Monday, December 08, 2008

Update on The Philosophy Society

Hello,

There was a lively response to Paul Caddle's session on Paradoxes at the meeting last week. Thank you to Paul for bringing the idea and leading the discussion. The next meeting will be the second Thursday of January. The date is the 8th, in The Gallery Room above the SU Bar at Park Campus. We decided to read "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville and "The Transcendentalist" by Emerson, the essay that inspired Melville to write Bartleby. There are text links and an audio link for the short story and the essay on the blog for the philosophy reading group that Emily set up last year:

http://readingphilosophy.wordpress.com/

We can use this blog for a discussion of our current reading or for any other comments you may have.

If you have any questions contact Shelley s0510427.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Britain's Worst Argument?

Following from some exercises I have done in classes, and after a chat with the RPE101 students I had a week or two ago – I have decided we could look for Britain’s Worst Argument.

This could be a formal fallacy of some sort - such as:

All philosophers are strange
Jeremy is strange
Therefore, Jeremy is a philosopher

As all students will recognise – this is an invalid piece of reasoning. The first statement only tells us that all philosophers are strange – not that all strange people are philosophers. Jeremy might be a strange plumber – a possibility left open by the first line (premise).

We may find more informal errors – such as people claiming that a point of view is correct because it is new, or indeed ‘ancient’ (as in ‘Ancient Wisdom), or popular.

Another popular approach is to suggest that someone is wrong due to their faults. My friend may be an ugly, smelly, and overbearing individual – but my telling him that does not mean that his argument about the matter at hand is wrong.

We might presume (often wrongly) that because one event precedes another – it causes the latter. E.g. I wore odd socks yesterday, then won at tennis: therefore my sock-wearing led to my victory - - this type of causal fallacy is often the basis for superstitions…

I would like to ask students – and other readers of this blog (anyone really) – to find us the worst pieces of reasoning they can find. International examples are welcome – but we will pick the winner from the British examples submitted…

Use the comment facility on this blog ( www.r-p-e.blogspot.com ) to submit them – or email them to me at dwebster@glos.ac.uk (say if you’re happy for me to post the argument on the blog when you email it).

We may even find a prize under some of the piles of books in my office…

We will post a blog story reporting on out findings (and the winner) in the New Year…

Happy hunting

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Need some help / examples?

See http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/

http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Philosophy Society Update and Paradoxes

The next meeting will be 4th December, 7pm, in the Gallery Room above the SU Bar at Park Campus. Please come because the Poker Society covets our first Thursday of the month time slot for the Gallery Room. They have the room every Thursday but the first Thursday of the month and would happily take over our slot - their attendance strength surprisingly surpasses ours. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Philosophy Society please pay the membership fee and come to the next meeting!

We know that assignment deadlines are flooding in at this time of year so we decided not to burden semester schedules with extra homework. So for the next meeting there is no preliminary reading. Paul Caddle is going to present Paradoxes for discussion. There is no preparation needed because Paul believes that encountering these paradoxes without any particular agenda will enliven the debate.


Look forward to seeing all of you on December 4th. Don't hesitate to contact me with any questions,
Shelley


Monday, November 17, 2008

Are we 'demonising' children?


We see the launch today a campaign by children's charity Barnados.

The BBC report is at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7732796.stm - and the full video at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7730219.stm - also see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7732203.stm for an analysis of the debate.




Is it too easy to blame children for the rise in crime, the fear of crime and social disorder that many assert is around us?

Friday, November 07, 2008

29% of teachers say Intelligent Design should be taught in science lessons

As indicated by this article in the Guardian, this debate seems to have transversed the Atlantic and is gaining momentum in British society.

Whether evolutionary theory is the only legitimate scientific explanation for the existence of life begs the question, 'What is science?' For, if science classes in schools covers that which falls under the remit of science, then creationism and intelligent design must first fulfil the criteria to be a considered science. Otherwise, their place is within religious studies or the general humanities.

Advocates of intelligence design might argue that the problem lies with our education system that delineates so severely between different subjects as if they were self contained entities. The very fact that we place such emphasis on science as a subject that tells us how the world 'really is' assumes that there is something particularly special about its methods and results. Religious studies in contrast, is usually reduced to a minor (and 'easy') subject.

This debate highlights limitations with our education system and the gravitas we give to particular subjects without studying the foundational assumptions upon which they rest. Where, in the national curriculum, is there any real discussion about what is science, and whether scientific methods are better than any other ways of understanding the world? This seems fundamental to the whole argument.

I have no truck with those that believe in intelligent design nor creationism but I do sympathise with their efforts to question the whole system of science education in schools. I would not advocate that either theory gets taught as part of the science curriculum, for they are not sciences, but I do think there should be a place for students to discuss the underpinning assumptions about science.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Love Story?


What is love? We have been talking about this at length in RPE301 - Love, Sex and Death: so I thought students of that course may be interested in this week's episode of 'Imagine' from the BBC: view it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00f5vk9/Imagine_Imagine..._A_Love_Story/


Maybe we can do some more on the blog about the nature of romantic love?
D.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

US state curtails child dumping - an odd law?

The BBC reports, at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7681139.stm that Nebraska has changed its laws - so that you can no longer 'dump' unwanted children on the state. The limit has been altered to only 3-days old - but before that it was 18 years - as the BBC site says:

The law allowed parents and guardians to leave children up to the age of 18 at hospitals without an explanation or interference from the law.

I must admit this seems rather extreme - but it did make me think: who 'owns' children and is responsible for them? Is it just parents - or all of us?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Update on The Philosophy Society

We had a good turnout for our firsting meeting as The Philosophy Society. Jess prepared some excellent minutes which I will email to those on the mailing list. If you are not on the mailing list and would like to be, let me know and I will add your name. My student number is s0510427.

We had an enthusiastic round of idea spinning for this year's reading agenda. Both Dawkins and Dostoyevsky were suggested again. Most thought it would be a good idea to take a subject and find two differing theories to discuss the subject. Following from that idea we decided to repeat the reading set for the first session, as people had missed the links and were unprepared for discussion.

The short story "The Assembly Line" by the writer B. Traven:

http://academics.triton.edu/uc/traven.html

The article by Milton Friedman discussing "the business of business is business":

https://webmail.glos.ac.uk/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html

If you have the time (it is 20 minutes) have a look at this smart video. It is worth a look because it throws another light onto Friedman's claim that corporate activity must not be controlled by politicians. Friedman may be right, but this video claims that, far from being controlled by politicians, current corporate activity is instead the controller:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ucMJ32-xp64

Our meetings are always the first Thursday of the month. The next one will be at 7pm, the 6th of November, in the Gallery Room above the SU Bar at Park Campus.

