2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Singularity, Freedom & Chaos: Sartre’s Philosophy in a Backwards Universe

The object of my project is the premise behind Machine of Death, an anthology of stories about a world where people can know in advance how they will die.

The aim of my project is to establish the nature of existence as singular, through an examination of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ontological work Being and Nothingness in tandem with the collection of stories presented in Machine of Death. The question is: what is ‘singular’ existence in Sartre’s philosophy? What does it entail? And what are its implications for human existence, freedom and responsibility?

The thesis behind this endeavour is that, by examining the ontological status of the world found in Machine of Death in light of Sartre’s philosophy, we can both establish answers to these questions and open up for ourselves a new possibility; the possibility of conceiving of an existence whose fundamental state is not a stable mode of Being, but patterns of organisation in a sea of fundamental differentiation and chaos. In so doing, we point ourselves towards a new ontology: the ontology of Deleuze in Difference and Repetition.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Can Right Abuses be Justified in Guantanemo Bay?

• A study of how the unconvicted detainees are subject to torture through ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ in Guantanamo Bay.

• I will relate this to Mill’s Utilitarianism, in particular to the Harm Principle: people are free until they harm others.

•I will reconcile this with Mill’s On Liberty which expresses that we should maximize happiness and in the absence of harm, never restrict one’s liberty.

Discussion: Mills states that it is only in cases of self-defence or direct harm on society, in which we can intervene with restrictions. It is true that we have to safe guard the security and autonomy of everyone. Although, when human rights are violated, it is often the case the violator will perceive their action to be in the best interests of society. (Guards/workers at Guantanamo bay) This is the short fall of Guantanamo Bay, rights should not be violated but should be best calculated to promote the good.

I will explore:
1. The life of the Binyam Mohamed, held at Guantanamo Bay for five years but released without conviction.

2. What would be Mill’s response to Guantanamo Bay closing?

3. Does this pose a threat to society?

4. Are they too dangerous to set free?

5. Do we have a right to control where they are placed, inside our borders or back to their homelands?

6. If they are not convicted, is it right that we can impinge on their liberty? Surely they are FREE.

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Identity on a Razor’s Edge: the Dialectic of Self-Hood in “Blade Runner”

A study in the dialectic existing between the master and the slave within the post-modern situation of Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie ‘Blade Runner’, in discussing the theories found within Hegel and Nietzsche.

In the fictional early 21st Century, mankind has developed technology to such an extent that artificial beings, replicants can now be produced; these are not to be employed for the emancipation and enlightenment of man, but as slaves. They are granted no freedom and are subject to death at the end of their service or upon their return to the birth place. They are the ultimate slave, and mankind has become the ultimate master.

Their very servitude grants these replicants an identity, which forms an aspect to the dialectic which constitutes mankind’s self-hood. Hegel informs us of the need for recognition in the formation of self-hood; the master requires the slave in order to be recognised as an individual, but relationship is unequal. The slave has a greater access to the needs to man and as a result grows in humaneness leading to the eventual overthrowing of the master. This process culminates in a replicant saving the life of the police ‘Blade Runner’ who has slaughtered his friends; the civilised slave has overcome the barbaric master.

The replicants and their motivation to overthrow the shackles of their servitude and forced deaths, act as an example of Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’, by which an individual affirms their existence by overcoming the obstacles which stand between him and autonomy. This occurs as throughout the movie, the replicants, the artificial human beings, show a greater degree of humaneness than the human masters.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Anarchism: the Path to Freedom

Aims: 
To highlight the impotence, invalidity and ineffectiveness of our current economic and political systems. Whilst illustrating the detriment this causes to our social and personal lives.
To promote Anarchism as a means to securing greater freedom and liberty whilst overcoming the problems of our current system.

