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philmag2011

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AD ABSURDUM
A NEW BRISTOL PHILOSOPHY MAGAZINE
Winter 2011 Edition
What is Philosophy?
Crunch: the Hay-on-Wye
Philosophy Fe...
Editor’s letter
Winter 2011
Who last checked that the world isn’t balanced on a
tower of infinite turtles?
Accepting certai...
AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011
 1
WELVE years ago, I started reading
for a joint degree in maths and
philosophy. I have been doi...
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  1. 1. AD ABSURDUM A NEW BRISTOL PHILOSOPHY MAGAZINE Winter 2011 Edition What is Philosophy? Crunch: the Hay-on-Wye Philosophy Festival The Innocence Project Sorbonne’s Marketing Euro-Guilt In Conversation with: Finn Spicer
  2. 2. Editor’s letter Winter 2011 Who last checked that the world isn’t balanced on a tower of infinite turtles? Accepting certain propositions can lead to absurd results. Accepting that philosophy is, according to Stephen Hawking, a ‘dead art’ would also be absurd. Both Bristol and UWE have thriving philosophy departments with at least enough thinking going on in them to fill the first edition of a new Bristol-based philosophy magazine. We hope there’ll be more. From Foucault to the philosophy of cycling, Nozick and the Sorbonne, we aim to cater for a variety of tastes and encourage everyone, whether philosophy students or not, to get involved and contribute. Contact us at: bris.adabsurdum@gmail.com Editor-in-Chief Vanessa Lucas The Editorial Team Simon Docherty, Thomas Galley, Vanessa Lucas, Elizabeth Watkins, James Wilson Cover art Elizabeth Watkins, Illustrations Kathy Cox Designed by James Wilson Printed by University of Bristol Print Services Contents 1 What is Philosophy? Richard Pettigrew confronts a troublesome question. 2 Philosophy for everyone A review of the annual Hay-on-Wye art and philosophy festival ‘Crunch’ 3 The Innocence Project 4 Property is theft 6 The unfinished novel Shelter from the analytical rigours of logic and unleash your imagination with a short piece of creative writing. 6 Sorbonne’s marketing Why the philosophical golden era of the Sorbonne has long since passed 7 Paradox: The Bridge A bit of a puzzler… 8 In conversation with: Finn Spicer Inside the mind of a Philosophy Lecturer 9 Euro-Guilt: The Repression of Universalism 11 News & A Riddle 12 Alumni interview Community Offier, Max Wakefield
  3. 3. AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 1 WELVE years ago, I started reading for a joint degree in maths and philosophy. I have been doing philosophy ever since. But, until recently, I haven’t felt comfortable answering the inevitable question: What exactly do you do? This is particularly embarrassing since this question is itself philosophical. Nonetheless, until I was asked to say something about this at a public event a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have a good answer. Now I think I do. Philosophy, it seems to me, has two distinctive features: the questions it asks and the way it goes about searching for answers. Let’s begin with the questions. In one sense, they are the intellectual leftovers; the questions that nobody else takes the time to ask; the questions to which a scientist or a musicologist or just an ordinary person assumes an answer in order to go about the rest of her business. A scientist uses a particular methodology in order to design her experiment, carry it out, and interpret the data. The philosopher asks whether that methodology really justifies the conclusions she draws. Another scientist may accept a theory that is stated almost entirely using a mathematical formalism or using novel and alien concepts. The philosopher seeks an interpretation of this formalism and these concepts; he tries to understand what exactly the theory says about the world. A musicologist analyses a symphony or a sonata. The philosopher asks exactly what a symphony or a sonata is: does it exist over and above its particular performances, recordings, and printed scores? And are there objective facts about the relative aesthetic merits of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 that the critic may seek to unearth? If there are, how do we unearth them? An ordinary person typically believes that the world is the way it is independently of how he or anyone else thinks about it; he thinks that the objects he takes himself to see and touch really exist and would have whatever properties they have whether or not he or anyone else believed they did. He perhaps doesn’t even notice that this is an assumption; he may never have formulated it explicitly and may never have entertained the possibility that it is false. The philosopher does all of this: she formulates the assumption, considers alternatives, and asks whether the ordinary person has good reason to favour the assumption he does. So philosophy is a subject that searches in the gaps left by other intellectual pursuits. It is concerned with the assumptions that we typically make in order to get started in other subjects or in our daily lives. What, then, about the way in which it seeks answers to these questions? This is a difficult question and one to which philosophers have only recently awoken. The problem is this: If it is philosophy’s job to question the methodologies of other subjects and other pursuits, it cannot use any of those methodologies itself. What methodology is then left for philosophy to use? Some respond to this challenge by denying that philosophy questions all methodologies: there is a scientific methodology, these philosophers claim, that is beyond question; it is this that philosophy should adopt. This position is called naturalism. On the other hand, there are those that see a distinctive methodology for philosophy: there are modes of a priori reasoning, these philosophers claim, that are beyond question and yet are strong enough to support interesting answers to philosophical questions. One might call this position rationalism. Until recently, these different methodologies were simply assumed by different philosophers as they sought answers to the questions that exercised them. But today the very question of which is the correct methodology for philosophy has itself become a philosophical question. Thus, the questions of philosophy are not simply the leftovers of other intellectual pursuits; they are sometimes the leftovers of earlier philosophical pursuits. Richard Pettigrew is a Lecturer at the Philosophy Department of the University of Bristol. T What is Philosophy? by Richard Pettigrew
  4. 4. 2 AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 HEN the U.K festival season is practically over and the winter blues set in what is there to do to rouse you from autumnal lethargy? Well, head over to Crunch, the art and philosophy festival held annually in Hay-on-Wye. It's a chance to escape the everyday and get your cerebral cortex working, and features philosophers, critics, writers, broadcasters, artists and film-makers debating around a central theme. Held in the middle of November, this year's theme was 'Awake in the Universe'. It explored whether art and creativity can help us capture what it is to be human; whether art can lift us beyond our current state to something more, to a new moral imagination, for instance. It discussed the place of art in society and the issues the contemporary art world faces, be it cuts in funding or elitist politics and power. The event draws a wide-range of international speakers. Guests this year included co- director of exhibitions at the Serpentine G a l l e r y H a n s - U l r i c h O b r i s t , psychoanalyst and artist Bracha Ettinger, novelist and poet Mark Haddon, and neuroscientist Semir Zeki. There were also a whole host of other speakers, musicians and art exhibitions. So who actually goes to this? Does it not sound as if you need to be submerged in the art world to grasp what the heck's going on? Not at all. Speaking to those around me, some were artists or research students, some were just