Monday, 20 December 2010

Philosophy and Popular Culture

The last post made me think about the relationship between philosophy and popular political culture today.

Clearly, most western societies are societies implicitly goverened by what might be termed 'market populism'. This is a populism based around the values of consumption and the habits associated with 'materialist acquisition'.

To date, philosophical discourse has been rather bad at challenging the hegemony of these values and habits. The question for me here is twofold. Firstly, should philosophy adapt to this cultural reality or should it attempt to challenge it? Given the outcome of this choice, how should philosophy achieve its ends?



Friday, 10 December 2010

Tuition Fees - Recent Demonstrations

Hi all

Given the publicity given to the recent student demonstrations I think that we probably need to address some of the wider philosophical and political issues associated with these events.

Please keep the conversation civil!

The real issue for me here isn't really about education at all - rather, the transfer of debts accrued by one generation onto another.

Therefore, it is important not to get too bogged down in the minutiae of the policy dimensions of the debate - for example, about the whether the university teaching grant was cut too much, or whether something else might have been cut instead. The question is why the cuts have had to be made at all and who we call to account for this.

In this way, we must feel some sympathy for the next generation of students - a generation that is likely to be somewhat less affluent and have fewer opportunities than than the one preceeding it.

However, it is less easy to feel sorry for the majority of demonstrating students in narrow political terms. Most voted liberal democrat at the last election (alongside a number of academic staff, it must be said) and so politically these students have, in a sense, 'got what they deserved'.

This phenomenon - to vote lib dem as an expression of 'disaffected radicalism' - began in 2005; when a numerous students and academic staff voted lib dem as a protest against the Iraq war. This significantly reduced the labour majority and put the Tories within striking distance of government. This trend was repeated in 2010 - giving us in the end the new Tory-Lib dem coalition.

Why did this happen? Self interest? A loose concern with 'lib demish' humanitarian issues such a 'ecology' etc?. Perhaps a combination - I don't think that we can dismiss this phenomenon as simply a symptom of intellectual confusion and/or self-preoccupation. The best explanation for me is that it simply became 'fashionable' to do so.....

Overall, this is a hard lesson in economic and political realities for a new generation of people depolicitised by markets and distracted by the media.

Welcome to the real world!


Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Infinite Monkey Cage

See below for a recommendation from Rob Humphries (final year Philosophy student:

The radio 4 show The infinite monkey cage has broken from it's usual scientific subject matter to deliver a show on philosophy


Always nice to see a popular rationalist hero (in this case Dr. Brian Cox) get grilled by a philosopher or two. I think Julian Baginni is on the panel.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Philosophy Society: next meeting Thursday 9th December; details below

The Trent Philosophy Society will be entering its third year this term. Last year we had a number of nocturnal socials and events (namely film viewings and discussions). We hope to expand the scope of the Phil Soc this year and the society organisers will be meeting soon to discuss the range of possible events, from debates and lectures to reading groups, outings to essay competitions. We also hope to obtain Student Union recognition this year pending a sizable increase in attendance and membership from last year. (Union Affiliation will cost a couple of pounds per year but would greatly increase our ability to organise more ambitious events).
If anyone is interested in joining please email either Mark Crane (N0286133) or Stephen Gidlow (N0236892)

Staff Student Seminar

NTU Philosophy Staff and Student Seminar Series 2010/2011

“Foundations of Contemporary Environmental Ethics in 19th and 20th Century Western Thought: From Emerson’s and Thoreau’s Transcendentalism to Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic”

By Ugur M. Parlar, MA

Date: January 12, 2011, Wednesday
Place: George Elliott Building
ICAN Room 215
Time: 1pm – 3pm


This 2 hours long seminar lecture introduces key American Philosophers who signalled the foundations of environmental ethics in Western thought. We shall discuss New England Transcendentalists Emerson’s and Thoreau’s letters and move to Aldo Leopold’s ethical philosophy pertaining to the natural world.

It is also an opportunity to discuss current ecological and ethical problems, and thus the place of mankind on this planet.

Key Questions

What is an environmental ethic? How does it emerge?
Where does the notion of transcendentalism come from?
What is the meaning of “economy” in Thoreau?
How could a harmonious existence alongside natural world be possible?

ALL WELCOME ! – You can RSVP the event on Facebook (search “American Philosophers and the Foundations of Environmental Ethics Seminar”)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thursday 9th December: Philosophy Society meeting

The Philosophy Society (President: Mark Crane) will be meeting again on Thursday 9th December at 6pm in GEE004 LT1.

Please go along and support your Society!


Staff Student Seminars: Additional Seminar

Hi everyone

Ugur, a postgraduate student in the school, will give an additional seminar on the ethics of environmentalism on Wed Jan 12th.

See below for details



Philosophy Staff Student Seminar Series

Philosophy and Psychoanalysis

In the 20th century psychoanalysis posed some very significant challenges to the modern western philosophical tradition; especially through its critique of the Enlightenment conception of the ‘rational autonomous subject’. This seminar series will examine the influence of psychoanalytic ideas on the development of 20th century philosophy and the extent to which psychoanalysis still needs to be taken seriously in contemporary forms of philosophical inquiry.

Weds 19th January 2010, room 215: Neil Turnbull - Philosophers and Players: Narcissism as a Theme in Western Philosophy
Weds Feb 9th 2010 Patrick O’Connor, room 219 - Desire and Pleasure: The Death of Life in Recent French Thought.
Weds Feb 23rd 2010 Frederick Aspbury, room 219 - Hegel meets Freud: The Dialectic of the Subconscious
Weds March 2nd 2010 Ruth Griffin, room 215 - Through the Zizekian Lens Darkly: Lacanian Psycho-analysis and the Philosophy of Film

There will also be an occasional seminar on Weds Jan 12th, 1-3, in 215
Ugur Parlar - Foundations of Contemporary Environmental Ethics in 19th and 20th Century Western Thought: From Emerson's and Thoreau's Transcendentalism to Leopold's Land Ethic

All seminars take place 1-2.45pm.
All Welcome!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

POSTPONED: until 26th January, 2-4pm, GEE089

Dear All

This will now take place on: Wednesday 26th January 2-4pm in GEE 089

Dr Trevor Curnow (Reader in Philosophy at University of Cumbria) will present on ethics and everyday life, and consider the changing face of philosophy.

All are welcome!



Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Why do we need to justify philosophy?

Below is a link which explores the rationale behind the appointment of Dr Angie Hobbs (University of Warwick) as the UK's first Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy in 2009.

Mark Vernon suggests that, in contrast, Europe has no need for such a post, since philosophy is accepted as having value in its own right by the public, as a discipline as well as an activity relating to everyday life.

