2017 Abstracts Stage 2

The Status Quo Problem: the issues with status quo bias and how to solve them

The Status Quo Problem: the issues with status quo bias and how to solve them

What is the status quo problem?
We have a status quo bias which inhibits beneficial social progress whilst undermining valid status quo values, due to its invalid nature as a justification. The problem is further complicated by the fact that the bias can, at times, serve a rational purpose as a heuristic method to ensure risk aversion and the preservation of existing things of value.

Evidence of Status Quo Bias
We can see a range of evidence which demonstrates the existence of status quo bias. In the project we discuss experiments which establish this, but as a succinct example one only needs to look at Coca Cola, which changed its recipe in 1985 based upon the new recipe performing better in blind tests, only to face a severe public backlash.

Rationality of Status Quo Bias
The fact that the bias can, at times, have a rational purpose only complicates, rather than solves, the issue. In the project we use Hobbesian logic to support the importance of risk aversion, as well as the work of Jacob M. Nebel who provides a conservative defence of status quo bias on the basis of protecting existing things of value.

The Dangers of Status Quo Bias
This bias prevents us from changing our values and policies based upon what is most beneficial or most right. We can see this when faced with our lack of response to Peter Singer’s ethical argument in “Famine, Affluence and Morality”. By relying upon a bias to uphold a system of values, one can also eventually undermine this system leading to a counter status quo bias which can be equally damaging.

Solution to the Status Quo Problem
The project proposes a combination of Bostrom and Ord’s Reversal Test and a revised application of John Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance as a means by which to identify and eliminate a status quo bias, and to provide a new heuristic method to assist decision making.

2017 Abstracts Stage 2

Can one be a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Object/Territory: How should we understand the concept of ‘psychopathy’ in relation to political theory and how we should we ought to treat other individuals?

Sources: Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Sigmund Freud and Georg Hegel provide powerful theories that can be applied to the idea of psychopathic individuals.

Project outline: The distinction of ‘criminal psychopath’ and ‘white-collar psychopath’ is crucial for my investigation because the contrast between the two opens up a kaleidoscope of questions about psychopathy. The violent explicit nature of criminal psychopaths and the charming and charismatic character of white-collar psychopaths highlight the disparity of individuals that can be considered psychopaths. Hobbes’ egotistical humanity and Smith’s doctrine of altruism provide interesting material to apply to the elusive behaviour of psychopaths.

2017 Abstracts Stage 2

Toxic Masculinity In Young Males: A Possible Explanation Through Hobbes and Lacan?

This project is centered around the idea of toxic masculinity, and attempting to understand the prevalence of it in young males with reference to the philosophical and psychoanalytical ideas of Hobbes and Lacan.

-Toxic masculinity is the exhibition of certain antisocial behavioural tendencies predominantly performed by young males, including, homophobia, misogyny and violent physical or verbal behavior to one another. This behavior is rampant throughout society, with the behaviour of young males being especially indicative of this toxic way of acting. Lad culture has become simply sexism with and alibi. To show the existence of toxic masculinity within young males I researched different journal and website articles detailing examples, as well as conducting an interview with a female Newcstle university student. I will also be looking through the primary texts and identifying at what points their ideas contribute to the discussion. These texts are Hobbes Leviathan and Lacan’s Ecrits.

2017 Abstracts Stage 2

Fight the Power: An Interrogation of Sovereign Authority

The objective of this project is to investigate the validity of the Grand Jury process in the United States of America, which selects a group of citizens at random to become involved in legal proceedings and make judgements if the suspected criminal should go to court.

The discussion therefore investigates whether it can be justified to give power to individuals in society or if power should remain with the government, or sovereign authority.

The philosophers studied in the process of the dissertation are Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben.

2017 Abstracts Stage 2

No-Platforming and UK Campus Censorship: The Liberal Dream. Progression or Regression?

