Tuesday, December 18, 2007

59th Philosophers' Carnival

The 59th Philosophers Carnival has gone ahead at Buffalo Philosophy, despite heavy snow.

We are up next with the 1st Dead Philosophers Carnival! So get writing already and go to the Philosophers' Carnival website for instructions on how to submit.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Philosophy Honours at Newcastle in 2008

Details of the honours program in Philosophy have just recently been made available.

In 2008, the following Honours course work components be offered:

Eros and Agape (Dr Joe Mintoff) An examination of the two forms of love: Eros and Agape. The writings of a range of classical and more contemporary authors will be considered.

Consciousness (Dr John Wright). An examination of the philosophical problems of consciousness. Much contemporary philosophy is devoted to this topic.

Philosophical Issues of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Dr Yin Gao) An examination of the methodological and philosophical issues connected with traditional Chinese Medicine. Classic Chinese texts, as well as recent work, will be studied in this course.

Science, Rationality and Realism (Dr John Wright) An examination of the issues surrounding scientific Realism and Truth.

Of course, as well as the coursework, there is the 12,000 - 15,000 word thesis to be completed! I recommended that students considering doing Honours in 2008 contact the Philosophy Discipline ASAP, and discuss possible thesis topics.

Entry to this program is restricted to those with a complete Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in philosophy and at least a credit average (GPA of 5.0 on a 7 point scale or an average of over 65%) in the that philosophy major. Places are limited, but the faculty will be taking direct applications up until February. If you are interested, please go to the Philosophy info page and contact Dr John Wright for more details.

Philosophers' Carnival #58

The 58th Philosophers' Carnival is on at Philosophy Sucks!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The First Dead Philosophers' Carnival (Philosophers' Carnival #60) - Call for Papers

2007 saw the death of philosophers including Jean Baudrillard, Susan Hurley, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Richard Rorty, and Robert C. Solomon.

Dialectic, in association with the Philosophers' Carnival, is hosting the first Dead Philosophers' Carnival (as the 60th Philosophers' Carnival).

The Editors of Dialectic, as hosts of the Carnival, are calling for posts relating to the work of those philosophers who have died in 2007 and those who have celebrated notable anniversaries in 2007. Eligible posts are in no way limited to the philosophers mentioned above. If contributors know of other philosophers that have recently passed, we urge potential contributors to submit posts. Preference will be given to contributions relating to the theme, but interpretation of that theme need not be strictly literal.

The Carnival will commence on the 7th of January 2008.

Submissions will close on the 2nd of January 2008, but don't put forward your posts until after submissions to Carnival #59 have closed (unless you want to be in #59 of course).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Postgraduate Symposium - Truth and Artifice.

The School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle and the Division of Humanities at Macquarie University are organizing an annual postgraduate symposium for researchers in the Humanities. The aims of the symposium are to provide students with the opportunities to develop a wider audience for their research and to take part in an exchange of ideas and methodologies that will broaden the research culture of both universities and develop an understanding of the Humanities as a cohesive research community.
Call for abstracts

This year the symposium will be held at the University of Newcastle on Saturday, February 23, starting at 9:30am. Programme and registration details will be released soon.

The symposium theme will be 'Truth and Artifice', with a broad interpretation of the theme expected.

Abstract submissions are currently open. Abstracts are to be no longer than 200 words, and are due by November 16, 2007. Papers selected from abstracts will be presented to a general audience that may not specialise in particular fields, and will be expected to be a minimum of 15 minutes, but no longer than 20 minutes in length. All papers will be published on the online journal, Humanity. Please send abstracts and all enquiries to: newmacsymposium@gmail.com

Philosophers' Carnival #56: Guy Fawkes

Philosophers' Carnival #56 is on at Philosophy and Bioethics.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Philosophers' Carnival Number 55

Philosophers' Carnival #55 is on at The Brooks Blog.

Mind Papers

David Chalmers and David Bourget have announced the launch of MindPapers, a new website with a bibliography covering 18,087 published papers and online papers in the philosophy of mind and the science of consciousness. Many of these are available online at no cost and many more should accessible for University of Newcastle students if the follow the instructions for 'off campus access' or via the library portal.

This isn't just a great resource for philosophy students and academics, but for those studying and practicing psychology as well with over 3900 entries on the science of consciousness.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Philosophy Australia Needs Editors

Philosophy Australia Call for Editors

Editors are required for Philosophy-Australia.com, a non-profit project that relies on the contributions from the Australian Philosophy Community.

Position(s) are restricted to Honours Students/Post-Graduates and
Academics in the field of Philosophy. All applicants must reside in
Australia or be attached to an Australian University or Research Center.

Technical skills:
  • Data collection
  • Data entry
  • Research skills (a lot of internet based, but not restricted to)
  • Wiki Software knowledge (not required, but preferred)
The position of Editor will require research into the division they
are allocated. This may require data collection of names, details
about organisations, contacting departments/universities, and entering
information into the website/project.

Those who are interested are to inquire with Dean Goorden via contact@philosophy-australia.com.

Deadline: 1st of November, 2007.

More information about Philosophy Australia can be found at: http://www.Philosophy-Australia.com

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Question - Is Dwarf-tossing Ethical?

Is dwarf-tossing ethical?
The question was raised in a forum at the St James Ethics Centre, but is one that, I believe, this forum should consider (if we have not done so already).
(I recall that juggling Brazilian midgets, in some ways similar to dwarf-tossing, was a pass time of the late Professor C Ooly McCool …)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Australasian Postgraduate Philosophy Conference 2008

The Australasian Postgraduate Philosophy Conference 2008 has just put out it's first call for papers - both complete single papers and 'work-in-progress' papers (for those in earlier stagers of their research. All sessions will be 45 minutes in length 20-25 for the presentation and the remainder for questions and discussion.

The conference is on March 26 - 28 2008. The APPC is the perfect opportunity to present your work in a non-intimidating environment and receive constructive feedback. The program will include plenary addresses, ample time for discussion following papers, a graduate career workshop and a conference dinner on the Thursday night. There will also be some travel subsidies available for overseas and interstate participants (information available soon).

Attendance is free (or there was no price mentioned at least), so I'd encourage any undergraduates who can get along for at least one of the days to do so.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Philosophers' Carnival 54

The Philosophers's Carnival 54 is on at The Uncredible Hallq.
Other than misnaming it the Philosophy Carnival, (something that could only annoy the hopelessly pedantic like myself), it is a good edition, containing a solid selection of articles and opinions.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Baudrillard and International Politics – Workshop Notice

The University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (United Kingdom) will be hosting a workshop on Baudrillard and International Politics.

The notice states:

The translation and publication of Jean Baudrillard’s The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1995) marked the first significant awareness of Baudrillard’s work among international politics scholars and was the source of a highly engaged debate. In the years since, Baudrillard’s work on the media, simulation, hyperreality, terror, and technology has continued to provide unique insights into contemporary international politics and the discourses in which it is framed.

International politics staff and graduate students at Newcastle University arehosting a half day workshop to explore the value and relevance of Baudrillard’s work for international politics studies and seek papers on the following (and other) themes:

Political discourses of hyperreality
Baudrillard on the USA
The political commitments of Baudrillard’s early scholarship

The workshop will be held, at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, on the 28th of November.

Further details are available from Mr Mark Edward (M.D.Edward@ncl.ac.uk).

