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What's On

Tues 3 August 2021

No meeting.

Tues 7 September 2021John Pittock

The Atheism of Arthur Schopenhauer with John Pittock.

Whilst it is generally agreed that Humanism does not accommodate metaphysics, paradoxically, the Humanist movement has much to be grateful to Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) for. He is now widely acknowledged to be one of Western cultures greatest metaphysical system builders.

Surprisingly for most readers, he was the first Western philosopher to declare his atheism at a time when it was not just unfashionable but dangerous to do so (most of the great western philosophers since the time of the Roman Empire had been Christians). Moreover, he was able to articulate and widely propagandise his atheistic beliefs such, that they were embraced by a substantial proportion of the nineteenth century thinking classes.

Crucially, and of interest for Humanists is that he had a profound influence on the minds of some of western culture’s greatest thinkers, musicians, scientists, writers, and artists (Schrödinger, Einstein, Wittgenstein, Tolstoy, Freud, Kafka, Mahler, Wagner, Kierkegaard et al) either by way of acceptance, or a direct reaction against him and his ideas but, nonetheless influencing the western cannon of thought.

What was it then that caused the mature Wagner to write that his introduction to Schopenhauer's philosophy ‘was the most significant event of his life and that the impact was extraordinary and decisive’? Also, why would Brian Magee, in his own autobiography, write this extraordinary commendation on Schopenhauer’s ‘World as Will and Representation’: “which I regard as the most mind stretching capacious, illuminating and penetrating system of philosophical ideas that has yet been forged by a human mind”?

John Pittock will give an account of the primary concepts that constructed Schopenhauer's atheistic philosophy and its subsequent impact on the minds of the major influencers of the 19th and 20th century which were both beneficial and cataclysmic.

John is a company director currently committed to a largescale sustainability project. Having had a lifelong interest in the history of ideas, his passion for the subject had its origins in working extensively in the Gulf region, the former USSR, Israel, Iran, Lebanon and the Far East. This gave him the opportunity to experience first-hand the cultural, political, religious and social consequences of ‘ideas’ that started with either one individual (or at most a small group) and yet resulted in extraordinary social, economic and political upheavals.

His interest in Schopenhauer was directly triggered by his experience of working in Siberia in the 70’s and observing that even though Lenin & Stalin were long dead their ideas & actions still held an iron grip over the country. This led to an to examination of ‘German idealism’ as the source of Marxism and this in turn fired his interest in Arthur Schopenhauer.


Tues 5 October 2021Gary Brannan

York's archival history at the Borthwick with Gary Brannan.

The Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York is one of the largest archive services outside of London. Home to hundreds of individual archives spanning nearly 1,000 years of our documentary past, the Borthwick has a particular specialism in collecting archives related to faith, belief, and the reactions to it.

How does an archive such as this work to document the world today? How are expectations around access to information changing?

And in an age where truth - and especially the truth of official record - is an ever more contested concept, how do archives respond?

Gary Brannan is Keeper of Archives and Special Collections at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York. An archivist for over 15 years, Gary's previous specialisms in the archive sector include online and social media engagement, access services, digital preservation and archival skills training.


Tues 12 October

Book Group - The Future of Capitalism, by Paul Collier. 7.30pm in The Black Swan, 23 Peasholme Green, York, YO1 7PR.

Tues 4 January 2022Victoria Wild

Extinction Rebellion - Community, Chaos and Change with Victoria Wild.

Extinction Rebellion can seem like a disorderly rabble but behind the chaos is an organised, horizontal structure and a theory of change drawn from other successful non-violent movements.

The communities within it are its most vital element, providing support, ideas and training, but also by their very nature presenting a challenge to the destructive economic model which is fuelling climate change.

Victoria Wild works in fair trade and has been involved in the local green movement for the last few years, including setting up the XR group in Harrogate.


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