Drugs, sex and stoicism—the second weekend of the world's biggest philosophy and music festival had it allby Serena Kutchinsky / June 4, 2014 / Leave a comment
Prospect returned to a slightly sunnier Hay-on-Wye for a second weekend of brain-bending ideas and toe-tapping beats at HowTheLightGetsIn. After a leisurely start, the philosophical pace picked up at a lunch chaired by our Managing Editor Jonathan Derbyshire. The broad theme was to question what we know about the world, but the topics for debate ranged far and wide from the nature of knowledge and evidence to the possibility that we might be brains in a vat and the purpose of philosophy itself. “I was fielding so many interesting questions I barely had time to eat,” said a still hungry but intellectually-sated Derbyshire.
Then it was time to tuck into meatier fare with a discussion entitled “Theories, Mysteries and Mistakes” which featured the festival founder and post post-modernist, Hilary Lawson, the philosopher of mind Jennifer Hornsby and Carlo Ravello, the founder of Loop Quantum Gravity (a theory that attempts to describe the quantum properties of gravity, no less). Shaping the debate was the idea that despite the assumption that mankind is gradually unravelling the mysteries of the world, the reality that scientific and critical theories describe is often contradictory. Should we then conclude that the world is essentially unintelligible? The panel’s opinions differed wildly, as expected, and while anyone without a philosophy degree may have struggled to decode the essence of their exchanges—the session was not without its playful moments. At one point Lawson, branded a “realist” by Ravello, sprawled Mick Jagger-esque across a table in order to highlight his point that it was indeed a table, or at least what society would recognise as such. The underlying argument, and one which provided a backdrop to the many of the festival’s finest sessions, was the question of whether science today is too much like a religion?
After agonising over whether to see Rowan Pelling revealing the secrets of the “Orgamastron” in a look at the use of la petite mort as pain relief, or hear the former Chief Drug Advisor David Nutt make the case for an evidence-based approach to drug policy, we opted for the latter and were not disappointed. Nutt held court in the Bedouin-style International tent, explaining how he came to be sacked in 2009 from his post of chairman of the Advisory Committee on…