In 2013, Cardiff Philosophy Cafe will be changing. It will remain a free event based at the Gate, still take place every third Tuesday of the month, and will still continue its mission to build bridges between academia and the outside world.  Nonetheless, we can now announce what we hope will be exciting developments in which we would love as many of our audience as possible to get involved.

In this post, we say a little more about what we’re planning to do, where it will (hopefully!) lead, and how you can join in to help shape what we do.

Since 2008, the UK and Wales, like the rest of Europe and the USA, have been caught in the aftermath of the biggest financial crisis for decades. This ‘age of austerity‘ has seen transfers of power across Europe to administrations pledged to reduce public spending in order to shrink government deficits. This much-publicised (and heavily contested) need to ‘live within our means’ sits alongside a host of other challenges.

For example, the globalisation of trade and production continues to drive rises in unemployment, now intensified by contracting economics. The need to mitigate human-caused climate change and to prepare to adapt to its effects suddenly struggles to find column inches in newspapers, despite being as urgent, its champions argue as before 2008. The rising cost of energy and car-based transport systems, and the possibility of shortages in the key sources we have come to depend on, as oil stocks become harder to replenish and nuclear power stations are decommissioned, are now increasingly urgent problems. Health, social care and intergenerational relationships climb the agenda: the NHS is changing, the population is ageing, and some insist that a gap in wealth between old and young is now the central source of inequality within society. And in a period when a ‘return to growth’ is said to be the most pressing issue of the day, many voices are raised against the idea that measuring income is the best way to decide whether we’re better off – and suggest instead that we need to look at the quality of the places people live, the satisfaction they get from the jobs they do, and the state of their social relationships in order to understand whether they are thriving or not.

Here in Wales, these issues – unemployment, health, transport, wellbeing, energy, care, climate change – are no less urgent issues for a devolved institution keen to exercise recently extended powers than they are in Westminster. The Assembly Government continues to work on its own policy response to the age of austerity in Wales, of which the sustainable development white paper to be published in December 2012 is the latest example.

To date, the public debate has been dominated by arguments about economics and regulation – which, some argue, narrows the terms of debate too far. How to address these challenges, they argue, leads us to moral and political questions, broader questions about the future, about what kind of world we want ourselves, and those who come after us to live in.

With all this in mind, Cardiff Philosophy Cafe is devoting most of its sessions next year (2013) to the question of what future we want for Wales, and the social, political and ethical issues that will need to be dealt with as part of answering this question. Already this year we’ve had sessions on the ethical significance of debt, the changing nature of what we want from work, and on the desirability (or otherwise) of economic growth. Next year, a series of Cafe discussions featuring researchers from Cardiff University and elsewhere, and other events, including film screenings, will culminate in a high-profile final event in Winter 2013 at a prestigious location within Cardiff (about which more news will follow soon).

Now, towards the close of 2012, there is an opportunity for you to help shape the agenda for next year. In 1976, the Welsh writer and political theorist Raymond Williams published ‘Keywords’, a dictionary of words widely used in contemporary society but which carry hard-to-define, contested or multiple and contradictory meanings. “Sustainability” or “democracy” might be relevant examples. The meaning of such terms is fought over by all sides of the political spectrum and partisans of every shade of opinion.

“Keywords” might also be words that, thanks to social change, no longer mean what we once took them to mean. “Employment” is one example of this latter kind of keyword. We seem to have moved far from the days when full employment and “jobs for life” were seen as valid political goals; will work in coming decades mean what it does now? What changes to society will result?

To set the agenda for the next twelve months of Cardiff Philosophy Cafe, we’re looking for a set of keywords that you think represent themes that are vital for  understanding the ‘state we’re in’ and for shaping the debate we need to have about what future we want, both here in Wales and in the UK.

Also, we’re looking for a title for this series of events, one that does justice to the issues at hand, and the challenge they represent.

We’d like your assistance in setting this agenda and naming the series. To participate, you can click below to contribute your suggestions.

After the next Cafe on 18 December at the Gate Chris Groves and Glenn Davidson will be giving a short talk about the events in 2013 and in what direction the Cafe will be developing into 2014.

Even more reason to come along and join in with Jac Saorsa‘s (Cardiff Met) talk, entitled “Artology: Interventions and intersections between philosophy, art practice, and biomedical science“!

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One thought on “Philosophy Cafe in 2013 – new developments, and a chance to shape them…”

  1. Hi ChrisG,

    since you mentioned “well-being” as one of the topics the café might be interested in, I’d like to offer giving a talk about “Philosophy As Therapy” (largely based on the Platonic concept of the psyche and different from philosophical counselling – I say a few words about it on my website, see above).

    Walter Braun

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