Sunday, 26 May 2019

Artificial Intelligence and Theory of Mind in Affective Artefacts: Anthropological Issues in Legal and Ethical Philosophy

By Denis Larrivee and Luis Echarte

Affective, often autonomous, computational and robotic artifacts constitute a rapidly growing sector of artificial intelligence application [1]. Deployed for use in a diversity of socially interactive domains as companions, health assistants, and elder and child caretakers such systems are able to tap into the affective system of humans; accordingly, they have both the potential to support, but also to benefit from, interactions that are structured [2]. Such artifacts raise specific anthropological and ethical issues related to human flourishing, dignity, and autonomy and, by extension, to the social structures flowing from human attachments. Many such systems now avail neuroscientific knowledge that is specifically designed to appeal to underlying neural correlates that evoke interactive responsivity. Among neural correlates yet to be considered are processes that are capable of inferring human intentions, a human ability whose neural correlates are designated theory of mind. Theory of mind is a generalized class of neural structures - e.g., mirror neurons - domains, and operations that draw intentional inferences from the actions of others [3], capacities that have facilitated evolutionary and cultural progress in human social performance. Combined with affective abilities, the duplication of these capacities in autonomous machines that are purposed to enhancing social interaction with humans, has the pragmatic outcome of broader anthropological assimilation. Such assimilation represents a widening incursion of ontological equivalence that relativizes anthropological meta-reality through technology. Accordingly, the evolution of AI/robotic artefacts through a simulated appropriation of human social and computational capacities constitutes a multi-dimensional influence, affecting not only social, legal and ethical praxis but also how these influences are articulated through evolving conceptions of technology's relation to anthropology. This poster explores the role of the growing intersection of neuroscience and technology in affective/intentional AI/robotic artefacts as a source for articulating an evolving anthropology-technology relation through legal and ethical praxis.

1. Is Technology Meant to Execute or to Share our Goals?
The use of technology has always had a close association with the human being. Impressed with a telos that is externally imposed technology is necessarily bound to the human being by its capacity to extend human ability. Technology’s proximity to human beings, however, was the subject of Heidegger’s critique where humans were themselves made subject to the manipulation of the technology they had created [4]. Heidegger’s concern is echoed in the recently released document Ethically Aligned Design [1] on the prospects, but also the dangers, posed by artificial intelligence technology. Accordingly, the document extends the notion of progress to include not merely the enhancement of computational or related abilities but also to align with human moral values to allow an elevated level of trust to permeate their interaction.

To fully benefit from the potential of AI and Autonomous Systems, we need to… go beyond… more computational power… make sure they are aligned to human ethical principles… to elevate trust between Humans and technology….’

Hence, trust is a crucial ethical variable and flows only from alignment with human value and well being. However, the development of ‘trust’ in technology that will benefit human flourishing is likely to be challenged by autonomous systems designed to elicit affective interaction.

2. Social capacities: A Dual Outcome Challenge
The remarkable social capabilities of humans have evolved to enhance group and cultural advance, features that require extended intervals for neural development [5]. Increased knowledge of social neuroscience has propelled advances in psychiatric care [6] , but has also yielded an abundance of knowledge on neural features that could be appropriated for social interaction through responsive AI device systems. Such devices, in fact, either have been implemented or are in advanced stages of development [2]. Their development raises at least two ethical metaconcerns. First, as Heidegger pointed out, they risk a misrepresentation of ontology, which is to say they introduce risk through the perception of being human, and the influence on ethical and juridical structure. Second, they risk ‘trust’, a risk flowing from the absence of value paradigms oriented to human well being. For example, in the absence of such moral framing, such systems are open to autonomous and intentionally deceptive actions, a circumstance likely to be exacerbated as knowledge of social neuroscience grows (Table 1).

3. The Challenge of Theory of Mind.
Affective computational and robotic technologies capable of sensing modeling, or exhibiting affective behavior by means of emotions, moods, personality are especially likely to elicit trust on the part of human partners. Such capacities can be combined with abilities for inferring human intentions, like that now studied in social neuroscience termed Theory of Mind [3]. These capacities are instantiated by a unique group of cells, e.g. mirror neurons, circuits, eg., fronto parietal, and subdomains, e.g. temporo-parietal junction, that are instrumental in their ability to facilitate group and social interaction. Their likely consideration or even appropriation in responsive AI systems design can be expected to further erode distinctions with human abilities and exacerbate the sort of dual challenge risks already introduced by intentionally affective devices.

