Sunday, December 16, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
I'm really sorry, but among all the chaos and confusion the situation has been resolved. Due to David Webster's talk at the Beehive at 19:30-20:30 on Monday 10th December, the meal at 18:00 would have been too rushed. Therefore, we can still meet at 18:00 for drinks in a pub in the Montpellier area (Suffolk Arms?). Then go to David's talk at the Beehive Pub on Religion being Good or Evil followed by a meal afterwards...21:00-21:30 (Possibly Spice Exchange?) .
Monday, December 03, 2007
The topic is Religion: Good or Evil? So, nothing too heavy then...
Come along and heckle if you must - free wine is rumoured..
Just to let you know that the RPE Christmas Meal will be on Sunday 9th December at Spice Exchange Indian Restaurant, Clarence Parade, Cheltenham @ 18:00.
please let me (or one of the level 3 student reps) know if you would like to come...
Sunday, December 02, 2007
He (Major David Bigelow) concludes: It is unethical to create a fully autonomous military robot endowed with the ability to make independent decisions unless it is designed to screen its decisions through a sound moral framework.
Which sound moral framework, I wonder, would that be though? I thought RPE blog readers may find his piece of interest....
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
The argument seems to run that good schools have uniforms / formal aspects: therefore the goodness of the schools must be a function of the dress of the pupils and the formal relation with teachers. (It may also be that the proponents of such a view have memories of their own formal schooling and the relative quality of the experience - but the principle is the same).
It looks here - to me - like a good old-fashioned causal fallacy. Without evidence that the uniforms and formal means of address have a causal connection to the behaviour / attainment of pupils - the connection could surely be either coincidental, or both could be the effects of some other, third cause...
Now - I was schooled in the 70s and 80s, and have, possibly as a result of liberal social conditioning, a deep aversion to school uniforms: but when I raise this in classes - my students all seem in favour of them - as do the parents of many of those at the same schools as my children: what's going on in the world?
Is school uniform really a good thing? Why? Can anyone tell me good reasons for it?
Friday, November 23, 2007
Since then this phenomena has really taken off (Click here for UK list, or here for USA one) – including volumes on South Park, The Office, Family Guy, Baseball, Running, Woody Allen, Bob Dylan and many more: with more coming all the time.
Is this a good thing? You might think this a stupid question – surely applying to philosophy that things people are actually interested in is a positive move – and exposing the fans of these cultural phenomena is a good way to interest people in philosophy and demonstrate that it is not a pointless waste of everyone’s time…
Yes – and Stephen T. Asma argues this in a piece entitled: Looking up from the Gutter: Philosophy & Popular Culture. Why would anyone disagree?
You can also read more, from the Pop Matters website, where there is a piece entitled: Pop Goes Philosophy - talking both about the Philosophy and South Park book, the Asma article, and the phenomena in general. The authors, I thin, make a good point when they say (after commenting on Asma's piece:
So Asma is missing the big picture when he concludes that philosophy and popular culture are and will remain worlds apart. He is right, however, to be amused by the missionary (and presumptive, I would add) zeal of those who suppose that merely by sugar coating their lectures with references to pop culture, they make philosophy appealing or rewarding to the masses. The fact that most people know little about the history of the mind-body problem and other workhorse topics of professional philosophy does not mean, however, they yearn to know more.
Well - I have read a few (currently reading 'Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind') - and although I have enjoyed some essays I have an odd sense of dis-ease with the series at times: but am not sure why - is it snobbery on my part - I don't think so... also, some essays in them are rather good - so why this sense of concern with the phenomena as a whole?
Will ponder and get back to you: responses welcome - do you think this is - overall a 'good thing'?
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Following the runaway success of last year's event, I am told that students are planning to have another staff-student meal this Christmas.
The date under discussion is Monday 10th December, with The Indus (Indian Restuarant, on Bath Road) as a possible location. Please feel free to comment here - or contact Level 3 Student Rep Frances O'Hagan (I can forward e-mail if you don't have her address). If you want to come make sure Frances knows, as she wants to book the table(s) as soon as possible.. staff too...
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
The BBC (and many others) report this case of a girl excluded for refusing to take off a bangle which she considers part of her Sikh faith.
Read the story at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_east/7081573.stm
While the BBC has its usual ranting site at http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?forumID=3792&edition=1&ttl=20071107145207 I thought maybe some of the readers of this blog would like to comment here:
- should a school have a uniform policy that bans all religious expression?
- should it have uniform at all?
- should this pupil be allowed back - is she right to hold firm to her belief that she must wear this item?
I look forward to comments...
