The psychology of religion: Experimenting with gods
Wk 3 MT: 22/10/2018
I’ll be speaking about how scientists study religion. I’ll give a quick history of the psychology of religion from the turn of the 20th century until the present day, and then turn my attention to the current major research programme that applies cognitive and evolutionary theories to explain religion. Then I’ll end by saying something about whether it’s possible to be religious and work on this stuff.
Weakness of will : Some philosophical reflections on St. Paul’s body of death
Wk 8 TT: 11/06/2018
I will offer some philosophical reflections on Romans 7, in which St Paul explains that he doesn’t do the good thing he wants to do and instead does the bad thing he doesn’t want to do. Philosophers discussing the problem of weakness of will often refer to this passage for a classic articulation of the experience of what people take to be weakness of will—classic philosophical discussion often focuses on whether weakness of will is possible in the first place and if so, how.
Here I assume that weakness of will is possible. I will suggest that there are several ways in which this weakness might manifest itself—there are at least several ways the will might be weak. I will also suggest that there is a certain pattern of progression these weaknesses might follow, or a way that one weakness tends to lead to another in a progressively vicious (& progressively difficult to detect) process of habituation. I will refer to these several weaknesses, respectively, as straightforward weakness of will, indirect weakness of will, & insidious intellectual error. I will develop my reflections on the basis of accounts from Socrates, Aristotle, & R.M. Hare.
My intention is to provide a more open-ended and somewhat creative, philosophical reading of the text, after the style of someone like Joseph Butler (in his sermons). In keeping with the more personal & formational nature of this forum, I’ll conclude with some brief pastoral reflections on this passage.
A scholarly view: How ancient Christian practices can help us live better in technological culture – Dr. Michael Burdett
Wk 6 HT 19/02/2018
Mills Davis has said that “Attention is the limited resource on the internet – not disk capacity, processor speed or bandwidth.” This presentation will diagnose one particular component of technological culture, our online practices, and evaluate how our usage of the internet at present has truncated our attention both in cyberspace and when not online. Utilising the philosophical and social scientific work of Nicholas Carr, Hubert Dreyfus and Sherry Turkle it will be asserted that many experts have found that focus and attention have degraded in the age of the Internet. We “bounce” from one webpage to another and our devices support and valorize increasing multitasking and shallow interaction with the information presented to us and indeed those we meet online. How can we combat this inattention so indicative of our online lives and transform these virtual spaces so that they help support deeper interaction so needed for a meaningful Christian life? I argue that a deeper infusion of contemplative practices, at the core of the Christian spiritual tradition, can help reinvigorate a destitute online presence. Spiritual practices such as fasting, lectio divina and silence can all help provide a counter-praxis to our cyber-habits. Virtual spaces are, in fact, being used in entirely productive ways towards these ends in certain quarters of the Internet. Indeed, more meditative and attention-rich resources are being utilised through such media as the Jesuit’s “Pray-As-You-Go” podcast and the online resource “The Work of the People.” I argue that rather than solely demonizing our present interaction on the Internet as an essential aspect of internet living, Christians can and ought to employ and transform the medium.’
Life lessons of a Christian scholar: Things I have learned from working 40 years in cancer and palliative care – Ginny Dunn
HT Wk 5 12/02/2018
In this reflective talk, retired Nurse and clinical specialist Ginny Dunn will speak to us about experiences of caring for cancer patients, and their families, from diagnosis to death, and grieving. Through her 45 year career, in four different countries, she has helped both cancer patient and their medical staff to confront issues around pain and dying. On Monday evening, having practised in this field and research the topic, she will be sharing her thoughts. Ginny Dunn has written on issues that terminally ill patients confront (i.e. Alongside the Person in Pain: Holistic Care and Nursing Practice, 1994) and moved to Oxford in 1985 with her husband Nigel Biggar.