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2023 Abstracts Stage 3

Subverting Expectation: Analysing, evaluating and applying Nietzsche’s concept of the as Übermensch as Challenge to Morality  

The question of how to live is an area of great contestation for humanity. Nietzsche, in disavowing morality of the Christian world, saw the higher kind of human, the Übermensch, as the only way to affirm ourselves, following the disbelief in God. Applying the concept of the Übermensch to other literary figures like Achebe’s Okonkwo and Camus’ Meursault, as well as looking at Han’s diagnosis of the contemporary times, I assess how well a guide Nietzsche’s Übermensch serves, both now and then.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 2

The Enlightenment: Can Progress be Achieved Through Reason?

This project aims to construct an impartial exploration into the historical era known as the Enlightenment. Also regarded as the ‘Age of Reason’ or ‘Age of Light’, the Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement which was largely based in Europe. Despite much speculation surrounding the commencement of such period in history; with some philosophers claiming it began in the seventeenth century and others in the eighteenth century, the project at hand considers the notion that humanity are in an epoch of postmodernity and that the Enlightenment is still ongoing. In spite of the uncertainty surrounding the origins of the Enlightenment, it is definite that there are conflicting opinions as to whether the movement was positive. Not merely regarded as a period in time, but also as a set of values, the Enlightenment encompasses a normative horizon whereby individuals were urged to question their morality.

Predominantly characterised with the overthrowing of religious dogma and tradition, the Enlightenment enabled individuals to come “face-to-face with the profound questions of man’s history and destiny” (Porter 2001, 14). Such questions were those that the Bible could not readily answer which allowed for the moral authority of the church to be thrown into dispute (ibid). The discredit of religious dogma and metaphysics was facilitated through the augmented importance and consequential reliance upon empirical science and reason. This major intellectual upheaval revealed a shift in how individuals perceived the everyday world due to the movement presenting a momentous challenge to old, traditional ideas so to expose them to the light of rationality in order to discover if they were valuable. Upon the discount of previously accepted authorities and wisdom, everything began to be viewed differently, permitting basic presumptions of ideas to be questioned. As a result of the re-examination of truth and tradition, religion and metaphysical explanations of the world and its happenings became disadvantaged in comparison to scientific procedure and the relevance of fact. The Enlightenment aimed to demystify the world from metaphysics with the use of science, reason and knowledge by removing sovereignty from ecclesiastic institutions, so to put it back into mankind.

In attempting to answer the overarching question of the project, ‘can progress be achieved through reason?’, the French philosophes proved crucial in demonstrating radical changes in political and social dynamics. Their goal to rely on human reason and rationalism in order to create a better society hints at a sense of progress. Concerned with how people of different social classes should relate to one another and what the relationship of ordinary people should be to their government, thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu recognised the importance of liberty and basic rights of life which prior to the Enlightenment were not considered proper outside of the Church. To understand the philosophes appropriately, the precursors to the Enlightenment, namely Isaac Newton and John Locke, retain great importance.

Advocating religious toleration as influenced by Locke and making clear the link between “the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century with its seventeenth century origins” (Cobban 1963, 119) Voltaire is arguably the foremost figure in answering the question of this project. Voltaire, as well as Frederick Nietzsche, seen the Enlightenment as the ‘Age of Criticism’ and utilised the movement to scrutinise Christian values and demonstrate that the sovereignty of the church and state is not as powerful as it once was. Providing individuals with an opportunity to question traditional thought with the interrogation of the Christian religion, both thinkers sought to mentally liberate man with approximations of the truth. This was employed with the hope to enable mankind to morally progress beyond the realms of Original Sin and the teachings in the B

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2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Adam, Eve, Freud