Project Aims:

My project tends towards an understanding of No-Platforming and UK campus censorship (the object of investigation) within the context of Liberalism. In attempting to explain this relatively recent, and so-called Liberal, political phenomenon, I explore the way in which contemporary Liberalism functions as a political modality; and weather in fact it can be seen as Liberal at all. I Align the Liberal dream, as conceived, to Thomas Hobbes’ explication of a polity predicated on negative liberty (a term popularised by Isiah Berlin, and very much applicable to Hobbes). Hobbes’ thought serves as yardstick by which to measure the hermeneutic development of Liberalism. Leviathan is a primary text I refer to throughout the project. Berlin’s Two Conceptions of Liberty is also a primary source of information; providing the framework by which the debate between Classic Liberalism and Contemporary Liberalism takes shape. Classical Liberalism is affiliated with Hobbes’ emphasis on freedom from interference, and thus, in Berlin’s terms; negative Liberty. The question surrounding contemporary Liberalism, as symptomatized by No-Platforming and UK campus censorship, is whether it is a negative libertarian ideology or weather it has regressed into a political system that makes freedom possible only within the restrictions of prevailing beliefs, even if those beliefs, somewhat confusingly, concern freedom of oppressed groups. If the latter, contemporary Liberalism bears resemblance to pre-Liberal political ideologies with positive liberty at their core; and has thus regressed.

2017 Abstracts Stage 2

The Shift Of Equality and Power for Men and Women, within the United Kingdom overtime.

The difference in equality and power between men and women.

Early 20th century to modern day.

Thomas Hobbes- Leviathan
Jeremy Bentham- Utilitarianism
Simone de Beauvoir – The Second Sex

The object of this project is to produce an accurate analysis and an understanding of the shift of equality and power for men and women in the UK, showing how the status of a woman and a man has changed overtime from the early 1900s to modern day. It will focus on Thomas Hobbes’ theory on power being the deepest drive, thus this will explore why men are deemed to have the most power in society. Jeremey Bentham’s theory on Utilitarianism gives the statement ‘The greatest good of the greatest number’ therefore this will focus on those who are in the majority do actions that are in their favour. Also a look at Simone De Beauvoir’s analysis on the ‘Second Sex’ will suggest how civilisation has constructed the woman. Consequently this project will offer possible reasons as to why the status between men and women have been so different overtime.

2016 Abstracts Stage 2

Philosophical implications behind concussion in American Football

Philosophers used
Kant – Will use Kant’s philosophy to explain why the behaviour of the National Football League (NFL) was immoral
Hobbes – Will examine the actions of the NFL in relation to Hobbes’ view on Power
Adorno – Will use Adorno’s philosophy to analyse the role of mass culture in the concussion scandal
Territory – The National Football leagues denial of the dangers of concussion, and their attempts to cover up the work of Dr Omalu – The danger that this put all American Footballers in – The Lawsuit the NFL faced because of their mishandling of the situation

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

Can American Foreign Policy Between 1945 and 1989 Be Explained? Understanding the Role of Philosophy in International Relations Theory

This paper locates the origins of international relations theory in the philosophical tradition.

By exploring these foundations I develop a complex understanding of the content, qualities and development of IR theory.

This enquiry is designed in order to demonstrate the following claim: that in order for philosophy to remain a valuable discipline it must adapt.

Over the course of the paper a number of thinkers are referenced: Hobbes, Kant and Hume are primary focuses.

2012 Abstracts Stage 2

“I Predict a Riot”. What Was the Mentality of Those Behind the Summer Riots and Were Their Actions Legitimate or Simply Acts of Hooliganism?

In August 2011, England experienced its ‘most serious bout of civil unrest in a generation’, for most the riots were a clear indication of the deepening problem of broken Britain. The majority of people could not understand and were left deeply bewildered at the shocking behaviour exhibited and total disregard shown for the law, 59% were unemployed and 50% were under 18.