Please contact me if you have any queries.

Shelley

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tracking ethics in the stock market?

As we watch the Dow Jones and the FTSE100 plummet, you can track the ethical ratings of Corporations at http://www.covalence.ch/ .

As their website says Geneva-based Covalence tracks the ethical reputation of multinationals by sourcing information from companies, the media and civil society. An intersting idea, I thought, for readers of this blog.


Dave


Monday, October 06, 2008

Greetings from Big Sky country…

I’ve been speaking today to the Centre for Ethics here in Missoula, at the University of Montana, about the purpose of teaching Ethics as an academic subject.


Some of the points we discussed were:
¢ In an ethics class we take students – and don’t in our classes in Higher Education –transmit an ethic.
¢ We school our students in the problems of identifying the good – but we refrain from dictating their conclusions.
¢ They come to us, they ponder the good –then we set them loose..
¢ What have we done?
¢ We ask that they understand, but not that they implement…

I asked whether we ought to see ourselves also as helping students develop their moral character? Unlike a more straight empirical discipline, the teaching of ethics may be an area where we wish to bring about in some sense a transformation of the student: should this be our goal?

Dave

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dementia and an 'obligation to die'

There is an interesting post on the ethical issues surrounding dementia at http://www.philosophycirencester.blogspot.com/ - some of you might like to head over there to comment...

Dave

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Philosophy Society

We had an exciting response to The Philosophy Society at the Freshers' Fayre. Over 70 people expressed interest and want to be included on the mailing list. All those (bar two - because their email addresses were disabled) have received an email as a reminder that our first meeting is 2nd October, at 7pm, in The Gallery Room above the SU Bar at Park Campus. We will discuss the direction for the group. Please bring suggestions of books, essays, short stories, ideas, issues that you may like to discuss in the future.

For those who may be interested but did not receive the email I have set some reading for discussion. I thought an interesting theme may be Business Ethics, as some business students showed an interest in the philosophy group. A very short story by the mysterious writer Traven shows one point of view and the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman shows another.

http://academics.triton.edu/uc/traven.html

https://webmail.glos.ac.uk/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html

You may also like to have a look at the philosophy reading group blog from last year organised by Emily. We can use this blog this year to engage in discussion.

http://readingphilosophy.wordpress.com/

Look forward to meeting all of you Thursday.

Shelley

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Religion & Science radio shows

There are some very interesting radio programmes on Religion and Science from Wisconsin Public Radio at http://www.wpr.org/book/061119a.html - lots to think about here..

(spotted via our friends in Florida at http://unfspb.wordpress.com/ - thanks)

D.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Can the mind exist independently of the body?

The University of Southampton has launched the AWARE project in a scientific attempt to determine what happens when we die. People often talk of having Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) but there are lots of rational explanations that can be givien for such experieinces, but what this new project is aiming to do is find more empirical evidence for NDEs. One experiment involves placing images in the hospital that can only be seen from above and then asking patients that have been in a 'flatline' state whether they 'saw' anything unusual in the theatre and to describe it. The results may prove interesting. Presumably if it turns out that thousands of people do report seeing these same images this would raise interesting philosophical issues concerinig the relationship between the physical brain and a seemingly non-physical mind?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What is natural?

Ok - we are about to head to Westonbirt again for our induction trip...

The topic to ponder is the question 'What does it mean to call something Natural?'

The term can be explored at http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=natural and follow the links from last year at http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2007/09/natural.html

Some pictures from last year can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/58244916@N00/ - the RPE Flickr gallery... The picture here is the cafe/teashop - where we can shelter if the weather lets us down...

Dave

Thursday, September 04, 2008

New Academic Year

Well, another 'summer' has passed, and we are all running around getting ready to welcome a new cohort of Religion, Philosophy & Ethics students. The blog has been rather
quiet over the summer - but is ready to get busy for another year: new and existing students are very welcome to browse the archives - and even re-start old arguments and debates!

I found this picture at http://flickr.com/photos/charliebtuna/54336183 - presume it belongs to one of our students?

Well - let's hope FCH campus looks like this for Induction week (which starts 15th September) - new students looking for details of that event should go to http://resources.glos.ac.uk/newstudents/induction/fchinduction/index.cfm

Cheers,
Dave

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Philosophy Reading Group News

Hello,
The Philosophy Reading Group has been formally upgraded to a shiny university society. We will now be known as 'The Philosophy Society'. The benefits are unlimited, the greatest one being that we now have a comfortable venue for the year - The Gallery Room above the SU Bar at The Park Campus. We will meet on the first Thursday of every month, the first will be 2nd October 2008.

'The Philosophy Society' will have a stall at The Freshers' Fayre in September. I am looking for somebody to help man the table with me - if you are interested please email me.

Books discussed in last year's group included works by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Tom Stoppard and Sartre. Our first meeting will be to brainstorm possibilities for the '08-'09 year. All ideas will be greatly welcomed.

Any questions or ideas can be sent to me. My email address is: s0510427@glos.ac.uk

Until then,
Shelley

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The solution to Britain's knife crime and gang problem - Vicars?

Switch the T.V or Radio on right now and you are bound to soon hear about the latest tragic inner-city youth stabbing or person being shot dead for having a slightly different postcode or belonging to a different gang. Britain certainly seems to be having a problem at the moment, and coming from a south London council estate myself I find it very concerning.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on what can solve this problem, usually involving a long prision sentence (or worse if you listen to some TalkSport callers) but I found the suggestion from a group called "Churches together in England" to be quite interesting. They are suggesting that clergy move into some of the most badly affected areas and act as role models to those perpetrating the crime and belonging to the gangs.

Could this work? I genuinely believe that one of the major reasons some young people involve themselves in activities like this is because they have not had strong enough role models in their lives, and as such have looked at Gangster rappers and 70's Gangster movies (just two examples) to provide templates, as well as "Ghetto" life in the USA, but I dont believe this is the primary cause.

Could these clergy really have such an effect that teenagers all over London and elsewhere who arm themselves because they are GENUINELY scared would be willing to follow a different path? or would an influx of white middle class men (or women) be seen merely as do-gooders and interferers, and put themselves in danger spreading a message that could be seem as other-wrodlty and completely out of sync with everyday life in these areas?

story can be found here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2307209/Vicars-should-move-to-inner-cities-to-combat-knife-crime%2C-church-report-says.html

The Churches Together report is at: http://www.churches-together.net/Publisher/File.aspx?ID=27798

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Digital Adventures in Milton Keynes

Tuesday saw me off, with colleagues from across the University, on a road trip to that most mystical and romantic of destinations: Milton Keynes.