attracted by the big names on show, but most people were the general public with an interest in philosophy. And this can only be a good thing. Crunch offers a place dedicated, much like Athens in Plato's day, to providing discussion of pertinent and timeless questions. The need (yes, I said need) for such an event is shown in the festival’s growing popularity. Since the first Crunch Festival three years ago, the number of events has doubled and it has five times the number of venues. Don't imagine that it’s a sprawling mess covering muddy fields. The festival is centred around the Globe at Hay, with both indoor and outdoor venues. It is small, intimate and lovely. There are yurts in which talks are held, a stage tent where bands perform throughout the day and night and mulled wine can be consumed in baroque surroundings. At night, lights are strung through the tents and trees, transforming it into a bohemian haven. A new and innovative feature of the festival was the 'Platform'. Here, anyone could have their say on issues raised by the talks or bring their own challenges for everyone to hear. It offers a chance for real involvement with the material presented at the festival, and the question/answer format after each talk allowed the audience to ask direct questions to each speaker. The highlight was the novelist Mark Haddon. He gave a moving and brilliant performance, discussing the conflict between poetic and rational thought and the nature of art. Raymond Tallis was another treat. Alongside Julian Spalding, Tallis presented their new theory of art and the nature of artistic freedom, discussed how art is useful and valuable, and the problems of consciousness. Without a doubt, the most controversial speaker was Jake Chapman. Chapman had his own views on his art but was unprepared to say what they were. In his half-hearted discussions with other speakers, his answers were contradictory but he did provoke the most reaction from audience members. Ultimately, this is what it's all about: different perspectives and experiences being opened up and laid bare for everyone to think over and discuss. Although it's impossible to attend all the talks, they are brief insights into a different way of thinking and acting. They are an introduction to a wide variety of today’s main veins of thought and creativity, from which you can then go and find out more. This is exactly what society needs. The Institute of Art and Ideas has their own TV channel where you can watch talks, debates and live sessions from this year's and previous years festivals at: http://iai.tv. Ellie Harper MA in European Philosophy, UWE W Philosophy everyonefor Ellie Harper reviews ‘Crunch’, the annual Hay-on-Wye art and philosophy festival
  5. 5. AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 3 The Innocence OUNDED in 2003, the Innocence Project is an international litigation and public policy organization designed to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. Using DNA evidence and criminal reform legislation the project aims to prevent further instances of invalid or improper forensic science, forced confessions, government misconduct or bad legal advice. In 2005 the University of Bristol became home to the first UK base of the Innocent Project, a foundation conceived in the US but now active across Canada, Australia and the UK. Conducted on an entirely pro bono basis the INUK (Innocence Network UK) has over 30 active projects ongoing, engaging law students in community activism. This initiative questions the laws we rely upon to govern and regulate our behaviour, often in response to changing legislature post 9-11. We believe that if someone commits an act that is hateful or harmful to an individual or a society then they should be punished. To what extent this punishment extends can differ greatly around the world. A distinction between corrective and retributive justice often seems to underlie this difference: corrective justice requires an individual to repair a wrong where retributive justice requires said individual to suffer. In the words of Kant, an advocate of retributive justice, there exists a “principle of equality” which must be obeyed, and if it is not then the individual who has moved the “pointer of the scale of justice” deserves to suffer from that same act he has performed, in order to balance this scale. As such, his principle is grounded in the theory of retribution. But how can one engage in an act of moral retribution if there is any doubt at all of the culpability of the individual in question? Can we in fact enact any laws of justice if we do not have in place similarly strict laws governing the procurement of evidence, provision of legal aid and appointment of judge and jury? In October 1975 three young men and a woman between the ages of 17 and 25 were convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, following the Guildford and Woolwich bombings in Northern Ireland. All four defendants had confessed to the bombing. In 1989, having served 14 years in jail for their ‘crimes’, an enquiry was launched into the investigation that had sentenced them. Police interview notes changed by hand after the fact, accusations of intimidation, torture and threats against defendants’ families were revealed and recent changes to terrorism laws had meant that the defendants were subjected to questioning for a week, instead of the usual 48 hours. An appeal was granted and under the advocacy of a human rights solicitor the conviction was reversed and The Four, as they became known, were released. A further report revealed improprieties in the handling of scientific evidence and an undisclosed witness defence statement. The Four were innocent.  Kant’s theory of justice rules out the punishment of innocents, theoretically, but in reality it is near impossible in either the corrective or the retributive cases of justice to have complete and unquestionable, non-circumstantial evidence proving the guilt of an individual. Even if this were possible the prescribed sentence is a result of the subjective and often intuitive decision of a judge. In a justice system that still relies upon archaic principles, has little to no regulation and often leaves sentencing in the hands of a jury of ‘regular individuals’ – who have absolutely no understanding of the legal system or obligation to act apathetically - it is no surprise that the Innocence Project continues to grow and grow. Over 30,000 wrongful convictions were overturned between 1998 and 1999. For individuals like Neil Hurley, serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife despite no physical evidence, and the disregard of an individual seen on the day of the murder with clothing covered in blood, the project is vital for the evolution and progression of the concept of Justice. The recent rejection of an appeal to the Royal Courts of Justice on another case struck a harsh blow to the work of the project, but their efforts remain more important than ever.  As science and technology improve and our ability to detect and process DNA samples increases it is all the more important to reenforce the necessity to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. We must continue to protect Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat – innocence until proven guilty – and ensure that the burden of proof remains with the prosecution and not the defendant. Not to do so leads to a society in which the lives of innocent individuals are irreparably damaged and the respect and confidence in the justice system is gradually disintegrated. We must heed the Kantian necessity for objectivity in justice and look to science and technology, rather than human supposition, for our convictions. Naomi Prashker 4th-year French and Philosophy University of Bristol Project by Naomi Prashker F How can one engage in an act of moral retribution if there is any doubt at all of the culpability of the individual in question? Bristol is home to one organisation dedicated to ensuring the burden of proof remains with the prosecution and not the defendant.