Our next meeting is on Tuesday 4th December so I hope to see as many of you there as possible.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Will Kaufman from the University of Central Lancashire presents this partly-spoken and partly sung event.
'Woody Guthrie: Hard Times and Hard Travellin' is a live musical programme that sets the songs of Woody Guthrie in the context of the American 1930s -- the Dust Bowl, the Depression, the New Deal and the state of popular music itself. Will Kaufman brings such hard-hitting Guthrie songs as 'Vigilante Man', 'Pretty Boy Floyd' and 'I Ain't Got No Home' into conversation with other songs of the Depression Era -- from Joe Hill's 'The Preacher and the Slave' to 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?'. These renditions, buttressed by detailed historical commentary, exemplify the blending of music and radical politics that marks Guthrie's most powerful and evocative work.'
See http://www.uclan.ac.uk/facs/class/humanities/staff/kaufman2.htm for testimonials.
It is 5.30pm in TC006a (FCH) - contact Professor Neil Wynn for more details.
Also, we will be choosing our next book so please come along with some ideas...
Friday, November 02, 2007
By the way, next week he's discussing Avicenna.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I note that at the end - the Philosopher's Magazine trys to sell you a book, by one..... Roy Jackson... Try the game - and if you don't do too well - you know who to ask for help...
Friday, October 26, 2007
I think the thing about the RPE blog that has interested people here is the manner in which Humanities students (thought of as bookish and un-technical) have grasped the opportunity to use a discursive on-line forum. I explained that RPE students never turn down a chance to argue: be it with each other, the staff - or anyone else for that matter...
Well - see you all back in the UK - RPE301, Love Sex and Death on monday!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Once back, I hope we can use a wiki-based e-glossary for the RPE208 Indian Religions module – and in ethics, well: we think about examples a lot. We ask you think of scenarios. It was that I mind that I listened intently to a paper by Jennifer Jenson from York University, Canada on, of all things, Lego.
Now, some readers will be aware of the craze for on-line Lego based animation (or maybe the Lego Star Wars video games) – and you may have come across the Biblical re-enactments created using the little Danish blocks of plastic (and their virtual form). The package we were shown yesterday allowed users to drop in a backdrop, create unique Lego figures and speech-bubbles – and animate them using the virtual equivalent of stop animation. This may not sound immediately applicable to RPE – but think of spending an hour making a short Lego-animation that demonstrates an example of an ethical dilemma (with no actors, or awkward ethical restraints). Maybe I’ll have to do one to demonstrate that it really does work: I’ll link to some examples when I get the address…
Beyond that, there is a lot of good practice here in relation to all kinds of e-learning – including blogs: I’ll let you know what people think of this one…
Some pictures here too, to give a flavour of the event – and to show that I did find the local Buddhist Meditation centre (but it was closed)…
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
It seems good to be back here to report on a year of using this blog – and using podcasts and the like. I hope we shall find ways on encouraging more of our students to be involved over the next year (so far, we have a group of very keen students who argue [about anything] , a large number of ‘lurkers’ (students who read the blog but do not join in) – and a few who do not read it all…
Anyway – as I find more technology and ideas here at the conference, I will post on the blog….
[BTW: it is freezing here!]
Please do post your thoughts / ideas as any discussion will be helpful for when we next meet.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
It will be an opportunity to meet each other, collate some ideas for our reading material, and to discuss other issues of place and frequency of meetings.
Anyone is welcome to attend. It might be useful to send me an email (email@example.com) so I at least have an idea of who is interested: but turning up on the night is fine too.
Hope to see you there...
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Programme: Autumn Term, 2007-08.
Sessions held at 7.30 p.m. room 203 FCH Campus, Swindon Road, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham,
(Other than Brown Jug meeting on December 5th.)
Chris Norris will talk on the work of the prominent contemporary French philosopher, author of “Ethics: an Essay on the Understanding of Evil” and “Metapolitics”.
2. Wed. October 31st. 2007. Dr. Ian Jones, University of Gloucestershire. “Race and Reality: Foucault and Jim Crow”.
Ian Jones will discuss his recent study of the medicalisation of racism in the United States as codified in many of the ‘Jim Crow’ laws and practices, and the work of philosopher Michel Foucault in their understanding.
3. Wed. November 14th. 2007. Dr. Stella Sandford, University of Middlesex. “Approaching .the Work of Simone de Beauvoir”.
Stella Sandford, a member of the Radical Philosophy journal editorial board, will discuss her 2007 book How to Read Beauvoir, on the work of the French existentialist and major figure in the history of feminist ideas.
4. Wed. November 28th. 2007. Liz Rolls, University of Gloucestershire: “Containing Grief: A Cross-Disciplinary Perspective”.
