Sheffield Cathedral in partnership with the University of Sheffield
God and the Good: Thinking Religion and Ethics
This is a series of interdisciplinary talks, intended for a general audience. The series will consider the relation between religious thinking and traditions on the one hand, and ethics on the other. While most ethical traditions have a religious background, the increasing secularization of modern society has put this connection in question. These talks will consider how far ethical issues can be illuminated by coming at them through a religious context, and vice versa, as well as the history of the interconnection. All are welcome, and there is no need to register attendance.
The Cathedral Coffee Shop opens from 6.30pm, serving tea, coffee, wine and light refreshments.
Talks and discussion 7.30pm–9pm. Venue: Sheffield Cathedral, Church Street, S1 1HA
Religion and Atheism: Beyond the Divide
10th October 2017 - Angie Hobbs (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield), Julian Baggini, Richard Norman (Philosophy, University of Kent) and Anthony Carroll (Philosophy, Heythrop College)
Part of Off the Shelf Festival of Words
A panel discussion on Religion and Atheism: Beyond the Divide (Routledge, 2017), edited by Anthony Carroll and Richard Norman. The speakers will be the editors, and two of the contributors to the volume – Angie Hobbs and Julian Baggini. The discussion will be of interest to anyone who is concerned about the clash between the religious and the secular, and how to move beyond it towards a dialogue that is more fruitful.
Idolatry and Objectivity in Ethics
7th November 2017 - Yonatan Shemmer (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield)
At the start of this talk Yonatan will trace the development of the concept of idolatry from the old testament through to the 20th century. He will argue that in one important sense an idol is a creation that reflects our fears and hopes, but has no basis outside of these. In the second part he will argue that belief in ethical objectivity should be seen as a form of idolatry in this sense. The belief in ethical objectivity is the belief that ethical requirements are universal: that they apply to all people independently of their systems of beliefs, their goals or their desires. This way of thinking about ethics is one of the most common presupposition of ethicists, but Yonatan will suggest that it is an idol that should be overturned.
The French Revolution and Its Attack on Religion
6th February 2018 - Linda Kirk (Department of History, University of Sheffield)
By the late eighteenth century, the French had taken some tentative steps towards religious toleration. As the Revolution broke out, and reformers proposed changes to anything and everything, including the Church, it was presumed that belief and fidelity would remain plaited into the fabric of French life. But things went further and faster than any reformers expected: before 1792 was over, those ruling France had turned to a full-scale attack on most of its Roman Catholic Church's institutions, hunting down many priests as enemies of the people. This lecture will ask what happened to belief; what understanding of the Enlightenment, and of legitimacy grounded on popular assent, led to puzzled but violent peasants on both sides slaughtering former neighbours and authority figures? And how did they stop?
Are Things Better With God?
6th March 2018 - Eric Olson (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield)
One obvious question we can ask is whether God exists. But we can also ask the question, ‘is it a good thing that he exists’? Believers are almost always happy that God exists. Most nonbelievers have no view on the matter. A few are happy in thinking that God does not exist; almost none are unhappy about it. But should they be unhappy if he doesn’t exist? Would it be better if God existed, or worse? Or is it simply a matter of subjective preference?
Ethics With Confucius
8th May 2018 - Jimmy Lenman (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield)
In this talk Jimmy will discuss the ethical thinking of Confucius (Kongfuzi, 551-479 B.C.). How are we to make sense of a thinker frequently described as a humanist, yet so centrally preoccupied with the importance of ritual? And does Confucius’ thought have anything to teach us today, in the contemporary West?
5th June 2018 - Paul Faulkner (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield)
Faith is something that one can gain and lose. In this talk Paul will try to characterise what happens when one is converted, where 'conversion' here applies broadly to the loss as well as the acquisition of faith. Given this characterisation, he will then ask what reasons one has to convert. This is a hard question because insofar as conversion results in one's seeing the world anew, the reasons that become visible to one after conversion cannot move one prior to one's conversion.
St Paul's Letters from the Prison - An Ethical Review
3rd July 2018 - Minna Shkul (Department of Philosophy and SIIBS, University of Sheffield)
The lecture will focus on St Paul's prison letters, examining these as a farewell speech that provide Christ-followers with guidance on tradition, godly life and ethics. Having first discussed these instructions in their historical context in the Roman world, the paper will examine if these disputed letters are 'ethical' for 21st century readers, focusing on religiosity, ethnicity and gender, in particular.
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Is Hope Hopeless?
11 July 2017 - Professor Robert Stern (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield)
Hope is traditionally identified as one of the key ‘theological virtues’, alongside faith and love or charity, which are distinguished from the ‘cardinal virtues’. Many philosophers have also made hope central to their work, including Kant and the American pragmatists Charles S. Peirce and William James.
But hope can also appear problematic, as a kind of wishful thinking or irrational optimism. So the question arises of when it is rational to hope, and what are the criteria for legitimate hoping? And if the object of hope is not God, as the secularist holds, does it nonetheless still make sense to distinguish it from the cardinal virtues?
The Logic of the Golden Rule
8 November 2016 - Peter Bradley (Dean of Sheffield Cathedral)
The so-called Golden Rule is a central principle of ethics: ‘do as you would be done by’. This talk will ask the question whether the principle offers a way for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and others a place to develop a shared understanding of morality.