Dr Nicholas Joll
23rd September – 2nd December
The current course is a reading group and has two parts.
Part I (Weeks 1-5) Singer, Hegel
The book and its subject. The book is Hegel: A Very Short Introduction by the contemporary Australian philosopher Peter Singer. There are a couple of editions, but to my knowledge they differ little; so, any edition will do. The book is published by Oxford University Press (originally in 1983). It is inexpensive; and it is informed, thoughtful, critical and wonderfully lucid. A much earlier and much longer book about Hegel, called The Secret of Hegel (and by Scottish philosopher J.H. Stirling), generated the sardonic comment that the secret had been well kept. Not so here: Singer illuminates an important but obscure philosopher who has influenced, in one way or another, just about everyone. According to Michel Foucault, Hegel stands waiting at the end of every road – even those roads that we take in order to avoid him. Singer’s book treats Hegel’s ideas on history, freedom, community, mind and world, logic and dialectic.
Procedure. Each week we will tackle some twenty to thirty pages. The idea is that participants read the relevant pages before the session and that in the session we discuss those pages. In our first week we will discuss the preface to the book and its first two chapters.
Part II (Weeks 6-10) Weil, Simone Weil: An Anthology. The course is also a reading group.
The author. Weil was born in Paris in 1909 and died in 1943, arguably by suicide. She seems to have been many things, some of them seemingly inconsistent with each other: mystic and philosopher; anarchist, Marxist and theologian; Jew and Christian; teacher and factory worker; pacifist and soldier; practically inclined but clumsy, short-sighted and somewhat neurotic. Weil stands outside any philosophical mainstream. Yet, her influence is considerable. That influence extends to T.S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Iris Murdoch and Susan Sontag; and Weil’s ideas have been compared to those of Wittgenstein. Hannah Arendt praised Weil for having given perhaps the only honest account of labour. Camus declared her ‘the only great mind of our time’. Andre Gide called Weil ‘the patron saint of all outsiders’.
The book and its editions. The book is Simone Weil: An Anthology. This anthology ranges across Weil’s works and across topics including the self, the sacred, society, oppression, work, rights and obligations and love. I recommend the 2005 edition by Penguin. An earlier edition appeared with Virago in 1986. The Penguin edition is fairly inexpensive and contains introductory material (at least some of which is absent from the earlier edition).
Procedure. Each week we will tackle some twenty to thirty pages. The idea is that participants read the relevant pages before the session; in the session we will discuss those pages. We will manage to discuss approximately half of the pieces in the book. In our first week, I will introduce Weil and we will discuss the essay ‘Human Personality’.
Current Economic Issues £60
22nd September – 1st December
We will discuss the national and international economic effects of the pandemic, and consequent Government policies. In particular we shall consider climate change, ‘levelling up’, international trade, employment problems, technological progress, public finances and any topical economic issues that arise.
Spain – The Habsburg Era £60
1st October – 10th December
This course explores Spain’s history and culture during the 16th and 17th centuries: Habsburg rule, the rise and fall of imperial power, and the Golden Age – a period of dazzling creativity featuring masters such as El Greco, Murillo, Velazquez, Cervantes, Victoria…
History Matters: Revolutionary Britannia – Britain in the Age of the French Revolution £60
Dr Simon Doney
24th September – 3rd December
The French Revolution is one of the great turning points of modern history and an event which led to debate and division in this country and war in Europe. We aim to look at the political and cultural impact of the revolution in Britain. We will investigate the parlimentary and popular responses and reactions to the French Revolution, evaluate how Britain defended itself from revolutionary France, before finally examining the impact of reform and reaction in post-war Britain.