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 :) )

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Should Nottingham be the Capital of the UK?

Seeing as the blog seems to be taking a markedly political turn, here is my offering for the day...

As you are probably aware, the 1980s was a period of very extensive economic restructuring for Western economies. After the collapse of the post war Social Democratic consensus in the 1970s, the Thatcher government implemented a range of policies designed to make British workers more ‘efficient’. These included anti Trade Union legislation, the sub-contacting out of local government services and the removal of employee rights to make labour markets more ‘flexible’.

However, at the very centre of the Thatcherite weltanschauung was a commitment to protect the international reputation of the City of London through a range of macro-economic strategies designed to ensure that the UK’s position in the international division of labour was tied to the logic of finance capital. In Thatcherite ideology, the entrepreneurial values of the city were seen as the antidote to the waning of spirit of British industrial culture. However, beneath the Thatcherite rhetoric there was a rather different story; a story of those damaged and displaced by these economic changes - especially the long-term unemployed in the UKs peripheral regions.

In fact, it was the northern regions of the UK that suffered most from Thatcherite political strategies of deindustrialisation. Culturally, the north of England has always been something of bastion for left-leaning anti-establishment political mores. It has largely rejected the cosy registers of the traditional forms of English nationalism and, historically, it has looked to the Labour Party, especially the left of the Labour Party, to represent its interests at the national political table. As such, it has tended to articulate its politics in broadly Marxist and/or Social-Democratic terms.

In the North it is generally understood that the deregulated model of economic development - that meets the needs of the economy of the South East - is inappropriate in a region that has very different economic goals and priorities. Moreover the neo-liberal financial services led growth model that was pioneered by the City of London is now widely understood to be entirely unsuitable, not only for the North but for the UK as a whole. Nearly everyone agrees that what the country needs today is an industrial strategy and that this is radically at odds with the finance-driven neo-liberal zeitgeist.

However, we cannot begin to contest this and transform the political landscape in the UK without taking on the entrenched power of the City of the London. As we have seen one of the key problems here is the cosy relation that has existed between the UK government and the City. Why then not separate these powers - that is separate economic from adminsitrative power? Let London keep the City; but move the government out into the provinces!

Where? Well Nottingham must have a good case. It is central, a border town between north and south; and also an ancient city with castle where government is already allowed to sit in case of an emergency.

Moving the capital to Nottingham would be the first step in developing a form of politics in the UK no longer mired in pernicious political interests of the City.

Neil Turnbull

Three Teeth are a waste of money

To stick to the election then... I mentioned briefly to Patrick my problem with the Trident Nuclear Deterrent. I would like to outline it now:

To start with, the idea that nuclear weapons act as a deterrent to others. They don't. they work in so much as another country may not launch warheads for fear of retaliation. But what if they launch them anyway. Surely then, our own use of them would simply be revenge; comfort in the thought that after we have all burnt to a crisp, THEY will be soon. Britain has less nuclear warheads then any country that officially has them. If there is a war, Britain's ability to destroy would be dwarfed by its foes. Also, what nuclear war could we envisage that does not involve America and/or Europe on the side of Britain? both have nuclear weapons, and both would act as a deterrent in themselves to aggressors against the UK. In fact, any war of aggression against Britain would invoke the NATO treaty, and numerous nuclear powers would come to our aid. As for war of aggression. Britain, considering its self perception as a 'moral' power would never consider using nuclear warheads first, or against a nation that does not have them. If we did then we would automatically provoke reaction from the 'moral' peacekeeping powers of the world. In short, there is absolutely no reason to invest a large percentage of this country's ability to pull itself out of recession in a like for like replacement of a pointless, immoral, and expensive set of dentures...

p.s. sorry for the teeth pun

The Truth of the Post-Human?

Is this the real truth of the post-human; that our interactions with new information and communication technologies mean the end of 'class' and thus the end of the left as traditionally conceived?

