The Newsletter of the Philosophical Discussion Group
Of British Mensa

Number 105 : February 2001
10th February 2001 : Theo Todman


  1. PDG Gathering 2001
  2. PDGList
  3. Philosophy for All - PFA
  4. Royal Institute of Philosophy
  5. PDG Web Page
  6. Editorial Policy
  7. Date of Next Issue (Commensal 106 & 107)

We start the new year by welcoming our new members :-

Karl Chan

Barbara Harrison

Trevor Emmott

Mr. S F Yarde

PDG Gathering 2001

As announced last time, this year's Gathering is being organised by Roger Farnworth and myself and will be on the subject of Consciousness. It. will be held at Braziers Park over the weekend of Friday May 4th - Sunday May 6th 2001, so please reserve these dates in your diaries.

Here's the revised draft programme of events. The programme is now substantially complete. Anyone who has only a very short presentation can deliver it at the "round table" session that Leslie Haddow is chairing; otherwise, this will be a useful opportunity to cover all the items that have been arising in people's minds throughout the weekend. If anyone wishes to speak during this session please let me or Roger (on 01208 821 544) know as soon as possible. If anyone has something more substantial they want to say, let me know even sooner, and we'll see whether we can squash the programme up a bit to make room - we can always open events a little earlier in the mornings.

We want to get the weekend off to a good start, but we've decided instead that Roger & I will open proceedings on the Friday night by debating the question - Is a Conscious Computer Possible ? Roger will focus on the Turing Test, while I will address John Searle's Chinese Room argument. We've not yet decided who's going to be for and who against the motion !


4th May 2001

17:00 – 18:30





Introduction "in the round"; review plans for the weekend


Introductory debate: Is a Conscious Computer Possible ?

Roger Farnworth vs Theo Todman; Chair : Jane Benn.


5th May 2001




Talk & Discussion: Can Neuroscience Explain Consciousness (Alan Edmonds)




Talk & Discussion: Consciousness and Complexity in the Coming Century (Peter Lagersted)








Talk & Discussion: Thought Experiments (Roger Farnworth)


Talk and Discussion: The Evolution of Consciousness (Frank Luger)




Philosophical Cafe (at Braziers) – bring a bottle !


6th May 2001




Talk and Discussion: The Phenomenological Approach to Mental Illness and its Implications for the Mind/Body Problem (Peter McCarthy)



11:30 – 12:45

Round Table Discussions : (Chair : Leslie Haddow)




Planning next year’s Conference






The programme makes provision for plenty of spare time for informal discussion at meals or in the lounge.


Roger Farnworth will arrive at 17:00 on the Friday and meet all guests as they arrive & show them to their rooms.


At Friday’s introductory session we will encourage flexibility throughout, and seek to have each session chaired by a different volunteer if that’s deemed to be a good idea (otherwise Roger & I will share the job).

PDG Conference Administrative Details

The conference is to be held at Braziers College, Ipsden, Wallingford, Oxon., OX10 6AN, over Friday – Sunday, 4th-6th May 2001.

Braziers College was founded in 1950 as the Braziers School of Integrated Social Research to study practical ways of living in a group. It now operates partly as a community and partly as an adult education college. It has a country-house atmosphere, and is situated in its own attractive grounds in the Chiltern countryside.

The all-inclusive fee, ie. including accommodation and meals, is £95, and early booking is advisable - the deposit is £20. For the fiscally challenged, or those who don’t wish to attend for the whole weekend, other options are available. Camping is a snip at £5 per night inclusive of breakfast (but you have to bring your own tent). Saturday attendance is £5 with meals extra. Meals are £7.50 each for mid-day & evening.

Apply for further details to the College at the above address (Tel/Fax: 01491 680221, or on email at Please book directly with the College – I will keep in touch with them periodically to see how things are going. Partners, whether Mensans or not, are welcome.


This is the internet discussion group of PDG and invited guests. The list continues to be very active, stimulated somewhat by the ISPE contingent from the USA. There are currently 47 members. If you don't want to be inundated with emails you can sign up as a "daily digest" member or a "web only member"; the latter option allows you to browse past emails on the web without them clogging up your inbox.

eGroups has been taken over by Yahoogroups, so in order to join you have to go to and follow whatever instructions come up in order to join Yahoogroups and then apply to join PDGList. I then need to accept your application. Once accepted, whenever anyone posts anything to the list, you will automatically receive an emailed copy of the posting (subject to the alternatives that you can set ie. "daily digests" or "Web only" rather than "individual emails"). To post something yourself, just email to and everyone on the list will receive a copy.

