Professor John Higgins, senior research scholar, University of Cape Town

Monday 23–Friday 27 January

3.00 pm


The economist William Maynard Keynes put it well: the common-sense of today is the legacy of the philosophical thinking of the past. We are all marked by the work, thoughts and insights of the great philosophers. And this usually comes through in the hard-earned prestige which makes a name recognisable, even if the work is unread. Who hasn’t heard of John Locke’s contribution to the theory and practice of liberalism? Who can deny having heard of Karl Marx and the theory of alienation or the system of capital? In this series of lectures we examine the different ways in which the lives of philosophers provided the grounds for some of their most powerful thinking. In each case we will make use of a short key text and/or extracts as the basis for discussion. We will show the ways in which these powerful thinkers engaged with the received ideas of their time.

Lecture titles

1. John Locke: knowledge, democracy and the association of ideas

2. David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau: sympathy, paranoia and political society

3. Karl Marx: press freedom and public knowledge

4. Ludwig Wittgenstein: thinking in society

5. Frantz Fanon: alienation and understanding