The London Lectures: Expanding Horizons

Philosophy in the Anglophone world is in a period of unprecedented change. If the twentieth century was one of increased specialisation and narrowing of concerns, the twenty-first looks like being one of expanding horizons. This year we have asked a diverse range of philosophers from different fields, countries and traditions to offer their suggestions for ways in which this expansion might most fruitfully be pursued. We will hear about philosophers who have been unjustly neglected, questions and problems that have escaped our attention, other traditions and disciplines we can learn from, novel or neglected methods and more.


Whether you’re new to philosophy or deeply steeped in it, these stimulating and accessible talks will provide you with fresh insights and ideas.


Online, Thursday evenings at 8pm (Except November 25)


Autumn 2021

October 28 

Leah Kalmanson (University of North Texas)

How to Change Your Mind: The Contemplative Practices of Philosophy


The methods of philosophy may be associated with practices such as rational dialogue, logical analysis, argumentation, and intellectual inquiry. However, many philosophical traditions in Asia, as well as in the ancient Greek world, consider an array of embodied contemplative practices as central to the work of philosophy and as philosophical methods in themselves. Together we will survey a few such practices, including those of the ancient Greeks as well as examples from Jain, Buddhist, and Confucian traditions. Revisiting the contemplative practices of philosophy can help us to rethink the boundaries of the discipline, the nature and scope of scholarly methods, and the role of philosophy in everyday life.



November 4

Joanna Burch-Brown (University of Bristol)

Philosophy of Green Finance: Can we diversify our way to carbon neutral?


What do you get when you cross a hippie eco-philosopher with the International Trade and Forfaiting Association Annual Conference, and add a generous dose of psychedelic Buddhism? 100 bankers balancing Yoyo Fruit Rolls on their heads, of course! In this talk, Dr Burch-Brown takes us on a deep dive into the philosophy of green finance and a step closer to addressing climate change, by way of a lively tale of philosophy going banking. Sean Edwards, Chairman of the International Trade and Forfaiting Association, will be offering a short response before we open up to the audience Q&A. Expect to be surprised.


November 11 

Helen de Cruz (Saint Louis University)

Philosophical Storytelling


Philosophers enjoy telling stories. Sometimes the stories are very short, but they can be long and detailed as well, for example in the form of utopian narratives by More, Cavendish and others. Why do philosophers invent such stories, and what do they want to accomplish with them? I will argue that existing accounts of thought experiments (notably by John Norton, Daniel Dennett, Tamar Gendler and others) cannot easily explain the range and variety of thought experiments. In my view, philosophical thought experiments are not merely prettily dressed up arguments. Neither are they only mental models or intuition pumps. Rather, thought experiments help us through a variety of tools that fictions employ to get rid of certain biases and preconceptions, and thus to look at a philosophical idea with a fresh perspective. This include evoking certain moods and emotions including wonder, surprise, skepticism, as well as imaginative sympathy. I will argue that these techniques make philosophical fiction useful both for the audience, as well as for the inventor of the story. As illustrative examples, I will discuss Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan (a long-form thought experiment) and Mengzi’s child at the well (a short-form thought experiment). 


November 25 

Noburu Notomi (University of Tokyo) Lunchtime talk 12:00

Japanese Philosophers on Plato’s Ideas


Plato has been one of the most important philosophers in the West and is now read all over the world. He has undergone a lot of research in academia, but I suspect that we modern readers have missed some essential factors in analyzing Plato’s texts and thoughts. In order to correctly understand his central theory of Ideas (transcendent forms) and reconsider the potential of Plato’s philosophy in the modern world, I would like to discuss four Japanese philosophers of the twentieth century: SAKABE Megumi, IZUTSU Toshihiko, INO-UE Tadashi, and TANAKA Michitaro. Through their reaction to Plato’s Ideas, I hope that our Japanese background can shed light on how to read Plato today.


December 2 

Nilanjan Das ( University College London)

The First Person in Buddhism


In classical South Asia, most philosophers thought that the self (if it exists at all) is what the first-person pronoun “I” stands for. It is something that persists through time, undergoes conscious thoughts and experiences, and exercises control over actions. The Buddhists accepted the “no-self” thesis: they denied that such a self is substantially real. This gave rise to a puzzle for these Buddhists. If there is nothing substantially real that “I” stands for, what are we talking about when we speak of ourselves? In this lecture, I present one Buddhist answer to this question, an answer that emerges from the work of the Abhidharma thinker, Vasubandhu (4th-5th century CE).


December 9 

Eileen John (University of Warwick)

Can Aesthetics Be Global? 


