P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 4
11 March 2001
I. The Use and Value of Philosophy: Round One
II. 'The Value of Philosophy' by Cliff North
III. Conference on 'Citizenship, Thinking and Philosophy
for Children' at King Alfred's, Winchester, July 12th - 17th
IV. 'Russian literature and philosophy' Final call for
I. THE USE AND VALUE OF PHILOSOPHY: ROUND ONE
Many thanks to all the participants who contributed to Round One of the
Pathways Internet Conference on the Use and Value of Philosophy, who were asked
to 'say something about yourself and your interest in philosophy, what
philosophy means to you, or how you first discovered philosophy, or your views
about a particular philosophical issue that concerns you.'
I enjoyed reading all the contributed pieces, which were well thought out and
original. It was especially pleasing to see evidence of such a high level of
enthusiasm commitment. Well done everybody! The welcome message for Round Two
will be posted at the conference shortly. Meanwhile, there is still time for
Pathways student Cliff North has kindly agreed to allow his conference
submission on the Value of Philosophy to be reproduced here.
II. 'THE VALUE OF PHILOSOPHY' BY CLIFF NORTH
I studied the Pathways Programme, "The Possible World Machine" back in the
winter of '98 - '99. With my wife I also attended three terms of Geoffrey's WEA
(Workers Educational Association) evening classes in Sheffield. Geoffrey claimed
that it was the first time he had met one of his Pathways students in person. I
hope the shock was not too severe!
Subsequently I have continued to read original philosophy harvested from the
Internet - Descartes, Berkeley and Hume. But I am addicted to buying and
reading "Introductions to Philosophy" which examine the perennial problems from
different angles. One such is "Think A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy" by
Simon Blackburn, a book I shall probably lean on heavily during the duration of
Blackburn's introductory chapter is apposite to considerations about the Use
and Value of Philosophy. He suggests three reasons why we should contemplate
philosophy, a subject that seems of no practical use in a materialist world.
1. For those who are convinced or at least half convinced that Philosophy has a
point, then the subject may be pleasurable mental exercise. As we exercise our
bodies in the gymnasium (a practice recommended by the ex- wrestler Plato) so
we exercise the mind in the mental gymnasium provided by philosophical
2. Philosophy aids and structures reflection. Currently, the philosophical
application of medical ethics may have prevented recent events occurring at
Alder Hey hospital and in other hospitals in the National Health Service (where
children who had died had their internal organs removed without their parents
knowledge or consent). Or at the highest intellectual level, Einstein
acknowledged his debt to philosophers who had made him aware of the
epistemological complexity involved in the data need to generate his Special
Theory of Relativity.
3. In a media saturated age, where the media not only reports events but also
seeks to influence and shape them, the procedures of Philosophy, by using and
developing our faculties of reason, should increase our critical awareness.
When we "do" Philosophy we are involved in a process effectively described --
borrowing a phrase from Simon Blackburn -- as "conceptual engineering". A more
rhetorical and aphoristic apprehension is gleaned from Goya's motto for a
series of his etchings, where he stated, "Imagination abandoned by reason
produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts
and the source of her wonders".
Other than reading Introductions to philosophy I am particularly interested in
the Problem of Consciousness which is the 'hot' topic of philosophy, a topic
where philosophy interacts with neuro science.
How can we reconcile third person data concerning brains and behaviour with
first person data about mind and consciousness? Can consciousness be reproduced
by machines? To what extent is consciousness deployed by animals? The problem of
consciousness seems not just to be about the structure and behaviour of physical
processes. The brain is a physical, chemico-electrical system operating to known
or knowable laws. Yet how do we explain the qualitative feel of inner,
subjective awareness and the nature of its emergence from physical processes
within the brain?
For me this area is currently one of the most absorbing within the spectrum of
philosophical concerns. It lies within the eternal paradox at the heart of the
philosophical enterprise namely the relationship between subject and object,
the tension of being a first person intentional human being who seeks meanings
and reasons for the conduct of an effective life while enmeshed within the
third person, objective world of space and time.
(c) Cliff North 2001
III. CONFERENCE ON 'CITIZENSHIP, THINKING AND PHILOSOPHY FOR CHILDREN' AT KING
ALFREDS, WINCHESTER JULY 12TH - JULY 17TH
I have received the following notice from Roger Sutcliffe:
"One month left to book at discounted rates for international conference on
'Citizenship, Thinking and Philosophy for Children' at King Alfred's,
Winchester, July 12th - 17th.
Educators doing philosophy with children as young as 6 will be comparing
practice, and sharing theories about how to teach for thinking and citizenship.
The conference is unique in placing equal emphasis on both these developing
areas of the curriculum, and should be of special interest to advisors as well
Speakers include Professors Richard Pring, of Oxford, Robert Fisher of Brunel,
Walter Kohan of Brazilia, and Ann Sharp of Montclair, New Jersey, and Doctors
Roy van den Brink Budgen, OCR Chief Examiner in Critical Thinking A/S, and
Karin Murris, author of 'Teaching Philosophy with Picture Books'. The
Citizenship Foundation will also be represented by its founding director, Don
There will be a particular focus on UK developments at the weekend (14th/15th).
Places can be booked for the Saturday only (70) or for both days, including
dinner, bed and breakfast at 150 (or 140 for payment by March 31st).
Newcomers to Philosophy for/with Children who attend these two days will have
the special chance to go on and complete the certificated Level 1 course in a
further 5 hours' training, also at a discounted rate. The usual length of this
course is 12 hours, spread over two or three days, at a cost of 150. The
combined package of weekend conference plus extra day's training is being
offered at 200 (or 190 for payment by March 31st).
Full details of the conference are on the website: http://www.sapere.net. Or
enquiries can be made to Sara Liptai on 01926 423 612, or to
email@example.com. Enquirers/newcomers can be sure of a warm
IV. 'RUSSIAN LITERATURE AND PHILOSOPHY' FINAL CALL FOR PAPERS
The following notice comes from Philosophical Society of England member Dmitry
Alexandrovich Olshansky,from the Russian Federation:
"Call for papers for book 'Russian literature and philosophy' (Deadline is
April 1, 2001)
This book will be published by Chair of History of philosophy of Urals State
University together with Institute of Philosophy of Russian Academy of Science
Submitted manuscripts must fit the following criteria:
1) The article should be written in English, German or Russian;
2) The volume of article should not exceeded 5 pages; 3) The manuscripts should
be accompanied by information about author: full name, position, university and
state; 4) Two copies of the paper and 3.5-inch floppy disk should be sent by
Dmitry Alexandrovich Olshansky
Lenin avenue 51
Urals State University, Room 311
If the author does not send a 3.5-inch floppy disk, in that case he/she should
send the text by E-mail to: Olshansky@hotmail.com .
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