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

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

The Seven Sins: Deadly or Necessary? Are We Born Mad or Are We Damaged Goods?

DAMAGED GOODS. A Journey Through Hell makes for a Moral Sinner.

“The misguided acts of my past have brought me here to the virtues of my present and will hopefully lead me to the grace of my future.

Sin is mistakes in the face of youthful abandon. I found my moral limit because I crossed my own line and did not feel good about it.” Corey Taylor, Seven Deadly Sins.

Sin isn’t a transgression but a natural human characteristic that allows for moral development.

BORN BAD. The Apple doesn’t fall far from the Tree.

“That repulsive spectacle of fraud…his face was the face of any honest man, it shone with such a look of benediction; and all the rest of him was serpentine.” Dante, Inferno.
The idea of Original Sin, with Eve and the snake.

Evil exists because we have free will. How can we avoid it? “Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” Augustine, Confessions.

“Sin is a matter of opinion, and in my opinion sins are only sins if you are hurting other people. So if you’re not hurting anyone else, where’s the damn sin?” Corey Taylor, Seven Deadly Sins.

“The only absolute either/or there is, is the choice between good and evil.” Kierkegaard, Either/Or.

We must moderate sin, so that we do not live in a life of repression or chaos.
We must make the sins relevant to modernity, to find the right balance between what really is deadly, and what is just a natural part of life.

2012 Abstracts Stage 2

Capital Punishment: Killing, Doing Right, Feeling Guilty, Taking Responsibility ….. The Philosophical psychology of the Executioner

Objective/Territory – In relation to the experience on an executioner, I wish to map our conventional views of human responsibility and the sanctity of life, and question whether they can exist rationally in our contemporary world. From this, I shall be assessing the role of an executioner and exploring the state of mind required to perform such a difficult and controversial job. In doing so, I shall be questioning how anyone, even in 21st century society, can so willingly take the life of another human being. What are the consequences of such a job?

Sources – To achieve this, I shall be looking at Kant’s Moral Theory, and looking at the concepts of duty and universalisation and asking whether they can be achieved through the experience of an executioner. Moreover, I shall be using Hegel’s philosophy, particularly to his concern with human intention and responsibility and questioning whether an executioner should be solely responsible for the killing of life. Additionally, I shall be exploring the Utilitarian position, which Mill shall be representing, to consider if welfare is achieved in society through the performance of an executioner.

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 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 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 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 2

Is it Edifying to Reject the Moral Boundaries Implicit in Everyday Life in Order to Place Oneself in an Environment where Excess, Ecstasy and Self-Expression are Accessible?


Notion of festival: general and restricted economy, non-productive expenditure, taboo and transgression, sacrifice, the sacred and profane, and joy before death…

The Burning Man…

Smith and Kelley’s artistic interpretation of carnivalism…

Apollonian and Dionysian: Greek Attic tragedy and Wagner…

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

The Dual Nature of the Artist as Genius & Madman and its Repercussions for the Theory that Art is a Source of Moral Enrichment

The aim of my project is to explore the potential repercussions of the non-dichotomous relationship between the genius, the madman, their works of art and the concept that said works of art may be used for the purposes of moral edification.

The western tradition of linking art with morality began with Plato and Aristotle, who each viewed the potential of art in a different way; Plato believed art was dangerous and should be censored, whilst Aristotle believed that art could get people to emotionally engage with traumatic events that they had not yet experienced.

However, the turning point for art originated in the 18th century with the work of Kant, who cemented the relationship between art and morality by concluding that judgements concerning beautiful things were of the same nature as judgements concerning the ethical and the good.

From Kant’s work, the concept arrived in the philosophies of Schiller and Schopenhauer. Schiller believed that art was necessary in order to heal that which he saw as the fractured human spirit; beautiful art would improve the soul and return it to its proper moral course. For Schopenhauer, the beautiful was a part of the realm of Ideas, a, concept for which Schopenhauer is indebted to Plato. In turning our intellect towards the study of the beautiful, in whose realm resides also the moral, we can cancel out the influence of the will on our lives, the will which is the source of all human suffering.

These ideas form the philosophical basis of my project, in which the next step would be to apply the concepts of Schiller and Schopenhauer’s philosophy to the work of an accepted genius/madman.

For this part of the project I chose the work of Sylvia Plath, as I think she fulfils the criteria for both the genius and the madman. After her suicide, Plath left behind a rich body of poetic works, the themes of which correlate nicely with the work of Schiller and Schopenhauer. As such, I was able to examine her poetry using their philosophy and conclude that there are undeniable repercussions associated with the study of the artwork of a mad genius.

At the end of my study, I was able to discern that art, in a moral capacity, exists as somewhat of a double-edged sword and that we should be careful not to put too much faith in its ability to lead us to morality.

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 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.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Is Depression a Disease and/or a Philosophical Undertaking?

