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The Thinker The Great Debate, Bigg Books, North-East Humanists, Newcastle Philosophical Society and Philosophical Society of England present
The Art of Reason
Curiosity, Creativity, Mystery
The Thinker

Celebrating 20 years of The Great Debate!

10am - 5pm, Saturday, 29th September 2018
The Black Swan
67 Westgate Road
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 1SG

Click here for Videos

From understanding to explaining, from recognizing to interpreting, from noting connections and law-like behaviours to uncovering fundamental realities and general truths, the human sense-making capacity is truly remarkable!

As part of The Great Debate's 20th birthday celebrations we teamed up with Bigg Books, North-East Humanists, Newcastle Philosophical Society and Philosophical Society of England for a special one day event dedicated to exploring the uniquely human gift of reason and rationality in all its various forms.

Speakers and audience explored some key questions about the claims of reason and the role of philosophy:

  • Why do we want to reason? What is the alternative? Do we have a choice?
  • Why do so many thinkers of the last 50 years reject rationality? Does their critique make sense?
  • What does philosophy do? Should it do anything?
  • We were delighted to welcome two of the UK's leading thinkers to the North-East to help us facilitate a day of lively discussion and debate, to encourage critical thinking and a willingness to challenge current orthodoxies:
    Raymond Tallis is author of over 30 books and his latest book, Logos: The Mystery of How We Make Sense of Things, is a compelling exploration of the nature and scope of human reason;
    Timothy Williamson is a professor of philosophy at Oxford University and his latest book, Doing Philosophy: From Common Curiosity to Logical Reasoning, is a highly accessible overview of what philosophers are up to when they do philosophy.

    A one day event featuring talks, discussions, debates, philosophical bingo, book stall and much more.

    Come along, join the arguments and have your say!


    Tickets: £15, £10 concessions (includes buffet lunch and refreshments)

    This event was generously supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and Oxford University Press.

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    Event partners: 
Bigg Books, North-East Humanists, Newcastle Philosophical Society 
and Philosophical Society of England

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    Welcome Address


    Timothy Williamson Doing Philosophy (Chair: Fariba Hedayati, Newcastle Philosophy Society)


    Philosophical Bingo facilitated by Anthony Morgan followed by refreshments


    Responses to Timothy Williamson by Nigel Collins, Hisham El Edrissi, Edward Gibney and Amanda McBride, and General Discussion (Chair: Jon Bryan, The Great Debate)

    An audience with Raymond Tallis: conversation facilitated by Caspar Hewett with response by David Large.
    The Claim of Reason: panel discussion featuring Andrés Saenz De Sicilia, Raymond Tallis and Timothy Williamson (Chair: Mo Lovatt , The Great Debate)
    Closing Words

    Filming by The Great Debate's film-maker in residence Jackie Scollen, Lodestone Studios

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    The Art of Reason Videos

    An Audience with Raymond Tallis from The Great Debate on Vimeo.

    The Claim of Reason from The Great Debate on Vimeo.

    Timothy Williamson: Doing Philosophy from The Great Debate on Vimeo.

    Doing Philosophy: Responses to Timothy Williamson from The Great Debate on Vimeo.


    Raymond Tallis
    Professor Raymond Tallis
    Raymond Tallis is a philosopher, poet, novelist and cultural critic and was until recently a physician and clinical scientist. In the Economist's Intelligent Life Magazine (Autumn 2009) he was listed as one of the top living polymaths in the world. Born in Liverpool in 1946, one of five children, he trained as a doctor at Oxford University and at St Thomas' in London before going on to become Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and a consultant ` physician in Health Care of the Elderly in Salford. Professor Tallis retired from medicine in 2006 to become a full-time writer, though he remained Visiting Professor at St George's Hospital Medical School, University of London until 2008. Over the last 20 years Raymond Tallis has published fiction, three volumes of poetry, and 23 books on the philosophy of mind, philosophical anthropology, literary theory, the nature of art and cultural criticism. Together with over two hundred articles in Prospect, Times Literary Supplement and many other outlets, these books offer a critique of current predominant intellectual trends and an alternative understanding of human consciousness, the nature of language and of what it is to be a human being. For this work, Professor Tallis has been awarded three honorary degrees: DLitt (Hon. Causa) from the University of Hull in 1997; LittD (Hon. Causa) at the University of Manchester 2002 and Doc (Med) SC, St George's Hospital 2015. He was Visiting Professor of English at the University of Liverpool until 2013. Click here for more information about Raymond Tallis.

