2023 Abstracts Stage 3

Authenticity in the Music Industry: A Sartrean Case Study of Taylor Swift

My project explores the question of authentic existence as part of the music industry. I have chosen to examine the figure of Taylor Swift under the lens of Sartrean existentialism. I will situate Swift’s existence within a framework of Sartre’s existential thought which regards the meaning of the human condition as that which lies in its freedoms. Examining Swift’s own productions, such as her lyrics and her documentaries, will allow me to assess the extent to which she can be said to live authentically through the Sartrean belief that we create our own existence. The nature of the music industry can be thought of as paradoxical – the creativity of music in opposition to the regulations of industry. However, my project will demonstrate how this reflects Sartre’s own understanding of the human condition as existing in a state of nothingness between its facticity and its transcendence. By establishing my understanding of Sartre’s existentialism, through the three principles of being, the Other and bad faith I will be able to apply the figure of Taylor Swift to assess to what extent one can live an authentic existence as part of the music industry.

2022 Abstracts Stage 2

Understanding Love

The aim of my research was to provide a rounded explanation of the different forms that ‘love’ can be seen within. I explored my search for love into three perspectives; eros, philia, and agape. While looking at Eros, I provide a more detailed account of what romantic love is really considered to be, mainly defined by Plato in his Symposium. I then explored love within traditional monogamous relationships and the less traditional idea of ‘open relationships’ which two philosophers, Simone De Beaviour and Sartre were a part of. I then continued on to explore Philia. This outlines the love one feels within a friendship. While investigating the idea of friendship, I researched what Aristotles considers to be the three types of friendships, a friendship of utility, a friendship of pleasure and a perfect friendship. While doing this I looked at the similarities and differences between Eros and Philia. Finally, I spoke about Agape, which refers to the paternal love to and from God, as well as the love for humanity as a whole. This led me to question whether our ‘love’ for our religious leader is the same kind of love we experience in our physical relationships and friendships and whether Agape is something that we depend on more or less than a relationship or friendship.
I ask myself what links all three components? My hypothesis is that self love is what links all three. I argued that without self love, one would struggle to give and receive love from others. As mentioned by De Beavouir in relation to Ero’s, people are often brought together by “their weakness rather than in their strength”. From this, I take that they lack self love so look to those around them in order to feel loved. Within philia, it is said that “The wish to be friends can come about quickly, but friendship cannot”, meaning that we are quick to desire the love from a friend, sometimes before making a genuine friendship. I believe we would not be so quick to form meaningless friendships if we were content with our own company, content with the self love we have. Within Agape, the relationship is not measured by physical contact or quality time but through the belief that God’s love transcends anything physical. This draws a parallel with self love, as again it is, for lack of a better word, an “intangible” relationship but still remains very important. I believe one who has a strong sense of self love, would find it easier to give love as passionately and as selflessly as God does, to forgive and love those that have wronged them.

2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Netflix – building a sense of one’s identity and whether algorithms reduce agency and so limit you in building a sense of identity?

My project concerns Netflix. I will investigate whether Netflix as a streaming platform can aid in building a sense of identity. Then consider whether the platforms use of recommender systems and machine learning algorithms are in fact reducing one’s agency. Limited agency suggests limited identity, as freedom of choice is reduced. I will consider Bauman, Le Bon and Sartre within this project discussion and through careful analysis, conclude that Netflix aids building identity to an extent, however, the platforms increasing use of algorithms reduces agency and so limits an individual when building a sense of identity.