See below for Baudrillard's thoughts on this

"Am I man or am I machine? In the relationship between workers and traditional machines, there is no ambiguity whatsoever. The worker is always estranged form the machine and is therefore alienated by it. He keeps the precious quality of alienated man to himself. Whilst new technology, new machines, new images, interactive screens do not alienate me at all. With me they form an integrated circuit"

Neil Turnbull

Anti-immigrationism is Racism

Gordon Brown has been criticised this week for calling an old lady bigoted. In all fairness to the PM, who normally drives me up the wall, that old lady is bigoted. She questioned Brown on what he is going to do about the eastern european immigrants: 'there's too many people now who aren't vulnerable but they can claim and people who are vulnerable can't get claim [benefits], can't get it.' This sort of argument really angers me. For one, the majority of immigrants are incredibly hard working and do not claim benefits. Most, in fact, do jobs that british people are simply too lazy to do. For example, last summer I went fruit picking in herefordshire. I was the only British person there. The owner said he had spent 100,000 pounds trying to get British people to work there; I was the only success (and that's because my Dad told me about the Job because he works with the owner).
What strikes me as strange is that anti-immigrationstists use, lets call it the 'labour/benefits' argument most often in debates on immigration. Yet they feel that a lazy, benefit thieving, white british person has more of a right to live in this country than a hard working man from somewhere else. Why? If labour/benefits is your argument, kick out the doll scum out. Surely it is racist to want to kick out the foreign workers but keep the domestic lay abouts. What it comes down to at the end of the day is this assumption that because our parents 'happened' to be born here, and they 'happened' to have children here (us) than we have some inalienable right to the earth on this island. what utter rubbish! You do not choose where you are born, you can't claim a monopoly on the benefits of an accident.
People, I would imagine, don't leave their homeland on a whim. Conditions in a home country must be unbearable, politically or economically. It must take great courage to travel to a strange and foreign land where you have to start at the bottom of the ladder, irrelevant of what you did at home, and where a number of the local inhabitants insult your work ethic on a daily basis, accuse you of causing the financial crisis and the surge in crime, in general, make you feel less a human being and more a pest.
Not to mention the fact that these particular immigrants, referred to by Gillian Duffy, are citizens of the EU. They have a codified right to freedom of movement and work in the EU member countries. People seem to want only the benefits from the EU and to give no concessions. Brown rightly responded that 1 million brits have utilised the Shengen treaty, among others, to live and work on the european mainland. Why should the british have freedom of movement but foreigners shouldnt. I doubt that woman has ever left her own town, let alone the UK but if she did want to she would find that once she arrives in france she could travel all the way to the croat boarder without showing her passport, and she could stop anywhere enroute and get a job, I thinks its brilliant, and if you ask me... those that don't need to think about why its ok for US to do it but not for THEM...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Middlesex Philosophy Deparment to Close

Middlesex Philosophy Department has been closed down in what can only be described as a truly atrocious decision. Last Monday, its staff all received an email informing them that all philosophy programs were to shut. This, in effect, means they have been made redundant. There are a number of reasons Middlesex is important. It has one of the best Centre's for European Philosophy in the UK. It has an outstanding team of philosophers working there: Peter Hallward, Peter Osborne, Stella Sanford, Mark Kelly, Christian Kerslake, Andrew Goffy and Stewart Martin. On top of this, there is a thriving graduate and student community. The majority of its research is what the RAE calls 'world-leading.' Such an assault on this department is therefore also an assault on some of the best and emergent work in contemporary philosophy, and remains wholly anathema to the flourishing of philosophy as a discipline.

The logic behind this decision by all accounts is quite bizarre. The Philosophy Department is one of Middlesex University’s highest earners. Middlesex is also important for the development of philosophy in the UK; this is for the the very reason that since it is a post-92 institution it would have had to fight harder to establish its reputation. on this front it has led the way and has been a leading light in the development of philosophy in said institutions. Middlesex as it stands is one the highest rated of all the post-92 institutions in the subject.

Of course, the main reason that this is important is because it bodes ill for all philosophy programs in the current economic conditions. If a successful, and indeed financially viable philosophy centre can be shut willy-nilly this therefore bears bad tidings for other philosophy program, not to lest mention smaller departments in other subjects which may be struggling. What is most infuriating and obscene about this decision is that a centre which is financially sound, a good centre of pedagogy, which contributes half its income to its university's administration cost, is given the chop. What further annoys me about this so much is that the University authorities keep changing the goalpost, so now not only do you have to be profitable, outstanding in research and good teachers, you also have to be something else as well (and who knows what that might be!). Outside of the monetarisation of knowledge, what type of message does this send to all professional academics, and most importantly, graduate, undergraduate students as well as potential members of the labour force: expend your labour, sell your time to an employer, it will never be enough and you are expendable for some nebulous reason anyway. I think it’s time to start thinking of ways to take back the university and get educators rather than businessmen to start running it.