Kropotkin – A collection of Revolutionary writings.  
Nietzsche – Thus spoke Zarathustra  
Chomsky – On Anarchism

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

The Means-End Mindset of Modernity and Beyond: How Capitalism is devaluing the Education System

This project serves to assess the contemporary situation that education finds itself in within our Western Capitalistic society, before analysing the makeup of Capitalism itself. This will provide the platform for an attack on the system, where arguments will made critiquing Capitalism’s inherent characteristics; the characteristics that quash out independent thought, rational judgement and wisdom in favour of ticking boxes and tangible exam results. Education’s value as a nurturer has been lost: it has morphed into a tool for gain rather than an intrinsic virtue that has value in and of itself. The subtle and deep-rooted power systems that Capitalism makes inevitable are the cause of this.

‘Browne Report’ Lord Browne’s report on Higher Education will provide the context for this project. The report is indicative of attitudes towards education as a means, rather than an end in itself.

Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’ The father of communism will be used to outline the inherent flaws of Capitalism in terms of private property and the free market and how these affect education.

Gadamer’s ‘Treatment and Dialogue’ This hermeneutical thinker’s arguments regarding the nature of intelligence will be assessed and made relevant to the situation that education finds itself in today. Contemporarily, our education system marginalizes traditional concepts of wisdom so that independent thought becomes devalued.

Foucault’s ‘Discipline and Punish’ The climax of this critique will come with Foucault and his advocacy that, though less obvious, brutal and violent than the past, we are subject to deep-rooted power systems within the West that indirectly control our desires and actions. These affirmations will be used to highlight education’s impartiality – and the deeper consequences the way we are taught has on society as a whole.

Today, we are a docile nation with a docile mind-set. This needs to stop: education is the cause; education is the cure.

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

The Origin of Plagiarism (or Why Copying is Good)

In my project I intend to look at the historical genealogy of plagiarism and how it has come to be seen negatively in contemporary society. I will attempt at giving a counter argument to the negative nature of plagiarism.

In the first chapter I will begin by arguing that in pre-modern society copying and indeed imitation were promoted as being tools to preserve tradition, and as a way to intellectual enlightenment.

In the second chapter I will look at the way the invention of the printing press influenced society and made people more concerned with originality and plagiarism from perspectives of private property and authenticity.

In the third chapter I will argue that plagiarism as a concept has been invented and that everything anyone ever says or writes derives from something that has already occurred.

Some texts I have included in my work are: T.S.Eliot: The Sacred Wood, Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy, Sartre: Being and Nothingness, Kierkegaard: Repetition, Borges: Labyrinths, Aristotle: Poetics and Hegel: Elements of the philosophy of Right

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Nietzsche made me do it!!!!

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, a German philosopher, notorious for his blistering eruptions on Christianity, moral conventions and contemporary modern society. Estranged from the outside world and in deep mental breakdown, Nietzsche left the world with an astounding legacy that would carry on to question and criticize traditional customs and morality long after his death. Nietzsche writings would have ramifications for more than a hundred years for how certain psychopathic criminals would distinguish and rationalize their crimes, and attribute their atrocities to the influence Nietzsche’s writing would have on them. However in every writers fan base there may be a misguided group of readers, this does not make the writer responsible for the misinterpretation and even less guilty of the perpetrators crimes. Nietzsche seems more than most writers to come under a lot of criticism and suspicion, this is partly to do with the content of his writing but also he seems to be attacked from another more biased angle, these are the people who want the mud to stick because Nietzsche seems to be threatening their value or belief system. One such writer who seems determined to tarnish the philosophers name is Katherine Ramsland, Ph. D. Graduate of the private, exclusive, Catholic DeSales University, established by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who’s foundation for teaching are on the theology of the believed saint.

Ramslands writes an article which seems to be leaning in the direction of this bias view the title of her article was; “Existential Murder: The Nietzsche Syndrome” and within this article she claims that “Nietzsche inspired Hitler and other killers.” Within this project I will be investigating what Ramsland coined the “Nietzsche Syndrome” and looking at the killers which she suggests were influenced by Nietzsche’s philosophy. I hope to prove that not only is Nietzsche misunderstood in many of his concepts but that he can actually be looked at from a positive angle, I also hope to show how Nietzsche’s work has been used for good. In my research I have also noticed that Ramsland has handpicked the murderers she uses, but in no way compares them to killers who have not used Nietzsche as an inspiration, failing to draw any comparisons and pinning down any common traits held by killers seems as though she is trying to strengthen the blame on Nietzsche without any real investigation, I hope to provide these comparisons and links, and hopefully vindicate the work of Nietzsche.

