Durham Philosophy Events

Durham University will be hosting two Royal Institute of Philosophy lectures later this term as detailed below.

15th February 2018

Professor David Cockburn (Wales, Trinity Saint David)

Title: Fatalism; thoughts about tomorrow’s sea battle


In recent discussions, ‘fatalism’ has been understood as the thesis that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no one is able to act other than she in fact does. But there is another view, which may have more right to the label, and that merits discussion: the view that nothing that we do will make any difference to how things turn out. It is this view that is central to Aristotle’s discussion of tomorrow’s sea battle, and, while it may face decisive objections, there are things to be learned from it. I will argue that philosophical ‘fatalism’ in both its forms characteristically rests on a picture of our situation that has deep roots in contemporary philosophy: a picture in which thought aimed at determining how things are has primacy over deliberation about what I should do; and, following from this, one in which our idea of ourselves as agents in the world stands in need of a metaphysical grounding. These roots are expressed in the place that the notion of a ‘proposition’ (or of a ‘thought’) has in much current philosophical thinking. It is a striking fact that the great majority of recent responses to the standard fatalist reasoning move within this same basic framework of ideas.

This lecture will be held in the Birley Room, Hatfield College, Durham. Refreshments will be available from 5pm with the lecture commencing at 5:30pm

21st February 2018

Professor Lisa Bortolotti (Birmingham)

Title: Does optimism lead to success?


Does optimism lead to success? Although optimistic beliefs are said to contribute to fitness, good functioning, productivity, resilience, and even altruistic and caring behaviour, it is controversial whether they are conducive to success, intended as the fulfilment of the agent’s goals in a given domain. Sceptics argue that people who are optimistic can be unprepared for setbacks, fail to react constructively to negative feedback, feel disappointed when their performance does not match their expectations, disengage from their goals, and put themselves at risk due to underestimating threats.

So, when are optimistic beliefs linked to success? Here I rule out two influential views, that optimistic beliefs are linked to success when they accurately represent reality or when they boost the agent’s mood. Based on the results of psychological studies about attitudes towards romantic relationships and health prospects, I suggest that the optimistic beliefs linked to successful performance are not necessarily realistic and do not always boost the agent’s mood, but are instrumental to agents persevering in the pursuit of their goals at critical times. Beliefs supporting the sense that people are competent and efficacious agents and that their goals are both desirable and attainable sustain motivation and, indirectly, goal fulfilment.

This Lecture will be held in the Williams Library, St Chad’s College, Durham. Refreshments will be available from 11:30am with the lecture commencing at 12Noon.

A map to help you find either location can be found here: https://www.dur.ac.uk/map/

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