Original announcement from the journal Radical Philsophy here:

More information can be found here:

Please register your support here:

Please also join this Facebook group:

Patrick O'Connor

Arne Naess and Ecosophy T

Arne Naess was born in 1912 and appointed to the chair of philosophy at the University of Oslo in his late twenties. He is considered as the founder of Deep Ecology as a branch of Environmental Philosophy, and it is known that he was influenced by the philosophies of Spinoza, Gandhi's Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism.

As a pioneering environmental philosopher, Naess was concerned with an idea of self-realization which promotes the well-being of all human and nonhuman existence through a non-anthropocentric view, and the interconnectedness of all life forms on an ontological plane. Self-realization is fundamental in Naess' approach, for he defended the idea that any view come forth from fundamental is necessarily a philosophical view.

Naess was a highly active mountaineer, for he saw this as part of his lifestyle and connection with natural world. He is also known with his eclectic, diverse range of views, which were often reflected in his ecophilosophy project of international humanitarian activities.

As a Deep Ecologist, Naess made a distinction between shallow and deep ecology. His argument was that Deep Ecology's task is to ask "deeper questions" such as the idea of self, the idea of symbiosis, and consciousness whereas a shallow environmentalist would occupy himself with technical socio-economic issues that reflect an absence of philosophy.

In terms of asking "deeper questions," Naess refers to his particular interpretation of Deep Ecology, which is Ecosophy T ~ ecospohy as the combination of eco and the Greek word sophos (wisdom), hence invoking a definition we may call ecological wisdom. As part of this articulation, Naess' philosophical sense of Deep Ecology can be seen in his own normative system, as it is presented by Deep Ecologist Warwick Fox (1995, p.103-4):

N1: Self-realization!
H1: The higher the Self-realization attained by anyone, the broader and deeper the identification with others
H2: The higher the level of Self-realization attained by anyone, the more its further increase depends upon the Self-realization of others.
H3: Complete Self-realization of anyone depends on that of all.
N2: Self-realization for all living beings!
H4: Diversity of life increases Self-realization potentials.
N3: Diversity of life!
H5: Complexity of life increases Self-realization potentials.
N4: Complexity!
H6: Life resources of the Earth are limited.
H7: Symbiosis maximizes Self-realization potentails under conditions of limited resources.
N5: Symbiosis!


Reference: Warwick Fox (1995). Toward a Transpersonal Ecology: Developing New Foundations for Environmentalism. Devon: Resurgence Book; p.103

Foucault and the Absolute

For Foucault, absolute truth, in a metaphysical sense, is impossible. Truth is simply the outcome of a bloody battle between multiple truths. Truth is not true, it is simply victorious. Yet does this not leave room for an absolute truth of sorts. If truth is a battle, and accepted truth is a victor, then what if that truth is so victorious it completely eradicates the losing discourse from existence? Surely, as the sole truth left, it becomes absolute.
Is this not what the Nazis were trying to achieve, this victorious truth, that ends relativism, not through argument and rationality, but war and irrationality? In attempting to destroy the Jews they were not trying to wipe out a people so much as silence a discourse. Hegelian in form, Foucault's dialectic is not ended through peace, armistice, through synthesis; it is ended by storming the breech, sword in hand, foaming at the mouth and with destruction on its lips.
All oppressed discourses have, at their heart, a teleology; a hero will come and crush the proliferation of truth and reinstigate the golden years of determinacy. For St. Paul it was Christ, for the Jews, another messiah, for the Nazis it was a new Charlemagne and for revolutionary Marxists it would be a new Robespierre or Saint-Just.
Is this acceptable. can we have absolutism from relativism?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A Post-Human Future?

