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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal

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PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728

philosophypathways.com/newsletter/

Issue number 72 November 30th 2003

CONTENTS

I. The Newcastle Philosophy Society

II. 'Philosophy: Who Needs It?' by David Large and Keith Parker

III. Three Philosophical Poems: by Arthur Brown, Tatomir Ion-Marius
    and Joe Staunton

-=-

I. THE NEWCASTLE PHILOSOPHY SOCIETY

Dear Geoffrey,

Many thanks for sending me the membership card for the ISFP, and for your interest in the Newcastle Philosophy Society...

I am sending a list of our forthcoming activities which should give you an idea of what we are up to. I am also sending David Large's "Philosophy: Who Needs It?" and a reply given by Keith Parker at the "Cafe Philosophique"...

Bill Schardt

---

Introduction to the NPS

Following a series of meetings and discussions the Newcastle Philosophy Society began active life in January 2003.

It was founded to make philosophy accessible in a way that suits the participants, not any institution or syllabus. There are no qualifying criteria, and there is no accreditation. It does not seek to award certificates. The Society does seek to provide a platform for philosophy and philosophical discussions in the most open way possible. Simply, if there's something philosophical you want to talk about the Society will try to organise a group, or help you organise a group, to discuss this topic.

Beyond the philosophical task the Society seeks to engage with other areas especially politics and science.

At present we have three active study groups. One is the Philosophy of Mind Group, another is the Freedom Seminar (political philosophy) and the third is a Wittgenstein reading group (currently working on the Brown Book). We are also holding monthly meetings of a Cafe Philosophique and study days.

For now there is no charge for joining the Society and costs are based solely on necessary expenditure. If you are interested and would like to know more please browse the website and contact us using the email address below. We are always open to new ideas, and always looking to make new contacts.

Enquiries to: information@newcastlephilosophysociety.org.uk

Website: http:---

---

Newcastle Philosophical Society Calendar of Meetings November 2003

MEETINGS OF CAFE PHILOSOPHIQUE

These take place at the Cafe Picasso, 253 Chillingham Road, Newcastle, at 11.30 am.

On Saturday 29th November we discussed "War: What is it Good For?" Saturday 17th January. Provisional booking - topic to be announced. Saturday 6th March. Provisional booking - topic to be announced.

All welcome. If you intend to come it would be helpful if you could tell Keith Parker, (nicolaparker@supanet.com) on 01388 747240 in advance.

FREEDOM SEMINAR

To continue study of Isaiah Berlin, usual venue at 7.30 pm.

Next meeting: Monday 1st December.

Isaiah Berlin Study Day

To be held on Saturday 13th December at 100 Holly Avenue, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, starting at 2pm.

If you intend to come please notify Libby Dicken (libby.dicken@newcastle.gov.uk) or David Large (david.large@nea.org.uk).

PHILOSOPHY OF MIND GROUP

Next meeting now Wednesday 10th December, usual time and place

If you intend to come please notify David Large (david.large@nea.org.uk).

Wittgenstein Study Day - Investigating Wittgenstein - Pointing to Brown and Blue.

Topic: What is the meaning of a word? This is a follow-up to our successful day held on 25th October when we discussed "The Augustinian Picture".

To be held on Saturday 31st January at 62 New Row, Oakenshaw, Crook, County Durham starting at 11am.

If you wish to attend please contact Keith Parker, (nicolaparker@supanet.com).

-=-

II. 'PHILOSOPHY: WHO NEEDS IT?' BY DAVID LARGE AND KEITH PARKER

Newcastle Philosophy Society Introduction to Cafe Philosophique 4 October 2003

DAVID LARGE

Opening aside: Try not to take these remarks too seriously.

Allow me to suggest three reasons why we may wish to do philosophy:

Fame - Philosophy will bring fame and renown. Wealth and prestige will accrue. Wisdom - Philosophy will make us wise. We will see matters clearly and know things other subjects won't tell us. Goodness - Philosophy will show us the difference between right and wrong. We will know what to do for the best. Philosophy will give us the opportunity to become good people.

