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The Great Exphil Lecture 2022: “Extremism: A Philosophical Analysis”

What is extremism? Can some forms of extremism be accepted? In this year's great Exphil lecture, Professor Quassim Cassam presents his philosophical analysis.

Portrait of man in shirt and suit.
Photo: University of Warwick.

Extremism is one of the most charged and controversial issues of the 21st Century. Despite myriad programs of deradicalization and prevention around the world, it remains an intractable and poorly understood problem. Yet it can also be regarded as a positive force – according to Martin Luther King Jr, “the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.”

About the lecture

​Quassim Cassam identifies three types of extremism – ideological; methods; and mindset extremism – and will use them to discuss the following fundamental topics and issues:

  • What is extremism?
  • What are the methods adopted by extremists?
  • Is there an extremist ‘mindset’ and if so, what is it?
  • What role do ideas of purity, victimhood and humiliation play in understanding extremism?
  • How does extremism differ from fanaticism and fundamentalism?
  • How does one become an extremist and how should we understand deradicalization?

He will include compelling examples, ranging from the Khmer Rouge, the IRA, Al-Qaeda, and Timothy McVeigh to Philip Roth’s novel American Pastoral and counter-extremism programs, including the UK’s ‘Prevent’ strategy.

The lecture is highly relevant for anyone interested in this important topic, not only in Philosophy but related disciplines such as Politics and International Relations, Conflict and Terrorism studies, Law, Education and Religion. It will also be of great interest to policy makers and those engaged in understanding extremism at any level.

A recording of the lecture will be made available at


14.00: The Exphil Lecture by Quassim Cassam

15.00: Comments by invited panel:

  • Sebastian Watzl, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oslo. 
  • Cathrine Thorleifsson, Associate Professor at the Department of Social Anthropology and the Centre for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo

15.45: Q & A

About Quassim Cassam

Quassim Cassam is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, an Honorary Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He was previously Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University, Professor of Philosophy at UCL, and Reader in Philosophy at Oxford University. He was a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, for 18 years and later a Professorial Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. He was also the John Evans Distinguished Visiting Professor at Northwestern University and a Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been a Mind Senior Research Fellow, an AHRC Leadership Fellow, and President of the Aristotelian Society.

Cassam is the author of seven books, including “Extremism: A Philosophical Analysis” (Routledge 2022), “Vices of the Mind: From the Intellectual to the Political” (Oxford 2019), and “Conspiracy Theories” (Polity 2019). His books have been the subject of conferences in Amsterdam, Padova, London, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Konstanz.

About the Exphil lecture

Every year, an influential philosopher and skilled speaker is invited to give a lecture on a theme relevant to the exphil syllabus.

The lecture is open to everyone.

Published Aug. 25, 2022 1:38 PM - Last modified Sep. 16, 2022 8:58 AM