2006 Abstracts Stage 2

Religion: a Disease Born of Fear and a Source of Untold Misery to the Human Race?

Objectives + My objective for this project is to look at the role that religion plays in our society and examine its positive and negative aspects. + I am going to concentrate on the effect that Christianity in particular has on the West, especially in politics. + I will look at religion with regards to social policy, including controversial issues such as: * Abortion *Contraception *American aid to developing countries ridden by HIV. + I am going to use as a basis for my enquiry the ideas of Bertrand Russell, arguably the 20th century’s greatest philosopher and a prominent social critic who is famous for his atheism and views on religion + I aim to critically examine his arguments in the light of other disciplines including sociology, psychology and anthropology to see if his ideas are reinforced by other leading thinkers. + I am then going to apply his ideas to the contemporary world to examine if they are still valid 50 or so years on and to finally conclude whether I believe religion in the form it takes today is overall a positive or negative social force.

2005 Abstracts Stage 2

Philosophy of Magazine Advertising

• My chosen territory: magazine advertising • My aim: explore the field of magazine advertising, investigate the truth within, and discuss in reference to the changes in the philosophies of truth. • My workbook explains how the concept for my project evolved from researching my chosen territory, and lead into the philosophy involved. • I started to research a few facts and figures about advertising in the media, and then gathered some examples of the advertising itself. • Then I began to investigate the possible philosophical issues that could be involved, for example: Karl Marx – discussing the power of the consumer on ads – the ‘masses’ have become the middle classes, who hold the most jobs, consume the most goods, and provide the state with the most revenue. Bertrand Russell – the pursuit of happiness – an admirable social goal, which he defines as “a profound instinctive union with the stream of life”. And also, Marcuse, Adorno, and Horkheimer – in respect of manipulation -they formulated the Frankfurt School vision of the innocent man and the guilty social institutions. I took a closer look at Sigmund Freud who described how non-satisfaction of powerful instincts leads to ‘cultural frustration’. And also his nephew Edward Bernays, perhaps the world’s first Spin Doctor, he called for the implementation of mass psychology by which public opinion might be controlled. • But then I struck on the concept of truth. Its significance and value is universally recognised, and yet is often manipulated by the advertising industry. Surprisingly, a complete account of the nature of truth has been notoriously elusive. Whereas the aim of science is to discover which of the propositions in its domain are true, i.e. which propositions possess the property of truth, the central philosophical concern of truth is to discover the nature of that property. It is not, What is true? but rather, What is truth? • There are 3 main theories. Firstly, the Correspondence Theory – an Aristotelian thesis, perhaps the most widely held account, it states that a belief is true provided there exists a fact corresponding to it. However if it is to provide a complete theory of truth, then it must be supplemented with accounts of what ‘facts’ are, and what it is for a belief to correspond to fact. • A popular alternative is to identify truth with verifiability. This idea can take on various forms. The Coherence Theory, developed by Bradley and Brand Blanchard, involves the further assumption that verification is holistic. Another version, from Dummett and Putnam, states that a true proposition can be verified by the appropriate procedure. In mathematics this amounts to the identification of truth with provability and is sometimes referred to as ‘intuitionistic truth’. Such theories however, appear to overestimate the link between knowability and truth, for we can easily imagine a statement that, though true, is beyond our power to verify. • The third major theory is the Pragmatic Theory, which argues that true beliefs are a good basis for action, and takes this to be the very nature of truth. True assumptions are said to be, by definition, those that provoke actions with desirable results. But again, the central objection is that the link it postulates, in this case between truth and its utility, is overestimated.

2003 Abstracts Stage 3

Metaphysics of Physics – or the Dreams Stuff is Made of

OBJECTIVES. To answer: Is there reality or only appearance? What is it about Physics that makes everything else “stamp collecting”? Why do both nature and physics become explicable with maths? How do observers see things? Would we recognise a Theory of Everything? Did Quantum Mechanics kill cause? TEXTS. B. Russell: The Relation of Sense- Data to Physics; Kant: Critique of Pure Reason; M. Lange: Locality, Fields, Energy and Mass; T.Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; G. Berkeley: Treatise Concerning Principles of Human Knowledge; K. Popper: The Logic of Scientific Discovery Key Words. Theory, reason,experiment, cause and effect, measurement.