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The University of Southampton

What Makes Us Tick? On Love and Desire, Reason and Ethics Event

Lifelong Learning
10:00 - 16:00
13 June 2015
Avenue Campus Highfield Road Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this event, please email Lifelong Learning at .

Event details

We will be holding a one-day cultural event on Saturday 13 June 2015 consisting of a series of short talks led by experts from within Philosophy at Southampton.

Why do we do what we do? Since Plato, philosophers have reflected on the nature of human motivation and on the influence on our actions of love, desire, power and morality. Such topics pose profound puzzles about us. Is love essentially possessive? Are our desires fundamentally selfish? Are we rational? - Or were Hume and Nietzsche right to see reason as merely ‘the slave of the passions’? This study day will explore some of these complex philosophical questions about just what makes us tick.


Dr Alex Gregory: The Pursuit of Happiness

The famous utilitarian Jeremy Bentham wrote that ‘Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.’ Was Bentham right? In this talk we'll discuss whether we do, or should, value anything beyond pleasure. Don't we value our friends and family independently of the pleasure they give us, and rightly so? Might there be something self-destructive about living a life dedicated solely to pleasure?

Professor Christopher Janaway: Love: from Plato to Schopenhauer
Plato’s word for love is erôs. It begins as an attachment to an individual but can become transferred to ever higher objects such as beauty and goodness, and philosophy itself is a form of love. Christianity introduced a notion of love for which the Greek word is agape: a self-less, humble love that contrasts with erôs. This talk will explore how the 19th-century philosopher Schopenhauer exploited this dichotomy, deploring sexual love as a trick played on us by nature, while idealizing the moral value of universal, selfless loving kindness.

Dr Jonathan Way: Slave of the Passions?
David Hume famously declared reason to be ‘the slave of the passions’. On the picture suggested by Hume’s remark, reason has nothing to say about which aims or goals we pursue; reason’s role in our decision making is only to helping us achieve our goals, whatever they might be. As Hume emphasised, it seems to follow that there need be nothing irrational about acting immorally or even imprudently. This talk will consider Hume’s case for this conclusion, and what we might learn from it.

Professor Aaron Ridley: Nietzsche and Will to Power
One of the things that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is famous/notorious for is his claim that all human activity is to be understood in terms of ‘will to power’. ‘Every animal’, he says, ‘instinctively strives for an optimum of favourable conditions under which it can expend all of its strength and achieve its maximal feeling of power.’ This has led many to conclude that Nietzsche defends a ‘might makes right’ view of human activity. But is this what he really means? That is the question addressed in this talk.



£40 full rate (please email us for details of our new Loyalty Scheme)

£25 loyalty rate (Harbour Lights Members, Friends of Parkes, English Teachers Network, U3A members, university staff and alumni)

£12.50 discount rate (students/sixth form & college students and those in receipt of income-based Job Seeker's Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Council Tax or Housing Benefit)

All prices include lunch and refreshments



BOOKING IS NOW CLOSED. Please note that prior booking is required to attend this event.

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