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