A multimedia “show and tell” extravaganza!
Well this is it! The Philosophy Society’s Gender discussion event.
Do you have an opinion on gender in the 21st century?
- Do we have equality between all genders?
- Is gender biological or sociological?
- Does the traditional gender binary make sense to you (i.e. the only genders are man and woman)?
- Are gender roles outdated? Superfluous? Necessary?
- How relevant is gender for parenting? Career? Leadership? Romance?
- Can you be a housewife and still be a good feminist?
- Can you be a househusband without being stripped of your masculinity?
Come along and bring a short video, poem, song, article, picture etc to prompt discussion about gender and gender roles in the 21st Century.
We’ll have the outdoor cinema set up in the Derkenne Courtyard to show any short videos you bring along.
WHEN: Thursday, 18th September, 6-9pm
WHERE: Derkenne Courtyard / GT Bar
Dinner and soft drinks are provided free for members – $2 on the night to sign-up.
No assumed knowledge.
INVITE YOUR FRIENDS!
Cartoon courtesy of explosm.net.
Many disciplines exploring one problem.
A cross pollination of ideas at the edge of understanding.
Part conference. Part festival. All for charity.
Fusion is a new, annual event brought to you by the UoN Philosophy Society; UoN Services and the University of Newcastle.
Some problems are too tricky, and too interesting, to try to solve on your own.
Each year, we will bring together many speakers from different disciplines and backgrounds to explore one topic in an entertaining and accessible forum, open to students and the general public; as well as academics and specialists in each area.
The event is fully catered. Price includes the whole day, plus morning tea, buffet lunch and afternoon tea. You’ll be free to head off to class and return for the talks you’re keen on.
For more information, visit the official website or like the event on Facebook
Topic for 2014: Consciousness
Drawing on perspectives from Philosophy of Mind; Artificial Intelligence; Psychology, Meditative traditions and more…
Each year, we will select a charity that we feel is doing their part to solve related problems in a practical way.
Charity for 2014: Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation
All proceeds will go to the Newcastle branch of Headspace, for their suicide response initiative.
Brought to you by the UoN Philosophy Society.
Proudly sponsored by the University of Newcastle and UoN Services.
No set topic.
No assumed knowledge.
In the Clubhouse, downstairs.
Join the club for a year on the night for $2.
No set topics.
So some mixed news:
1. Apparently our AGM that we hosted a couple of weeks ago wasn’t valid because we didn’t change the quorum in the constitution and thus didn’t have enough people to attend. So we have to have another one and we have no funding as a club until we do. This isn’t terrible news because AGMs are super quick, we have enough cash to put together a great event anyway and it gives us a good excuse to get together again.
2. We’re going to combine AGM 2.0 with our End of Exams Social Event. We’ll be doing a free BBQ dinner (including something for our vegetarians/vegans), homemade baked goods and (hopefully) free soft drinks for members too.
So come and join us! We’ll vote quickly on the proposed changes to the Constitution (have a look at your emails, we sent out notice and details last week – basically changing quorum to 14 people), usher in our new executive and then party the evening away. No set topic this time around – this is just a good opportunity to sit and unwind after exams with some good conversation, board games and great company.
If you like to cook or bake and you’d like to contribute something to dinner or dessert, please post on the wall below.
We need a minimum of 14 people to come (though we expect many more of course) in order to have a valid AGM, and we need to have the valid AGM to keep providing you with great events. So come along and bring your friends!
($2 to sign-up on the night for free dinner and dessert.)
WHEN: 5:30-9pm, Friday 30th May
WHERE: The Clubhouse, under The Bar on the Hill, Callaghan Campus.
Our second major event of the year is almost upon us!
Before I tell you about the exciting stuff I do need to say that this event is also our Annual General Meeting where we will VERY QUICKLY vote in the new executive and review our Constitution for our new members. We expect the AGM side of things to take less than 15mins.
Now onto the exciting stuff: Come and join us for what is sure to be a riveting round table discussion on the topic “Ethics in the Near Future”. We’ll be discussing a couple of popular ethical systems and applying them to 21st century dilemmas like Internet piracy, Cyber-bullying and Internet privacy. The aim is to figure out whether current philosophical ethical systems can adequately guide behaviour in the 21st century, or whether we need a new ethical system for the Internet and Technology Age.
