Sheffield Cathedral in partnership with the University of Sheffield

God and the Good: Thinking Religion and Ethics

A series of talks at Sheffield Cathedral from October 2016 to July 2017.

This is a series of interdisciplinary talks, intended for a general audience. The series will consider the relation between religious thinking and traditions on the one hand, and ethics on the other. While most ethical traditions have a religious background, the increasing secularization of modern society has put this connection in question. These talks will consider how far ethical issues can be illuminated by coming at them through a religious context, and vice versa, as well as the history of the interconnection. All are welcome, and there is no need to register attendance.

  • 11th October 2016 Angie Hobbs (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield): ‘Becoming Like God: Plato on Ethical Ascent’
  • 8th November 2016 Peter Bradley (Dean of Sheffield): ‘The Logic of the Golden Rule’
  • 7th February 2017 Hugh Pyper (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield): ‘The Debt of Life’
  • 14th March 2017 Ryan Byerly (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield): ‘Putting Others Above Yourself: Does it Make Sense?’
  • 9th May 2017 Michael Braddick (Department of History, University of Sheffield): ‘Religious Conscience and Political Reform in the English Revolution (1640-1660)’
  • 13th June 2017 Keith Burnett (Vice Chancellor, University of Sheffield): ‘Religion and Higher Education’
  • 11th July 2017 Robert Stern (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield): ‘Is Hope Hopeless?’

The Cathedral Coffee Shop opens from 6.30pm, serving tea, coffee, wine and light refreshments. Talks and discussion 7.30pm-9.00pm

Venue: Sheffield Cathedral, Church Street, S1 1HA

Abstracts

11th October 2016 - Angie Hobbs (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield): ‘Becoming Like God: Plato on Ethical Ascent’

This talk explored the tradition in Plato and the Stoics that a) God is rational; b) the cosmos is rationally ordered according to the laws of mathematics and physics and c) that each human contains a microcosmic spark of divine reason and that it is our divine duty to try to develop this reason as far as possible through the philosophic good life and thereby assimilate ourselves to God as far as a human can. Angie contrasted this particular tradition in Greek thinking with alternative Greek traditions, which either view the gods as capricious and whimsical (Homer) or believe that, whether rational or irrational, the divine should be worshipped from afar and that it is hubristic of humans to try to assimilate themselves to it. She touched on some of the histories of these traditions and looked at their implications for current debates in science and elsewhere.

8th November 2016 - Peter Bradley (Dean of Sheffield Cathedral): ‘The Logic of the Golden Rule’

The so-called Golden Rule is a central principle of ethics: ‘do as you would be done by’. This talk will ask the question whether the principle offers a way for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and others a place to develop a shared understanding of morality.

7th February 2017 - Hugh Pyper (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield): ‘The Debt of Life’

The increasing longevity of populations, especially in developed countries, raises the question of what obligations the old and the young have to each other. The fear of ‘becoming a burden’ is set beside social policies whereby financial support for the young is cut in favour of preserving the pension benefits to the elderly. Are all lives of equal value or are the cases where either the young or the old are accorded different value? In this talk, this pressing current issues is explored from the point of view of what the biblical tradition has to say about the relationship between the old and the young and the what it means to owe someone a life.

14th March 2017 - Ryan Byerly (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield): ‘Putting Others Above Yourself: Does it Make Sense?’

The Christian tradition is often thought to encourage a certain kind of centeredness on others as opposed to centeredness on oneself. For example, St. Paul tells the Philippians that each of them should regard each other as more important than himself. But, does this kind of others-centeredness make sense? I offer a way of understanding it according to which it is not only coherent, but has a special value. On the proposal I develop, to be others-centered is to have a tendency to promote the goods of others, rather than one’s own goods, when these goods are either equal in value or cannot be compared to one another. Those who possess others-centeredness of this kind are more likely than those who do not to promote the greatest overall value, because in addition to promoting the goods of others, they distinctively promote goods or relationship.

9th May 2017 - Michael Braddick (Department of History, University of Sheffield): ‘Religious Conscience and Political Reform in the English Revolution (1640-1660)’

The lecture will focus in particular on the political life of John Lilburne (1615-1657), concentrating on how his religious conscience led him to propose radical secular reform, including that the House of Commons should be the sovereign power and made fully representative of the will of the people through universal manhood suffrage and the equal distribution of parliamentary representation. These were remarkable ideas for seventeenth-century Europe and, for example, anticipated by two hundred years some of the central demands of the Chartists. Lilburne was far from unusual in feeling an intense and religiously-inspired desire for political change, but was very unusual in deriving wholly secular political demands from his religious conscience. His example offers a way to understand how seventeenth-century Christians viewed the relationship between religious conscience and their civic obligations, but also on how understandings of that relationship have changed over time.

13th June 2017 - Keith Burnett (Vice Chancellor, University of Sheffield): ‘Religion and Higher Education’

What is the role of religion in Higher Education? Does it have any role at all? I will discuss a personal view of how our religious traditions still matter to our scholarship in teaching and research.

11th July 2017 - Robert Stern (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield): ‘Is Hope Hopeless?’

Hope is traditionally identified as one of the key ‘theological virtues’, alongside faith and love or charity, which are distinguished from the ‘cardinal virtues’. Many philosophers have also made hope central to their work, including Kant and the American pragmatists Charles S. Peirce and William James. But hope can also appear problematic, as a kind of wishful thinking or irrational optimism. So the question arises of when it is rational to hope, and what are the criteria for legitimate hoping? And if the object of hope is not God, as the secularist holds, does it nonetheless still make sense to distinguish it from the cardinal virtues?