For my object I have chosen the story of humanity’s fall from grace found in the third chapter of Genesis. I will be investigating my object in the territories of theological anthropology and Psychoanalysis. In Saint Paul (1997), Alain Badiou notes a conceptual similarity between the apostle Paul’s description of sin as found in the book of Romans and the psychoanalytic concept of the substantive unconscious. The apostle laments; ‘I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… so that it is no longer I who do it, but sin which dwells in me’ (Rom 7: 15-17). The subject or ‘I’ of the statement is decentred by ‘sin’ which now assumes the ‘seat of agency’ as kind of foreign object lodged in the heart of subjectivity (Badiou 1997, 79). ‘All kinds of covetousness’ (Rom 7:8) which once lay dead and inactive have become autonomous, occupying the place structurally appropriate to the living subject (who now lies in the place of the dead), giving rise to a new subjective configuration with respect to agency which can be called ‘sin’. With this structural understanding of sin, a topographic and economic picture of the Christian subject becomes possible, one subject to the demands and pressures of an impersonal primary process. However, it must be remembered that Badiou’s analysis concerns the book of Romans and not Genesis where the originality of the first sin would be at issue. A reading of sin as desire that is ‘revived’ and awoken into autonomy by the negative naming of the law (Badiou 1997, 80) lends itself easily enough to the story of Genesis where there is likewise a prohibition; ‘but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.’ (Gen 2.17) However, a purely psychological reading of Genesis would neglect the metaphysical aspect of the first original sin, which for Saint Augustine is essential to a faithful interpretation of Genesis. Therefore Badiou’s insights, while helpful, must be built upon. I now turn to discuss my objectives in the investigation of my object.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 2

Life affirmation and life denial: Nietzsche on Christianity.

My project dissertation focuses of a life-denying reading of Christianity. I argue, using a historical background provided by John Robertson, that early Christianity grew from the exploitation of the weak and continues to feed off inequality to this day.
Readings of Nietzsche’s primary literature details the values cultivated by Christian morality, those of ressentiment and the ascetic ideal, arguing that they stunt human being’s natural drive for the fullest possible life and negates our instincts for pleasure, growth, and development. Secondary reading provided by Deleuze helps rework Nietzsche’s argument, providing an understanding Nietzsche’s famous theory will to power, which I then consider in relation to the life-denying power of Christianity. Brain Leiter also tackles Nietzsche’s ideas of a higher man, allowing for a more critical reading which I explore and build on.
The life-denying values which prompted Christianity’s growth into a worldwide religion are perhaps best criticised in Nietzsche’s works, and I will argue that as Christianity has expanded, these values that have permeated the political and social space, must be understood and challenged.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Why is Idolatry Wrong From an Islamic Perspective?

The territory of my project is theology and the object is idolatry. The purpose of my project is to research Islamic monotheism or tawhid and aspects of Islamic mysticism, namely notions such as the purification of the heart (tassawuf) and analyse its relationship with idolatry and polytheism. Monotheistic and polytheistic traditions differ in their interpretation and engagement of the multiplicity of relationships between the transcended and created. The idea of a transcendent God is prevalent in many polytheistic traditions exemplified in Hinduism, Neoplatonism, Egyptian and Babylonian traditions. Thus polytheistic traditions cannot be reduced to the opposite of the common monotheistic belief of “One God”. On the contrary, unity has always been an important notion in the traditions stated above, yet these religions do worship a plethora of gods, hence unity in this case does not mean the sole worship of one God. I will attempt to explore and answer two questions: If many polytheistic traditions have a belief in a transcendent God, why is it wrong to practice idolatry? And can a person be a monotheist, but also believe in many Gods? The position from which I will answer these questions is that of a Muslim, from which I will assume that polytheism is wrong and considered the worst sin one can perform in Islam. I will also assume that the Qur’anic narrative of idolatry is correct and will use it as the underlying foundation of my project.
I will attempt to answer the two questions stated above by means of a interpretative methodology, through the reading of Sufi mystic Abū ‘Abdillāh Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn `Arabī. Upon reading the former, I will highlight his cosmological system of wahdat-al wujud (The Unity of Being) to establish an understanding of the transcendent God and explore the concept of unity. For the second chapter, which concerns itself with notion of monotheistic idolatry, my primary reading will be Al-Raghib al-Isfahani ‘al-Dhar‘ia’ and his notion of the purification of the heart and its relation to idolatry.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Civil Disobedience in the Tik-Tok Generation

