This course has concessions available

New: Where Are We Going ? Philosophy In The Anthropocene

The thinker Mark Fisher once wrote that its easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. As evidence of dramatic climate change mounts, film and TV are awash with endless dystopian futures, contributing to an air of fatalism and resignation. But philosophy has historically demanded that we think through and beyond the apparent inevitability of our ways of life. They direct us, like Kant says, to cultivate an enlarged mentality, mindful not just of others positions and needs, but of alternative ways of thinking and living. In this course, well explore the ideas of leading contemporary and classic philosophers to address the issues of the Anthropocene. What can Kant tell us about the ethics of responsibility, stewardship and care? How might Spinoza, Hannah Arendt or Bertrand Russell help us re-evaluate automation, work and artificial intelligence? Focused each week on a given issue, this course will draw on the philosophical tradition in novel ways, taking philosophers out of their historical contexts to explore the challenges facing humanity today.

Who is this course for

This course is at Upper Intermediate level and wouldn't be suitable for those new to studying philosophy. It would be an ideal continuation course for someone who has previously studied on our Intermediate level courses and now wants a course that explores a range of philosophers and philosophical issues in more depth, applying them to new problems. It may also be suitable for those with some previous grounding in Philosophy who would like to return to the subject in a generous, relaxed setting where free discussion is prioritised.

What does this course cover

This course takes a holistic overview of some of the key social, moral and political issues facing humanity over the coming decades. Few disagree that we are living in an era defined by significant human impact on the earth's climate and ecosystems. While increasingly alarming reports point to profound and irreversible changes to our planet caused by our behaviour, our individual and collective responses have often been characterised by uncertainty, denial, wishful thinking and fear. As such, clear philosophical thinking and inquiry are more necessary than ever. The purpose of the course then is to present and evaluate how we can think and debate philosophically about some of the world's most pressing issues. As well as rooting our readings and discussions in classic and contemporary philosophy, we will also reflect on the changing role and relevance of philosophy for society in the coming decades.

Each week we will explore a given issue, drawing on a range of selected philosophers and concepts past and present to explore its different facets, how it has arisen, and what might be done. In particular, we will assess automation and talk of a world without work; ageing, care and retirement; our obligations to refugees, immigrants and the Other; borders, nations and international cooperation; the changing roles and priorities of education and citizenship; food, energy and habitation amid climate change; social class and inequality; and the persistent need for community (and new forms of communities).

By the end of the course you will be able to:
- Explain what the Anthropocene is, and the challenges it presents to human life and society in the coming century
- Recognise and apply with confidence classic and contemporary philosophers like Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Spinoza, Whitehead, Russell, De Beauvoir, Arendt, Nussbaum (and others) to contemporary social and moral issues
- Use newly-discovered philosophical concepts and approaches to explain and elaborate your own ethical and political positions, as well as understand those of others.

What will it be like

The course will be an interactive mixture of tutor exposition, class discussion and group work. Videos and clips will be used to supplement some of these class-based activities. There are opportunities for further discussion and reading outside of the class via the course's Moodle website.

We will assess your expectations of the course in the first session. Thereafter, you will be able to monitor your progress on the course through participation in class discussion, questions and answers and in-class exercises. At the end of the course, you will be able to measure your progress against the stated outcomes for the course, and through your enhanced ability to think about and discuss some of the key issues facing humanity (social, ecological, political, moral) in the Anthropocene era.

What else do you need to buy or do

Reading materials for the course will be provided online via the Mary Ward Centre's Moodle website and as photocopies. Each class will have a small amount of set reading expected outside class, no more than 30 mins per week.

What this course could lead to

Other Intermediate or Advanced level Philosophy courses at the Mary Ward Centre or other similar establishments. The course also corresponds well with another running the following term, 'Martha Nussbaum: Feeling, Fragility, Flourishing', taught by the same tutor and at the same level, and taking place on the same day and time.

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I've been to many Centres to study in London and the Mary Ward Centre is one of the nicest I've studied in.

MWC student


This course has concessions available for people who meet certain criteria

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Why come to Mary Ward Centre?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference.   We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening or weekend to suit your timetable.

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’