Angie Hobbs, an expert on Ancient Greek philosophy and ethics, frequently appears on Radio 4's In Our Time philosophy debates, and most recently can be heard discussing the nature and relevance of heroism on the Radio 3 iplayer link below:


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Philosophy Staff Student Seminar Series

Philosophy and Psychoanalysis

In the 20th century psychoanalysis posed some very significant challenges to the modern western philosophical tradition; especially through its critique of the Enlightenment conception of the ‘rational autonomous subject’. This seminar series will examine the influence of psychoanalytic ideas on the development of 20th century philosophy and the extent to which psychoanalysis still needs to be taken seriously in contemporary forms of philosophical inquiry.

Weds 19th January 2010, room 215: Neil Turnbull - Philosophers and Players: Narcissism as a Theme in Western Philosophy

Weds Feb 9th 2010 Patrick O’Connor, room 219 - Desire and Pleasure: The Death of Life in Recent French Thought.Weds Feb 23rd 2010

Frederick Aspbury, room 219 - Hegel meets Freud: The Dialectic of the Subconscious

Weds March 2nd 2010 Ruth Griffin, room 215 - Through the Zizekian Lens Darkly: Lacanian Psycho-analysis and the Philosophy of Film

All seminars start at 1pm and finish at @ 2.45.

All Welcome!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Why Philosophy?

A very interesting piece has just turned up in the New York Times. The photographer Steve Pyke has been photographing philosophers for 20 years. If you follow the link,

you will see some of these philosophers accompanied by a link to an interesting article by Pyke on the rationale for his study of philosophers. Pyke suggests that philosophy has the edge when it comes to the long game, the point being that in terms of collective memory philosophy transcends the particular issues and concerns of their day and reaches a more essential truth; one that lives on throughout generations. For Pyke, philosophers who are largely unknown in an era "... survive longer in collective memory than wealthy nobleman and politicians, or the popular figures of stage, song and stadium." Indeed, the reason Pyke has pursued his project is to contribute to ongoing fame of philosophers, since for him there is a disjunct between 'living recognition and later recognition.'

This is illuminating for the philosopher's thought and projects, as well as the reception it receives. It is often the case, although not always (Hegel or Heidegger for instance), that the philosopher is not appreciated in his time (Nietzsche, Kierkegaard). On some level, this bespeaks a certain humility writ into the continuation of philosophy. Philosophy maybe loses the battle but wins the war. The ideas of a Plato or Hegel continually novelize themselves for newer generations, and in some sense surpass or transcend the negotiations and tawdry compromises of the day. The theme of the undecidability has had much purchase in recent philosophy, on both strands of the analytic and continental divide. Whatever one's opinion on this, I think that Pyke has hit on something very important about the nature of how philosophy works, and in particular how philosophy transcends this undecidabililty in its transmission.

Philosophy is attuned to the vagaries of its culture, it is embedded in the practical life of that culture and what it can achieve; philosophy in many way is the task of making explicit the lived possibilities and concrete reality of a particular time and place. Rather a philosophy which is obscure (in the sense of fame rather than abstraction) than one which presupposes it stands for the ages. The great philosophers stand or fall on this issue, and a lot could be said about what the great thinkers think about this. Even if there is a Nietzsche who calls for philosophizing with the hammer, which is certainly necessary, but always to the extent to which it is attuned to the truth of concrete and historical reality. The humility of philosophy is generated out of the fact that philosophy is not absolute, but most importantly neither is it terminable. The interminable nature of philosophy is its energy and drive. Merleau-Ponty once suggested that the philosophy of the 21st century will limp along. I never quite knew what that might mean, and why Merleau-Ponty saw it as a virtue, but thanks to Pyke’s brief article, I think I can begin to see the point. A philosophy which is visible in its times, or if philosophy is an indicator of recognition or fame, or stands as a philosophy for the ages, then it becomes a very hollow form of philosophy, one that is bereft of the breath and density one requires to gain a sense of its time.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I came across an interesting piece of news. The town of Malmesbury (the home of Thomas Hobbes) in Wiltshire is hoping to market itself as the first offical UK philosophy town!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Reality and perception: optical illusions

Those of you interested in philosophy of mind and the reality/perception paradox might find this of interest:

Apparently some sceptics have measured the images to ensure that there isn't any digital manipulation going on here--and there isn't...


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Philosophy and Everyday (Urban) LIfe

Hot off the presses, well a couple of days back actually, but it's certainly a philosophy in the news day.

More Philosophy in the Telegraph

Looks like the Telegraph is starting to 'wise up'! Here is another piece from Today's telegraph on the philosophical implications of the cognitive neurosciences:



Desperately Seeking Socrates

There is an interesting article in today's Telegraph on archaeological research into life in 5th century Athens - the Athens of Socrates, Plato etc.

You can see this at:



Monday, 11 October 2010

Pocket Pantheon

Anyone interested in the work of Badiou and/or key philosophers of the C20th might want to take a look at my Culture Machine book review of one of Badiou's recent works, Pocket Pantheon (2009) available at:

Badiou's Pantheon is a small, informative yet provocative volume, well worth a look...


Saturday, 9 October 2010

Top 10 Female Philosophers

Just to prove that Philosophy is not an 'all male affair', here's a list of the Independent's 'Top 10 female philosophers'.

Some are still alive...

You can see the full list at:

Neil Turnbull

Friday, 8 October 2010

RIP Claude Lefort 1924-2010

Perhaps one of the lesser known of French poststructuralists, Claude Lefort utilised both phenomenology and Maussian sociology in the service of political theory. He was particularly known for his analysis of totalitarianism. This was effected by the famous Socialism or Barbarism journal, along with JF Lyotard, which analyzed the relationship between corporatism and state. Lefort was also noted for his critique of Soviet beuareaucratic style socialism, particularly in left-wing French thought. Put in the bluntest terms, Lefort's most basic point is that fascism elides the distinction between the state and the company in an organistic unity. Lefort was one of the progenitors of the agonistic conception of democracy, which would be taken up by Laclau and Mouffe in different contexts. Lefort theorised that democracy worked best when it was founded on argument, dissensus and a multiplicity of opinions. He also, following Ernst Kantorowicz analysis of the kings two bodies, theorised the idea that democracy operates through an 'empty sovereignty' after the transition from monarchism to democracy.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Are Baby Boomers Responsible for the Current Economic Crisis?

We have recently seen a spate of publications blaming the current economic crisis on the excessive hedonism and agressive individualism of so-called 'baby boomer culture'.