Liz Rolls will be talking about her extensive research over the last few years into the issues of grief and childhood bereavement.
5. Wed. December 5th.2007. 10.30. a.m. at the Brown Jug, Bath Rd., Cheltenham. Gloucestershire Philosophical Society Seminar: Cracker Barrel Philosophy: innate wisdom and its critics”.
Is there an innate wisdom shared by or sharable by all: are technical, professional languages merely ‘vernacular wisdom gone to college’? Or do they give us more powerful means of enquiry? What is ‘experience’ and how do we measure or apply it?
6. Wed. December 12th. 2007. Dr. Ieuan Lloyd, formerly University of Wales, Swansea: “Relativism: A Modern Fad?”
Ieuan Lloyd will investigate the issues in the ongoing debate over the currency of relativism in philosophy, and raises pertinent questions regarding its status in the climate of postmodernism.
The dates of the AGM and annual dinner will be fixed at the first meeting.
Monday, September 24, 2007
This morning I was with our friends at BBC Radio Gloucestershire talking to John Rockley about guilt. We covered eco-guilt, parental guilt and charity use of guilt to get us to pay up.
Two questions spring to mind that students might be interested in:
- What makes you feel guilty?
- Is guilt a bad thing / is it pointless / should we not feel even more guilty?
I look forward to your responses... please use the 'comments' option to respond..
Friday, September 21, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
On behalf of myself, Dee, Alison, Roy, Melissa and Nigel (and the others you will have from time to time) - we hope all goes well in Induction week - and that students from years 2 and 3 will join in welcoming you...
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
As part of our induction activities for new students next week, we shall be asking them what is meant by term 'natural': what does it mean to talk of an 'unnatural' practice - especially as an evaluative moral term?
We shall be spending some time at a place where people go to spend time in 'nature' (Westonbirt Arboretum) - what does it mean to call such a place 'natural'? - And does spending time in such places assist us in reflection? I (and the new students) would appreciate any thoughts - or indeed references - that will help us think this through...
Comments welcome via the blog..
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
For those of you that are unaware of the fact: believe it or not, the Sport, Health and Social Care students do have a philosophy strand to their courses (it's not all running about on the astroturf!) - and that is where I come in. So let me introduce myself. Although my background was originally in Philosophy and Linguistics I am now lecturing over at Oxstalls mainly on the Sports & Exercise Science, and Sports Development degrees. This year I will be taking over the Sports Ethics modules (SV201 and SV302) which will hopefully be the forum for some very stimulating discussion surrounding the issues of violence, doping, and cheating in sport, as well as other aspects; for instance, the relationship between politics and ethics in sporting events. As both of these are on the RPE pathway I hope I would not offend my colleagues at FCH too much in encouraging the RPE students to take up the opportunity of one of these modules.
Additionally, I will be setting up a philosophy and ethics reading group in the University. It is anticipated that this will be a very informal session where we can attempt to comprehend and discuss issues in selected texts. More details will follow in the near future but I hope our first meeting to be around Week 2 of term. Again, I would encourage any interested parties to participate.
Other than that, you can find out more about me and my research interests on either my own website: www.emilyryall.net or on the official faculty page (which also has a very cheesy photo of me!).
Fifth Annual Prize Essay Competition in
European Philosophy from Kant to the Present
TOPIC: The Implications of Bio-Medical Technology for
This topic may be addressed historically, systematically, or through any combination of these two approaches. The winning essay will receive a prize of $1000 and, upon recommendation of the selection committee, be published in Inquiry. The author of the winning essay will also be brought to the University of Kentucky in the Fall of 2008 to present it.
The winner of the first four annual Prize Essay Competitions were Sami Pihlström (University of Helsinki), Robert Guay (Binghamton University), Helder De Schutter (University of Leuven), and Herbert de Vriese (University of Antwerp) for their essays “Recent Reinterpretations of ‘The Transcendental’ Revisited” (Inquiry 47, No. 3 ), “The ‘I’s Have It: Nietzsche on Subjectivity” (Inquiry 49, No. 3 ), “Nations without Nationalism” (Inquiry 50, No. 4 ), and “The Myth of the Metaphysical Circle.”
Essays will be judged by a process of blind review. Submissions should be appropriately formatted for such a process, with the author's name and other identifying information appearing only on a separate cover sheet. Essays should be double spaced, in English, and no more than 8000 words in length. Past and present faculty and students at the University of Kentucky are ineligible to compete. Submissions should not have been previously published or submitted for publication.