Comment on Philosophy and Science

I promised, some time ago, to set out my (vague) position on the relationship between philosophy and science. It will be tediously brief.

If we look at the intellectual history of both philosophy and science, there is a considerable commonality. There are arguments over whether the early Greek atomists should be regarded ‘properly’ as scientists or philosophers (I remember this as theme of Russell’s (or was it John Wright’s – I was reading them simultaneously) treatment). There are a great many individuals who do (or should) occupy places in the pantheon of both disciplines (Aristotle, for example). Then there is a juncture. While the exact moment is unimportant, at some point science heads along one path, philosophy the other. The paths run alongside each other, separated only by a hedge, or such, which allow both to see and consider the course the other is taking.

I feel unconfident about stepping further than my earlier statement (that science should acknowledge its origin in philosophy), other than to adjust it to science should more openly acknowledge its common history with philosophy. One implication of this view, which I am willing to expound, is that it may render redundant any general suggestion that philosophy should become more scientific or that science should become more ‘philosophical’ (I’ll concede that there may be valid arguments in specific circumstances).

Comment on Mr Atkinson

I’ve just been re-reading the attempt at a discussion with Mr Philip Atkinson, ‘author’ (I’m reminded of a glib one-liner to the effect that the subject of the retort was only an ‘author if that class is broadened to include anyone who can write a sentence’) of ‘A Definition of Philosophy’.

I have to admit that, since it appears Mr Atkinson has moved on, I feel somewhat cheated. Mr Atkinson approached the Club, and thus Dialectic, and asked us to critique his argument. Mr Douglas commenced this with an introductory commentary. My, probably biased, analysis of what followed was a process of him ridiculing his interlocutors, demanding they comply with his method, and refusing to expand upon any of our points. Clearly, his interlocutors were not faultless in this process (an admission on my part).

I’m left wondering what was achieved in this quiet sustained (by recent standards) discussion. It appears that Mr Atkinson will probably ignore the points we raised, and I feel that I have actually gained no insight from the discussion.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Philosophy Job Market and Publishing Advice

Aidan McGlynn (of the boundaries of language) has recently constructed this page of links containing advice about employment and publishing (and they are intimately linked at this time) for philosophers.

Anyone considering a career in Philosophy should take a look.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Philosophers’ Carnival #53

The 53rd PhilosophersCarnival is on at Florida Student Philosophy Blog.

Of particular interest (in my opinion and in no particular order) are:

The Moving Light of Time at Daylight Atheism
There Are Two Books On My Desk at A brood comb

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Professor Emeritus Godfrey Tanner turns 80

On 24 September 2007 the University of Newcastle’s much loved Professor Godfrey Tanner would have turned 80. We take this opportunity to remember and pay homage to him and his charming intellectual exuberance.

ABC Newcastle (Newcastle)
Day Shift - 25/09/2007 - 02:10 PM (Forthcoming)
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

Newcastle University Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses the life and legacy of Emeritus Professor Godfrey Tanner with a journey through the late Professor’s beautiful collection of rare books and manuscripts held in the University’s Cultural Collections in the Auchmuty Library. Gems include ‘Colloquial Albanian for Beginners’, ‘Beginning Hittite’ and ‘Teach Yourself Bike Repair’ as well as some of the more beautiful 16th and 17th works.

Follow this link for the UoN Cultural Collections post containing the broadcast notes and other assorted Godfrey memorabilia.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

My posting cherry popped.

For reasons outside my enthusiasm to tell (nevertheless we can chalk it up as a direct result of my immaturity) I have been asked to post a set of my beliefs. Being the sceptic that I am this should not take long.

As a moment of consciousness (the existence of which this post will assert, constitutes an I, although this is merely for the use of language rather then any need for the argument) I do not have ultimate justification for my actions. (if you happen to have one, please tell me.)

While, intuitively, there seem to be better answers (utilitarianism) then other answers (Devine Command), the existence of any doubt (even if one is to define it as a small amount) results in the answer being equally unjustified as an answer riddled with doubt. It is the nature of doubt that its limits can not be defined. One can not say how much one does not know; only that one does not know. This being so, doubt as a technical term, can not have a magnitude (even though as a psychological term, it can).

Therefore all action, at the moment, is equally unjustified (as in all justification for action experiences doubt). Being equally unjustified, by necessity makes it equally justified. Resulting in all action (from suicide to giving money to the poor to acts of a sadistic nature) equally justified.

This is my position, and I believe in the truth of the sentiment. However, I am sure there will be language problems. Since we are playing a language game this is serious but I am confidant that the skilled philosophers out there in blog-land will help me with the language issues.

Furthermore there are some possible objections, but I would like to deal with them as they come up rather then put the effort in now.

Finally as part of the challenge I was suppose to draw out the implications outside of philosophy, at the moment I am not completely sure what this means. However, I think it would be best to see if my claim holds up within the rule of philosophy before we draw conclusions outside of it.

James Bernard Willoughby.

Friday, September 07, 2007

God or Blind Nature? Philosophers Debate the Evidence

On July 1st, Internet Infidels released the first installment ("Mind and Will") of a four-part series of debates called "God or Blind Nature? Philosophers Debate the Evidence." This "Great Debate" concerns which of naturalism or theism is more likely to be true given different kinds of evidence. The second installment ("Evil and Evolution") was released on September 1st, and the third and fourth installments ("Science and the Cosmos" and "Faith and Uncertainty") will be released on November 1st and January 1st, respectively.

In the first installment Andrew Melnyk defends physicalism about the human mind, the truth of which he takes to be some evidence against theism, while Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro defend substance dualism and libertarian free will, which they take to undermine naturalism.

In section two Paul Draper defends his argument from the biological role of pain and pleasure against the existence of God, while Alvin Plantinga defends his famous argument that evolutionary naturalism is self-defeating. Each contributor critiques the opening case of the other, and each defends his opening case against its critique.

The Internet Infidels are soliciting questions to pass on to the contributors on either of the two sides of these debates as part of Q&A sessions to be published online later, and would appreciate it if you would inform your students in the appropriate classes about this interactive dialogue.

Members on both sides of the Theist/Atheist side of the fence would benefit from looking over these arguments.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Parrhesia: Issue 3, 2007

The latest edition of Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy is available online.

This issue includes essays by Alain Badiou with Tzuchien Tho, Clare Blackburne and Marguerite La Caze, just to name a few contributors, as well as reviews.

Michel Foucault’s last works tell us that parrhesia is the act of fearlessly speaking the truth.To engage in parrhesia is never, however, a ‘neutral’ act. Parrhesia simultaneously incorporates aesthetic and ethical dimensions. The parrhesiast is someone whose fidelity to the truth becomes the pivot of a process of self-transformation.

The journal endeavours to feature work by leading figures in contemporary thought, along with scholarly articles, which are double blind peer-reviewed.

Parrhesia is affiliated with the Departments of English and Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, and with the Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Philosopher’s Carnival, No. Fifty-two

The 52nd Philosopher’s Carnival is presently being hosted at Philosophy, et cetera.

In regard to forthcoming Carnivals, Dialectic is pencilled in to host early 2008. In terms of an early notice, the theme will be posts on philosophers who died in 2007. The hope is that the Carnival will be more of symposium than the ordinary conferences, and the intention is to host similar undertaking annually.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shameless Use of Blog for Self Promotion

I have created BAM! Telling It Like It Is. A cutting edge news and current affairs discussion which tackles the hard subjects. I am looking for contributors.

