Friday, December 30, 2005


I just thought I'd let you know that this post is not interesting.
Now this is interesting, and I shall explain why. Thoughts, in their individuality, are like numbers. Now every number is interesting. 'Not so' you say. Well, suppose that not every number is interesting. Take the first number that is not interesting. This number is interesting because it is the first number that is not interesting. So there you have it. I hope this has pricked your interest.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Notice: Ad hominem

Now you might think that I'm about to give you all a stern lecture on being nice to each other. Well if you did think that, you were wrong. (You also wouldn't know me very well).

While I feel that personal attacks are not appropriate or beneficial in most circumstances, I also accept that often it just can't be helped, and that people sometimes just need to argue in this manner. I would also not want to be responsible for an excess of force that could be safely vented in this manner building up and resulting in, (for example), one Philosophy Club member going postal at a weekly meeting and literally killing off philosophy in Newcastle.

To this end the Ad Hominem area has been set aside so that people can partake in this activity, without causing a distraction from the other discussions that are ongoing in different threads on this blog. Obviously what people posting in here can get away with will be considerably more than in other areas of the blog. Please note that abuse, past a certain point, will still not be tolerated in other discussions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nozick vs Badhwar on Love.

"The intention in love is to form a we and to identify with it as an extended self, to identify one's fortunes in large part with its fortunes. A willingness to trade up, to destroy the very we you largely identify with, would then be a willingness to destroy your self in the form of your own extended self." [Nozick,(1989)p. 78]

I was wondering what some of our resident romantics (yes Michael, I mean you!) make of this idea, and if people consider it at all accurate? Is Badhwar's criticism that this kind of relationship: “cannot be understood as love at all rather than addiction” [Badhwar (2003)p. 61] fair?

Both quotes lifted from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins

The renowned biologist talks about intelligent design, dishonest Christians, and why God is no better than an imaginary friend.

Interview by Laura Sheahen (

"You're concerned about the state of education, especially science education. If you were able to teach every person, what would you want people to believe?

I would want them to believe whatever evidence leads them to; I would want them to look at the evidence, judge it on its merits, not accept things because of internal revelation or faith, but purely on the basis of evidence."

The full interview Here.

( I confess that I have posted this story in the knowledge that it could annoy at least one of our contributors. I am sorry, really.)

Friday, December 16, 2005


Strategies for freedom
from the work of Foucault

Bill Pascoe, 7/July/2004

Readers of Foucault often form the impression that if we accept his views we must relinquish the possibility of freedom. Tending to value freedom highly readers face the problem of resigning themselves to Foucault's compelling account of power, or rejecting it. The impression that Foucault has rejected the possibility of freedom arises from Foucault's view that knowledge, discourse and identity come about only in relations of power. It appears the freedoms we would specify (to discover and be who we are and speak about truth or justice) are constituted as the products of power. If these things are secondary products of power, it seems impossible to have any freedom from power. This view is related to 'metanarrative'. It appears that the production of knowledge and identity form part of a 'metanarrative', or 'architecture', within which we are defined and situated, and which is the mechanism of power and the means of our subjection. If 'freedoms' can only be constructed in this way, as a result of power, within some metanarrative, it seems impossible to reject a 'metanarrative' without submitting oneself to some other metanarrative which has its own way of producing one's identity (eg: to overthrow superstition with science, to overthrow capitalist corruption with communism, to overthrow moral degradation with religion, to overthrow totalitarianism with free market liberal democracy etc) - it would only be possible to replace one system of oppression with another. While Foucault seems to avoid mentioning the word 'freedom' in works such as 'Discipline and Punish'1 and 'The Will To Knowledge'2 while engaging in lengthy discussions on power, knowledge, identity and discourse, it is possible to retain a notion of freedom in accord with these works and Foucault succinctly summarises his views of freedom in Afterword3. Foucault's description of power is not as remote from the 'real world' as some critics would argue, who would restrict the relevance of his work to 'high academia' or dismiss it as 'self indulgent radical chic'. The operations of power and freedom as Foucault describes them are evident both in world events that effect the lives of many, and our most mundane day-to-day experiences. This does not make Foucault's views trivial but all the more significant. It is important then to clarify the arguments that criticise Foucault as discounting the possibility of freedom. This will involve an examination of 'freedom' as well as criticism of his view of 'metanarrative' to avoid miss-readings. In doing so we may find a better understanding of Foucault's account of power can equip us with more sophisticated ways of being free, a technology of freedom, without needing to reject his convincing account.

continued in comment ...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The University of Winnipeg Department of Philosophy: The Blog

The University of Winnipeg Department of Philosophy Blog

Worth a look.

