Thursday, December 11, 2008

The mouths of babes

I was recently in Kuala Lumpur with my 4 year old daughter. We saw a lot of Hindu temples, and my daughter was impressed by all the gods on their rooves.

One day, we were walking by another temple and she asked, "Dad, are there Gods in Australia?"

"I don't know, what do you think?" I replied.

"I think they all died." she concluded.

Friday, November 21, 2008

World Philosophy Day

Apparently we missed the World Philosophy Day yesterday on the 20th of November. This is not too surprising considering Australia held no events to support the initiative.

Kellie Tranter laments our Government's inaction on the issue and postulates some questions Australia should be thinking about in On Line Opinion.

list of other country's events.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Internet Censorship in Australia

Unless you have been living under a rock you may have heard of this: Mandatory Internet Filtering. In an effort to (ostensibly at least) "protect the children", there is a plan to install filters in all Australian ISPs. Under the plan there will be two levels of filtering. One level will be optional, and will be 'child friendly'. The other , according to Minister for Broadband et al, Senator Stephen Conroy, will be mandatory, and will block all "illegal content". Sites that contain the banned content will go on a 'blacklist' that cannot be publicised and is exempt from Freedom of Information requests. An ISP employee chose to speak out against this and had the Senator attempt to silence him for his trouble.

What exactly the "illegal content" is remains to be seen, but speculation ranges from the obvious candidate of child pornography, to a broad range of Refused Classification and X18+ material and possibly some R or MA content. This largely seems to depend on what independent Senator you are attempting to buy off. 

Cynicism aside, this is an issue that should be of interest to Australians who do not want the government to decide what they can and can't view on the web. Of serious concern is how tempting it would be for a government to use this tool to it's own purposes. I'm not sure that it's quite a 'Ring of Gyges', but it is potentially pretty close. 

Given that it is too late in the evening for me to go on further I'll leave you to read up on this in your own time. Overclockers Australia is keeping a wiki on media related to this issue (note the massive explosion of interest when Senator Conroy let slip in Senate Estimates in mid October that it wasn't optional). 

Warning, shameless self-promotion approaching: I've also managed to bang out a few odds and end of my own analysis as well at Philosophy Hurts Your Head. Sites such as NoCleanFeed are also worth a look. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

Global Economic Crisis and the Spectre of Marx

With the impending collapse of the entire capitalist system, the revolution must surely be at hand. More likely the media needs fuel to feed its ever expanding furnace, and Marx is useful fodder, as the most tenuous link is all that is needed to run with a story, especially in the world of opinion and columnists.

What we have learned in the past few weeks is if you are not promoting the individual in economic practice, then you are a socialist, or worse, a communist. We know this from recent congressional debates over the Wall Street rescue package; this is a socialism for which I will not stand called several Republicans.

It is easy to see why we have seen such a surge in the term 'socialism' being bandied about in the media.

Apparently Germans have been rushing to buy up Marx's Das Kapital. BBC Story.

The obvious reality is that some good old fashioned Keynesian capitalism is being deployed to solve a problem of deregulated capitalism, so I really don't know how or why Marx has come into any of this at all (other than his analyses of capitalism is still fundamentally strong and some US senators still fear those reds under their beds to the degree that even George W Bush is an evil socialist).

Still, rather than buy yourself a copy of Kapital, or even to read it, Librivox has recently released it in free digital talking book form. Librivox Das Kapital

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two down, three to go

Richard Wright is with Syd now, performing that great gig in the sky. Wright was the keyboardist for Pink Floyd and father in law of Guy Pratt, the man who played bass in place of Roger Waters after he left. Pratt is a fantastic bassist, sadly Waters is not.

Echoes, part 1 off Live at Pompei (originally off the album Meddle). Wright is the beardy guy singing.

Simon Blackburn on the Sokal Scandal

The Australian have run a piece about the 1996 Sokal scandal by Simon Blackburn, a professor of philosophy from Cambridge, taken from his book How to Read Hume.

Misadventures in the quest for scientific truth

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Flamboyant French Philosopher does Something

Here is an article by Carlin Romano about Bernard-Henri Levy and his new book newly out in the US Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism from the Australian.

Happy Higgs Boson Day

The time has finally come for CERN to fire up the old Hadron Collider and find some God particles in a mini big-bang. I for one welcome our new black hole overlords.

Summary by PHD Comics

Cern and the large Hadron Colider from Radio National's The Science Show

Cern Colider ready for power up from the BBC

Paul Davies on Lateline

BBC Today's On the Hunt for the Higgs Boson. Contains audio of Stephen Hawkings talkling about the Large Hadron Colider

Statue of Adam Smith

The Scottish have built a statue of economist and philosopher Adam Smith.

Article from The Australian

Article from


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Other Philosophically Inclined Writers Festival Events

Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone!

Free event at Bangarra Theatre, 14:00 to 15:00 on Saturday 24th

Craig Schuftan will talk about Nietzsche's theories on music and opera.

David Rieff on ABC Radio National’s Book Show

Ticketed event at Pier 2/3, Downstairs, 10:00 to 11:00 on Friday 23rd.

