A.C. Grayling / Julian Baggini / Kate Soper

6.00-8pm | Thursday 26 June 2008
Old Theatre, Old building, LSE

A.C. Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbek College, University of London, and Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford
Julian Baggini, Philosopher and writer, editor of The Philosopher’s Magazine
Kate Soper, Professor of Philosophy at the Institute for the Study of European Transformations, London Metropolitan University

Melvyn Bragg, broadcaster, writer and novelist

The idea that philosophy might have a special role in the public life of a culture, that it might even be tied or allied in its own discipline to the virtue of public space, to the res publica, to public-ness, typically goes without saying in continental Europe. The philosopher should always be more than a mere reader and spectator of human thinking and doing, and should contribute to its public formation: the philosopher should be engagé.

In Britain, by contrast, even if there is some appetite to be informed about philosophy, there are, it seems, few calls for our culture and our public space to be informed by it. Moreover, when philosophers do ‘take to the streets’ themselves they are often derided as mere ‘popularisers’ by their peers. In short, the engagé philosopher in Britain is neither embraced by society nor applauded by the professional discipline.

In this special event we reflected on this ‘European exception’, and asked whether society or the philosophical profession in Britain would, in our time, benefit from efforts to make a distinctively philosophical contribution to thinking in public.