4. Embedding AI Artefacts in Social Structure: Themes.

The embedding of AI artefacts in social order is intentional and pervasive, engaging a confluence of social and engineering disciplines. Though marked by multiple motivations, a consensus posits that humanoid simulation – appearing in multiple guises (Table 2) - will enable more rapid and adaptive appropriation. Campa, for example, identifies two key concepts that inform design efforts directed to the mimicking human features, scenario, narratives to achieve goals, and persona, concrete actors in the narratives [7]. Campa’s identification of simulated properties, however, does not exhaust the themes employed for assimilation. Beyond simulation, efforts aimed at broadening AI repertoires seek to achieve cognitive and computational properties that more closely resemble those of humans to facilitate conceptual exchange with artefacts in real world, joint tasking [8].

5. Ethical Meta-Principles for Enlightened AI Implementation: Relating Ontology to Praxis
Heidegger’s critique of technology specifically addressed the lack of transparency concerned with technology’s impact on the human being [4,9]. Current attempts to frame the ethical issue (Ethically Aligned Design Document) situate the lack of transparency in the context of manipulative self interest and conflicts of interest. While serious issues, Heidegger’s reading also concerns the subtle issue wherein the order of being fails to conciliate with the reality of the technology [4]. This ontological reconfiguration elicits a human affective investment not coincident with the nature of the artefact.

6. Current Efforts to Expand Value Paradigms in RoboEthics.
The sophistication and complexity of AI/Robotic devices, and their potential for acquiring more advanced functionalities, led to the early recognition not only of the benefit of extending human capability, but also of inflicting harm. Accordingly, initial ethical statements were framed in terms of meta principles that clearly asserted human control and safety, e.g, the frequently cited Asimov Laws (Table 3). Social assimilation and joint tasking roles, however, have been the stimulus for consensus based approaches that capitalize on stakeholder contribution [10]. Rather than presuppose a human normative standard, value is defined in terms of utility and a median position among competing interests. Improved autonomous capabilities, moreover, have stimulated value derivation paradigms premised on functionalist notions of property parity rather than ontological distinction. For example, notions of whether robot labor constitutes servitude emerge from value models that equate cognitive performance with ontological parity [11].

7. Human Rights? Or New Legal Philosophies.
The development of devices with capabilities for human interaction at the scale of affectivity and intention suggests that fundamentally new relations between technology and humans will be structured, with new susceptibilities to ontological misrepresentation and affective exploitation. Which legal philosophies best analogize these new circumstances and how can they best be used to enhance human flourishing? What interactions ought to be governed by statutory provision? In recognition of their enhanced autonomous capability The European Union’s RoboLaw Project identified the notion of accountability gaps emerging in liability definitions [12] (Table 4). For affective artefacts liability concerns mark a special sphere of interactive scenarios relating to disclosure, as well as emotive association and the notion of harm type. However, as an extension of ethical value, legal philosophy and praxis can also be expected to adjust to shifting value paradigms, accommodating a redistribution of value investment. Consensus ethics and the ontological functionalizing of anthropology have been taken up in new metaphorical notions that have shaped legal praxis [13]. Moreover, human rights can be expected to undergo similar redistribution, invested in artefacts in manners That parallel egalitarian actor network philosophies that have emerged from eco-ethics models [14].

[1] Ethically Aligned Design (2016) A Vision for Prioritizing Human Wellbeing with Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems. IEEE Global Initiative
[2] Sabonovic S (2014) Inventing Japan’s robotics culture: the repeated assembly of science, technology, and culture in social robotics. Social Studies Science 44(3):342-367.
[3] RizzolattiG (2010) Mirror neurons: from discovery to autism. Exp Brain Res 200(3):223-237.
[4] Onishi B (2010) Information, bodies, and Heidegger: tracing visions of the posthuman. Sophia 50:101-112.
[5] Decety J, Cowell JM (2014) Friends or foes: is empathy necessary for moral behavior. Perspectives Psychol 9(5):525-537.
[6] Cacioppo JT, Cacioppo S, Dulawa S, Palmer AA (2014) Social neuroscience and its potential contribution to psychiatry World Psych 13:131-139.
[7] Campa R (2016) The rise of social robots: a review of the recent literature. J Evolution Tech 26(1):106-113.
[8] Lin et al (2011) Robot ethics: Mapping the issues for a mechanized world. Artificial Intel 175:942-949.
[9] Rae G (2014) Being and technology: Heidegger on the overcoming of metaphysics. J British Soc Phenom 43(3):305-325.
[10] Rae G (2014) Heidegger’s influence on posthumanism: the destruction of metaphysics, technology, and the overcoming of anthropocentrism. His Human Sci 27(1):51-69.
[11] Stahl BC, Coekelbergh (2016) Ethics of healthcare robotics: towards responsible research and innovation. Robotics Auto Sys 86:152-161.
[12] Petersen S (2007) The ethics of robot servitude. J Exper Theor Artificial Intel 19(1):43-54.
[13] The RoboLaw Project. Regulating emerging robotic technologies in Europe: robotics facing law and ethics. (2014).
[14] Calo R (2016) Robots as legal metaphors. Harvard J Law Tech 30(1):209-237.
[15] Chandler D (2013) The world of attachment: the post-humanist challenge to freedom and necessity Millennium J Inter Studies 41(3):516-534.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

