Friday, 28 January 2011

Staff Student Seminar - Revised Programme

Philosophy – Staff Student Seminar Series 2011

Revised Programme

Weds Jan 12th 2011, room 215, Ugur Parlar - 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

Weds 19th January 2011, room 215: Neil Turnbull - Philosophers and Players: Narcissism as a Theme in Western Philosophy

Weds Feb 9th 2011, room 219, Ulrich Hass, Manchester Metropolitan University - Nietzsche and the Future of our Educational Institutions

Weds Feb 23rd 2011 Frederick Aspbury, room 219 - Hegel meets Freud: The Dialectic of the Subconscious

Weds March 2nd 2011 Ruth Griffin, room 215 - Through the Zizekian Lens Darkly: Lacanian Psycho-analysis and the Philosophy of Film

Weds April 13 2011, room 215 Jim Bunker – Working with Mental Health is an Extreme Philosophy

Weds April 20th, room 215 Patrick O’Connor - Desire and Pleasure: The Death of Life in Recent French Thought.

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

All welcome.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

My Top 10 Greatest Short Philosophical Works

There has a lot been said, and many charts have been compiled about the top 10 and top 20 greatest philosophical works. But I thought it would be interesting to collate a top ten of short philosophical works. Graham Harman (see his blog on the side links 'object-oriented philosophy') has recently spoken extensively on the idea of the TOP 20 books, so I thought it would be interesting to give a brief justification of what makes a short work great and include my top ten. I think this would be good for you students as well since it offers you a great entry into philosophy, in a concise but by no means uncomplicated introduction to philosophy. I know that 'long' and 'short' can be fairly subjective, but we can think of a short work as in some way self-contained, for example, one of Montaigne’s essays, which could easily be placed in a larger collection. Also as a rule of thumb, we can say a short work, at the top end, could take you a day to read if you put your mind to it. But what makes a short work interesting? The first thing that springs to mind is precision, and I don’t necessarily mean in the analytical sense. These texts are precise in the sense that there is a lot going on in them which is expressed in the minimal amount of prose, dialogue or even poetry. These texts stylistically embody the universal in the particular. To my mind Plato''s Symposium despite its length is exceptionally rich, having infinitly more depth, truth and rigour than AJ Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic. Secondly, I think that short philosophical works can provide us with an interesting historical insight. Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (around 10000 words which is less than a level three dissertation!) has a unique ability to make present its time, namely the urgencies, political malaise and anxieties of industrial Europe, much more I think say than ploughing through Das Kapital. Thirdly, I think that we do not have to think of a short work as necessarily a book. We could easily think of some of Leibniz’s letters to Arnauld has having a huge philosophical impact, or a collection of Marcus Aurelius' maxims. if we look at the letters, this is interesting because it gives an insight into the biography of the philosopher. If we think of philosophy in letters we can see the human behind the interlocutor, and can gain a sense of their lived debate. Fourthly, for philosophical reasons, short works are great because we can get a sense of what the philosopher thinks is most essential rather than just engaging in the finesse of arguments. This brings a dynamism to philosophy, which might be lost where one has the luxury of working out ones arguments over 800 pages!

All of these choices are of course arbitrary, and I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this, or a reminder of any omissions

So off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

Aristotle-De Anima
Plato – Phaedo (All of his short dialogues could be here but these are my favourites)
Plato – Symposium
Leibniz – Monadology
Hume – Autobiography
Kant – The Metaphysics of Morals
Nietzsche – On the Uses and Abuses of History for Life
Marx – The Communist Manifesto
Bergson – An Introduction to Metaphysics
Wittgenstein – Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

BBC4; Justice - A Citizen's Guide season

BBC4 is currently airing a number of programmes as part of its 'Justice: A Citizen's Guide' season, which should be of interest to anyone interested in ethics and/or political philosophy in particular.

As a taster, in the first link, below, Mark Vernon explores the ways whereby Aristotle, Kant and Bentham might have approached the topical issue of bankers' bonuses in a piece for BBC Online.

The second link, meanwhile, enables you to view Harvard Professor Michael Sandel's lively and thought provoking programme, 'Justice: A Citizen's Guide to the 21st Century' via BBC Iplayer for the next seven days (first screened Monday 24th on BBC4).