BAM! Telling It Like It Is

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Is Philosophy Useful?

Phillip Atkinson said in the pretext to his A Definition of Philosophy - The Study of Understanding that philosophy must become a science before it is considered a useful discipline.

As I am paid to listen to radio you would only do so if you were paid, I encountered on Canberra's ABC 666's morning Saturday show with Greg Bayliss, an interview with Jeanette Kennett, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, ANU.

Kennett said the Centre does try to have an influence and is doing so in public policy in various ways. She said the Centre last year did a report for the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on dual use dilemmas in science; one of her colleagues is developing a new patent system to make it easier to get pharmaceuticals companies to make their research available so third world countries will benefit from cheaper drugs.

As a trained philosopher who does not get paid to think, I understand the frustration of Mr Atkinson that philosophy is barely understood and often maligned as not useful. This was demonstrated sadly by Bayliss who appeared quite intrigued that there was such a thing as a philosopher let alone actually understood what one did. He understood the word ethics however, not deeply though enough to know that he was dealing with a serious discipline. Still, he failed to really get anything much out of her other than that she lived inside her own mind as a kid and she took long enough to start a family before she finished her degree.

I also offer as an example our own Samuel Douglas who for all intents and purposes is a professional philosopher currently or at least headed in that direction.

Finally I evoke Karl Marx and Michel Foucault who not only being philosophers, managed to become almost ideological through out academia generally, or at least the humanities.

I agree that society at large does not take philosophy seriously. I feel however that it can not be maintained that academically and politically it is thought to be useless. Areas of philosophy are scientific such as logic, while as a discipline it has both created modern science in the one instance, and then conformed to be more scientific. This is where we may have three theories:

  1. Mr Atkinson proposed that philosophy needs to become more scientific
  2. Mr Hill has been claimed to be saying that philosophy is scientific because it created science
  3. I am suggesting that philosophy has already become more scientific

I accept that mine and Martin's theories may be the same thing or very similar, but I call upon him to post his hypothesis as this may be grounds for an interesting discussion. If that fails, then we should turn to the more general question: is philosophy useful?

Friday, August 17, 2007

1st Post(-)modern[ism/ist[s]/ity] Philosophy Carnival

A new(er) Carnival - the Post(-)modern[ism/ist[s]/ity] Philosophy Carnival (can we just call it the Postmodern Philosophy carnival?) is currently being hosted at Philosophy and Literature and then at Simon Ives on the 1st of September.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Definition Of Philosophy - The Study Of Understanding

Recently I was contacted in my capacity as Club President with a request by one Philip Atkinson who expressed a wish to meet with the group and speak about his views on Philosophy. Before deciding whether or not it's wise for such a meeting to occur, I thought it would be educational (for all parties) if various contributing members could take a look at his work on his website and present their reactions in a series of posts. Mr Atkinson seems keen to have people try to refute his arguments, and I hope that other members will be happy to oblige him. I know I am.

So I'd like to open with my thoughts on A Definition Of Philosophy - The Study Of Understanding
(Please go and read it, this won't make much sense otherwise).

Atkinson's opening remark sets the tone for the whole piece, and isn't without it's problems. While I agree that Philosophy is viewed with some suspicion and trepidation by much of the populace, I'd hardly take this as a sign that it is an "unhelpful discipline". A large group of people thinking that something was true never made it so (well maybe, more of that later) for example the earth being flat and so forth. A quick tour of Mr Atkinson's site reveals that he doesn't believe that the belief of the masses constitutes truth or even reasonable evidence. The difficulty in discovering the achievements of philosophy, if I may be so direct, arises from a lack of serious study of the subject.

The assertion that it can be made into a "useful science" presents a few issues as well. MH has suggested that the move should be in the other direction - that Science should regognise its philosophical beginnings. I'll leave that argument to him for the moment. What I will ask is that we take the time to think about what is meant by 'useful' in this context, and who exactly reaps the benefit.

So on to the "self evident" truths, which I have italicised for the sake of clarity. In examining these, each of which constitutes a premise in Mr Atkinson's argument, I'll look at if they are actually true or at least plausible and if they are indeed self-evident. The validity (or lack thereof) of the argument will become apparent along the way.

1. Philosophy is the study of understanding.

Perhaps. We could get into it being the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge, but it is unnecessary, and soon you'll see why.

2. Understanding is the bestowing of meaning upon observations.

Once again, I’d say maybe. But be aware that there are two ways that this definition can be taken at this point. If an event occurs I can understand how it happened (the car fell into the river because the bridge collapsed) without understanding why it happened (was there a divine purpose to the tragedy?). This definition talks about meaning as if it were the same as belief, which isn’t consistent with what follows.

3. Meaning is the realisation obtained by applying beliefs to the observations of an understanding —the use of reason. These beliefs are the understanding .

Now the problem becomes apparent: ‘Understanding’ is defined in terms of ‘Meaning’ and vice-versa. Unless this circularity is dealt with the whole argument is a house built on sand. “Meaning is the realisation obtained by applying beliefs to observations.” would have made more sense. If we take ‘realisation’ to be a process of coming to or gaining a belief (which seems plausible), then Meaning is the process of gaining beliefs through the application of other beliefs to the observations of an understanding. But if we apply this definition to point 2, Understanding becomes ‘the bestowing of a process of gaining beliefs upon observations’, which does not really make sense and makes point 3 somewhat ungainly. It also highlights how inconsistent the final assertion in point 3 is.

The entirety of follows is already problematic as Atkinson hasn’t yet produced an adequate non-circular definition of ‘understanding’, so there is no real reason to accept any of it till that problem is resolved. However in the interest of being through I’ve made brief responses to what remains.

4. Two Kinds Of Beliefs:

i. Control the Understanding —those bestowed by nature and modified by infancy in the creation of an understanding so are unchangeable: that is, the instincts and infantile experiences, which dictate what the creature should, or should not, do — survive, eat, sleep, multiply, etc.— thus allowing the recognition of right from wrong, and are the morality of the understanding.

That the factors that dictate our behaviour might dictate or influence what we then take to be moral or immoral behaviour. This is controversial enough, but to take the further step that these factors for what is actually morally right or wrong, which seems to be implied here, is much longer bow to draw. Following the ‘morality’ link provides further expansions of what Mr Atkinson thinks constitutes morality, how it should be taught and its importance.

ii. Tools of the Understanding — those revealed by the understanding's experience of cause and effect. That is, if you step off a cliff you fall, and these axioms, which are collected and refined throughout the life of the understanding, allow the recognition of true or false and are the knowledge of the understanding.

If it is the collection of axioms through experience that allow us to judge truth from falsity, then how do we make this judgement in a new case where there are no axioms applicable to it? Are all tools of the understanding revealed through experience? If they are then how do we even recognise cause and effect? Kant (I think) suggests that this is an innate ability.

— this Morality and Knowledge together form the beliefs, or truths, of the understanding. Hence:

Beliefs and Truths are not always interchangeable, see below.

5. Truth is the beliefs, or realisations, of an understanding, and is used to create the reality of an understanding.

Most philosophers, myself included, would assert that there is more to Truth than just beliefs or realisations. Some beliefs and the like can be wrong. A person can believe P when not-P is the actual real state of the world. Even if you ascribe to an ‘assertability’ rather than truth value type of view, then you would still have a test of community or expert acceptance that would have to be passed before something could be called a ‘truth’. Both of the categories of ‘belief’ above can fall prey to either of these objections. You need good reasons for moving something from the category of ‘belief’ to that of ‘truth’ and they are simply not supplied in this case.