  6. 6. 4 AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 O S T p e o p l e h a v e h e a r d Proudhon’s famous statement ‘Property is theft!’ but have never given it a second thought. In this essay I will briefly show why the main attempts at justifying individual private property (in land) are flawed, and then I will propose an alternative system of property which avoids these weaknesses. The main arguments for property in land (or ‘real property’) are from John Locke and Robert Nozick. Locke’s argument, set out by Christman (1986, Pg. 160) and modified by Colin Farrelly (An Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory, Sage Publications, 2003) goes like this: 1. Every man has a property in his own person. 2. Therefore, every man has also a property right 'in the labour of his body and the work of his hands'. So, 3. If he removes some object out of its natural state by mixing his labour with it. And 4. There is 'enough and as good left in common for others'. And 5. The object or objects do not exceed 'as much as anyone can make use of… before it spoils'. Then, 6. A person has thereby 'fixed [a] property in them'. Line 4 suffers from an infinite regress as highlighted by Robert Nozick (Anarchy, State and Utopia, 1974, Pg. 176). Say a person Z is the first person for whom there is not 'enough and as good' left for him to appropriate land. Thus person Y, who last appropriated before him, did not leave enough for him to appropriate and so Y's appropriation disobeyed rule 4. This means that X, who appropriated just before Y was also in the wrong since he left Y unable to appropriate; and so on all the way back to A, the first person to appropriate. In response to this problem Nozick replaces line 4 with a proviso that you may not appropriate if it 'worsens the situation of others'. He then says that even if appropriating land means that no-one else can appropriate land their situation isn't necessarily 'worsened' because the whole system of  real property benefits everyone overall. Appropriating land and cultivating it to sell food to those who don’t own land could be beneficial. Nozick lists a few specific ways that the institution of  real property benefits everyone. They are as follows: p. It increases productivity and profit for the society. q. It safeguards future trade because people choose to hold product back for future markets to make more profit. r. It allows experimentation and entrepreneurship because property is in many different hands providing healthy competition. s. It provides alternate employment due to the broad base of proprietors. I do not consider these benefits a convincing justification for real property. Firstly when Nozick refers to 'worsening' the situation of others he is referring only to material gains and losses. He does not take into account that someone’s appropriation of land could worsen my situation emotionally or spiritually in a way that outweighs increased productivity. Furthermore he is referring to a net average increase in benefit, it’s hard to see how the private property system is working for people who are born without, for example, access to clean water (1 in 8 according to UNICEF). Average gain for a portion of society doesn’t justify appropriating land from another portion (the majority I might add). Regarding r and s, these points rely on property remaining in many hands. Karl Marx argued that property will necessarily cluster into larger and larger estates. This is because large estates have advantages over smaller ones, "only the big estates can produce food such as cattle etc." (Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, 1844) and thus they can set monopoly prices on these commodities. Also "big landed property accumulates to itself the interest on the capital which the tenant farmer has employed to improve the land" where proprietor farmers have to employ their own capital improving the land and so do not get that profit at all (Marx, 1844). Finally the "ordinary market price of land... depends everywhere upon the... rate of interest" (Adam Smith, 1776) and the rate of interest according to Smith must always fall to a minimum thus ruining the small landlord, who cannot make enough from rent. With property clustered in large estates points r and s no longer apply. So is real property unjustified? At this point any realist will point out that we cannot do without private property. This may appear to leave us cornered, but there is one major stone left unturned; as John Exdell points out Nozick only compares the outcomes of leaving the land un-owned or it being owned by an appropriator A. He doesn't consider what would happen if it was owned by B or C or even if it was owned by some community or body of people. It is this latter possibility that I will now consider. An Alternative to Real Property? Disclaimer: This is not a manifesto for implementing a new system of property, which would raise problems to do with seizing privately owned land. The idea is to imagine what it would be like if this was the property system that had arisen instead of the one currently in place. I propose that all land should be PROPERTY is THEFT Building on arguments from Locke and Nozick, Jeremy Stopes proposes an economically desirable alternative to current property system. M
  7. 7. AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 5 owned communally by the citizens of the state and held in trust by the government. Individuals are then free to lease the land from the government. The value of the lease is determined on the open market by auction or some similar method. Once someone begins a lease they have complete security of tenure and can live there, undisturbed, for as long as they like (assuming they keep paying). They may end their lease whenever they choose and when they do so it will be re-leased on the open market. A dividend to the value of the new lease value minus the old lease value will be paid to the previous leaseholder for X number of months. Where X is to be varied by the government according to how prudent it is to encourage building at that time (much like the Bank of England Base Rate). This system encourages the improvement and maintenance of houses by the tenants to maximise their value and even for new building projects since the lease on a field is immeasurably lower than for a house. Before explaining why this system is economically desirable I will first outline a few other advantages. Due to the collection of leases the government will have enough money for infrastructure and welfare making it unlikely that the government will need to collect taxes. This is an advantage because most people dislike taxation; it doesn't seem fair for them to pay more money towards the state just because they earn more, when they probably use the state's facilities no more than the next person. This contrasts with paying more for a lease; one pays more for the lease because it's a better house/factory you, which seems naturally fair. Another huge benefit of this system is that it shares the nation's resources fairly, but in a way which harnesses the spirit of competitive free trade and which is economically efficient and suits man’s nature. Our country is filled with resources: metals, oil, agricultural land, prime business land, prime housing land, fishing waters etc. The benefits of these resources are currently received by whoever owns the land. In some states the government has taken control of these resources, mismanaged them in bureaucratic, inefficient ways then given the people what profit is left over. In my system no redistribution is attempted, no control is taken of the economy. Rather the lease value, as determined on the open market, of a property with resource value (e.g. a mine) will naturally be as high as it can be while still allowing a fair profit. Thus the leases across the country will reflect all the underlying resource value of the whole country. All this resource value will be absorbed by the government and spent on public good (infrastructure and welfare). Thus through health-care, roads etc. each and every citizen can share in the resources of our country. Why this system is more economically efficient: w. Capital does not like to do nothing, it will be invested in some way. x. It can be invested either in the materials and means of production, or in property. y. When invested in the materials and means of production it will facilitate more production than was happening before. z. When invested in property (other than improving property