2013 Abstracts Stage 2

“Between Knowing and Being”

Part One; What is knowing and its limits Part Two; What are the limits of knowing the individual self. Part Three; The Social ‘I’ Throughout this project I aim to understand the subjective ‘self.’ I am ultimately investigating this area because in the UK, the Mental Health Foundation has claimed that “1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.” In my opinion this figure is drastic, and therefore I believe that an understanding of the human mind is crucial in overcoming the problems we currently face in our society.  1. I commenced with an investigation into the development of knowledge throughout Western history, beginning with Kant and Newton. This will enable me to analyse how successfully we can attain an understanding of the self. I discover that the scientific method itself is proven to be limited and non-universal. The examples I looked at as a potential cause of this were Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the discovery of Quantum Mechanics, and also the theories of Existentialist Philosophers. As demonstrated by Watts (1957), arguably any new Western theories turn out to be mere restatements of old positions. 2. I then looked into Western conceptions of the self from statements of neuroscience and theories proposed by phenomenologists and philosophers of mind. Naturally Western Science excludes any investigation of the self from its domain by requiring an identifiable object to which we can apply mathematics to. 3. The revelation of our limits in knowledge will consequently lead me to investigate an alternate conception of the human self and the ability to attain knowledge. This originates in the Eastern world, in both Taoism and Zen Buddhism. This focuses on an alternate type of knowledge such as the unconscious knowledge we have of moving our hands. Crucially the conscious thinking process is not the centre of the mind’s activity. As we directly experience reality, it is in the realm of the non-verbal. 4. This lead me to understand the nature of language, which I discovered is extremely limited in providing an explanation of the world. Language by nature is linear because it allows us to make rapid grasps of our thoughts, which we can think of only one at a time, however this causes a depiction of the world as static and fragmented. 5. Heidegger argues that we can have a liberation from these social conventions, by appealing to the notion of an original spontaneous being who exists priori to being influenced by social codes. However, I have argued that this notion that anything can remain constant is unlikely. 6. Furthermore, I believe that it is impossible to try to understand an isolated individual self in the Western sense, because through language the social aspect is fundamental to our nature. Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford, John Teasdale and Jon Kabat-Zinn (2007) have promoted this form of Eastern understanding as being beneficial to those with mental health problems, and I believe this significantly demonstrates that Western scientific knowledge is certainly not a superior discipline. 

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

President Kagame What makes a legitimate Leader?

State of Nature/ Rwandan genocide

One’s right to obey a power does not legitimise power

State of Peace with Sovereign Kagame

Kagame’s possible move to Democracy to legitimise his power

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Embedded within Reality? A Philosophical Inquiry into Whether Photographic Practice Differs from Other Modes of Visual Representation in Terms of its Classification as Art

The discussion of this paper will be centred on the argument of whether photography can ever be considered as anything more than merely a mechanical replicate of the world. Photography is generally seen by many as an automatic unemotional means of ‘capturing a moment in time’. Art, on the other hand, is commonly seen as a hand-rendered expression of human imagination typically illustrated within a visual form.

The following questions will be asked;
 What effect has the mass production of photographic images had?
 How much does the intentionality of the artist matter?
 What is the impact of photo-manipulation on the notion of authorship?
 Can our perception of a believed photographic reality be merely an illusion?
 Is our modern consumerist world driven by the image?

We will begin with a brief outline of the ways in which photography of the past designed modes of replicating the painterly styles of the artworks of the time. We shall then discuss the notion of how photography became a product of mass production, whilst introducing the thoughts of Walter Benjamin and Heidegger who both see modern works of art, and photography, as unable to reach the previous standards of past great artworks for they have lost originality, ‘aura’. We shall consider the views of Scruton who fundamentally states a photograph is unable to be the product of aesthetic judgement for it is bound by a casual relation to the world and is an automatic technical invention which requires no thought processes on behalf of the creator to effectively formulate it. Our discussion will finally lead us to the views of Susan Sontag and Jean Baudrillard who believe that under the present age of our consumer media driven tradition, our reality is reinstated by the photographic image, for photographic seeing fundamentally alienates reality.