The son of Susan Sontag will talk about 'Swimming in a Sea of Death', a memoir of his mother's illness.

The Future of Feminism

Ticketed event at Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay, 12:30 13:30 on Sunday 25th.

Sarah Hall, Emily Maguire and Lynne Segal to discuss the future of feminism.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Zombie Leprechaun Nietzsche's Pot of Coal Threatened

There are plans to dig up the grave of Friedrich Nietzsche in Rocken, Germany to get to his precious precious coal. It turns out that Nietzsche carcus guards a brown coal seam.

The site was earmarked for mining in the 1980's when he was blacklisted by the then communist regime who failed to separate him from his sister's revision of him as the official philosopher of Nazi Germany. Now for the irony: as they are buried next to each other, they may finally rescue Nietzsche from his evil sister.

I am lead to believe brown coal is dirty and inefficient as a fuel source. We should be asking why are they planning on making the entry in the Rocken church grave yard register declaring that here lies 'a known anti-christ' a lie, when they should just buy our superior coal.

England Times Article
Times Article on Nietzsche's Sister

Chalmers: Happiness is Overrated

David Chalmers was an attendance at a Buddhist conference on happiness held in Sydney this week. This is an Article from the Sydney Morning Herald about the conference. Chalmers position apparently is that the 'bad' emotions are as fun as happiness.

Do we value happiness above what it is worth?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Simon Critchley at the Sydney Writers Festival

The Sydney Writers Festival, on between the 19th and 25th of May, is hosting Simon Critchley as one of its speakers. Critchley, who is a professor of philosophy at the New School of Social Research, will be talking about death at the festival at three events. His latest book is entitled 'The Book of Dead Philosophers'. Critchley has previously written about the ethics of deconstruction.

His events are:

22 May, 10-11am What's the Big Idea?: Critchley will be discussing big ideas such as death and religion with John Gray and Maria Turmakin.

23 May, 2.30-3.30pm The Great Beyond: Critchley and Mark Wakely talk about 'mysteries, rituals and myths surrounding death.'

24 May, 4-5pm Dead Philosophers: Critchely to talk about attitudes towards death.

Each event costs $15/$10, bookings made on 9250 1988 or at Sydney Theatre

Darwin Rarities Online

Charles Darwin (along with that other Charles, Mr Sanders Pierce) died on the 19th of April, which just happened to be yesterday. To roughly coincide with the day, there has been a substantial new addition to the electronic catalogue of Darwin's writings at The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. The new release includes the first draft of his theory of evolution and The Decent of Man, notes from the voyage of the Beagle, Emma Darwin's recipe book, and reviews of his work from the time.

Inventor of Black Holes Dead

Keeping with posting obituaries several weeks after the event, John Wheeler, the theoretical physicist who coined the terms ‘Black Hole’ and ‘Worm Hole’ died last week on the 13th of April. Wheeler had collaborated with Albert Einstein, and that is about as much as I know. Instead of trying to write up something more substantial, I have decided instead to link to an interview with Wheeler by Paul Davies, recorded in 2003 and played on Radio National’s The Science Show this weekend.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gary Gygax fails his save verse death

A little belated: Gary Gygax, the man who co-invented Dungeons and Dragons, author of the first edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and co-founder of TSR, Inc. (tactical studies rules), died last week on the 4th of March.

While strictly speaking not a philosopher, in fact not a philosopher at all, I always liked Pete's description of philosophy degrees as 'top gun for nerds'. In this vein I feel his passing should be recognised by the greater nerd community which we are probably part of.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Grayling’s ‘Against All Gods’

Aware that many of the members are fans of polemics, I would commend AC Grayling’s Against All Gods. I would even commend the work to those members of theistic persuasion, and those that maintain a belief fairies and/or goblins...

Philosopher’s Carnival, No. 63.

The Sixty-Third Philosopher’s Carnival is presently being hosted by a Mr Noah Greenstein. Mr Greenstein’s theme is comedy.

Now, if only we had Aristotle’s work on comedy …

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Club Notice - The University of Newcastle Philosophy Club 2008

The Executive, having had some preliminary discussions about the Club in 2008, is asking for comments and suggestions.

Having organised the Club since 2005, the aim for 2008 is to engage the large membership we attract. The Executive intends to maintain the anarchic organisational practice that it has long adopted. It is this will allow for members to organise a vibrant range of activities.

At present, the Executive intends to maintain the weekly discussion group and Dialectic.

The Executive is interested in suggestions for events and forums beyond the weekly meeting, and in hearing from members who would like to organise reading or specialised discussion groups.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

Workshop for Beginning Researchers in Philosophy

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Sydney will be hosting ‘Philosophical Issues and Philosophical Methods’, a one day workshop in conjunction with the Australasian Postgraduate Philosophy Conference.

The workshop, on the 25th of March in the calm sandstone surrounds of the Quad, is intended for honours students and beginning postgraduate students in philosophy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Carnival Contempt Controversy

After the comments at the close of the Dead Philosophers' Carnival, some discussion has ensued regarding how appropriate the attitude was, and how appropriate it was (or not) to actually express it. Since I'm now acting unilaterally from my co-editor, I've posted this under my own login.

