2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Is Man Beast? Does Instinct Exist in Human Beings? Are We as Different from Animals as We Have Been Led to Believe?

Human Nature vs. Animal Nature
Does Instinct exist in Human beings? Are we as different from animals as we have been led to believe?
“If man has no instincts, all comparison with animals must be irrelevant.” – Midgley

Does EVIL exist in nature? Are humans in denial about the fact that they may well be the most dangerous beasts of them all? We have much to learn from the animal kingdom… Is wickedness an unavoidable element of human nature?

Mary Midgley (1919-) Beast and Man
W.H. Thorpe (19021986) Animal Nature and Human Nature
Sigmund Freud (18561939) The Ego and The Id
John Locke (1632-1704) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

“The Moment You Are Old Enough to Take the Wheel, Responsibility Lies with You” – J.K. Rowling. Is This Always the Case?

This project sets out to examine the concept of responsibility with particular reference to the way in which certain individuals behave. It is perhaps a common assumption that we are all responsible for our own actions, however, this can be difficult to justify if an individual’s actions are out of character or unusual. Furthermore different situations may influence how we act and how we view our responsibility. Using pertinent case studies to provide examples, the intention is to analyse and synthesise factors that can be said to influence behaviour and impact on responsibility. Following on from this the philosophical thoughts of Kant, Foucault and Lyotard will be examined in an attempt to reach an understanding as to whether moral responsibility stems from what is within us or the environment in which we live.

Immanuel Kant –
1785 Grounding for the metaphysic of morals
1788 Critique of practical reason
1797 The metaphysics of morals

Michael Foucault –
1975 Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
1982 The Subject and Power
1954-1984 Power

Jean-Francis Lyotard –
1962 Dead Letter
1984 The Post-Modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge

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 3

Set Guitars to Kill: a Musical Examination of Post-Rock

The aim of my project was to examine Post-Rock music and to answer the question ‘is post-rock a philosophically sound musical genre?

To answer this question I looked at the Aesthetic Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer using his work The World as Will and Idea primarily. I applied his thought to the music by a number of the bands from the Genre such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, 65daysofstatic, Explosions in the Sky, And So I Watch You From Afar, Thee Silver Mt. Zion and Slint among others.

I also looked at the social and cultural philosophy of Theodor Adorno found in his works Dialectic of Enlightenment and The Culture Industry. I applied this philosophy to the general attitude of the genre, a genre that tends to be antilabel, anti- capitalist and anti-corporate. I used a number of interviews with bands and also with the founders of Record labels who sign a number of post-rock bands such as Constellation Records.

‘Cause this music can put a human being in a trance like state and deprive it for the sneaking feeling of existing. ‘Cause music is bigger than words and wider than pictures. If someone said that Mogwai are the stars I would not object. If the stars had a sound it would sound like this. – Mogwai – Yes I am a Long Way From Home (Opening Monologue)

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Wealth Distribution: the Problem of the World Economy

Currently, across the globe, wealth distribution is an enormous issue. 40% of the world’s total wealth belongs to just 1% of the population. In America, 73.1% of the nation’s wealth belongs to just 10% of the population.

In my essay I seek to explore the conditions of political economy that guided such inequality into reality. The theory of neoliberalism, to which Margaret Thatcher subscribed, preaches the right to private property as the fundamental human right. In maintaining such a right we can work towards creating equality by offering equal opportunities to everybody to make a financial success of ourselves. Obviously, however, the theory in practice does not yield such results, resulting in the restoration of class power and vast income and wealth gaps.

My aim is to offer a criticism of neoliberalism after examining the origins of capitalism, in Adam Smith; the opposing ideals of communism, in Marx; and the wealth of data that points to the flaws of our current economic system.

Ultimately, I hope to decide for myself what the best form of political economy is in terms of minimising inequality by reading Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism.

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 3

Existential Therapy: a Discussion of Heidegger’s Contribution to Psychoanalysis and the Relevance of his Ideas to Current Day Therapy

• Heidegger and a psychologist Medard Boss created a strand of psychoanalysis called Daseinsanalytic within ‘The Zollikon Seminars’
• Boss used Heidegger’s phenomenological method from ‘Being and Time’ to create a therapy based on the openness of Dasein to the world
• I will compare this therapy to modern-day Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
• CBT is the main therapy offered by the NHS
• Heidegger believes that technology removes our ability to understand Being
• It turns us into calculable resources
• I will discuss CBT as an obvious product to our current technological society

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

What Is the Working Relationship Between the Concept of Consent and the Mechanism of Democracy? A Case Study on the Legitimacy of the House of Lords

This project aims to explore the concept of consent and the mechanism of democracy. With such similar theoretical credentials, it is often assumed that their practical compatibility is a naturally harmonious one. However, the fact that both ideas cover similar territory means that a zero-sum relationship between the ideas obliges particular models of consent to correspond to particular versions of democracy. A case study on the House of Lords and plans to reform the second chamber provides interesting material for discussion. The discussion observes the House of Lords’ alternative claim to democratic credentials and how the basis for consent must adopt a hypothetical character in order to accommodate this changed relationship between the state and its citizenry.

The project includes:
•a preliminary outline of the heritage of the question; political legitimacy and political obligation
•a presentation of the evolution of consent
•a case study
the House of Lords profile
the problem
the House of Lords defence
•a discussion engaging the political philosophical concepts with the case study

Locke’s understanding of consent helps to provide a paradigmatic definition of consent from which to refer to as the concept changes dynamics under different modes of democracy.
Lord Grenfell engages with Fabienne Peter, author of Stanford Encyclopedia entry “Political Legitimacy” in his defence of the political legitimacy of the House of Lords. He lays claim to a hypothetical version of consent and a democratic character which is both procedural and concerned for outcomes.
Parkinson recognises deliberative democracy as a suitable account of the House of Lords’ efforts to maintain a rational and informed approach to decision making.

