Past Events Archive

To view a list of past events, and access podcasts, presentations and other downloads, click here.

Upcoming Events

Check back regularly as new sessions will be added as they are confirmed.

Date Topic and
20 May 2014Heidegger vs the Mobile

Rupert Jenkinson
(Cardiff Classical Education Forum)
What sort of relationship do you have with your smartphone? The mobile revolution promises a future in which global communication is possible for all, affirming ideals of individual freedom. But what does technologically-mediated communication really mean for human relationships? Does it inevitably dehumanise us, or open up new possibilities for human interaction?

In this Cafe, Rupert Jenkinson explores this issue with assistance from the theories of human communication developed by Martin Heidegger, Martin Buber and Jürgen Habermas.

15 April 2014Towards a Resource Based Economy?

Dan Lloyd

18 February 2014What can science tell us about the future?

Dr Chris Groves
(Social Sciences, Cardiff University)
Human-caused climate change has now been openly linked to recent flooding events in Wales and Southern England. Last year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reaffirmed that climate science is increasingly clear on the influence of humans on global climate. But there remain many uncertainties and complexities to consider.

What exactly can science tell us about the future, and are there limits? If there are limits on what it can tell us, what does this mean for evidence based policy, especially when it comes to mitigating or adapting to climate change? When we argue about phenomena like climate change and what to do about them, are we really arguing about scientific evidence, or about something else?

19 November 2013What is Money?

Justin Lilley
(Positive Money/Arian Cymru)

Dr Chris Groves
(Social Sciences, Cardiff University)
What is money, where does it come from, and what are the consequences of how it is created?

This Cafe will offer some perspectives on these and other questions. Money is a commodity that can be bought and sold on the currency exchanges, but more importantly, it is what Karl Marx called the ‘universal equivalent’, a measure of the value of anything that can be bought and sold. The creation of money, as we have seen in recent years in the UK and elsewhere, is a particularly politically sensitive process.

How is money made? Banks are granted licenses to create money through making loans, and earn interest as a result. This can lead to a ‘leakage’ from the real productive economy to the speculative financial one that has grown up around trading in loans, and thereby in debts. Debt-fuelled speculation led to the financial crisis of 2007-08. The ripples from this crisis continue to spread, with the latest concern being that banks could do as they did in Cyprus and reach into depositors accounts seizing funds to capitalize themselves. These so called ‘bail ins’ could be devastating to stability. Are there now so many holes in the current system of money creation that more ‘bailing’ is not going to keep us afloat? Is it time to abandon ship?

15 October 2013The Philosophy of Running

Dr Paul Faulkner
University of Sheffield
This month at Cardiff Philosophy Cafe, we change tack from recent events to focus on issues surrounding self-knowledge – and particularly in relation to our bodies and what we do with them. On the 15 October, we welcome as our guest Dr Paul Faulkner from the University of Sheffield, a runner and a philosopher.

How do you know what you are doing? Here is one answer: I know I am raising my arm because this is what I am trying to do (and trying is all I need to do to raise my arm). The philosophical view behind this answer is the standard view of our knowledge of our own actions. This view, Paul will argue, is threatened by cases of effort. By ‘effort’ is meant cases of action where all one needs to do something is to try to do that thing, but where trying is hard. To argue this, and to explore the implications of effort for self-knowledge, Paul will focus on running, and specifically what goes on in running a race.

For more information, see the CPC Blog.

17 September 2013The Future for Wales - Waste

Dr Chris Groves
(Social Sciences, Cardiff University)
We are increasingly familiar with pronouncements about the need to move towards a 'zero waste' society. The means of achieving this are generally presented as a mixture of measures, some popular and some much more controversial.

In Wales, recycling and composting targets, together with other measures, have been set out in a number of Welsh Government measures, the latest of which is the Waste Measure 2010. At the same time, the problem of nonrecyclable, non-compostable landfill waste has led an increase in the popularity of incineration as a disposal method, which many see as posing persistent 'waste' issues of its own, in the form of pollution.

Yet underlying these governance measures is a social, economic, psychological and philosophical relationship with waste that is extremely complex. Mainstream economics refused to acknowledge the existence of waste, with the well-known problem of externalities being a major manifestation of this refusal. Ecological economics, with its focus on energy as the basis of life, has striven for the creation of 'closed loops' in production and consumption.

But do waste and acts of wastage play other roles in human life, ones that carry with them important but more problematic meanings? Phenomena like potlatch, carnivals, and other unruly social rituals place waste at the centre of social life rather than at the margins.

If we are unprepared to acknowledge our ambiguous relationship with waste, can we truly understand what sustainability might mean?

16 July 2013The Future for Wales - Creativity

Gareth Clark
(Mr and Mrs Clark)

Fern Smith 
Simon Whitehead
In the next of our Future for Wales series, we take a different approach to our ‘keywords’ that help to define the political agenda for the future here in Wales and in the UK.

