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Think at Oxford 2020 - CANCELLED

From Fri Mar 27 2020 to Sun Mar 29 2020
Add to Calendar03/27/2020 12:0003/29/2020 14:00Europe/LondonThink at Oxford 2020 - CANCELLED

Think at Oxford 2020

Balliol College, Oxford


Balliol College, Oxford OX1 3BJ
United Kingdom
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Think at Oxford 2020

Theme: 1980s Society & Science

Balliol College, Oxford, 27 - 29 March 


Thinking at Oxford …

For many centuries, generations of enquiring minds have quietly and steadily made their way to Oxford. Mensans – being quick of mind themselves – have picked up on this tradition, and established for themselves a similar pilgrimage. For several years now, a springtime gathering of Mensans has met to forge friendships through intelligent conversation ….. and even to forge intelligence through friendly conversation.


For the past few years we’ve been exploring the history of ideas, taking each decade of the twentieth century in turn, and reviewing its significant events, achievements and tragedies – and their resonance for our lives today. This approach allows for a great variety each year: we select topics from literature and the arts, the sciences and philosophy, politics, economics, sociology and psychology. To help frame this we remind ourselves of key influences from the past as we move towards the possibilities of the future.

The choice of topics within these categories is informed by members’ wishes. The general format is to have a guest speaker for the Saturday evening talk, with Mensans giving the other talks. The aim is to fulfil the participatory ideal of Mensans drawing on their own expertise, debating with each other on equal terms. The standard of questions has always been impressive, and we promote the practice of discussion amongst the audience – which always seems to extend to wide-ranging conversations over coffee breaks, meals, quadrangles and walks in Oxford.

So the tenor is participatory. Feedback is consistently that there is a friendliness and expectation of intelligent conversation, somewhat more so than at other organised Mensan gatherings.


The theme - 1980s Society & Science

Last year we started to look beyond the 1970s. We had well-informed insights into many things – the economics of Keynes; questioning whether notions of undecidability are a fundamental feature of our intellectual existence; exploring the evolution of evolutionary theory; and considering implications of the Chess Championship of the Century in 1972 – the Soviet Union vs the USA. And, of course, Richard’s presentation on “Nationalise or Privatise”, which has turned out to be so timely as, at the time of preparing this, nationalisation is again on the national agenda.

This year we will move onto the 1980s, a decade that saw Britain (and much of the world) change more dramatically when compared with the decades between which it was sandwiched. The 1970s is often considered a decade of striving and, certainly from a British point of view, one where the end of the decade did not seem much better than how it had started.

The same cannot be said for the 80s. We saw the rise of City culture, which contributed to it being known as the “decade of greed”. Those who remember it will be aware of the property bubbles, the 1984/5 miners’ strike, the mid-80s ‘Big Bang’ of deregulation in the City (by which we are referring to financial markets within the UK, although primarily focused on London). Fundamentally, it is remembered as a decade that embraced the rise of capital ventures and the fall of union power. A shift from industrialisation that could not compete in a modern globalising market of competitive labour and production to one of financial know-how and intellectual capital.

The aim and themes for this weekend are, at core, the nature of our beliefs and knowledge. What we are exploring in the history of ideas is that ‘ideas about ideas change’. What was viewed in history as important or essential at the time is not necessarily viewed in the same way today.

As always, we will pause for conversation and allow time to ponder how these events and ideas continue to impact upon us today. So, do join us for what looks to be a fascinating perspective on some of the major ideas and developments of the 1980s.


Meet the speakers


Roger Farnworth Discourse & Dinner guest speaker Professor Quassim Cassam on “Vices of the Mind” Read more
Animal liberation – Graham Kyle Read more
The high frontier – Amanda Uren Read more
HIV/AIDS and social attitudes – Josephine Estaphanos Read more
CHERNOBYL: the anatomy of a disaster – Pat Dean Read more
How Robert Johnson became the spice girls – Keith Jones Read more
Capital: ‘cultural v human’ (Bourdieu v Becker) – Denis Scott Read more

The Schedule

  Saturday 28th March
10:15 Tea/coffee
10:45 Welcome, formal introduction and plans for weekend
11:15 Animal liberation
12:15 The high frontier
13:15 Lunch (not included) and free time
  *** The afternoon is free for you to explore Oxford ***
16:00 Tea/coffee
16:30 HIV/AIDS and social attitudes
17:30 Break – bar opens—freshen up for dinner etc.
18:20 The Roger Farnworth discourse & dinner – to include guest speaker: Professor Quassim Cassam on “Vices of the Mind” 
19:30 Dinner in the Old Common Room (wine needs to be bought from The Buttery)
21:30 Philo café – to discuss topics of the day and more 
  Sunday, 29 March
08:00 Breakfast
09:30 Welcome – plans for the day and next year
10:00 Chernobyl
11:00 How Robert Johnson became the spice girls
12:00 Tea/coffee
12:30 Capital: ‘cultural v human’ (Bourdieu v Becker)
13:30 Closing – Feedback and plans for next year
14:00 Departure – optional lunch (not included) at The King’s Arms

Many options to attend - Choose and click on the button to book!

Please note:

College accommodation is based offsite approx. 10 mins walk from the main buildings

Children under 18 yrs must be accompanied by an adult at all times

1 Saturday night B&B only, dinner, standard room. Includes all Sat & Sun talks, tea/coffee/biscuits, Saturday evening dinner and Sunday breakfast. £160.00
2 Saturday night B&B only, dinner, en-suite room. Includes all Sat & Sun talks, tea/coffee/biscuits, Saturday evening dinner and Sunday breakfast. £175.00
3 To include Option 1, adding Friday night B&B (27 March) B&B standard room and Saturday breakfast. £220.00
4 To include Option 2, adding Friday night (27 March) B&B en-suite room and Saturday breakfast. £250.00
5 Saturday night B&B standard room. Includes all talks, tea/coffee/biscuits, but NOT Saturday dinner. £115.00
6 Saturday night B&B en-suite room. Includes all talks, tea/coffee/biscuits, but NOT Saturday dinner. £125.00
7 Includes all Saturday (including evening speaker) & Sunday talks, Saturday dinner, and tea/coffee/biscuits. No accommodation. £99.00
8 Saturday talks (+ evening speaker) only. Includes tea/coffee/biscuits. £35.00
9 Sunday talks only. Includes tea/coffee/biscuits. £25.00