Buddhist Ethics: a Perspective
by Graham Priest
The talk explains and defends a version of Buddhist ethics, which is acceptable to (at least) one contemporary Western philosopher (me).
Particularism and Holism in Ethics
by Sean Goedecke
The three big theories in ethical philosophy – utilitarianism, virtue ethics and deontology – take for granted the existence of general principles in ethics. But why should we take this for granted? Following the work of Jonathan Dancy and H.A. Prichard, this lecture will argue for particularism in ethics and holism in the theory of reasons. The post-Enlightenment tendency to treat ethics like a science is not the only way of doing philosophical ethics, and certainly not the way the majority of us lean towards in practice. The real work of ethics consists of intuitively coming to terms with the particular facts of the case – and since those facts combine organically to form a holistic moral picture, reliable general principles can never be formed in advance.
Adam Smith, Mythmaker
by Roland Boer
Adam Smith is responsible for one of the greatest stories ever told – the myth of the origins capitalism. He may have inherited its basic features from those who went before him, but Smith produced its definitive form. Smith’s assertion of the “natural” human propensity to “truck, barter and exchange one thing for another” is backed up not with solid argument, but with a story, a myth. It tells of an original tribe or village, in which people peacefully specialize in different tasks. Eventually, they build up stockpiles, which they then must trade. The problem is that his mythical village has never been found, nor will it be found, for it is pure fantasy.
This lecture explores Adam Smith as a storyteller, a man who also loved vignettes, fables, sayings, moral tales, and parables. He did so to peddle his ideas concerning human nature, self-interest and the “free market.” Above all, he develops two major myths, one that may be called a foundation myth and the other a grand narrative. Both of these appear again and again in his rambling work, The Wealth of Nations. Yet they do so in some tension, for Smith shifts between narratives of difference and those of identity, between those that need to narrate a passage from a different state in the past to those that assert that the past was largely the same as the present. Ultimately, Smith was engaged – like others at the time – in deep arguments concerning human nature. In his search for a new theory of human nature, he signals that human nature was itself changing with the development of capitalism.
Christianity’s Requirement of Potential: Revolution
by Josh Lourensz
Using Max Weber’s famous essay ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ as a starting point, this lecture will argue, with a little help from early Marx and Lukács’ work on reification, that Christianity in the Modern world necessitates revolution; and not just any old revolution, but most assuredly a communist one. Bouncing off the work around Frederic Hasting Smyth’s Society of the Catholic Commonwealth, and skirting round the edges of Peter Maurin’s communitarianism, this argument will incorporate aspects of critical theory and theology to argue that the creation of a Christian’s potential for ‘good works’ is inherently bound in the advent of a radical politics.
People + Place: A New Urban Ecology
What does open space need to deliver in an increasingly urbanised place? The new backyard.
Three Little Pigs
Three small pigs each adopted a sedentary lifestyle for the advantages and luxuries it might offer. As is well understood, they chose different building materials. Criticism abounded.
We’re familiar with the consequent accusations of myopia and security (Wolves of Massive Digestion?) – less commonly discussed are the subsequent implications of masonry construction.
This lecture will take a quick look at some of the broader characteristics of each sty; considering their merits, their identity and the disruption each causes their parent environment, as I attempt to examine how one might inform the other, moving toward our next generation of farm house.
Pork is off the menu – replaced by Aboriginal, Japanese and Western architectural traditions. Also, Louis Kahn’s relationship advice for inanimate materials.
Cosmopolitanism and territoriality: reflections on strangers and citizens
The aim of this paper is to explore the issue of cosmopolitanism through the assumed inter-changeability of the stranger and the outsider. The classical (Greco-Roman) history of cosmopolitanism is the history of the ideal of being a ‘citizen of the world’ or ‘citizen of the cosmos’ as against merely being a citizen of a city state or an empire, notwithstanding how cosmopolitan some city states and empires in the classical period were. It is also the history of hospitality towards strangers tied to the plight of excommunication and exile. It still carries these two meanings in modernity. Yet, the meaning of ‘world citizen’ changes to a more overtly political category concerned with trans-state institutional arrangements, buttressed by a continuing Enlightenment inspired ideal or horizon of humankind. It is this ideal that informs the notion of hospitality towards outsiders, if it exists at all.