Depression is often negatively viewed by society. I aim to assess whether it is accurate that we simply class depression as a medical mental disorder or whether it should be given a new definition that gives depression a positive outlook. Depression can allow the suffering individual to undertake a philosophical journey where they are able to question, analyse and possibly reassess their lives and morals.

Questioning whether depression is just a disease or a philosophical undertaking (or both) is contemporarily relevant and relevant in history for it has affected some great thinkers who have gone on to produce major works, such as John Stuart Mill’s ‘On liberty’ that was written out of his depression, that have helped form modern society. When I question whether depression is a philosophical undertaking, what I mean by this is whether a depression can promote types of innovative thoughts (political, social and individual thoughts) that can be acted upon or written about that would not have occurred in a person who has not suffered a period of depression, like a ‘phoenix from the flame’. It is relevant to study due to the increase of diagnosed sufferers and the effects it can have on the individual and on society. I want to assess what depression is, whether it can produce innovation within the individual and, if it does cause innovative genius, whether it should, in some cases, be encouraged.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Does the Revived Television Series “Doctor Who” (2005-Present) Provide a Positive Interpretation of Nietzsche’s Moral Philosophy?

“God is Dead”

Stephen Hawking stated in “The Grand Design” (2010) that “philosophy is dead”, and certainly as far as furthering our understanding of the physical nature of the Universe, that job seems much better suited to physicists than Priests and Theologians. However this increasingly empiricist attitude of society has lead to a crisis of values and an onset of nihilism.

It’s my opinion that of all the philosophers I’ve studied Friedrich Nietzsche, despite dying over a Century ago, grasps and provides the most convincing answer to the potentially valueless existence we face today. Nietzsche’s answer isn’t a normative one however but is in need of personal study and analysis by all who seek to learn something from it.

Go Beyond Good and Evil by journeying through time and Space

I’ve chosen to use “Doctor Who” (2005-present) as a way of interpreting and critiquing Nietzsche’s moral philosophy.

I feel I’m justified in this comparison given the immensely positive critical reception of this series which is often praised for being innovative and challenging, recently being described as a show that: “makes your mind work…” by the site

And Crucially the head producers Russell T Davies and Stephen Moffat have not only got a reputation for exploring deep philosophical issues with their dramas in a way that often borders on the unnerving, but both their runs of “Doctor Who” have been characterized by an undeniably existentialist and atheistic edge. Going so far as to pit the protagonist against the devil itself!

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

The Punishment of a Serial Killer. Is Utility Morality?

CONCEPT: The mind behind serial murder and the influence of mental illness on our judgement of correct punishment.

PHILOSOPHY: Mill’s Utilitarianism and Mill’s Speech in Favour of Capital Punishment; exploring contradictions, claims of morality and the influence of human nature.

SOURCES: newspaper reports, true story based films along with texts on Capital Punishment by Hodgkinson and Schabas and secondary texts on utilitarianism such as Utilitarian ethics by A. Quinton.

It was the relationship between mental illness and crimes of murder that first inspired my investigation into the punishment of a serial killer. I began to question what evidence of mental illness meant for the responsibility of the crime and how the law ought to respond to this. My initial intuition is that regardless of this, murder rates MUST be reduced, and so the introduction of a harsher punishment is necessary. Although, I am aware this causes problems when bringing up any causes that may have influenced the murder.

My aim is to use various reactions to the controversial issue of the death penalty to construct whether it is right to make judgements and decisions based purely on the ‘utility’ of the outcome.

Our reasons for and against capital punishment may not have an outcome of utility in mind but purely ‘what is right’. As well as the mental state of the criminal, many of us cannot but care for the right to life of the criminal, even for he who commits the worst crime imagin

2010 Abstracts Stage 2

Unmasking the Hero: Re-Evaluating Heroic Morality with Reference to the Graphic Novel Watchmen

The object concerning my project is the comic book character The Comedian. In my project I want to investigate how The Comedian can be considered to be evil by conventional morality and yet referred to as a hero. The main objective of my project will be to argue that although the Comedian acts beyond conventional morality, his label as a Hero is very much deserved. He is the epitome of what a Hero should be and so beyond normal considerations.

In my project two other characters from the comic book will also be discussed, Rorschach and Ozymandias, both of which illustrate two alternative moral systems. Rorschach takes on Kant’s Deontological value system that argues for universal morality known as the categorical imperative. It is obvious in the end that due to Rorschach’s moral inclinations he is not able to function as person let alone a hero. Ozymandias on the other hand illustrates Mill’s concept of Utilitarianism. Ozymandias justifies his actions in killing millions of people by arguing that it is for the greater good. Is the sacrifice too great? If it is ever discovered what he did would he still be considered a hero? Both these moral systems are considered to be socially accepted conventions. However I will argue that although they may be acceptable for general society, it is inadequate for a Hero to use either of these moral systems.

