2012 Abstracts Stage 2

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, which Fine Art is Best of All? A Philosophical Inquiry into whether Beauty Has Disappeared from Modern Day Artworks.

The discussion of this paper will be centred on the object of art with reference to beauty. We know that beauty has played a vital role in the lives of humans for thousands of years, we seek it in natural and man-made objects, and we crave it. So, why is our art turning towards what we would generally consider to be ‘ugly’ aspects within our modern culture?

This project will focus on the following main questions;
 What do we mean when we call a work of art ‘beautiful’?
 Does art have to be beautiful?
 Has beauty been lost to the modern world?
 Has the understanding of what is beautiful changed in the modern world?
 Can beauty still be found?

We will be discussing the position held by Roger Scruton, who asserts the purpose of art is to provide the spectator with a sense of comfort, however, he states this rationale has been consequently lost to modern art as the artist is no longer concerned with technique or skill and instead focuses on self expression. We shall consider the views of Arthur Danto, who claims since the Brillo Box exhibition, art has become a purely philosophical endeavour. Our discussion will finally lead us to the views of Hans-Georg Gadamer who is unafraid to admit that there is an inevitable ‘gap’ between what we classify as traditional art and what we see as modern art, however, he sees philosophy as being able to bridge this gap. We will also look to his concept of ‘play’, ‘symbol’ and ‘festival’ which primarily allow for an object to be regarded as art.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Reality Mining and Technology: a Postmodern Reflection

Reality Mining collects the digital breadcrumbs of our daily activities, to understand and predict social behaviour.

The territory shall outline up-and-coming advances in technology and communication and what we can learn from analysing these networks through reality mining. It will look at specific areas of communication development and reality mining. This discussion looks at the work of Lyotard, Baudrillard and Vattimo. With reference to these specific postmodern thinkers, this project shall discuss whether reality mining furthers the commodification of knowledge, alienates the individual and blurs the distinction between subject and object.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

How Legitimate is Industrial Action and What is its Purpose?

I have looked at KARL MARX and his theory to try and decide whether strike action is legitimate and what purpose it plays.

Marx would have supported the miners’ strike and seen it as legitimate as it was the working class seizing the means of production. However he would not see the teachers strike as legitimate as it was too individualistic and too led by capitalist values.

Within my project I have focused on how legitimate strike action is. It seems that public perception had changed in the last 30 years and I have endeavoured to uncover why this is.

Despite feeling that industrial action is legitimate I found it difficult to show this in regards to the teachers strike … but it just feels somehow wrong.

The other philosopher I have focused on within my project is JOHN LOCKE. He again would see the miners’ strike as legitimate as their rights were being threatened and therefore it was their duty to show discontent for this. After all, we only enter into a society to have our natural rights protected. Yet, Locke was unable to justify the teachers strike.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Altruism vs. Egoism: a Debate through the Life of Simone Weil

Described by Albert Camus in 1951 as the only great spirit of our time‘, Simone Weil was a philosopher, writer, teacher and social activist who dedicated the majority of her life to helping others. However, her altruistic nature progressed into an incessant need to share the suffering of others. As a result, Weil neglected her own health and died in 1943, aged just 34.

Weil was a hugely admirable person, but in this project, I am going to put forward an argument in favour of the need for an egoistic moral structure to ensure the progression of society.

After providing an account of Weil‘s life, highlighting her troubles and endeavours along the way, I will use Mill‘s Utilitarianism to demonstrate an altruistic account of morality. However, I will go on show the flaws in Mill‘s theory in order to illustrate why an altruistic structure to society is implausible.

I will then assess Barbara Oakley‘s study, Pathological Altruism, to address her idea that altruistic acts can become harmful when taken to an unhealthy extreme. Many of Weil‘s characteristics match up to Oakley‘s studies, providing an understanding behind her eating and mental disorders.

So next I will turn to Hobbes‘s account of morality, Rational Egoism, to see if that could provide a more comprehensive ethical structure. His recognition of individual‘s self-interest ensures the basis of a productive society, where people would look to employ their strengths in order to further themselves, which is something I feel Weil didn‘t fully achieve.