The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2008. Essays should be submitted in triplicate in typed (hard copy) form to Ms. Katie Barrett, Department of Philosophy, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0027 USA. No electronic submissions please.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
I am hoping that two new authors will begin to post with me here soon. Emily Ryall and Roy Jackon - both philosophers here at the University of Gloucestershire. We will shortly welcome new students - and look forward to another busy year of blogging...
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
NEARLY half the British think that religion is harmful, according to a poll
carried out by YouGov. Yet more than half also believe in God “or
Is this a contradiction? These two halves are unlikely to be precisely exclusive - so a number of people clearly take the view that there is a God (or 'something') - but that the human response to this (if that is what we cal religion) is harmful... I guess it brings us to the question: can we have 'God without religion'? (and would we want it...)
Saturday, September 01, 2007
The impact of African American music on western, white popular music is well documented. But while much has been written about the influences of black music on early rock n’ roll and the explosion of British popular music in the 1960s, little has been said about the earlier, and broader, effects.
Cross the Water Blues: African American Music in Europe (University Press of Mississippi) is a unique collection of essays examining the flow of African American music and musicians across the Atlantic to Europe from the time of slavery to the 20th century.
Editor Neil Wynn has assembled a broad exploration of different musical forms such as spirituals, blues, jazz, skiffle, and orchestral music. The contributors consider the reception and influence of black music on a number of different European audiences, particularly in Britain, but also France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
The essayists approach the subject through diverse historical, musicological, and philosophical perspectives. A number of essays document little-known performances and recordings of African American musicians in Europe. Several pieces, including one by Paul Oliver, focus on the appeal of the blues to British listeners. At the same time, these considerations often reveal the ambiguous nature of European responses to black music and in so doing add to our knowledge of transatlantic race relations.
Contributions from Christopher G. Bakriges, Sean Creighton, Jeffrey Green, Leighton Grist, Bob Groom, Rainer E. Lotz, Paul Oliver, Catherine Parsonage, Iris Schmeisser, Roberta Freund Schwartz, Robert Springer, Rupert Till, Guido van Rijn, David Webster, and Neil A. Wynn
Neil A. Wynn is professor of twentieth-century American history at the University of Gloucestershire. He is the author of Historical Dictionary from the Great War to the Great Depression, From Progressivism to Prosperity: World War I and American Society, and The Afro-American and the Second World War.
For more information contact Clint Kimberling, Publicist, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about Cross the Water Blues: African American Music in Europe at: http://www.upress.state.ms.us/catalog/spring2007/cross_the_water_blues.html
Friday, August 17, 2007
The link is: http://gogrue.wordpress.com/2007/08/13/plantinga-on-whether-belief-that-god-exists-is-properly-basic/
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I thought it might be of interest to see where - after starting out - people felt the study of philosophy had taken them in their lives: and the impact thereupon (a real word?)...
comment welcome via the blog here...
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Here at the University of Gloucestershire - in (really) sunny Cheltenham - we are preparing for the first run of year three of the Religion, Philosophy & Ethics course. We are also welcoming another intake of first years (though we may have places through clearing - see http://www.ucas.com/clearing/vacancy.html for details on the process - or contact us via e-mail).
For current students - please use http://www.glos.ac.uk/timetables/index.cfm to see the timetable, and student records to choose your modules. Remember that those entering levels 2 and 3 will need 4 modules per semester...
Hope you are all having a good summer...
Monday, July 30, 2007
Once all is back to normal here, it may be that we want to think over the debates that have been happening here - over how quickly the usual order, some have claimed, turns to chaos - with panic-buying, police supervising water supplies, etc - and the converse tales of neighbourly solidarity...
For more news on the University of Gloucestershire - see http://www.glos.ac.uk/
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
At Elon University, Nim Batchelor has a page entitled: How can I tell my parents that I want to be a philosophy major?
But – what do those who are actively studying on a philosophy course – or active in philosophy as teachers or in some other sense - think?
Does the study of philosophy make you:
More content – or more despairing and miserable?
A better (more virtuous) person?
Awkward and disputatious?
Smug and self-righteous?
Or perhaps the study of it has benefits that aren’t as clear and as much to do with what impact it has on the individual student…
Saturday, July 07, 2007
which I thought would make an interesting pre-module listen. Enjoy...
Thursday, July 05, 2007
I was born in Liverpool and did my doctorate at the University of Kent where I also lectured for a number of years. I have, in my time, taught in secondary schools, colleges and various universities including Durham and King’s College London. I specialise in Nietzsche, Philosophy of Religion, and Islamic Philosophy and recently published two books for Routledge: Nietzsche and Islam, and Fifty Key Figures in Islam. I’m really excited at the prospect of teaching in the RPE department and, of course, experiencing the ups and down of the Robins (Cheltenham Town FC!).