which is a form of production) it will not facilitate production. z needs to be explained slightly. If I invest in a factory and employ workers to work there they will make things of value. If I do work on a house it will be worth more. If however I buy a house and rent it out for more than the interest on the capital, and then sell it 10 years later for 3 times its initial cost I have not added any value to the world whatsoever. Given a fixed amount of capital it is more efficient to invest in means and materials than in property. With the system outlined above there will be no such thing as investment in property (other than in improving property which is really a type of production using means and materials). Assuming the same amount of investment capital in the nation but with no possibility of investing in property, there will necessarily be more investment in means and materials and greater productivity for the nation. Furthermore as I said above tax could be removed or at the very least significantly reduced. This would improve economic efficiency as follows: Value Added Tax: Tax on the value of goods means the seller takes less than the buyer pays, thus goods that could be produced profitably by the buyer at a price acceptable to the seller do not get produced because the price is too high for the seller, or the profit too low for the buyer. This reduces productivity. Income Tax: Tax on income means that instead of paying a minimum wage (enough for a worker to live on) the employer must pay for him to subsist and  for him to  pay tax. The employer therefore employs less people meaning that less is produced. Removing these two tax burdens is good for efficiency. It may be argued that tax has just been moved not removed. That's wrong. The two taxes above discourage productivity. The lease does not. Paying a lease fee is entirely comparable to paying rent on the open market; all other variables being equal leases will come to exactly what rents come to at present so businesses will be no worse off. Also, taxing land is recognised as more efficient than taxing income or value; the Nobel Prize winning economist William Vickrey says "replacing [almost all other taxes] with taxes on site values, would substantially improve the economic efficiency of the jurisdiction". As for landlords they would have the same amount of capital but instead of investing it in property and reaping rent they would invest it in business and make a similar return but to the greater benefit of the economy. Conclusion Private ownership of goods is natural and just. Private ownership of land is unjust; attempts to justify it fail. Thus far most thinkers, philosophers or otherwise, have ignored this obvious fact because there appears to be no alternative to real property that takes proper account of h u m a n n a t u r e a n d w h i c h i s economically  efficient. In this essay I've proposed one such alternative. Perhaps now people can join Proudhon in proclaiming ‘property is theft!’ Jeremy Stopes, 4th-year Russian and Philosophy, University of Bristol
  8. 8. 6 AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 “Forgotten how to play” E are alone now for the ninth hour. Haven’t said a word since you spat out some dust and tried to scrape the dry hollow of your mouth clean. Probably wasn’t even a word...was it? I saw your tongue soften for a minute but I didn’t risk it, if I’d responded you might not have spoken. If only I knew what you were thinking. “Send them to the sand pit!” they said, that’ll teach them. I don’t know why we have to be in a cave as well as a sandpit....the enlightenment metaphor strikes a dull note with me. Forty-two years of age and I’ve been sent to play as therapy. They explained the concept to me, but it seems a little risky. It’s not that it’s safer in my head it’s just that I have more fun alone up there. Anyway, we can’t get out until we play...I’d fake it but I have no idea what we must do or say to look like we are playing; I have no intention of making the first move. Flies are landing on your eyebrows, how funny...perhaps they were sent to help, little bastions of dirt and freedom having their way with your sweaty brow. I name one Ferdinand, one Izembard and one Pascal, they are probably all females but I’m trying to find company and do not want to isolate myself unnecessarily through gender when the species divide is already problematic. I call them over silently but they seem to like you more. “The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible”, a Wilde quote comes to me. I reverse it...at least I can still make myself laugh. Do people laugh when they are playing? Wilted, defeated trouser leg clinging to unused muscle...I remember my frustration. If stress is unhealthy, and if “play” is now causing me to be stressed then their therapy really isn’t well thought out is it, so ignorant...so very ignorant. Izembard has shown his true brilliance and has broken allegiance, flying solo across the expanse of sand, the unbridgeable divide. He lands noisily on my forearm. I look over to see whether your eyes have followed the betrayal my mastery has induced but you appear to be paralysed with resentment, eyes pummelling the wall with bitterness, prickling with heat. My eyes pummel the camera in the corner, the one that will hopefully bear witness to us “playing” happily together at some point and grant us freedom. I wonder whether they would have invested in planting microscopic cameras into the eyes of bluebottles in order to better capture the moment. It’s possible...with the mindless obsession with the benefits of “play” these morons have developed. “A sacred thing of folk lore...most common in humans under the age of 12”, a simple dictionary entry and yet the cause of this suffocating experience, the most impotent I’ve felt in years. I know for a fact you’re feeling impotent too, that’s why we haven’t spoken for so long, each one afraid of becoming vulnerable in the presence of an unknown objective. The flies have united again, and move as one ever changing organism, colliding in mid air. Ferdinand appears not to know which direction he wants to go, he’ll never be a success. I wonder if I told you their names would that help us to play? Maybe you’ve got your own names for them and you’d take it as an aggressive move to conquer territory, an attack. Movement... you’ve closed your eyes and your lips are forming numbers, in the right order I see, clever you. Between eight and nine...I feel like something is going to happen...like somehow you’ve found the answer and Pascal will come and whisper it to me and then we’ll set about “playing”, conquering the elusive bastard. All you do is breath out heavily, paralysed with anger again within seconds. I remember actually, they’d said it should happen spontaneously, instinctively...it wouldn’t start with a number sequence then would it. What to do whilst I wait? Vanessa Lucas 4th-year French and Philosophy, University of Bristol W the Unfinished novel… E wore a velvet jacket and old- fashioned chinos, nodding after the lecturer’s every word, as if all that was happening in this Sorbonne lecture room confirmed his preconceptions of the place. He suddenly raised his hand and asked a question. If he hadn't done it, one might have thought that he was a pretentious student, that kind of Parisian who always acts as if they were on a stage. But his question forbade all misinterpretation, not because of the philosophical point discussed, but in reason of his Quebecois accent. His clothes, his manners, everything became extremely obvious: he was a tourist who thought that the Sorbonne which he was experiencing was the same as the Sorbonne of the sixties. He certainly thought that the lecturer was a kind of Raymond Aron, or a kind of Foucault, the intellectuals who created what it is commonly called the "French exception". Perhaps he also had some relatives who went to France during this period and, fascinated, related to him during his childhood and beyond the fantastic experience that it had been. Unfortunately, his tourist guide is no longer relevant. The Sorbonne is an Sorbonne's marketing by Gabriel Perez H A student from the great French institute that gave us Deleuze and De Beauvoir explains why the philosophical golden era of the Sorbonne has long since passed. From Camus to Kierkegaard, fiction has played its part in our philosophical development. We invite you to shelter from the analytical rigours of logic and unleash your imagination with a short piece of creative writing.