The baby-boomers were the children born in the 15 years after the second world war(1945-60). They were people whose formative years were the 1960s and it was people from this generation that oversaw the worst financial crisis since the 1930s (and the worst recession since the second world war).

This claim has recently been echoed by Will Hutton in the Observer. Here's the link for those who are interested:

What interests me is whether this generation - sometimes called 'the me generation' - has sold us all a 'very big lemon' and left us with one hell of a mess to clear up.

Should we blame them? If so, how should we learn from their mistakes?



Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Top 10 Unanswerable Questions

The BBC have an interesting article on the type of searches
people do when they are on the internet. This is interesting
since most of the questions, although not all, are of a philosophical
nature. Right at heart of technology and global culture philosophy
still finds its place!

Follow this link:

Friday, 3 September 2010

Upcoming Conference - France after the Crisis

Patrick and Neil will be speaking at the following conference upcoming in Nottingham.


Patrick will be giving a paper on Alain Badiou, and Neil will be speaking about Lacan.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Film-philosophy III conference at Warwick University

Having attended the three day film-philosophy conference at Warwick for one day only (and therefore commenting as somewhat of an outsider/observer of the proceedings) I am left pondering the nature of the subject, both in terms of teaching and research. I guess this would be one aim of interdisciplinary conferences such as this in a sub-discpline which still struggles to define its relationship to its composite parts.

Certainly, the papers raised lots of really interesting (and extremely wide-ranging) concerns and issues, and as expected yielded lots of useful material, though much of this will need to be processed and synthesised via my mental processes before appearing in more coherent form! Furthermore, the sheer diversity of delegates and speakers was further food for thought, ranging from philosophers and film theorists to practitioners eg film makers. As might be imagined, this clash of viewpoints sparked some interesting debate...

The feeling that lingers at present, though, is wonder at the huge diversity of topics that appear under the aegis of film-philosophy! The morning's panel, revolving around Stiegler and Time, tended towards applied and pure forms of philosophy, with sparing use of filmic examples.

The afternoon's session concerning identity, meanwhile, strayed onto more traditional film studies territory ie psycho-analytical approaches, via the organising trope of "the troubled mind", this time with explicit use of filmic material. Importantly, much of this seemed to me to have have less to do with standard definitions of "philosophy", and might have been equally well placed in a film studies conference. One might have expected identity to have been approached largely via concepts drawn from philosophy of mind, for example. Certainly this is how "film-philsophy" tends to approach the issue. So again, plenty to think about here.

Plenty to muse on, then, some of which will hopefully inform and enrich future teaching and research. And certainly a productive way to spend a showery Saturday on the outskirts of Coventry!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Thomas Kuhn - The Philosophical Legacy

Steve Fuller 'Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times' Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2000).

Thomas Kuhn, as we know, was one of the foremost philosophers of science in the 20th century and the father of the so-called 'sociological turn' in contemporary philosophy of science.

But what, exactly, was Kuhn’s legacy to philosophy of science. According to Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, it was to have dulled the critical edge of the concept of rationality in this philosophical sub-discipline - making philosophy’s relationship to the natural sciences increasingly problematic (p280).

Kuhn, in Fuller’s view, was the latest in a long line of modernist philosophers whose aim was to pave the way from philosophical to (social) scientific modes of thought. These anti-philosophical tendencies can also be found in Wittgenstein’s work, but espeically in followers of Kuhn like David Bloor; who believed that philosophy is an atavism in an epistemic culture dominated by science.

Post-Kuhnian philosophers of science have attempted to understand science as a social phenomenin; that is from the narrow vantage point of the practicing scientist’s current professional interests. For Fuller, this is too parochial a conception of science and in his view post-Kuhnian philosophers - like, for example Rorty - fail to see any intermediate position between a sociological conception grounded professional interests and a philosophical conception derived from the God’s eye view.

Against Kuhn, Fuller wants to defend a quasi-Popperian conception of science, in that he advocates an open ‘republican’ conception of science against a ‘closed’ professional conception of scientific practice (an issue that has recently come to the fore in the ‘climategate’ scandal). For Fuller, Popper’s ‘distinctive pragmatist revision’ of positivism was dismissed too easily by Kuhn and his socilogical acolytes.

This is an interesting book by Fuller, unfortunately, provides a rather rambling account. Although erudite in the extreme, he attempts to critique Kuhn on three fronts at once - sociological, political, philosophical. This is perhaps to broad a critical focus. Fuller does make many subtle points against the viability of ‘the Kuhnian framework’, but there is a certain randomness in his mode of argumentation. Fuller, it strikes me, is trying to shoot the Kuhnian elephant with a weapon that, although powerful, he seems unwilling to bring under sufficient control. This maybe because he is attempting to criticise the sociological turn from 'within' when a more philosophical approach is clearly needed here.

Neil Turnbull

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Andre Gorz: The End of the Working Class?

The French philosopher Andre Gorz is famous for his thesis that contemporary work practices herald the end of the 'working class' as traditionally conceived. In a number of texts - most famously in 'Farewell to the Working Class' - Gorz gives a historical overview of the meaning of 'work' and shows how its meaning has changed from one historical period to another. He shows that with the emergence of capitalism, work came to take on an increasingly 'abstract quality' as it became 'paid activity'.

However, this form of abstract, 'quantifiable', work - the work of the wage-labourer - is no longer a useful characterisiation of post-industrial labour in his view. What the current situation needs rather is a redefintion of 'work'. Gorz, like his contemporary Daniel Bell (Bell, 1976) sees the so-called 'computer revolution' has having very profound implications for the structure of modern societies and for the very meaning of work. In his view, computers will increasingly displace the unskilled and semi-skilled worker because these simple work functions are now easily automated. Gorz argues that the computerisation of production processes is leading us into a post-industrial society where 'work' will increasingly come to mean something other than its traditional defintion as as 'wage-labour'.

Gorz is fully aware of the dark side to all this. Unless we organise society according to different principles new information technologies will lead to mass redundancies and the emergence of an increasingly pauperised section of society. In order to counter these potentially disasterous developments, Gorz argues for what he calls a politics of time. Here, Gorz is arguing that contemporary radical thinkers should celebrate the labour-saving potential of new technologies and see these technologies as liberating individuals from the dull necessity of work. Individuals, so long as they are properly resourced (perhaps through an enhanced benefit system) can then use their time for the purpose of self-development.

This, Gorz believes, will lead to a healthier and happier society. Industrial society gave the worker affluence but no time. Post-industrial society gives the (now-ex) worker time but no affluence. This finally allows the working class to achieve its traditional political goal freedom from work. However, the challenge today is to make sure that indivduals put this freedom to some useful social purpose.

