“Reading of the Tragedy ‘L’Orphelin de la Chine’ in the Salon of Madame Geoffrin“ by Anicet-Charles Lemonnier (1812)

Who are the thinkers of our time? What are the ideas that matter? What do we really value?

Founded in September 2011, Sheffield Salon is part of a small but growing movement that seeks answers to these questions. We see public discussion as an end in itself, engaging the widest audience in issues of the day, striving to create a public space to explore contemporary ideas.

Sheffield Salon aims to move beyond often sterile ‘talking heads’ sessions. Rather, it will be a forum in which the public audience is very much involved in the testing of ideas and can robustly (but respectfully), debate them: a forum with a healthy balance between heated argument and useful exchange between people who might not usually be talking to each other. We may not all agree (far from it!), but we defend the right of everyone present to argue their case. By taking ideas seriously we hope to make it possible to know and name the things in which we might actually believe and uphold. Also, in the same spirit, we would aim to examine and identify those things which we might reject.

We very much hope that the Salon will foster, in some small part, a little of the optimism and curiosity at the core of the humanist spirit… a spirit which seems sorely lacking in these often doom-laden, and censorious times. The spirit of our salon can be summed up in the words of John Stuart Mill in that mankind is still ‘capable of being improved by free and equal discussion.’

Come along and be part of an ongoing conversation between the people of Sheffield and respected specialists in the fields of the arts, science, medicine, sociology, philosophy, politics and history. Over the past two years the format of Sheffield Salon events has varied according to our subjects, but has always centred around the concept of this being a public exploration of meanings within a topic, with many points of view.

‘The thing I found best about the Sheffield Salon was that it was not so much about the speakers on the platform as the quality of the discussion generated by the audience. I was so impressed that so many people came along, not only with their own experiences and considered opinions, but with a willingness to share and debate them. We might not have come up with any answers, but I think we clarified some of the questions.’ Dr Mike FitzpatrickGP, author and speaker at Sheffield Salon.

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