  9. 9. AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 7 OCRATES arrives at a bridge guarded by a powerful lord, Plato, and begs to be allowed to cross. Plato says: “I swear that if the next utterance you make is true I shall let you cross, but if it is false I shall throw you in the water.” Socrates replies:  “You are going to throw me in the water.” -- If Plato does not throw him in the water, Socrates has spoken falsely and should be thrown in; but if he is thrown in, Socrates has spoken truly and should not be thrown in." This is Buridan’s seventeenth sophism. You would expect that the only difficulty that Plato might have in fulfilling his oath would be in knowing whether Socrates’ utterance was true or not. But Socrates subtly manages to frustrate him. Many philosophers, following Aristotle, have denied that future contingent propositions have a truth value. If this view were right, Socrates’ utterance would not be true, since it is an utterance about something that may or may not happen in the future. But it would not be false either. However, Aristotle’s view confuses truth with knowledge or predetermination. To say that it is true that Socrates will be thrown in the water is not to say that anyone yet knows whether he will or that it is already determined whether he will. Its truth or falsity depends on what Plato is going to do. Is it logically impossible for Plato to fulfil his oath in the circumstances? “He has no obligation to keep it at all, simply because he cannot do so,” Buridan concludes, reasonably enough. -- Reprinted from Paradoxes from A to Z, Michael Clark. Further reading: John Buridan on Self- Reference, ed. And trans. G.E Hughes, Cambridge University Press, 1982. Paradox: The Bridge S institution slowly dying, in a quiet and outlandish silence. For a long time, the Sorbonne used to epitomize the promises of a true meritocracy and a rational society. It was the true means to realise the revolutionary project: a virtuous society where affluence would lead to the emancipation of individual consciences. Numerous thinkers made the possibility of this project believable and their prestige still influences imaginations abroad. But the world doesn’t believe in this project anymore. The French motto, "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité", is still written on the front of every public building, but the words just hide an impotent institution and no one seems to be affected by a great sorrow. A new model of the transmission of knowledge is replacing, step by step, the Republican ideology. This new model, as everyone knows, is the model of the US university: addressing its knowledge to a minority, producing Nobel Prizes, and ranking well in the Shanghai index to attract the best students or, at least, the wealthiest. I shall not make a critique of this model. But I shall explain in which sense this new model puts an end to what was, to a certain extent, the cause and the origin of Sorbonne's prestige. As has already been said, education used to constitute the best means to a rational society, that is to say, a society where individuals are able to adopt a global viewpoint and not a selfish one. Therefore, the university was a way of favouring the understanding of a common good, and thus lead to a more understanding society. This can be called the ideological dimension of the Sorbonne. An educated society is a society able to discuss and define what is good beyond personal interest. What will replace this view? Can we be oblivious of this question when the far right Front National is very high in the polls? Moreover, since the Affaire Dreyfus, the public role of the lecturer is to be counter-establishment, viz, to tell the truth to those in power in the name of the oppressed people. The authority which the lecturer claims comes from his ethics as a researcher. Researching a scientific truth in his field allows him to intervene in the public space as an arbiter. But today at the Sorbonne, who would dare say the truth to a power that can fire you? Can we be sure that the lecturer, or more precisely, the "intellectual", won't be the one to say the truth to the oppressed people in the name of the powerful? A last dimension is about to be lost: the spiritual dimension. A secular society is not an atheistic society, and as we know, science hasn't yet told us the mysteries of the world. Thus, it encumbers to thinkers to encourage people to question themselves as well as providing some kind of bearings. In a university where knowledge becomes a good that can be sold, aren't they b r i n g i n g a b o u t t h e s p i r i t u a l impoverishment of society? Perhaps in two thousand years, we will remember the Paris of the XXth century as we remember today the Athens of the Vth century BC. There was the Academy. There was the Sorbonne. The prestige still lives in memories, but the (hi)story is over. Gabriel Perez is a visiting student from the Sorbonne (Paris IV), MA Philosophy, University of Bristol.
  10. 10. 8 AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 Finn Spicer is a Lecturer in Philosophy and current Head of Education at the University of Bristol. His philosophical interests include epistemology and the philosophy of mind. In an exclusive interview, he confesses to sadistic cycling habits, reveals his student pet hates and suggests a new way to fund higher education… When did you feel your first philosophical stirrings? Unlike most of the UCAS applicants, I didn’t know I wanted to do Philosophy by the age of two. I was supposed to read Maths at Cambridge but I suffered the typical blow of sharing tutorials with someone far cleverer than me and became a little disenchanted with it. I’d really got into Locke’s Human Understanding at school, in which he argues for no innate ideas so I asked to switch to Philosophy and luckily they let me. I still try to do one maths problem a day. What attracted you to Epistemology? I started writing my MPhil paper focusing on the Philosophy of Maths but once I’d finished writing, I realised I was actually talking about epistemology. That’s when I worked out what I was interested in. My PhD was on the epistemology of mental states. Have you ever leant towards scepticism? I remember sitting in the audience of a lecture on the existence of numbers at Cambridge and a girl put her hand up and, holding back tears in a breathless, dramatic voice said, ‘You’re talking about the existence of numbers, but I’m worried about everything! How can I know that you’re here, or that this room’s here and.....’ She ran from the room crying and I thought it was so pathetic that in that moment my sceptical concerns vanished forever. Which philosopher has had the most impact on your life? Many members of the department have a secret shame, which is that at some point in their lives they were Wittgenstein enthusiasts. When I was an undergraduate I devoured Wittgenstein, I thought he was so profound and he had a huge influence on me becoming a philosopher. Now I have no time for him whatsoever. Perversely, Hume is my philosophical hero but he’s had very little impact on my life. For a while Peter Unger’s Living High and Letting Die made me think twice about choosing to go out for dinner when you could donate the money to Unicef. What would you have been, if you hadn’t become a lecturer? A maths teacher. I was a maths teacher for four years before I did my PhD. When did you last play your piano? About a year and a half ago. I took up piano as a form of physiotherapy after breaking both my arms as an undergraduate in a mountain-biking accident. They said it would be good for my tendons so I learnt the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations and that’s what I used to play afterhours at No.9. What’s your favourite music to philosophise to? Easy! As an undergraduate I worked almost exclusively to Bach. Now I listen to Schubert and Beethoven a lot and I’m lucky enough to have a wife who plays both on the piano at home. No contemporary tastes? Not really. I once attended spinning classes in London, Kyle Minogue has a great beat to cycle to. Other than that I have a cycling compilation of strange, West- African drum music. You’re a keen cyclist, do some of your most profound philosophical insights occur whilst you’re on the saddle? No, I have no inspiration when I’m cycling. I’m usually focusing on how much my legs are hurting. I think if you’re not doing