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Ideas, Intellectuals and the Public

Ideas can define and transform society, but how healthy is intellectual life today? Human beings have a unique capacity to use reason to act on the world, but we don't always make the most of that capacity. It is crucial for those of us who value ideas to assess rigorously and honestly the state of contemporary ideas, the role of intellectuals and the audience for their ideas.

In a period when Big Brother refers not to George Orwell but to a reality TV show, and when bright young things are developing gameshow formats rather than scribbling essays; when thinkers join thinktanks to design short-term government policy rather than reflecting on and challenging the status quo, and when the ever growing number of graduates seem more interested in job prospects than academic endeavour, is intellectual life in terminal decline?

This three-day conference will look at the debates about knowledge, the university system and new arenas for ideas, bringing together academics, journalists, novelists, scientists, artists and activists in a public arena to look at where new ideas are coming from, who is their audience and whether they match up to the tasks facing humanity.

Contact: Claire Fox, Director of the Institute of Ideas, is an alumnus of the University. Claire studied English and American Literature at Warwick 1978-81. She also appeared on Question Time on BBC TV last year and is a regular panellist on The Moral Maze on Radio 4. She can be contacted at

Organiser: Institute of Ideas