We were there to visit the Digilab of the Open University. It is a 'showcase for tools, technologies and resources illustrating how today's technology can nurture tomorrow's learners' - as their website says. It is mainly a resource for the OU staff who design course materials.

They had an impressive array of games consoles (wii fit boards, 360s, PS3s, PSPs, DS Lites - etc), Mobile phones, PDAs, Macs to access Second Life on (with OU avatars to show visitors the educational islands), and much more. While we were there, some staff were working with the real-time, interactive education tool Elluminate, which looked very interesting.

I hope we can get more of this technology into our teaching - I just need to read a book I saw there called Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning Professionals....

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cirencester Philosophy blog

Our friends at Cirencester College have just started blogging at http://www.philosophycirencester.blogspot.com/ - and we hope their students will respond - as ours do (during term-time at least).

Their blog aims to be 'A place to share and discuss current issues, moral and philosophical questions.' - Worth exploring...

Dave


Monday, July 14, 2008

Philosophy & Ethics Reading Group

Some developments for the Philosophy & Ethics reading group we run:

We're hoping to set it up as an official student society which will give us additional benefits, and more importantly, a regular place to meet.

For this to be set up, it needs an official committee (of which Shelley Campbell has kindly volunteered to chair), and at least 10 signed up members.

Can you let Shelley know if you are willing to sign up (obviously you need to be a member of the University of Gloucestershire) by emailing her on s0510427@glos.ac.uk

We are also hoping to get a stand at the Freshers' Fayre in order to widen our membership.

Please let myself or Shelley know if you have any other questions.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How ethical are you?

The Times newspaper is linking to 'how ethical are you' test/quiz at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/career_and_jobs/article4300898.ece - you may be interested to see where it places you! It says I am a 'guardian' - I like the law...
Cheers,
Dave

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ethics, Cheap Clothes and tough decisions?

Recent publicity here in the UK has focussed attention on the phenomena of very cheap clothing for sale in the UK. The spotlight recently fell on Primark - which defends itself robustly at http://www.ethicalprimark.co.uk/ - after the BBC showed a number of claims regarding the fashion chain's alleged use of child labour: you can watch the programme below..




Is it appropriate for us to worry about this? Do we have a duty to take responsibility for the origins of that we buy? I am asking this, first, of some visiting Year 9 pupils (14 year olds) - who will make some comments - but comments from all are welcome..

See http://blogs.independent.co.uk/independent/2008/06/the-devil-wears.html for some interesting debate on this issue

Dave

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ethics in Sport?

Following previous discussions on the blog about the nature of sport, I came across a past episode of Philosophy Talk. You can listen to this online at http://www.philosophytalk.org/pastShows/EthicsinSport.htm and the same page has a range of links useful to those interested in ethical issues related to sport.
Cheers, Dave

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dead Philosophers and Public Philosophers

The Radio 4 programme Start the Week had a philosophical representaiton in its 9th June edition with Simon Critchely talking about his new book which is a catalogue of the weird and wonderful ends that philosophers have met over the last three thousand years. Also Kate Soper discusses the role of the philosopher and philosophy in public life both in the UK and on the continent. Worth a listen!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vicar of Baghdad visits Stroud

Canon Andrew White, Vicar of Baghdad, will be coming to Stroud on July 13th.

http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/news/12-15pm-Vicar-Baghdad-visit-county/article-191109-detail/article.html

While conflict in the Middle East has a religious undercurrent, Andrew White, uses religion for diplomacy and aid, as a link not a division.

http://www.frrme.org/

Here is an opportunity to not only hear a crusading humanitarian but also come to sunny Stroud and it's free (with a gift basket).

Shelley

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Peter Singer on Comedy Show?

Is this the only place philosophers can get airtime in the USA? Peter Singer talks about animals, food and the usual - but on the Comedy Central show 'The Colbert Report':


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Dancing God?

Over at the blog of our friends at the Florida Student Philosophy Blog, someone raised an interesting point on the interpretation of a line in Nietzsche's Thus spoke Zarathustra: I reproduce the post below - feel free to follow up and comment:

I was reading Thus spoke Zarathustra, and I am trying to understand what
Nietzsche is trying to say in the entry called, On Reading and Writing, where
Zarathustra says, “I would believe only in a god who could dance.”
Anybody have any thoughts

The comments so far are at: http://unfspb.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/problem-with-zarathustra/

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dalai Lama Visit Report

Recently Jeannie Caton, one of our 2nd years (about to enter the third year) went to see the Dalai Lama speak, here in the UK. Very kindly, she has written a short report which I here pass on..

Cheers,

Dave:


The Dalai Lama Experience

The Dalai Lama visited Nottingham at the end of May and I went along with my 13yr old son to hear his talks on ‘Bringing Meaning to Our Lives’. It was pretty overwhelming to see this man, the alleged incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, a broken nation. Personally I was struck by his ease, his intelligence, and his sense of humour with the most contagious laugh.

After listening to 6 hours of this monk talking, it is difficult to pick out which part to write about. Politically, He is the leader of Tibet, a nation that has placed itself back in the world’s spotlight with the troubles since 10th march this year, and whilst this wasn’t what He was here for, it was obvious that people wanted to hear His views on the situation. It was really interesting to hear that He felt that the fight to ‘Free Tibet’ was irrelevant at the moment, that what was really important was that Tibetans were allowed to live as an autonomous people, with their own culture and language being encouraged to be kept alive, and that it was this that He hoped for when engaging in dialogue with Beijing. He also hoped that young Tibetans and Chinese would begin to merge, learn each others cultures and become friends: it all seems so idyllic, I hope His dream can become reality.

In the six hours of talks that I listened to, the main theme that I took away was His Holiness’ notion of anger, fear and suspicion: negativity. In His opinion we need to learn how to deal with negative emotions in order to make the world a better place and thus bring meaning to our lives. He stressed the importance of remembering that these negative emotions are energies, and not to grasp hold of them: that when someone is angry, hateful, to remember that it is the energy that is the enemy and not the person. In His view, negative emotions are connected to physical ills, so what is really important in our lives is happiness, for ourselves and for others. Being the Bodhisattva of Compassion He stressed the necessity of having compassion for all other beings, of remembering our interconnectedness, and that helping others is the best way that we can make the world a better place.

As a meditation, He suggested tuning your mind and body into remembering the feeling of being held by your mother as an infant; when nothing can harm you; when all is safe and well with the world. He suggested that this is the mind state that was preferable to be in, in order to live more positively, and that fear, suspicion and other overwhelming negative emotions are really pointless. This is something I feel is really important for people to try and remember, difficult as it is, for the future is nothing to fear; the future has not happened yet, there is no need to be overwhelmed by negativity when basing yourself in the present, in a safe state of mind. It made me think that hateful, angry people maybe need to be helped to feel safe, that personal insecurity has a lot to answer for.