Philosophical aesthetics is to some extent beholden to what I will call personal aesthetics. By personal aesthetics, I mean the phenomena of individual aesthetic sensitivity: how each of us discerns and responds to elements of experience. I take that sensitivity to be finely woven into feeling to some degree at home in the world. What pleases me, what patterns do I pick up on, and what reassures me that I have my experiential bearings? There is something extremely local, and in a certain sense unreflective, about personal aesthetics – it is hard to notice one’s own historically and culturally specific aesthetic formation. Philosophical aesthetics, meanwhile, aspires to understand aesthetic life in a more reflective and general way. Aesthetic theories in the Western tradition, like most philosophical theories, do not set out to have only local application, as they try to articulate generally relevant and illuminating theoretical concepts and values. But if they in fact work best in accounting for the relatively local aesthetic formations of aesthetic theorists – say, in identifying what counts as beautiful or in taking ‘beauty’ to be a core aesthetic concept – what is the appropriate response? Can and should philosophical aesthetics have global significance? Can aesthetic theories find fruitful general application while also respecting the locality and variability of aesthetic sensitivity? What kinds of theoretical ambition and humility are called for in philosophical aesthetics? 


Winter 2022


January 27               

Owen Flanagan (Duke University)


February 3                

María del Rosario Acosta López (University of California, Riverside)

Grammars of Listening: or on the Difficulty of Rendering Trauma Audible


What would it mean to do justice to testimonies of traumatic experience? That is, how can experiences which do not fit the customary scripts of sense-making be heard? Whereas processes of official memorialization or legal redress often demand that victims and survivors convey their experiences through familiar modes of narration, in my project on “grammars of listening” I want to ask how it might be possible to hear these experiences on their own terms and what are the challenges that we encounter when trying to do so. What I ultimately want to argue is that doing justice to trauma requires a profound philosophical questioning of the conditions that allow us to listen to testimony, and a true reckoning of the responsibility that we bear as listeners.  


February 10               

Tamara Albertini (University of Hawai'i) 


February 17

Amy Olberding (University of Oklahoma)


February 24             

Chike Jeffers (Dalhousie University)


March 10                  

Lewis Gordon (University of Connecticut)


March 17

Roger Ames (University of Hawaiʻi)


March 24

Jonardon Ganeri (University of Toronto)


Past Lecture Series

Although lectures in London have been arranged since the Institute was founded, it was in 1967 that the first series was published. In the forward to first volume, The Human Agent, the editor, Godfrey Vesey, writes, "On Friday evenings in the winter months London members of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and their friends meet in a small hall in Bloomsbury -- 14 Gordon Square, London W.C. 1 -- to listen to, and discuss, lectures by foremost British, and visiting, philosophers .... In response to requests by members of the Institute living too far form London to attend the lectures (the Institute has a world-wide membership) arrangements have been made for ... them to be published in a yearly volume."


Here's is a list of all the published London Lectures Series.


2020 A Philosophers' Manifesto

2019 How Do We Know? The Social Dimension of Knowledge

2018 A Centenary Celebration: Anscombe, Foot, Midgley and Murdoch

2017 Passions and the Emotions

2016 Metaphysics

2015 Philosophy of Action

2014 History of Philosophy

2013 Mind, Self, and Persons

2012 Philosophical Traditions

2011 Philosophy and Sport

2010 The Arts

2009 The Environment

2008 Religion

2007 Conceptions of Philosophy

2006 Epistemology

2005 Philosophy of Science

2004 Philosophy, Biology and Life

2003 Agency and Action

2002 Modern Moral Philosophy

2001 Minds and Persons

2000 Logic, Thought and Language

1999 Philosophy at the New Millennium

1998 Philosophy, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful

1997 German Philosophy Since Kant

1996 Current Issues in Philosophy of Mind

1995 Verstehen and Humane Understanding

1994 Karl Popper: Philosophy and Problems

1993 Philosophy, Psychology and Psychiatry

1992 Ethics

1991 The Impulse to Philosophise

1990 The A. J. Ayer Memorial Lectures

1989 Wittgenstein Centenary Lectures

1988 The Philosophy in Christianity

1987 Recurrent Philosophical Themes

1986 Contemporary French Philosophy

1985 Philosophers Ancient and Modern

1984 American Philosophy

1983 Philosophy and Practice

1982 Objectivity and Cultural Divergence

1981 Philosophy and Literature

1980 Of Liberty

1979 Marx and Marxisms

1978 Idealism -- Past and Present

1977 Philosophers of the Enlightenment

1976 Human Values

1975 Communication and Understanding

1974 Impressions of Empiricism

1973 Nature and Conduct

1972 Understanding Wittgenstein

1971 Philosophy and the Arts 

1970 Reason and Reality

1969 The Proper Study

1968 Knowledge and Necessity

1967 Talk of God

1966 The Human Agent