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

True (?) Romance. How has the Ideal of Love Been Lost in Contemporary United Kingdom and What Are the Ramifications?

Current relationships are under strain due to the gap between fictional love (the ideal) and genuine love. Marriage and monogamy are the metanarrative structures and institutions of the ideal of love that are causing tension in love, requiring paramours to be more consistent than their identity allows for. As identity lacks an origin without the ideal, it becomes relative to the Other in a cyclical relationship that causes identity to be in constant flux. Without a stable base on which to love, the ideal can longer function.

Therefore if agents still want to love, then they must accept that each moment is unique and the only ground for love is the individual’s experience of the other in the Other. The essay is heavily influenced by the works of Jacques Derrida (Violence and Metaphysics), Jean-Paul Sartre (Being and Nothingness) and Emmanuel Levinas (Totality and Infinity).

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Is it Right for an Editor to Have so Much Influential Power?

In my project I aim to discuss whether or not individuals have too much power when it comes to the media and journalism. I will look particularly into the jobs of the editors and owners. I will do this by investigating several case studies including the 1992 general election that Murdoch believed was won due to The Sun’s Headline: “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights”

I will mainly be focusing on John Stuart Mill’s novel On Liberty. Mill focused on freedom of speech, believing that no matter what position or job you have in society you should always be allowed to have your own opinions. However, he also believes that individuals should not spread their opinion if it will be harmful to others. I will be looking into and analysing both of these claims.

I will also be studying Dale Jacquette’s novel Journalistic Ethics: Moral Responsibility in the Media, Heinz Steinert’s novel Culture Industry, and Political Freedom (Problems of Philosophy) by George G. Brenkert, along with many others. As well as Mill I will be critically analysing Debord’s work on the media and comparing it to other philosophers.
Overall I aim to come to a conclusion about whether or not the editors and owners of newspapers have the right to print fabricated stories, whether the facts are true or whether they are lies.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Journalism Ethics: Integrity in Reporting

• Key concept: the invasion of individual’s privacy in relation to public interest
• Do journalists always have the sole intention of providing us with the truth?
• Do they pursue the truth by the right means for the right reasons?

• Mill’s Harm Principle
• Pragmatism as a theory of truth
• Correspondence Theory of Truth
• Kant’s Moral Philosophy: Obligation

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Does Art Succeed where Language Fails? Art as the Vehicle for the Expression of Emotion

I aim to see why we as humans ever need to say such phrases and is it at this point that art comes to the fore.

I will use the following Philosophers:
Heidegger M. On the Way to Language. 1982. Harper Collins Basic Writings: Martin Heidegger. Ed. David Farrell Krell. 2010. Routledge.

Mugerauer R. Heidegger’s Language and Thinking. 1991. Humanities Press International.

Van der Heiden G-J. The Truth (and Untruth) of Language. 2010. Duquesne University Press.

Silverman D. and Torode B. The Material Word. 1980. Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Derrida J. Writing and Difference. 2010. Routledge.

Derrida J. Of Grammatology. 1997. John Hopkins University Press.

Basic Writings: Jean-Paul Sartre. Ed. Stephen Priest. 2006. Routledge.

A Nietzsche Reader. Ed. Hollingdale R.J. 1977. Penguin Classics.

Gadamer H-G. Truth and Method. 2006. Continuum

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

A Questionable Interpretation: a study into John Nash’s Game Theory, its reliance on a dubious interpretation of Adam Smith’s economic theory, and how it has been detrimental to competition in modern day economics

The aim, as such, of this writing is to examine the idea that there is a questionable interpretation underpinning modern economics and if it is attacked we are left with the notion that the economics we have is not the economics it should be. This is because the theory of capitalism that we have today is not exactly the one argued for, by its founder, Adam Smith. I also wish to show that we cannot go back to the more true form of capitalism however nor can we move to any other system because of the damage already done. This shall be hinted at by using some segments of Capital by Karl Marx.

