life, ones that carry with them important but more problematic meanings? Phenomena like potlatch, carnivals, and other unruly social rituals place waste at the centre of social life rather than at the margins. If we are unprepared to acknowledge our ambiguous relationship with waste, can we truly understand what sustainability might mean?
As usual, we’re in the Cafe Bar in The Gate from 8.00pm.
To tweet about this event, use the hashtag #cpcwaste
Watch Slovenian social theorist Slavoj Zizek on the topic of waste:
At last week’s Cafe on Uncertainty and Emotions, we explored how confronting the kind of uncertain future evoked by issues like sustainability, climate change, energy, and the changing nature of work can produce strong emotional reactions, ones that change our sense of who we are, our place in the world, and our sense of possibility – of what we are capable of doing. Hope, fear, anger – all these and more ‘disclose’ the world to us in different ways, as Martin Heidegger might have said: they show us the same things in a different light, opening up different possible futures in each case.
In discussion last week, one theme that came to particular prominence was the role of stories or narratives in helping us make sense of an uncertain future, and to help us deal with negative emotions. In last night’s Cafe, we explored this contribution that narratives – and imagination more generally – can make to how we confront the future, with the aid of a performance from Rhodri Thomas, Carolina Vasquez, and Chris Young, an extract from their upcoming multi-media piece, Who’s Afraid? (based on a poem and artworks by Susan Richardson and Pat Gregory). Dancer and choreographer Siriol Joyner was unable to attend in person due to illness, but a video of her recent performance at a workshop organised in Aberystwyth by the Environmental Futures Dialogue project and Cardiff Philosophy Cafe is embedded further down this post. More about Environmental Futures Dialogue and the workshop.
How do we deal with the often difficult emotions that arise when confronting an uncertain future? Following last Tuesday’s Cafe on ‘Emotions and Uncertainty’, in which the role of the stories we tell ourselves about who we are (and what we can do) was the topic of much discussion, the next of two linked Cafes taking place in July
examines ways in which we can respond creatively and imaginatively to uncertainty about the future. We will explore the role of art in helping explore our sense of who we are and might become.
On Tuesday 23rd July, we will be joined by Rhodri Thomas, Carolina Vasquez and Chris Young who will present an excerpt from their upcoming multi-media piece, Who’s Afraid? (based on a poem and artworks by Susan Richardson and Pat Gregory) as an introduction to discussion. Following this, Siriol Joyner will present a dance performance.
For this event, we shall as usual be at The Gate from 8.00pm.
This year, Cardiff Philosophy Café has been about The Future for Wales, examining the ethical and political aspects of ‘keywords’ that identify key issues about which difficult public policy choices must be made. From sustainability through energy to work and well-being, we have explored a range of questions where the one thing we can be sure of is the uncertainty of the future. But one thing that debates about the kind of future we want do not often address is, how does this confrontation with uncertainty make us feel?
On Tuesday 16 July, the Café presented a session on ‘Uncertainty and Emotions’ intended as a breathing space to allow its audience to reflect on the connections between emotion and uncertainty. This was the first of two linked events, with the second taking place on Tuesday 23 July, entitled ‘Creativity’, featuring two performances designed to explore imaginatively our dealings with the uncertain future. These events also relate directly to a previous Café on the ‘politics of uncertainty’ [PDF] back in 2010.
In the next of our Future for Wales series, we take a different approach to our ‘keywords’ that help to define the political agenda for the future here in Wales and in the UK.
Over the last six months, we have examined a range of topics where ethical and political problems confront us all with difficult choices that will shape our futures: sustainability, energy, the value of nature, well-being, democracy and work. Facing an uncertain future does not just present us with intellectual quandaries, however. It is a situation that can produce strong, and often negative, emotions – anxiety, fear and even despair – by forcing us to imagine the futures we, our children and their children may inhabit.
If society needs to change, then whatever this process involves will be difficult and maybe painful. Yet uncertainty is also necessary for there to be hope about the future. How, then, can we deal with the uncertainties evoked by our key themes without becoming victim to fear and foreboding? What role does creativity, and art in particular, have in helping us make sense of uncertainty in ways that help us take action to shape our world? Can we rely on the stories of progress that have, historically, shaped our sense of what the future may hold? Or do we need different stories to sustain us?
This Cafe will be the first of two this month in which we explore these themes with the aid of arts practitioners from Wales whose work connects powerfully to the experience of uncertainty in the face of the future. On 16th July, we are joined by Gareth Clark (Mr and Mrs Clark), Fern Smith (Volcano Theatre), and Simon Whitehead. This Cafe will feature a performance from Simon and talks from Fern and Gareth.
On 23rd July, we will be joined by Rhodri Thomas, Carolina Vasquez and Chris Young who will present an excerpt from their upcoming multi-media piece, Who’s Afraid? (based on a poem and artworks by Susan Richardson and Pat Gregory) as an introduction to discussion.
For both events, we shall as usual be at The Gate from 8.00pm.
To tweet about this Cafe, please use the hashtag #cpccreate. These two Cafes follow on from two recent events organized at Aberystwyth Arts Centre as part of the Environmental Futures Dialogue project.
Funded by Cynnal Cymru