Category Archives: Philosophy

Mr Simon Pepper, Chigwell School: The Emergence of Electronic Dance Music and the Politics of Public Spaces.

Mr Pepper using his own equipment illustrated the growing tension between music and socially low status of various disadvantaged groups in the USA in 1980s, such as Black Americans, LGBT people, Latinos. This helped the industrial music to emerge to demonstrate strong relation between machine and a man, which expressed itself in the development of the electronic pop. The controversy of the “oppressed” groups relieving their frustration and their need for change in music led to a moral panic in the Great Britain, particularly under the rule of Margaret Thatcher. This backlash against thatcherism was also an expression against the popular drive for consumerism, capitalist success and the productivity of individuals. Fascinating, how much we can learn from the simple movements on the floor and use of discarded industrial equipment.

Bernard Williams: Ethics from a human point of view.

Prof Paul Russell, professor of Philosophy at Lund University and the University of British Columbia.

 

Thinking Stoically about Emotions.

Dr John Sellars, Lecturer in Philosophy at Royal Holloway.

Surely, when we think of Emotions, we imagine the most intensive ones. And rightly so, Seneca claimed that emotions were “temporary madness”. Surely, when we think “stoic”, we imagine someone unfeeling, perhaps even unwell. This is how Dr Sellars started his presentation, not necessary wanting to provoke any reactions but wanting to share his learning from Stoics. In particular, the fact that emotions are a product of judgement. What he explained to us is that “pathe”is more accurate word for affection and passion, therefore not naturally controlled “emotions”. Dr Sellars suggested stoical solutions to how to manage our emotions. The audience was captivated and this was expressed in variety of questions: is there an end product for stoicism such it is eg. in buddhism? How long does it take to train yourself to be “virtuous” person? Can becoming rational reduce empathy? One might ask if we get our answers. To some extend whatever, one has taken from this lecture, it might bring some element of satisfaction, change of intentions or simply broaden our minds. It was an excellent lecture!

Robert Blakey – “Will criminal behaviour be treated one day like a brain-based cancer, rather than punished like evil?”

Monday the 4th of December marked the last Williams Project of 2018, as well as the last Williams Project with Mr Lord at the helm. With this in mind and with so many wonderful and insightful talks preceding him, Mr Robert Blakey, criminology doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, had a hard task ahead of him. I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that he did so with pure charisma and flawless knowledge with regard to his subject. Mr Blakey began his presentation by outlining the big question he would be attempting to answer: ‘Will criminal behaviour be one day treated like a brain-based cancer, rather than punished like evil?’ He began by giving us four concepts that contribute to a person’s offending: genes, social environment, brain activity and free will, and asked us to decide in what order they run in when contributing to a criminal committing a crime. We then proceeded to have an interactive discussion as a group in an attempt to order these notions, culminating in our successful ordering of the ideas. Mr Blakey then read us two scenarios about free will: one where, from a psychological point of view, our decisions were all caused by factors outside our control, and another similar but described in terms of chemical activity in our brains. He then invited us to stand on the left side of the room if we still believed the person in the example had free will or the right side if we believed they didn’t. It was interesting to see how many people moved to the side of no free will, particularly in the chemical scenario. This activity was thoroughly engaging and gave us a real opportunity to think things through for ourselves. Mr Blakey continued his fascinating talk by presenting the idea of rehabilitating criminals, especially young offenders, in good social environments instead of prisons as he noted that prisons are poor repairing facilities, as well as being detrimental to the mind of a youth offender. We spent the final minutes of the presentation trying to decide how to rehabilitate offenders, and whether there would ever be a perfect way to help lawbreakers. It was a captivating and highly perceptive talk that challenged us to think laterally with regards to many issues. Many thanks must go to Mr Blakey who we are sure would be very welcome to return to Chigwell in the near future.

Rory Hankins and Julie Vytrisalova

robert blakey at the williams project

robert blakey at the williams project

robert blakey at the williams project

robert blakey at the williams project

Ray Monk – “Wittgenstein: who he was and why he is important today”

On the 9th of October, the Williams Project was visited by another great speaker. This time, it was Ray Monk – professor of philosophy at the University of Southampton, acclaimed writer and expert in analytical philosophy of the 20th Century. He gave a lecture on Ludwig Wittgenstein – his life, works and why he is relevant up to this day.

Even though the philosophical aspect was prominent, the lecture was also a biography of Wittgenstein. Prof. Monk described his family and his time growing up in Vienna. Then he focused on Ludwig’s school years and his inspirations. The story of Wittgenstein was very engaging and it was easier to look at his ideas through his biography. You could really feel that Prof. Monk is an experienced biographer and lecturer. Later on, he introduced us to some philosophical problems while talking about the philosophical part of Wittgenstein’s life. For example, he mentioned Russell’s paradox, which still doesn’t have a clear solution. The lecture finished with a Q&A section, although it was possible to ask several other questions to Prof. Monk during dinner. I, among others, found the lecture very interesting. It was a comprehensive, yet comprehensible introduction to Wittgenstein and a great encouragement for further reading.

Jacek Podlaski

Priscilla Alderson – “Can children have international inalienable human rights?”

Priscilla Alderson (Professor Emerita of Childhood Studies, UCL) led the Williams Project in a thoughtful discussion of the philosophical basis for children’s rights, taking as starting points issues and questions raised by the young people there present. Her style was refreshingly different, and mirrored in itself her emphasis on the importance of listening to young people themselves.

The Art of Conversation and Eating

On the 5th of December a different sort of Williams Project happened. Instead of having an invited speaker come to talk to us we just had each other to talk to over a meal.

The premise of this particular Williams Project was to get us talking to each other. However, instead of the usual dinner table small talk, we were going to have more meaty conversation.

This is based on Alain de Botton’s (a Swiss-born British author and philosopher) ideas about the art of conversation. He believes that most people are very bad at having conversations because we think knowing how to talk to each other is a skill we’re born with instead of a learned art. He also states that most conversations are rather stale and that shyness is one of the main reasons that they can be boring. We need rules to give direction to where our conversation is going so that we feel like we’re coming away with new ideas. Alain mentions Madame Sophie de Condorcet who wrote a certain set of rules to enable a successful conversation so it is not just small talk. She believed that guests had to arrive with prepared conversational topics so that they could use each other like reference books in a library.

After we watched and listened to the short PowerPoint we then (based on Madame Sophie de Condorcet’s idea) wrote down two questions that we would bring to the meal to talk about. Everyone took turns asking their questions and people gave insightful answers on topics that would normally never be discussed at a dinner table. Some of the questions posed at my table where: “Why is Brexit happening?” and “Is it right for parents to punish their children if what they did was due to their hormonal changes?” Unlike most conversations we felt that we were taking something out of our exchanges and maybe things to think about later. I think the method and rules of conversation worked very well as it gave us an insight into each other’s personality. I will definitely want to try these rules out in the future and maybe school dinner chats will be a bit more lively!

Samuel Nokes

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