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Monday, June 04, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
News of the RPE Summer Meal, and a Summer competition to follow...
Monday, May 14, 2007
I thought it would be an interesting post for this site to ask the readers of the blog (many of our students did these qualifications) to tell us about their experiences - and others, how did you encounter philosophy? To summarise - we would love to hear:
- Tips / Advice for AS/A2 Philosophy & Ethics students
- Anecdotes about your studies at A-Level (16-18yrs old - for readers abroad!)
- How did (for all blog readers) you first encounter philosophy as a subject - and what did you make of it?
- And a question for students: Why are you studying philosophy? How did it happen?
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
There is a lot of material, but it is worth having a good look around, and seeing what might apply to your in-class studies at present.
Monday, May 07, 2007
"Uniting Atheist, Skeptic, Agnostic, Realist, Enlightenment,Humanist, Unitarian,
Transcendentalist, Pantheist, andDeist systems of belief to create the World's
First Open Source, Rational Religion, the advent of Yoismmarks a turning point in the history of Homo sapiens,the next stage in human development: Childhood's
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
(or just click here)
Look at key textbooks with the title (or click here)
What you will note is the Theistic focus of the topics - the nature of God, arguments for/against God, the Problem of Evil, etc.
Is this discipline which has grown up most notably in Anglo-American philosophy, not better titled 'The Philosophy of Theism'?
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Well, the sun has been out, and it has been the holidays.
Anyway, back to it as we are, I thought I would update students (and other interested parties) with regard to changes to the Field (Course) map for next year...
RPE108 Greek Philosophy
OTC116, Rome Field Trip (now counts as an RPE module)
RPE209 Philosophy of Mind
RPE208 Religions of India (double module, replacing the Hinduism and Buddhism modules)
RPE307 Close Philosophical Reading
RPE301 Love, Sex and Death and RPE304 Ethics and Reason are both to become 'double' modules...
There are other minor changes, linked to changes in the shape of the academic year, but these are the main ones...
[Field Chair, Religion, Philosophy & Ethics]
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Many of you are doing the Buddhism modules (RPE202), and there also seems to be a ‘craze’ for seeing philosophy as, in some sense, therapeutic (see http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/5914/) . I was thinking of these two things in tandem this afternoon, and it struck me that we have been discussing themes pertinent here in class.
These have come out of our discussion as to whether Buddhism (esp in its early phase) counts as a religion. Well – I welcome comments on that topic – but also: can philosophy count as therapy?
Buddhism seems to count as therapeutic: –it includes the philosophy and a particular targeted practice (though we might, of course, dispute the accuracy pf the former and the efficacy of the latter).
Indeed Buddhism is if anything more sceptical of a certain philosophical ‘view holding’ (though after the very early phase scholasticism becomes a key part of Buddhist tradition), as we see in the Sisupacala Sutta, (trans from http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn05/sn05.008.than.html, SN 5.8):
Is the Nun here rejecting all views? We often get the view in Buddhism that the practice consists of the three elements found in the 8-fold path: wisdom (insight, maybe), morality (or virtue) and meditation practice.
At Savatthi. Then, early in the morning, Sisupacala the nun put on her robes and, taking her bowl & outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day's abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, & terror in her, wanting to make her fall from solitude, approached her & said, "Whose philosophy do you approve of, nun?"
"I don't approve of anyone's
philosophy, my friend."
For whose sake
have you shaved your head?
You look like a contemplative
but don't approve
of a philosophy,
so why are you wandering here
Outside philosophers place
their confidence in views.
I don't approve
of their teaching.
They're not adept in the
But there is
the Awakened One,
born in the Sakyan clan,
a person without peer:
endowed with an
Eye all-seeing, reaching the end
of all kamma —
with the ending of
He, that Blessed
One, is my teacher.
It's in his Dhamma
that I delight.
Then Mara the Evil One — sad & dejected at realizing,
"Sisupacala the nun knows me" — vanished right there.
Can Western philosophical traditions be considered as in any sense therapeutic without this kind of holistic approach?
Further, can Buddhism really be said to reject ‘views’ – and still propagate a position on as
many issues as it seems to?
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Cheers - Dave
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Some of you will have discussed in class the classic moral problem sometimes known as the runaway trolley case - where a trolley car is running out of control down a hill - and is about to kill 5 people, but you happen to be stood by a switch - with a lever: pull the lever and it switches trackes and the 5 people are safe.... but (there's always a 'but' in these examples) there is one person on the other track - do you pull the lever 'killing' 1 and 'saving' 5?