Gorz has been criticised for being a bit of a romantic. His idea that 'work' can now be replaced by 'self-development' seems to assume that we are all capable of becoming accomplished novelists, piano players or chefs in our leisure time. Not all of us may be able to 'self-actualise' in this way. Some may require institutions to help them forge a sense of self and work may be one such institution.

Neil Turnbull

Further reading

Gorz, A. (1982) 'A Farewell to the Working Class' London: Pluto
Gorz, A (1985) 'Paths to Paradise: On the Liberation from Work' London: Pluto
Gorz, A (1989) 'A Critique of Economic Reason' London: Verso

Illich, I (1978) 'The Right to Useful Umemployment and It Professional Enemies' London: Boyars

Lodziak, C (1995) 'Manipulating Needs: Capitalism and Culture' London: Pluto.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Slavoj Zizek - The most dangerous philosopher in the West.

It is currently the London Literature Festival and as part of this, the Southbank Centre is staging a series of lectures and readings by eminent, contemporary figures in literature. On the bill last night was a talk by Slavoj Zizek centered around his latest book Living in the End Times, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend.

Slavoj delighted an audience -that seemed to me to consist of more than the aging, socialist academics I had suspected- with the mix of pop-culture references and deep analytical thinking that has become his trade mark. I might even call him a philosopher come stand-up but I couldn’t say how he would respond to the title.

The session consisted of a brief lecture regarding the inevitability of communism, and an interview conducted by an equally well respected philosopher A.C Grayling. During his lecture Slavoj made use first of the song Climb Every Mountain, sung by the Mother Superior from The Sound of Music to encourage Maria to follow he heart and love Baron VonTrapp, and the audience cheered as he showed up the hypocrisy of the songs sentiments. The same audience then sat quietly as he explained our grim fascination with fascism by means of the scene from Cabaret where the Hitler Youth sing inspirationally with a crowd in a beer hall. He said that our applause was mis-directed and that we ought to more strongly agree with sentiments of the second song as it is not intrinsically fascist but simply appropriated by fascism because it is beautiful.

During the interview A.C Grayling asked of Zizek “How can communism succeed? Look at the Soviet Union.” and Zizek’s answer lasted at least 40 minutes and took a variety of forms. In short though, he seemed to be talking not so much about an economic communism but instead a sort of cultural communism that is born of capitalism and the irony of postmodernism and consumerism. He claimed that history is no longer on the side of the academic because it encourages a relativist point of view, and as such socialism as it has existed will not come to fruition, but that there may be space for something new.

I’ve read some Zizek and not understood a lot of it, and to be honest last-night’s lecture didn’t clear many things up. However it is exciting to here someone talk about the future and if I can say anything about the philosophy of Slavoj Zizek it would be that it is in the future that he has made his home.

Rob Humphries

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Schopenhauer 2: an old conundrum

Shortly after the previously discussed passage, Schopenhauer goes on to consider the human condition in comparison to that of the animal, concluding amongst other things, that the ability to reflect and awareness of the self is what distinguishes human from purely animal and gives us our unique capacity for suffering. This capacity stems partly from our awareness of death, but paradoxically, also confers intensities of pleasure and happiness denied to "brute" animals.

Of course, peace of mind is the price that these intensities exact upon us, and is this a price worth paying? Schopenhauer thinks so (taking us back to the old paradox of the happy pig/unhappy Socrates conundrum and its varients) but as he ruefully concludes: 'The animal lacks both anxiety and hope because its consciousness is restricted to what is clearly evident and thus to the present moment: the animal is the present incarnate. But precisely because this is so it appears in one respect truely sagacious compared with us, namely in its peaceful, untroubled enjoyment of the present: its obvious composure often puts to shame our own frequently restless and disorientated condition'.
Does our capacity for reflection deny to us the ability to enjoy the present moment (another age-old, yet curiously perennial philosophical question?) And is it a misdirection to believe that contentment should even be sought there, as the Stoics so vehemently asserted?

Schopenhauer 1: Boredom is the true threat to happiness?

In On the Suffering of the World , Schopenhauer argues that suffering is intrinsic and, even more than this, crucial to human existence. Without what he terms "Work, worry, toil and trouble", human life would have no purpose since we are designed to constantly struggle. Without this, we would either collapse through boredom or else create new and ever more harmful distractions.
In a particularly memorable passage concerning the nature of Utopia, he writes:

'Imagine this race transported to Utopia where everything grows of its own accord and turkeys fly around ready-roasted, where lovers find one another without delay and keep one another without any difficulty; in such a place some men would die of boredom or hang themselves, some would fight and kill one another, and thus they would create for themselves more suffering than nature inflicts on them as it is. Thus for a race such as this no stage, no form of existence is suitable other than the one it already possesses'.

At first glance, this may appear counter-intuitive, but does Schopenhaur have a point here? Does work, which for him is at the opposite pole of human existence from boredom, save us from self-destruction? Have we evolved to the point where the lives that we lead ideally suit our disposition to suffering, despite the fact that we believe this not to be the case?
Something to think about as we continue to seek distractions from what many have argued to be the disease of our age: boredom...

Knowledge and the Public Good

Some key questions for us to reflect on over the summer

What matters most philosophically, knowledge or the way that is attained? For example, should we use the results of Nazi experiments on humans at massively sub zero temperatures even though these results may be perfectly valid and possess and social/commercial utlity? The current consensus is that we shouldn't and the research should proceed ethically. But what does it mean for scientific research to proceed ethically?

More generally, what is the value of scientific knowledge if it causes harm?

If we see the telescope as the basis for the intercontinental ballistic missile, do we need to revisit the myth of 'Galileo the hero' in this context?