Negative emotions are those which disturb our inner peace; fear, hatred, suspicion all destroy our inner peace and it is important to remember that they are energies which when confronted for what they are, become weak. The energy is the harmful aspect and not people, so it is possible to love your enemy, develop compassion for your enemy, for it is not them who threatens you, but the energy; actions are harmful, not people. These are wise words that could benefit the world, but difficult to remember in heated situations; on leaving the arena I came face to face with a crowd of angry Chinese demonstrators and I instantly felt the anger rise within me and succumbed to a heated discussion (to put it mildly!) with some Chinese students on the issue of Tibet. Afterwards I realised that I had fallen foul of negative energies, been overwhelmed by anger and had lost any ability to feel compassion for fellow beings: I have a lot to learn!!

Peace of mind is not something that can be bought with money. Peace of mind comes from physical and mental happiness. Peace of mind comes from release from negative energies. Peace of mind is our biological and spiritual right and is there for us to achieve by means of compassion; compassion for all sentient beings with whom we share this planet, with whom we are all interconnected and we would do well to remember this. The way to bring meaning to our lives is to encourage positive emotions of love and compassion, to help others and to show kindness in the face of cruelty. We are all human beings, no different from each other; whether Buddhists or Christians, believers or non-believers, we are all the same on a basic level and need to remember this. It would seem we could all learn from this wise and humble man who I was honoured to have the opportunity to listen to.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fantastic Philosophy Resources at MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made huge amounts of their 'courseware' available, free, online. This includes a lot of philosophy materials. For example, see HERE for lectures notes on a range of topics including the Problem of Evil, the Ontological argument, and a range of ethical topics.


There are also video lectures on 'The Philosophy of Love in the Western World' - HERE - which will be of interest to students taking the RPE301, Love Sex and Death course.

Cheers,
Dave

Thursday, May 01, 2008

PhD Opportunity Available

The faculty of Sport, Exercise and Social Care are advertising a three year fully funded PhD (£12,000 plus fees) in the Philosophy of Sport and Technology. The studentship is available to research the following questions:

  • To what extent can a meaningful distinction be made between the ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ athlete?
  • Does the claim that we have entered a post-human age have any validity and if so, what are the repercussions for elite sport?
  • What are the implications for sport (for instance, the conception of (dis)ability sport) with the development of technology that obscures the line between the organic and inorganic?
It is a fantastic opportunity to secure a funded PhD in Philosophy (which are pretty hard to come by) and I encourage anyone with an interest and experience in Philosophy to apply. The closing date for applications is Friday 23rd May, with interviews taking place on Wednesday 4th June.

For more information please contact me and I would be happy to discuss it further.

Emily Ryall
Faculty of Sport, Health and Social Care
University of Gloucestershire

Philosophy & Ethics Reading Group

Just a reminder that our next (and last) meeting for this year is Tuesday 6th May at 6pm in Bar Ha! Ha!, Montpelier.

We will be discussing Anna Karenina but please still come even if you haven't managed to read it yet as we will be discussing the programme for next year.

I look forward to seeing you all.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Islam and the Veil conference

See http://www.glos.ac.uk/news/islamandtheveil.cfm for details of this week's event at the University.
Details:

Islam and the Veil

14th April 2008: Tiered Lecture Theatre, Francis Close Hall. Tuesday April 29, 10.30am.

Dr Theodore GabrielTackling the issue of Islam and the Veil, the annual conference on Islam returns to the University of Gloucestershire on Tuesday April 29.

Organised by the Department of Humanities, based at Francis Close Hall in Cheltenham, the event has been running for more than 10 years and usually focuses on themes which are of contemporary significance. Guests will be welcomed by Dr Keith Sharp, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Sciences and the conference opens with Reverend Dr Marcus Braybrooke, President of the World Congress of Faiths.

Associate Senior Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow Dr Theodore Gabriel said: “The issue of veiling has been intensely debated in British society and has implications for religious liberty, inter-communal relationships and cultural interaction.
“This conference hopes to generate open and objective discussion of this highly important, though controversial subject led by knowledgeable scholars including female practitioners of Islam. Provoked by the then Home Secretary Jack Straw this subject has inflamed passions and generated heated debate in the media. This conference aims to look at the historical background, and theological and social factors underlying the veiling of women in Islam.”

Speakers also include Dr Simonette Calderini, Senior Lecturer in Islam at Roehampton University and Mrs Rabiha Hannan, who is vice chair of Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) in Leicester, and a member of the team which led to the foundation of the National Christian-Muslim Forum.

Doctoral student Myles O’Byrne, from the University of Warwick, will be speaking on The Veil in France’s Public Sphere: Conformity in Mind and Body, while Mrs Sariya Contractor, doctoral candidate at the University of Gloucestershire, will be discussing The Hijab, a Symbol of Muslim Women’s Identity. “It is hoped that such discussion will enable the participants to arrive at a well-informed consensus on the subject, or at the least hear well-balanced, unbiassed analyses of this important aspect of Islamic practice,” Dr Gabriel explained.
“Veiling is an important issue in the study of Islam and contributes to a deeper understanding of the faith. This is a subject that comes up often in different contexts where Muslim citizens of this country are involved in, such as education and other public scenarios. Therefore this conference is timely, relevant and though sensitive and even emotive, can play a hugely vital part in inter—communal relations and social debate in this country.”

This event is open to the public. Admission is £16, or and £8 with concessions (students and unwaged).
An application form is normally required, but those who would like to attend can either telephone 01242 714570 or email pdownes@glos.ac.uk with their address and a form will be sent - or just ring for more details.
Coffee in the morning and tea in the evening are supplied free. A sandwich lunch will cost an extra £5.

Friday, April 25, 2008

MA: The Child: Literature, Language and History

Hi.
As one academic year begins to move towards its conclusion, many of you may be considering future study...

In addition to the research options we offer (from Masters to Doctorate), and the many of our current Final Year students who are off to do a PGCE, we also have an MA programme entitled The Child: Literature, Language and History - the course description reads:

This multi-disciplinary course begins by exploring the idea of ‘the child’ and changing constructions of childhood. Both literatures for children, from picture books to young adult fiction (the child as reader), and literary representations of children (the child as subject), will be considered from a variety of perspectives. Children’s acquisition and use of language, from both linguistic and psychoanalytic viewpoints, the history and theory of childhood, and literary theory will inform analysis of works ranging from fantastic fiction by George MacDonald and Philip Pullman, to fictional engagements with childhood, from Dickens to McEwan, to children’s fiction by predominantly adult writers, such as Salman Rushdie and Jeanette Winterson.