In this project, I focused on the overturning of Roe V. Wade, a law which made abortion a constitutional right in all of the American states, which occurred in June 2022 and the resulting reaction of ‘Gen Z’ which was displayed on TikTok. I applied Nietzsche’s understanding of the Master and Slave morality and providing a discussion on how the new TikTok generation can provide a reintroduction of the Master morality to society. Focusing on the Christian moral principles which prevail in US politics and how this allowed the overturning to take place, whilst discussing how those in power maintain a Slave morality. Furthermore, I used Rawls’ understanding of civil disobedience to analyse how TikTok has provided a new platform for ‘Gen Z’ to engage in their own forms of civil disobedience, in response to the Roe V. Wade overturning. I used examples of civil disobedience documented on TikTok in response to the ruling and provided an analysis of their engagement to understand how the impact of their civil disobedience has been amplified as a result of TikTok. Hence, determining that TikTok successfully demonstrates Rawls’ understanding of civil disobedience.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 3

A philosophical investigation into the enforcement of the veil in The Islamic Republic of Iran.

On September 16, 2022, 22 year old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died in police custody in Tehran, Iran’s capital, following her arrest for wearing her veil incorrectly. She died as a result of the strict enforcement of the veil in The Islamic Republic of Iran, a law which has been in effect since 1983. In this dissertation I conduct a genealogy of the veil in order to understand its development as a moral phenomenon, following the genealogical methodology employed by Friedrich Nietzsche in On the Genealogy of Morality. I examine the relationship between modesty, hair and sexuality in order to determine why the veil is so highly valued in Iran. I adopt Nietzsche’s theory of perspectivism in order to overcome the Western misconception that the veil is necessarily oppressive, and instead argue that it is the Iranian veiling laws which are oppressive. I then analyse Edward Said’s Orientalism, focusing on the ways in which the West has represented the East according to Said, and the implications of Orientalism for Western perceptions of the veil. I suggest the adoption of a postcolonial feminist attitude in order to redefine the problem in Iran as a feminist problem, not a religious one.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 2

Prayer and the Attainment of Knowledge

This paper attempts to show how the object of prayer is linked to knowledge, as knowledge from a theological standpoint finds its root in God, and prayer from an Islamic perspective is seen as a direct communion with God. I will look at this from a cosmological aspect, with regard to the idea of man being created in the image of God and the Adamic potential of man. I will also look at the different levels of knowledge and what knowledge is for both Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn’ Arabi and Abu Hamid Al Ghazali. Ghazali emphasizes the concept of the heart being a vessel of knowledge and uses light as a metaphor for knowledge, I will try to outline how to attain a state where knowledge is possible by means of the heart, as well as showing from a cosmological perspective that the function of humans is to be in constant remembrance of God, thus constant prayer, through the idea of the divine names of God.

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2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Meaning through Silence: A Reading of how John Cage and British Quakers view silence, through the framework of Nietzschean moral philosophy.

My aim through this text is to create a reading of how silence is used and understood by John Cage and British Quakerism, through the lens of Nietzschean moral philosophy – particularly that of Nietzsche’s ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’.

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2021 Abstracts Stage 2

The Soul Crisis of the 21st century: This paper aims to critically discuss whether it is possible to believe in the existence of the soul in the 21st century

This project investigates whether it is possible to believe in the soul and spiritual concepts in the 21st century, despite the rise in scientific research which aims to render them into fictitious elaborations.

AIM: With this investigation I aim to prove how it is entirely justifiable for individuals to hold a belief in the soul in contemporary society. I will reveal how the soul crisis today is purely a turning point in which science and spirituality can combine, introducing rational spirituality and examples neurological evidence in favour of the soul’s existence.

This project has taken me on a journey through the history of the human soul. I have looked at the ancient radical dualist philosophy of Plato and continental thought of Descartes, whilst analysing contemporary philosopher Tim Freke and his belief in ‘Emergent Spirituality’.
Scientific data and experiments for and against the soul have also been used to argue my conclusion in support of the soul’s existence.

This project came from a desire to be able to justify my own belief in the human soul, in a society where I have faced ridicule and criticism for holding such a belief. I began to question whether I was simply holding on to a deep desire for my life to be worth something, when actually in reality, I am a monkey who wears clothes, aimlessly wondering on a rock spinning to oblivion.
With the current pandemic I have never been faced with so much time in my own head to think about the existential questions that young people tend to brush over. Do I have a purpose? What happens when I die? Being faced with so much death and tragedy each day on the news, it forced me to think about the future of my existence. It forced me to want to prove that there is a place for those who believe in the purpose of humanity and spiritual concepts like the soul in the 21st century, and that science has not entirely eradicated the magic and mystery from my existence.

