Tetley Talks 2018: Freedom and the Individual

Leeds Salon hosts its sixth series of talks in partnership with The Tetley.

Freedom and the Individual looks at three key and controversial 19th & 20th century existentialist philosphers.

The talks take place over three Saturday afternoons in the City Workshop, on the second floor of The Tetley arts centre, Hunslet Road, Leeds.

Doors open 2:45pm (for a 3pm start) to 4:45pm. As usual, we'll be heading to The Tetley bar straight after each talk to drink and chat more informally.

Admission: £5 waged/£4 unwaged (cash only) to pay on the day, but please reserve your place by e-mailing us at contact@leedssalon.org.uk

 


Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche for our Times

Saturday 3rd November

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most influential, controversial, and misunderstood modern philosophers. He was a staunch atheist who feared the “death of God” would create a moral vacuum. He was a freethinker and “devotee of truth” who is sometimes considered the godfather of post-modern, nihilist relativism. He variously railed against almost every aspect of modern civilization, while celebrating its energy and individualism. And his writings, almost wholly neglected during his lifetime, have had a lasting legacy inspiring, amongst others, anarchists, socialists, conservatives and fascists.

Many books have sought to introduce Nietzsche’s writings, but Patrick West’s Get Over Yourself puts matters the other way round. Rather than simply explaining his thought, it instead asks: what would Nietzsche make of us? What would he think of our 21st-century, digital age? In our time of identity politics, therapy culture, 'safe spaces', religious fundamentalism, virtue-signalling, Twitterstorms, public emoting, ‘dumbing-down’, digital addiction and the politics of envy, the book introduces Nietzsche by putting the man in our shoes. Get Over Yourself both uses Nietzsche’s philosophy to understand our society, and takes our society to explain his philosophy.

Patrick West will introduce his book followed by audience questions and discussion

Speaker: Patrick West is a freelance writer who has written for The Times, New Statesman, Spectator, The Irish Post, Catholic Herald, and Spiked, amongst others, and is author of Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche for Our Times (Societas, 2017), see more...

Readings: Nietzsche and the struggle against nihilism, Patrick West, Spiked, 3 August 2018;  If Nietzsche were alive today..., Fraser Myers, Spiked, 29 September, 2017; Nietzsche for our times, Patrick West, Spiked, 4 August 2017.


Condemned to be Free: Sarte's Existentialism

Saturday 17th November

Jean-Paul Sartre was a novelist, playwright, political activist, and one of the key figures in existentialist philosophy. Existentialism is best known as a philosophy of freedom that confronts people with the possibility of choice, agency and responsibility.

For Sartre, freedom was the foundation and purpose of life. He saw freedom as limitless and rejected any determined human action, not because anything was possible, but rather that there is no limit to our obligation to choose who we are through our actions. As such, Sartre made us entirely responsible for who we are and what we make of our lives.  Essentially, he argued, “we are left alone, without excuse” and, as such we are “condemned to be free”; as, for Sartre, not choosing is as much a choice as choosing. And to refuse to take responsibility for our choices was an act of “bad faith”.

But is it true there are no unfree acts? Can we really transcend the facts of our existence to take full control over who we are and what we do? If we are “condemned to be free” what choice is that? And is there anything to take from is Sartre’s existential freedom today?

Speaker: Tim Black is the editor of the spiked review. His writing has also appeared in the EU Observer, the Australian, the Independent, La Republica. He holds a PhD in English from the University of Sussex, see more...

Readings: What is existential freedom?, Dolan Cummings, Areo, 31 July 2018; Jean-Paul Sartre and the demands of freedom, Gary Cox, The TLS, 24 October 2017; Existentialism is a Humanism, Jean-Paul Sartre, 1946. 


Herioic Individualism: Ayn Rand's Objectivism

Saturday 1st December

Ayn Rand was a Russian-American writer and philosopher, best known for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing her philosophical system of Objectivism. For Rand, the essence of Objectivism is “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”.

Rand was a radical individualist, who extolled laissez-faire capitalism and “rational selfishness”, and fiercely opposed any form of statism or collectivism. As such, she has long been popular among parts of conservative and libertarian circles, inspiring many political, public and business figures, including Uber’s co-founder Peter Kalanick, US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, as well as prominent UK Conservatives, such as Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

However, Rand has also been widely criticised, and even reviled. Her novels have been described as “vulgar and unbelievable” and “pseudo-philosophy”. Gore Vidal considered her viewpoint “nearly perfect in its immorality”. Academia ignores her. And the Left loves to hate her. Yet, today, her influence seems stronger than ever – even the children’s animated superhero movie, The Incredibles, has been criticised for promoting Randian philosophy.

So, who was Ayn Rand and why does she remain so influential and controversial?

Speaker: Nikos Sotirakopoulos is a lecturer in sociology at York St John University, at the School of Psychological and Social Sciences, and since 2017 has been an academic adviser for the Ayn Rand Centre, see more...

Readings: The new age of Ayn Rand, Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, 10 April 2017; Ayn Rand's Revenge, Adam Kirsch, The New York Times, 29 October 2009; Ayn Rand and the invincible cult of selfishness on the American right, Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, 14 September 2009.


Event Partners

The Tetley

The Tetley is a centre for contemporary art and learning, located in the former headquarters of the world-famous Tetley Brewery on Hunslet Road. Visit their website at: www.thetetley.org/


 


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