THINK Student Conference

Newington College Thinker-in-Residence 2023

This day conference is for students studying Philosophy in Years 11 and 12.

It may also serve as an introduction to Philosophy for students in Year 10.

The conference will explore the ideas of philosophers, ancient and modern, with a focus on critical thinking and practical discussion.



The Private Mind

It’s tempting to think of ourselves as prisoners, locked inside our own minds, unable ever to experience anything or anyone else. Many artists have thought of themselves in that way. In particular, it’s tempting to think of the mind as a private garden of thoughts, feelings, and other sensations within which we are trapped and that no one else can ever enter. But is this picture of the mind correct? We explore Wittgenstein’s thinking on these private, ‘hidden’ minds.


Free Will and Determinism

Given that everything that happens physically is physically determined and predictable in advance given knowledge of the laws of nature and the earlier state of the universe, and given that we humans are ourselves physical, aren’t we nature’s puppets, unable to do, or think, anything other than what we do? Isn’t our belief that we are free to choose among various options an error? And how can we ever be morally responsible for what we do?



What are we doing when we say that something is morally wrong? Are we stating a fact, or expressing an emotion? Are we reporting on some mind-independent moral reality, or merely telling people how we feel? How is moral language used?


What is philosophy

…and what’s the point of doing it? It’s tempting to think of philosophy as an ‘armchair’ discipline – something you can do with your eyes closed and ear-plugs in, just by thinking, and without observing the world. But if that’s true, how can philosophy reveal anything about external reality – the world out there? Surely only observation can reveal how reality actually is? In which case, what’s the point of philosophy? What, exactly, do philosophers do, and is it, as some claim, ‘a waste of time’?

Dr Stephen Law

Dr Stephen Law is a philosopher, academic and all-round polymath. He has written a number of best-selling introductions to philosophy for both adults and children, including The Complete Philosophy Files and The Philosophy Gym. He is much in demand as a public speaker and has written for the Guardian, Independent on Sunday, Mail on Sunday, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Times, Newsweek, Aeon, and New Scientist magazine.

Stephen began his career as a postman before discovering philosophy and entering University as a mature student. He was a postgraduate and researcher at the University of Oxford, before becoming a lecturer at Heythrop College in the University of London. He is currently Director of Studies for Philosophy at Oxford University Department of Continuing Education.

Booking details

WHEN: Friday 15 September 2023

WHERE: Old Boys Lecture Theatre, Newington College

RSVP: To book places, please email

The Conference is free of charge.
Students are asked to bring a packed lunch and water bottle.
A light lunch will be provided for accompanying teachers.
Numbers are limited and bookings will be taken on a ‘first come, first served basis’.