Registration Open: In Defence of War?

5 05 2014




How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life

26 02 2014


On Friday 28 February 2014, the McDonald Centre will host a conference on How Much is Enough? In addition to the authors themselves, speakers will include Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, John Lloyd of the Financial Times, and Martin Kettle of the Guardian.

The conference will take place at Christ Church in the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre, and will run from 0900 to 1600. Admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis.

NEW Seminar Programme

In 1930 John Maynard Keynes predicted that, over the next century, income would rise steadily, people’s basic needs would be met, and no one would have to work more than fifteen hours a week. Why was he so wrong?

In How Much is Enough? The Love of Money and the Case for the Good Life (Penguin, 2012 and 2013), Robert and Edward Skidelsky argue that wealth is not—or should not be—an end in itself, but rather a means to the good life. Observing how far modern life has strayed from that ideal, and rejecting the claim that there is any single measure of human well-being—whether GDP or ‘happiness’—they analyse the good life into seven elements, argue that a healthy liberal society should promote them, and propose a set of policies to realise them.

Oh, What a Lovely War?

20 01 2014

Oh, What a Lovely War?Lecture Series, Hilary Term 2014

Jeremy Paxman, Great Britain’s Great War

Margaret MacMillan, Accident or Choice? The Outbreak of the First World War

Gary Sheffield, Victorious Donkeys? British Generals and Generalship of
the First World War Reconsidered

Nigel Biggar, 1914–1918: Was Britain Right to Fight?

Matthew Grimley, The War and English Religion

Holger Afflerbach, “If you do not want to see God’s hand in everything,
even in the most unbearable, you are lost.” Experiencing the First World War
Alongside Kaiser Wilhelm II

Upcoming McDonald Lectures

13 08 2013

This year’s McDonald Lectures will be delivered by Christopher Insole of the University of Durham.

Each lecture begins at 5.00pm in the University of Oxford Examination Schools.

Meditations from Purgatory: Kant, Freedom & Happiness

  • Oct 29: ‘I am from Eternity to Eternity’: God in Kant’s Early Thought
  • Oct 30: ‘Whence then am I?’: God in Kant’s Later Thought
  • Nov 5: Kant’s ‘Only Unsolvable Metaphysical Difficulty’: Created Freedom
  • Nov 6: Creating Freedom: Kant’s Theological Solution
  • Nov 12: The Dancer and the Dance: Divine Action, Human Freedom
  • Nov 13: Becoming Divine: Autonomy and the Beatific Vision


Does Morality Need Religion?

17 03 2013

Registration is now open closed for the conference, Does Morality Need Religion?

  • 16-17 May 2013 at the University of Oxford
  • View or print the poster to help us spread the word
  • Email us with a question


For centuries, atheism was suppressed because of its supposed amorality. Now, New Atheists such as A.C. Grayling and Sam Harris argue that decent, liberal morality is perfectly possible without religious belief—indeed, that it is only possible without it. Others, such as Jürgen Habermas, acknowledge that Christianity has had a peculiar capacity to articulate humanist values and norms, but that these can be extracted without loss from their theological roots. This May, the McDonald Centre, together with the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology at the University of Exeter, gather ten philosophers and theologians—both believers and unbelievers—from the UK, the USA, and New Zealand to address questions such as these:

  • Even if morality in general does not need religion, might specific moralities nonetheless need it?
  • Might morality be better off without religion? Is it better off without any religion or only certain kinds?
  • When notions of human dignity or rights are extracted from theological language, is anything important lost in translation? Are such notions really sustainable apart from a theological worldview?
  • Are religious believers more, or less, moral than others? Or are such questions philosophically irrelevant?

Speakers include: David Baggett (Liberty), Julian Baggini (The Philosophers’ Magazine), Nigel Biggar (Oxford), John Cottingham (Reading), John Hare (Yale), Terence Irwin (Oxford), Michael Hauskeller (Exeter), Tim Mulgan (Auckland), Keith Ward (Oxford), Mark Wynn (Leeds).

What’s the Good of the Union?

11 03 2013

flagIn recent years the rise of the Scottish National Party has called into question the 300 year-old Union of England and Scotland. Nationalists argue that the Scots would be better off with an independent state, and that the Anglo-Scottish Union has had its day. This might be true: after all, nation-states wax and wane, and none is the Kingdom of God—neither the USSR, nor the USA or UK.

In order to test the truth of the SNP’s claim, the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life held a colloquium at Christ Church on 26 February, in which interested parties from north and south, Left and Right, gathered to consider answers to the question, “What’s the Good of the Union?” Participants included the theologians Nigel Biggar and Iain Torrance, the historians Alvin Jackson and Chris Whatley, the journalists Martin Kettle and John Lloyd, and others. View the complete programme and list of speakers.

The Ethics of Remote Warfare

5 02 2013


The Fourth Chatham House-McDonald Centre Colloquium on Issues in International Affairs was held on 1 February 2013.

There is growing interest in the potential of cyber capabilities, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and ‘autonomous’ weapons to revolutionise the way we wage war. As parts of a military arsenal these capabilities can be deployed to deter, to make pre-emptive strikes, and to reduce the need for large armed forces. However, these remarkable developments in military technology raise novel and difficult ethical questions, for which traditional just war thinking lacks ready answers:

  • When does cyber-aggression constitute ‘war’? What kinds of retaliation are proportionate?
  • Does the mere presence of a terrorist change a peaceful territory into a war-zone and justify the aggressive use of UAVs across the borders of a sovereign state?
  • When may we use UAVs to carry out assassinations?
  • Is remote warfare ‘unchivalrous’?
  • Are military personnel safely removed from the battlefield more likely to take disproportionate risks?
  • What does it do to the moral characters of military personnel to conduct warfare in a manner virtually indistinguishable from playing a video-game?
  • How ‘autonomous’ are programmed weapons? Can they


    Who is responsible for their operation?

Under the Chatham House Rule, the identities of those present may not be revealed, but participants included scholars of international relations, politics, philosophy, and theology, as well as leaders in the intelligence community.


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