it partly for the suffering then you’re not a real cyclist. There are rumours you’re looking into the philosophy of cycling. What’s the theory? Well it’s to do with the ethics of competitive cycling. A lot of tactical thinking and effort goes into making sure no one gets a free ride in your slip- stream; in essence you have to make them suffer and in no other part of my life do I become excited about making other people suffer but in cycling …I do. So, should I feel guilty about deriving pleasure from inflicting intense suffering on others during a race? But your ultimate goal isn’t making them suffer? No, the ultimate goal is winning. But does that justify the means? There’s also a lot of game-theory and deception involved. You make them believe you’re an ally by riding in front, lull them into a false sense of security and then double- cross them. Do you dislike bumping into students at the pub? No, I like it. One of the reasons I work here is that I get a buzz out of talking to young people. But I don’t go to the pub very much, I’m paying off my mortgage. Will Philosophy survive austerity? I suspect the Sciences will be rich and the Arts will be poor but Philosophy will be okay because it can offer something to the scientists. We’ll be able to support the people that want to study Single Honours Philosophy by teaching little bits of philosophy to medics and scientists. I think we’re going to be more focused on answering the demands of students, and I think that’s going to be a good thing. But it’s not a good thing that the wealthy will be the most likely to benefit. You’ve been known to defend the £9,000 fee tariff: Devil’s advocate or genuine belief? Devil’s advocate. What I really think is that there should be a tax on all graduates, even me. It would help to avoid the time delay; today’s graduates won’t pay back the cost of their education for another 30-40 years. Tax all graduates and you’d immediately have some capital pouring in from all those 30-50 year olds who have benefitted from university education. The older generations could go on paying it for the rest of their working lives and the youth of today wouldn’t have to bare so much of the burden. But it’ll never happen. No one likes paying taxes and governments don’t like introducing them. Do you worry for the graduates of today? Bristol graduates are resourceful, personable people; they’ll be fine. I look around at people in well-paid jobs and think, ‘one of my undergraduates would be much better at that.’ In conversation with... Finn Spicer
  11. 11. AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 9 Is teaching or research more important to you? I’m Head of Education so I don’t get to teach very much this year, and I’m missing it. When I walk past someone giving a lecture, I’m envious. When I walk past someone sitting at their computer… I’m not. What are you currently working on? I’ve still got a bit of work to do on Jackson’s Mary Thought experiment. There’s going to be a change in the way we think about epistemology, how to organise belief and reasoning to be optimal in arriving at truths about the world, I think the perspective is going to widen to include rearranging the world so that it fits with your reasoning. Whose ideas from the Bristol philosophy department will be celebrated as seminal a hundred years from now? I’m sometimes jealous of Leon Horsten because he just proves things and the proof stays out there. My guess is Samir Okasha though. Does academic philosophy breed eccentricity in your experience? We don’t have many eccentrics in the Philosophy department. We’re slightly weird, but by the standards of most philosophy departments in the country we’re pretty normal. We don’t hide in filth ridden rooms for weeks on end. It is important to remember we’re on public exhibition for taking thinking very seriously and believing in a society which allows people to do this for a living. I think it is important to create a certain image and encourage that seriousness about thinking in students, even if that means James and I being particularly pedantic about something that might not actually matter. In 2007 you wrote an article entitled, ‘Are there any conceptual truths about knowledge?’ For those of us that haven’t read the article, are there any? No, not even knowledge implies belief is a conceptual truth about knowledge. How much would A.C Grayling have to pay you to go and teach at his private college? I’d never live in London. Perhaps I’d think about it if it was in a large country house near Bristol. I’m not going to start criticising the people that go to work for him, maybe they’re giving half of their earnings to Unicef. Do you have any pet-hates in student essays? Yes, people starting paragraphs with, ‘This’…I mean what is ‘This’ referring to? It means you have to trawl back to when they made their last point. Aristotle or Plato? Aristotle Is it difficult being the only blond in the department? Yes, it’s very hard. On the plus side it’s a useful example of property instantiation. Do you have any advice for students? Don’t hold back. Never again will anybody collect a remarkable group of people, of the same age, who are interested in the same thing together in the same place, with so much time on their hands. Make the most of it. UROPEANS are well versed in guilt. T h e Ju d e o - C h r i s t i a n my t h introduced original sin, which binds each of us in the belts and straps of Isaac, begging repentance for the crimes of our fathers - of which, real or imaginary, there is no shortage. Self criticism is healthy; a virtue which arrests dogma. But self-flagellation can become a tyranny; it prevents us from extending opprobrium to others when they deserve it, and allows us to turn all evil back upon ourselves. Simultaneously, it deters us from reaching out to victims of oppression abroad, as we inhabit the suspicion that universal values are really just Western prejudices. This is a moral argument. If we wish to encourage flourishing for ourselves and others, we must renounce the masochism which cripples our will to reason sensibly about right and wrong, and vindicates fecklessness. In November, Azerbaijani writer Rafiq Tagi was murdered by an Islamist who may or may not have been employed by the Iranian government. Either way, he was in their service. Ayatollah Lankarani proclaimed a fatwa against Tagi after he had described Islam as the “primary fetter” upon Middle Eastern development, democracy, and peace. That was in 2007. Not long before he was stabbed, he had written an article criticising the Iranian regime. To compound the conspiracy, Tagi seemed to be recovering in hospital before his condition rapidly deteriorated and he died, advancing the possibility that he may have been poisoned. Unlike the Iranian plot to hire Mexicans to murder Saudi diplomats in Washington, Tagi’s death passed without comment in Britain - bar Nick Cohen’s excellent article in the Observer. Cohen derides the British press who rejected the story when another Azerbaijani writer, Emin Milli, alerted them to it. He suggests, and I offer some compounding examples in this essay, that “Europe is not [a] brave continent,” but one which is more concerned with defending itself against charges of orientalism, or neo- conservatism than it is in standing up for the oppressed in the face of religious fanaticism. It is of little surprise that Edward Said’s Orientalism has been not only a huge seller in Europe, but an enduring source of inspiration on so many university campuses. Said declares that, in so far as they talk about the Orient, it is “correct to say all Europeans are racists.” Europeans, it seems, suffer from a racist disposition because some Occident countries once colonised parts of the East. Works like Said’s appeal to so many Europeans, I argue, as a result of this faulty reasoning. Slavery, colonialism, and the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century are shameful episodes, but the West did not create the first two - and actually played a leading role in exorcising them. Moreover, Europeans fought courageously against Nazism, and reached out to support democratisation in the states of the old Soviet Bloc. Guilt becomes relativism; it Euro-Guilt: The Repression of Universalism E Is the western world guilty of moral relativism generated by an obscure, masochistic tendency buried deep within the post-colonialist mentality? You decide.