– In this project one of my fundamental aims is to assess whether the motives behind the riots were legitimate or as David Cameron described acts of ‘mindless criminality’ 
– Did the participants wish to change the political system? Were they just fed up of being ignored? Or did people just follow the masses and joined in because everybody else was like a ‘domino effect’ 
– I will also research the validity of rioting itself and distinguish between violent and non-violent protest and research whether non-violent protest can significantly change a system or is just witnessed and ignored.

Thomas Hobbes- Concentrates on the individual’s pleasure. However emphasised the importance of a state, as there would be anarchy without one.

John Stuart Mill- Uses Utilitarianism as a foundation (pleasing the majority) Also focused on the individual, pleasure alone motivates us

Thomas Aquinas- Just War theory ‘last resort’, has to be appropriate motives

Emile Durkheim- Sociologist witnessed social disunity. Offered theory of Social Integration.

2010 Abstracts Stage 2

Free Will in Relation to Advertising in the Modern Society.

In my project I hope to achieve an understanding of the free will problem and through this explore how various elements of society may subconsciously coerce us into action that we do not want to take.

I will look into elements of;
• Causal determinism
• Libertarianism
• Compatibilism
• Self determination
• Coercion
• Desires

I will also be looking at Hobbes and Kant to compare and contrast their views on freedom and then look at the modern society and explore how the concept of freedom can change and also how it is relative to the self. I will then look at political coercion and various forms of advertising to show how we can be controlled and our freedom can be easily threatened, I will then ask if we even truly have freedom for it to be threatened or is this coercion essential to society and is it even important that we have a totally free will.

2009 Abstracts Stage 2

Can the Practical Application of Reason Generate a Utopia?

Inspired by the 1980’s setting of Alan Moore’s epic superhero tale, Watchmen, we consider reason and its practical application for the purposes of generating an ideal society. How ideal do we find such a setting? Has utopia been achieved? And if not, what hinders such progress? We centre on Kant’s philosophy which considers the realisation of Utopic conditions via applied rational thought, contrasted to Hobbes who considers the nature of man before rational application. Furthermore, if utopia is desirable, what would be the means to achieve such? To consider such we turn to the Utilitarian actions of Ozymandias!

2008 Abstracts Stage 2

Cultural Segregation within Contemporary Cities: a look at Ghettoisation

The title of my project came from watching the film ‘The Pianist’ which graphically depicts the ghettoisation of Warsaw between 1939 and 1942. The film highlighted the complex issues that cultural segregation presents to society and it soon became apparent that the subject held enough significance to use it as a base for my stage two project. I began my investigation of cultural segregation with a look at the history of the ghetto paying particular attention to three examples; firstly I looked at the Warsaw ghetto and segregation of the Jewish population of the city in the Second World War. Secondly I examined the development of the projects of Chicago and their gradual decline. Finally I looked at the Muslim population of cities within the UK and the problems that have arisen from large scale immigration. Within my territory of ghettoisation I identified three main philosophical concepts; 1. Racial Discrimination 2. The Struggle for Identity 3. Strength in Numbers. By studying the theories of Hobbes and Hegel I managed to apply philosophical thought to my concepts. Paying particular attention to Hobbes theory of ‘The State of Nature’ and Hegel’s argument for social unity, succeeded in finding significant arguments within the theorists’ work which applied to the issues raised by the cultural segregation. In conclusion I make a brief summary of what I have managed to achieve during my investigation and offer a personal perspective on the overall reality of ghettoisation and what it suggests about human nature.

