2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Feminism: What Can We Learn from the Feminism of the Past about the Strategies and Values We Should Apply Today?

This project explores the three waves of feminism leading up to the present day.

It breaks the feminist debate into three sections; political, biological and social and explores each wave in this way.

Some of the thinkers I’ve used are;
Michel Foucault, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Mary Wollstonecraft.

What can we learn from the feminism of the past about what strategies and values we should apply today?

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

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Advertising. An Insight into the Contemporary Complexity of Advertising, Examining it from Both a Marxian and Psychoanalytic Framework

I will explore Marx’s views of capitalism as a base for my further examination into advertising. This will not be a predictable attack, but an outline of the social structures of the world in which we live. I will focus my examination of Marx’s concepts of; the free market, power and need, commodity and alienation. These concepts are central to a study of advertising.

Edward Bernays revolutionised the world of advertising through his marriage of psychoanalysis and advertising. Through his studies into the human psyche he showed how advertising acts as the invisible governor which controls the masses. I will explore the incompatibility of Bernays psychoanalysis of advertising and Marx’s views on capitalism.

I will explore the anti-advertising of cigarettes and the Anti-Advertising Agency, to examine how they use Bernays’ discoveries, yet achieve opposite results. I will further my investigation to distinguish whether anti-advertising coheres to Marxist thought, and in doing so I will show how these two forms of anti-advertising are in fact very different.

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

The Philosophy of Facebook and its Use of Advertising

THE TWO DIMENSIONAL SELF: The way in which people use Facebook as a ‘second life’ is compromising our attempt to discover an authentic self-understanding. Facebook provides us with a ‘flattened’, ‘two-dimensional’ identity, where our account could be seen as a ‘living advert’ in which we only promote the positive aspects of our life and hide away the bad. When we fill in forms at the Doctor’s, we do not claim that is our whole self. However, our attributes, basic details and interests wholly define our ‘Facebook Identity’. This leads us to the question, how are we able to act freely and reasonably whilst retaining this false reality?

HOW DOES FACEBOOK MAKE A PROFIT?: Facebook is a free service that is accessible to all Internet users. Therefore, in order to maintain this service and to create a successful business, Facebook provides us with advertisements. It tempts us with products we didn’t even know we wanted. Facebook uses targeted advertising through the knowledge of our personal details and interests.

TARGETED PHILOSOPHY AND KANT: With a consideration for Kant’s position, one could argue that presenting the subject with targeted advertisements is not immoral as we are able to judge and act upon what we encounter in life, freely and through reason. Through a consideration for Kant’s moral philosophy, I will aim to deduce the extent to which we are manipulated to buy products placed upon us in Facebook.

SPONSORED STORY AND KANT: If I choose to ‘like’ a brand’s page, then I can be used in a sponsored story on one of my friend’s pages. This is a service that one cannot opt out of and brings into question the idea that the user is fundamentally exploited as a ‘human advert’. Facebook argue that when I like something, I am associating myself with that specific brand or service. However, in my project, I will be arguing whether it is ethically right to use others as a means to making a greater profit for the company.

DEATH OF ADVERTISING? AND LEVINAS: Levinas states that most art is fundamentally materialistic in that matter overpowers form. Through a consideration for his philosophy, I will provide a critical evaluation of the artistic nature of this type of advertising. Also, I will discuss whether Facebook has resulted in the death of advertising or instead it is simply part of the natural evolution of the revolutionary marketing strategies of the 21st century.

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

A 21st Century Conception of the State

Just war criterion is often too strict and struggles to justify any war. World War II; arguably the most justified and necessary war in all of history would struggle to be justified using a modern doctrine of just war. In the 21st Century the most problematic requirement of a just war is that only a legitimate political authority can wage a war. My point is best illustrated by a comparison between the September 11th attacks in 2001 and the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941. I will discuss the attacks and demonstrate the problems that the distinction between the two highlights major flaws in the idea of legitimate political authority. I will then be able to discuss what can constitutes a legitimate political authority if a nation-state is no longer the reasonable definition. I will discuss Rawls’ political theory of an international overlapping consensus in his work The Law of Peoples allowing for a global conception of justice. My overall task is to define what should constitute a 21st Century legitimate political authority.

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 2

Where’s the Sense in Surgery? An investigation into the use of cosmetic surgery in relation to the Feminist thought of Simone de Beauvoir

The aim of my project is to examine how impossible standards of beauty are being promoted as the ideal within society.

As a result, thousands of women are resorting to the use of cosmetic surgery to try and emulate this ideal.

Women have been banished to the sphere of Otherness, destined to achieve nothing and receive only that which men have been willing to grant.

Simone de Beauvoir argues that women should be liberated from abstract, restrictive essences, like ‘femininity’, which continue to cement women in their subordinate place.

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 2

The Moral Status of Animals

‘Animals obviously cannot have a right of free speech or a right to vote because they lack the relevant capacities. But their right to life and to be free of exploitation is no less fundamental than the corresponding right of humans.’ – Julian H. Franklin

In this project I have looked back through the history of animal rights and the way in which the consideration for them is evidently growing. Will this care for the animals ever grow until their rights become equal to ours? Descartes believed that animals were merely muscular machines, unable to feel pain due to the fact that they were lacking in mind and soul. Bentham began the fight for animal rights in the 1800’s. Today, vivisection continues…

‘Speciesism’ – The argument for putting the rights of humans over those of animals – Peter Singer.

