The Royal Institute of Philosophy

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham is a local partner of The Royal Institute of Philosophy (TRIP) and will host and organise events to bring philosophical expertise and philosophical discussion to the wider public.

Events in 2024

Public Lecture by Dr Nadine Elzein - 10 January 2024

Wednesday 10 January 2024, 12:30-13:30, ERI G51

Nadine ElzeinIs Withholding Blame Dehumanising?

Nadine Elzein is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Warwick, where she has been since 2021. She obtained her PhD at University College London and has previously held positions at King’s College London, the University of Southampton, and the University of Oxford.

Nadine is interested in a range of philosophical topics, ranging across ethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. She has published papers addressing issues in free will, moral responsibility and moral psychology

Is withholding blame dehumanising? | The Royal Institute of Philosophy | University of Birmingham


Philosophers working on moral responsibility and punishment often defend a view which seems puzzling to those outside of philosophy: The view that we would not be treating someone as a person if we did not blame them for their wrongdoings and view them as deserving punishment for their crimes. Given that systems of punishment themselves often look quite dehumanising (UK prisons are rife with mental health problems and suicide), why would we think that withholding punishment might be worse? One worry is that a society that didn’t punish wrongdoers would instead have to treat them like animals or machines to be retrained or reprogrammed; We could manipulate them into better behaviour or “treat” their behaviour as if it were an illness, but we would fail to treat them as rational adults who make their own choices. I want to challenge this picture and to say something about how we might keep personhood but reject punishment.

Public Lecture by Professor Dominic Murphy - 5 February 2024

Monday 5 February 2024, 17:00-18:00, ERI G51

Can the Sea Eagle Make You Sick? On Mental Health and CulturePhoto of Dominic Murphy

Dominic Murphy is Professor at the University of Sydney, Australia. His main areas of interest are in the philosophy of the cognitive and biological sciences, especially issues in psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience. He has further interests in evolutionary theory, the history and philosophy of biology and medicine, moral psychology, epistemology and bioethics.

Can the sea eagle make you sick?


The Wellesley Islanders think that you can get sick by violating the food taboos of the totem animal of your clan. This is just one example of the many ways in which cultures make sense of physical and mental symptoms that we would think of as diseases or mental disorders.  In this talk I will survey some of the ways that culture seems to affect mental illness and ask whether it can be reconciled with the “medical model” that views neurodiversity as rooted in disorders of the brain. Many thinkers see mental illness as a cultural or social phenomena caused mostly by cultural forces, and argue that we should abandon the medical model as too reductive or anti-human. I will discuss the ways in which psychiatry has dealt with this challenge and argue that we can do justice to the importance and variety of cultural impacts on mental disorders without abandoning what is helpful in the medical model.

In the mind of a conspiracy theorist - screening 18 March 2024

In collaboration with Ema Sullivan-Bissett and Anna Ichino’s project on Conspiratorial Ideation and Pathological Belief (British Academy funded) and with project EPIC (Epistemic Injustice in Healthcare, Wellcome Trust funded), TRIP at Birmingham invites you to a special screening at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) on 18 March 2024, from 17:30 to 19:30, entitled “In the mind of a conspiracy theorist”.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion by experts in conspiracy theories, delusional beliefs, misinformation, disagreement, and fake news. The audience will have the opportunity to actively participate with questions and comments.

Panel members

Nikk Effingham

Nikk is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. He is interested in whether time travel is possible and in how we should argue with people who endorse conspiracy beliefs, with a special focus on the Flat Earth conspiracy.

Professor Nikk Effingham

Kathleen Murphy-Hollies 

Kathleen is a Research Fellow on project EPIC, at the University of Birmingham. She is interested in how people come to understand themselves and their behaviour, with a focus on the social dimension of these processes. She is currently working on how beliefs in conspiracy theories can validate people's self-conceptions. 

Photo of Kathleen Murphy-Hollies

Ema Sullivan-Bissett 

Ema is a Reader in Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. She works on issues in the philosophy of mind and psychology, in particular, belief, delusion, and implicit bias. She is leading on two research projects: Deluded by Experience, and Conspiratorial Ideation and Pathological Belief. 

Photo of Ema Sullivan-Bissett

Public Lecture by Professor Emily Thomas - 8 May 2024

Wednesday 8 May 2024, 13:00-14:00, Webinar

Emily ThomasThe Philosophy of Travel and Mary Wollstonecraft

Emily Thomas is Professor of Philosophy at Durham University. Prior to this she obtained a BA from the University of Birmingham, a PhD from the University of Cambridge, and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Groningen. She has published widely on the history of metaphysics, especially space and time.

She is the author of the scholarly monograph Absolute Time: Rifts in Early Modern British Metaphysics (2018, Oxford University Press) and the trade book The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad (Oxford University Press, 2020). Thomas' work has been funded by the NWO, the AHRC, and the British Academy. In 2020 she won a Leverhulme Prize for excellence in research. Over the years, Thomas has appeared on many radio shows, including BBC’s In Our Time, and ABC’s Nightlife; and contributed popular philosophy pieces to venues such as Aeon, The Conversation, and the New Statesman.

Listen to the audio (with transcript) of the webinar


Drawing on Emily Thomas’ book The Meaning of Travel, this talk explains what the philosophy of travel is. It goes on to explore philosophical issues in travel through the life and work Mary Wollstonecraft: an eighteenth-century philosopher and travel writer. Along the way we’ll look at Wollstonecraft’s travels around Scandinavia, the male history of travel, the history of feminism, and the nature of travel writing.


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