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 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 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
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 - 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!

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 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 - though new comments are welcome.

Oh - and if you can't get enough on the Problem of Evil -see the links at

Hope the class there enjoyed the material as much as I enjoyed the visit.

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 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

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

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 - 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:

What is not clear, really, is what he actually said/meant... You can listen to his actual comments via the BBC page at
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:

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 - which has, I am sure, both culinary and philosophical interest...

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 - 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 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...