‘How we ought to treat animals depends first of all on the relationship we have with them… There is our relation with pets, who are promoted to honorary membership of the moral community. They are an exception, in a sense a perversion, and a temptation too. There is our relation with animals that we keep for our uses, where we have a clear duty of care but we are not trying to establish quasi-personal relations. Then finally there is our relation with animals in the wild. My argument is that we have duties to animals in all these three areas but they are of a different kind depending on the structure of the relationship.’- Roger Scruton

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

MI5: Applicability in a Democratic Society

My project is based on an examination into the role and appropriateness of MI5 in light of the perceived democratic value of an individual’s right to privacy, which MI5 necessarily violate for the sake of national security.

My question is whether MI5 is justified in its approach to violate an individual‘s right to privacy, thereby determining its applicability within a democratic society.

I intend to investigate this applicability with respect to the concepts of secrecy, security, and privacy rights. From this, I will establish the condition that we implicitly agree to neglect the transparency of MI5’s operation for the preservation of national security, that through accountability provided by the government will uphold one’s rights to privacy as far as possible. However, we can never guarantee that MI5 do not unlawfully violate one’s rights to privacy. Therefore, through a philosophical investigation of:

1) Kant’s public and private reason, universal principle of Right, external freedom, and the necessity of coercion from authority;
2) Hegel’s conception of the ethical life, citizens disposition to trust the state, freedom between the suffusion of the objective and subjective wills;
3) Marx’s ideological critique, commodification of intelligence, and questioning to what extent individual rights exist; I will deduce to what extent such a condition can be affirmed, thereby determining the applicability of MI5 within a democratic society.

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 Ethics of the Hero: Can Comic Books and Graphic Novels be Used for Moral Guidance?

My project was an examination of Comic Books and Graphic Novels and whether or not they can be used to give us Ethical and Moral Direction in our lives. I focused on the Comic Books Kick Ass by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. and also on V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. I looked at the Ethical Philosophy of John Stuart Mill, looking at his Utilitarian theory from his Book titled Utilitarianism, Immanuel Kant and his theory from Groundwork for the metaphysics of Morals and also Thomas Hobbes’s theory seen in the Leviathan. I also looked at the Aesthetic Theory of Arthur Schopenhauer. I applied the Philosophy to the actions portrayed in the comic books to see if there was any ethical guidance to be taken from the comic books. Also looking at the Comics as works of art to see if there is any element of Aesthetic pleasure to be gained from them.

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 2

Mummy’s little monster … Can a child be born evil, or are they only made so by adults?

My aim is to explore the question of whether a child can be born purely evil, or whether they can only be made so by adults. I first compared philosopher’s views on the concept of evil whilst also exploring the issue of the age of criminal responsibility in respect to ethics. My territory was the ethical debates behind the treatment of child offenders and debating whether the age of criminal responsibility is correct.

The object I used is the novel and 2011 film We need to talk about Kevin. It is a novel about the relationship between a successful business woman named Eva and her son Kevin, a 16 year old boy who kills seven fellow students at school. The novel tackles the issue of nature vs nurture, asking whether a child can be predisposed to being ‘evil’ and with the intent to kill, or whether a parent’s shortcomings can shape their child and potentially lead them to evil actions.

I looked at the idea of responsibility, both moral and legal, and whether the age of responsibility is ethically sound or not. The fact that the defence of infancy age differs widely from country to country, from as high as 18 in Columbia, to no defence of age at all in Saudi Arabia. suggests that the law is highly debatable.

I looked primarily at the ethics concepts of Kant and Hobbes, comparing Hobbesian ethics laid down in his Leviathan, and Kant’s deontological ethical views with the Groundwork of the metaphysic of morals. I chose to look at Kantian ethics because of his strong claim that one is only responsible for what is under one’s control. Additionally, Hobbes has strong ethical views on authority, which can be linked with the idea of a parental control and also with the age of legal responsibility. Hobbes and Kant both also hold strong different views on why we obey laws in the first place, along with views on freewill and determinism, which ties in with the nature vs. nurture debate.

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

Exploring the Influential Powers and Effects of Social Media

My project aims to demonstrate how manipulated we have become by social media. It questions, in what ways and how much does modern social media affect our lives? Is it a harmless distraction, or has it become too ingrained within our daily lives?

Social media is in my opinion, part of a popular culture that as modern individuals, we desperately want to fit in with. Social media is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. In my project I shall also explore the need we feel as modern individuals to be a part of mass culture and to avoid alienation. Consequently, I shall argue, social media holds a great influence over even the smallest parts of our daily lives. The things we observe and gain from social media in all its forms affect and influence us in a number of ways, occasionally positively but also negatively. Its influence promotes a certain way of life, a life by which we are largely consumed and engulfed by the internet. I shall use Adorno’s concept of mass culture to support my investigation into social media as deception, along with Deleuze’s view on new technology. To conclude I shall use Van Dijk’s view that social and media networks are indeed shaping the prime mode of organisation and stand as the most important structures of modern society, adding to this that we have become almost too dependent on social media, and that we must be aware of the dangers of social media as a whole.

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.