Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Death of the Emperor

There has been a lot of news coverage over the shooting of the red deer stag known as the Emperor of Exmoor. I have been to Exmoor many times and have seen the hunters out with their guns and, I admit, they represent one aspect of humanity that I am none too impressed with (aside from anything else, they just look ridiculous). But I am curious over the outrage at this shooting which, incidentally, is perfectly legal. The anger is a moral one, and so I am wondering what the moral arguments are here. One newspaper argued that it is wrong because the Emperor is 'wild and beautiful', but is this a good reason to not shoot it? Lots of things are 'wild', and should we really base our preferences on whether we find something beautiful or not? There is certainly no shortage of red deer roaming around Exmoor. Perhaps the standard utilitarian response works here: the pleasure of seeing this animal roaming around alive (not to mention the pleasure of the Emperor itself?) is much greater than that priovided by its antlers danging from the wall of someone's stately home?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New for Christmas: Religion?

This picture was in the Boots Christmas Catalogue.. Ignoring the annoying 'trend expert' nonsense, and not even daring think what the hell 'rockstar edge' means: I was struck by the brand-name - 'Religion'...

What is the thinking behind the use of this word here? I feel vaguely mystified...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Athlete in a Future of Sport and Technology

Gloucestershire Philosophical Society

Wednesday, 27th. October, 2010, 7.30.p

FCH Room HC203.

Dr. Emily Ryall, of University of Gloucestershire, will give a talk on:

"Beyond Human: Conceptualising the Athlete in a Future of Sport and Technology".

All welcome.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

RPE208 Day-Trip to Oxford

For students on the Indian Religions module:

The plan...

We go to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford ( ) on Friday November 5th.

We will meet on the museum steps, at 12:45.

You can get the bus from Cheltenham – the Swanbrook 853 Service leaves at 11am from Chelt (Royal Wells Bus Station) and gets in around 12.30.

It leaves Oxford to return at 6pm (the Museum shuts at 6 anyway) - from St Giles (Taylorian Institute) - where it drops off on the way in.... (near Ashmolean) Back to Chelt 7:35pm.


A day return costs £10. The museum is free.

A couple of hours in the museum should leave you with time to explore Oxford / shop / eat...

You can of course drive – but I would advise using the park and ride – as Oxford seems to have no public parking left...

Students not on this module can come, but need to let me know..


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Problem of Evil DVD for schools


Just a quick post to note that our popular DVD aimed at schools (particularly those doing GCSE or A Level Religious Studies / Philosophy & Ethics) about the Problem of Evil is now back on sale, at a reduced price - see for details..


Plato and Love

Students across RPE, but especially those on RPE301 (Love, Sex and Death) may be interested in the following talk, offered by Gloucestershire Philosophical Society:

Wed. Nov. 10th 7.30.p.m. FCH Room HC203. Dr.Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor, University of Warwick. 'Plato and Love'.

Dr. Hobbs is one of the country's leading classical philosophers, and has become the U.K's first Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy.

More details on the GPS website at

Our students are very welcome at their meetings..


Meeting re Field Trip to Spain - room/time/etc


If you are interested in coming on the field trip to Cordoba (and Seville) in March 2011, you need to attend the meeting tomorrow:
Thursday 14th October at 12 noon, HC201 (FCH)

if you cannot make the meeting - just send me an email - - and I will register your desire to come on the trip...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

There is no God

Some of you might have heard of the recent brouhaha surrounding Stephen Hawking's announcement that we don't need God any more. I am always surprised how what is taken to be novel and revolutionary has in fact been said before, and countless times before. Didn't Laplace once reply to Napoleon, many years ago, that God was a hypothesis that we no longer required? Has it taken this long to be heard by our newspapers?

Of course this is absurd thought. No it isn't even absurd. It is just plain stupid. Unfortunately, being a physicist does not make one a good philosopher (or a philosopher of any sort), and it is equally unfortunate that Professor Hawking thinks that philosophy is dead (the 'love of wisdom' dead? Who would wish such a thing?), for he might have otherwise actually bothered to read some philosophy.

The scientific idea (and that is what it is) that the universe requires God to exist probably has its origin, at least in our culture, more in Aristotle's Physics, than it does it any religious text. Does Hawking serious think that the first book of Genesis, for example, is meant to be read as a cosmology? (but then since he thinks philosophy is not worth reading, he's not likely to read theology either).

Just as much as we shouldn't trust a creationist's statements on physics, we should not take it for granted that a scientist knows much about anything accept science, and the belief that science knows everything, or that a 'theory of everything' really does contain everything, is precisely that a belief and not a scientific theory at all.

For those of you who want to think (and our students on RPE 201, Religion, Science and Belief might want to) about these issues a bit more, and might even have the slight feeling that philosophy is not quite as dead as Hawking wants it to be, would not be wasting their time in reading this article by Carlin Romano in The Chronicle.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Studying Religion, Philosophy & Ethics at University

This Saturday sees one of our biggest Open Days (info: here), and I will be doing my bit, talking about what it is like to study religious, philosophical and ethical ideas, especially on our course here at University of Gloucestershire...

In discussing what I was planing to say, with a colleague, I was saying that I always get a what's the point? question: often framed in terms of what type of job a degree like this might lead graduates toward, but also - on occasion - in more general terms.. (His response, by the way, was the surely that a student who had studied philosophy, in particular, could do anything - I liked that answer...)

But it got me thinking...

Of course, on one level, I think "what's the point of studying anything else?" - the things we cover seem so vital, so central to what it means to be a human being, that the question is hard to get one's head round...

But: not everyone feels quite the same as we do about the topic - so beyond the intrinsic value of studying RPE, what does it give students? Of course, it gives them lots of analytical and critical skills, the ability to appreciate complex ideas, to deal with conceptually difficult material, to explain exactly what they mean, and to understand and articulate a range of religious notions. It provides them with the confidence to robustly defend points of view, verbally, or in written form, and the ability to revise their points of view as they see fit.

But, and I think this is very much true when I look at, and talk to, our graduates, it seems to make them thoughtful, especially when it comes to matters that impact on other people. By which, I think what I will say at the Open Day tomorrow is that we really strive, in a way that many other disciplines perhaps do not, to make our students better people.
This may seem odd, and we certainly don't tell them what to think (not that they'd listen - they often are rather argumentative and independent-minded [which is a good thing]) - but we do tell them that it is their duty to think; and that the ideas on the course will challenge them to produce an ethical response...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A J Ayer on YouTube

Now that's proper TV... A J Ayer on Logical Positivism...

While our RPE students may enjoy this - thought that I'd pop on the blog - as this seems even better than X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and Wife Swap all put together...

[Not to mention how odd smoking on TV looks in the clips]