To examine each of these ideas let's look at three philosophers of genius from history:

Fame - Aristotle  Following the death of Plato, Aristotle was the most famous person in the ancient world. However, rather than receiving praise and riches, he was kicked out of the Academy, mocked by the court of Philip of Macedon, and spent years in exile wandering the Mediterranean in search of sanctuary. Eventually he was allowed to return to Athens where, as an outsider, he was obliged to set up his own school, the Lyceum. Philosophy brought Aristotle, fame, pain and exile.

Wisdom - David Hume  David Hume saw through the overheated claims of the Enlightenment and at an early age wrote a treatise putting all received knowledge to the sword of empirical scepticism. This profoundly impressed such figures as Kant and even now Hume's name is a byword for good sense and reason. However, this wisdom led Hume into depression, rejection (not least from the University of Glasgow) and even piracy (a ludicrous Blackadder style adventure that ended in shame and recrimination). For his rational atheism he became an outcast. Hume spent his days as the wisest man alive cooked up in a library, updating the filing and cursing his luck. Philosophy brought Hume wisdom, foolishness, bad manners, criminality (by our standards) and mental ill health.

Goodness - Martin Heidegger  You know what I'm going to say but I'll say it anyway - Heidegger was brought up in a God fearing, traditional no nonsense German manner. Heidegger's project was, briefly, to assess, account for and put to rights the whole of philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to Phenomenology, incorporating theology and religious belief. Heidegger's system was intended to show us, as human beings, how to live our lives right and not deviate from the path of truth and justice. He brought out the first part of his projected philosophical masterpiece, Being and Time, in 1929. A couple of years later Heidegger joined the Nazi party, denounced his Jewish friends including his teacher Husserl, and wholeheartedly endorsed Hitler's new order. A couple of years after that Heidegger and the Nazis had a falling out seemingly because they wouldn't do the things Heidegger wanted them too - He was a bit much for them. Later, he had ample opportunity to renounce his past and ask for forgiveness, yet famously he never said a word. On his death in 1976 it became clear that he never left the Nazi party but had been a card-carrying member all through World War II. Philosophy brought Heidegger the good life, mendacity and evil.

So, far from bringing fame, wisdom and goodness it appears that philosophy may lead us to infamy, ignorance and evil.

So, far from being a help and an aid to our lives, philosophy appears quite useless and positively injurious.

So who'd want to do philosophy? Who'd want to be a philosopher? Not me.

(c) David Large 2003

---

KEITH PARKER

Philosophy: who needs it? Explorers do!

David suggests three reasons for doing philosophy, fame, wisdom and goodness and is then shocked, or is he trying to shock us, when he finds examples of foolish or just plain immoral philosophers who don't achieve or live up to these three virtues.

Of course, the selection of these three philosophers to prove that philosophy will not bring us virtue could be just a quirk of selection. Anyway who is doing the assessment that they failed and from what point of view? All three were famous in their own time and their posthumous fame has been immense. Hume was seen as wise at the time, at least in the field of history writing and as a diplomat. Kant certainly thought Hume was wise and I am not going to argue with his assessment.

Heidegger is more problematic and opinion in his lifetime and since has been sharply divided about his Nazi connections. However, there are substantial groups of philosophers who believed that Heidegger pointed us in the right direction with his clear thinking about the human condition and to that extent he was exploring the right way to live our lives.

All three of David's philosophers raise a deeper problem. Can we accept the work of people whose non-philosophical lives were foolish or bad? If you don't then you rule out a lot of philosophy. Russell, Ayer, Wittgenstein, Popper, for instance, were either morally dissolute or plain just difficult to get on with. To reject their work as having nothing to say about wisdom or goodness leaves a big hole in 20th century philosophy.