2008 Abstracts Stage 2

An Essay Concerning the Two Possible Outcomes for Society

My territory for my project is society itself and I have been looking at two possible scenarios that could happen. The first scenario which I call the left wing scenario is where society could go down the road to anarchy because of course of the youth going out of control and the striping away the powers of the parents and teachers of punishing the youth for doing wrong. To argue my case for this scenario I shall be primarily using Thomas Hobbes and his book Leviathan. I shall also be using the novel Battle Royale by Koushun Takami as a comparison to this scenario. The second scenario is what I call the right wing scenario this is where the government tries to counter the trend of declining into anarchy by putting in place legislation to the places they see as the causes of the problems. The problem is if they continue to increase the laws it could unintentionally end up a repressive state obsessed with keeping order. To back up my argument on this point I shall use both Hobbes and Niccollò Machiavelli’s book The Prince. And use the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell to use as a comparison to this scenario. I will then conclude with my thoughts on the matter. And start an introduction to the solution to the problems posed by the two scenarios to try and prevent them from happening.

2008 Abstracts Stage 2

The Role of the Government in Modern Britain: do Recent Health Policies Reflect Welcome Guidance or Unwarranted Interference?

Territory: I chose to look at the Government’s recent health policies particularly the July 2007 Smoking ban in public places. This has led me to consider the term “Nanny State” commonly associated with the government today and conceptions of the role of government in general. Concepts: The concepts chose to look at are the role of both the government and individual in a society and fundamentally the concept of liberty in the context of society. Aims: My objective was to evaluate how the role of the government has changed, culminating in recent government plans to introduce a contractual scheme regulating access to the National Health Service. By considering the views of groups such as “Forest” and individuals fighting for the liberties which are seemingly under threat, I was able to evaluate whether the government is justified in its action or whether it is indeed encroaching upon our individual liberties. This led me to look at the contrasting political views of Hobbes and Mill, thereby evaluating different conceptions of the government and its relationship with the individual. With Hobbes I considered his presentation of the social contract and the issues of freedom that ensue with such a strict, systematic view of human nature, such as the risk of totalitarian government and the repression of human rights. To contrast this view, I contemplated Mill’s more liberal attitude to the role of government, which favours individual responsibility, whilst not forgetting the societal problems associated with laissez-faire governments. To conclude I evaluated the role of an ideal government and the effect this has on our perception of our own government, leading me to argue that the government is ultimately a manifestation of the actions of the individual.

2008 Abstracts Stage 2

Autism and Ethical Theory: if we are unaware that what we are doing is wrong, can we be held responsible for our actions?

Territory • Autism and Asperger Syndrome • Personal Interest in Autism – work at charity for autistic children • Interested to look at specific traits of autism, and link it to philosophical ethical theory • Autism as a social disorder and developmental disability, and a lifelong, cross cultural disability • Difficulty relating to people and thus a difficulty with empathy – impaired theory of mind • Triad of impairments – difficulty with social imagination, interaction and communication • Routines and special interests • Theory of Mind – ability to think that other people have different thoughts/feelings to you – can imagine how people feel in particular situation. E.g. If someone’s mother has died, though you may not be sad yourself, can understand how they will be feeling • ASD = impaired theory of mind – not instinct to think/act in a particular way • So, if we cannot put ourselves in someone else’s position, can we be held responsible for acting “badly”? • People with ASD often have other accompanying disorders, e.g. Attention deficit disorder and depression • Impaired theory of mind means people with ASD will have a lack of awareness for the outcome of an action. Philosophical Concepts • Hobbes – ideas of self, preservation, and that one is free to do something if we can do it if we so will. Idea of pleasure as the only good, and so the only thing that people do for its own sake – We always act on our strongest desire for self-preservation – we act in the right for ourselves – more lenient of autistic behaviours? • Mill – Consequentialist tradition that an action is right or wrong depending on consequences – An action is good if it benefits the most people possible – acting in an apparently socially unacceptable way is not excusable as it will cause more harm to people than good • Kant – We should do the right thing for the right reasons – idea of duty – looks at INTUITIONISM and a voice of conscience • Hegel’s Theory of action – Similar to Kant – sees morality to be autonomous as to be moral is to deny a law which applies equally to everyone rather than just to oneself • Foucault – Look at in terms of a change throughout history – Very specific that ASD is NOT a mental disorder, but a developmental disability • In the past people who acted in such a way would not have been understood in the same way that they are now, and so could have been excluded from society/treated badly – E.g. hospital General in Paris • Rise in scientific knowledge (Kant), people now understand more and so people are hopefully less likely to be excluded for being “different”. Aims and Objectives • I have a great personal interest in autism and have worked with autistic children for the last four years • People with autism are often misunderstood, and so I think it is important for awareness of the disorder to be raised and that is the aim of this project, as well as looking at whether or not people who are unaware that what they are doing is wrong, can be held responsible for their actions.

