The Wheeler Centre has a reputation for bringing world class speakers to Melbourne and I was fortunate to be in the audience of one such speaker, UK philosopher A.C Grayling. Grayling is best known for his books What Is Good?, The God Argument and The Age of Genius. During this event, his focus was the origins and future of humanism.
Not having a vast understanding of the humanism ideology, I was keen to learn more. There was a large crowd packed into St Kilda Town Hall with presumably the same goal. In just one hour, Grayling presented a succinct, yet informative and persuasive summary. Grayling has the persona and the appearance of a stereotypical academic professor; yet he brought humour into the discussion and many contemporary examples, which certainly made his arguments more relatable.
Grayling puts the case for humanism as a powerful, harmonious, practical alternative to organised religion. Humanism is guided by the collective good and is, by default, a way of living which inspires kindness and sympathy to fellow humans, whilst respecting the natural world upon which our lives are dependent. Whilst it is not a doctrine, humanists were advised to determine the life they want and take responsibility for realising this path. In essence, fellow humans should be treated as a human first and foremost, rather than any other secondary identity such as profession, nationality or race.
Grayling certainly provoked critical thinking amongst the audience as evident in the long line of people with questions to raise. The stand out thinking points for me were firstly the prominence of religious education in schools over secular viewpoints, and secondly the disproportionate representation of religious leaders in political processes and decision making. This is where practical ethics comes into play – what can be done to change this?
I commend the Wheeler Centre on once again stimulating intellectual debate and bringing philosophy to life for everyday people. There are plenty more opportunities to broaden your mind at upcoming events. Topics include literature, art, social responsibility, politics, ethics, copyright, urban planning, sports, Indigenous storytelling and public affairs so there really is something for everyone. Just make sure you book early as events quickly sell-out.
Celebrating 5 years living in Melbourne, Rachel is a fan of theatre, food, the outdoors and all things new and exciting.
The Wheeler Centre has a number of upcoming events. Take a look here.