Salon, 17 July: The Pursuit of Truth

Isaac Newton The Pursuit of Truth, Thursday 17 July 2008

The pursuit of Truth has driven intellectual and political work throughout human history – with artists, scientists and political activists using their different methods to attempt to arrive at something ‘true’. Today there appears to be a contradictory attitude towards truth. On the one hand there is a new relativism, with academic establishments holding that there are many ‘stories’ but no truth; but there is also a new epistemological absolutism, with experts relaying what ‘the science says’ in areas from energy policy to family policy. How can we explain this apparent contradiction?

This salon will discuss what it means to pursue truth today. Is it possible to uphold a critical attitude in the spirit of the Enlightenment, without indulging the worst excesses of relativism? Can we make the most of the achievements of science without enshrining it as a new unquestionable authority? Is the search for truth merely about resigning ourselves to cold realities, or might it mean understanding the world in order to change it?

Manifesto Club members Frank Furedi and Tom Addiscott will introduce the evening's discussion.

Manifesto Club salons are for members only (see how to join the Manifesto Club).

Time: 6.45-9.30pm
Place: The Art Workers Guild, 6 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3AR
Cost: £10 (includes wine and nibbles)
To book a place at this salon, email

Supplementary readings: The search for Truth, an article by Frank Furedi; and Tom Addiscott's Thinkpiece, For the public good, set science free

18th century salon Manifesto Club salons are an opportunity for Manifesto Club members to come together over a glass of wine of wine, for serious, informal conversation about the state of the world, and the possibilities for a better one. We’re particularly interested in discussing open-ended subjects, which are likely to be a subject of fruitful dispute among club members. Upcoming salons include 'Competition: too much or too little?' on 8 May.

We would like the subjects of salons to emerge from the issues that club members are grappling with, as we work together to foster a twenty-first century enlightenment. We invite members to get in touch if you would like to propose a topic or a reading for a future salon.

These are small, intimate gatherings of up to 20 people, and places are allocated on a first-come basis. To book a place at a salon, or to propose your ideas for future topics, please email


WrestlersCompetition, too much or too little? - Thursday 8 May 2008

Read a review of this salon.

Some say the competitive ethic is in decline. Sports coaches lament the decline of the school sports day, and a growing number of people do sports for personal health reasons. Yet there also seems to be more competition, with league tables pitting schools and hospitals against one another, and bands and singers competing in front of judges. What is happening to competition – and how can we explain these shifts?

What is the value of sporting competition, and do we need more of it? Is winning at any cost something to celebrate? More broadly, are there cases where cooperation should be emphasised over competition? The evening will be kicked off with a head-to-head by two Manifesto Club members: Dan Travis will put the case for more competition; Dolan Cummings will take him on.

Supplementary readings: See this essay by Benjamin Barber calling for more social cooperation; and Dan Travis' Thinkpiece calling for more sporting competition.

Blank sign postDo we need a new morality? - Wednesday 6 February 2008

Morality is about more than rules for good behaviour. It is also a theory about the valuable parts of human life – which characteristics and emotions we should encourage in ourselves, and what are the ends towards which we should aim.

Is there a ‘crisis’ in morality now? There are new ethical ideas such as environmentalism; new figures of moral authority; and new arenas from chatshows to advice columns where moral dilemmas are discussed and resolved. How has our moral life been restructured, and what are the good and bad aspects of this change? Looking forward, do we need a new morality – and if so, what?

Supplementary readings: See this new essay by Stephen Pinker about man's moral makeup; and this critique of eco-ethics by Josie Appleton.