2022 Abstracts Stage 3

The Ethics of Time Travel

Philosophical discourse surrounding time travel traditionally engages with concepts such as the Grandfather Paradox, the possibility of time travel, issues surrounding causation, and the effects such concepts have on the nature of the metaphysics of time and change. However in this project, time travel will be assessed by its ethical consequences through contemporary pieces of popular culture, namely Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Philosophically, this project will engage with Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and his essay Existentialism is a Humanism in addition to Baron d’Holbach’s The System of Nature, as the two will be presented in direct opposition to one another as representatives of philosophies of free will and hard determinism. The objective of this project is to assess whether ethical judgements are justified or necessary in the depictions of time travel I will be referencing by evaluating whether characters are free to act responsibly or predetermined to act in ways in which they have no influence over. The object of this project will therefore be time travel, assessed through the philosophical concepts of Sartre and d’Holbach, in the context of ethics. The position this essay wishes to argue in favour for is that Sartre’s philosophy of freedom allows one to manifest one’s own moral character, and this moral character is the ultimate determinant in ethical dilemmas. There does however exist vast amounts of overlap in the two opposing philosophers’ theses however the difference lies in Sartre’s notion of bad faith which highlights d’Holbach’s refusal of his ability to choose as problematic. Therefore, the overarching argument of this project is that it is one’s own moral character that dictates their future decision making, and the formulation of such character is done through choice and freedom. Due to the philosophies of Sartre and d’Holbach hugely predating the idea of time travel, I will first give a brief description of the scientific underpinnings of the procedure of time travel, then discuss d’Holbach’s and Sartre’s philosophies, before finally applying the latter to the former.

2021 Abstracts Stage 2

What affect does the unconscious have on behaviour and does this mean we have complete free will?

My project aims to understand the role that the unconscious has in affecting human’s behaviour and whether, because of this role, it can mean that humans have complete free will.
Does the unconscious have an effect on us without us even being aware?
If you are controlled by something unbeknown to you, are you able to have complete free will?
My object is the unconscious. My territory is the unconscious in relation to the effect the unconscious has on behaviour. Linking this all to whether this means we can have complete free will or not.
This project with focus on concepts such as: unconscious, morality, repression, free will and behaviour.
Freud – The Unconscious, A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Freud’s Models of the Mind: An Introduction.
Sartre – Existentialism and Humanism

2017 Abstracts Stage 3

Is the Queen, as portrayed and understood by the Netflix production ‘The Crown’, truly treated as an Other?

The Queen is not truly recognised by us for the work she does, but by the title she holds. Do we treat her as we should treat another human being, or do we treat her as if she is just her title?

The philosophy of Sartre and Levinas will be used as they both put forward a theory of the Other. We have an effect on the others freedom for both philosophers.

For Levinas, it is getting away from Heidegger’s view that we encounter everything with its use value. We have a relationship and a responsibility over the Other.

For Sartre, is the Queen acting in Bad Faith? Rather than recognising herself beyond her duty.

So, does the Queen restrict herself from becoming an Other, or do we restrict the Queen from being treated as an Other truly should be?

2015 Abstracts Stage 3

Mental Illness: Social Construct or Scientific Fact?

I am going to explore the differing perceptions, classifications and treatments of mental illness, in particular depression.

Key Themes

Personal: The sufferer’s explanation

Scientific: A biochemical explanation of the causes and symptoms, and consequent treatment using medicine

Holistic: Classification of a mental illness takes into account the patient’s experiences, cognition processes and learned behaviours, which therapy seeks to overcome

Social: The onlooker’s explanation and the stigma in society

Foucault: Modern psychiatry, although grounded in scientific truths, is primarily a system of moral judgements. Treatment of the mentally ill can be seen as society’s way of controlling what they deem to be immoral / undesirable.

Sartre: Man has the freedom to choose what their life is, however many of us live in bad faith by hiding from this freedom as it is accompanied by the responsibility to have meaning; man is condemned to be free.

2015 Abstracts Stage 3

Political Agency; is conflict inevitable?

Aims of the project:
Explore whether human nature makes us fixate upon personal and political ideals. • Discuss the issue of political agency and how anonymity can aid it in postmodern culture.
• Use existentialism to assess if anxiety encourages the rise of conflict.
• Examine Islamic State and how they use anxiety and uncertainty as aids to their recruitment process.
• Finally try to assess whether conflict is inevitable in postmodern culture.
“To resent is already to go beyond, to move toward the possibility of an objective transformation.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
“The most that force can achieve is acquiescence and outer conformity.” – Bernard Williams
“Throughout the ages people have wanted to ‘improve’ humanity.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

2014 Abstracts Stage 2

Existential Authenticity: A Look at Authenticity in the Life and Work of Nick Drake

Despite Drake’s lack of commercial success during his lifetime, he produced music that today is recognised as some of the most influential in its genre.

