Past Topics

Pluralism and Inter-religious Dialogue

Pluralism and Inter-religious Dialogue

Professor Keith Ward

Does the acceptance that ‘truth’ can be found in other religions necessarily relativise faith? To what extent should we tolerate the religious beliefs of others? Professor Ward outlines how inter-religious dialogue affects society and examines the philosophy behind the concept of Pluralism.

Ethical Frameworks and Applied Ethics

Ethical Frameworks and Applied Ethics

Julie Arliss

Where does moral value lie and who is a member of the moral community? Understanding key thematic questions gives students confidence and clarity tackling both meta-ethics and practical ethics questions. This session will give students a framework for thinking and show them the importance of the key assumptions made. What difference does it make if you assume that ethical statements can be factual and objective as opposed to non-factual and subjective? Julie Arliss will untangle the complex web and use the practical examples of abortion and euthanasia to show how to achieve the highest grades at A level.

Proof and the Ontological Argument

Proof and the Ontological Argument

Dr Tim Mawson

The Ontological Argument is a lesser-known ‘proof’ for the existence of God and, rather like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. This session will explain the different between an a priori argument and an a posteriori argument and discuss whether, even theoretically, it is possible to have an a priori existential argument. What, if anything, does the strongest form of Ontological argument have to contribute to the debate about the existence of God? From Anselm to Descartes to Malcolm and Plantinga – this ‘proof’ is a puzzle for the philosophically minded to tackle.

Self Image Psychology

The Nature of the Self - Body, Soul, and Personal Identity

Dr John Frye

How do ideas about ‘who I am’ relate to the big questions of life? This lecture will give students a map of how these ideas, and the language used to speak of them, has changed through history.

It will show how they have influenced, and been influenced by, changing philosophical ideas. What is it to be a person? Does life have meaning and purpose? Discussion will include an evaluation of modern positions including materialism, dual aspect monism and Process thought.

how to get an A

How to Get an ‘A’ Grade

Peter Baron

Students often have the knowledge required for an A grade but fail to present under the pressure of exams in a way that maximises marks. Peter will give practical help to enhance exam grades and use a range of examples to demonstrate the key tools needed for A grade performance.

The Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil – Panel Discussion

Professor Keith Ward, Dr Tim Mawson, and Julie Arliss will participate in a panel discussion outlining a variety of approaches to the Problem of Evil while fielding questions from students.


Ethical Frameworks. A Dialogue with Bentham and Kant

Professor Keith Ward

Both Kant and Bentham thought that there was just one supreme principle of morality, but they differed about what it was – the Categorical Imperative or the Greatest Happiness Principle. Is the Categorical Imperative a way of resolving moral problems? What are the key working assumptions, and how does Bentham’s Utilitarian framework differ from this? How far are these two ethical theories consistent with religious moral decision making and in what ways does subjectivity and relativism challenge both? The strengths and weaknesses of reason as a basis for morality will be considered.

Evil thoughts evil deeds

Sexual Ethics. Without God, is everything permitted?

Dr. John Frye

An exploration of the sexual ethics dialogue between religion and society. Does religion have a continuing role in sexual ethics or not? Are choices personal and private or should they be subject to societal norms and legislation? An examination will be made of the changing relationship between religious views and societal norms with an evaluation of causes of change in attitudes and beliefs about human relationships. Changing attitudes to the following will be examined, with close reference to relevant scholarly works such as Pope Paul VI Humanae Vitae, and JS Mill on Liberty: cheating (do telling lies, breaking promises and adultery matter?) faithful love, extramarital sex, free love, chastity, cohabitation, the commercialization of relationships, homosexuality and transgender issues.


Religious Language. Is it true that only ‘God speaks well of God?’

Julie Arliss

The difficulties of using language about the quantum world are understood and accepted, yet God is often talked about in language at a level suitable for a seven year old. There is in fact a rich discourse between theology and philosophy concerning the meaningfulness of religious language. This session will map the key ideas and introduce the important themes. The very different questions asked by philosophers such as Wittgenstein and Ayer, and theologians such as Aquinas and Karl Barth will be identified to give students a clear handle on this complicated topic. Cognitive and non-cognitive approaches will also be evaluated and students given tools for critical evaluation.

whats the meaning of life

The One Big Question – What is the meaning of life?

Dr. Timothy Mawson

‘One can only live while one is intoxicated with life; as soon as one is sober it is impossible not to see that it is all a mere fraud and a stupid fraud!… Differently expressed, the question is: “Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?”‘ Tolstoy

What is the meaning of life? Does life have any meaning? Is whatever meaning it can have something for us to discover or something for us to create? Would God make any difference to how meaningful life was if He existed? Would that difference be good – would God’s having a purpose for us, say, make our lives more meaningful? We’d be here to do something. Or would it be bad? Would His having a purpose for us reduce our scope for permissible self-creative autonomy, making us into mere artifacts, slaves to another. If death is permanent annihilation does that make our lives beforehand more meaningful, or less? All that Dr Mawson promises is that, after listening to him, you’ll be wondering all the more deeply whether or not your life really has any meaning.

What Can I Know


This house believes it is non-rational to believe in God – key questions about ‘proofs’ for the existence of God in a nutshell.​

Was Jiminy Cricket Right? Conscience.

Professor Keith Ward

Pinocchio was told, ‘Always let your conscience be your guide’ but what is conscience? This talk will outline different views, including Aquinas’s and Freud’s, and evaluate whether on balance it is more reasonable to think that conscience exists or that it is a figment of the imagination. Conscientia, ratio and synderesis explained. An accessible overview with a memorable map of ideas to connect up different areas of the specification.

Science and Religion

Professor McGrath, author of The Dawkins Delusion, will draw on a number of specific scientific discoveries (e.g. Big Bang, Darwin) and examine how far science challenges the need for God. Nobody is better placed to discuss the evolving story of the relationship between science and religion than Professor McGrath, who is named for study on most A level RS specifications. He will explain and make clear the relevance of the views found in his books Christian Theology , Wiley-Blackwell, and Theology the Basics , Blackwell. Dr. Andrew Pinsent will offer this lecture in Manchester and Wellington.

Does a snail has consciousness?

Does a Snail Have Consciousness? Animal Ethics – Julie Arliss

Julie Arliss

Julie Arliss will accelerate student engagement with a dynamic presentation of key concepts and ideas. What status do non-human animals have? What are the issues when people use animals as food; intensive farming; scientific procedures; cloning; blood sports and as a source of organs for transplants? How far are beliefs about animals reasonable – based on reason – and what, if anything do Christian views about stewardship/dominion contribute to the debate? The work of Professor Andrew Linzey, Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics will be evaluated.

Gender and Theology

Professor Daphne Hampson

Professor Daphne Hampson is a long standing and influential specialist in the field of gender and theology. In this talk she will inspire students to think for themselves about the following issues:

whether or not Christianity is essentially sexist
whether or not a male saviour can save women
whether or not only women can develop a genuine spirituality
whether or not the Christian God can be presented in female terms
whether Christianity can be changed or should be abandoned
Professor Hampson will present her own views which will be compared with Ruether and Daly.


The Big Debate

“This house believes that freewill is an illusion”

Professor Keith Ward and Julie Arliss will present different views about freewill including libertarian views, determinism and compatibilism. Does science show that we are not free? Are we genetically determined? What happens to moral responsibility, ‘justice’ and and the concept of punishment if we are not free? A lively debate with contributions from students warmly encouraged. A fantastic opportunity to learn about the key issues in the freewill debate and to share ideas.