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 3

Knowledge is Power. How the desire for self-education among the pitmen of the North East evokes both Kantian autonomy and Marxist emancipation

This Project is an exploration of the philosophical, ethical, and political motives to be found in the desire for and execution of self-education among the pitmen of the Great Northern Coalfield, particularly in the twentieth century.

The two main philosophical strands used were Kant’s notion of autonomy in the context of the universal moral law, and Kant’s depiction and encouragement of human emancipation.

The case study chosen was the Ashington Group of pitmen and labourers who rose to fame with their art from the 1930s onwards, but chose not to leave their occupations for the art world.

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)

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

An Exploration into Freemasonry (as Considered in S. Knight’s The Brotherhood) and its Influence on Power Dynamics within Social and Political Philosophies

Stephen Knights’ ‘The Brotherhood” (1985) claims that Freemasonry exists throughout most power dynamic systems and structures we recognize in modern day Britain.

Through an exploration of these claims and an analysis of them it seeks to discover how they would fit through various social and political philosophies such as those of Habermas, Plato, Hobbes, Locke and Nietzsche

It will look at how the alleged power and influence of Freemasonry fits with:
• Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action.
• Plato’s Republic
• Hobbes’ Leviathan
• Locke’s Two Treatise of Government
• Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra

The Project looks at how Habermas’s theory of communicative action suggests that as their influence on society exists in their ability to control and coerce general population consensus. We must re-engage in a new civil autonomy so as to assert our own un-influenced general opinion. As such in a Democracy we may consider that in accordance with this, Freemasonry has no legitimacy in its power.

It then looked to Plato’s Republic, Hobbes’ Leviathan and Locke’s Two Treatise of Government to establish whether it could find a more accredited position outside democracy. However the secrecy and abstract assumptions regarding the movement brought about new issues with its validity.

Finally the project considered that, in light the lack of action taken against Freemasonry we could be led to assert a form of Existential angst present. If we are to consider that the movement finds no admissible or appropriate place in so many social and political philosophies then why does it still exist. The conclusion is the existential angst the majority face as proposed by Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. If Freemasonry is as influential as Knight’s ‘The Brotherhood’ suggests then maybe Freemasonry has infiltrated our social structures too far throughout the course of history and its control become too engrained in all we know for anything to be done about it. Or have we just no interest in what has become an old novelty tradition.

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

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

Cinema Violence. Quentin Tarantino in the World of Aesthetics and the Problem of Beauty in Evil

Territory: Cinema Violence

Object: Quentin Tarantino

Concepts: Audience emotion, aesthetic formalism, the problem of beauty in evil.

Philosophers: Noël Carroll, Mary Devereux, Joseph Kupfer, Quentin Tarantino

– To better understand the arguments put forward by Quentin Tarantino for his use of violence.
– To further explore these ideas in the context of philosophy of audience and aesthetics.

– How has violent cinema developed?
– What is Tarantino’s role in the history of cinema violence?
– What is Tarantino’s relationship with his audience?
– What is Tarantino’s aesthetic philosophy?
– Where does Tarantino fit in with the problem of finding beauty in evil?

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 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 2

Are We Naturally Egoistic or Altruistic?

THOMAS HOBBES – ‘Leviathan’

Man is selfish in the state of nature; we achieve peace through a sovereign which we obey for selfpreservation.

BERNARD MANDEVILLE – ‘The Fable of the Bees’

Altruistic behaviour is a myth and the motivation for everything we do is egoistic. Our ultimate goal is always to increase our own welfare and we help others only to the extent that helping them can benefit ourselves.

AYN RAND – ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’

Rand believes that since selfishness is serious, rational and concerned with one’s own wellbeing, then it is therefore a requirement to achieve ultimate moral value. Rand therefore states that this is the reason that selfishness is in fact a virtue.

DAVID HUME – ‘Treatise and second Enquiry’.

Hume puts forward that not only do we experience in ourselves a feeling for humanity but we also observe it in others. He argues that this sympathy and benevolence disproves the selfish hypothesis and is “contrary both to common feeling and to our most unprejudiced notions”.


The theory of utilitarianism somewhat contrasts with both egoism and altruism.


Rousseau argues that human nature on the whole is good. He argues that it is the influence of society that corrupts and changes the ‘natural man’ into an egoistic being.

Calculated altruism, underlying self-interest?
Doing good for the sake of reward?
Selfishness in disguise?
Survival of the fittest?

Natural interest in the good of others?
Doing good for the sake of good?
Developed and evolved throughout humanity?
Must we be taught altruism due to natural selfishness?

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

The Church of Scientology

One of the fastest growing new religious movements in history, The Church of Scientology claim they possess the ultimate answer to existence, inviting the individual to sign a billion year contract to aid L Ron Hubbard and his missionaries on the road to total freedom. Scientology is a highly controversial movement, labelled by many as a dangerous and abusive religious cult. What is it about Scientology that attracts the masses? Psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung posited a clinical viewpoint on religious belief and practice.

Philosophers in their own right, their psychological theories of religious belief can be applied to religious cults such as Scientology. Freud judged religious faith to be a neurotic need, with belief bringing some comfort to our search for a father figure. In contrast Jung posited religious belief has underlying therapeutic value, giving the agent a chance to achieve emotional closure and human ‘wholeness.’ Nietzsche and Dawkins argue such benefits come at the cost of delusion. Cults appear to bring contentment – at a cost.