Two discussions of this (amongst other things) can be found at Jared's Sportive Thoughts and Annie's Anniemiz

I had no intention of portraying the editorial team as infallible, but philosophy is a cause that I willingly confess to being passionate about.

On Snark

I think Annie of Anniemiz presents a decent discussion of public 'snark' and I'd like to address a few of the points that she makes. She asks what it is that expressing such an opinion adds to the discussion or what it actually achieves and offers some ideas.

Yes, it does inform the authors that their work stinks. But, from what I read, the authors should already have known that (more on that later). Whether or not this is helpful in terms of their philosophy (of which, I maintain there was littler or none anyway), depends on what exactly was the problem. If someone has made a genuine effort, but simply wasn't very good, I probably would have included them - and I would not have spoken to them that way. If, as I found, you are dealing with people who think that any passing fancy or opinion counts as philosophy, then being humbled can be very helpful - I should know, I've been there.

It is somewhat satisfying to make such comments, but as Annie well knows, only for a short time. And I concede it probably has not improved me. But it certainly wasn't easier to say it rather than not.

I agree also that public 'snark' can detract from the evaluation of it's subject. But since I didn't include publicly name the targets, that clearly was not my intention.

I had two aims: I wanted to send a clear message to those people that not only what they submitted was unacceptable, it evidenced a level of laziness and arrogance that I took to be an expression of contempt for the Carnival and for the practice of Philosophy itself, and that I would not let it go unanswered. I like to think that if Socrates was alive and hosting he would be at least as rude.
Secondly, I wanted to provoke a discussion regarding the expression of such attitudes, as it is something of a point of contention.

I think maybe I could have used less snark, but I won't settle for no snark at all.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Dead Philosophers' Carnival - The 60th Philosophers' Carnival.

Welcome to the Dead Philosophers’ Carnival - The 60th Philosophers' Carnival.

The death of Socrates marks one of the most significant moments in the development of philosophy. It is one of the landmarks in the development of Plato’s thought, and thus influential on all who have laboured under his tutelage. It is also one of the deaths that have a presence in the history of philosophy; a notable elder sibling to the deaths of Seneca, Boethius, Nietzsche, and Foucault.

The death of a philosopher marks the conclusion of their endeavours. In some cases it comes at the end of substantial contribution, in others it comes a little too early.

The intent of this Carnival – the first in what, it is hoped, will be an annual series – was to provide an opportunity for the students of philosophy to reflect on the contributions made by those who did not see the close of 2007. Admittedly not everyone stuck to the theme, but if philosophers always did what was asked of them, where would we be?

Duckrabbit starts the proceedings with a discussion of the work of Richard Rorty, one of the most high-profile philosophers to die in 2007 with: Is Rorty a "textualist"? And if so, is that bad?

Inconsistent thoughts provides a retrospective of Paul Cohen’s work on the Continuum Hypothesis: On Cohen and CH

VirtualPrimate gives an excellent summation of the Humanist philosophy of of Kurt Vonnegut jr: Goodbye Blue Monday : Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 1922-2007

Philosophy etc talks not about someone in particular who died, but about the end of one’s life itself with: Death's Deprivations

Enigmania nominated two other posts of note relating to the work of philosophers who passed in 2007:

Religious Pluralism and Consistency relates to Jewish religious philosopher Ernst Ludwig Ehrlic’s work


Monty Hall and Interpretations of Probability is in the area of the late Henry E Kyburg Jr, well known for his contributions to both Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence.

And now to the other articles of philosophy worthy of inclusion, but sadly off-theme.

Pete Mandik of Brain Hammer assures us that: Your Brain is Reading This. And who are we to argue?

Andrew Moon of Show-me the Argument asks us to consider how much similarity is there between The Train Case and the Hospital Case ?

Gualtiero Piccinini quizzes us on out semantic intuitions (I have none, Kripke has ruined them) - Will You Share Your Semantic Intuitions?

Nothing of Consequence revisits some earlier work on Sequent Calculus in: Operational meaning and global meaning in sequent calculus.

And finally, Thom Brooks at The Brooks Blog outlines some of the pitfalls awaiting us when we try to get a book deal with: Some of the worst advice on publishing (Graduate Students note: Thom's blog is packed with good advice in many relevant areas!)

To all the contributors who made the cut, especially those who stuck to the theme, well done and keep up the good work. The Editors appreciate the effort that you went to.

With only one exception (the article was good, but not actual philosophy), the rest of the submissions we received were essentially political, commercial or religious spam and/or total and utter drivel. Those people will get nothing from us except pure contempt. You know who you are.

Happy New Year Everyone.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Publication Notice – Colloquy

Issue 14 of Colloquy (December 2007), out of Monash University, has recently been published online. Issue 14 takes utopia as its theme.

Dead Philosopher’s Carnival – Closing Call!

A brief note to remind those inclined to submit to the First Dead Philosopher’s Carnival - to be hosted here next week - that it would be most appreciated if they did so by tomorrow.