The core modules will be combined with occasional intensive Saturday workshops, when there will opportunities to work with visiting scholars. It will be possible to take an option module in the MA in Creative & Critical Writing, and would be ideal for those with an Education or Humanities background or those interested in writing for or about children.
If you want more details, contact me, or Debby Thacker - the Course Leader.
Cheers,
Dave.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Prince Henry's High School - Evesham - Death and beyond...

Yesterday saw another school visit, to talk to the A Level students in Evesham at Prince Henry's High School -
Where the friendly, cofffee-providing staff helped us through a 2 hour session - on life-after-death (though we decided this was a problematic phrase) and religious language.

I was subjected to a range of rather difficult, but insightful, questions: and really enjoyed my visit. I hope to be back before too long.

For something on the philosophy of mind - how it relates to the notion of 'surviving death' see http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2008/02/brimsham-green-school-yate-visit.html or HERE - or the very clear account HERE...

Cheers, Dave

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Money really cannot buy you happiness....

According to the Office for National statistics and their annual review, Money really cannot buy happiness.

Among its comprehensive reports on anything from what we Brits eat,buy and enjoy to how many sexual partners we have had, it suggests that despite the average Briton's salary doubling in the last 30 years, we are no 'Happier' - citing only 86 percent of us claiming to be either satisified or very satisified with our lives - the same figure as 30 years ago.

Perhaps most worrying, the survey posits that "only half of 16-21 year olds feel happy with their prospects for the future"

The first thing I found myself asking was what exactly constituted happiness; in this survey it seems to be overall contentment. Is happiness not something more? something harder to quantify?

Source: The Independent, Wednesday 9th April 2008, pg.12

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rushcliffe School Visit

Phew - this has been a manic set of school visits - but it is proving very exciting - giving a taste of University-style sessions -and getting to talk to a wide range of teachers and students: I am certainly learning a lot!

Today I did a long round-trip up to Nottingham - to Rushcliffe school - to talk mainly about Buddhism. The subject index I mentioned for Pali texts - very useful - is at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-subject.html. Pupils may also find my Four Noble Truths podcast (and accompanying text) useful - access it via http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2007/02/buddhism-podcast-2-four-noble-truths.html. For a podcast on Not-Self (from Milinda's Questions) see http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2007/02/buddhism-podcast-3.html

Hope these help - and hope to visit again at some stage - Dave

Somervale - Midsomer Norton


This Monday, I headed south to Somervale school, in scenic Midsomer Norton. I talked (a lot!) about Religious Experience, Life after Death and a little about Design and Evil. The groups had, overall, lots to say - and asked some great questions. This set of school visits has been a privilege for me: I have had so many questions put to me that I have not thought of myself - or that have made me think in different ways about topics.



There is a set of links for Religious Experience at: http://post16.reonline.org.uk/tt_alinks.php?123 that may be of interest. Check out http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/986177.stm on Near Death Experiences - and for Evil - well see the links at this post: http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2008/03/evil-stalks-west-midlands-cadbury.html

Hope to see you all again at some point!
Dave

Saturday, March 29, 2008

St Bernard's Catholic Grammar - Slough

Friday saw me endure a 5+ hour driving extravaganza as the UK road system seemed close to collapse - or somehow trying to thwart my efforts to get to St Bernard's Catholic Grammar school in Slough and back...

Despite the traffic, the day was well spent - the two groups a Y12 and a Y13 cohort) were lively and asked good, difficult questions. The first session was on Free-Will and Determinism. Following this up - I found a really interesting video on this. This is an interview with philosopher Daniel Dennett - most known form his work on consciousness. Although the interview does not touch on the religious aspects of the relation to Omniscience of determinism that we talked through in the session - he does offer a model of compatibilism - that attempted reconciling of free-will and determinism that we covered. It should appear below - but if there is a problem - click HERE



The second lecture was on Freud and religion - and I think, from the comments of the group, that we ended with quite a rounded view of his approach to religion. You could follow this up at http://www.braungardt.com/Essays/Freud.

I enjoyed the visit - and hope to see you again...
Dave

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Weston College and Buddhism

Last week we were lucky enough to welcome a group from Weston Super Mare to the University, to talk about Buddhism - and the Four Noble Truths in particular.

I hope you enjoyed being with us - if you want to know more about Buddhism, a good place to start is the collection of Theravada texts at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ which also has a subject index which is very handy (as our students here will tell you...)
There is a podcast on the Four Noble Truths (along with primary source text) at http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2007/02/buddhism-podcast-2-four-noble-truths.html -which may also be of help...
Cheers,
Dave

Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter Baskets


As I was researching for my essay on business ethics and globalisation, I have come upon a polarity of ideas: from Milton Friedman, "the business of business is business", http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html, to Hume's naturalistic fallacy of an is not an ought The naturalistic fallacy is particularly interesting as our global suppliers are often from under-developed countries and imposing western business acumen as well as western ethics is often not a good fit. While shops reassure customers that their suppliers follow ethical standards, what happens practically is a different matter.

Anyhow, from my research, I remembered a book of short stories by B. Traven, a mysterious German writer which little is known, who lived in Mexico and wrote stories about Mexico and the Mexican Indians. The story that jogged my memory is called "Assembly Line". Here's a link to the story and it is not long to read. http://academics.triton.edu/uc/traven.html Roughly the story runs: Mr. Winthrop a New Yorker is vacationing in Mexico and discovers an Indian making exquisite baskets for 50 centavos (four cents). The Indian is an artist: he collects bast fibers, plants, roots, insects (for dye) equalling a time of 20-30 hours per basket. He does not paint the designs onto the basket, he weaves the designs into the basket. He calls each basket a heartsong. Well, Mr. Winthrop's eyes roll into his head as he calculates the profit he is about to fleece from contracting ten thousand baskets from the Indian. As per norm, while one basket is 50 centavos, ten thousand baskets would cost far less per basket, according to business procedures familiar to Mr. Winthrop - my good lordy, caballero, as the Indian calls him. The Indian who cannot even imagine what ten thousand baskets is, tallies the total like this, "The price is well calculated now without any mistake on my side. If I got to make one thousand castitas each will be three pesos. If I must make five thousand, each will cost nine pesos. And if have to make ten thousand, in such a case I can't make them for less than fifteen pesos each." B. Traven ends the story on a non-Friedmanite note, "And in this way it happened that American garbage cans escaped the fate of being turned into receptacles for empty, torn, and crumpled little multicolored canastitas into which an Indian of Mexico had woven dreams of his soul, throbs of his heart: his unsung poems.