6. Reality is the creation of an understanding as it is the remembered meanings, or experience, of an understanding and consists of:

i. The nature of the understanding—its senses


The position of the understanding—what it can observe


The experience of the understanding—the meaning it realises.

This sounds like the claim is that reality is somehow constructed in your head, which is a view popular with some philosophers, but not with others. At the risk of being labelled a realist, could we not just say that ‘reality is’?

To take another tack, if reality is created from experience, then with no experience there is either no reality at all, or you have no grip on it, depending on what level of ontological commitment you feel like taking on. Regardless, either situation leaves no room for an account of how we go about creating/making sense of reality if only experience can give us the tools to do so.

7. Wisdom is the habits (traditions) adopted by an understanding to achieve the greatest benefit from its reality.

Even if wisdom was the habits or traditions of a community or individual, what the ‘greatest benefit’ is, is not self-evident. Achieving the greatest benefit is (arguably) not always the most morally right course of action for an individual or even for a community. The ends might not justify the means. And knowing how to do the morally or ethically wrong thing for one's own benefit is not what everyone would consider 'wise', though some would.

To sum up:

It is arguable that all of the “Self-evident truths” presented here are not true, and most certainly not self-evident. For something to be self-evident, it needs to be either true by definition, or so obvious as to require no explanation. ‘A triangle has 3 sides’ is self-evident, and some philosophers might consider the notion that one can now that know that one is conscious is self-evident. None of Atkinson's propositions presented above are analytically true, nor is it implausible to deny their truth. His declarations therefore are not self-evident and I dare anyone to adequately explain to me how I’m wrong on that score.

It is worth noting that it can't be claimed that I have misunderstood these self-evident statements. If a proposition is claimed to be self-evident, it is an argumentative fallacy to assert that disagreement with the proposition indicates a misunderstanding of it.

On a more serious note, the argument simply does not fit together in a logical structure. In fact the whole thing would have worked better if the assertions were presented in the opposite order as the definitions run in the totally wrong direction, when they go anywhere at all. Declaring something to be true does not make it so. I would encourage readers to read, and respond to Mr Atkinson’s work including that regarding Recognising Good And Evil and The End Of Western Civilization.

Sam Douglas.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Philosopher's Carnival, No. Fifty-one

The 51st Philosopher’s Carnival is presently being hosted at Enigmania.

The ‘bias’ of this carnival, to quote the host, is towards mathematics, science and logic, and there are, apparently, 37 posts to work your way through …

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Seminar: Ethics and professional practice in a world of fluid values

Ethics and professional practice in a world of fluid values
Speaker: Professor John Buckeridge (RMIT, Melbourne)
Date: Tuesday, 7 August, 2007
Time: 10.00-11.00 am (followed by in interactive discussion session 11.00-12.00 pm)
Location: Griffith Duncan Theatre, University of Newcastle

ABSTRACT: This seminar will use case studies in engineering and science wherein varying values have led to conflict. In these situations, both sides perceive that they hold the “high moral ground’. The presentation will explore how these issues may be resolved, using three key moral constructs: virtue ethics, utilitarianism and deontology. Participants will consider whether there is more than one ethical way in which a moral conundrum can be resolved. They will be challenged to make difficult decisions, and to defend their conclusions.

THE PRESENTER: John St James Stewart BUCKERIDGE, PhD, FAustIMM, CP(Env), FIEAust, FGS (Lond.) is Professor of Natural Resources Engineering and Head of the School of Civil, Environmental & Chemical Engineering at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. John is President of the International Union of Biological Sciences, (and chairs the IUBS Bioethics Committee), he is also President of the International Society of Zoological Sciences, a member of the Victoria Biotechnology Ethics Advisory Committee, a Councillor of the Royal Society of Victoria and has acted as consultant on environmental ethics to UNESCO’s COMEST (World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology). In 2004 he was appointed honorarprofessor at Wismar University, Germany, in recognition of his work in engineering ethics.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wendell Holmes on Philosophers

'Any two philosophers can tell each other all they know in two hours.' - Oliver Wendell Holmes.

[Apologies for not providing a more precise citation at present.]

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Should the French Be More American?

From the New York Times:

PARIS, July 21 — France is the country that produced the Enlightenment, Descartes’s one-liner, “I think, therefore I am,” and the solemn pontifications of Jean-Paul Sartre and other celebrity philosophers.

But in the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, thinking has lost its cachet.

In proposing a tax-cut law last week, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde bluntly advised the French people to abandon their “old national habit.”

“France is a country that thinks,” she told the National Assembly. “There is hardly an ideology that we haven’t turned into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. This is why I would like to tell you: Enough thinking, already. Roll up your sleeves.”

Citing Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” she said the French should work harder, earn more and be rewarded with lower taxes if they get rich.

Full Article

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Philosopher's Carnival, No. Fifty

The 50th Philosopher’s Carnival is presently being hosted at Philosophy Sucks! Yes, the Philosopher’s Carnival has been cobbled together fifty times …

Mr Brown, generous host, chose the theme ‘Mind, Meaning and Morals’ and it is into those three groupings that you will find the various submissions.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chalmers on Moral Truths

David Chalmers has a couple of interesting powerpoint slide shows posted in his Conference wrap-up .

Any budding (or full-blown) ethicists would find "Moral Relativism and Conceptual Analysis" interesting. I can also highly recommend "From the Aufbau to the Canberra Plan" after seeing it presented at AAP 2007.

Questions on Inequality

What is inequality and what are its origins? Is some form of inequality necessary for societies to function?

[A variation of these questions were once asked, leading to Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality. I have been thinking about them recently and thought I might raise them in the broader forum.]

Crennan on Scepticism and Judicial Method

Late last month, Justice Susan Crennan of the High Court of Australia, gave this speech on scepticism and the judicial method. It contains an interesting (if possibly light-weight) discussion of the problem confronting theories of judicial method, in particular as they rely on the existence of objective truth, by the work of Foucault.

Rorty on Democracy and Philosophy

Since his death Rorty has become something of a regular here about. Here is one of his last works, discussing the premises of his philosophy.

Soroush on Reason

An article by Iranian philosopher Abdolkarim Soroush on the conflict between reason and religion, via eurozine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Philosopher’s Carnival, No. Forty-Nine

The 49th Philosopher’s Carnival, or ‘All Philosophy is a footnote to Plato (and Aristotle)’, is presently being hosted at Tales of Modernity.

Rorty is Dead II

Ramin Jahanbegloo, who made an appearance in these parts last year when he was arrested and imprisoned in Iran, has written an obito-analysis of Richard Rorty.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Is John Howard an Enlightened Man?

"In our rich and beautiful country, there are children living out a Hobbesian nightmare of violence, abuse and neglect. Many are in remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. To recognise this is not racist. It's simply an empirical fact."
John Howard

Then there was his own description of himself as a Voltairian.

Are we all detecting a little Condorcet in Howard's solution to a "Hobbesian nightmare"?

White House or Ivory Tower? Have your say.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rorty Is Dead

‘Alas, I have come down with the same disease that killed Derrida.’

Considerable American philosopher Richard Rorty died on the 8th of June (of pancreatic cancer).