I think we could steal the format for their philosophy club, even though it is almost identical to what we do anyway,just a bit more formalised.
(On closer inspection, I think we should steal their whole philosophy department). Furthermore, we should be on our department's webpage, as they are (only we don't have a department).

In relation to the ongoing discussion rearding how to promote the mertis of studying philosophy, I noticed one of their pages that includes an impressive table of statistics indicating that philosophy graduates are smarter than everyone else.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Viva Pop Philosophy!

This post has been inspired by two different events. The first is that recently (i.e. this afternoon), somebody (i.e. me) was complaining on our beloved blog about the current state of all things philosophical in Newcastle. Somehow my rantings about iPods had led me to pose the question of what can be done to save philosophy at Newcastle Uni from disappearing up it's own proverbial arsehole. Serious answers to this problem have yet to be posted (yes that was directed at you Ming) . The second event was a purchase I made today at one of Newcastle's local bookstores. Put more precisely would be to say it was in a bookstore in Hamilton. More precisely again would be to say that it was at MacLean's. Here I came across the latest volume in a series of books entitled Popular Culture and Philosophy (Rorty fans will notice the impressive use of capitals given to the series title by it's authors). Most of you have probably seen various volumes of this series around before, it includes titles such as Seinfeld and Philosophy, The Matrix and Philosophy, The Simpsons and Philosophy, Harry Snotter and Philosophy, etc. The volume I picked up today was titled Superheroes and Philosophy.

Now aside from immediately thinking that I should cash in on this enterprise by submitting my own volume entitled DragonBall Z and Philosophy to the series editor, it did occur to me whilst reading a couple of the essays from my recent purchase this afternoon that what I was holding was another potential answer to the problem of how to make philosophy more palatable to the masses of Newcastle and hopefully more succesful at our local university. Clearly it would be a good, nay a great idea to generate philosophy courses that wedded philosophy to common yet highly popular icons of modern culture.

Now of course there will be those of you out there who are already thinking that any protracted discussion about this kind of topic with the likes of me has only one inevitable conclusion. It will simply be a matter of time before my Nietzschean impulses kick in, before I declare that of course we shouldn't be catering to the lower life forms that reside in this town and that we should be doing our utmost to preserve a healthy pathos of distance from the herd. Hence ultimately, though perhaps not initially, I will be arguing that such Pop Philosophy is a bit of a wank. I was however curious as to what the thoughts of others may be regarding this type of idea.....

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hey! Enrol before 16 December and go into the draw to WIN an Apple iPod!

So VSU wasn't stopped. So the liberal arts students at Newcastle are soon to be joining the endangered species list. So funding cuts have forced us to lose massive amounts of our teaching staff. So the Philosophy Department is staffed by only a handful of people these days. So it's not even a real department anymore anyway. So there are hardly any philosophy subjects being offered anymore and even fewer people who are actually keen to go and enrol in them. So we are disappearing and yes, its with a whimper not a bang.

I'm not worried.

I'm going to win that iPod.

Yes things are clearly looking up at our university. If you enrol before the 16th of December you could go into the draw with around about another 15,000 people to win an iPod. It's gestures like that which make me think that everything's going to be aaaaalllllright.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In the realms of identity inquiry there seem to be two distinct schools. One sees morality as an integral and essential part of the individual, thus producing the idea that one can disover the individual through the morality (Kant did something like this with his defining a person as rational). Frankfurt sees this as in some manner defeating the ability to find the individual, since rationality is common and identical to all.

There is then a middle road that defines the individual not in terms of their essential ethic, nor frior to their essential ethic, but in terms of how they produce their ethic. In effect I am talking about a form of rationalism that is sensitive to the individuals concerns (for instance if two people were drowning and one was a dear friend and the other a perfect stranger it would seem rational to give preference to saving the stranger). This is a rather widely discussed idea, but a thorough-going discussion of it I have not found. If anyone can enlighten me further on the specifics, or has thoughts, or knows of places where it is discussed in detail I am most intereted.

The specific basis of my interest is that I believe that through this idea it can be argued, contrary to variouse philosophers, that Meursault, of Camus' "the Outsider" is a fully functioning person.

Monday, December 05, 2005

lack of discussion, lack of interest?

there has been dramatically little discussion going on recently. I assume this is either because no one cares abot or no one reads what is on the blog. Either that or you all agree, which would seem to denote the death of philosophy.