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Beauty and Utility

The project aims to analyse the relationships between property and beauty and utility. This will include the shift in what we consider beauty to be, and how that has affected property development in the UK. Architectures and developers of the 20th Century have become impatient with beauty and replaced it with utility. I will discuss the implications for this on both the type of building as well as where these buildings are being constructed. In that vein the project will address the importance of environment and rural surroundings to human nature. Environmental ethics and aesthetics will form a large proportion of the project and the conclusion will determine whether this change in perception of beauty has had a negative effect on property in the UK and whether our spiritual and moral needs have been damaged. Key Philosophers include Roger Scruton who discusses the importance of beauty for humans in terms of understanding their nature and world around them. Immanuel Kant’s notion of disinterestedness in regard to beauty will also be analysed and compared to Scruton’s idea that one must appreciate the function of something to appreciate its beauty as well.

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

‘Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty’. Is Science the Only Way to Truth?

Using a variety of historical texts and books written by key thinkers within the advancements made in knowledge, I will explore what is considered as true knowledge today and whether or not this is a strength or a weakness to our search for truth.

Religion – was once the dominant discourse of its time. It allowed other forms of knowledge a role in its teachings to an extent, for instance it used literature and often allowed science a say if it agreed with its teachings. However, it is arguably because of Christianity in the Western world that the notion of science as the only way to truth came about.

Enlightenment – Kant’s views on empowerment and emancipation ridding us of the Dark Age. Giving us more values and starting off progress in scientific thought.

Science – Move from Descartes and Newton’s thought and Darwin who still respected a God; to Einstein, Freud and Dawkins. No need for God, no intended purpose and a very monistic approach.

Mary Midgley- Her inspiring view that we do not need to fight for authority, we must work together (pluralism). Her disregard for the scientific notion that it stands alone – which will be my concluding remark.

Lyotard’s Postmodern – Shows how science refutes itself (link back to Kant). I will also explore the notion that advancements and modernity have taken away magic from the world – Roland Barthes (Paris doctors of post modernity).

A general discussion of whether purpose is important to us, whether we need it to function, to be ethical. How important is it to knowledge?

I will conclude that purpose is important and therefore perhaps the paths of knowledge I have discussed cannot give us both purpose and freedom. I offer literature as a new path to truth. It is unbiased and puts magic in the world, through appreciation. Keats – ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’. Greeks agreed with this notion and it teaches society essentials.

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

The Reality of Love: A Critical Analysis of the Western Idea of Love as a Concept and an Attempt to Understand our Modern Interpretation of What it is to be “in love” and How this has Developed and Altered Over Time

My objective in this essay is to produce an accurate analysis of our understanding of love, how it has changed over time and to examine how different theories, ideologies and cultural progressions have influence our contemporary understanding of love’s nature, origin and effect.

First I will examine Ancient Greek philosophy on love and the work of Plato in order to establish a foundation for understanding.
I will then analyse contemporary psychoanalysis from Freud and contrast this with Irving Singer’s theory on forms of romanticism from ‘Philosophy of Love’ and ‘The Nature of Love’.

After this, I will critically discuss changes in social standpoints on sexuality, Christianity and its portrayal of love, modern changes in how we find love, faithfulness in loving relationships and the correlation between love and sex.

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

The Legitimacy of Government: Liberty or Coercion?

Over the last few centuries government has grown rapidly. From an original agreement of mutual protection government has grown into a legislative and regulatory body that seemingly interferes with the day to day life of its citizens. This project then aims to address the coercion that underlies all of the state activity to determine whether or not we can truly be considered free.

Firstly I looked at the ideas of Liberty that were laid out by Isaiah Berlin in order to find out what Liberty actually is. From there I had to ask the question, can liberty be given up to form a government under a social contract? This essay looks at three contrasting ideas on the social contract, namely those of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. It will then discuss the extent to which these social contracts can still be applied to the modern world and not just in theory. Next it’ll look at criticisms of the social, like Hume’s idea that the social contract is a necessary fiction. Following on from that idea it will examine Spooner’s attack on the validity of such contracts and his critique of tacit consent. Finally then it will look at the moral argument against the state of nature which is derived from Negative Liberty.

Central Thinkers:
Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
John Locke: Second Treatise of Government
Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract
Lysander Spooner: No Treason
Isaiah Berlin: Two Concepts of Liberty

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Jean Francois Lyotard’s The Differend and the UK Publishing Industry

A critical consideration of what conditions are necessary for the UK Publishing Industry to resist homogenization whilst operating under a capitalist system.

To what extent are these conditions already being met?