Now - you will recognise in this issues of Utilitarianism, and there are numerous variants that demonstrate some of the problems associated with assessing situations on the basis of utility... what if you knew some of the people - or if the 1 was a doctor, and the 5 were criminals on work-release - etc... Other variants include an example where there is no switch but you can push a man (in some version a fat man) in front [you are unable to put yourself in its path] and hereby save the 5 - is this different?
In surveys people are often reluctant to act when it involves an act which seems so directly like 'killing' - but I came across this interesting article in the New York Times which quotes a survey that seems to link answers to this variant version to areas of the brain - via a survey involving people with damage to certain parts of their brain. It is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/21/health/21cnd-brain.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
If we accept this - what does the link between brain areas and moral choice say about the nature of moral choice itself?
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Well- - I thought it was an intriguing topic for the blog..
The Animal Aid website at http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/CAMPAIGNS/horse/ALL/// says:
Most people regard horse racing as a harmless sport in which the animals are
willing participants who thoroughly enjoy the thrill. The truth is that, behind
the scenes, lies a story of immense suffering. Approximately 15,000
foals are born into the closely-related British and Irish racing industries
each year, yet only a third go on to become racers. Those horses who do not
make the grade may be slaughtered for meat or repeatedly change hands in a
downward spiral of neglect. Of those horses who do go on to race, around 375
are raced to death every year.
Beneath its glamorous façade, commercial horse racing is a ruthless industry motivated by financial gain and prestige. Cruelty? You can bet on it!
And a campaign to ban the use of the whip says (see: http://www.livingethically.co.uk/Pages/HomeArticles/2007campaign-banthewhip.htm )
Why should the whip be banned?
ITS USE IS TO PROMOTE UNNATURAL SPEED - The overiding reason for using a whip upon a racehorse is to get it to perfom at its absolute optimum - to encourge it to try harder or run faster than it would under natural conditions. This is of little benefit to the horse itself. Surely, to demand a horse runs at an artifically engineered speed through using a whip is done merely to satisfy human expectations and desires to see how fast horses will go in competition with each other.
A RACE IS STILL A RACE IF A WHIP IS USED OR NOT - The point of horse racing must be that they race against each other over a predetermined course and distance and the horse that passes the finishing post first wins. Whether a whip is used or not in this process is immaterial - without whips, a race could still be run and winners declared.
FOR SAFETY REASONS - Some horses veer or at least run away from a whip,
especially if inexperienced - this means that if for example a jockey is using
his whip in his right hand, the horse will move to the left. This can potentially cause accidents. Also, by running at an unatural speed - flat out - horses can make mistakes, especially when jumping.
WHAT WAS ACCEPTABLE THEN SHOULDN'T BE NOW - We do not use physical persuasions upon humans to control their behvaiour any longer, eg corporal punishment - why should horses be physically persuaded by the use of the whip to give unreasonably beyond their all? In different times, using a whip upon an animal was viewed as acceptable as it could be used on a human being, but this should no longer be the case.
Is this convincing? Clearly the are issues about the instrumental use of animals, but for those who eat meat, wear leather and have pets - can we really criticse here without being hypocrites? What defence is offered by the industry? The Horseracing Regulatory Authority has guidance on the whip:
The HRA will not tolerate abuse of the horse and consider its welfare, and the safety of the rider, to be paramount. The whip should be used for safety, correction and encouragement only and they therefore advise all riders to consider the following good ways of using the whip which are not exhaustive:
Showing the horse the whip and giving it time to respond before hitting it.
Using the whip in the backhand position for a reminder.
Having used the whip, giving the horse a chance to respond before using it again.
Keeping both hands on the reins when using the whip down the shoulder in the backhand position.
Using the whip in rhythm with the horse’s stride and close to its side.
Swinging the whip to keep a horse running straight.
The HRA has asked Stewards of Meetings to consider holding an enquiry into any case where a rider has used his whip in such a way as to cause them concern and publish the following examples of uses of the whip which may be regarded as improper riding:
Hitting horses:to the extent of causing
with the whip arm above shoulder height;
rapidly without regard to their stride, i.e. twice or more in one stride;
with excessive force;
without giving the horse time to respond.
In this view - the whip is of benefit to the horse - it helps it race well and stay safe... But what of the wider moral argument? Many feel that horse-owners love and care deeply for their animals, the business provides employment and pleasure to thousands and further to this - many feel that the horses derive pleasure from racing themselves (and that racing is natural to them)- and that the critics are sentimental hypocrites...
Well - enough from me - what do you think on this topic..