New Publication with IntechOpen: A Book Chapter!

‘Doing and Being: A Metaphysic of Persons from an Ontology of Action’
Simon Smith

Abstract: A significant and worrying lacuna lies at the heart of neuroethics: viz., a coherent conception of personal identity. Philosophically, the consequences are serious; morally, they are disastrous. The entire discourse is constrained by a narrow empiricism, oblivious to its own metaphysical and epistemological presuppositions; worse still, it remains hostage to a latent Cartesianism, which logically and ontologically isolates neuroethicists from their subjects. Little wonder neuroethics lacks an anchor for its normative judgements. This chapter aims to supply that anchor. The key lies in action: action as essentially personal; acts owned; acts intended; and acts that embody those intentions that embody meaning. Such acts are the primary manifestation of ‘personhood’; they are also socially oriented, therefore morally interesting. Action locates persons in a world of objects and, most importantly, others. Crucially, relocating neuroethics within this context of personal activity supplies the logical and ontological foundations for both its judgements and its participants.
DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.82837

Download the whole chapter HERE!
Go on, you know you want to!

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Philosophical Confusions Part V: Finally and for the love of God, Some sort of Point

by Simon Smith

Once again, just as we were approaching some point or other, we were forced to ditch the discussion and dive for cover. All to avoid the stampede of intellectualists and thrill-seekers desperate to purchase an affordable paperback copy of Beyond Realism: Seeking the Divine Other – still available from Amazon and Vernon Press, where it is also now an e-book.
Of course, the same, more or less, could be said of Looking at the Sun: New Writings in Modern Personalism: it’s available from Vernon Press and Amazon both as a paperback and e-book. Now, isn’t that interesting?

However, if everybody is quite ready, perhaps we can get on. Indeed, get on we shall, for finally and at the very longest of long lasts, we come back to the point where this all began. Or possibly what it was leading up to, I forget which. In either case, all ahead for a Derridean thought.
It goes something like this: I think we can extrapolate Derrida’s claims about how messages work to help us understand something important about human action in general (if there is any such thing). I think we can do so for the simple reason that language-use is a human activity, perhaps even the most typically human of human activities. And, of course, it’s actually quite difficult to see how all this might work if it only applied to writing and no other form of activity. I’m not even sure what that would mean; it would make writing some kind of alien modality.
Assuming we can legitimately extrapolate, the central point will remain the same: no particular action entails any particular actors or interagents. An action, if it is to be an action, must logically be able to do without the doer and the done to.
To make sense of any phenomenon as being a human action, it must fit within the framework of what ordinarily counts as human action. That’s to say, for said phenomenon to be a recognisable action, it will have to: a) be physically manifest in some way; and b) a reasonable fit within the bounds of ordinary social convention, at least to some degree. I say, ‘to some degree’ because an action may well be original in many ways, but it will still be comprised of recognisable movements. An action that was utterly and entirely original in every way, that looked nothing at all like any other human action – how would we even know it was an action? It could be anything: a toe made of asparagus, the taste of a hippopotamus, or someone snorting an archangel.[1]  
All of which, believe it or not, is just another way of saying that our actions cannot be utterly or absolutely unique if they are to be cognisable and recognisable as actions at all. In short, actions have to be the sorts of things that people do, which gives us a tolerably wide range of options, I should say.
Before moving on to what I am sure we all hope to God is the conclusion, I imagine one or two of you will just be mustard-keen to have a poke at that first requirement: action should be physically manifest in some way. What, you may be wondering, about mental actions? No? What about pure thought, ideas, conceptions? Seriously, no one is wondering that? I don’t believe you.
Well, in the first place, I’m not sure there is any such thing as ‘pure thought’, or rather, I’m not sure what that expression is supposed to mean. More pertinently, however, I’m with Farrer on this one: 