With reference to John Thompson’s ‘Merchants of Culture’

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

The Phenomenology of Music and Human Nature

This project aims to analyse the deep connection between humanity’s development, both evolutionary and cultural to the production and fascination of music.

Key Concepts and Ideas:
Naturalism – Every mechanism is a result of the laws of nature
Semiotics – The study of signs, representation and meaning.
Reductionism – All sciences and phenomenon can be reduced to a single set of principles; a unifying theory of everything.

Key Philosophers and Researchers:
Darwin, C..
Pierce, C.
Bowman, D.
Cochran, G.
DeNora, T.
Kania, A.
Mithen, S.
Pierre, J.
Rahn, J.
Spano, R.

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Is Moral Photojournalism Possible?

This project looks at photojournalism and the role it plays in our culture. Whether or not photojournalism is ethical and, if it isn’t, what is the function of it?

Focusing specifically on the work of Kevin Carter in the Sudan in 1993, this project explores these topics through critical examination of Theodor W. Adorno’s discourses on Culture as mass deception and Martin Heidegger’s essay On the Origin of the Work of Art.

It will explore the idea of the roles played in society by the photograph, the photographer and the media, and bring to light the idea of the ‘icon of outrage’ as a necessary feature, both for our society and culture and for ethical realisation.

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Depression in an Age of Control: Towards a Phenomenology of Mental Illness


LEVINAS – There is
VIRNO – Precarity
HEIDEGGER – Value of inauthentic everydayness?
DELEUZE – Discipline -> Control Individuals -> “Dividuals”


2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Animal Farm: Does the Subtle and Binary Nature of Philosophy Fail where Literature Succeeds?





“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” (Orwell, 1984)

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

The Gap Year and Finding Oneself: a Philosophical Discussion

It has been a growing phenomenon in recent years for young people to take a year out from education. There are a number reasons for this but the one most often given, the one which stands out above all others, is ‘to find oneself’. This project aims to explore the validity of such a claim in conjunction with the thought of Alain de Botton and Jean Paul Sartre. In order to offer the discussion some context I shall also be drawing on my own experiences volunteering in Africa.

De Botton’s work The Art of Travel is an investigation into the philosophical aspects of travel. From the anticipation of the trip, to the poetic nature of the journey, to the adventure itself and even the reflections upon your return. The entire experience is conducive to being potentially life changing, and as such no detail is left out. His over riding suggestion is that we travel in order to temporarily escape our ordinary, well established lives and that we have an inherent desire to wander without purpose for a time.

To support these claims I have also used Sartre’s phenomenology, as he makes the claim that consciousness constructs the ego. We only really become our true selves when we reflect on things and it is very much dependent on our mood or state at the time of the experience. His entire theory is building up to the fact that our consciousness is what frees us. A fact which is absolutely key in understanding how experience changes us. When this is applied to the concept of travel it becomes apparent that we may have a particular viewpoint or opinion of a place before we go there, but our experiences there will inevitably alter that preconception. As these change, as does our conception of self.

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Education in England. Is Turning Back the Way Ahead?

Michael Gove’s reforms
A Foucauldian Analysis

“We’re on the side of teachers, we’re determined to restore order and we’re not going to be deflected from laying down lines which the badly behaved must not cross.” (Gove 2010)

“Enough is enough. This motion’s intention is to send the strongest message possible to this government that many of their education policies are failing our children, their parents and the very fabric of our school communities.”
(Tim Gallagher proposing vote of no confidence at National Association of Head Teachers Conference 2013)

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Discussions on the nature of the animal liberation movement – can animal and human exist as equals and does the real possibility of a consensus in the debate exist?

The animal liberation movement was the first movement to be entirely founded by philosophers, and ended up being one of the most important and controversial movements in society then and now. Using the thought of Peter Singer within Animal Liberation and Alasdair MacIntyre within Dependent Rational Animals, among others, my essay aims to assess whether their theories seem intuitionally correct and/or comfortable, and if we can observe what their ideas describe in contemporary society with regard to our relationship with animals. I also take a look at the differences between UK legislation concerning animal welfare and that of other countries, attempting to conclude if the animal rights debate can ever be solved, and how indeed the world should go about doing so.

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

The Proliferation of Contemporary Capitalism in the Art World: Between the Global Market and the Business of Art Production

Since Sotheby’s auction house opened in 1744, the art market has grown and now sells pieces for millions of dollars every day. My project explores the societal and technological changes which have occurred throughout modernity to understand why paintings like The Scream were bought for over $119 million.