2007 Abstracts Stage 2

Why do many people risk their lives for the thrill of surfing?

Territory: This project will focus on the development of surfing from its roots in Hawaiian culture to the position we find it in today. The key points in this progression will provide indications of the motivating factors behind the world’s top surfers. Object: • Kelly Slater – 8 Time world champion and arguably the greatest competitive surfer of all time • Laird Hamilton – Big wave pioneer who helped develop tow-in surfing Philosophy: The work of Hobbes and Hegel will form the foundation of the philosophical content. Hobbes’ social theory will help to place surfing in context with the ever changing situations that are a result of the cultures we experience. However, his concept of the state of nature in which we find humans stripped down to their most primitive form provides a strong argument to suggest extreme sports such as surfing are irrational and unnecessarily dangerous. The analysis of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit will provide an alternative approach to nature of risk taking.

2006 Abstracts Stage 2

The Advancement of Genetic Therapy and the Philosophical Implications

Title: The advancement of genetic therapy and the philosophical implications Aims: The main aim of this project is to look at gene therapy and the advancements it has made over the last 20 years, since the discovery of DNA. I will consider the ethical implications which may occur should genetic therapy become legal. Also, I will consider how changing ones DNA structure to overcome disease may conflict with the views of predetermination. Concepts: Primarily I will look at the concept of gene therapy. The use of gene therapy has huge philosophical implications. I will use the philosophical concepts of ‘fate’ and ‘free-will’ looking particularly at early Christian philosophy including St. Augustine and Calvin. Also I will look at ethics, including ‘Utilitarianism’ along with looking in particular at the philosophies of Kant, Mill and Hobbes. Sources: For this project I will use a wide variety of sources, within a number of different areas. Some of the main sources which I will use include Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, St.Augustine’s The City of God, and Gordon Graham’s Genes: A philosophical inquiry. I will also look at the works of Kant, Mill, Hobbes, Calvin and I will also use a number of scientific journals.

2005 Abstracts Stage 3


Fear has always been with us. Fear has always been used in politics, as a means to control, both for the good and for the bad. Hobbes: The fear of the state of nature, led the people to accept a sovereign. Montesquieu: The fear of the tyrannical despot means people are bound to democracy. Tocqueville: Fears of the consequences of being ostracised by society mean people have conformed to the tyrannical majority. 9/11 has brought about a new kind of fear in the people of the U.S.A. It caused paranoia about a devastating attack from an anonymous face to spread through society. The people in their abject fear have turned to the government to protect them. The style of government they have chosen that they feel will protect them best is a new brand of conservatism, one that is even further right on the political spectrum; this government is Neoconservatism. What of this regime that is here to save us? It again marks a change in society. For centuries in western societies we have moved towards progressively freer societies. The implementation of a Neoconservative government, has changed this, we are seeing the abolition of civil liberties, no trial by jury, the detainees of suspects in prison for years without charge. This is not peculiar to the U.S buts its influence as the one true super power is immense, and it has sparked similar policy changes elsewhere. The political thinker Leo Strauss has heavily influenced neoconservatives. In particular his doctrine on natural right. We must try and understand the work of Leo Strauss, if we are to understand what the people find so attractive about this style of government. The Neoconservatives are particularly influential in the areas of defence and foreign policy, the two key areas for the protection of the U.S.A from the “axis of evil”. Again we must turn to Strauss to understand how his philosophy has influenced the policies that affect us all today.