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Café Philosophique presents ‘Roadside Picnic’

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Blackwell's Bookshop Edinburgh

53 - 62 South Bridge

Edinburgh

EH1 1YS

United Kingdom

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What can literature tell us about the nature of knowledge, reality and existence? In this series of events, organised by the 'Knowledge Beyond Natural Science' project, we will look at the philosophy to be discovered within classic and contemporary works of fiction.

For our first Café, we chose Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's 'Roadside Picnic'. This book is set in the aftermath of an alien visit to Earth but, unlike most ‘first contact’ sci-fi novels, it does not tell the story of a developing relationship between us and the aliens, either friendly or hostile. No such relationship is possible, because the aliens, their actions, and their technologies are almost completely inexplicable from the standpoint of human beings. As one scientist in the book puts it, the alien visit appears to humans the way that a human roadside picnic would appear to forest animals: a great inexplicable mess of noise and sound with no clear object, employing strange artefacts with no clear use. The only conclusion that humans are able to draw from the fact of the alien visit is that there exist beings of an entirely different order of intelligence to themselves, who (if they can be bothered) can look down on us and our limited understanding of the world in the way that human scientists might look down on the limited understanding of the world possessed by mice or rats. 'Roadside Picnic' tells the stories of several very different people living out their lives in the shadow of this conclusion. We’ll ask whether we could be in a situation where our understanding of the world is radically limited in this way? And if so, what implications would that have for how we should live our lives? Come along to join in the conversation!

This event will be presented by Dr Joshua Thorpe (Universidade Estadual de Campinas).

For more information on the project, please visit http://kbns.stirlingphilosophy.org

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Blackwell's Bookshop Edinburgh

53 - 62 South Bridge

Edinburgh

EH1 1YS

United Kingdom

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