Over the last six months, we have examined a range of topics where ethical and political problems confront us all with difficult choices that will shape our futures: sustainability, energy, the value of nature, well-being, democracy and work. Facing an uncertain future does not just present us with intellectual quandaries, however. It is a situation that can produce strong, and often negative, emotions – anxiety, fear and even despair – by forcing us to imagine the futures we, our children and their children may inhabit.

If society needs to change, then whatever this process involves will be difficult and maybe painful. Yet uncertainty is also necessary for there to be hope about the future.

How, then, can we deal with the uncertainties evoked by our key themes without becoming victim to fear and foreboding? What role does creativity, and art in particular, have in helping us make sense of uncertainty in ways that help us take action to shape our world? Can we rely on the stories of progress that have, historically, shaped our sense of what the future may hold? Or do we need different stories to sustain us?

This Cafe will be the first of two this month in which we explore these themes with the aid of arts practitioners from Wales whose work connects powerfully to the experience of uncertainty in the face of the future.

21 May 2013The Future for Wales - Well-being

Prof. Robin Attfield
(Philosophy, Cardiff University)

Prof Gareth Williams and Dr Eva Elliott
(Social Sciences, Cardiff University)
Well-being (and/or ‘happiness’) has risen up the political agenda over the last two decades, as dissatisfaction has increased with the idea that measuring economic output (in the shape of GDP) is the best key to the standard of living of a nation.

In this Cafe, we explore why well-being matters, and what it adds, as a concept, to discussions about the health of communities and particularly in a Welsh context, where the legacy of unemployment on public health has long been of concern. Should well-being remain at the heart of public policy for the future, and if so, what can be done to promote and produce it more effectively?

16 April 2013Future for Wales - Democracy

Sara Rees
(Cardiff-based artist)

Dr Richard Cowell
(Planning and Geography, Cardiff University)
(also with Prof. Karin Wahl-Jourgenson, Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University)

Democracy, said the 18th century political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is a form of government where the ‘general will’ is sovereign. That is, democracies are different from other forms of government because they are governed in the interest of all the people and the laws that exist in them apply equally to all.

But who gets to decide what is in the general interest? In representative democracies like ours, where power is shared between central and devolved administrations, this task becomes more complex than ever. For power is not just handed on to the representatives we vote for. It is delegated to agencies and actors who shape our lives unaccountably in myriad ways. Newspapers, television and online media shape opinion and channel information in ways that have long been recognised to be anything but objective. Through the planning system hugely important decisions about how the land on which we live is divided up and exploited are made, in ways that, according to some, consistently favour some interests at the expense of others. Instead of executive powers and the ‘fourth estate’ being conduits for the general will, or arenas in which it is determined, the suspicion is, inevitably, that they are conduits for wills of their own.

So, in complex societies like ours, in what sense can we be said to live in a democracy? And what might democracy mean in the future in a society where devolution becomes an increasingly important force?

19 March 2013The Future for Wales: Valuing Nature

Dr Isabelle Durance
Sustainable Places Institute, Cardiff University

Dr Paul Anderson
Law, Warwick University
In recent years, policymakers and economists have begun to show a great deal of interest in translating the 'support service' provided by the natural world to human societies into terms that economic decision-making can make sense of. One of the long-standing complaints of environmental campaigners has been that economics tends to operate apart from nature, and fails to recognise that economics and societies are embedded within the natural world. What if the value of the natural world were therefore to be recognised by translating it into financial terms, as the ecological economist Robert Costanza and colleagues famously attempted in 1997. In the words of the former Cabinet Secretary, Gus O'Donnell, 'if you treasure it, measure it.'

This 'ecosystem services' approach informs, here in Wales, WAG's National Environment Framework and Living Wales programme. But how successful is such an approach likely to be, and is it right to value nature in this way? In this Cafe, two experts, from the biological sciences and ecological economics/philosophy examine the implications of an ecosystem services approach to valuing nature.

7 March 2013Animate Earth

Dr Stephan Harding
(Schumacher College)
Cardiff Philosophy Cafe presents a special free screening of ecologist Stephan Harding's film Animate Earth. Following the film, a specially invited panel will lead a discussion on the issues it raises, reflecting on the links between them and their own work, and offering some thoughts on the future prospects for our relationships with place and nature in Wales. We are fortunate to have joining us a bio-archaeologist, a geographer and two artists, all of whose work features a strong relation to place.

Jon Anderson is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography in the School of Planning & Geography, Cardiff University, UK. His research focuses on the relations between culture, environment, and identity. He is particularly interested in the geographies, politics and practices that such relations produce. Jon has published widely, most notably a textbook ‘Understanding Cultural Geography: Places and Traces’ (2010). Further information on his work can be found at

Stefhan Caddick is a visual artist based in Wales. His work is often multidisciplinary, encompassing visual art, new media and elements of performance: erecting a discontinued electronic road sign in the middle of Cardiff and asking the public to send their text messages to it; attempting to make and use a pair of skiis with no knowledge of woodwork (or skiing); recording a second of sound every minute for three hours in an attempt to produce a 7? single; or cycling the length of Wales during a cold February, avoiding main roads and asking passers-by for hand-drawn directions.

