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13 October 2022

A First Brush with Philosophy by Centre for Philosophy and Art

A unique introduction to philosophy, in which participants’ experience is captured by portrait artists.

Drawn portraits of people arranged in rows of 5

A First Brush with Philosophy is a series of sessions that bring together philosophy and the visual arts, giving participants the opportunity to have a discussion with a philosopher while being sketched by a portrait artist. The sessions are taking place in The Arcade at Bush House at King’s between 12 – 17 October 2022.

This inter-disciplinary project is organised by the Centre for Philosophy and Art, a major multi-disciplinary initiative based in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at King’s, with the aim to bring together academics, artists, curators and gallerists to explore the connections between philosophy, theory and the visual arts. King’s students and the wider King’s community are invited to sign up and enjoy a 15-minute discussion with an expert philosopher exploring big questions such as:

Is it right to save your friend over a stranger?

If morality is impartial and love is quintessentially partial, then is love immoral?

If you’re aware that you are dreaming, then are you really awake?

During the discussions, a portrait artist will capture participants’ ‘eureka’ moments and participants will be able to keep the portraits as mementos of their special intimate experiences.

Philosophy is really a social endeavour. So, it was particularly heart-breaking to miss face to face seminars during the pandemic as those in person group discussions are such a productive way to learn. While zoom isn’t the ideal way to talk to anyone it actually turned out to be the ideal way to start A First Brush with Philosophy. And we’re thrilled that now we can, for the first time, play the game face to face with support from King’s Culture.

Vanessa Brassey, Co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Art, King's College London

A First Brush with Philosophy was created by Dr Vanessa Brassey, Co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Art, while researching and writing up her PhD between 2015 and 2019. Struggling to make sense of a wealth of technical information and eager to slow down and really pay attention to important conversations, Vanessa started to paint portraits of her key colleagues, mentors and supervisors. This was followed by a further iteration of the programme during the lockdown where portrait sessions took place online on Zoom.

A First Brush with Philosophy’ offers a rare and delightful introduction to ethical dilemmas and philosophical debate in just 15 minutes. Involving a portrait artist in this way captures the transient expressions of participants and brings texture to the attention and curiosity required in these dialogues.

Beatrice Pembroke, Executive Director, Culture, King's College London

These sessions are developed in collaboration between the Department of Philosophy, Centre for Philosophy and Arts and King's Culture. The Centre for Philosophy and Art is an interdisciplinary centre based at King's, appreciating and promoting art through a philosophical lens. It develops collaborations between philosophers, artists and curators. King’s Culture collaborates with students, staff, alumni, artists and partners to tackle contemporary challenges with imagination and expertise for social and cultural impact.

Watch 'A First Brush with Philosophy' trailer below.

In this story


Lecturer, Co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Art