Neil Turnbull

Friday, 25 June 2010

Terry Eagleton on Football

Perhaps in line with Neil's last post on fetishism, and given that a load of footballers are interrupting vuvuzuela concerts in South Africa, I thought that it would be interesting to provide a link to Terry Eagleton's recent article. Eagleton argues in a somewhat conventional sense that football is a distraction from political urgencies. In essence, the old Marxist argument, football is the opium of the people. One interesting aspect of his analysis is that he suggests that football as a spectacle adopts carnivalesque aspect which substitutes for the contemporary
dearth of symbolism and and ritual. Furthermore, he rather cheekily suggests that football fans are the true academics of the world. Involved in the everyday,yet holding the aptitude to discuss with an in depth rigour to rival the greatest of scholastic philosophers the various benefits, evils, intricacies of strategy, grace, morality and ability of the footballing world. I can't say that I can agree with Eagleton's call to ban football, provocatively and all as it is put. I think that if one were to consider football was immoral, we would also have to abandon a whole other raft of practices which exhibit similar characteristics, popular music, religion, politics, art and so on. I think the reason football, or sport in general fascinates us, is that it is truly philosophical in its own kind of way. The vagaries of Mourinho's relationship to Ferguson and the micro-politics which surrounds it is as compelling as any political event. But the point is that football equally follows the same trajectory as other human activities. It offers a rich tableu of human experience and for this reason we philosophize about it and mull over and become engaged with it. So football is philosophical in itself in the same way that religion, art and politics is. Of course, Eagleton's point is well taken, football is a capitalistic enterprise, embroiled in petty narcissism's and a waste of human potential, and has lost its base in the communities. This should be acknowledged, however, sporting activity whether team or individual, has innumerable benefits for a flourishing society such as health, activity, a reduction of depression, and perhaps most importantly the delimitation of disgruntled male anxiety. Or maybe not?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


As is well known, Freud draws our attention to the psychic mechanisms that distort our thinking. One such mechanism is what he terms disavowal. In Freud's view, disavowal is related to fetishism/perversion and involves the expression of two contradictory attitudes that persist side by side. More specifically, it involves a kind of 'reverse hallucination'; on one level denying the existence of something and on another level continuing to believe it. This is typically because the original belief is associated with an 'unacceptable' desire. The classic disavowed response involves admitting but rejecting something in the same breath. For example, the smoker who says that they have given up smoking yet continues to smoke is disavowing the fact that he/she is a smoker.

Very often the original belief is maintained by displacing the original desire onto a more ‘acceptable’ - less feared - object. For Freud this is exactly what is involved in fetishism. Fetishism is a key idea in philosophy in many ways and it generally signifies a tendency to imbue an irrelevant object or part of an object with a ‘significance’ that it doesn’t really possess. Marx, as we know, tried to understand capitalism as based upon the fetishism of commodities that involved the over valorisation of the world of things and the ontological emaciation of the world of human agency.

For Freud, a fetish - surprise, surprise - is a substitute for a penis. Not just a substitute for any penis however; but specifically the substitute for the penis that the boy-child thought the mother had before he became aware of sexual difference. For some children, this idea is too traumatic to contemplate and hence they only partially give it up; creating elaborate substitutes for the ‘real thing’ in order to defend themselves from this traumatic reality. Freud goes on to use this idea in order to make an interesting observation:

'[w]hat happened therefore, was that the boy refused to take cognisance of the fact of his having perceived that a woman does not possess a penis. No that could not be true: for if a woman had been castrated, then his own possession of a penis was in danger; and against that there rose in rebellion the portion of his narcissism which Nature has, as a precaution, attached to that particular organ. In later life a grown man may experience similar panic when the cry goes up that Throne and Altar are in danger, and similar illogical consequences will ensue (Freud 1961, 153)'

In the light of Freud’s observation can we view academic ideas/positions as fetishes in just this sense? Is disavowal the psychic mechanism involved in the defensiveness that often accompanies contemporary political/ideological positions; the 'thrones' and 'altars' of contemporary intellectual life? Might we say that fearing the 'castration of rationality', a number of contemporary thinkers have created intellectual fetishes - protected by powerful taboos - that allow them to preserve an often retarded political orientation? What ideas/systems of thought fit the bill here? Postmodernism perhaps with its fetishes of ‘identity’ and so on? Perhaps we might say that even the great academic name or movement is itself a disavowed fetish in just this sense -'Deleuze', 'Badiou' and so on?

Neil Turnbull

Friday, 18 June 2010

11th Lowdham Book Festival Lit-Phil Event on Saturday 26 June

The annual Lowdham Book Festival runs from 15th June-1st July and offers a wide variety of literature related material.
In terms of Philosophy, the Lit & Phil tent (behind the village hall at Lowdham) promises an interesting (and free!) day of events, most pertinently, "A Good Story? A tour of ethics in five tall tales', with Will Buckingham from 4.15-5pm, which addresses such questions as "what does it mean to be good? and "how should we live our lives?", using five philosophers to help answer these questions.
More details on the festival at
Looks worth checking out!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Terrific News for Philosophy in the UK (and elsewhere)

News has just come through that the Middlesex philosophers have managed
to save their programs. Kingston University in Southwest London, it would seem, has decided
that this is too good an opportunity to pass up on, and have decided to snap up Profs. Alliez, Hallward, Osborne, and Sandford! They are also taking over the Middlesex graduate programs. The Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy will be moving with them.

Well done to all concerned.

News in detail can be found here.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Best of Luck

Best of luck to all our Philosophy Students as they complete
essay, assignments and exams!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Wagner: The musical genius's legacy...

As an opera afficianado (though not especially a fan of Wagner's operas) I was interested to watch Stephen Fry's musings on his lifelong love of Wagner's music, and whether this could (and, indeed, should) be reconciled with his Jewish origins on TV the other night.
I don't know if anyone saw this, but it seemed to be peculiarly relevant to the ongoing debate about the relationship between the artist and their life and work. Should we embrace Wagner as a musical genius and simply ignore his Anti-Semitism, or see it in cultural terms as a product of his time? Or should we let the indelible stain (as Fry put it) of Hitler's legacy stain the work, and lead us to boycott it at all costs?
As one might expect from Fry, he attempted to offer a consensus here, trying to acknowledge the Fascist connotations while at the same time allowing himself a space to continue to enjoy the work of a musical genius. Put simply, Fry argues that the music transcends the ideological prejeudices of the artist and that it is sublime, and therefore should be exempt from political or ideological analysis. However, the quiet revulsion on the face of a musician, a Holocaust survivor when being interviewed about Wagner told another story, despite her best attempts to be concilatory rather than dogmatic.
Many people still do avoid the work of Wagner, while other prominent musicians, including those of Jewish origin, embrace the music (though presumably not the artist).
Is this a liberal whitewash, trying to justify one's passions when these are perhaps transgressive? Or is it right to take Fry's side and argue that, while Wagner's work is stained by its associations, it remains sublime, and that we shouldn't let the legacy of Fascism subsume the work of a genius?

Ruth Griffin

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Re-emergence of the Left?

I just thought that I would draw your attention to a recent article by a right wing journalist predicting the re-emergence of the political left in the next few years. If so, this will mean a welcome end to new labour liberalism but maybe also the return of old fashioned 'investment strikes' should the left happen to seize power somewhere....