If you want to learn more about current ethical systems and wax-philosophical about ethics in the future while eating free yummy food and talking with interesting people then this is the event for you! As usual, we will be catering for our vegan brethren and handing out free soft-drinks for all. So come along and bring your friends!
$2 to join on the night for non-members.
300 performances in 15 countries.
Now in Australia for the first time.
Showing in Sydney & Melbourne AND (by special request!) The University of Newcastle.
A one-man show by actor/director Yannis Simonides, Emmy Award winner and former professor and chair of the NYU Tisch Drama Department.
He has performed to the United Nations and European Parliament; with sell-out shows at Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge.
“Restless, humorous, brilliant and fascinating.”
Odyssey Magazine, New York
“A superhuman effort on the part of the actor in a splendid coordination of text, movement and speech.”
Luxembourger Wort, Luxembourg
When? 7:00 pm, Saturday, 22nd March.
Where? The Griffith Duncan Theatre.
- Guests: $35
- Concession: $30
- Students: $20
- Club members: $15 ($2 gets you club membership for an entire year!).
Purchase tickets through Eventbrite, and use the PROMO CODE: NUPHILO1 (letter o, not zero) for the $15 member price.
The Apology of Socrates
Plato’s timeless classic comes to life through a fascinating one-man show.
A unique cultural experience and political challenge.
Includes post-performance discussion.
The play is a dramatic interpretation of the defence of Socrates; on trial for “corrupting the youth” with his pesky questioning; and not believing in the city’s gods. It is one of the first trials in recorded history.
Plato’s Apology is the classic record of the trial.
Read Plato’s Apology
Listen to Plato’s Apology from Librivox
Listen to a history podcast about Socrates and the Apology
When reading such a stimulating book, it is tempting to launch into a full-blown “Why I’m Not an Atheist” essay; or a commentary for each of the 50 myths, one by one. Neither are appropriate for this short book review. I’ll try my best to stick to the task at hand.
The authors write in an accessible style. The 50 myths are collected into eight categories, such as Atheism, Ethics and the Soul and Religion and Science. The reader can easily skim the table of contents, and zero in on the most challenging topics.
With 50 myths to choose from, plus a ninth part that summarises the new atheist movement, readers will find a few surprises in the mix. For example, I was unaware that atheists are accused of communism.
For an academic publication, the book reads as light and entertaining, peppered with humorous cartoons from Mohammed Jones’ Jesus and Mo. But this is not simply fluff. The authors are careful to select real objections, not a set of “easy targets”. Each of the myths is thoroughly referenced, and could be used as a primer for further research into any of the topics.
Parts two through five (or myths 11 – 37) hinge on immature “atheism is yucky!” objections. There are such clangers as Atheists Don’t Give to Charity; Atheists Have No Sense of Humor; and Atheism is Depressing. I agree with the authors – none of these objections necessarily follow from atheism.
My own criticisms of atheism are – at least I hope – not emotional, but epistemological. Firstly, I find the debate to be a polarising oversimplification. With a section entitled Have We Defeated Theism? and constant reference to their “religious apologist” opponents, this book often perpetuates this adversarial position.
Theravada Buddhism is briefly explored as a grey area (p. 12). It is not necessarily theistic, in that it doesn’t posit the existence of gods, but it does involve “supernatural” elements. This leads me to my second criticism of the atheist movement – there is no clear definition of what it means to be an atheist.
The word could be interpreted in at least one of two ways: without theistic belief (what I will call the passive version); or against theistic belief (the active version). This ambiguity comes in handy when atheists are argued into a corner.
The authors settle on “people who lack belief in any God or gods” (p. 19) as their working definition – which reads like the passive version. They sympathise with a view that, when they’re not writing books about atheism, it is not as central to their lives as religious belief is to religious people (p. 12). I find this unconvincing. When one blogs; speaks on podcasts and in public forums; and publishes articles and books about atheism, I can’t help but see that as an active form of atheism.
