Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust / Scholarships & Leadership Programme / Leadership Programme / Moral Philosophy Seminar Series

Moral Philosophy Seminar Series

Ilan Circle

I have been in academic circles for more than six years and feel that the seminar was one of the most thought provoking exercises in which I have ever taken part. My notions of leadership – and what it is to be a leader – have been greatly impacted by the seminar".

Ilan Manor
Israel, DPhil International Relations (2015-18), Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholar

At the beginning of the year the Scholars come together in Oxford for an intensive four day programme of discussions on political and moral philosophy during which they are encouraged to explore what constitutes leadership and a 'good society'. Guided by leading academics & experts, the scholars read and talk about a range of seminal texts – from Aristotle to Mandela – and are encouraged to reflect upon fundamental questions about how individuals engage in civic and public life, including the tensions that can exist between principles such as representation and democracy, equality and justice, personal liberty and collective security.

These seminars provide an environment that is ‘challenging but not intimidating’ (Sampad Patnaik, India, MSc Contemporary India 2014-15, Barbara Walters), in which Scholars can examine their own attitudes and learn from the reflections and experiences of their fellow Scholars. Oxford-Weidenfeld (Arcadia) Scholar Poojan Shreshta (MSc  International Health & Tropical Medicine, 2015-16) describes the seminar  as ‘a very unique learning experience enabling me to develop my ideas on what it means to a good leader. It was interesting to explore the readings, especially their relevance to real life scenarios even in my field of medicine.’

The academic content of these seminars is complemented by more practically-focused sessions, in which leaders from different fields discuss the importance of such ideas in their respective areas of public life. The initial seminar in Oxford is followed up on three occasions throughout the year, enabling Scholars to continue to explore these questions and develop their philosophical reasoning. 

Taking place at the start of the year, the Moral Philosophy Seminar also serves as an important bonding experience for the scholars newly arrived in Oxford.  They have the opportunity to meet and get to know one another through various social activities and outings. The scholars all say that this is tremendously valuable as the embark on their time in Oxford: ‘I absolutely loved ... meeting such a diverse and intelligent group of scholars, many of whom have become good friends!’ (Payaswini Tailor, India, MPhil Politics 2015-17, Oxford Weidenfeld & Hoffmann - Rausing / Abraham).

You can read a full report from the 2015 Moral Philosophy Seminar (made possible with the generous support of Mrs Robin Hambro) here.

Watch the video below to hear what the scholars thought about the 2014 Moral Philosophy Seminar.


Images from the 2015 Moral Philosophy Seminar held at Harris Manchester College



Shami Chakrabarti
CBE, Director of Liberty, and Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University

Roxanne Decyk
Former Corporate Affairs Director and Member of the Executive Committee, Royal Dutch Shell

 Stephen Denningo
Former Program Director for Knowledge Management, The World Bank

Sir John Holmes
Director of the Ditchley Foundation, and former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

Baroness Kennedy QC
Human Rights Lawyer, broadcaster and Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford

Dr Maritta Koch-Weser
Founder and President, Earth3000

Jonathan Powell
Morgan Stanley International, former Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Tony Blair

Polly Toynbee
Columnist, The Guardian