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What can we learn from…? Cambridge, 29 November 2023

Tuesday 29 November 2022 @ 7:15 pm - 9:15 pm

 ‘What can we learn from…?’ events take as a starting point important thinkers and cultural figures from the past. They offer an opportunity to understand the emergence of key ideals related to freedom and to explore and debate if and how they remain important in the present.

This event is supported by Free Speech Champions

Each salon starts with short, accessible talks from thought-provoking experts and critics who will offer insights into key thinkers in history. Talks are followed by plenty of time for discussion, with the chance to ask questions and put forward points. Together we will interrogate why these thinkers and the ideas they promoted can offer valuable insights that help us understand freedom then and now.

Tuesday 29 November, 7.15pm-9.15pm


Short, accessible talks from experts and critics will offer insights into Hannah Arendt and CLR James.

1: Hannah Arendt and Totalitarianism – Jacob Reynolds, convenor, Hannah Arendt Study Group
Whether prompted by concerns over draconian lockdowns, new authoritarian political leaders, policing of speech or outlawing demonstrations, there’s been a revival of interest in Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. From views on the destruction of individuality to the desire for safety, Arendt was never shy of challenging orthodoxies and addressing profound moral questions. What can Arendt tell us about the problems with freedom today?

3: CLR James and Universalism – Ralph Leonard, writer
As a Marxist revolutionary and Pan-Africanist, critic of European colonialism and respecter of Western civilisation, classicist and lover of popular culture, CLR James specialised in confounding expectations. Today, when praise for ‘Western culture’ is often dismissed as ‘Eurocentrism’ and identity silos trump a sense of our shared humanity, is a universalist outlook and an emphasis on what we have in common worth defending? What can we learn from a man once labelled ’the black Plato’?


Gonville and Caius College
Trinity St, Cambridge CB2 1TA
See Google Maps for location.
Lectures: Long Room
Seminars: Long Room, Senior Parlour Room


convenor, The Academy; external affairs manager, boi charity
Jacob is partnerships manager at the Academy of Ideas. He read the BPhil in philosophy at St Cross College, Oxford, developing an interest in political and continental philosophy, especially the work of Hannah Arendt. Before that, Jacob read politics and philosophy at the University of Sheffield and co-ran the Sheffield Salon, modelled on the salons of Enlightenment Europe. He spends his spare time drinking coffee, writing and arguing about philosophy.

writer; author, Letter on Liberty:  Unshackling Intimacy contributor, Areo Magazine
Ralph is a British-Nigerian writer and commentator on international politics, culture and sex. He is the author of the Letters on Liberty pamphlet Unshackling Intimacy, writes for UnHerd, Areo and the Telegraph, and is a regular guest on the Zer0 Books podcast. He also writes on religion, human rights and international affairs. As an ardent secularist and leftist, Ralph believes it is crucial to uphold the legacy of the Enlightenment, and the project for the universal emancipation of humanity.


Tuesday 29 November 2022
7:15 pm - 9:15 pm
Event Category:


Gonville and Caius College
Trinity Street
Cambridge, CB2 1TA United Kingdom
+ Google Map