Political is very rarely philosophical in my view. the relation between philosophy and politics seem similar to that between personhood and morality, in that morality is based on ideas of what a person is, and then extrapolates to deal with a group of people. the trouble is that concepts of personhodd are somewhat unsettled, and that we seem in our efforts to create a set of morals to be building guilded roofs on rotting foundations. So my point is, what about the philosophy?

You may way, "but there's been heaps of quotes from variouse philosophers". yes, but their all a bit on the side, if not political themselves, of politically trendy philosophy. So sure look at stuff that's interesting, but, it being a philosophy blog, how about the philosophy as well.

Now then I will be told "weel, you're a contributer; contribute that stuff". Yes but it is somewhat disheartening due to the lack of discussion. Now obviousely this is a viciouse cycle, much like Frankfurt's boredom, but there's always a way out of it.

Final note on love

A further note for anyone interested. As a summation of my post from 23rd Feb, "On the Phiosophical Usefulness of Love", the discussion sadly did not fill out any kind of picture. In my recent readings, however, I have found Harry Frankfurt's recent offereing "The Reasons of Love" (2004). I think this is a particularly good essay on the philosophical usefulness of love, and is along the lines of the view I was trying to explain (though of course far superior).

God isn't big enough for some people

By Umberto Eco
(Opinion.Telegraph, Filed: 27/11/2005)

We are now approaching the critical time of the year for shops and supermarkets: the month before Christmas is the four weeks when stores of all kinds sell their products fastest. Father Christmas means one thing to children: presents. He has no connection with the original St Nicholas, who performed a miracle in providing dowries for three poor sisters, thereby enabling them to marry and escape a life of prostitution.

Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion. You can see this in the positivist scientists of the 19th century.

They insisted that they were describing the universe in rigorously materialistic terms - yet at night they attended seances and tried to summon up the spirits of the dead. Even today, I frequently meet scientists who, outside their own narrow discipline, are superstitious - to such an extent that it sometimes seems to me that to be a rigorous unbeliever today, you have to be a philosopher. Or perhaps a priest
Read the whole article here.

Naturalism vs. Supernaturalism: How to Survive the Culture Wars

From, via Butterflies and Wheels

"The root conflict in the culture wars is between two drastically different ways of understanding reality, one essentially empirical, the other decidedly not. The liberal-democratic political solution to such conflict is to provide a neutral public space within which differing worldviews make their case. But the very existence of such space and our pluralist society is threatened by totalitarian ambitions for ideological conformity. This threat is best countered by promoting empiricism, not faith, as the basis for knowledge."

The article goes on to discuss issues such as the problems brought on when different groups seek to universalise irreconcilable worldviews and beliefs.

"Such coexistence wouldn’t be problematic were it not for the evangelical desire, so common to the human heart, to universalize one’s beliefs (we might call this the totalitarian temptation). We are not content to have our certainties – others must share them as well, since a plurality of worldviews raises doubts about our truth. The desire for ideological conformity is sometimes expressed in attempts to coerce belief and crush opposing views, as for instance in the international jihad of extremist Islam, for which kafirs (infidels) are deserving of death. Secular jihads that champion decidedly unscientific, non-empirical understandings of human nature and history – racism, Nazism, the triumph of the proletariat – have been mounted as well, with horrific consequences. Were it not for fanatics who insist that we must all share their worldview – or die – the problem of ideological coexistence wouldn’t arise. But since they are among us, the problem is paramount."
Read the whole article.

Kant and the Ethics of Humility

Jeanine Grenberg, Kant and the Ethics of Humility, Cambridge University Press, 2005, 289 pp, $75.00 (hbk), ISBN 0521846811.

Reviewed by Patrick Frierson, Whitman College

Jeanine Grenberg's Kant and the Ethics of Humility sets out to explain and defend a distinctively Kantian conception of humility as "that meta-attitude which constitutes the moral agent's proper perspective on herself as a dependent and corrupt but capable and dignified rational agent" (133). But Grenberg not only explains what humility might mean for Kant. She seeks, first, to defend Kant's notion of humility against contemporary accounts of (and objections to) humility as a virtue: "while the book is . . . guided by [Kant's] picture of humility . . . the overall intent is to defend philosophically the view that humility remains a virtue, and indeed a central virtue" (7). Secondly, Grenberg uses humility to illustrate how one might develop a robust Kantian virtue ethics (chs. 2-3). Grenberg challenges Kantians to give humility more prominence, and she shows how central moral categories that might seem too "thick" can play fundamental roles within a Kantian ethic (cf. 7, 80-103). Read the full review Here.