Pub Philosophy

Crisis of Modern Self and Society #4

6-9pm, Monday 25 June

Event is free, but bookings are essential.

Tickets available Monday June 11. Link will be provided here and on the Perth Philosophy Circle website.

Perth Philosophy Circle presents:
Pub Philosophy: Crisis of Modern Self and Society
A 7 part, monthly, public lecture series.

PART 4: “Deep Down, Aren’t We All Selfish?”
Contemporary liberal and neoliberal conceptions of the “self” rely on the assumption that individuals are naturally self-interested. These neo/liberal traditions explain the social world in “atomistic” terms by breaking it down into its smallest unit: the self-interested, self-sufficient behaviours and motivations of individuals. In this lecture, I contend that the “atomistic” individual is an impoverished understanding of what it means to be human. I argue that this social atomism reframes all ethical and political conduct as inevitably self-interested. Consequently, I claim that this “naturalisation” of self-interest leads to a valorisation of competition as a social good. To challenge the above, I consider the historical origins of this way of understanding the human through Thomas Hobbes, discuss the relationship between atomistic individualism and neoliberal capitalism, and gesture towards possibilities of thinking human existence differently.

Are we biological machines? Are we driven by self-interest only? Are we forever trapped in our own minds? Or, are there different ways to understand who we are?

People in Western societies are becoming increasingly lonely and isolated at the same time as technological innovation is supposedly connecting us more than ever. Both our work lives and social lives are characterised not by community and cooperation, but by individual success through competition. Whilst we can shout our opinions at strangers on the internet to accumulate more ‘likes’, public spaces for meaningful dialogue are continuously being dismantled. Today’s world may be marked by crisis, yet this does not necessarily mean a time of despair: the word ‘crisis’ originally meant ‘decision’. Through dialogue, we may better comprehend the present crises we face as well as be able to make better decisions about our future.

In this series of public lectures, the speakers will question the modern concepts of the ‘self’ and ‘society’ as well as show how these concepts underpin many contemporary social, cultural and political problems. These lectures will look to the past in order to better understand the present as well as see different ways to understand what it means to be human. Each lecture will last roughly 45 minutes and will be followed by questions and conversation.

We invite you to join us for a night of ideas, discussion and drinks as we ask what it means to be human in the modern world.
No knowledge of philosophy is required; everyone is welcome to attend.
Free to attend. All refreshments and food are available for purchase from The Moon Café.

For more info including lecture slides and suggested readings: https://perthphilosophycircle.com/