By providing a look at his life, work and personality, I will try to show that Drake demonstrates qualities of Sartrean authenticity.

The essay will consist of a struggle in which I try to identify ‘positive’ characteristics of authenticity, e.g. “originality”, “disregard for external pressure” etc.

I will go on to adapt an existential approach in order to define authenticity “negatively”, or what authenticity is not.

I will try to pin down what exactly we mean when we say, “this music is authentic” by taking a closer look at Drake’s musical technique. I will contrast his music, which is eloquent and understated, with music that one might consider manufactured or “inauthentic”, such as the Spice Girls’ discography.

It will be shown that, through the enigma of Drake’s lyrics, musical compositions and personality, that existentialism shaped his perspective and possibly lead to his untimely death.

I will conclude, with help from Peterson’s “Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity”, that ‘authenticity’ is illusory; the Spice Girls and Nick Drake have the same authentic value because authenticity is not objective, rather it is a “socially agreed-upon construct”.

2014 Abstracts Stage 3

Can We Ever Truly Escape Our Past Or Is it a Precondition for Selfhood?

The concept of past is intimately connected to our perceptions of identity and the question of whether we can ever escape this often intrusive and suffocating hold on our person is central to my thesis of whether or not the past of an individual defines who they are and who they will become.

Object: Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby will be applied to both psychology and philosophy.

Beginning with Psychology, specifically the work of Sigmund Freud to show how our identity is determined.

Turning to philosophy with Jean Paul Sartre, exploring his views on freedom which oppose those of Freud.

Finally Friedrich Nietzsche’s work on ‘becoming’ and ‘overcoming’, discussing the ability to overcome our pasts and celebrate them.

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

The Gap Year and Finding Oneself: a Philosophical Discussion

It has been a growing phenomenon in recent years for young people to take a year out from education. There are a number reasons for this but the one most often given, the one which stands out above all others, is ‘to find oneself’. This project aims to explore the validity of such a claim in conjunction with the thought of Alain de Botton and Jean Paul Sartre. In order to offer the discussion some context I shall also be drawing on my own experiences volunteering in Africa.

De Botton’s work The Art of Travel is an investigation into the philosophical aspects of travel. From the anticipation of the trip, to the poetic nature of the journey, to the adventure itself and even the reflections upon your return. The entire experience is conducive to being potentially life changing, and as such no detail is left out. His over riding suggestion is that we travel in order to temporarily escape our ordinary, well established lives and that we have an inherent desire to wander without purpose for a time.

To support these claims I have also used Sartre’s phenomenology, as he makes the claim that consciousness constructs the ego. We only really become our true selves when we reflect on things and it is very much dependent on our mood or state at the time of the experience. His entire theory is building up to the fact that our consciousness is what frees us. A fact which is absolutely key in understanding how experience changes us. When this is applied to the concept of travel it becomes apparent that we may have a particular viewpoint or opinion of a place before we go there, but our experiences there will inevitably alter that preconception. As these change, as does our conception of self.

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

True (?) Romance. How has the Ideal of Love Been Lost in Contemporary United Kingdom and What Are the Ramifications?

Current relationships are under strain due to the gap between fictional love (the ideal) and genuine love. Marriage and monogamy are the metanarrative structures and institutions of the ideal of love that are causing tension in love, requiring paramours to be more consistent than their identity allows for. As identity lacks an origin without the ideal, it becomes relative to the Other in a cyclical relationship that causes identity to be in constant flux. Without a stable base on which to love, the ideal can longer function.

Therefore if agents still want to love, then they must accept that each moment is unique and the only ground for love is the individual’s experience of the other in the Other. The essay is heavily influenced by the works of Jacques Derrida (Violence and Metaphysics), Jean-Paul Sartre (Being and Nothingness) and Emmanuel Levinas (Totality and Infinity).

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Singularity, Freedom & Chaos: Sartre’s Philosophy in a Backwards Universe

The object of my project is the premise behind Machine of Death, an anthology of stories about a world where people can know in advance how they will die.

The aim of my project is to establish the nature of existence as singular, through an examination of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ontological work Being and Nothingness in tandem with the collection of stories presented in Machine of Death. The question is: what is ‘singular’ existence in Sartre’s philosophy? What does it entail? And what are its implications for human existence, freedom and responsibility?