Surely, the burden of proof lies on the man who says that there is ever thought without so much as the ghost of motion; and it will be hard for him to prove the negative part of his case. ‘Not even the ghost….’ How could he be sure of that?[2]

The positive presupposition lies on the side of physicality since that supplies our earliest and every subsequent experience of action. Without the ability to express ourselves physically, it is highly doubtful that we would be able to even identify ourselves as selves in the first place, let alone have the first clue as to what action is.
Speaking of positive presuppositions takes us back to where we began, with the presence or priority, ontological, of course (whatever that means) of agents who act and interact. Actions – particularly those we experience directly – presuppose agents; minimally, two: one ‘behind’ and one ‘in front’, which is to say, one who acts and one who is acted upon. In the same way, relations presuppose relata. But presupposes is as strong as the inference gets. It does not, cannot, designate or determine any necessary connection or entailment relation; it doesn’t point indefatigably, unquestionably, irrefragably, or absolutely to you, me, or anybody else. All and as much as it can do (to labour a point) is require an agent in order that we may make sense of whatever it is as an action.
Pressing the point, we even might be tempted to say that actions alone are real – in the sense that we have frequent, unmediated, and very empirical experience of them. Actions make an impact, an experiencable difference to our lives. Agents, on the other hand, are conceptual constructs, projections, frequently quite abstract and never – that is, logically and empirically never – known apart from what they do to make themselves known. In short, no one ever has or ever will meet an agent without some kind of activity being involved.
All of which leads, I think, to the inescapable conclusion that, notwithstanding the fever-dreams and nightsweats of realist philosophers, action and relation cannot logically, empirically, or metaphysically support the weight of ontological priority (whatever that means). The self-in-itself or self-apart or radical subject or private part of a person or whatever else you call it, is a notion which cannot be sustained by any active inference, claim to real relation, or concrete connection.
It seems, therefore, that those who remain wedded to this so-called ‘substance-self’ must either find some coherent way of substantiating the knowledge-claim or accept that they are, in the end, just making stuff up. Saying ‘I just know it’s true’ or ‘I feel it deep down’ or ‘In my version of philosophy, I don’t need to come up with an argument’ will no longer do.  
Finding a way to make sense of their ideas would be interesting to see, not least because real knowledge is a corollary of action. For those who like the comedy of embarrassment, it might also be fun, but that’s not really my thing. Accepting that they’re just making stuff up would, I think, be preferable, since it would mean philosophy in general, and metaphysics in particular (you know what I mean), could finally move on. We could leave behind someone of the most unutterably dull and pointless conversations ever had and, just possibly, do something useful for the first time in two thousand years.
In sum, then, the point is—

Wait, what’s that? Is that some kind of alien modality? No! No! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
My God! That nighted, penguin-fringed abyss!

[1] If you really want to know, see Farrer A. ‘Metaphysics and Analogy’ in Reflective Faith, 88.
[2] Farrer A. The Freedom of the Will (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960) 38.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Book Review: Forthcoming Book! Get ‘em while they’re hot!

by Simon Smith

This is far and away the most important contribution to personalist philosophy in at least the last 10 years. More, this book effects any and every attempt to speak about persons and the world in which they live. Prust and Geller’s ‘Character Logic’ lifts the heavy burden of Aristotelian categories from the shoulders of Western philosophy once and for all. Follow their thinking out and we will certainly discover the means to reconcile the many dichotomies which continue to plague us: subject/object, mind/body, self/other, etc. ‘Character Logic’ transforms all such abstractions into concrete modes of activity: the ways and means by which persons come to be. Further, by subtly navigating the practical proceedings of our moral judgements, this ‘Character Logic’ offers every kind of ethicist a route back to the real world of human intercourse. Put bluntly, this illuminating work could and should change the way philosophy is done across the board. Since it is only the beginning of a new philosophical conversation, it is to be profoundly hoped that this is not the last word on the subject. It is, nevertheless, quite clearly the first sensible word that has been spoken on the subject in some considerable time.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Philosophical Confusions Part IV: The Never-Ending Story of D

by Simon Smith

When we last abandoned this discussion which was, as the more eagle-eyed readers will undoubtedly have noticed, supposed to be about Derrida, we were considering the uniqueness of outbursts and utterances. This was all in aid of considering some reasons why Derrida might want to deny a tight ontological connection between any particular message and any particular author/reader combo. Then we bumped into J. L. Austin, lost our basic epistemological principle – a tough break for a growing lad – and got caught up in a shoot-out with an unknown, and doubtless shadowy, figure.