I can see the motivation for this definition. A major criticism against atheism is that you cannot logically prove a negative. Making the positive claim, that God does not exist, is not something that could ever be proven beyond doubt (what if He’s just hiding in a teapot?). The authors confront this head on in Myth 4 – Atheists are Certain There is No God.
Whether this treatment is satisfying or not is up to the reader. However, the entire structure of this book is, itself, a commendable step in the right direction. You cannot prove a negative, but you can falsify the positive claims of your opponents. This is how science progresses so successfully, and this is exactly the approach taken up by the authors here. They line up 50 claims from their opponents, and shoot them down one by one.
If you’re still coming to grips with your own opinion on this issue, this book is a great introduction to the atheist position. If this is your tenth book on atheism, then it will still help strengthen your arguments, but I also recommend picking up some round pegs that don’t easily fit into the square hole this debate creates. Go read some Carl Jung; Joseph Campbell; Baruch Spinoza; William James; Plotinus; Alan Watts… And that’s just a small portion of the western canon – less than half of the options the world’s cultures have generated.
Official book launch
The Co-op bookshop will be holding an official book launch, presented by Dr. Joe Mintoff, with special guest appearance by author Russell Blackford.
- When: 4:30pm, Tuesday, 22nd October.
- Where: The Co-op bookshop, Shortland Building, University of Newcastle, Callaghan.
- Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15th October.
The election circus has packed up and left town, as we all direct our gossip glands away from the carnies and back to the Hollywood tabloids for another three years. But in three years, elections will still suck. I want to ask: do we still need elections at all?
Direct vs indirect democracy
The form of democracy we are accustomed to is known as a representative, or indirect democracy. A small subset of the population are elected to represent the larger community. Our population of 22,000,000 people elected 150 people to go and make decisions on our behalf in the House of Representatives.
The other form of democracy is pure, or direct democracy, where each citizen votes directly on each decision. This is the system Athens had, back when Socrates, Plato and Aristotle hung out.
A ‘new way’ that’s 2,500 years old
Ancient Athenian democracy allowed all citizens a direct vote on the policies of the state. This was not like holding referendums on special occasions, such as our vote on the republic in 1999. All policy decisions were directly determined by the citizens. Granted, they only counted adult men as citizens, and excluded slaves and immigrants, but it was still 30,000 people out of a total population of 250,000.
And they didn’t just have an OK Gross Domestic Product. They invented things like philosophy, mathematics, physics and biology, and flourished as the “cradle of Western civilisation”. Maybe they were on to something.
So why do we have a representative democracy? There are three key arguments.
1 – The ‘too hard’ basket
The first and most basic argument against direct democracy is that it would be too complex and time-consuming to let so many people vote on every little thing.
Hang on. The current political system is failing to provide adequate communications infrastructure, so we should keep it around?
The technology exists now. Australia has been voting people off Big Brother on a weekly basis for twelve years – what now seems like aeons before smart-phones and broadband. This problem is now solved, and we should be re-assessing our limitations.
2 – The blame game
The second argument against direct democracy is that, with so many votes, the impact of each vote becomes negligible. Individuals feel their vote is worthless, and they become detached from the consequences of their decisions.
However, I don’t see how the recent election was immune to this same criticism. Donkey votes happen enough that we have a name for them. The difference is that we’re only voting every three years.
What a representative democracy allows us to do, to our own detriment, is nominate someone to blame. Citizens can blame the representative for being a fool; and the representative can blame their predecessor, the opposition, or the media for their mistakes. Having a representative helps us detach from the consequences of our decisions.
3 – The elitists
The third, and strongest, argument to keep a representative democracy is that large portions of the population are not fit to grasp what’s truly in their own best interests. They are not virtuous or educated enough to make good and wise choices for themselves, let alone everyone else.
I could use the same rebuttal as I had for the first argument, and point out that if the current system has failed to provide adequate education, this is not a good reason to keep it. But I think there is a deeper problem.