  12. 12. 10 AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 instills in us the feeling that it is imperialistic to engage in dialogue with other parts of the world. The fear of passing judgment on what post- modernists refer to awkwardly as “the other” leads to criminal self-deception about the plight of the victims of malign movements abroad. The germ of masochism engenders the fantasies of the romantic; the corollary to self-abasement is the exaltation of this “other.” Michael Foucault’s version of Third-worldism led him to Iran in 1979, where he heralded the rise of political Islam. It was the totality of the religion that attracted him: “Islam [ ] is not just a religion, but an entire way of life.” An Islamist movement, he hoped, could be “much stronger than those with a Marxist, Leninist, or Maoist character.” For dissenters to his and Khomeini’s vision, he had a relativist riposte - curious alongside the certainty he was attracted by - Islamism was “a different regime of truth,” it couldn’t possibly be analysed by Western standards. He had predicated in relativism a mandate to proselytise for strict absolutism! Foucault shared with Michael Aflaq and Sayyid Qutb the wish to turn the tide against the hubristic humanism of the Enlightenment: Islam could “become a gigantic powder keg, at the level of hundreds of millions of men.” What but a wish to see total reparation for not just the transgressions of the West, but the successes of civilisation, could possibly unite a reactionary theocrat (Khomeini) and a French, leftist intellectual? And a distinguished British journalist: Robert Fisk responded to a belated papal apology for the Holy See’s collusion with Hitler by questioning whether the Church should only be requesting forgiveness from the Jews. But he didn’t have the Rwandans, put to death in Catholic churches, in mind, nor the worldwide victims of Priestly sexual abuse. Fisk wanted the Catholic Church to apologise to Muslims for the Iraq War. It was a strange request to make considering the Vatican played no part in the Second Gulf War, it had opposed it actually. Something Fisk obviously didn’t feel merited his condemnation was the Holy See’s red carpet treatment of Saddam’s deputy, Tariq Aziz. And what was the natural European response to September 11, 2001? George Galloway articulated this: the West got what it had coming, “the planes didn’t emerge out of a clear blue sky, but from a swamp of hatred created by the West.” The argument goes: Mohammad Atta was driven to murder and suicide by US policy towards Palestine. You won’t find this explanation in anything Atta wrote himself. Perhaps we can refer back to Foucault - “Islam is an entire way of life.” Might Jihadists negate themselves to claim affirmation in its totality? It seems more likely. But the masochist can ignore the totalitarian cult of death if he can find a reason to blame himself. Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London at the time, blamed the 7/7 attacks on Blair’s foreign policy. Yet the bin Ladenists have never stopped talking about loving death as their enemies love life, a shibboleth one might recognise from one of Conrad’s anarchists; the solution, rooted in Christianity, to what Camus called the absurd. The Obscurantism of the Masochist The masochist is the one who has truly inherited the colonialist discourse that exercises his revulsion at his own society. His compassion and his contempt, to borrow a theme from Pascal Bruckner, are at once the same thing. “We are still the masters of the world,” writes a French teacher in Le Monde, during the Mohammad cartoon controversy, “and we seem to have forgotten the sensitivities of those who are not.” Europe is still master of the world! It’s not the frail coward who shudders at the thought of ending genocide on its own territory; admonishing in feigned vanity the estranged cousin it will return to, cowering in its abjection, pleading that its paradise be saved. Is there not a note of disdainful condescension in the French teacher’s voice; A suggestion that history compels one to treat Muslims like infants, that an Algerian cannot have his faith subjected to a gentle satire in a Danish newspaper? France once ruled Algeria and Denmark is subsumed in that guilt by its European association; a guilt which tacitly implies superiority - augmenting the influence of a nation that never had an empire, along with the burden of shame it must acknowledge for standing up to censorious theocrats. Masochism is a great scourge of humanity. In blaming oneself, or one’s culture for all the misfortunes of other cultures one has to keep one eye closed. And this then encourages the fecklessness to which I earlier referred. No one thinks they have the right to assert that the rights which are given them by fortune could apply to those who don’t share in that fortune. Relativism is indifference. It gives rise to the post-modern brigade, with their unreadable prose, their rejection that anyone can discover truths of any kind, and, ultimately, their assertion that it is imperialistic to say anything critical about the transgressions of any cultures outside the West. Rather than a progressive promotion of the values to which we owe our freedom, theorists make serious attempts to justify ‘dowry murder’ - Nick Cohen gives examples (Uma Narayan and Azfar Hussain) in his book, What’s Left? - or multiculturalists advocate separate courts for immigrant ‘communities’ (Rowan Williams, for instance, has proposed Sharia courts for Muslims). The bankruptcy of multiculturalism is its denial of the individual, whose rights are surmounted by the imaginary rights of a community. How can Europeans promote liberty in the Middle East when they’re so racked with doubt they oscillate over the issue of legal equality at home; when they make comments like this, from Jacques Chirac: “Arab leaders sometimes use methods that differ from ours. But I refuse to judge political systems by the yardstick of our traditions in the name of some sort of ethnocentrism. Moreover, I must say that a multiparty system does not seem to me necessarily desirable in developing countries”? Perhaps the most concerning of the guilty European’s tendencies is the urge to equate criticism of religion with racism. Islamophobia, a word which originated among Iranian mullahs wishing to denigrate feminists, the offence for which Salman Rushdie was condemned to death, confuses the criticism of a religion with anti-Muslim bigotry. It’s mystifying that such an amalgam can pass so seamlessly into the discourse of secular Europeans, especially considering the omnipresence of bigotry in the holy books of the revered monotheisms. I echo the sentiments of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others: “that our century be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.” Oscar Clarke 3rd year Philosophy at UWE
  13. 13. AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 11 News Accolades An article co-written by Dr Richard Pettigrew, British Academy Research Fellow in Bristol’s Department of Philosophy, has been chosen by the Philosopher’s Annual as one of the ten best articles published in 2010. The article, entitled ‘An Objective Justification of Bayesianism II: The C o n s e q u e n c e s o f M i n i m i z i n g Inacurracy', was written with Hannes Leitgeb and appeared in  Philosophy of Science, vol. 77, no. 2, in April 2010. Dr Pettigrew explained the thinking behind the article: "Suppose that I know that a die will be rolled; and suppose that I believe that it will land on three more strongly than I believe that it will land on an odd number. We would say that I am irrational. But why?  