Unlike the other “Heroes” Rorschach and Ozymandias, the Comedian’s value system is over and above conventional social morality, he is the creator of his own values. The Comedian accepts that life is absurd and that society is not as civilised as we think it is and so he acts accordingly as the hero we need rather than the kind of hero we want. The Comedian utilises Hegel’s concept of the right of heroes to be the lawgivers in an uncivilised time. They are granted the right to do whatever is necessary to establish a civilised society.

The Philosophers and concepts
Machiavelli – The Prince
Nietzsche – The Overman
Hegel – World Historical individuals
Kant – categorical imperative
Mill – Utilitarianism
– The Eternal Return
– The Rights of Heroes

2010 Abstracts Stage 3

Property Magazine: the Realities of the Market

Many would acknowledge, that in some form, the contemporary financial landscape is separated from what we would consider ‘reality’. The money which is exchanged within in the financial markets seems to have no grounding outside the markets in which it is exchanged. This edition looks at the problem and enquires to what extent this is a problem.

Capitalism. Can capitalism and the markets that work within be justified on moral grounds? A Property Week special report puts aside our intuitive moral assumptions and looks in greater depth at the concept of capitalism and the ethical dilemmas that arise out of this system.

Hyperreality. By commencing deregulation in the global financial institutions, have the governments of Thatcher and Reagan of the 1980s created a new economic domain of hyperreality? This edition looks at whether responsibility can be placed back into the financial markets.

Questioning the economic realities of the market with particular reference to the commercial property market

2009 Abstracts Stage 2

In 2009: Can the Pen be Mightier than the Sword?

During the course of this project my main objectives are to explore the purpose of war throughout history, to assess what can make war morally justifiable, man’s natural tendencies towards violence and to explore the place of war within modern society with policing factions such as NATO and nuclear deterrents. The main question asked within this essay is: with man’s natural disposition for violence, can the pen EVER be mightier than the sword?

2009 Abstracts Stage 2

The Morality of War: the War in Afghanistan and the UK Experience

The War in Afghanistan; which began on October 7, 2001 as the U.S. military operation, ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, was launched by the United States with the United Kingdom, and Natoled, UN authorized ISAF in response to the September 11 attacks. This conflict will form the basis of my project. I will discuss the various ethical issues which have arisen from it and attempt to clarify the different arguments for and against such a war.

There are many issues surrounding this conflict, for example the justification of the war itself, Increasing civilian casualties, lack of support for troops, both from the public and in terms of equipment. The detrimental effect on the population, especially farmers and industrial workers. The lack of sufficient troop numbers. The requirements of the Afghan population. There are many philosophical proponents of these theories and I intend to apply the theories of a number of philosophers to the problems we see in this conflict; Plato, Hobbes, Kant, Hegel Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Locke & Rousseau, are some of the philosophers I will use to discuss the moral issues which result from these problems, from the just war arguments to the opposing teleological and deontological notions of war. Change I am particularly interested in the attitude of the UK towards this conflict, I will investigate the extent to which our attitude to war has changed, from the first and second world wars to the present day conflict in Afghanistan, with reference to the Falkland’s conflict and the Northern Ireland troubles. I wish to understand how these conflicts have affected the way the UK views war. To what extent has our perception of it changed over the past one hundred years? And what can we learn from these past conflicts? This shall be the ultimate goal of my project.

2009 Abstracts Stage 2

If we Possess Free-Will, how was the Holocaust Allowed to Happen?

In this project I hope to discuss the problem of evil – namely how God can exist as evil does. By examining the Holocaust in regards to this I hope to be able to shed some new light on this infamous example of evil and suffering beyond comprehension. Did the German people knowingly allow the Holocaust to happen and if so what were the reasons behind this? By reading Rudolf Hoess’ autobiography I hope to be able to discover whether following orders removes all moral responsibility. Ultimately, could it happen again?

2009 Abstracts Stage 3

Is the BBC Still an Important Moral and Cultural Institution within Contemporary Society?

Territory: I chose to consider the BBC and the recent scandals in which it had been involved, focusing particularly on the Ross and Brand voicemail scandal and rigged phone-ins involving Blue Peter and Comic Relief. Concepts: My territory led me to consider morality and identity for the individual within modern society, focusing on the relationship between these concepts and institutions such as the BBC. Aims: Following the BBC scandal involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand and the public outrage this caused I decided to evaluate the role of the BBC today. My objective was therefore to determine the ways in which the BBC had changed over the years in order to debate whether it was still morally and culturally important today. In order to evaluate these changes I chose to look at Beck and his notion of Individualization to understand our changing society and the problems faced by the BBC today. To further consider the effects of cultural institutions such as the BBC for the individual I chose to look at Adorno’s “The Culture Industry” and Taylor’s “Sources of the Self”, which both highlighted the significance of cultural institutions within the formation of morality and identity. This led me to argue that the BBC still has an important role to play within society today both morally and culturally. However it must attempt to balance its traditional values with the developing attitudes of our society if it is to retain this significance.