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.