I think the story is worth a read and seasonal as bulk packaging and chocolate consumption (a greatly contested source of exploitation) is synonymous with Easter celebrations.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

High Drama in the West Midlands (well, Bromsgrove)

Wednesday saw me off to visit South Bromsgrove High School Technology and Language College - to talk about Buddhist ideas of Life after Death - and the Problem of Evil.
It was a memorable trip..

I was almost late due to transport difficulties - and our second session was interrupted by a fire alarm - it has been ages since I have lined up with 1300 pupils and staff in a large sports area.. That was made up for by cake - as one of the group was celebrating her 18th birthday: so on balance an enjoyable visit..
The group asked some very good questions - and it was a pleasure to come and talk to so thoughtful and reflective a class - good luck with the A2 exams!

For more on the problem of evil (buy our A-level Religious Studies Problem of Evil DVD here !) - see the post at http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2008/03/evil-stalks-west-midlands-cadbury.html - and look at the YouTube clip, and the other links in that post. On Buddhism - there are great resources at Access to Insight - I would start with their subject index.

Dave

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

St Mary's School - Shaftesbury...

Well -after rather a long drive, this Tuesday saw me arrive at St Mary's School, in Shaftesbury - where I talked (quite a lot, if I recall) about Utilitarianism.

Those interested in the Omelas short story that I mentioned, and its relation to Utilitarianism can look at some discussions we had on this site by clicking HERE... I also talked about moral dilemmas - such as those at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4954856.stm - which might remind you of some of the ones I used in the session!

And - as I said after a simliar session (albeit in the West Midlands, rather than Dorest): For those who thought I was a little tough on Utilitarianism (I have been accused of this) - you can redress the balance at http://www.utilitarian.net/

I hope the sessions were of some use for your AS Religious Studies paper - and thanks for inviting me..
Dave

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Thou shalt not pollute the Earth"?

Hello to all, and thanks for reading my first post here! My Name is Jason Chambers and I am a third year student of R.P.E at the University of Gloucestershire.

I found this interesting, the Vatican have decided its time to update the book on what contemporary actions may result in eternal damnation; quite thoughtful of them, really. Among those joining the original seven deadly sins are 'Inflicting poverty' and 'Environmental pollution'

Are these really needed?

Details on the B.B.C website, link below:-
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7287071.stm

Thursday, March 13, 2008

So much for happiness?

Now - many of you will have heard me deride the notion that happiness is the goal of all life, especially moral decisions. Maybe I have overstated this at times - but a piece HERE takes issue with the slew of new books telling us how to be happy.

Even if it is a worthy goal - can we teach people to be happy?
Dave

King Edward VI School, Stratford upon Avon - visit

Well - another visit. This time to historic (and busy) Stratford, to see one of our graduates who is now a teacher at the King Edward VI School - known to some as Shakespeare's school...

I was there to talk about ethics (as in the AQA Philosophy AS syllabus) - and talked about Kant and also Utilitarianism. We also talked about the nature of moral dilemmas - see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4954856.stm for some examples. If you follow the link HERE there is more on ethical ideas - follow the links!

Dave

Friday, March 07, 2008

Evil Stalks the West (Midlands): Cadbury College Visit

Well - today was a day of evil.. I went to Cadbury College where I did three sessions with AS groups - all on the Problem of Evil.

See more on Evil at http://www.rsweb.org.uk/phil/evil.html and also on the 'Irenaean theodicy' at http://www.philosophyonline.co.uk/pages/irenaean.htm
(or buy our 'Problem of Evil DVD'! Aimed at A level Religious Studies / Philosophy and Ethics: HERE )

I thought the discussions were very useful - and I liked the points made about the nature of God - indeed, all the questions today showed some real insight: and I hope to be back before too long.
Cheers,
Dave.

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I also found this YouTube video (with music - if you keep listening) that addresses Voltaire's reaction to the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, and the Problem of Evil - and it is well worth watching through...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Philosophy & Ethics Reading Group

Our next reading will be Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. We will discuss this at our next two meetings so will break it into the two volumes. It can be found in various places online but it is probably much better to get hold of a hard copy.

Due to the Easter break, our next meeting will be 6pm, Tuesday 8th April at Bar Ha! Ha! in Montpellier.

More details can be found on our wordpress site: http://readingphilosophy.wordpress.com/

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Upcoming Events: Islam and the Veil Conference, Islam and Nietzsche Paper

Just to let people know on Tuesday 29th April 2008, the University of Gloucestershire is hosting a conference on Islam and the Veil.

Contact Patricia Downes pdownes@glos.ac.uk for details. Or click HERE for the brochure.

The programme includes the following sessions
Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke (Oxford): Respect in a Plural Society
Dr Simonetta Calderini (University of Roehampton): Veiling among Ismaili Women
Mrs Sariya Contractor (University of Gloucestershire): The Hijab, a Symbol of Muslim Women’s Identity
Mrs Rabiha Hannan (SACRE, Leicester): An exploration of head covering and face veiling among Muslim women in Leicester.

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Also - don't forget Roy's paper at the Gloucesterhire Philosophical Society - on Islam and Nietzsche is on the 12th of March see: http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2008/01/gloucestershire-philosophical-society.html for details: all welcome

Monday, March 03, 2008

Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative

Readers of this blog may be interested in the FREE online, e-learning courses at http://www.cmu.edu/oli/. The blurb there says, about the Open Learning Initiative

Through the OLI project, Carnegie Mellon is working to help the World Wide Web make good on its promise of widely accessible and effective online education. OLI grew out of collaboration among cognitive scientists, experts in human computer interaction and seasoned faculty who have both a deep expertise in their respective fields and a strong commitment to excellence in higher education. The project adds to online education the crucial elements of instructional design grounded in cognitive theory, formative evaluation for students and faculty, and iterative course improvement based on empirical evidence.

I had a go at Chapter 1, Part 1, of the Logic Unit - good stuff: don't let the diagram at the start of the intro movie to scare you off! As they say: Il y a un chat dans la théière.
Dave

Queen Elizabeth's Mercian School Visit - Ethics..

Last friday [29th Feb] I headed up the delightful M5 and M42 to Queen Elizabeth's Mercian School to talk to Years 11, 12 and 13 (in varying quantities) about various things.