That’s right, this is one philosopher who knows how to handle a gat in a tight corner.

Leaving such appalling violence aside, however, we come back to language use – and, just possibly, Derrida. An utterly unique message, one that was ontologically conjoined to me as its author and you as its recipient, would be like a phenomenon that occurred only one: it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else. It would stand outside all our linguistic networks, i.e. the rules and implicational relations, which makes language a language. That, I suspect, would amount to a private language, which, in turn, seems to contradict the very idea of language as a mode of communication.
Another aside: as it happens, I’m not at all convinced by the claim that language is, at root, a mode of communication in any case. The fundamental purpose of language is not to convey information but to disclose, better still, to enact or actualise. In language, that is, both self and world become.
Back to the point: applying the loosely Polanyian thought outlined above, it’s not at all clear how a unique message, one that stood outside our linguistic networks by virtue of its tight ontological connections, might impact on our thoughts or actions. Being unique, it wouldn’t do the things that messages ordinarily do, such as asking for things, giving orders, reminding us of arrangements, notifying us of changes and so on, because all these activities and meanings occur within the context of language as it is shared.
Once again and just to be clear, Derrida cannot and should not be held responsible for any of this. This extraordinary attempt at an interpretation is all mine.
Nevertheless, the point seems to be that messages have to be able to do without both the sender and the recipient, ontologically speaking. Now, I don’t think this means we can simply strip out all the authorial intent and the author-reader transaction, both of which are essential to any cogent conception of action. Derrida, of course, might well have disagreed here. What seems particularly clear, however, is that he absolutely was destabilising the classical rationalists’ necessary correlation between author and message; which, to reiterate a well-worn point, is to say that no particular message entails any particular author.
Allow me to illustrate: just over my left shoulder is a bookshelf on which are a number of books, many of which are by the Oxford philosopher and theologian Austin Marsden Farrer. Now, I believe that Farrer was a real person, just like you or me; and I believe that he really did write the books on which his name appears. I also believe that I have good reasons for believing that – which I won’t go into here – but I am aware that I could, just possibly, be wrong. Unlikely as that may seem – me? Wrong? Preposterous – it is possible that someone else wrote the books or, more pertinently, that no such person corresponding to my idea of Farrer ever did or ever will exist.
Thinking about it, there are lots of even better examples: Shakespeare, Socrates, the Gospel writers, the writer of the song, ‘All I Wanna do is Look at Readers Wives,’ the Author of Beyond Realism: Seeking the Divine Other (Vernon Press, 2016; available from all good bookstores now!), Elon Musk.
Incidentally, I know Elon Musk isn’t a writer, but he is definitely made-up. Like the Pope.
We have ideas and beliefs about who some of those people were but it’s entirely possible, in some instances perhaps even quite likely, that no such individual ever existed. It’s possible that there may not even have been an individual at all. Homer, we are told, may well have been lots of people rather than just the one. We have, apparently ‘known for quite some time that Homer is not one man but a collection of nameless bards.’[1] So says the Harvard classicist, Vincent T. Ciaramella; and why should we doubt him? We might, if we were particularly bold, go a step further and suggest that, however unlikely it may be, it is just possible that no people were involved at all. Granted, that is unlikely; indeed, I’m not entirely sure that I can even make sense of it, insofar as I cannot conceive of a way in which the Iliad or the Odyssey could have been written without at least some people being in on the act. Nevertheless, one in possession of a philosophic temperament must always be ready to concede:

From my inability to conceive an event or state of affairs, it does not follow that said event or state of affairs could not have come to pass.