However, there are also flaws to Hobbes‘s account, and so I will conclude by asserting that currently no entirely adequate moral-political exists. I will then look at Williams‘s interpretation of morality, as he suggests that comprehensive moral philosophy is empty and boring‘.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Do We Have the Right to Bear a Genetically Related Child? A Study into in vitro Fertilisation and its Moral Implications

In my project this year I examined in vitro fertilisation which is a procedure invented in 1976 for infertile couples which involves removing the woman’s eggs and fertilising them outside the body with the sperm of her husband or a donor. This often results in spare embryos being formed, which is a subject which divides England.

I looked at the status of the embryo and argued that it had no raised status to an egg or a sperm based on the philosophical arguments of ethicist Peter Singer.

I also looked at the work of Martha Nussbaum who is a modern contemporary thinker and has strong opinions regarding bodily health and bodily integrity.

The main thread of my argument was that we have a right to a genetically related child and these two thinkers helped me prove this.

Books and websites I used included
Nussbaum, M. (2011) Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Harvard University Press, USA
Singer, P. (2002) Unsanctifying Human Life. Blackwell Publishing Company, Oxford
Singer, P. (1998) A Companion to Bioethics. Blackwell Publishing Company, Oxford
Smith, R. (2012) Statistics Explained. Westminster, London.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Is Music Worth Saving? How Changing Social Norms and Conventions have Contributed to the Decline of the Music Industry.

 To gain an understanding of how largely capitalist organizations, such as Apple, Sony BMG and Warner are slowly eliminating the competition – smaller independent record labels and stores and alienating the musician from their art
 To investigate whether the use of free illegal downloading and file sharing websites can ever be justified in the current economic climate?
 To decide whether or not we should care about the demise of the record industry and whether music is a good that is worth saving?

Thinkers + Texts
 Mark Fisher— Capitalist Realism
 Immanuel Kant—Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals
 Karl Marx—Capital
 Arthur Schopenhauer—The World and Will as Representation

“It is easier to imagine a total catastrophe which ends all life on earth than it is to imagine a real change in capitalist relations” (Zizek, 334: 2011)

“We could just as well call the world embodied music as embodied will; this is the reason why music makes every picture, indeed every scene from real life and from the world, at once appear in enhanced significance” (Schopenhauer, 262-263: 1969)

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Deconstructing the Narrative of Psychiatry: An exploration into how psychiatry has hindered its own progress.

Psychiatry is an admirable and important profession, but one which is regarded in very different ways depending upon which side of the fence you sit; a patient may resent psychiatry or praise it, a psychiatrist may feel comfortable or uncomfortable within their profession, and a lay person may or may not understand the need for psychiatric practice.

My project is focused on an exploration of the component concepts of psychiatry.

Deconstruction is a term given to the philosophy of Jacques Derrida, which resembles an intimate reading of a text, and I call psychiatry a narrative in relation to the work of Jean François Lyotard, referring to its tendencies to create a type of reality into which its patients and practitioners must assert themselves. It is my view (and that of others), that such a thing that makes its own reality must be in total accord with itself and so I decided that the best way to uncover any disharmonious concepts in psychiatry was to deconstruct it.

A deconstruction of psychiatry consists, in my project, of looking the way that psychiatry tends to favour finding instances of insanity over instances of sanity; the way psychiatry appears to suffer from a form of ‘diagnostic creep’; and the imbalance of power that runs through the structure of psychiatry.

My conclusions are that although psychiatry is fraught with problems, it is capable of becoming a fully functioning profession, if it would be willing to receive critical review from an outside source.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Avatar Selves: Ontological Implications of Fluid Identity in the Virtual Age

“We are becoming fluid and many-sided. Without quite realizing it, we have been evolving a sense of self appropriate to the restlessness and flux of our time.” – The Protean Self (R.J.Lifton)

What is the nature of Being in the burgeoning age of virtual networks?

How are modes of relating to one another, spaces, and information changing?

Our society is fast evolving from centering on hard modern technologies to soft postmodern technologies in tandem with a move to a postmodern identification with complexity and flexibility,

Our capacity to project our identity into an interactive cyberspace of other projected identities raises new questions about boundaries of intellect, collaboration, agency, authorship, self-knowledge, transhumanism, identity, shifts in neurological and social function…

Heidegger saw technology as enframing our way of being in the world. It can enable us to satisfy our desires, but there is always the danger of letting it obscure our essence as human beings. We must continually return to this always-already essence of being, and resist becoming functionaries for technology.