The object which has driven me to examine such an idea that something has gone wrong in economics is the film A Beautiful Mind. I believe the portrayal of John Nash in this film is biased and unjustifiable as I believe his wrong interpretation of Smith may have led to an unending cycle of greed that will slowly pervert and consume any form of morality.

My territories of discussion are economics and the application of game theory and within this writing the concepts that I wish to discuss are: Nash equilibria, game theory and competition.

The thinkers and relevant sources that I shall use within this writing are:

Karl Marx – Capital
Adam Smith – Wealth of nations
John Nash – non-cooperative games and two person cooperative games (contained within issues of Econometrica, the economics journal)

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

It’s Better if You Don’t Own Land

Aim: to determine if humanity has a right to own land

When progress is interpreted in respect to potential living standards, it is undeniable that examples such as the developments made in medicine are evidence of humanity’s progress.

BUT: 10% of the world (0.88 billion) live on an income of under $1 a day
20 years leading up to 1997 child poverty doubled worldwide.
Mortality rates: North America (7) VS Africa (88).

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Genesis Vs The Big Bang Theory

‘Isn’t it enough to see that the garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?’ (Adams, 2009)

Object of study – Which creation story appears to be more valid in our society. I will compare Genesis and the Big Bang theory. I will critically analyse whether science assumes that Genesis is an explanatory theory, when perhaps it is not. It is very much a scientific discourse.

I plan to find that The Big Bang theory is a better explanation of creation in today’s society, and whether an atheist can explain creation.

Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion
Kant – The Critique of Pure Reason
David Hume – Meditations concerning natural religion
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Nagel – The View from Nowhere

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Is Reincarnation Real and Has Christianity Stopped us from Believing?

Territory: My aim is to look at modern day writers who focus their studies on the concept of past lives; mainly focusing on Dr Brian Weiss M. D., who claims to have aided over four thousand patients through their mental and physical pains through past life regression. I shall also be comparing the findings from Weiss’ work to beliefs which are rooted in Buddhism and trying to discover whether the work studied by Weiss allows people ‘a gateway to the spiritual peace’ which Buddhism claims we can develop through meditation. I have also looked at writers such as Shakti Gawain who describes the concept of ‘creative visualization’ to help me understand the power of positive thought and will.

Concepts: I shall focus on Nietzsche’s work in ‘The Antichrist,’ where Nietzsche’s negative attitude towards Christianity implies that the religion is stopping people from ‘truly living’ and where he argues that Christianity makes people ‘weak’ as we no longer are willed to do what is right but we merely obey forces with more power than ourselves.

Using Nietzsche and Weiss I shall compare Christianity and Buddhism and find the positives and negatives of each contrasting religion or belief.

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Social Luck versus Social Mobility. Is it OK to be Told the World isn’t Fair?

– Objective/Territory: The ‘American dream’: What is the ‘American dream’ and is it just a product or propaganda process of the capitalist society in which we live? 

– Sources: Karl Marx, Deleuze and Guattari, Charles Taylor and Adorno. 

– Project Outline: Leaving education and entering the ‘real world’ in a time where one’s ideals and ambitions are centred on seeking wealth; why is it that we think this way? I hold the belief that to succeed, it is about whom you know not necessarily what you know. So, I want to prove that wealth is down to social luck. My territory is society and culture and I am trying to show that our basic intuition (one gets what one deserves) is a herd mentality in order for a specific class to benefit. If we think everyone has what they deserve, then we don’t think that it could be redistributed.

Through a method of hermeneutics, I endeavour to seek why it is we think the way we do and why it is we desire wealth. E480

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Nature vs Nurture. Why do Serial Killers Kill?

Can a serial killer ever be moral or good? What leads someone to kill repeatedly? Is it a genetic fault or the result of a neglected childhood?