    Timothy Williamson
    Professor Timothy Williamson
    Timothy Williamson is Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford, a post he has held since 2000. He was born in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1955. After an undergraduate degree in mathematics and philosophy and a doctorate in philosophy, both at Oxford, he was a lecturer in philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, a fellow and tutor at University College Oxford, and Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh. He has been a visiting professor at MIT and Princeton, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), a visiting scholar at the centre for advanced study in Oslo, a Nelson distinguished professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a Townsend Visitor at Berkeley and Tang Chun-I visiting professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Professor Williamson gave a Henriette Hertz lecture at the British Academy in 1996, the 1998 Weatherhead Lecture in Philosophy of Language at Tulane, the 2001 Jacobsen Lecture in London, the 2004 Skolem Lecture in Oslo, the 2005 Jack Smart Lecture in Canberra, the 2005 Blackwell Brown Lectures at Brown University, the 2006 Wedberg Lectures in Stockholm, the 2006 Gaos Lectures in Mexico City, the Hempel Lectures at Princeton in 2006, ` the 2009 Amherst Lecture in Philosophy, the 2010 Mesthene Lecture at Rutgers, the 2012 Ortlieb Lecture at Claremont, the 2012 Petrus Hispanus Lectures in Lisbon, the 2012 George Myro Lecture at Berkeley, the 2013 Hägerstrom Lectures in Uppsala, the 2013 Kim Young-Jung Lectures at Seoul National University, a Nanqiang Lecture at Xiamen University in 2014, the 2015 Bergmann Lecture at the University of Iowa, the 2015 Beth Lecture in Amsterdam and the 2016 Wade Memorial Lecture at St Louis University. For 2009-12 he held a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship. He has been President of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association and Vice-President of the British Logic Colloquium. He is a fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, a member of the Academia Europaea, an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy, a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Honorary Fellow of Balliol College Oxford. He is the Nelson Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor for periods in 2013-15 and was visiting professor at Yale for four weeks in each of 2016 and 2017.

    Andrés Saenz De Sicilia
    Dr Andrés Saenz De Sicilia
    Andrés Saenz De Sicilia is a faculty member at Newcastle University and a visiting researcher at the University of Amsterdam. He completed his PhD at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), Kingston University, specializing in the work of Kant and the post-Kantian German tradition. He has published articles in Radical Philosophy and Language Sciences, and his first book is due out next year.

    Nigel Collins
    Nigel Collins is a member of the Newcastle Philosophy Society and a tutor for the U3A. His main philosophical interest is in existentialism.

    Hisham El Edrissi
    Hisham El Edrissi is an A-level student at Heaton Manor School. He plans to study philosophy at university.

    Edward Gibney
    Edward Gibney is a member of the North-East Humanists. He is a prolific writer and the author of a number of books, including the novel Draining the Swamp. He is currently working on a novel about immortality. His website is Evolutionary Philosophy (www.evphil.com)

    Amanda McBride
    Amanda McBride is a member of the Newcastle Philosophy Society. She is currently completing her PhD in the department for social sciences. Her favourite philosopher is William James and she considers herself a pragmatist in his tradition.

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    Logos: The mystery of how we make sense of the world
    Logos: The mystery of how we make sense of the world by Raymond Tallis
    Our sense-making capabilities and the relationship between our individual and collective intelligence and the comprehensibility of the world is both remarkable and deeply mysterious. Our capacity to make sense of the world and the fact that we pass our lives steeped in knowledge and understanding, albeit incomplete, that far exceeds what we are or even experience has challenged our greatest thinkers for centuries. In Logos, Raymond Tallis steps into the gap between mind and world to explore what is at stake in our attempts to make sense of our world and our lives. With his characteristic combination of scholarly rigour and lively humour he reveals how philosophers, theologians and scientists have sought to demystify our extraordinary capacity to understand the world by collapsing the distance between the mind that does the sense-making and the world that is made sense of. Such strategies - whether by locating the world inside the mind, or making the mind part of the world - are shown to be deeply flawed and of little help in explaining the intelligiblity of the world. Indeed, it is the distance that we need, argues Tallis, if knowledge is to count as knowledge and for there to be a distinction between the knower and the known. Tallis brings his formidable analysis to bear on the many challenges we face when trying to make sense of our sense-making. These include the idea of cognitive progress, which presupposes a benchmark of complete understanding; cognitive completion, which unites the separate strands of our understanding (from the laws of nature to our ineluctable everyday understanding of things, incorporating the meanings we live by); and the knowing subject - us - with our partial and limited viewpoint mediated by our bodies. Click here to buy from Amazon.

    Doing Philosophy by Timothy Williamson
    Doing Philosophy: From Common Curiosity to Logical Reasoning by Timothy Williamson
    What are philosophers trying to achieve? How can they succeed? Does philosophy make progress? Is it in competition with science, or doing something completely different, or neither? Timothy Williamson tackles some of the key questions surrounding philosophy in new and provocative ways, showing how philosophy begins in common sense curiosity, and develops through our capacity to dispute rationally with each other. Discussing philosophy's ability to clarify our thoughts, he explains why such clarification depends on the development of philosophical theories, and how those theories can be tested by imaginative thought experiments, and compared against each other by standards similar to those used in the natural and social sciences. He also shows how logical rigour can be understood as a way of enhancing the explanatory power of philosophical theories. Drawing on the history of philosophy to provide a track record of philosophical thinking's successes and failures, Williamson overturns widely held dogmas about the distinctive nature of philosophy in comparison to the sciences, demystifies its methods, and considers the future of the discipline.
    From thought experiments, to deduction, to theories, this little book will cause you to totally rethink what philosophy is. Click here to buy from Amazon.

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    Bigg Books
    North East Humanists
    Newcastle Philosophical Society
    Philosophical Society of England
    Royal Institute of Philosophy
    Oxford University Press
    Raymond Tallis
    Timothy Williamson
    Evolutionary Philosophy (www.evphil.com)
    Buy Logos: The Mystery of How We Make Sense of Things by Raymond Tallis
    Buy Doing Philosophy: From Common Curiosity to Logical Reasoning by Timothy Williamson
    Buy Draining the Swamp by Ed Gibney
    Buy Evolutionary Philosophy by Ed Gibney

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