This is all the more applicable in an information-based society in which we present ourselves informatically through the medium of technological interfaces we have no understanding of.

The ontological, social and autobiographical implications for self-knowledge and agency in the novel complex networks of our virtualised society.

Philosophers and thinkers: Heidegger/Borgman/Nietzsche/Zizek/Harman/ Eagleman/Gorny/Self/Stirling/Lifton

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

“We’re All Born Mad. Some Remain So.”- Interpreting the Psychiatric Standards of Mental Disorder

“ About a fifth of the population of the United states are seen as suffering from a mental disorder each year and about half from at least one disorder at some point in their lives.” (Horwitz, 2002,3)

•What is the reality of what psychiatrists define as mental disorder, inside and outside the standards of the psychiatric context, in relation to convention and nature?

“The question of truth will never be posed between madness and me for the very simple reason that I, psychiatry, am already a science.”(Foucault, 2006,134)

•there are genetic and biochemical grounds for supposing that both schizophrenia and depressive disorders have a physical basis. (Gelder, Mayou, Cowen, 2001,88)

“What does man actually know about himself? Does nature not conceal most things from him – even concerning his own body?”(Nietzsche, Ansell-Pearson, Large, 2006,115)

•“A postmodern scientist does not discover ‘truth’, he simply tells stories – though he has a duty to verify them within the terms of the relevant language game.” (Rojek, Turner, Lyotard, 1998,68)

“A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch.” (Deleuze, Guattari, 2004,2)

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Wittgenstein: A Journalist’s Ally? How Accurately Can One Portray an ‘Objective Reality’ through the Use of Language? Using Examples in Journalism, How Does Wittgenstein’s Thought Justify Their Bias?

I am exploring the ways in which we use language: its functions, methods and how we can determine intention. I am using specific examples in contemporary journalism as case studies to support Wittgenstein’s arguments for meaning in language. Looking at issues of bias, the ‘spin’ of particular words used, and how we can pertain towards ‘objective truth’. As a solution to the problem I assess the possibility of a ‘perfect language’. However this is then refuted in terms of its lack of ability to be implemented. Essentially, all knowledge and truth is determined by one’s social context (language game) and within a given system, we can have a relatively objective view of a general consented to ‘shared reality’.

2012 Abstracts Stage 2

Is it Edifying to Reject the Moral Boundaries Implicit in Everyday Life in Order to Place Oneself in an Environment where Excess, Ecstasy and Self-Expression are Accessible?


Notion of festival: general and restricted economy, non-productive expenditure, taboo and transgression, sacrifice, the sacred and profane, and joy before death…

The Burning Man…

Smith and Kelley’s artistic interpretation of carnivalism…

Apollonian and Dionysian: Greek Attic tragedy and Wagner…

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

The Power of Dance: what are We Engaged in When We Dance and What Does This Mean When the Autistic Child Dances Both Individually and Alongside Others?

CONCEPT: How dance can affect the autistic child’s sense of self, and whether this is more beneficial in a segregated or integrated setting

PHILOSOPHY: Sparshott’s A Measured Pace: Toward a Philosophical Understanding of the Arts of Dance, supported by such thinkers as Havelock Ellis and criticised by Graham McFee

SOURCES: interviews with teachers, factual research on Autism, case studies on dance for Autistic children, secondary texts on dance such as Thomas’ Dance, Modernity and Culture, and secondary texts on special needs children and the arts such as Roberts’ Encouraging Expression: The Arts in the Primary Curriculum.

Thesis: As an individual experience, dance can be the most direct way for the autistic child to access the self; giving way to more stable connections with the world and others.

The most central emotion for an autistic child is fear. The autistic child’s communication difficulties and confused concept of self means fear is associated with situations where the child has to apply the self to the world and to others.

Sparshott’s philosophy of dance argues when dance is done for its own sake, the individual is ‘self-transformed’ into the dancing body.

The most powerful and significant outcome of dance as an individual experience for the autistic child, above all the other arts, seems to be the potential it has to unlock something within their mind. As Sparshott says, it is in the immediacy of dance that engages the individual in a self-transforming experience where the self is in absolute connection with the body.

2012 Abstracts Stage 2

Excessive Expenditure. An investigation into ‘the student experience’. Is university an opportunity for rebellion or another cultural norm?