When it comes to readers, of course, the idea that texts or messages cannot be ontologically harnessed to particular people is, perhaps, even more obvious. A message or a book or what have you would still be a message or a book, even if no one ever read it. If no one else anywhere ever reads that most remarkable work of the 21st Century, Beyond Realism: Seeking the Divine Other (Vernon Press, 2016; still available from all good bookstores – buy your copies today!), it would still be a book what I wrote. Even if the Gospels or Plato’s dialogues had never been found and read by anyone at all, they would still be linguistic artefacts.
All of which, in sum, effectively rules out any necessary connection between a text and either its author or its readers.
So, as I hope is now becoming clear, the point is—

Wait, where’s everyone going? What’s that? You’re all rushing over to Amazon so you can buy a copy of that legendary cult classic, Beyond Realism, which is considerably more affordable now it’s out in paperback, you say? What’s that? Copies for yourselves and all your loved ones? Yes, of course that’s an amazingly thoughtful gift which any good mother would love to get on her birthday, for Christmas, or Mother’s Day! But I haven’t finished. I haven’t FINISHED!

[1] Ciaramella, Vincent T. ‘The Persistent Myth of the Existence of Homer in Mainstream History’. Harvard University, 2015.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Conference Report: A Thought-Provoking Symposium Amongst the Last of the Daffodils

by David Jewson
Alone Together
International Pandisciplinary Symposium on Solitude in Community

We must communicate with one another;
we must, it would seem, be alone together.
John Macmurray

York St John has a beautiful campus with a particularly attractive quad, part of the original teacher training college. With its ethos of curiosity, generosity and intellectual rigour, where people are put first, it is perhaps is the perfect place to contemplate solitude. This excellent symposium took place from the 10th to the 12th April as a joint venture arranged by Prof. Julian Stern of York St John University and Dr Malgorzata Walejko of the University of Szczecin in Poland with far-ranging contributions from Poland, Romania, USA, Canada, Belgium, Sweden, Australia, and of course the UK.
   Julian Stern has a longstanding interest in the study of solitude, sparked in part by a discussion with schoolchildren, one of whom said he felt most connected with his fellow students when he was alone.
Lasting for one evening and two days, the symposium started with some Canadian research on how children and adolescents acquire the skill of working out what others must be thinking, perhaps the most important social skill. Interestingly the most skilled were also the most solitary. Next was the philosophy of the uncommunicable, of things that we can experience in solitude but can never be fully conveyed to others:

From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death – all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed (Aldous Huxley in 1950).

This progressed to a discussion of the uncommunicable in education. There are uncommunicable things inside a child which, if left unfettered by conformity, can lead to great creativity and originality. The session overflowed with ideas with one powerful educational idea that I particularly remember being to create silent spaces when teaching, giving pupils the chance to consider things in solitude.
For most of the symposium there were sessions running in parallel, with about thirty sessions in all to choose from. There was a huge variety, with some of the more unusual that I attended including: how texture could be used as a metaphor for Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy on things that exist beyond what is said; how solitude as part of mindfulness can further the wellbeing of individuals and communities; how Brexit is an example of the need of a nation for solitude; how storytelling creates listeners all aware of each others presence but wandering separately; the solitude of Ovid; the vicious cycle of loneliness in dementia aggravating the disease which then increases the loneliness; and the solitude of artists painting rather beautiful shop signs in Africa. There were also a number of talks on loneliness, isolation and rejection, all far too much to discuss here.
One of my favourite quotes from the symposium was this:

in D.D. Rosca (1895-1980), another Romanian Philosopher, the spirit and the nature, the good and the evil, repel each other eternally, catching man in between, showered by uncertainty, solitude, mystery, metaphysical disquietude, which man has the chance, ability, and, we may say, privilege to transform into creativity and creations, rejecting resignation.

Our Polish visitors were an absolute pleasure to hear, they were also most generous, providing snacks and wine before the symposium dinner (which, unfortunately, I was unable to attend) as well as other gifts including a fine book about the architecture of the beautiful University of Szczecin with a copy available for anyone who wanted it.
As ever, it was also good to meet old friends and have the chance to make some interesting new ones, while not forgetting friends who would very much have liked to come but were unable to make it.
Some of the papers at the symposium are planned to be published in the open access journal Paedagogia Christiana in 2020:
A Polish journal, it is available on the internet with an option on the home page to choose English. Bloomsbury is also interested in publishing a handbook of solitude, silence and loneliness which may have contributions based on ideas presented at the symposium.
The daffodils were out around the medieval walls of York and there was a rather pleasing exhibition of Turner and Ruskin at the art gallery to make a good trip even more unforgettable, and as memories of an excellent symposium fade there is the promise of a second event in Szczecin in Poland between the 16th and 18th April 2020 – a date for your diaries!