Jürgen Habermas provides a personal obituary, while Roger Scrutton is critical and the New York Times is biographical. (Arts and Letters Daily is listing other obituaries.)

Politics At The Pub – Iraq Folly

This month’s Politics at the Pub will see Rod Barton and Arthur Chesterfield-Evans discussing Iraq. (I’ve heard Chesterfield-Evans a couple of times recently, and he often has interesting things to say).

The Hamilton Station Hotel, Tuesday 19th of June at 6.30 pm.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

'Sex as Communication' defintion

I was attempting to try and make the ‘sex as communication’ theory fly by i) removing the prescriptive element, and making it more a definition rather than a line drawn in the sand, ii) treating these communicative instants as Austinian performatives, as is my obsession these days, and iii) introducing greater ‘social fields’ ala Wittgenstein or even Foucault, to account for the apparent inability to account for solo masturbatory acts or their ever looming ‘aid’ porn. Then it dawned on me that Williams, who I must admit I have a kind of soft spot for, as one of those often neglected but progressive for his style of philosophy philosophers (but maybe that’s just one of my hang ups from undergrad shinning through), didn’t comment on masturbation or pornography because he wouldn’t, by the ‘sex as communication’ analogy, consider such acts as sex. Sexual in nature yes, but not sex. So simple yet it eluded me, the greatest genius ever to have lived ever in the history of man which is of course all that is history, and the author of the Philosopher’s Carnival submission on this subject, who postulated that one of the failures of this method of reasoning about sex is that it fails to account for masturbation or pornography.

I give as an example: if someone has a partner, and they masturbate while being monogamous with that partner, have they cheated? The obvious answer is no. This seems to fly in the face of ‘pornography addiction’ which is perceived as one of the ‘plagues’ afflicting social morality bay many commentators far more widely read than myself.

The thing is that otherwise, my endeavour to expand the theory has been somewhat fruit-full as it is kind of stating the obvious, in keeping with our much beloved Bertie: “The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.” The over analysis only seems to strengthen its cause.

But isn’t pornography communicative I hear you ask? Yes but not as a conversation. It functions communicatively as any novel, movie, image, etc. It follows the same rules as any aesthetic production, and as such this is a moot point.

Personally I find sex far more interesting than religion (as did Lord Bertrand I might add), so what are your thoughts on the ‘sex as communication’ definition? I might even be arsed writing it up in its expanded form.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

On the Scriptural Jesus

This shall be a brief note, following on from a comment earlier made. It needs must be proceeded by acknowledging I am neither a theologian nor a biblical scholar.

The genesis of this idea was a discussion of whether an individual today could know anything about Jesus. (To avoid an obvious complexity, it is assumed that there was a single actual individual whose variation of Judaism is the origin of Christianity). It seemed an obvious retort to base any claims about this Jesus on the Christian Scriptures. As such, the claim would take the form ‘I know x about the Scriptural Jesus’ (for, ‘I know that Scriptural Jesus regularly employed metaphor’).

A problem with this stratagem (for want of a better word) is that it seems difficult to actually construct a ‘Scriptural Jesus’. Reliant on the accepted Gospels – those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – it could be argued that there are at least four different ‘Scriptural Jesuses’. How so? Each of the ‘authors’ (whose existence and nature are currently contested issues) creates a different Jesus in their text. I am, at this point, going to have to reach for authority. I first recall encountering the idea that the Gospel authors presented different ‘aspects’ of Jesus in Studies of Religion nearly a decade ago, and have since discussed the idea with a couple of theologians who have accepted it. It’s theological basis is that, on consideration of the Gospel texts, there are differences between the Jesuses in terms of their teaching styles and, where comparison is possible, their actions. It does not seem too great a step from a claim that Mark presents different aspects of Jesus to John (and I would like to be able to make evidential reference to the texts, but I do not have them at hand) to a claim that they actually present different Jesuses. This takes the 'character' presented in the Gospel as a Jesus distinct from the Jesus character protrayed in the others. It is akin to a step that classicists seem willing to make in regard to Plato, where there is an accepted distinction between the early Platonic Socrates and the later Platonic Socrates. It is also akin to the acknowledgement that the Socreates of Plato is different to that of Xenophon.

At its crux, the problem is one of reconciling the differences between the accounts contained in the Gospel. As there are differences, to claim a Scriptural Jesus would require a reconciliation, which in turn would require a justification of the decisions made. As such it may be safer to make claims in regard to the Jesus portrayed in the different texts (returning to the example, ‘Mark’s Jesus regularly employed metaphor’).

As a brief post script, it should be acknowledged that, if there are four different Scriptural Jesuses, then there are more as each Gospel not included in the Christian Scriptures contains a different Jesus.

Philosopher’s Carnival, No. Forty-Eight

The 48th Philosopher’s Carnival presently being hosted at Common Sense Philosophy.

Friday, June 01, 2007

On Insanity

'"Insane person" - Any person who shall for the time being be idiotic lunatic or of unsound mind and incapable of managing himself or his affairs and whether found insane by inquisition or otherwise' - An Act to Consolidate and Amend the Law Relating to the Insane 1879 (NSW) s 3.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Monday, May 07, 2007

Baudrillard est mort II - The Art of Disappearing

The Art of Disappearing’, via Eurozine, contains excerpts from a discussion between Jean Baudrillard and an interviewer. Baudrillard, while discussing death and disappearance makes some interesting comments on Foucault’s death ...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

MacFarlane on Scepticism

‘Let's define what a sceptic is, a sceptic is someone who based on the information he or she has received to date has a position. It doesn't say they won't consider another position, they say based on the scientific evidence that I've been presented with, there is a debate about what the connection is. There is a growing weight of evidence and I'm happy to sit here and consider it.’ – Ian MacFarlane MP, in an interview on Lateline.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bachelor of Theology Update

The program outline for the new Bachelor of Theology (BTh) is now finally available here.

While there are no Philosophy courses listed as being compulsory, a few have made their way into the directed elective list, so it's not a dead loss for us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Philosopher’s Carnival, No. Forty-six

The 46th Philosopher’s Carnival is presently be hosted at The Space of Reasons.

Worth noting, and reading if you’ve the time, is ‘Higher Order Truths about Chmess’, a keynote address by Daniel C. Dennett.

Friday, April 20, 2007

History of the Philosophy Club

A while back I had started to look into the history of our Philosophy Club. After giving up on individuals memories I recently had a dig through the archives under Auchmuty Library. I didn't find much, as I suspect that there is more material relevant to this gathering dust in various parts of McMullin building, but I did manage to extract a few key facts.

Officially, the Philosophy Club was founded in early 1966. I don't know if this is older than the Engineering Fraternity, which claims to be the oldest social club on campus, without ever giving an actual foundation date. (I doubt any of their members/ex-members can remember that far back). But I think we can safely claim to be the oldest Academic club on campus, even if we don't pre-date Autonomy (1965) as I had previously speculated.

As for the Dialectic journal, I have yet to pin down a firm first issue date, but the 2nd volume was published in 1968, so I think it seems fair to assume that Volume 1 was created in 1967. The archive has Volume 2, Number 1 (Feb 1968), the archivists and myself would be very keen to track down anything earlier.

I have been investigating other clubs similar to our own via the web, and many seem to have only lasted a few years, with a high rate of attrition apparent in over the last 10 years or so. In light of this, the age of 41 is an impressive figure.