You can read the article at:

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is the son of the famous anthropologist EE Evans Pritchard. He is pretty far to the right politically;, but he is one of my favourite journalists because his anaylsis of contemporary political-economic affairs has been proved uncannily accurate in the past. Like many of his ilk, he is also ruthlessly objective...Please follow him if you want a sound analysis of the current events...

Not so much a post as a recommendation...



Sunday, 23 May 2010

Synthetic Life

When looking up the notion of synthetic life in relation to the last post, I came a across a discussion on Irish radio which took place last Saturday about the new developments of these issues. Interestingly, there is a scientist and a philosopher
in full agreement about this issue! Here is a link to the podcast. The actual segment of the show takes place at about 1:15 minutes.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Artificial Life

Hi all

A Trades Unionist friend - who follows this blog a bit - has just sent me this (see below). I guess that this is something that one or two of you might have had some thoughts about!!

Thoughts and reflections please




I saw this and thought you should see it:

What does philosophy have to say about this?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


I watched a fantastic film last night. It was called Hidden (Cache') directed by Michael Haneke.
Ostensibly the film is about accepting or refusing guilt; the protagonist's guilt, it is inferred, is mirrored by the refusal of guilt by the French people regarding Algeria, in particular the police massacre of large numbers of pro FLN supporters in 1961.
The film made me reflect on the nature of national guilt, a strange phenomenon that does indeed tend to be refused or accepted. The German's, for example, seem to completely embrace the guilt of the holocaust, but as the losing side in the war they had that guilt thrust upon them. The British rarely think about the incendiary bombing of Dresden (a war crime by anybody's standards) and the American's are always quick to justify Hiroshima. And perhaps this is just, what makes a nation accountable for the actions of individuals that are now dead or dying?
The American Government has made reparations to black families who can trace their lineage back to slavery, that is right back to their ancestor's abduction from Africa. In many ways I support this (though I think its overly selective) but I have two questions:
1. can money pay to wash away guilt? especially when the consequences of the thing that make you feel guilty are still active?
2. To what extent are the American Government responsible for the actions of their long dead predecessors?
The first question is a matter for future debate but the second raises some important points. Does this not introduce a process of eternal reduction and regression through history?
Can we, the nation of Britain, not demand reparations from Italy for the Roman conquest 2,000 years ago? The slave traders are just as dead as the Romans. Of course England would have to pay Wales and Brittany for the Saxon invasion, then Denmark for the Norse et cetera ad infinitum. Is this not ridiculous, when do we say STOP! that was too long ago, I was only born in 1986, I am not responsible for the Bloody Sunday Massacre or the conquest of India.
Of course the counter argument is: well somebody has to take responsibility. The American Government has a spiritual responsibility, the individuals are not taking responsibilty, the institution is... but when a Government accepts guilt it is very hard to separate that from the national responsibility of admission of guilt, and again, how far are we to go back to find the guilty? I suppose we could feel guilty if the standard of living we enjoy now comes directly from a crime of the past, for example, but even so what is to be done? Is the victim to blame the child of the culprit for the rest of his days>
Ultimately this brings me on to something Nick Clegg was criticised by the Daily Mail for saying a couple of years ago. Britain needs to stop harking back to WW2 as if it was yesterday: one great act 60years ago does not justify a nations actions for the rest of its existence. There is still a touch of xenophobia towards Germany that tends to come out in f0otball matches; their guilt cannot last forever! just as Britain must let go of its nostalgia it must also let go of its historical finger pointing. After all, one day the Germans may gather enough confidence to respond by pointing out one of the many horrific skeletons in this country's closet.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Philosophy and Politics

The sister blog to this blog - 'Philosophy and Politics' - will be taken down in the next day or two because of lack of interest.

It will be replaced by a more formal blog specifically tailored to blog-based academic assignments.

I have rescued and updated one of my posts from this blog that you might want to comment on. Here it is

One thing is clear: the current UK government will have to develop a range of policies designed to bring about a more cohesive society. After the excesses of liberal individualism a new sense of integration and belonging is required. The party that grasp this and articulates it in a populist idiom will be the one that triumphs at the next election.

Can Cameron do this? In theory yes, because these are his political instincts. However, he will be forced to distance himself from neo-liberalism in many ways and this is likely to put him into conflict with the right wing of his party. Cameron suffers from the difficulty that if fig leaf of red toryism is removed we will in all likelihood see his party for what it is, politically, remains: a 19th century liberal party with an outmoded belief in the necessity of a minimal 'nightwatchman' state.

Cameron's real threat comes not from labour or the lib dems but the right of his party.

Neil Turnbull

Launch of a New Philosophy Column

The New York times has just began a Philosophy column.
Simon Critchley provides the first piece.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Philosophy and Popular Culture

As you all probably already know, we have recently seen an explosion of publications on themes like 'Philosophy and Batman', 'Philosophy and Twilight', 'Philosophy and South Park' and so on.

I was wondering what everyone thought about this 'development'. Does it represent a new kind of sophistry where philosophy tries to bend itself out of shape by attempting to tap into lifestyle agendas? Or might it represent the only way of making philosophy interesting/accessible to a mass audience?

In the light of this, do we need to return - again - the Plato's attack on the Sophists? Or celebrate the postmodern celebration of the Sophist?

This is definitely my last post for a while now - honest! Thought it was for the best if I exited on a somewhat lighter note!


Neil Turnbull

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The New Conservativism - Red Toryism

If you want to understand the philosophical underpinnings of the Cameron agenda, you need to examine the so-called 'Red Tory' phenomenon.

Red Toryism is a new kind of 'one nation' conservatism that has emerged out of the ideological vacuum left after the implosion of the New Labour agenda. It is anti-Thatcherite in many ways, its heroes being Belloc and Chesterton rather than Hayek and Rand.

It is philosophically and politically eclectic but its main philosophical focus is communitarianism (hence it is lib dem friendly). It also believes in intrinsic value, especially the attempt to democratise excellence via government by wise elites.

Given the decline of class based forms of solidarity Red Toryism tries to pass itself off as the true heir to socialism - as it maintains the importance of the social dimension against liberal individualism. However, against the orthodox left Red Tories believe that the state creates a dysfunctional and servile version of the social and so its looks to civil society rather than the state as the guarantor of the social nexus.

Thoughts please!

Neil Turnbull

Update on Philosophy Festival!!!

It's all happening at Hay! This looks like a great event!
Philosophy, music and comedy in a festival atmosphere. I have
never heard of a philosophy festival before, but it seems like its all
quite innovative and looks like it could be an exciting atmosphere to be
involved in. Sounds like they're expecting a big crowd as well. Tempted to make the trek myself.

Here is a link to the most recent programme:

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Philosophy gets you into Parliament!

