Friday, 11 December 2009

Philosophy and Food

Just to remind you that philosophy can feed your
belly as well as your soul! Here are some famous, and relatively
famous people, who hold or held philosophy degrees.

Woody Allen -- Director and Comedian
Matt Groening --Creator of The Simpsons
Bruce Lee -- martial arts & actor
Stephen Colbert -- Comedien
John Chancellor -- News Broadcaster
Harrison Ford -- Actor
Chris Hardwick -- MTV Host
Jay Leno -- Comedian and Host The Tonight Show
Amy Madigan -- Actress
Steve Martin -- Comedian, Actor
Dennis Miller -- Comedian
Stone Phillips -- News Broadcaster
Brad Roberts -- Singer, songwriter Crash Test Dummies
Susan Sarandon -- Actress
Gene Siskel -- Movie Critic
Jeff Smith -- Frugal Gourmet
Steve Thomas -- Host for TV Show, This Old House
Alex Trebek -- Host for TV Show, Jeopardy
Mark Hulbert -- financial columnist FORBES magazine
Carl Icahn -- CEO, TWA Airlines
Gerald Levin -- CEO, Time-Warner, Inc.
George Soros -- Financier & Money Manager
Moses Znaimer -- Owner of CITY-TV and MUCH-MUSIC, Toronto
Gertrude Himmelfarb -- Historian
Herbert Simon -- Economist, and Nobel Laureate
William Bennett -- Secretary of Education and Head of the Drug Enforcement Agency
Patrick Buchanan -- Presidential Candidate and Political Columnist
Angela Davis -- Social Activist and Political Philosopher
Thomas Jefferson -- U.S. President
Vaclav Havel -- former President of Czeckoslovakia
Robert MacNamara -- Secretary of Defense and Head of the World Bank
David Souter -- Supreme Court Justice
Mary Higgins Clark -- Mystery Writer
Joseph Chaikin -- Theatre Director
Ethan Coen -- Film Maker
Umberto Eco -- Novelist and Semiologist
Ken Follett -- British Writer
Northrop Frye -- Literary Critic
Iris Murdoch -- Novelist
Alexander Solzhenitsin--Writer
Susan Sontag -- Writer
Martin Luther King, Jr -- Minister & Civil Rights Leader
Pope John Paul II -- Vicar of Christ
Phil Jackson -- Coach, Chicago Bulls
Michael McKaskey -- Owner, Chicago Bears
Aaron Taylor -- Offensive Tackle, Green Bay Packers
John Elway -- Quarterback, National Football League
Mike Schmidt -- former Philadelphia Philly
Beverly McLachlin -- Canadian Chief Justice
Ed Broadbent -- leader of Canada's federal NDP1970's and 1980's (Ph.D in philsophy)
Pierre Trudeau -- Former Canadian Prime Minister
Dave Thomas -- one of the "Mackenzie Brothers" on SCTV
Rick Salutin -- columnist for THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Steve Allen -- writer & comedian
David Duchovny -- actor on X-FILES
Kate Millett -- author of SEXUAL POLITICS
Patricia Rozema -- film-maker, I'VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING
Neil Peart -- drummer for rock group, RUSH
Susan Block -- Host, HBO's RADIO SEX TV, THE DR. SUSAN BLOCK SHOW on Radio, cable TV, and the internet

Patrick O'Connor

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Guest Lecture II: Is there anything that could not count as a moral issue?

Trevor Curnow, Reader in Philosophy from University of Cumbria came along to NTU on 9th Dec as part of the Philosophy and Everyday Life guest lecture series. In contrast to Neal Curtis’s session, Trevor offered us a technology free overview of moral philosophy in general and Ancient Philosophy in particular.

He delivered his lecture in traditional philosophical style by standing and delivering an entertaining, fluent, and at times digressive talk without recourse to technology of any kind (not even a pen!). By drawing upon, amongst other things, biographical details concerning his early philosophical training in analytical philosophy, (in particular what passed for moral philosophy in the 1970s), and contemporary philosophy’s issue based approach to ethics, Trevor demonstrated his overall thesis: that contemporary moral philosophy has been impoverished by its refusal to incorporate all aspects of everyday life as the Ancient Greeks did.

Moreover, Trevor suggested that this state of affairs has been exacerbated by the academicisation of philosophy and the consequent lack of philosophical role models, deploring a society which appears to be in thrall to celebrity culture and hysterically mourns a princess who had little relevance to most people’s lives.

In contrast, the Ancient Greek Schools offered philosophers as role models. For them, how one comports oneself in everyday life, whether alone or with others, constitutes the bedrock of one’s character. In this way, we constitute ourselves. It is only on death that a person can be judged to have lived a moral life or otherwise, when all of one’s actions can finally be accounted for.