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2021 Abstracts Stage 3

How does death in philosophy impact human significance?

The study of death has been looked into in both scientific and theological terms. Something I wish to delve into is the philosophical discussion regarding death as the reason for human significance.
By using the works of thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Karl Löwith, and Karl Marx, I aim to discuss and compare the variety of ways in which death derives or disproves humanity’s ’innate’ purpose.
Death is presented to do this in Heidegger’s ahistorical argument through the death of nature– i.e. the death of our external world and the individual– in comparison to Löwith’s historical argument regarding secularised eschatology.
Marxist ideology and literature is considered throughout as this best relates to modernity.

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2016 Abstracts Stage 2

The figure of Jesus in Mark’s gosel: Do humans have an existential need for hope and illusion?

Territory: Mark’s Gospel The Bible is culturally strange and scientifically inadequate, so it is typically dismissed as nonsensical. If the Bible accounts were literal, they would all match up-but they do not. This means you can see which data has been redacted and manipulated, for the author’s particular purpose. Looking at this information, you can begin to infer the authorial intention for writing the text. This is a task that historians, biblical interpreters and theologians have undertaken. In most accounts, it is understood that Mark’s gospel as the first Gospel to be written and that he wrote in Rome during emperor Nero’s persecution Nero burned down Rome and to avoid the consequences he blamed the people, meaning they were tortured and killed as punishment. Mark was writing for this suffering community, to provide them hope and courage to continue through life. Now, we can understand why the Gospel emphasized belief in miracles and the afterlife- it was so these people had hope. Even if the hope came from an illusion.

Concept: Hope
Bloch develops a human ontology that points to a future orientated utopian consciousness. Human’s dream and wish for world improvement. Bloch says man is Not-Yet-Conscious and Not-Yet-Become. Hoping in such way, drowns out our existential anxiety about life. This is relevant in looking at all the myths of utopia in the gospel, i.e. miracles, afterlife, and our potential ‘homeland’ the Kingdom of God.
Concept: Illusion
Early Nietzsche says that humans need metaphysical comfort in myth. He creates an intellectual dichotomy between the Dionysian and the Apollonian which when perfectly combines embraces tragedy. This is relevant mainly for looking at Jesus as a ‘suffering servant’ and at the figure of him as a necessary illusion. Later Nietzsche would claim that living based of illusion distracts from striving and creating our own meaning in life

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2014 Abstracts Stage 2

Gnosticism and Feminism: Did the Development of Orthodox Christianity in the Roman Empire Harm the Progress of Feminism in the Modern World?

In this essay I intend to ask if the early development of Christianity was harmful to modern feminism. Are the ideas that were found in the Nag Hammadi library and the Gnostic Gospels more empowering to women than those in the Canon? Looking at the work of Elaine Pagels and Jane Schaberg I will be looking into the early history of the Church and its development in the Roman Empire, comparing Orthodox ideas to those of the Gnostics before looking into modern religious and secular issues for feminism discussing if the Gnostics had more progressive beliefs for women.

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2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Is Reincarnation Real and Has Christianity Stopped us from Believing?

Territory: My aim is to look at modern day writers who focus their studies on the concept of past lives; mainly focusing on Dr Brian Weiss M. D., who claims to have aided over four thousand patients through their mental and physical pains through past life regression. I shall also be comparing the findings from Weiss’ work to beliefs which are rooted in Buddhism and trying to discover whether the work studied by Weiss allows people ‘a gateway to the spiritual peace’ which Buddhism claims we can develop through meditation. I have also looked at writers such as Shakti Gawain who describes the concept of ‘creative visualization’ to help me understand the power of positive thought and will.

Concepts: I shall focus on Nietzsche’s work in ‘The Antichrist,’ where Nietzsche’s negative attitude towards Christianity implies that the religion is stopping people from ‘truly living’ and where he argues that Christianity makes people ‘weak’ as we no longer are willed to do what is right but we merely obey forces with more power than ourselves.

Using Nietzsche and Weiss I shall compare Christianity and Buddhism and find the positives and negatives of each contrasting religion or belief.