Julian Baggini has an interesting post on the recent election.
He provides a list of people who stood for MP who had philosophy

Philosophy and Football II

Given that again it is world cup year, I was wondering if the philosophers have much to say about the beautiful game. Heidegger was reputedly a great lover of Beckenbaur, Camus was a goalkeeper and Sarte suggested that football was a game complicated by another team. One philosopher who has used the football analogy to underline their philosophy has been Merleau-Ponty. This will be interesting maybe to those of you on Phil 204 who do are interested in Drefyus. In The Structure of Behaviour Merleau-Ponty suggests that:

“For the player in action the football field is not an ‘object,’ that is, the ideal term which can give rise to an indefinite multiplicity of perspectival views and remain equivalent under its apparent transformations. It is pervaded with lines of force (the ‘yard lines’; those which demarcate the ‘penalty area’) and articulated in sectors (for example, the ‘openings’ between the adversaries) which call for a certain mode of action and which initiate and guide the action as if the player were unaware of it. The field itself is not given to him, but present as the immanent term of his practical intentions; the player becomes one with it and feels the direction of the ‘goal,’ for example, just as immediately as the vertical and the horizontal planes of his own body. It would not be sufficient to say that consciousness inhabits this milieu. At this moment consciousness is nothing other than the dialectic of milieu and action. Each manoeuvre undertaken by the player modifies the character of the field and establishes in it new lines of force in which the action in turn unfolds and is accomplished, again altering the phenomenal field.” (Merleau-Ponty, Basic Writings, 53)

What is important for Merleau-Ponty is avoiding a strict demarcation between the mind and the empirical. Merleau-Ponty would later find an intermediary in the idea of habituation and the body. The point is, that a footballer who is playing football does not know his environment as a thing or object, rather a footballer will relate to the environment in term of a number of possibilities or practical intentions. So if we take a great player like Pele when is performing at this optimum his knowledge of footballing is not derived from him going: "Well I will kick the ball at 35 miles an hour now, and this should be sufficient to traverse the distance between me and goal, taking into account wind resistance, the atomic density of the pitch and this big bruiser of defender who is bearing down on me." For Merleau-Ponty, our orientation to the world is never one that is wholly objective. As he says in the above quote the way we relate to the world is always at the intersection of milieu and action. The good and well trained player will be able to manipulate the optimum number of possibilities that are given to them in a given game. That is why football and sport in general is interesting, because in an Aristotelian way, it offers the perfect blend of form and content, or structure and behaviour as Merleau-Ponty would have it,. It is always a case of know-how rather knowing-that.

Philosophy and Football

I know we have all seen it, but given the time of year and that we could
all use a laugh, and given it's World Cup year. Here is the Python's Philosopher's Football match.

Friday, 7 May 2010


It is both Tchaikovky's and Brahms' birthday today. I do seem to like birthdays at the moment don't I? Well they are a good excuse to start discussions...
I tried writing a post about high art vs. popular art but ended up writing a huge eulogy about the 1812 overture and then trying to philosophically defend popular music (x-factor style) but went into a huge and convoluted tract about sex selling and love songs being profound in the fact that no matter how ubiquitous and repetitive they are people seem to love them. Anyway I was rambling so much without any conclusion coming out of it so I decided not to post it.

Why doesn't someone else have a go, with Tchaikovsky and Brahms as our starting point.
I think that there is no point in discussing the election until we know who is going to be able to form a successful coalition... might be a while

Thursday, 6 May 2010


MAY 06 1856-SEPTEMBER 23 1939


If we are to give Adam Curtis' documentary 'The Century of the Self' any credence then the last statement is justified. It claims that, through Freud's nephew Eddie Bernays, 'crowd psychology' and other psychoanalytical ideas were applied to and used in politics and marketing creating what we now refer to as Public Relations.
Curtis supposes that we are much less free than we believe in this respect. We are psychologically manipulated to buy certain products, think in a certain way and 'feel' a certain way about certain government policies. Companies and Governments appeal to our drive to satisfy selfish desires and utilise the kind of 'mob violence' that silently pervades society to instil base emotions like fear which in turn breeds support for certain political actions.One may indeed say that we have been or are constantly brainwashed, nothing more than zombies at our commercial and political masters' bidding.

Aware that some would not have seen Curtis' documentary, that others won't know much about Freud and that I have been limited by time and space to introduce this topic I just want to start a discussion around this topic, that is, 'to what extent are we free agents in society?' Do we allow that the state and big business control even our minds? Certainly it would seem that certain companies, e.g Apple, have a monopoly on desire... what do we think?

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Philosophy and Democracy

Great image from Greece yesterday. A number of Greek communists occupied the Parthenon - see image opposite - and unfurled a banner exhorting the 'peoples of Europe to rise up'.

Two questions immediately struck me on seeing this:

1. Of course the imagery here is very striking. The Greek communists are trying to connect their struggle against market-driven austerity measures - coming to a cinema near you, very soon - with the democratic ideal and the spiirt of Greek philosophy itself. Is there an authentic connection here or is this just a stunt?

2. Does this signify where the left has to go today in order to legitimise its project - back into classical philosophy (and away from Marx, who in many ways viewed philosophy as an idle bourgeois indulgence).

Neil Turnbull

God Is an Atheist

I found this very interesting proposition in Zizek's The Puppet and the Dwarf when I read it last year. I think its fascinating and nicely shows that one can philosophise on theology and religion without accepting their premises. That is, take them in in their own field. Well, here we go...

Christ, in many Christian belief systems, is God. According to both Matthew and Mark his last words on the cross were: 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). The question is this: If Christ is God, why is he questioning his own methods and motives? Surely to question God's methods and motives is to question His omnipotence and benevolence because you are doubting whether He is sound in His actions, 'perhaps He (I) made a mistake, Surely He (I) didn't intend to let me die in this manner; He has abandoned me...' If we accept that God is an omnigod then he cannot make mistakes, to question him is to question whether he is an omnigod and if God must be an omnigod then He cannot exist at all (given that He makes mistakes). He who questions the methods and motives of an omnigod must, disbelieve that the omnigod exists at all, and for certain Christians he can only be an omnigod.

Now if God is infinite then what happens in a split second in God's mind is eternal. What is true of God in this minute is true of Him forever; if God changes then He was not perfect before, perfection needs no change. Therefore in this brief moment, the last of Christ on Earth, God was an atheist, and must therefore be an atheist forever.