The thesis behind this endeavour is that, by examining the ontological status of the world found in Machine of Death in light of Sartre’s philosophy, we can both establish answers to these questions and open up for ourselves a new possibility; the possibility of conceiving of an existence whose fundamental state is not a stable mode of Being, but patterns of organisation in a sea of fundamental differentiation and chaos. In so doing, we point ourselves towards a new ontology: the ontology of Deleuze in Difference and Repetition.

2010 Abstracts Stage 3

Is a Capitalist Society the Best Form for Individual Choice?

What kind of dining set defines me as a person? – Fight Club, 1999. This quote from the American film Fight club, and various advertisements by IKEA makes one beg the question, do these systems of consumerism really provide the individual with freedom, or do they somehow take it away?

Hegel argues that civil society is the best form for which we can express our individuality and satisfy our particular needs and desires, he argues that the more needs and desires one has the freer they become because they can’t be so easily defined.

Sartre thinks that consumerism in modern society is detrimental to individual freedom, that although one may believe in free choice, corporations such as IKEA cause a person to lose their individual identity instead taking on an identity believed by society to be more suitable – one is no longer simply furnishing a room, but defining oneself as a person.

2009 Abstracts Stage 3

Identity Theft: an Investigation into the Repercussions of the Identity Card on the Identity and Existence of the Individual

Territory: Through the developments especially within recent years, the identity card has become a prominent part of modern life. The territory under examination is the identity card. The debate of protection over control and the amount of information that is held about each individual has become evermore important. The identity card suggests the ability to allow people to be recognised as the individual they are through the information contained on and within the card. The identity card therefore appears to present implications to the idea of identity presenting it as a fixed material idea which seems to do against the modern understanding of the self and the individual identity.

Aims: The primary aim of this project was to explore the extent to which identity cards impact the creation and development of the individual identity. Through the development in technology, particularly those within the area of the identity card it is possible to recognise a decline within the understanding of the individual and unique identity. The secondary aim of this project was to examine the effect that the restriction on the ability of the individual in the creation of the identity would have on the idea of existence that the self would have within the world. It is possible to suggest that existence is affirmed within the world through authentic experience and the projection of the identity in its individual being. Therefore if we are unable to create the self as we wish and perpetuate the individual identity this would seem to have a detrimental effect on projecting our existence.

Philosophers: Through the work of Sartre I have explored the way in which we strive to live an authentic life and the importance that Sartre places on this. I have explored the manner in which the identity card restricts the possibility for the individual to live this authentic life and create the self as they wish. The writings of Sartre were also used in the exploration of the idea of affirming our existence within the world, in that we are only an identity within our action, and through our action we are able to have existence within the world. The work of Heidegger was also important to this idea and his understanding of being. If we identify ourselves as a certain idea we are conforming and reducing the self to something that is less than the existence that we have. The idea that we are much more than we understand ourselves as being was important for Heidegger. We must not reduce our identities and our ability to exist by taking the identity card to be all that we are.

2009 Abstracts Stage 3

A Philosophical Enquiry into the Class Differences of Social Deviance and its Links to Philosophy

Aim of project – form an enquiry into the idea of social deviance, focussing particularly on how it differs depending upon the social group and why it seems to be more prevalent in the working classes. I will look to give possible explanations of social deviance based upon the philosophical thought I am going to look at. • General idea of deviance – any act which goes against the social norms or laws of a particular society. • Common explanation found for the greater prevalence of deviance in lower working class groups – harder for the individuals in the lower classes to fulfil their potential in society. This leads to feelings of frustration, which can lead to social deviance • This links into the ideas of Marx, and his ideas on class struggle, and how the lower class, or proletariat are the powerless people in society, which leads to feelings of resentment and frustration and may lead to certain antisocial behaviours – this class struggle will ultimately lead to what would be considered deviance as he suggests that a social revolution will occur • Work done with Engels on the family – microcosm of larger society showing negative side of society • PHILOSOPHY – Sartre – ‘Red mist’ showing the connection between mans subconscious and violence and idea that man is completely free to be whatever he wants to be SO man is free to act in a totally socially deviant manner, however it is one’s own responsibility to act in this way • “Being and Nothingness” – conflict is central to all human relationships

2008 Abstracts Stage 3

The Introduction of Pupils to a Set of Values: the Inescapable Task of Education?