Sam Douglas.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Ok, time to decide on mugs. To do about 6 of them, I may want to keep the number of screens down to save time because I don't want it to be a multi-week epic. I have been trying to have new screens each week, because time is limited in how long I have access to the equipment. So if there is any aesthetics ideas, remember that 2 or three colours is best, 3-4 colours probably absolute maximum, but 1 seems too easy from the exercise point of view.

As I said before, I am planning to do: Foucault, Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel, Wittgenstein, and Russel. If there are any better suggestion, now is the time to put them forward. Schopenhauer would be good. So would Satre maybe.

Otherwise we need quotes for each. I will hopefully be making the screens next Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Politics at the Pub – Moral Panic

This month’s Politics at the Pub looks at moral panic and the exploitation of fear for political gain. This discussion is in conjunction with the Newcastle launch of Outrageous! Moral Panics in Australia, co-edited by George Morgan who, with Shane Homan (University of Newcastle), will be on the panel of speakers. Morgan's book looks at various moral panics in Australia.

Politics at the Pub will be at the Hamilton Station Hotel (Beaumont St, Hamilton), on Tuesday 17th, at 6.30.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter 2007

Perhaps, at this auspicious time in the Christian calendar and after some recent discussions, it’s time for the divine hand to smite some heathens

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Blog Notice – The Restraint Project

The Restraint Project – James Franklin, author of Corrupting the Youth, and Cathy Legg are charting the progress of their study of restraint in Australia.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Baudrillard est mort

‘“I don’t know how to ask this question, because it’s so multifaceted,” he said. “You’re Baudrillard, and you were able to fill a room. And what I want to know is: when someone dies, we read an obituary—like Derrida died last year, and is a great loss for all of us. What would you like to be said about you? In other words, who are you? I would like to know how old you are, if you’re married and if you have kids, and since you’ve spent a great deal of time writing a great many books, some of which I could not get through, is there something you want to say that can be summed up?”
“What I am, I don’t know,” Baudrillard said, with a Gallic twinkle in his eye. “I am the simulacrum of myself.”
The audience giggled.
“And how old are you?” the questioner persisted.
“Very young.”’

This passage – originally from MacFarquhar’s ‘Baudrillard on Tour’ (previously quoted here) – seems an apt obituary.

Others have been authored by Le Monde, The Times, and The Guardian (plus one by Baggini).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Graham on Christendom and Modernity

'Christendom, an expert on the topic lamented on CBC the other night, is in decline in the West. Apparently "Modernity" is to blame. The Pope probably agrees. Though I'm not sure what Modernity includes, the advancement of science, technology, literacy, higher education; the greater awareness for cultural diversity; the greater appreciation of the value of tolerance; and so on, are probably all a part of the overall package. And these things might all lead to a decline in Christendom because Christendom thrives on a lack of awareness or understanding of how science reveals the nature of things and how technology works; lower rates of literacy and higher education; a lack of appreciation for cultural and religious diversity; and a certain degree of intolerance of difference. "Modernity" may make its citizens more aware of alternative explanations of religious belief, explanations that don't require the positing of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, all-present, creator and sustainer of all things who acted in the world through his one and only Son in order to save us all from our sins. Perhaps religious belief is simply due to culture and upbringing, or evolution, or driven by various psychological needs, or something else altogether. "Reason" no longer seems to assist "Faith" the way it once did.'
- Peter Graham, reviewing Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's Moral Skepticisms for NDPR.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Foucault: the Shirt

I will be making a short run of Foucault shirts as pictured.

This is a two colour image printed on a dark brown shirt, which will hopefully be raglan sleeved. The image is about 30cm in height.

If you would like a Foucault shirt, then let me know before next Monday. Tell me what size you are after and whether you want men's/lady's.

Also, I have been considering adding text either underneath the image or on the back. If you have any suggestions for a quote or the like, please let me know.

Philosophers Carnival #44

Philosophers Carnival 44 is on at Movement of Existence.

It is worth a look, if you can be bothered.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Conference – Moral Cognition and Meta-Ethics

The Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics will be hosting a conference on the interplay of meta-ethics and cognition, in Sydney, in late August.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Club Meeting 12 March 2007

Disclaimer: All attributed comments (even my own) are paraphrased to the point of being semi-fictional and events may have occurred in a different order than I remember. If you don’t like it, put your corrections/perspectives in the comments.

I arrived late, so I hope that some of the other members present will fill the gaps in my patchy and biased recollection.

James expressed his resentment at God, for causing (or was it allowing?) his lack of belief in Him. This resentment was allegedly thrown into sharp relief by an encounter with a particularly happy group of 'believers'. Michael and I tried to tell him that this was OK, as he was right, but James found little consolation in this.

The analogy was put forward that even though he didn’t believe in very much he could defend a very small area of ground very well with the few truths (or is that Truths) he could rely on. James replied that this wasn’t much use as he only had a small bit of ground, and the Christians were out having a good time playing cricket. I suggested that they were actually drowning and they didn’t know it. It was around this time that participants became less enthusiastic with the analogy.

Changing tack, I tried to tell James he had it wrong and that the key to happiness was to “not worry about whether or not you are actually happy” and “not worry about who you are”. I admitted that this was fairly well unfounded other than my own experience. James said that this was not very useful, and that I was full of shit.

We disputed the existence of buses, again. (Did we talk about ducks?).

Samuel Barnes arrived and cast doubt on James’ assertion that all Christians are happier than atheists, by declaring that he wasn’t particularly happy.

At some stage Michael bough theology into it, and we argued about the passive potential of God – That God has to have done everything and is the best at everything, otherwise he isn’t perfectly transcendental. A number of people expressed the opinion that this seemed a bit strange. I asked if God held the record for the performance of a certain kind of act in a public venue. Most people ignored this and Hannah told me that I didn’t say it loud enough because not quite everyone in the courtyard heard. Samuel Barnes seemed troubled. No one could agree on whether or not a God outside of time could act inside of time, or what this even meant.

That more or less concluded our meeting.
If you want to get in on the action ( or lack thereof) meeting details are listed here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

So Long and Thanks for all the Chilli

One of our most active and well-known members has left our small community (physically at least) for the exciting and exotic shores of Japan. Peter Woodward has probably devoted more of his time to the Philosophy Club than anyone else I've known since I have been at this University. A well as a period as club president Pete has at different times provided the venue, the food (really, really good chilli) and sometimes the drink for club events, all on his own time, and often out of his own money.

During his time here, whether he has been in an official position of authority (as much as any of our positions have 'authority') or not, Pete has always been a major contributor to the intellectual and critical nature of the club. I will particularly miss the withering (though usually well-meaning) verbal beatings that friend or foe alike could expect if we put a foot wrong when we found ourselves in an argument with him.

But for the moment, these duties will remain the responsibility of the remaining members.

While we spend our time as usual (studying/working/languishing in despair) Pete will be filling his working days with teaching English, and the rest of his time at Sumo matches or arguing with Zen Buddhist monks.


Thanks Pete & good luck.

Sam Douglas.


Bachelor of Theology at University of Newcastle

On Friday 9 March 2007 the Academic Senate of our university approved the introduction of a Bachelor degree program in theology. Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Kevin McConkey has indicated that this degree could be of interest to anyone in the community, not just those seeking to enter religious ministry.

A new position of Professor of Theology will be created, and this position will be funded for the first five years of the program by the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.

Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Brian Farran, has said: "Placing theology in the public arena in a tertiary setting where everything can be critically assessed and dialogue can take place, is an exciting way for the Diocese to make links with the community and develop religious conversation".

Official UoN press release.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Politics at the Pub – Cool Clear Water

This month’s Politics at the Pub considers the politics of water, with speakers Nat Jeffery (former weather presenter with NBN and candidate for Climate Change Coalition for NSW Upper House in coming State election) and Michael Osborne (Newcastle Councillor for NSW Greens, Green's candidate State Seat of Newcastle Author of "Talking Water: An Australian Guidebook For The 21st Century").

The March Politics at the Pub will be at the Hamilton Station Hotel (Beaumont St, Hamilton), on Tuesday 20th, at 6.30.

With the election being held several days later, it might be a good chance to meet two of the lesser known candidates.

On 'Simone Weil'

I was recently in a hardware store perusing paint samples, when I discovered that Dulux has a paint colour called ‘Simone Weil’. It is a shade of grey.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Jesus loves Samosas

Osama, the empire's old arch-nemeses is celebrating his 50th today, which is quite an achievement considering he wasn’t meant to see the end of 2002, with two wars apparently being waged to bring about his timely death. Only being 50, he could have a good 20 years of terrorist masterminding ahead of him before retirement

Friday, March 09, 2007

Prediction for the State Election in Newcastle

Those of you who have been paying attention to the news over the last eight months have been aware of the ‘situation’ concerning the local labor party and the state election. Ostensibly we are at a momentous event in the history of Newcastle politics: it will not vote labor and instead elect an independent. Stateline last week had a story about this followed by another concerning the fact that it is not the liberal party that is posing any threat to the Iemma government, rather independents, with the outside possibility that if roughly ten independents get up, then we could see a hung government.

What we are hearing is the lead the labor party has over liberal in two party preferred terms, which is creating a skewed picture of where dissatisfaction with a corrupt government is heading. It rightfully points that it is not going to a clearly incompetent option: the Debnam led liberals, who face losing seats rather than closing the gap, which one would expect considering the fit hitting the shan spectacularly for a government that has long outstayed its welcome. What it does not show is that rather than increasing its representation, the labor party is likely to lose seats to independents including the safest of labor seats, Newcastle.

Roughly the local polls are as follows: McKay (labor) 24%, Gaudry (independent) 22%, Tate (independent) 20%, Osborne (greens) 12%, Babakan (liberals) 9%. Ultimately it will be decided by preferences, with greens going to Gaudry, liberals to Tate, and you would think Gaudry before labor. Labor will go to Tate over Gaudry, which will amount to a Tate win (basically equivalent to a labor win). This is assuming however that people will just send the preferences to where the local party decides, which clearly is not the reality. As such, to call the results Tate 53% to Gaudry 34% would be misguided, it does still hint at a Tate win (I am predicting 47% to 40%).

Liberals will almost universally send their preferences to Tate because despite having been considered by the labor party to be their candidate in place of McKay, it still stands that Gaudry is the ex-labor member for Newcastle, McKay is the labor candidate for Newcastle, the greens are the greens, and as such Tate is the least of three evils for them. As I said above a Tate win is basically a labor win, and as such their preferences should actually go to Gaudry; they won’t. Babakan was very reluctant to say that the higher powers had given him the orders to preference Tate, which he himself seemed uneasy with, presumably because he is aware of this irony.

Greens preferences will be with Gaudry because they are against the rampant development of Newcastle. Anyone voting for greens will not preference Tate or labor above Gaudry, and will probably only put Tate above labor to avoid having McPuppet (though Tate would amount to about the same thing, he will not be absolutely obliged to follow party lines).

Labor will not preference liberals obviously, nor the Greens because of their almost militant opposition to the corrupt development dealings shaping Newcastle over the last fifteen years. For the same reason they will not support their ex-member, who was removed as their candidate from above for this very reason. Tate on the other hand was considered as their candidate because his vision for Newcastle as Mayor was rampant development followed by even more rampant development.

If Tate’s reasons for running as an independent rather than for labor are to be believed, that Newcastle needs to cast off the shackles of labor who have ceased being able to adequately represent Newcastle’s interests, then he should preference Gaudry before labor, but I doubt it. Sadly for Gaudry, he will probably have to preference Tate above labor, though it amounts to only a symbolic gesture. Presumably where their preferences go will be irrelevant anyway.

Essentially the Newcastle election therefore is a referendum on development.

What we get is a rejection of labor because of their pandering to developers and a desire to make the green lights easier for further development by removing an obstacle for ‘tits and arse’ (apparently she is there to represent generational change, but Newcastle is quickly turning into a retirement village, so I suspect its more to do with sex appeal to the conservative aging fraternity). However, the likely winner represents the same developer interests, just with some Newcastle pork barrelling (read Tate and the Honeysuckle corporation pocket lining). It is sad to say then that a majority of Novocastrians are in favour of development at the expense of town and social planning. Hopefully I will be proved wrong.

Anyway, any thoughts or alternate predictions out there?

Thursday, March 01, 2007


SydPhil is a mailing list, presently administered out of the University of Sydney, for the purpose of publicising philosophy related events in the Sydney region.

While it is Syd-centric, it might be of interest for those prepared to make the occasional trip.

Review Notice – Foucault’s ‘History of Madness’

NDPR has published a review of the recent translation of Michel Foucault’s History of Madness (Histoire de la Folie, previously translated in an abridged form as Madness and Civilization).

On Education and the State of Democracy

Here is an article by our beloved Barry, the pick-a-box king:

Barry Jones article

Oddly, while reading this I thought of our federal education minister, Julie Bishop. She is very concerned about a few things: poor literacy and numeracy rates (not of interest to me here), ideologues teaching in schools, and post modernism eroding facts, slipping into that all frightening relativism!!!

Surely she can't have it both ways. Can you have evil idealogues co-existing with relativism?

What does she suggest we be taught if there not ideology, nor critical theory (which of course is the critique of ideologies)?

Considering Barry's article, what does her suggestions mean for the future of democratic Australia?

Most people I know think that I were crazy?

Billy Thorpe has now become the late instance of himself, dying on the 28th of February of a heart attack. What does this have to do with a philosophic blog? His best known song really should be the the anthem of many of our members, especially the hazy part.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Weekly Meetings

Weekly meeting are back on, Tuesday midday onwards. I've been assured that the McMullin Courtyard has recovered from it's encounter with the current administrator's fetish for the cosmetic enhancement of the campus, so we will see how it goes tomorrow. Usually if the weather is inclement, there was a few rooms (either MC110 or the fabled Philosophy Common Room) nearby that we could use, but I haven't checked their availability. Alternatively, we could see how many people I can pack into the shoe box that passes for my research office.

Also, I'm taking suggestions for our set topics. Don't make me talk about what I'm doing for a year, we will all regret it, especially last years members who have heard it all before.

I hope to see some ( or even all, though I don't know what I'd do with 90 or so people at a meeting) of you on Tuesday.

Sam Douglas.

The Mind’s Eye – An Introduction to Philosophy

The Art Gallery of New South Wales will be hosting a course of introductory lectures on the history of western philosophy.

Friday, February 23, 2007

George Molnar

Stephen Mumford, of the University of Nottingham, has established a site on University of Sydney philosopher (and student of John Anderson) George Molnar. Molnar, who died in 1999, was in the process of editing Anderson’s papers and finalising his work Powers A Study in Metaphysics.

