PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 4 11 March 2001
I. The Use and Value of Philosophy: Round One
II. 'The Value of Philosophy' by Cliff North
III. Conference on 'Citizenship, Thinking and Philosophy for Children' at King Alfred's, Winchester, July 12th - 17th
IV. 'Russian literature and philosophy' Final call for papers
I. THE USE AND VALUE OF PHILOSOPHY: ROUND ONE
Many thanks to all the participants who contributed to Round One of the Pathways Internet Conference on the Use and Value of Philosophy, who were asked to 'say something about yourself and your interest in philosophy, what philosophy means to you, or how you first discovered philosophy, or your views about a particular philosophical issue that concerns you.'
I enjoyed reading all the contributed pieces, which were well thought out and original. It was especially pleasing to see evidence of such a high level of enthusiasm commitment. Well done everybody! The welcome message for Round Two will be posted at the conference shortly. Meanwhile, there is still time for last-minute submissions.
Pathways student Cliff North has kindly agreed to allow his conference submission on the Value of Philosophy to be reproduced here.
II. 'THE VALUE OF PHILOSOPHY' BY CLIFF NORTH
I studied the Pathways Programme, "The Possible World Machine" back in the winter of '98 - '99. With my wife I also attended three terms of Geoffrey's WEA (Workers Educational Association) evening classes in Sheffield. Geoffrey claimed that it was the first time he had met one of his Pathways students in person. I hope the shock was not too severe!
Subsequently I have continued to read original philosophy harvested from the Internet - Descartes, Berkeley and Hume. But I am addicted to buying and reading "Introductions to Philosophy" which examine the perennial problems from different angles. One such is "Think A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy" by Simon Blackburn, a book I shall probably lean on heavily during the duration of this conference.
Blackburn's introductory chapter is apposite to considerations about the Use and Value of Philosophy. He suggests three reasons why we should contemplate philosophy, a subject that seems of no practical use in a materialist world.
1. For those who are convinced or at least half convinced that Philosophy has a point, then the subject may be pleasurable mental exercise. As we exercise our bodies in the gymnasium (a practice recommended by the ex- wrestler Plato) so we exercise the mind in the mental gymnasium provided by philosophical speculation.
2. Philosophy aids and structures reflection. Currently, the philosophical application of medical ethics may have prevented recent events occurring at Alder Hey hospital and in other hospitals in the National Health Service (where children who had died had their internal organs removed without their parents knowledge or consent). Or at the highest intellectual level, Einstein acknowledged his debt to philosophers who had made him aware of the epistemological complexity involved in the data need to generate his Special Theory of Relativity.
3. In a media saturated age, where the media not only reports events but also seeks to influence and shape them, the procedures of Philosophy, by using and developing our faculties of reason, should increase our critical awareness.
When we "do" Philosophy we are involved in a process effectively described -- borrowing a phrase from Simon Blackburn -- as "conceptual engineering". A more rhetorical and aphoristic apprehension is gleaned from Goya's motto for a series of his etchings, where he stated, "Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the source of her wonders".
Other than reading Introductions to philosophy I am particularly interested in the Problem of Consciousness which is the 'hot' topic of philosophy, a topic where philosophy interacts with neuro science.
How can we reconcile third person data concerning brains and behaviour with first person data about mind and consciousness? Can consciousness be reproduced by machines? To what extent is consciousness deployed by animals? The problem of consciousness seems not just to be about the structure and behaviour of physical processes. The brain is a physical, chemico-electrical system operating to known or knowable laws. Yet how do we explain the qualitative feel of inner, subjective awareness and the nature of its emergence from physical processes within the brain?
For me this area is currently one of the most absorbing within the spectrum of philosophical concerns. It lies within the eternal paradox at the heart of the philosophical enterprise namely the relationship between subject and object, the tension of being a first person intentional human being who seeks meanings and reasons for the conduct of an effective life while enmeshed within the third person, objective world of space and time.
(c) Cliff North 2001
III. CONFERENCE ON 'CITIZENSHIP, THINKING AND PHILOSOPHY FOR CHILDREN' AT KING ALFREDS, WINCHESTER JULY 12TH - JULY 17TH
I have received the following notice from Roger Sutcliffe:
"One month left to book at discounted rates for international conference on 'Citizenship, Thinking and Philosophy for Children' at King Alfred's, Winchester, July 12th - 17th.
Educators doing philosophy with children as young as 6 will be comparing practice, and sharing theories about how to teach for thinking and citizenship. The conference is unique in placing equal emphasis on both these developing areas of the curriculum, and should be of special interest to advisors as well as teachers.
Speakers include Professors Richard Pring, of Oxford, Robert Fisher of Brunel, Walter Kohan of Brazilia, and Ann Sharp of Montclair, New Jersey, and Doctors Roy van den Brink Budgen, OCR Chief Examiner in Critical Thinking A/S, and Karin Murris, author of 'Teaching Philosophy with Picture Books'. The Citizenship Foundation will also be represented by its founding director, Don Rowe.
There will be a particular focus on UK developments at the weekend (14th/15th). Places can be booked for the Saturday only (70) or for both days, including dinner, bed and breakfast at 150 (or 140 for payment by March 31st).
Newcomers to Philosophy for/with Children who attend these two days will have the special chance to go on and complete the certificated Level 1 course in a further 5 hours' training, also at a discounted rate. The usual length of this course is 12 hours, spread over two or three days, at a cost of 150. The combined package of weekend conference plus extra day's training is being offered at 200 (or 190 for payment by March 31st).
Full details of the conference are on the website: http:---. Or enquiries can be made to Sara Liptai on 01926 423 612, or to email@example.com. Enquirers/newcomers can be sure of a warm response."
IV. 'RUSSIAN LITERATURE AND PHILOSOPHY' FINAL CALL FOR PAPERS
The following notice comes from Philosophical Society of England member Dmitry Alexandrovich Olshansky,from the Russian Federation:
"Call for papers for book 'Russian literature and philosophy' (Deadline is April 1, 2001)
This book will be published by Chair of History of philosophy of Urals State University together with Institute of Philosophy of Russian Academy of Science (Moscow).
Submitted manuscripts must fit the following criteria:
1) The article should be written in English, German or Russian; 2) The volume of article should not exceeded 5 pages; 3) The manuscripts should be accompanied by information about author: full name, position, university and state; 4) Two copies of the paper and 3.5-inch floppy disk should be sent by Post to:
Dmitry Alexandrovich Olshansky
Lenin avenue 51
Urals State University, Room 311
If the author does not send a 3.5-inch floppy disk, in that case he/she should send the text by E-mail to: Olshansky@hotmail.com .