There is, as always, a response to this. We could say that in becoming man God lost all his power and knowledge of events to come and the workings of the universe. Christ is not akin to his own methods and motives and is questioning the Him that Knows. Yet Christ, according to the Gospels, is well aware that he must die and indeed why he must die. Who knows... perhaps, experiencing as much pain as his flesh and blood incarnation could take, he, as a finite man, a flawed man, he forgot his own omnipotence and benevolence... perhaps he forgot that he was God...

I've tried to keep this brief and in doing so may have lost the force of Zizek's point. It has also been a while since I read the book and I'm unsure what Zizek's ultimate point was. I think it was that God longs to be human; that in being finite, emotional and flawed he becomes whole. Or perhaps it was about the paradox of the situation; Zizek's ubiquitous: 'I know the truth but...'
Anyway, if you get the chance give it a read. It's great

UNESCO World Philosophy Day 2010

We are looking for volunteers to get involved with the next UN World Philosophy Day in November 2010. If you are interested please contact Neil Turnbull.

Here's the link for those interested in expolring this further...

Also, here is what the UN say about the importance of Philosophy and the significance of the World Philosophy Day:

Many thinkers state that “astonishment” is the root of philosophy. Indeed, philosophy stems from humans’ natural tendency to be astonished by themselves and the world in which they live.

This field, which sees itself as a form of “wisdom”, teaches us to reflect on reflection itself, to continually question well-established truths, to verify hypotheses and to find conclusions.

For centuries, in every culture, philosophy has given birth to concepts, ideas and analyses, and, through this, has set down the basis for critical, independent and creative thought.

UNESCO’s Philosophy Day allowed this institution to celebrate, in particular, the importance of philosophical reflection, and to encourage people all over the world to share their philosophical heritage with each other.

For UNESCO, philosophy provides the conceptual bases of principles and values on which world peace depends: democracy, human rights, justice, and equality.

Philosophy helps consolidate these authentic foundations of peaceful coexistence.

Over seventy countries, including twenty-five in Africa, celebrated the first two Philosophy Days which offered everyone, regardless of their culture, the opportunity to think about different questions such as: “Who are we as individuals and as a world community?” It is up to us to reflect upon the state of the world and determine whether it corresponds to our ideals of justice and equality. It is up to us to ask ourselves whether our society is living according to the ethical and moral norms of our great Declarations.

This Philosophy Day thus provided us with the occasion to ask ourselves questions that are often forgotten: “What do we neglect to think about?” “Which intolerable realities do we get used to?”

Mika Shino
Philosopher, UNESCO Programme Specialist
SHS Newsletter 04 - Foresight: the future in the present, January-March 2004

Monday, 3 May 2010

Nicholas of Cusa

It is sometimes argued that post-modern philosophy represents a radical break with the philosophical past in its repudiation of ideas of transcendence, metaphysics, truth and so on. However, a closer look at a number of mediaeval thinkers clearly shows that this idea of a radical break is something of an oversimplification.

The ideas of Nicholas of Cusa stand out here. According to him, God does not transcend his creation, because creation only exists because of the gratuity of God. Creation is thus radically contingent - a kind of free floating happening. We ourselves as thus radically contingent as well. Nothing exists for a reason.

Here we can see the beginnings of the post-modern in philosophical terms - the rejection of the principle of sufficient reason in the celebration of the irrational contingency of being. Moreoever, here we can see the origins of Heideggereanism and perhaps other philosophical movements as well (speculative realism resonates here too).

Neil Turnbull

NTU Philosophy Society: Fred and Ugur Present...

At the next NTU Philosophy event Fred Aspbury and Ugur Parlar will be presenting two papers - on Foucault and Heidegger respectively...

Date: Weds May 26th

Time: 2-3.30 pm

Venue - room 215.

It would be good to see a good number of students attending this one - please support you subject and your society. The ideas discussed in these papers will be highly pertinent to a number of Philosophy modules at both levels 2&3 next year..

Neil Turnbull

Friday, 30 April 2010

Philosophy of Religion: Visiting Speaker May 18th

On May the 18th we will welcome Dr Conor Cunningham who will be giving a talk as a visiting speaker on the level 2 Philosophy of Religion module

Conor is writer and presenter of the BBC documentary, Did Darwin Kill God? and author of Genelaogy of Nihilism, and Evolution:Darwin's Pious Idea. Conor will be giving a paper entitled:

Refusing Communion: Secularism, Ultra-Darwinism and the Reign of the Neanderthal

Conor is the Assistant Director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy, University of Nottingham

Please make every effort to try and attend this. It should be a great event.

Tues May 18th - 4-6pm in LT1/004

All are welcome!

Neil Turnbull

More on Regionalism

The idea here is that these islands should be viewed as regions and not nations - we should reconfigure the space of British politics along regionalist lines. For some contemporary political philosophers, regionalism offers the possibility of a new counter-hegemonic political movement that could draw on a region’s political traditions in order to support forms of political action that could bypass the moribund political traditions of the modern nation state.

In this way, regionalism is necessarily an anti-systemic and counter neo-liberal form of politics: a post-Westphalian radicalism for postmodern times, that recognises the central importance of local traditions as a political counter-force that can be mobilised against neo-liberal forms of marketisation and the commodification of public goods.

Hence the politics of the left needs to be more than knee-jerk ‘anti-Toryism’. The key idea here is that regionalist decomposition of nations into semi-autonomous regions is not only culturally and economically possible, but was also in some way 'inevitable' given the political trajectory of the global economy. Regions no longer need nations in order to survive either materially or culturally.

What we need in the UK today is regional forms of political autonomy mediated via the ‘authentic political traditions’ of particular regions. Regionalism in this way functions in the service of ‘progressive cosmopolitanism’ rather than nationalist particularism

Neil Turnbull


hello all.

I'd like to share with you something ive been studying for the past week or so and that is the idea of intentionality, the idea that consciousness is always consciousness of something.
. Whether consciousness is in a direct perception of something or in fantasy, it is insignificant to the idea of intentionality itself, whatever the consciousness is directed at, that is what consciousness, is consciousness of; therefore, this tells us that the ‘object of consciousness’ does not have to be a physical object held in perception. It can also be a fantasy or a memory. if we talk about consciousness in phenomenological terms for example; one must ask then, about the 'content of consciousness' of the intentionality, things like emotions, perceptions and judgments as surely they are subjective, one judgment or perception e.g. is not the same for everyone, in my opinion this is where we must ask, is consciousness itself subjective? and that is what i would like us to share,

is consciousness itself subjective?
are there any examples whereby consciousness can be described as being inherently objective/subjective?

please give opinions as im quite interested in other peoples ideas as well as my own.

(p.s this is my first post, so if ive done anything wrong feel free to let me know :) )