Review: An evening with Julian Baggini

Julian Baggini, one-man think tank

julian-baggini-22-nov-16-3We had a packed audience at The Union Jack Club on 22nd November for our ‘Evening with Julian Baggini’. We came wondering ‘What does it mean to be you?’ and left enriched, if not with an unequivocal answer to the question. The question itself is the subtitle to Julian’s bestselling book The Ego Trick (2011). His conclusion is that there is no ‘kernel of the self’ or what religious people might call ‘soul’. But that does not mean he believes the self to be an illusion.  Here’s a key paragraph from the book:

” The problem with talk of illusion, I think, is that most people contrast illusory with real, so to say that the self is an illusion is to imply it is not real. But it is. There is an Ego Trick, but it it is not that the self doesn’t exist, only that it it is not what we generally assume it to be.”

The book itself comes highly recommended by SELHuG members. (If you hurry, you can probably still add it to your letter to Santa, ahead of that pair of organic bamboo socks you’ve always wanted.)

Julian expanded the scope of his talk to touch on two other key elements that, alongside a sense of self, make us independent individuals: free will and reason.  These are considered in his works Freedom Regained and The Edge of Reason. Of course, those three elements alone do not make us humanist. We achieve that by ascribing to humanist values and trying to live our lives in accordance with them (a tricky tightrope sometimes).

Julian’s delivery, during which you could almost hear his lively brain whirring, ensured the audience stayed engaged throughout his talk – as evidenced by the thought-provoking questions.  We ran out of time for him to answer them all but he assured us that if anyone has points to put to him, he is happy for us to pass them on via email.  So please feel free…


We owe thanks to The Union Jack Club for their excellent room and charming staff.  Many of those attending the talk stayed on in the bar afterwards to try and work out their own views on what Julian had said.  After a beer or two, it all seemed so much more straightforward. Or maybe not.