Using Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and Philosophy of Mind, I have established the theory of Sittlichkeit and the State. The Sittlichkeit is the moral fabric of a society, founded on the historical development of social norms. Within a state, it is the basis of personal and societal morality. If we look at the student experience, it could be seen as part of modern society’s Sittlichkeit, a social norm in itself based around mutual interests and community.

The student experience: excessive drinking, late nights, unhealthy food, promiscuity.

We have urges for sacrifice and ritual not supported by society. Bataille says we must release these need through non-productive expenditure, concerned only with destruction and sacrifice. Bataille’s general economy is this cycle of production and destruction: both equally necessary. Applied to the student lifestyle, excessive behaviours are nothing more than a release of these urges through action for its own sake: non-productive.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger – Nietzsche. How Valid is This Statement with Reference to the Topic of Euthanasia?

“Human decency is not derived from religion, it precedes it”- Christopher Hitchens

“Because to take away a man’s freedom of choice, even his freedom to make the wrong choice, is to manipulate him as though he were a puppet and not a person”. – Madeleine L’Engle

In this project I have decided to explore the extremely controversial topic of Euthanasia with reference to one of the most polemic figures concerning Human Rights and Religion, Christopher Hitchens. I hope to uncover a fresh and modern perspective concerning whether Euthanasia is morally permissible as well as exploring the thoughts of those who argue for and against this topic. I hope to uncover whether what doesn’t kill you does in fact make you stronger or whether accepting a persons wish to end their life prematurely is in fact what makes them stronger…

“It is always consoling to think of suicide: in that way one gets through many a bad night”-Nietzsche

2012 Abstracts Stage 2

Breaking the Festival Barriers: Is the music festival an exercise in liberation and expression, or simply another mode of social constraint?

Aim: To discuss the relevance of the music festival as an arena for transgression and excess, and as an escape from the constraints of society. Using a variety of music festivals from past and present to construct a coherent argument.

Discussion: It is felt that music festivals provide a much needed release from the strains and pressures of society; one is permitted a degree of excess within a shared environment. The use of drugs and alcohol during a festival is representative of the need to cast off one’s inhibitions and to partake in unrestrained celebration. However, the music festival is still influenced by social rules and regulations. It is a temporary letting-loose, and therefore may be regarded as another form of social constraint.

Philosophy: – Freud; Civilisation and its Discontents, Totem and Taboo – Bataille; Inner Experience – Hegel; Elements of the Philosophy of Right, The Phenomenology of Mind

“Long may the expression of free-thinking people reign over this land!” -Michael Eavis

2012 Abstracts Stage 2

Dictatorships: ‘The Good, Bad and the Ugly’ How much freedom does a society have within a Dictatorship?

Chairman Mao
Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) is the focal dictator within my project. He ruled over the People’s Republic of China for nearly 30 years and in that time is said to have caused the deaths of 5070 million people. However he is still seen by many of China’s people as one of their great leaders.

His doctrine of Maoism refers to Mao’s belief in the mobilization of the masses, particularly in large-scale political movements. This ideology was projected during the Cultural Revolution whereby Mao retained his position of absolute power after giving it up, due to the downfall of his Great Leap Forward initiative.

This project was a brief insight into the systems of government around the world, the main focal point being, of course, Dictatorships. It delves into the concepts of power, justice and equality. I feel that my project contains importance for everyone as it delves into concepts that have had direct or indirect effects on all of us, due to politics and government that has an effect on all of our lives in some respect.

Dictators also have profound effects on people, some positive but mostly negative, and the project will outline what it is that moves individuals into something outside of basic human morals.

I have of course looked at the major works of Machiavelli The Prince as well as Thomas Hobbes and Leviathan. I have discussed that both hold the same ideal – that there should be a single seat of absolute power within a society – but are at differences as to how said single individual should project their power.

I have also looked at the work of John Locke on the notion of freedom in the sense of natural rights, such as property. With reference to John Stuart Mill and his utilitarian view on freedom, as well as justice.

There is also a small view into John Rawls, David Hume and Aristotle on this issue, as they are all philosophers who speak in depth on the topic of a ‘Rule of One’ and the concepts that are addressed in the project.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Karl Marx without the Prejudice. A Critical Evaluation of Karl Marx using Henry George to Defend Private Property

Karl Marx refutes private property because:
1. It leads to an illegitimate division within society.
2. It alienates the labourer from their objectified labour (property owner takes from the labourer).

