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Hull and East Riding Humanist Group

A social group for humanists, atheists, secularists, sceptics and agnostics

Has Market Capitalism Delivered?

Posted by Tim on 24/07/2018
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Date:    Monday 16th July 2018, 7.30pm
Venue: the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG

May 2018 saw the bicentennial of the birth of the influential thinker Karl Marx whose books, including “Das Kapital”, have influenced the intellectual, economic and political history of the world since they were written in the mid-nineteenth century. Marx’s criticisms of what he called “capitalism” have seen renewed interest in western countries since the beginning of the financial crisis ten years ago. The leading Humanist Steven Pinker’s new book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress” includes a defence of modern market capitalism as an important component in achieving Humanist objectives in the twenty-first century. Our June meeting was a discussion led by group chair John Hawkins on the relevance of Marx to contemporary Humanist discourse and asking the question “Has Market Capitalism Delivered?”

John said of his talk:
“I will give an outline of Karl Marx’s life and work, showing that whatever the failures of Capitalism of his time, he and Engels made their living by means of it, and go on to maintain that the Russian and Chinese Revolutions which to which their ideas contributed, caused more misery and mass starvation that could directly attributed to capitalism up to 1960. I will go on to argue that Paul Mason’s recent book ‘POSTCAPITALISM’ is a heroic failure because its impressive scholarship is not matched by sufficient analysis of the global, social and economic realities of our time and the world’s ‘political infrastructure’. However, we are greatly in Mason’s debt for an account of some of the major problems that face contemporary statesmen and women.”

The June 2018 meeting was cancelled because of the England World Cup matched being played at the same time.

AGM and Soap Box Meeting

Posted by Tim on 31/05/2018
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Date:     Monday 21st May 2018, 7.30pm
Venue:  the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG

Our May 2018 meeting began with a brief AGM to elect the executive committee for the next year and was followed by our usual soap box discussion where attendees raised issues relating to Humanism.

Date:        Monday 16th April 2018, 7.30pm
Venue:    the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG

Our speaker for our April meeting was HERHG committee member Dr Lisa Whitehouse who made the case for the abolition of the monarchy:

“In light of the ‘Paradise Papers’ and the upcoming Royal wedding questions are being raised (yet again) about the role of the monarchy. While acknowledging the well rehearsed arguments both in favour of and against the abolition of the monarchy, this talk will focus on assessing the legitimacy and value of the British monarchy. Regardless of whether it reaffirms your view on the monarchy or causes you to reassess it, the hope is that this timely and topical presentation will, at the very least, provoke a lively discussion.” 


Date:        Monday 19th March 2018, 7.30pm
Venue:    the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG

Our speaker for our March 2018 meeting was  Dr Phil Bielby of the University of Hull School of Law and Politics. Phil had provided the following overview of his talk:

In this talk, I will consider how a secular, humanistic understanding of ‘compassion as thriving’ can inform our understanding of mental health and human rights to improve public mental health policy and law. My focus is specifically on public mental health measures to promote good mental health and to intervene early in ‘common mental health problems’, like anxiety and depression. This is topical, as it meshes with recent public mental health policy discussion in UK and Europe on mental health promotion and mental ill health prevention initiatives.

I will begin by outlining an understanding of compassion as thriving which expands the domain of compassion from a more narrowly defined idea of suffering alleviation to a broader conception of suffering prevention and personal growth. This draws on insights from Martha Nussbaum, Paul Gilbert, Conor Gearty and Paul Bloom (whose recent book was the subject of Tim Stephenson’s talk to the Group last year) as well as from humanistic psychology. This understanding highlights compassion’s proactive and anticipatory quality that seeks positive transformation in the sufferer’s position. I will argue it offers the conceptual basis for a compassionate vision for public mental health which is concerned with helping people avoid reaching severe mental distress rather than being triggered by them.

I then consider the difference that a compassion as thriving approach makes to understanding the concepts of mental health and human rights. I will explain how compassion can support a ‘psychosocial’ (or ‘biopsychosocial’) approach toward mental health which emphasises the primacy of social and psychological influences on good mental health as well as mental health problems. I also claim that compassion is compatible with an understanding of human rights that goes beyond enforcing “minimal standards” (as James Nickel puts it) to one which embraces the value of psychological well-being in order that human beings are helped not only to maintain psychological well-being but also to thrive.

Lastly, I consider the prospects for an understanding of compassion as thriving in shaping and strengthening mental health promotion and early intervention strategies. To this end, I will discuss some current policy initiatives both in England and the European Union to assess to what extent they converge with a compassion as thriving approach and briefly consider two related ways in which a compassion as thriving approach might be applied in public mental health service provision.  The first is expanding the use of compassion-orientated psychotherapy.  The second is the use of such therapies to promote self-compassion. In doing so, I will consider the tension between the humanistic goals of personal growth and instrumental economic outcomes that commonly lie behind the justification of public health initiatives as well as the critical resources that compassion as thriving has to counter this.