The same issue bedevils other areas of thought and practice. Does our knowledge the Maurice de Vlaminick was a Second World War collaborator lessen the impact of his Fauvist paintings? If Eliot and Woolf were, to an extent, anti Semitic does this taint their whole literary output? Dylan Thomas was, according to his latest biographer, an appalling human being so are we no longer to be moved by his poetry? Can we no longer laugh at PG Woodhouse because of his war record? My answer is to play the ball not the man or woman, the text is the key.

At an even deeper level David raises the issue of why do philosophy? I think his motive of fame is trivial. I think philosophy is too difficult and exhausting for anyone to want to do it just for fame. I agree that we want to do philosophy to achieve wisdom or goodness. David seems to be saying, based on his examples, that this is a fool's quest. If these great practitioners couldn't achieve wisdom or fame then how can we? Are we then to say that wisdom and goodness are forever unattainable through Philosophy?

Surely, this confuses the person with the work? Machiavelli seems to be a somewhat sinister personality with distinctly sinister friends but 'The Prince', whether one agrees with it or not seems to be wise to some extent. Mill lived a morally unorthodox life that now seems to us to be romantic and commendable. He produced 'On Liberty' which again, however much you might disagree with it seems to be striving towards goodness. The great works of philosophy as opposed to the more fragile writers of philosophy do point in the direction of wisdom and goodness. They do so as part of a process of exploration.

The modern philosophers Warnock and Midgley have used the metaphor of exploration to highlight the need to do philosophy.

Here is Warnock,"Generally the business of philosophy is most easily understood as that of raising questions about things which might seem to have been settled or, more often, might never have seemed to be questionable at all."

Midgley offers the following range of metaphors. Philosophy as plumbing. Exploration under the floorboards of society to repair badly functioning concepts. Philosophy as map making. The need for philosophers to highlight and to some extent construct conceptual maps to demonstrate the real conceptual complexity of the world. As Midgley says, "This analogy between different ways and different sources of knowledge seems to be very useful É we need scientific pluralism the recognition that there are may independent forms and sources of knowledge rather than reductivism, the conviction that one fundamental form underlies them all and settles everything."

Surely the impulse to explore the conceptual world, to apply the toolkit of philosophy to repair concepts or even to attach new concepts to the existing plumbing, to map in multi dimensions the route explored, is the impulse to wisdom and goodness. Of course, some explorers may turn to greed or take up disgusting or ridiculous habits and practices but that does not mean that the individual fruits of their exploration should not be used by the rest of us to begin our own exploration of the conceptual universe.

"I'm hardly likely to argue with this, am I?" - David

(c) Keith Parker 2003

-=-

III. THREE PHILOSOPHICAL POEMS

     ARTHUR BROWN
    
     The one is seeking the one
     The one is streaming to the one
     The one is in perfection in willing to be the one
     The one is perceived without senses,
     For the one is not perceived from outside
     The one is extracted from the deepest depth,
     Of one's inside.
    
     When words fail,
     Silence prevails
     Godhead rests in streaming
     And streams in rest
    
     The outside deceives
     Truth lies in essence
     The essence of all that is, is love
    
     Love is a smoothing fire,
     Love is a painful fire
    
     Smoothing fire for peace floats from within
     And burning fire for it touches the depth
     And when the depth is touched, it hurts
     But as it hurts, it is purified.
    
     Smoothing fire for it answers the yelling inside
     And burning fire for it brings to knowledge,
     How long the inside had been yelling.
    
     In true perception all is given aid,
     For true perception makes all real
     Without true perception all is fainter than ever,
     And by our true knowledge,
     We help reality become real
    
     Tears of regret burn,
     But tears of love wash away the dirt of solidness
    
     When one is ready,
     He does not know
     Did the whole engulf him
     Or did he expand to engulf the whole
    
     Light is darkness
     Though they are not
     They flow together
     Without a knot
    
     Opposites coincide in goal
     It is not ceasing to be
     Opposites coincide in source
     It is their will to be
     Though they are not one
     Or what would 'opposites' be?
    