Monday, March 12, 2007
Organised by the University of Gloucestershire chaplaincy, the panel will include Mr Ahmed Bham from Gloucester Muslim Welfare Association and Professor Melissa Raphael, Dr Dee Carter and Dr David Webster from the University’s Department of Humanities.
University chaplain and organiser, Rev Pete Sainsbury said, “What is fundamentalism? How did it play out in religious and public life in the twentieth century and what does it mean now? These are some of the questions we will be discussing and we would like anyone who is interested in this debate to come and join us.”
“There are varieties of fundamentalism and we’ll be discussing the usefulness of the term in understanding religious, as well as secular belief,” added Dr David Webster, course leader in religion, philosophy and ethics.
The panel will invite questions and opinions from the floor. Light refreshments will be served after the event. Everyone is welcome.
For further information, contact Rev Pete Sainsbury on 01242 714593, or email email@example.com
Monday, March 05, 2007
Note: If you are a student looking at this to help with a paper/essay on the Omelas short story - that is great, we hope something here helps - but be sure to give a reference - and send me an e-mail to let me know if you find the material useful..
Dave W: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Semester (in RPE101, Philosophical and Ethical Arguing) we used the Ursula Le Guin short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas to discuss a number of ethical concerns that we were going over in class. Details of this post are at:
In EZ205 (Ethics and Language), we have covered a number of ethical theories, and I wanted to raise some of the related issues with the class. I would like you to look at the story and consider your response in a number of ways….
- What is the nature of the ethical problem here? How is it linked to the theories we have been looking at in class?
- What would you do – and why?
- In what way do we share the dilemma of the people of Omelas in our current economic and political world?
- Would it be worth the life of one innocent child to free the world from, say, AIDS?
- Is the contrivance of the story useful - do such exmaples help our moral thinking?
- In Le Guin’s description of the city of Omelas (which is striking), what do we learn of her view of what the Good life consists of?
Please use the ‘comments’ feature of the blog to respond to these questions (and make any other comments others that occur while reading or reflecting…)
Other RPE students (and indeed anyone else) are welcome to join in here!
See you in class…
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
This podcast is a reading (by me) of the Mahasatipatthana Sutta, on the Buddhist notion of the Four Noble Truths, with comments and explanations. While I will give a handout to you in class, the sutta is also at http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/mahasati.htm
The podcast download is at http://www.archive.org/details/DavidWebsterFourNobleTruthslecture/ or on the Higher Education section of iTunes.
As ever - do let me know if there are technical problems (it is a 27MB file, so you may need the patience of a Buddha...)
Sunday, February 18, 2007
http://pebblepad.glos.ac.uk/blog.aspx?blogoid=5503 - hope it is useful. [It may be of interest to those studying A-level, ( As / A2) Religious Studies, Philosopy & Ethics - or for thier revision]
Those studying RPE103 Contemporary Ethical Issues may also want to have a listen. I have also added, at the same location, a copy of the Utilitarianism powerpoint that EZ205 and RPE103 students may find of use...
[Oh - posts about the skills needed to study philosophy and/or ethics are still very welcome on the post below...]
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
When we were given the opportunity to attend a Philosophy conference, three of us fellow students jumped at the chance. Not only did we think that the day would be philosophically interesting, we also wanted to have a 'peek' at the very famous Cheltenham Ladies College, where the conference was held. The building was very grand indeed. Although the conference was aimed at A-level students, it was a very intellectual discussion. In fact, we all feel that studying the 'Philosophy, Science and Belief' module (RPE 201) really helped us to gain a strong grounding in the discussions.
Keith Ward started the conference off by talking about the statement 'God is a delusion' and examined where our beliefs in God come from. He then opened the discussion to the students who asked many interesting questions. One young lady asked where our morals come from if we do not possess belief in God, Keith Ward very quickly replied that we cannot have a real morality if we do not believe in God, which of course we all disagreed very strongly with (as we feel we do possess morality!)
Anthony Flew was allotted to speak next, although he forgot that he had to be there and so he was late! (He is very old so we cannot hold him entirely responsible...) Keith Ward stepped in to talk about the Verification principle (he was a student of the very famous A. J Ayer!) and also spoke briefly on falsification. He was very impressive actually; he hadn't prepared but managed to speak very coherently on the subject.
During this time, some students attended an exam preparation workshop, which we did not attend (mainly due to the fact that we have just finished our exams!). Then it was time for a break - tea, coffee and biscuits were supplied! Yummy! Back to the Princess Hall again for another talk from Keith Ward examining the problem of evil, and attempting to explain why there is evil in the world today. From a Christian view, he attempted to explain evil due to our freedom in the world, and God could not intervene otherwise he would jeopardise our freedom. He also attempted to explain the notions of God's goodness and his omnipotence. Some 'smart alec' attempted to argue a very silly point - comparing God with Hitler - the room went incredibly silent by this remark!