Territory: My initial study took place in West Jesmond Primary School, in Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I spent time in the school and particular classrooms collating information and observing the ways in which values are promoted within the school. Aims: My intentions were to discover the ways in which children are educated beyond the curriculum within school. I paid close attention to the following questions: • In what ways are we educated outside of the classroom? • What impact does our upbringing and initial education have on adulthood? • What consequences does education regarding values have on society as a whole? • Is there a responsibility for teachers/parents to introduce children to a set of values? Philosophy and Sources: After much deliberation I cut down my interest in philosophers to the work of Sartre and Freud. I concentrated my study on Sartre’s Existentialism and Humanism and Freud’s New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. I used documents from the National Curriculum to support my findings and in particular the Statement of values by the National Forum for Values in Education and the Community.

2007 Abstracts Stage 2

Individualism vs Socialism: explored through the institution of football

Territory‐ Football, the supporters, the industry and its change in relation to society. Questions and Objectives‐ Explore why we wish to be part of a group, Is identity simply an external concept? To show the social importance of sport, football in particular and how it integrates but also divides us in society. It is a Working‐class game; does the team give males another source of pride in their identity? rather than in work for example. Is it more important to be a valuable part of society and ‘fit in’ or should you aim to be an individual? Ideas involving freedom, does it exist? Key sources: Sartre, Being and Nothingness; Freud, on individualism, psychoanalysis, Massenpsychologie und Ich‐Analyse; Nietzsche, various texts on individualism and socialism; Durkheim, Sociology, Institutional Analysis; Hargreaves, Sport, Power and Culture.

2006 Abstracts Stage 2

MTV as a Producer of Identity in Contemporary Society

Territory: In my project I have chosen to focus on MTV as a producer of identity in contemporary society. I intend to focus mainly on the issues of identity in contemporary western culture and the possibilities of its manipulation for greater gains than mere financial profit through focusing on MTV. Objectives and questions: Can a coherent and stable sense of identity exist without a sense of history, and particularly a collective history and a feeling of belonging to a larger group, be it a nation, race, or more contemporary forms of groups (e.g. social groups defined by musical taste, class, political dispositions, etc.) Can there be such a thing as an “authentic” identity? One that isn’t shaped in any way by outside influences, even if we choose not to follow any parochial notions? Is there any possibility of such an endeavour being pursued by the majority of the population? And if not, what does this mean for an age fraught with identity crises and in which anyone with the know-how can take advantage of this fact? Key concepts: Identity, Alienation, Division of Labour, Authenticity, Myth, Identity Production, Synaesthesia. Main sources: Andrew Goodwin’s Dancing in the Factory of Distraction, Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, Burroughs, Erik Erikson’s work on identity and more.

2006 Abstracts Stage 2

In What Ways can People with Autism be Considered Free and is it Ethically Correct for us to make Decisions on their Behalf?

Territory • I wished to look at those with autistic spectrum disorders and the treatment methods that are used to attempt to improve, or even cure, this condition. Philosophical Concepts • I looked at Sartre’s and Descartes theories on freedom in order to make a comparison between the two. Key texts used were ‘Nausea’ by Sartre and ‘Meditations on First Philosophy’ by Rene Descartes. • Also given consideration was Kant’s ‘Categorical Imperative’ taken from his work ‘Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals.’ This was a deontological ethical theory, concentrating on the act itself, not the consequences. • Kant’s theory was compared with a teleological theory. I looked at Mill’s Utilitarianism to show the contrast between looking at the consequences of the act, as opposed to the act itself. Aims and Objectives. • To reach a conclusion on how much freedom those with Autism need/should be given. • To discuss whether those who care for them have the right to make decisions on their behalf, and if so is this compromising their freedom • Look at whether it is the act itself or the consequences of the act that is important in making an ethical decision. • Decide whether we should follow Kant’s older ethical theory or Mill’s modernised version of Utilitarianism.