Why not give it a go ? If you get stuck, just email me ( and I'll subscribe you directly.

Incidentally, for those who've signed up for PDGList, MS Word 97 versions of all the back-issues of Commensal since I've been PDG Secretary are available in the "Files" area at the PDGList website (

Also, anyone, not just members of PDGList, can access PDF files of all past issues of Commensal from the PDG Web page (


NOTE : PFA has no relationship with PDG or British Mensa. See C100 (or for more details on PFA.

Kant's Cave : On every first Wednesday of the month, from 7pm (lecture at 7.30 pm) PHILOSOPHY FOR ALL meets at "Kant's Cave" for a lecture, debate and social evening. Kant's Cave meetings are now held at the cellar bar of The Penderel’s Oak, 283-288 High Holborn, London (3 minutes' walk from Holborn tube station). Door-charge: £1 (free for PFA members)


7th March 2001

Dr. Veronique Munoz-Darde (University College London) - topic to be confirmed.

4th April 2001

Dr. Jonardon Ganeri (University of Nottingham) - Indian Philosophy

May 2001

May will be Kant's Cave marathon month : together with the Forum for European Philosophy, PFA are organising weekly Wednesday meetings featuring talks on EXISTENTIALISM, involving prominent philosophers such as Dr. Azzedine Haddour (University College London), Dr. Christa Howells (Oxford), Prof. Jonathan Ree (Middlesex), Dr. David Snelling (Birkbeck) and Dr. Ursula Tidd (Manchester) - all this to be confirmed

6th June 2001

Roger Park (City University) - Husserl's Phenomenology and the Horizons of History

The PFA at the Mary Ward Centre : Philosophy Debates are to be held approx. monthly on Saturdays 14:00 - 17:00; Dates : 3 March, 19 May, 2 June, 9 June. There are also Public Lectures on some Saturdays 10:00 - 13:00; Dates : 7 April. The Mary Ward Centre is at 42 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AQ. There is no fee.


Annual Lecture Series, 2000-2001 : Logic, Thought and Language

NOTE : The RIP has no connection to PDG or Mensa, but I can very highly recommend these lectures.



23 February

S. G. Williams


2 March

Bob Hale

Logical Knowledge

9 March

Charles Travis

Rethinking Psychologism

All Lectures to be given at 14 Gordon Square, London WC1 on Fridays at 5.45 pm. Admission is free.

PDG Web Page

The PDG web page remains at :-

The site now contains most of the back-issues of Commensal produced since I became SIG-secretary. The advantage of the HTML versions is that they allow you to hop around between articles (useful for understanding the mixed-bag commentaries on previous issues). There are also PDF versions of all these issues available for you to download and read off-line.

Hopefully, we'll soon get the links set up from the Mensa Web page, which should help advertise the SIG … we seem to be awaiting someone to volunteer to do the rather tedious job of maintaining the Mensa Website.

Any article submitted for publication in Commensal will assumed to be accompanied by permission for placing on the web-site, unless you tell me otherwise.

Editorial Policy

Those of you who are observant will not that I have failed to follow the guidelines I set myself last time - to have articles restricted to four pages. This is mainly due to lack of alternatives; the many short articles have failed to materialise - though there are indeed some, and thanks to the contributors for these - and we still have no-one willing to write up the exciting PDGList debates.

Might I point out that this latter chore is a very worthwhile task for one of the participants in these debates. Not only does it give that person the opportunity to put his or her own slant on the outcome (hence, hopefully, generating further interest in Commensal) but also it's an opportunity to step back from the heat of the cut and thrust of email exchange, which is, after all, what we as philosophers need to do. So, how about it then ?

Getting back to the long articles, you'll note that I am myself one of the chief offenders this time round. My article is a re-hash of an essay written for my course at Birkbeck that I've included both for its relevance to the

Given my commitments at the moment, my preference is for contributions to be emailed or sent on floppy disk. Otherwise they should be neatly typed and printed using a good ribbon so that I can scan them in. I understand that the SIGs Admin Team at Mensa head office has been volunteered to do typing for those who cannot do it themselves, so don't be put off from contributing on this score.

Finally, I've found out that the Birkbeck "holidays" are just as busy as term time as far as philosophical study is concerned, so, with the occasional exception, comments on your contributions are out for the time being. All the more reason for the rest of you to write in !

Next Issue of Commensal

The next full edition of Commensal (C107) will appear in late April. The closing date will be 7th April 2001. The reminder date appears on the bottom of each page.

If I get my act together, you will receive an interim edition of Commensal (C106) in late March, which will be a brief issue just focusing on the up-coming Gathering.

Best wishes,


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