Glenn Davidson runs, together with fellow fine artist Anne E Hayes, the art, media and technology partnership Artstation, based in Cardiff and formed in 1989. Glenn creates socially located installations and interactive film and digital image works, often employing social media technologies, which explore place through wide-spectrum interaction, as in the various iterations of Artstation’s TXT2 technology at such sites as Chapter, the Vulcan pub, and Cardiff Prison.

Jacqui Mulville is Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Cardiff University. An early interest in zoology combined with exposure to the thrill of archaeological discovery led Jacqui into the world of zooarchaeology – the study of human:animal interactions in the past. The result was a career in archaeology that has spread to work on material throughout Britain and across time.

The screening will take place on 7 March 2013, in the Theatre at The Gate, from 8pm, with the event finishing around 10.00pm.

19 February 2013The Future for Wales - Energy

Prof. Calvin Jones
(Cardiff Business School)
Are the right choices being made in the UK and in Wales about how we will produce our energy in the future? If not, what assumptions do we need to confront in order to make the right choices, and what key ideas can help us navigate ethical and political problems? As an opportunity to discuss these issues, you are invited to Cardiff Philosophy Cafe’s showing of ‘A Million Years of Sunshine’ a light-hearted half-hour comedy about the end of civilisation, featuring hope, strife and unfeasibly wide flares.

The film will be followed by a talk from the film’s author Professor Calvin Jones (Cardiff Business School). Entitled "Energy and Society: The End of Complexity?", this examines the issues raised by the film, and in particular the economic, ethical and political consequences for the UK and Wales of our patterns of energy use.

This event is the second in our series of events examining the Future for Wales, following last month's session on sustainability.

More information is available at the CPC Blog, where you can also take a poll to register your views on this topic.

15 January 2013The Future for Wales - Sustainability

Prof. Robin Attfield
Department of Philosophy, Cardiff University
In the first of our year-long series of events looking at the ethical and political choices facing us here in Wales in the wake of the financial crisis, we discuss the future of sustainability. What does 'sustainability' mean, and is there room in a world where politicians seem concerned with a return to economic growth above all for sustainability? Distinguished environmental ethicist Professor Robin Attfield introduces the discussion. More information at the Cardiff Philosophy Cafe Blog.

18 December 2012ARTOLOGY: Interventions and intersections between philosophy, art practice, and biomedical science

Dr Jac Saorsa
(Cardiff Met)
If we observe all forms, especially the organic forms, we find that nothing is permanent, nothing is at rest, nothing concluded, but, on the contrary, that all is in continuous fluctuating movement.
Goethe, The Metamorphosis of Plants

This talk will address the way in which I, as a visual artist and researcher, engage creatively with the conceptual edifice of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, and attempt to put his philosophy into practice. Deleuze provides me with the framework that both supports and challenges my creative ability and integrity, and, in being supported and challenged, I have developed the capacity to challenge in turn. I hold conversations with Deleuze through my work; continuing conversations wherein syntax and meaning ‘de’ and ‘reterritorialise’ as we address the relation between talk and action, between thought and practice. I conceive of ‘process’ as continuous flux.

Through verbalising and reflecting on process I have learned to ‘stammer’ in the Deleuzean ‘vital’ sense of being a foreigner in my own language, and within the perpetuity of process that is characterised in the stammering, the ‘and…and…and…’ I embrace a creative multilingualism in terms of interpenetrative relations between visual language and conventional speech. These relations are inherent and fundamental in my current research, Drawing Women’s Cancer, in which philosophy, art practice, ethnobotany and biomedical science are brought together within an overall ‘narrative’.

20 November 2012The Ethics of IVF: Preventing Mitochondrial Disease?

Dr Rebecca Dimond
Cesagen, Cardiff University
It is a long time since in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques first entered the news. Yet advances in IVF continue to raise new ethical issues, around the potential for using IVF to prevent medical conditions. Mitochondrial disease, for example, is a degenerative and sometimes fatal condition, for which only limited treatments exist, with no cure possible. Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research in Newcastle have developed pioneering techniques offering the possibility of a future generation born without mitochondrial disease.

However, as mitochondria contain their own DNA, and therefore the DNA contained in the donated mitochondria will be passed down to subsequent generations, a change in law is required before these ‘germ-line’ therapies can be offered to patients. This month’s Philosophy Cafe will explore the implications of these techniques and IVF-based preventive medicine more widely for patients, parents and for society as a whole, questioning whether these technologies represent a slippery slope towards designer babies and human cloning.

17 April 2012How to Be an Existentialist

Gary Cox
University of Birmingham

19 July 2011Ageing, immortality and contemporary anti-ageing biomedicine.

Prof. Joanna Latimer
(Social Sciences, Cardiff University)

Prof. David Kipling
(Medicine, Cardiff University)

30 November -0001


Free entry - All welcome