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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Forthcoming Research Seminars and Lectures

Dr Joe Saunders
Research Seminar Coordinator

(For past seminars and lectures see here)

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15th February 2018: Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture: Professor David Cockburn (Wales) - Fatalism; thoughts about tomorrow’s sea battle

(14 September 2017)

As part of the North-East centre of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, the Department hosts regular Institute lectures. 

This lecture will be held in the Birley Room, Hatfield College, Durham. Refreshments will be available from 5pm with the Lecture commencing at 5:30pm

Title: Fatalism; thoughts about tomorrow’s sea battle


In recent discussions, ‘fatalism’ has been understood as the thesis that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no one is able to act other than she in fact does. But there is another view, which may have more right to the label, and that merits discussion: the view that nothing that we do will make any difference to how things turn out. It is this view that is central to Aristotle’s discussion of tomorrow’s sea battle, and, while it may face decisive objections, there are things to be learned from it. I will argue that philosophical ‘fatalism’ in both its forms characteristically rests on a picture of our situation that has deep roots in contemporary philosophy: a picture in which thought aimed at determining how things are has primacy over deliberation about what I should do; and, following from this, one in which our idea of ourselves as agents in the world stands in need of a metaphysical grounding. These roots are expressed in the place that the notion of a ‘proposition’ (or of a ‘thought’) has in much current philosophical thinking. It is a striking fact that the great majority of recent responses to the standard fatalist reasoning move within this same basic framework of ideas.


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