In many contemporary philosophical discourses the idea of the 'post-human' has recently achieved a certain dominance. Here, the post-human equates to a new technological image of the human that undermines the basic assumptions of western humanism; especially the idea of the human as something radically separate from both nature and technology. We might say that this is because we now live in age of 'creative computing'; an age when computer power supports machinic creativity and when computation itself is seen is giving rise to new forms of human creativity (through digital art and so on).

For some, this state of affairs represents an 'evolutionary leap forward' that is transforming our basic ideas of who and what we are. We the contemporary period is viewed in this way it appears that we are currently experiencing a radical break with our humanist past.

Moreover, as humanism assumed the possibility of prediction of control of nature, the era post-human suggests a new condition of instability and unpredcitability.

Is this just techno-hype? Isn't strange that people are making such claims when we can't even build a computer that can tie its own shoelaces? More generally, can we really believe that human ingenuity has no bounds and that there are no limits to computational power?

I find this faith in computability rather strange.

Neil Turnbull

Real Life Philosophy Festival at Hay

Looks great.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Is Nature Our Home?

The Benjmain scholar Shierry Weber Nicholson talks about the ‘psychic numbing’ of the mass of the population in the face of the ecological crisis. For her, we deny ecological devastation in order to avoid ‘painful feelings’ associated with the destruction of our 'primordial home'. Nature here is the original world, the world of our personal and collective childhood; and if we are to maintain our psychological health when faced with the impending ecological catastrophe we need to learn to mourn the loss of this world.

But what about urban experience? Isn't this primordial for those for whose home is the bus, shops, cafes and shops? For me, the countryside is strange and alienating - the modern city feels more like home. Is it legitimate then to simply assume that nature is our primordial home? What kind of assumptions are being made here? Might human beings be technological beings as much as natural ones?

Neil Turnbull

Radio 4 archive

The link below takes you to the radio 4 'In our Time' philosophy archive, a resource which I, for one, am finding really useful. The archive encompasses the history of philosophy, philosophers, ideas, issues and so on, presented in an entertaining and informative discussion format. For the older programmes you will you need access to Realplayer.


Sunday, 25 April 2010

RIP Pierre Hadot

Pierre Hadot (b.1922) has just recently died in Paris. He will be sorely missed. For those of you who do not know him, he was an outstanding philospher and very influential. He was a major influence on Michel Foucault. Hadot was also notable for introducing Wittgenstein to France. Some of his most well known works in the Anglophone world were Philosophy as a Way of Life and What is Ancient Philosophy? I would reccommend these texts to everyone. The latter is one of the finest introductions you will get to Ancient Philosophy and is an outstanding model of applied scholarship.

Video Games and Art

The Talking Philosophy blog (see above link and linke at bottom of page) has recently posted on
the notion of video games and art. They have layed out the definition well. The point
is that video games are, analogically at least, similar to some other forms of art. Video
games having moving images, complex narratives, they utilise mimicry which Aristotle
thought was a key part of any art, music, sounds, sometimes plot. At base they require
both creativity and imagination on programmers parts to complete. On a surface glance, it would appear that video games can have a strange alchemy that blends all of these different
forms to together to create an artistic world. That's one side of it. On the other hand, video games are not analogical with much art, since as Talking Philosophy argues, art is to be experienced whereas video games are played. Thus, the video gamer participates by finishing a puzzle that is laid out in advance, rather than sensibly experiencing an artistic object. Kind of like a sophisticated paint by numbers then!

Any Denken?



In relation to Ruth's previous post on the role of philosophy, it is interesting to see that Guy Damann writes in the Guardian today, when commenting on the UK general election, that when it comes to politics, philosophy and philosophers are best to leave well enough alone! After all, philosophers have tended to have a rather bad record when it comes to directly influencing rulers: Plato at Syracuse, Aristotle and Alexander, Foucault in Tehran, Heidegger and the Nazis to think of a few. Damann's point is that philosophy is founded on a suspension of action and is therefore, by definition ill-equipped for dealing with the cut and thrust reality of political life. He suggests that philosophy should retain a role as the Socratic 'gadfly.' I take this to mean that Damann thinks that philosophy's role should be to act as purely a form of critique, one that should challenge and remind rulers of the ideals that a society should be built on.

What do you think?