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.