Monday, August 17, 2009

Philosophy @ 2009 Melbourne Writers Festival

Hosted by the Monash University School of Philosophy & Bioethics, as part of its Philosophy in Australasia project.

Saturday, August 22, 11:30am-12:30pm, ACMI cinema 2
John Armstrong (University of Melbourne), “Searching for Civilisation”
What is civilisation, really? It can mean a lot of different things: technlology, art, medicine, education, cooking, economic or political progress; and sometimes it has been a fig leaf for imperialism. I want to get beneath the surface: What are the more personal issues at stake here? Why should civilisation matter to me? I trace the idea to its core: the hope of integrating material needs and ‘higher longings’ (beauty, love, wisdom). But is this hope realistic? This is a great issue of both private life and public culture.

Sunday, August 23, 5:30-6:30pm, ACMI cinema 1
Neil Levy (University of Melbourne, and Oxford Centre for Neuroethics), “Free Will and the Brain”
Articles in popular science frequently claim that scientists have shown that there is no such thing as free will. The findings upon which these claims are based are often interesting, as I will show, but they don’t threaten the existence of free will in any way. Nevertheless, I will argue that we can learn a great deal about human decision-making processes, and the ways in which they go awry, from the sciences of the mind. I will show how we can use cognitive science to understand the loss of self-control in pathological cases like addiction as well as in more ordinary cases.

Saturday, August 29, 2:30-3:30pm, ACMI cinema 1
Michelle Boulous Walker (University of Queensland), “Reading Essayistically: Toward an ethics of reading and an open-ended philosophy”
An exploration of what an open-ended philosophy might be from the perspective of how we read. If reading is a performance that can be judged in ethical terms, then reading essayistically (or in the mode of the essay) suggests a model of open-ended rumination that takes its time and returns – time and time again – to the matter at hand. Such a reading thwarts our modern preoccupation with speed and haste, and opens us to the wondrous space of a slow engagement that welcomes thought. Just as the essay engages its topic in ways that meander luxuriously through time and space, so too does reading essayistically open philosophy – or thought – to an indeterminate space from which the ethics of a “receptive attitude” or “patient attention to the other” may emerge. As such, philosophy can be enticed to relax its anxiety to know and to know fully (in the manner of the neurotic), and come that bit closer to being an infinite and wondrous engagement with life.

Sunday, August 30, 3:30-4:30pm, ACMI cinema 1
Russell Grigg (Deakin University), “In the Name of the Father: understanding monotheism and fundamentalism”
Why have the reports of the death of God turned out to be greatly exaggerated? Why has the appeal of religion proved so tenacious? I will discuss some of the deep psychological reasons for the continuing hold that religion, specially monotheism, has over the human mind. I would like to offer some ideas about the psychological forces behind two recent phenomena: the rise of fundamentalism and the emergence of new forms of spiritualism.

For more details about the Festival, and to make bookings, please go to <> .

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