Do you honestly want to empower people who inform themselves with TV Week; or throw their rubbish out the car window; or run across busy roads with prams; or spike people’s drinks? If you think these people are on a level playing field and should have as much say as everyone else, I don’t want you in charge either.
However, when deciding who makes the cut, consider the level of education our ancestors received. According to the ‘Flynn effect‘, IQ levels rise over time. A person with average intelligence now would get a genius score on an IQ test if they travelled a hundred years into the past. Bear in mind how long ago Athens was using direct democracy. If the people from the past were fit for government, even our most lacklustre performers should be absolutely caning it, right?
Not necessarily. As the world gets continuously more complex, we adapt. Today’s world has more factors to govern than the ancient world did. It makes sense that standards for leadership remain always ahead of a shifting average.
The horizon moves as we move, always out of reach from the majority. The big question, then, is can our current system of government move as fast as this? Will they remain our best and brightest, no matter how far and fast the population at large progresses? Or is there some point we reach where their response time will slow us down? Are we reaching that point now?
Politicians should be working to make themselves obsolete
Lifting the standards of education and virtue to a point where we can self govern would be a tremendous, but fatal, accomplishment for the politicians. They are not motivated to put themselves out of a job. If we leave it up to them, we will never get there.
A practical, short term compromise
The old solution would be to have a guess at how things could be better, write some pamphlets about it, then overthrow the government with violent revolution. Now, we can create free and open source software prototypes, and test out different models as we collect empirical data.
The population could record what their votes would have been for the next few years, and compare it to how the politicians actually behave, and what the consequences were for those decisions. At the very least, we end up with a powerful polling tool that the representatives will have to listen to, if it’s used by enough people.
Where to from here?
It is impossible to sketch out a detailed solution here – though watch this space.
If you’re interested in developing a prototype, please contact me.
If you’re interested in options and discussion already on the table, check out:
When I heard this was the Pride week edition, my first response was “Proud of what?” This was due to ignorance, not belligerence, but once I found out it was LGBTIQ Pride Week, and I had Googled the acronym, I decided it was still worth exploring the question. That’s what philosophers like to do.
For Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), pride, often translated as “magnanimity” from the ancient Greek, is the balanced understanding of one’s own, well earned, self-worth.
Your pride sits like a crown on top of your other virtues. If you’re truly worthy of praise, and you know it, you deserve to be proud. Too much pride and you’re up yourself. Too little pride and you’re a bit of a wuss. Your sense of pride should reflect your worth in a way that is just right.
I’m straight, and unless Paul Newman returns in the zombie apocalypse, still looking ok for his age, I probably always will be. Granted, I have a knack for being heterosexual, but have I worked hard and earned the right to be proud about it?
When Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras came up in conversation recently, a straight women asked, in annoyance, “why don’t we have a heterosexual parade?” That old chestnut.
Superficially, this is a fair point. No sexual orientation is earned. A mix of genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors mean we simply end up a certain way.
One might reply “I’m proud to be me!”
Superficially, this is a poor response. If pride was simply a matter of individuality, then every individual has a right to be proud. The concept is diluted and becomes meaningless. If you’ve ever been stirred into a caffeinated frenzy while studying, you’ll know that highlighting all the text on a page is as good as highlighting none of it.
So why should some people be more proud than others about their sexual orientation?
Because, in this social climate, it’s hard to be lesbian; gay; bisexual; transgender; intersexed; or questioning (thanks Google!). It takes courage – another of Aristotle’s virtues – to be out in the open, when who you are opposes a government enforced status quo.
Generations of minorities have had to stand up for their naturally occurring sexual orientation; gradually reclaiming equality. Given these efforts, future generations will not have to protest against ignorance and oppression. They won’t need to be proud. They will grow up in a culture that accepts them, and celebrates their place in the natural scheme of things.
This courage and hard work is something to be proud of.
This article was written to the soundtrack for my house-mate’s new stripping gig. I resisted the urge to write in a gyrating pentameter. Magnanimax!
The Plantinga?Dennett Debate: Science and Religion:Are they Compatible?
2009 American Philosophical Association Central Division Conference
A PDF of Plantinga’s opening statement.
The original audio recording of the debate is not very clear.