In this project I have chosen to explore the illustrious philosophical debate of Nature vs Nurture in the context of serial killers. I want to better understand how the mind of a killer works and come to a strong supposition of whether of not it is something that they innately possess within their minds, a ‘killing gene’ or whether their behaviour is a result of the evils of society and an unkempt upbringing. On a philosophical front I am going to explore Free will and Determinism, Hobbes and Mill’s Direct and Indirect Obligation and Kant’s Intuitionism and Moral Conscience.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Prison and Punishment in Scandinavia, UK and America: Kantian Retribution versus Utilitarianism

• Kant’s theory of punishment is based on desert and not about consequences. It insists on retribution. (Kant, Groundwork)
• Utilitarianism appeals to consequences, hence reparation programmes and deterrence. Yet if a severe crime creates greater consequences then it should be carried out regardless of desert. (Mill, Utilitarianism)

• America demonstrates a penal system of harsh retributive punishment and also harsh utilitarian forms of punishment. (Death penalty, 3 strikes)
• Scandinavia utilitarian in its aims of reparation and prevention
• UK show like America a combination yet is more focussed on probation programmes than America.

Project Aims 
– To outline the differences in penal systems in Scandinavia, UK and America 
– To demonstrate the effectiveness of various forms of punishment. 
– To demonstrate how these countries’ penal systems reflect Kantian retribution and utilitarianism 
– To critically compare these approaches

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

“Madness. Death. Passion. Perfection.” A Philosophical Commentary of Black Swan and The Red Shoes

Is madness a symptom of a quest for perfection, or is madness a social failure? Is it passion that kills us, or does death consume us once our passion is achieved? These are the territories I will explore in response to my concept of Black Swan and The Red Shoes.

Black Swan and The Red Shoes are cinematic experiences of the ballet world, and of a passion that leads to madness and death. One protagonist is trapped by a perfection that makes her envy her lucid alter ego, and the other protagonist is torn between the love of her work and the love of her life. Both are alike in a tragic finale of death. But it must be asked – was it the ballet that led to their downfall, or were they in themselves a destructive force?

Apollonian + Dionysian ≠ A Beautiful Soul

Nietzsche’s Apollonian and Dionysian from The Birth of Tragedy, proved that the ballerinas were tormented. The Apollonian was the “ethical deity” of the innocent white swan, and the “self knowledge” of outstanding ballet ability. The “chaotic” Dionysian was the seducing black swan, and despairing romance. In being torn between two passions, and two perfections, the ballerinas became mad.

Schiller’s notion of the “Beautiful Soul” reveals why. There must be inner harmony between the formal and sense drives in order to have a beautiful soul. In always allowing the Dionysian to devour the Apollonian, the ballerinas could never have harmony. Real perfection was in the culmination of both passions.

A Tragic Finale

Nietzsche enforced that “the continuing development of art is tied to the duality of the Apollonian and the Dionysian” , whilst Freud warned that satisfying dreams could hide “painful ideas”. The ballerinas could not equate their two passions, and so their art could not continue. Death became inevitable. Their aspirations were not pleasurable, they were painful.

Foucault’s Madness and Civilisation discusses madness a symbol of passion verses madness a social fault. It allows the conclusion that the ballerinas cause their own downfall. And death became a necessity. Madness and torment was seeping into their art. It was slowly destroying their inability. And so they had to die, because it was the only way to preserve the legacy of their passion.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

An Attempted Analysis of the Rationality of Ted Bundy

My Project is based upon the serial killer Ted Bundy who murdered and raped at least 30 women.

The initial preconception is that there is something ‘evil’ about Bundy.

My aim is to look beyond these initial preconceived ideas and understand the mind of Bundy by focusing on his rationality.

The philosophical concepts I will use include:

Freud’s notion of the unconscious: Investigating Bundy’s childhood in relation to the Oedipus complex. Looking at the Id, Ego, and Superego and the possible variations in neurosis and psychosis.

Kantian rationality: Transcendental rationality in the moral law vs. Instrumental rationality in the sensible world. The need for duty as opposed to inclinations. The Categorical Imperative vs. The Hypothetical Imperative and the notion of Radical Evil.

Durkheim’s social thesis: The need for serial killing in deviant behaviour. The Division of Labour on modern society. The impact of capitalism on the rise of serial killing and the concept of organic solidarity.

Each theory will give a different perspective determining to what extent Bundy is rational; the inference of this will be an evaluation of whether the initial preconceived ideas of Bundy being ‘evil’ is credible.