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Nov
09

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 15 November from 8.00 pm at The Gate to discuss these issues.

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

Jul
15

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

Jun
22

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.

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Jun
15

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.

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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