Lunch time, and we went to a very cute little tea room.
When we arrived back, feeling very full, Anthony Flew had arrived! He looked very old and doddery, but also had a very warm charm to him. Flew and Ward had a debate concerning God's existence, but it was incredibly difficult to hear Flew, everyone had to strain their ears very hard. They both hated Darwin, and Flew became very animated indeed when he was arguing his point against Darwin. What we did find frustrating was that both Ward and Flew possessed belief in God, we would have liked to have seen an atheist there to stir things up a little!
Overall, it was a really enjoyable day!
Anthony Flew apparently got the days muddled and didn't arrive until the afternoon. So Keith Ward delivered an unrehearsed and, well, an unwritten, talk on verification and falsification, which was impressive, but I still found him irritating. (By the way, without Philosophy and Science RPE201, I would have been lost for a lot of the day). When he talked about 'the problem with evil' he seemed to be saying that without God, there is no criteria for morality, goodness, friendship, all the virtues, really. So a young woman challenged him on it and he answered in a kind of wet way, and what I gathered from his response was that he didn't think morality, etc, was possible without God. Frankly, I didn't think he answered any of the questions well. He could lecture from his own position, but he didn't do well defending it. Also, he was always referring to striving towards the Good, as an objective reality that exists, God, Supreme Good, Ultimate Reality. And although, I couldn't formulate a question, I wasn't convinced by his argument (he also seemed like a dapper, chirpy-voiced, personable, cheerful, unangst-ridden little man which irritated me).
Frances, Emily and Carol asked very good questions.
Anthony Flew hates Richard Dawkins. That came over loud and clear. But it was the only thing from him that did. He became very excited about 'time'. He was downright animated stating there hasn't been enough time for the natural selection process to have evolved to where we are today. But the problem with using ‘time’ to refute evolution theory and thereby using the refutation to support independent design theory, is fallacious reasoning of the bifurcation flavour. It’s the same as using irreducible complexities to slam evolution theory but simultaneously and indirectly using it to support independent design (as Carol pointed out in her question to Keith Ward – which he didn’t answer properly – where’s the little symbol on the keyboard that sticks its tongue out?). What I mean is the faulty reasoning is the either/or one, ‘if it’s not this, it’s that’. The ‘time’ evidence falsifies evolution theory. But that doesn’t necessarily lead to the acceptance or truth of independent design theory.
Keith Ward hates Richard Dawkins too. I think he used the word 'stupid' several times to describe RD. Unfortunately, I had to strain very hard to hear Anthony Flew. The afternoon session was organised like a conversation between KW and AF. So it was a little frustrating because AF couldn't be heard. Or Keith Ward would pontificate and Anthony Flew would nod his head and reply ‘Yes, yes’. He must be in his deep 80s and it was a great opportunity to see him, though.
Friday, February 09, 2007
But you can bet if I wake up and find a burglar in my home, the furthest thingHere is a point about how we decide - the process in the split-second moment - and whether we at that point apply any moral theory at all. Maybe we just act on instinct (that's what is sometimes feels like). OR perhaps we implicitly apply some set of crtieria? Or maybe it is habit/training?
from my mind will be the golden rule, however conceived or applied. And when I
call 911, it won’t be because I have reasoned that doing so will restore a
person’s soul to a state of virtue. More particularly, I won’t be doing that
type of reasoning while the burglar is in my home.
The second thing I thought about after reading this was: Does the study of ethics make you a better person?
[This is very pertinent in the UK, as many more people seem to be studying philosophy and ethics at A level
A-Levels (split into As/A2) are what UK students do between school and University - normally around the ages 16-18
AS and A2 Religious Studies now have a large portion of this type of material in them]
There could be numerous answers:
- Yes - I now think about others much more, and more concerned to act in an appropriate manner.
- No - but I am better at justifying my actions (actually driven by my lusts) to others as ethical.
- No - it has no impact.
- I still act the same - but tend to feel worse about it aftewards than I used to...
I am sure there are other answers - but wanted to ask readers: has the study of philosophy & religion (esp. ethics) changed you as a person?Dave
Answers welcome from our Religion, Philosophy and Ethics students - and anyone else who has studied topics with an ethical/philosophical aspect: what did it do to you...
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
We should have the rest of these - as done - up on iTunes, so that they will be proper podcasts - anyway - comments on this first one are welcome...
[I am aware of the sound quality/volume issues - and hope to address these shortly]
Monday, February 05, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
[Image: University of North Florida]