We began with arguments for the existence of God - mainly the Ontological argument. Some suspected I was playing some kind of theological conuring trick - defining things into existence (and treating existence as a predicate) - maybe they were right...
See http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/ for more on God as a necessary being. We also spoke about the Cosmological argument - and the idea of an unmoved mover... Click HERE for more on that topic..
After lunch, we talked about ethics in general, and dilemmas - such as those at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4954856.stm - and more real life ones such as at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/greatergood/archive/2006springsummer/halberstam.html
I had a good time - and hope the session were useful - be glad to be back soon.
Cheers,
Dave

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Turkey to revise Islamic texts

Turkey's Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara to revise the Islamic texts known as hadith. The hadith, which are thousands in number, are considered to be the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and second in importance to the Qur'an, especially as a source for Islamic law (sharia). As such, any revision is bound to be controversial. Having said that, Islam historically has developed a 'science of hadith' in an attempt to determine which are genuine, although it is considered by many scholars that a number of dubious hadith have slipped through the net. Many women scholars, especially, consider a number of hadith that could be used to suppress women were invented and are not, in fact, the original words uttered by Muhammad.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Halesowen College Visit

Well, despite the excitment and chaos of a minor earthquake (which don't phase those of us who sleep through them - see previous earthquake entry..), I made it to Halesowen College today to talk about various exciting things: thanks for the warm welcome.

The first session, on Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, intriguing - as this can be quite a heavy topic - but I think we made some progress... The essay at http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/introser/nietzs.htm may give some extra food for thought. And of course the works of my esteemed colleague Dr Roy Jackson can illuminate on the links between Nietzsche and Islam, or help you begin to study Nietzsche...

In the second session we talked (mainly me actually) about moral dilemmas (such as those at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4954856.stm) and tried to think we might actually face - and the small decisions we make everyday - and their moral implications (click HERE for more on cheap clothes and their implications). The Omelas short story can be followed up HERE.

For those who thought I was a little tough on Utilitarianism (I have been accused of this) - you can redress the balance at http://www.utilitarian.net/
Cheers, Dave

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Seventh Seal

Well - we did it: we watched The Seventh Seal in RPE301 (Love, Sex and Death) this Monday. This post is to allow RPE301 students to post their comments - but others are welcome to join in to.

Now - many think of this Bergman film as depressing and dull. I really found it neither: it was quite funny (even without thinking about the excellent Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey parody - but I will keep my opinions on the ethical profundity of Bill and Ted for another day..) -and rather optimistic - even cheerful..?

I am not sure how many will prefer the Squire to Block himself - but I think his balance to Antonius Block's seriousness and Jon's pragmatism is refreshing throughout. Of course, there is a lot that is pertinent to this module in here: esp in Block's pleas for those who want to believe but can't..

If you are stuck for where to start for comments - think about the questions at the bottom of this page from Winona State University.
Oh - there is some interesting analysis at http://course1.winona.edu/pjohnson/h140/seal2.htm - with explicit reference to existentialism. I am not sure that I agree that it is a flaw in the script that Block does not have to sacrifice anything in order to find what he looks for (when he knocks the pieces over to aid the escape of the Acrobats/Players and child). Also - are you convined by the claim in this analysis that Block's ceaseless questioning prevents him from being able to "hear the still, small voice of God"? Lots to comment on in this analysis though!
Dave

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Finham Park School Visit

Well - fresh back from another enjoyable school visit. Today I was just south of Coventry to talk about the Problem of Evil and Ethics (esp Utilitarianism). The group there had lots to say - and it was good to see so many people engaging with Philosophy and Religious ideas.

Many of the links at http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2008/02/malmesbury-school-visit.html will be useful - as I provide some links there re the Omelas short story - and to a list of ethical dilemmas.

I am also interested in the notion that ethics has some, but rather hard to define (and in some cases spot) impact on those that study it. This topics is one we have discussed at http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2007/02/ethical-decisions-and-study-of.html - though new comments are welcome.

Oh - and if you can't get enough on the Problem of Evil -see the links at http://www.rsweb.org.uk/phil/evil.html

Hope the class there enjoyed the material as much as I enjoyed the visit.
Cheers,
Dave

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Second Life and Philosophy

In recent discussions with some Philosophy and other university teachers - someone mentioned the use of the Second Life - the virtual world - as a possible teaching tool / environment. I know some Universities use Second Life to hold tutorials - and have virtual campuses there.

I was not convinced that these meetings had many advantages over more spartan on-line discussion forums - and worried students (and staff) might get distracted by working so hard on their Avatars that they forgot why they were there.. But, as often, maybe I am wrong.

I did find a blog about Philosophy in Second Life at http://secondlifephilosophy.com/ and this links to a philosophy meeting place, and other resources.

I also began to ponder whether we could use Second Life for modelling and playing out ethical scenarios...

You may also be interested in the debate at http://www.secondlifeherald.com/slh/2007/07/philosophy-of-s.html

Is this a wise idea to move in- or a dubious and time-consuming distraction?
Dave

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ethics Bites

Now available, on Open2. net, the first of fourteen podcasts on applied ethics, presented by Nigel Warburton. Including interviews with high profile contemporary ethicists, including Peter Singer, Michael Sandel, Thomas Scanlon, Mary Warnock, and Roger Scruton
This is available FREE on the web. There are also other resources available.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Malmesbury School Visit

Another week - another visit. This time I was in Malmesbury, to visit some year 12 and 13 students to talk about applying moral theory to dilemmas.

I talked about the Omelas short story, and the Runaway Trolley Car, and other moral problems. There is a list of some more of these types of moral dilemmas at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4954856.stm - and what we noted was the none od us had actually ever faced these decisions at all (yet). We then went on to try and think of dilemmas and difficult choices that we had faced, and whether moral theories such as Utilitarianism were of any help...
The session was lively - and I enjoyed myself - and I think I learned some things - I hope the class did to. So thanks to Mr Shaw for inviting me - and those who were there (or indeed those who weren't) are welcome to comment here on the usefulness (or not) of moral theory for really facing up to genuine moral problems in life.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Shariah Law and the Bishop...

Well - the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, seems to have caused more fuss than he might have anticipated. If you see the papers today - you will see why: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7234152.stm

What is not clear, really, is what he actually said/meant... You can listen to his actual comments via the BBC page at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7233335.stm
Was he suggesting that we allow some communities to opt out of the British criminal law? I don't think he meant this at all. He seemed to actually be referrring to very particular civil matters - like divorce an finance - rather than the caricature of his view that some of the papers have gone for....

He points out that we already have accommodations within the law for Orthodox Jews, and for Roman Catholic views - what he suggests, whether you like it or not (and I am not sure I do), is not a new thing, or a first...
For details on the way in which religious courts are already in use in the UK see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7233040.stm

It is almost more interesting to look at the reaction, than it is is to listen to his actual comments: the word Shariah is so provocative that it causes such a cloud of panic that no one can see through it....

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Can Computers Cook?