Commodity fetishism and the global art market
Using Marx’s exploration of capitalism I focused on what constitutes a commodity and how art has been fetishized. I then incorporated Vattimo’s use of telematics and globalised media to demonstrate capitalisms more recent developments; this enabled me to discuss the role paintings have played in a global billion dollar market. In contrast I also looked back to 15th century artists, to understand if art has become a commodity only with the advent of capitalism and technology.

Mechanical technology and mass production
I used Benjamin’s philosophy of mechanical reproducibility to highlight the importance of technological advancement, especially that of mass reproduction, in selling the image of a work enabling fame and exposure to a wider market.

I also looked to how these factors of the current market affected the minds and work of artists themselves using the philosophy of Andy Warhol, and the artwork of Damien Hurst, Warhol himself, and Julian Opie. All of these artists demonstrated the drive of a capitalist mind-set, have benefited from global exposure, and produce pieces using technology invented in a postmodern age such as laser printing and spinning. My goal was to ultimately demonstrate that the market has changed both the nature of the art which is produced and opened the art world up to everyone on a global scale.

Internally replicable model of the art market
Mass reproduction of famous classical/modern works (such as The Scream and No.1)
Original work becomes more valuable as its image and fame is spread over a global market (both sold for millions)

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

“I’m Gonna Make Him an Offer He Can’t Refuse … ” A discussion concerning the definition of political legitimacy and its features, comparing the Sicilian Mafia with Sicily’s central governments of the 1860’s and 1920’s

Can the notion of political legitimacy be effectively applied to the Sicilian Mafia? What defines a legitimate authority? Can the Mafia be seen as legitimate if the state is not? These concerns will be discussed within the parameters of two central points in Sicilian history; the Unification of Italy during the 1860’s and the Italian Fascist regime of the 1920’s, allowing for a comparison between the Sicilian Mafia organisation and Sicily’s governments.

MARX; is the state merely an illusion, disguising our real interests? I must have self-mastery in order to be free and rational; is the Mafia therefore legitimate?
RAWLS; There must be a publicly recognised universal and fair distribution of justice in a well-ordered, liberal society; does the Sicilian state achieve this?
The thought of HOBBES and ROUSSEAU regarding the definitions of ‘authority’ and ‘political legitimacy’ will be used as framework to the discussion.

Historical interpretations and genealogies; including Pantaleone’s The Mafia and Politics , Dickie’s Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia , and Duggan’s Fascism and the Mafia . Coppola’s The Godfather films were used for inspiration.

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Mental Illness as a Social Construct

Key Concepts
Stigma of mental illness in society – The effects this has on the modern day sufferers & the effect of the overall illness within society itself.
Mental Illness as a social construct – How it is seen to be created by social influences and what this means for the illness.
Public Conceptions of Mental Illness from historical and modern media influences.
Is there even such a thing as mental illness?
What is an illness of the mind?

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

A Critique of the “Cult” of Willpower and Positive Thinking

Have the terms willpower and positive thinking become arbitrary labels which are used to explain success, failure or motivation when no other logical explanation presents itself?

Is Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace testament to this?

What do we mean when we describe acts of bravery, like those of soldiers at the Battle of the Somme, as extreme measures of willpower?

Smile or Die: has the self-help culture of the late 20th and early 21st century developed an attitude that positive thinking can overcome any problem, whether it be loosing weight, finding love, or beating cancer?

What light does Friedrich Nietzsche’s “will to power” shed on contemporary ideas of motivation and success?

Is humanity a struggle for dominance where the strongest willed individuals exploit the weak and the foreign through appropriation, injury, and overpowering?

If “life simply is the will to power” do we actually have any way of controlling, training or improving our will?

Does the answer to this question explain whether willpower and positive thinking have become arbitrary terms which have no tangible or practical meaning?

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

The Hegemony of the Housed. A Foucauldian Reading of Homelessness in Modern Britain

Foucault’s focus on discourse notes language as establishing structures within society that exercise power.

Power/Knowledge reinforces social control and normalization of people – including the exclusion of those outside desired social norms – these are constructs of language and culture

Post-structuralist ideas reminiscent of the panopticon of Jeremy Bentham – in which all people/employees are observed at all times by those in control. This leads to the hegemony of the normalized people (in this context – the housed)