     Movement in forms
     Rest in essence
     So movement in rest
     And rest in movement
     Time in forms
     Eternity in essence
    
     The one is the source of the cause
     The one is the goal of the result
    
     The biggest ignorance,
     Is the ignorance of what is
     Though having what is
     And being what is
    
     When eternal wisdom is grasped
     There is no past nor is there future
     There is only now,
     The now of no more action
     The now of the absence of desire
     Not for desire ceased,
     But for it is satisfied,
     And fulfilled
    
     Godhead is not whole. It is spilt
     Split on all,
     And by its splitting
     It makes all one
     So all soaks in grace
     All rests in peace
     All is pervaded by life
     Nothing is 'really' dead
     It only appears so,
     When WE are dead
    
     (c) Arthur Brown 2003

     TATOMIR ION-MARIUS
    
     Never have I felt so deep this power in myself,
    
     closed doors of mystical lights and dreams are
     opening for me,
    
     and all the hidden treasures are revealed in
     their full holiness,
    
     I touch all these - with my soul, through my
     spirit,
    
     and everything is receiving sense - even the lost
     moments, of struggle and painful indecision.
    
     I am flying toward realities which never were
     discovered,
    
     by mortal eye or mind - just with the tools of
     elevated thoughts,
    
     and behaviour - the perfect way to obtain it,
    
     always the left step - of the mind - the
     reasoning...
    
     The past is returning to build your personality,
     by showing all the mistakes you made,
    
     like a inner mirror - you see all your deeds,
     deceptions -
    
     what an amazing consciousness-process,
    
     the perception from different plans of the same
     ideas, changing words -
    
     and same facts, how many gifts - and how many are
     so ungrateful, blind and starving people,
    
     they do not drink from the brook of life, purity
     and virtue - nothing so bright.
    
     There are instants when you feel, all is defined,
     you have no more truths to discover,
    
     for which to fight - it seems - and despite all
     these...
    
     you never cease to go again... on the path you
     feel closer.
    
     The night is falling, and death wants to hug you,
    
     she expects to kiss with deadly charm your lips,
     you try to run...
    
     and it is like a game, a foolish part of this
     theater named life,
    
     when you need her... she is playing hide-and-seek,
    
     and when you want to plan a new appearance of the
     inspiration which took you slave,
    
     she is smiling... and is coming - to take your
     hands,
    
     and you don't say goodbye to family or to
     friends, to the trees, to the bees.
    
     And the palace built on sand is falling, the
     images of the once beloved,
    
     the memories, to the dust are returning, and none
     has tears,
    
     a life full of questions, battlefields and fears,
     for and in what you believed,
    
     is getting dark, you are drowning in the sea of
     forgetfulness,
    
     day by day - is deleted another memory with
     you... and time is cruelly eating your body,
    
     your face, your glory... tell me... who will save
     you, from these?...
    
     The letters - your only chance to survive, take
     refuge in them, give them trust,
    
     the letters of what you have been... will speak
     about you...
    
     through letters - you will have life... so go,
     create, undestroyable palaces of wisdomful
     creations, talk to your God - to receive mercy,
     and if you deserve,
    
     you will be raised, over crowds, nations and
     social classes,
    
     and what you begin... never end...
    
     the chosen one, will understand...
    
     you are not allowed to be one with Maya,
    
     she is not a friend...
          
     (c) Tatomir Ion-Marius 2003

     JOE STAUNTON
    
     It is not a question of
     Is philosophy fun,
     Philosophy is fun.
     Studying philosophy
     Makes one serene,
     Helps one to transcend
     The dream
     (All of life is a dream)
     Philosophy is like a
     Radiant sun.
     Studying philosophy
     Is fun, fun, fun.
     Study philosophy
     Go deep,
     You will be fulfilled,
     You won't weep.
     Study philosophy
     Study - towards being free,
     With a cup of tea in one hand
     And a good book upon your
     Knee.
    
     (c) Joe Staunton 1999
    


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