As an aside, Oxford University Press has released Powers in paperback.

(Thanks to This is the Name of This Blog.)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Article - 'Other Lives'

'It is hard to let go of Pythagoras. He has meant so much to so many for so long. I can with confidence say to readers of this essay: most of what you believe, or think you know, about Pythagoras is fiction, much of it deliberately contrived.'

M.F. Burnyeat has written an intersting article on the life of Pythagoras, for The London Review of Books, reviewing two recent biographies of the mysterious classical figure.

Monday, February 12, 2007

O-Week 2007

As it is O-Week, I thought that it might be worthwhile to scribble down a brief welcome note.

Firstly, welcome to the various new members of the University of Newcastle Philosophy Club. As of Monday there are about sixty of you. (I’d like to apologise to anyone I scared.) Secondly, welcome back to more established members.

Details of the weekly gathering/meeting are still to be finalised. At the moment they are still going to be held on Tuesdays, with a time and location to be announced shortly.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dialectic, it is our on-line forum. Club members are welcome to become contributors – the details on how to do this will be sent out in an email – and to engage in the discussions and debates that take place here.

It has been suggested that the Club convene a Fresher Reading Group. This would probably meet monthly. If members are interested in joining, they should contact us and let us know.

Once again, the Executive would like to state that the Club exists for the interests of the members. If you have a suggestion or comment, all you have to do is let us know.

Martin Hill,
Vice-President (In Exile).

Question On Mateship

Watching the ABC’s Difference of Opinion, I began to think about the concept of ‘mateship’ and how it differs from ‘friendship’.

This led to a question that needs more attention in Australia than it has possibly been given – what is ‘mateship’?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Undergraduate Philosophy at the University of Newcastle

For the official University of Newcastle philosophy course descriptions, please click on the course code. You will note that not all philosophy courses are available this year. This is due to a combination of issues, so generally they are run on alternate years .
If we had enough people express interest, then the university might be able to run them more often.

If you are an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident and do not currently qualify for entry to university, but want to study philosophy, both Newstep and Open Foundation run excellent introductory Philosophy courses.

PHIL1020 Introduction to Philosophy A 10 units
An introduction to Philosophy through a range of topics from to the Mind-Body problem to Utilitarianism. Content changes almost every year. Not indicative of the structure or depth of more advanced courses.

PHIL1030 Introduction to Philosophy B 10 units
As above. Has previously included Existentialism, Peter Singer on Animal Rights and Darwinism.

PHIL1060 Introduction to Philosophy of Psychology 10 units
An introduction to the philosophical issues arising from the study of psychology.

PHIL3020 Metaphysics 20 units
Does Space have a shape? Do other minds exist? Do I have hands? Is Inductive reasoning of causation reasonable? Survey a highly diverse selection of philosopher’s arguments in one of the most interesting and fundamental branches of philosophy. I enjoyed it in the past, therefore you will enjoy it in the future!

PHIL3030 Reason and Religion 10 units
One of the most popular higher level philosophy courses run by the faculty, content covers most of the major arguments for the existence of God, as well as many of the arguments against this proposition.

PHIL3060 Topics in Ancient, Medieval and Modern Philosophy 10 units (Not available in 2007)
Plato, Aquinas and Nietzsche. A heady and dangerous mix if the proportion of Nietzsche is too high. Spend many happy hours in the Godfrey Tanner bar wondering what it would be like to be a barbarian. In all seriousness a great precursor to any serious study of ‘Continental’ philosophy.

PHIL3070 Scientific Knowledge and Scientific Method 10 units
What is special about Science and why does it work so well? How should we decide between competing theories? Includes work by Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and Paul K Feyerabend.

PHIL3120 Philosophy and Film 10 units (Not available in 2008)
A highly popular course with both Film and Philosophy students.

PHIL3140 Non-European Philosophy 10 units
See how the other half live. Daoism & Lao-Tzu, Confucianism, and ancient chinese cosmology. Dwell on filial piety, ponder the elegant visual poetry of Lao-Tzu, or completely un-do your mind by thinking about what the Dao is like.

PHIL3260 Philosophy of Language 10 units (Not available in 2008)
Covering works from Kripke, Quine, Wittgenstein and many more this course gives a solid introduction to a field that straddles Logic, Philosophy of Mind and the relationship between our words and the world we inhabit.

PHIL3420 Critical Thinking 10 units
Learn to differentiate between Soundness and Validity. Finally figure out what those little diamond and square shapes in books about logic mean. Hone your critical skills in a way that can improve your performance in almost any other discipline if applied properly.

PHIL3430 Introduction to Rationality Theory 10 units (Not available in 2008)
If you are lucky enough and know more about game theory than your opponent, you could win a cash prize from Dr Mintoff!

PHIL3451 Philosophy and the Good Life 20 units (Not available in 2008)
What is ‘the Good’? How will we know it when we see it? What is the role of pleasure in life?

PHIL3460 Philosophy and Human Relationships 10 units
Friendship, Love, Happiness and Politics.

PHIL3580 Ethical Issues 10 units
Both a stimulating and at times confronting look at ethical issues surrounding the profession of Social Work. Even if you are not a Bachelor of Social Work student, this is worth doing if you are interested in issues of social welfare and justice.

PHIL3720 Philosophy of Cognitive Science 10 units (Not available in 2008)
Once run by the now legendary Professor Cliff Hooker, this course may, or may not be back. But I (and others) hope that it will return at some stage.

PHIL3821 Enlightenment and its Discontents 20 units (Not available in 2008)
The Enlightenment, Modernity & its defenders and the people who insisted on pointing out the problems with both. As Mr Hill would say: “Was ist Aufklarung?”

PHIL3850 Power and Subjectivity 20 units (Not available in 2008)
Want to understand Foucault? Well it will take more than this, but it is a good start. Covering a large amount of material from Conolly, Lukes, Marcuse and Foucault, this course looks at the exercise of power and the creations of subjects via everything from discourses on sex to correction by incarceration, ostensibly from a continental perspective.

PHIL3910 Technology and Human Values 10 units
Striking fear into the hearts of engineering students, who will do anything to avoid it as it involves thinking, writing essays and working in groups, this course exists to expose students to normative decision making in an engineering, design and dynamic systems modeling context, through the use of both technological examples and philosophic works.

PHIL3930 Human Values and Commercial Practice 10 units
Should businesses ever be ethical for reasons other than money?
Widely taken by business and management students (who generally miss the point) Looks at issues of normative ethics and meta-ethics from a business and managerial perspective.

There is also an Honours program in Philosophy available through the Bachelor of Arts. This consists of a full-time year (or equivalent) of study roughly split between coursework on selected topics and a written dissertation/thesis on a topic of the students own choosing. Coursework varies from year to year, but has in the past choices have included courses on: Kripke’s Meaning Scepticism, Philosophy of Consciousness, Socrates, David Hume and Aristotelian Virtue Ethics.

Candidates who achieve Honours Class I or Class II Division 1 are eligible for admission to post-graduate research degrees. Alternatively, for those seeking further coursework based study in other fields, successful completion of this Honours year translates to an extremely high score on the Universities Admissions Index (UAI).

A note on ‘units’: A standard course ( aka subject) is 10 units, and a normal full-time load is 40 units per semester.