Café Philo Bristol and Bath
7:30pm - 10pm
• What we'll do
Are there any taboo subjects left now? In what contexts? What, if any, topics cannot be discussed even in the open-minded and respectful confines of a Cafe Philo meetup? Why are they taboo? How are taboos enforced? Do taboos provide useful social functions? Have we perhaps become too free - could we do with some new taboos? If so what? Thanks to Mark for preparing this month's topic...
'Zounds! Those devilish Cafe Philo philosophers are back for another year, damn their eyes!
If you were living in the eighteenth century, you’d be blanching (or worse) at this, because ‘Zounds (God’s wounds), damn, and devilish were among the worst and most shocking swear-words of the day.
A century or so later they were unremarkable, and yet puritanical sexual prohibitions meant that “[s]uddenly, Americans avoided saying “leg”, and the British referred to breasts as ‘the upper stomach’.” 
There are examples of taboos. Originally the word referred to the strong prohibition of actions that were believed to be too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals (or mortals) to perform. Virtually all societies have such prohibitions, though what is prohibited may vary between societies and within a society over time. Freud thought that incest and patricide were the only two universal taboos and formed the basis of civilisation [2, 3].
Nowadays the term taboo has been expanded from referring to the purely sacred or accursed actions to any human activity that contravenes strong moral or religious beliefs.
As illustrated above, taboos evolve over time, emerging and disappearing. Is our age different, though — have taboos been overthrown and now it’s a case of “anything goes”? It seems not. While the children of the 60s may have lost their religious and sexual hangups (at least, in the secular West), with previously taboos sexual swear-words now in common use, these taboos appear to have been replaced by ones for slurs relating to racial or sexual identity: the “n-word” or the many once-common derogatory terms for gay men, for example.
Since taboos depend on a sense of the sacred, one might ask what remains sacred to our secular society? Historically, the sacred was the realm of gods or religion – so in the 18th century, many felt that diverting a river was a profane act, because it involved altering God’s plans. Some see God’s central role in defining the sacred being replaced by nature – the religious sense of awe replaced by the sense of awe evoked by the natural realm. If so, is it clear what taboos might flow from this? Perhaps driving diesel cars may become one, or otherwise wantonly damaging the environment?
Is death now a taboo subject? In an age that venerates youth, some say that talking about death has become taboo (e.g., “the C-word”).  Perhaps the billions of dollars that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and VCs are pouring into “life extension” technologies are a reflection of this? Similarly, Stephen Fry has said that mental health is one
• What to bring
• Important to know
Note this venue asks for a donation of £7.50 for use of the room that they donate to their children's charity so if all attendees can chip in to cover this then that would be great :)