In Trevor’s view, it is pointless to corral off “moral issues” when everyday existence itself is an ongoing ethical project. We are responsible for what we are and what we may become.

This approach to moral philosophy has practical consequences on the most mundane level. Ethical decisions pertain to the micro as well as macro levels. What one chooses to eat for breakfast, how long one spends in bed, for example, these are moral issues just as much as whether to commit suicide since, viewed in terms of the seven Deadly sins, gorging oneself on breakfast constitutes gluttony, while staying in bed all day becomes sloth.

Trevor is clearly a convert to the ethical ways of the Ancient Greeks, and his talk reflected this, managing to be simultaneously provocative and laconic. No ranting to be had here and all the better for it.

After all, if we accept that we are the sum total of our actions in everyday life, then that is a thought that has the potential to change the way we live. And philosophy doesn’t get much more relevant, or radical, than that.

Ruth Griffin

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

NTU Philosophy Society

Dear Philosophy Students

There will be a meeting of the NTU Philosophy Society this Thursday, Dec 10th, @6pm in room 124.

Please try and attend and support your society!



Monday, 7 December 2009

Speculative Materialism Reading Group - Further Reflections

Meillassoux: The Ubiquity of Nothing
With regard to our Speculative Realism reading group, this week’s topic, Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude , proved to be a very thought provoking affair. Meillassoux’ dynamic little text offers some very interesting notions and insights. It is one of those texts which is hard to leave go; there is something about it, or there is something in there seems immensely valuable. What this something might be is another matter. I will thus restrict this blog post to the aspects that I find most attractive and the some of the problems that I think are inherent to the text. What I find attractive about Meillassoux’s text is the clarity and unity of exposition. There is something refreshing about reading a text that is concise whilst simultaneously, indeed ruthlessly staking out a new philosophical frontier. Philosophically, and we discussed this in the group, the notion of utter contingency, or the contingency all entities is a very alluring position. Meillassoux presents a type of Leibnizianism without God minus the pre-established harmony of the best of all possible worlds, Meillassoux presents us with an ontology of multiple worlds as radically contingent. Every world, all that is thinkable is contingent. This is the condition of anything happening or being-there at all. In a sense this is axiomatic. We do not need the ‘correlationism’ of a subject, in order for reality to be there. It is thinkable in itself as utterly contingent. It is for this reason I entitled this post ‘The Ubiquity of Nothing;’ since all identities are in themselves conditional they must also be open to negation. If this was not the case then they would absolute beings; something akin to Leibniz’s monads. As Neil put it well yesterday, there is something ‘gleefully nihilistic’ about After Finitude. Hence, the ubiquity of nothing; the actuality of nihilation in everything. It is for this reason that Meillassoux can assert that all things are possible, even impossibility itself. In other contexts, he talks about ‘redeeming the dead’ and the ‘existence of God’, indeed the existence of an absolute God that could transgress the bounds of all possibility. As I mentioned I find this idea of contingency quite attractive. Presenting it in a new way, as a thinking of Being qua Being to use Alain Badiou’s term. Where I am less clear, is how the leap is made from the contingency of identities to the infinity of being. I can see how a notion of infinite contingency could be read into Meillassoux, where all identities come to nothing perpetually and therefore infinitely; but to presuppose contingency would surely demand activity, demarcation and delimitation. Such concepts are not absolute. If there is some kind of activity which makes entities or objects contingent, then this presupposes that some part of Being qua Being is not absolute or infinite. We thus need to hear Meillassoux’s response to the old problem of the one and the many.
One other aspect that struck me about the idea of radical contingency which Meillassoux endorses, is its essential absurdity, absurdity at least in the existential sense. Indeed, one might even wager that it is a type of absurdity that far surpasses the absurdity of existentialism. If all things are possible, then all manner of identities can come into being. No object is exclusive from becoming any other object. Since any possible mutation of any identity is always possible therefore all types of mixture may come into being. Again I think this rests on the question of finitude. A finite being is limited and demarcated to what it is, the point is, that finitude is coextensive with contingency. Therefore an identity can be contingent and finite yet relatively appropriate and stable; it can be stable to such an extent that it cannot create unions with anything whatsoever. It is relatively appropriate to its singular identity. There are no absolute transformations of its being even if there might be minimal ones. With the thought of radical possibility and radical contingency this rules out the possibility of appropriate identity. If all things were possible then we could have all types of mixtures and abominations!!! Meillassoux brings a vision of a depiction of reality as utterly monstrous, torrid and grotesque; he presents a reality that has the capacity to be a carnival of deformed identities, aborted possibilities and deformed entities. After Finitude still seems fixed in the throes of subterranean romanticism rather than that of a refined rationalism.
Patrick O’Connor