Ottoline Online: the NCH academic blog

At the Ottoline Club

“J S Mill’s Philosophy of History”, a talk by Dr. Callum Barrell, Lecturer in Politics & International Relations. As a colleague whose research interests are decidedly interdisciplinary, Callum duly delivered a talk that straddled the faculties. His main thesis was that John Stuart Mill developed over a period of years a philosophy of history which very much informed his mature political ideas and in particular his proposals for political change.

I am in awe at BBC drama. In the past week I have watched both BBC2’s adaptation of Mike Bartlett’s 2014 play King Charles III, and BBC1’s miseries about the Rochdale child abuse scandal, Three Girls, and have been bowled over by both. But the latter moved me most.

The Many Faces of Intelligence (23 May 2017)

Intelligence manifests itself in a variety of ways. This panel will discuss the many faces of intelligence – whether natural or artificial – from both scientific and philosophical points of view.

At the Ottoline Club

“Torture and Fiction”, a talk by Dr. Catherine Brown, Senior Lecturer in English and Head of the English Faculty In the United States and some of its allies, the years since 2001 have seen major changes in policy and attitudes regarding torture. Torture has been more openly advocated, and its mode of representation in various media has decidedly altered. Catherine’s current writing, impelled by these changes, considers the manifold relations between torture and fiction.

Upcoming: Why Literature Matters

Professor Greg Currie, Professor Bernard Harrison, Dr Penny Pritchard, Sir Roger Scruton and Lesley Chamberlain will each voice their views on whether and how literature matters, and particularly whether it matters to the understanding of human psychology and morality, or whether such things are better left to 'specialists'. There will then be 30 minutes of discussion between panelists, and the final 30 minutes will be open to reactions from the floor.

Sebastian Ille, Lecturer in Economics, New College of the Humanities — The public vote on Brexit has left many flabbergasted and rekindled the media discussion about a more direct and decentralised democratic process. Those against referenda essentially claim that a representative democracy is better placed to make decisions on complex matters of state, while being less susceptible to demagogues or “fake news”. Supporters of referenda suggest that elections are subject to gerrymandering, while representatives are only bound by incomplete contracts, thus face the same demagogic forces and their own personal ambition for power. Furthermore, according to them referenda strengthen voters’ interest, increase turnout, and acceptance of results. In the end, isn't an individual more apt to express their intentions and preferences than a representative?

At the Ottoline Club

"The Principled Argument for Using the Royal Prerogative to Exit the European Union", a talk by Stuart Goosey, Visiting Lecturer in Law — Just three weeks after the Supreme Court gave its judgment on the case of Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Stuart’s talk reviewed some of the issues raised, and prompted a many-faceted discussion. He sided with the minority of the judges, offering what was in part a legal argument about the constitutional questions which the Court addressed and in part an argument concerning democratic principle. Thanks to this wide-ranging approach, and the clear stance which Stuart took, there followed a rich and intensely thought-provoking hour of conversation.

By Dr Peter Maber, Lecturer in English, NCH — The Lonely Londoners (1956), by the Trinidad-born author Sam Selvon, depicts the lives of the ‘Windrush Generation’, the West Indian immigrants who came to Britain after the Second World War, taking up the British government on their promise of jobs. The London they discover could not be further from the golden city of their imagination. The hostile climate and attitudes they encounter create a different ‘kind of unrealness about London’. Selvon’s characters try out various survival strategies: Harris adopts the manners of an English gent, and ‘plays ladeda’, dropping the names of lords and ladies; while Henry Oliver, alias Sir Galahad, newly arrived from Trinidad, ‘plays boldface’, pretending he knows it all, only to be overcome by feelings of ‘loneliness and fright’.

At the Ottoline Club

“From 1066 to 1095: Family Traditions, Conquests, and the Appeal of the First Crusade”, a talk by Dr. Lars Kjaer, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History — In the intimate setting of the Thinkery, there was a good turnout to see Lars swim against the tide of recent interpretations of the First Crusade.

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