In this article, we sought to answer this and other questions about how our degrees of beliefs ought to relate to one another. We argued that people whose degrees of beliefs do not relate to one another in the prescribed ways can expect themselves to have less accurate beliefs than those whose degrees of beliefs do". The Philosopher’s Annual aims to select the ten best articles published in philosophy each year (something it acknowledges is "as simple to state as it is admittedly impossible to fulfil"), and is available online. Philosophy Library Now Open A new idyll has been created for Bristol philosophy students. You can now find a vast range of philosophy books, a ‘slackers corner’ filled with some rather poor quality fiction to distract you and a desk on which you can work when other libraries are over-crowded by worker ants/ coffee drinkers. Location: Ground floor, 43 Woodland Road Opening hours: 12-2pm every weekday Staff: Helpful, friendly and generally bored PhD students Borrowing: Long term unless recalled Details and Catalogue: http:// www.kitpatrick.com/philosophy-library Expansion of the Department Finn Spicer: “For a long time Bristol has wanted to expand, given that we get a huge number of well-qualified applicants most of whom we have to turn away. In previous years this was a result of the numbers being capped by central government, but one of the effects of recent changes to the way universities are funded is that the cap has been removed for applicants with AAB or above at A2 level. We are now in a position to offer a limited number of additional places to read philosophy. UPPOSE you die and awaken in a room with two doors and one guard at each door. A voice speaks to you and tells you that one door leads to eternity in Heaven and one door leads to an eternity in Hell. You are allowed to approach a guard and ask him a question and only one question that will help you determine which door to choose since the doors are unlabeled and you are unable to look through a door before entering. However, you are also told that one of the guards ALWAYS lies and one ALWAYS tells the truth, and you cannot know which one is which. What question do you ask so that you are guaranteed to get the door to eternity in Heaven? -- S A Riddle Answer:You'daskeitherguardwhich doortheotherguardwilltellyouisthe doortoHeaven(orHell:aslongasyou understandwhich)andthenpickthe otherone. Cryptic clue: Existentialism
  14. 14. 12 AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 After three years of intense pondering, philosophy graduates must fend for themselves in the material world. So where do they end up, and are they still satisfying their philosophical needs? Max Wakefield studied Philosophy and Politics at Bristol University; he now walks the corridors of power in… the Student Union. We talk to the dedicated Community Officer about Foucault, drugs and high-visibility clothing. So, a sabbatical role as Community Officer, you must really love university? Max: Do I love the University of Bristol? No. There are a lot of things wrong with it. I do love the city of Bristol though. What made you apply for the job then? About 3 months of Gus (now Union President) nagging me and the inability to say ‘no’. I was dubious to start with, but looking at the jobs market it seemed as beneficial as anything else I could have done, and now that I’m here I’m fully committed to the job. What projects are you working on? My biggest project is encouraging the university to put more resources into facilitating students to do independent research projects with community groups. It’s a massively wasted resource. (The independent research projects could be dissertation topics for example, the idea being that both the student and the community group would benefit from the research carried out.) Other projects are the University City Farm and changing the rent-band system for first year accommodation. What do you think about A.C Grayling’s private philosophy college? A PR disaster. For a clever man it was one of the most spectacularly miscalculated announcements I’ve ever seen, but then it’s hard to present it in a positive way. £18,000 for a year seems unnecessary and is bound to be exclusionary, even if they offer a couple of bursaries every year. There must be a lot of skills you acquired whilst studying philosophy (not politics) that are now invaluable to you in your professional role? (Long pause...) Maybe they’re intangible. Oh, okay. Argumentative skills, analytic ability, confidence… Engaging in any subject that interests you is valuable really. Whose philosophy has at the biggest impact on you? Nietzsche, definitely. Reading Genealogy of Morals as part of the Schopenhauer and Nietzsche course was the most inspiring thing I did at university. Brilliant, both prosaically and in terms of philosophical content. I think that if you go to a western university to study philosophy and you don’t cover Nietzsche then you haven’t been taught properly. If you’ve got any interest in the history of ideas then read Nietzsche. Which philosophical theories most influence your work as Community Officer? Micheal Sandel’s Critique of Liberalism (I may purely be saying that because he’s a communitarian...you can decide). Rawls properly implemented would also be a positive direction for capitalism to go in. I’m always bringing them up in meetings... What was the title of your extended essay? ‘Is Foucault’s concept of power/knowledge a help or a hindrance to emancipator politics?’ Were you happy with how it went? Well both markers said: ‘Foucault’s a load of rubbish, but you’ve done your best with it’. I was happy with that. Foucault notoriously joined students in occupying administration buildings and fighting with police in May ’68. Is this something you would encourage Bristol lecturers to do? Well we had support from the philosophy department during the occupation last year. They sent us a letter and Chris Bertram came to the teach-in. I think it’d be great to see Seiriol do battle with a policeman. Who do you think would be on the front line if it came to a battle against the authorities? Seiriol and James. (N.b. We’re not encouraging violence of any form!) Foucault also took LSD at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, later calling it the best experience of his life, but you wouldn’t encourage that in the Bristol Philosophy Department would you? I think if people have got the right constitution, then there’s lots of evidence to suggest it can be a valuable experience. The psychologist and philosopher Susan Blakemore, who came to talk at Bristol said that many of her intellectual insights had come through taking mind altering drugs. Wasn’t DNA structure partly discovered thanks to a very enlightening trip? In Discipline and Punishment Foucault cautions that ‘visibility is a trap’, what’s he talking about? I think he’s saying it doesn’t matter if anyone’s watching you, it’s the knowledge of your own visibility that controls you. I’ve definitely seen you wearing high-viz gear whilst cycling, are you deliberately disregarding Foucault? Actually I do get an inverse feeling of vulnerability the more visible I am on my bike. You’d think I’d feel more secure but in fact there’s just a creeping paranoia that everybody’s watching you. I suddenly felt guilty just for adjusting my seat. Foucault must be right. If you could change one thing about how philosophy is taught at Bristol what would it be? More contact hours and more seminars; learning from your peers is invaluable. What advice would you give an undergraduate? There are a lot of other factors that matter when you come out of University other than your degree classification. Extra-curricular activities are just as important. Oh… and think about leaving the country. Austerity measures have just been extended for another two years. Go to India. Alumni interview: Where are they now?
  15. 15. AdAbsurdum | Winter 2011 13 Resources Cambridge collections online: http://cco.cambridge.org/public_home Philosophy Podcast and Blog: http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/ A very promising looking podcast series: http://www.historyofphilosophy.net/  For out of copyright philosophy ebooks and pdfs: http://www.gutenberg.org/ Podcasts from members of the Bristol philosophy department: http://philosophyatbristol.blogspot.com The David Edmunds and Nigel Warburton double act: http://www.philosophybites.com/ The online version of the UK’s most popular philosophy magazine: http://www.philosophynow.org/ Events Bristol Philosophy Circle The Scotchman and His Pack pub, St Michael's Hill, Bristol. 7.30pm 2nd Monday of each month.  Royal Institute of Philosophy One-Day Graduate Conference: THE SELF February 24th 2012 University of the West of England  KEYNOTE SPEAKER Professor Galen Strawson (University of Reading) AD ABSURDUM is published by a small band of philosophy students at the University of Bristol. This first issue has been sponsored by a generous grant from the Bristol Student Union, for which we are very grateful. We are also grateful for the many excellent contributions we’ve received from our own Department and from UWE, and we hope to return to print again in the Spring. We’d like the next issue of AD ABSURDUM to be both bigger and prettier. For this, we require your contributions. We invite a range of philosophical topics and articles including essays, news, reviews and commentaries. If you have something you think we’d be interested in printing, please get in touch. Contact us at: bris.adabsurdum@gmail.com
  16. 16. AD ABSURDUM A NEW BRISTOL PHILOSOPHY MAGAZINE Winter 2011 Edition

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