PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 72 November 30th 2003
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
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"...
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: email@example.com
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, (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01388 747240 in advance.
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 (email@example.com) or David Large (firstname.lastname@example.org).
PHILOSOPHY OF MIND GROUP
Next meeting now Wednesday 10th December, usual time and place
If you intend to come please notify David Large (email@example.com).
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, (firstname.lastname@example.org).
II. 'PHILOSOPHY: WHO NEEDS IT?' BY DAVID LARGE AND KEITH PARKER
Newcastle Philosophy Society Introduction to Cafe Philosophique 4 October 2003
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
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
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,
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,
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
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
and everything is receiving sense - even the lost
moments, of struggle and painful indecision.
I am flying toward realities which never were
by mortal eye or mind - just with the tools of
and behaviour - the perfect way to obtain it,
always the left step - of the mind - the
The past is returning to build your personality,
by showing all the mistakes you made,
like a inner mirror - you see all your deeds,
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
you never cease to go again... on the path you
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
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
a life full of questions, battlefields and fears,
for and in what you believed,
is getting dark, you are drowning in the sea of
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
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
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
It is not a question of
Is philosophy fun,
Philosophy is fun.
Makes one serene,
Helps one to transcend
(All of life is a dream)
Philosophy is like a
Is fun, fun, fun.
You will be fulfilled,
You won't weep.
Study - towards being free,
With a cup of tea in one hand
And a good book upon your
(c) Joe Staunton 1999