What also changes is the notion and experience of the stranger, especially when it is placed in the context of the modern configuration of citizenship, rather than ‘citizen of the world’. There have been at least four predominant approaches and perspectives for addressing, thinking and ordering the contingency of modern mobility and contingent strangerhood. These approaches and perspectives are indicative of cleavages and tensions within the modern notion of citizenship and the ways that it is constituted in order to solve the issue of the location and identity of contingent strangers. These types are national-juridical citizenship, political-public citizenship, economic-social citizenship, and cosmopolitan citizenship.
Love’s Habitation: A Search
Does romantic love have a home in the modern world? Recent accounts of contemporary intimacy suggest that the macro-social currents of modernization place love into a condition of cultural decline. The old tropes of l’amour passion are said to be beset by the quantitative logic of the market place, transformed by the requirements of democratic sobriety, undercut by new forms of atomistic individualism, or drained of meaning by a society whose experience of romantic life oscillates between disenchanted cynicism and vacuous sentimentality. In challenging these narratives, this lecture seeks to weld new insights within sociological systems theory to the wealth of empirical research which complicates the speculative pessimism of critical thought. Attuned to love’s historical complexity, contemporary diversity, and fundamental importance for a theory of modern society, it attempts to uncover the ways in which our search for love, whether theoretical and personal, turns up surprises which demand a more nuanced account of both intimate life and the society in which it is staged.
Coming up on 30th March, social theory guru John Rundell and Garage veteran Mitch Taylor will talk about Modern love and loving Modernity. Watch this space for abstracts and titles. There will be soups, as always, and for the first time, THREE types of beer lovingly home-brewed by our in-house beer craftsman, SJ Landvogt.
Show up at 4pm for a 4:30pm start. Email us at garageblackboardlectures[at]gmail[dot]com for exact address.
Photo credit: signal the police / Flickr
Cryptic Crossword Class
Join us for a special installment of Garage University. This one-off seminar will take you through the wend and weft of cryptic crosswords. Learn all about anagrams, hiddens and other secret codes that will help you ward off Alzheimer’s. Chris Black (alias CB), who brought us Kanye and Kirkegaard in ‘Hell of a Life’, teams up with Siobhan (alias SL), who regularly polishes off the Times Cryptic Crossword, for this special cryptic tutorial.
Date: Monday 17 March 2014
Time: TBC, likely 4pm
Venue: Brunswick Garage (email garageblackboardlectures[at]gmail[dot]com for the exact address).
Bring: A pen and an inquisitive mind
Provided: A snack of some kind
See you there!
Also, Zombie Rats and the Resurrection Protocol.
Dr. David G.S. Farmer The Howard Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health Melbourne, Australia
In the context of pub conversation, neuroscientists enjoy a larger-than-average implication of prestige associated with their occupation. However, the primary difficulties faced by the neuroscientist on a day-to-day basis are not intellectual but practical and experimental. They, as much of the remainder of humanity, may enjoy wrangling with issues such as how networks of cells give rise to laughter, memory or consciousness. However, our practical knowledge of how brain networks are constructed fails at a fairly fundamental level. The neuroscientist spends the vast majority of his or her time trying to overcome a prohibitive practical barrier to experimentation and to our understanding of the brain: namely, that neurons are small, numerous, close together and extremely squishy. This makes testing ideas about their organisation difficult. As a result, and despite the fact that neuroscientists with a computational focus create models of unfathomably complex events (e.g. a thought process; a memory), the mechanisms by which networks of cells actually give rise to even the most evolutionarily ancient processes (notably breathing) remain unknown. It is upon this level that the study of our laboratory is focussed. With the assistance of modern tools including optogenetics (Lasers) and ‘the perfused, working-heart and brainstem preparation’ (Zombie Rats) we are attempting to answer to overcome very old practical problems in order to answer some very basic questions. We do this, not because we find laughter, memory and consciousness uninteresting, but because we believe that in studying ancient and life-essential brain circuits we will be able to learn something fundamental about the manner in which neurons are organised.
Narratives in Science
Science is always right, except for when it’s not. We like to think of science as occurring in a vacuum, or at least as being able to resist the sometimes sexist, racist, or other -ist elements that our society contains. When that can’t happen, however, the results are twice as dangerous, because they not only reinforce those problematic views, but additionally have the weight and authority of “SCIENCE” behind them. Come listen to stories of sexism and sperm that try to illustrate that most of what we think we know is usually just a little bit wrong.