Henry George highlighted the following problems with Marx’s position (all of which stem from his prejudiced original position, namely, Communism must be right):
1. The removal of private property contradicts the values of independence and self-reliance.

2. Marx accepts property to be important in determining identity but then refutes property. There needs to be an alternative source of identity which is not provided.

3. The problem of alienation remains unresolved because the product of the labourer is still taken from them.

4. The relationship between objectified labour being necessary to maintain society and identity stemming from objectified labour means objectified labour is necessary for the continued existence of society. Therefore:
a. Either, private property should not exist, in which case society will no longer exist.
b. Or, society emerges that does not require objectified labour.

5. Marx forgets the importance of incentive for human production. Without a selfish incentive humanity will reduce its productivity and thus be unable to sustain the growing human population.
a. Valuing labour by time is a prime example of Marx’s ignorance of incentive.

A possible alternative to the system that causes the growing division of society:
1. No longer an income tax

2. In the place of income tax is land value tax (user of the natural resource pays a percentage of the resources value in order to attain the ability to utilise the resource for his benefit)

3. Retain VAT (Value Added Tax) for internet transactions and other transactions the government seeks to control.

1. Increased utilisation of natural resources.

2. Simplification of tax system.

3. Increased accountability for tax obligations.

4. Increased benefits received by the local communities.

2012 Abstracts Stage 2

The Legalisation of Drugs: The Case for Socio-Cultural Relativism

– To outline the key philosophical, social and legal theories which are integral to the debate about the legalisation of drugs.

– To consider some of the most salient and persuasive cases for the legalisation of drugs, including:
o Medicinal cannabis use
o Spiritual or religious drug use

– To make recommendations for changes to the extant legal and social policies with regard to certain types of illegal drug use.

“In our societies, the systems of punishment are to be situated in a certain ‘political economy’ of the body […] it is always the body that is at issue – the body and its forces, their utility and docility, their distribution and their submission.” (Foucault)

The War on Drugs

Key Thinkers
– John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
– Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Brechtian Techniques in Contemporary Cinema

In my project I will be investigating the use of Brechtian techniques in contemporary cinema. I will look into why Brecht first developed his techniques. I will look closely into one of his most famous plays Mother Courage and Her Children. 

I will then investigate more contemporary cinema producers. I will do this by looking into Jean-Luc Godard’s comedic film Pierrot Le Fou and Michael Haneke’s cruel and sadistic film Funny Games. 

I will explore whether or not they use Brechtian techniques in the same way that Brecht wanted them to be used. I will be arguing that although the producers tend to use Brechtian techniques to convey different emotions and messages it is only because the producers are living in different societies. They, therefore, want to express different issues that relate to their society. For example, while Brecht wants to criticize how the society is run Godard wants to criticize the role of the cinema and Haneke wants to criticize certain individuals in the society, those who take pleasure from watching cinema put together through violence and torture.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Can I Morally Justify a Career in The British Armed Forces?

– For my project I’m going to be answering a question very close to my heart, of whether or not I can morally justify a career in the British Armed forces.

– I’ll be challenging whether or not I can justify such violence through primarily referencing Levinas’ phenomenological conception of the other in “Totality and Infinity” (1961)

– I’ll be judging the politics of the current operations of the British Armed Forces through Rawl’s political conception of Justice as Fairness based upon his “overlapping consensus”

– I’ll also be attempting to “deconstruct” Derrida style the true meanings and purposes of our nation’s political actions overseas that are behind the political rhetoric we find ourselves in.

– Though I’m asking whether or not I can join the British Armed forces I’ll inevitably be focusing on American and NATO foreign policy as in the present climate our military action seems inextricably linked to these foreign interests

– The current war in Afghanistan will be my primary focus, as it’s a highly controversial conflict that could either legitimise NATO as a force for justice or as a power-hungry aggressor in the 21st Century depending upon the outlook taken and the yet-to-be-seen outcome of the conflict

– I’ll also be tentatively trying to judge the moral justifications of conflicts that look likely in the near future as these will have a direct effect on me should I join the British Armed forces