If thinking about the Philosophy of Mind has made you hungry - see the challenge at www.computercookingcontest.net - which has, I am sure, both culinary and philosophical interest...
Dave

Brimsham Green School (Yate) Visit

I am back, fresh from a morning with the Year 13 class (Religious Studies: Philosophy & Ethics) at Brimsham Green School, Yate (nr Bristol!).

I hope they have recovered from a barrage of talk from me (3 hours is a long time) - and thanks for inviting me. I hope you can use the comments here to ask any further questions / post comments. I also wanted to follow up on a few things I talked about.

In reference to Natural Law, I came across a good piece re Aquinas at http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/a/aquinas.htm - and am still mulling over the notion of ethics as relating to the perversion of purpose: and how to translate this into practical terms: how does it help with real ethical situations - other than the sexual ones we discussed (at some length - sorry about that).

Our discussion about life after death wandered into Philosophy of Mind (see http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2007/10/nagels-bat.html for a link re some of the topics) - but I think that this makes sense. In order to even begin to address whether we survive death, we need to know what we are: and as the body is dead, in the ground, lying in a ditch, or cremated - we need to have some sense of what else there may be that could have the potential to 'survive death'...

We also covered Religious Experience - but I think I may have digressed.. Comments welcome from those at Brimsham Green - and of course any of our students who recall the EdExcel Religious Studies (Philosophy & Ethics) days of their (relative) youth...
Next week - Wiltshire...
Dave

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Barack Obama, the e-mail culture and religious smears

I thought this might interest readers of this blog. You can watch a full report, via PBS, HERE .

Now, as you will know Barack Obama is one of the two main competitors for the Democratic nomination for the next US Presidential election. Forwarded, sent-on, bulk-posted (viral style) E-mails have been circulating in large number over e-mail networks suggesting that he is secretly a Muslim.

You can read the e-mail itself at http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/muslim.asp There are perhaps two things of note about this. One is the smear campaign itself - but I guess not a great shock - and the kind of thing that happens with the Internet..

Secondly there is the idea that his being a Muslim is something that he would have to keep secret - and that Muslims are people who go about pretending to be Christians in order to deceive and gain power over others. It seems that to buy into the world view of this viral e-mail you have to begin in a culture of fear and paranoia that is itself rather frightening. Also disturbing is the realisation that the authors of this e-mail, while evoking honesty, God and values, are involved in a politically motivated act of deception....

[it is perhaps worth noting that the Fox News network reported these rumours - see HERE, in part, via John Gibson, the same person who openly mocked the death of Heath Ledger - and laughed about his demise HERE ]

To hear the tone of this coverage see http://thinkprogress.org/2007/01/19/fox-obama-madrassa/ and watch/listen to the video clip there of Fox News coverage...

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Good Death - how do we measure the value of 'a life'?

Over at http://unfspb.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/a-good-death/#more-336 there is an interesting discussion that arises out of the death of the actor Heath Ledger.

His death is often described in media reports as a 'tragedy' - but how do we balance the value of a young life lost and an old life? Is the length the aspect that prevents us from seeing a death as tragic?

Does the author at UNFSB really think that Heath's death was a 'good' one? Or is the idea of a short, wonderful life being better than a long, but maybe bland one a useful corrective to our usual view - or a naive and overly-romantic notion?

dave

Monday, January 14, 2008

Julian Baggini Talk: All Invited


Popular Philosopher Julian Baggini will be giving a talk on communitarianism in Britain. In a recent piece for Prospect magazine, he writes that while the elite of Britain remains liberal, much of the rest of the population adopts communitarian views. This finding derives from his book Welcome to Everytown. You can hear him talking about his book and the recent Prospect article on the BBC Radio 4 programme Start The Week.


The talk will take place on 7th February from 6pm in the CEAL Building (CE102).


You can read more on the philosophy of communitarianism at the Stanford Encyclopaeda of Philosophy entry.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Podcast on Buddhism for RPE208

Those of you doing RPE208 - Indian Religions - may wish to download the Four Noble Truths podcast that I talked about in class.

You can find it at http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2007/02/buddhism-podcast-2-four-noble-truths.html - and download via a link there.

You may also wish to browse some other bits of the blog that have Buddhist material on.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Cheltenham Ladies College Event - 2008

Cheltenham Ladies College is having its annual Religious Studies Event - and as last year (see the report by RPE students HERE) they have kindly invited RPE students to attend should they wish.
Details are below - but let me (dwebster@glos.ac.uk) know if you are interested in attending (it is free!).
Cheers,
Dave
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9.00am – 3.45 pm Thursday 7th February 2008
The Cheltenham Ladies’ College
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Why Study Religion, Philosophy and Ethics?

Philosophy seems more popular in Schools than ever. [As noted HERE by Nigel Warburton]

In Scotland, the Herald newspaper has considered this - causing a number of its online readers to comment HERE about the value of philosophy. The comments are worth a glance as they reveal something of the public attitude to philosophy.

I wanted to ask our students (and other readers) to comment as to:
  • Whether there was any value in studying philosophy (to both individuals and society in general)
  • Whether academic disciplines such as Philosophy and Religious Studies should have to demonstrate a 'usefulness' in order to be considered worthwhile
  • What reasons motivate individuals to study these subjects. [See HERE for previous posts on this topic]
  • Why has there been such a rise in the numbers studying Religious Studies and Philosophy (often including ethics) at AS/A2 ('A' level to older people like me) here in the UK?

GLOUCESTERSHIRE PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY 2008

Here are the upcoming Gloucestershire Philosophical Society sessions-

1. 16th. January, 2008. Chris Eddy, Swindon Philosophical Society. :"Why I am not an atheist".

Chris Eddy accepts Philip Kitcher's challenge, in 'Living with Darwin', to articulate a form of belief in God which makes no occult claims, yet is also clearly distinct from secular humanism. The object of the talk is to counter "the meritocratic, ideological bullyings of Dawkins, et al.".

2. 30th January, 2008. The Annual GPS Dinner will be held in the evening - further details of venue to be circulated.

3. 13th.February, 2008.Dr. Roberta Stevenson, University of Gloucestershire. "The meaning of old age in the 21st. Century: why we need a feminist and literary gerontology".

Roberta Stevenson has been involved in a study of this issue over the past few years.

4. 27th. February, 2008. Leckhampton Seminar at the Brown Jug, Bath Rd. Cheltenham, 10.30.a.m.”Modernisation: a vacuous concept?"

5. 12th. March, 2008. Dr. Roy Jackson, University of Gloucestershire: "Nietzsche and Islam".

Roy Jackson considers the important influences that Nietzsche's teaching has had and continues to have on the evolution of Islamic spirituality.


Meetings scheduled for 16 January, 13 February and 12 March will be held at 7.30 p.m. in room HC203 Francis Close Campus, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham.