6 September 2012

Politics as Art of the Impossible: The Case for a Dreampolitik in the United States

A dominant movement in leftist politics has always embraced a sense of reality as opposed to dreams and imagination. The American sociologist Stephen Duncombe argues instead for a dream-politik, which, unlike reactionary populist fantasies, can activate the imagination with impossible dreams. They make it possible to think ‘out of the box’ and to wonder what an alternative world and a different attitude to life might be like.

In his day, Otto von Bismarck was known for the practice of realpolitik: a hard-headed and hard-hearted style of politics that eschewed ideals in favour of the advantageous…Read

Pussy Riot Sentenced To Two Years In Prison

The charges are of hooliganism that call for 7 years imprisonment for a 1-minute performance on February 21 in a priests-only section of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The investigator’s report claims religious hatred. The intention of the performance was to draw attention to the special relationship with President Putin and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.


Pussy Riot is an anonymous Russian feminist performance art group formed in October 2011. Through a series of peaceful performances in highly visible…Read

Editorial By Tom McGuire

In democratic societies like New Zealand, it is taken for granted that every few years we get to participate in the elaborate ritual of deciding who will rule over us untial the decision process repeats itself. But it wasn’t always like this, and in many places is still not. Dictatorships, juntas, oneparty states and tribal fiefdoms are going strong, and collectively outnumber the world’s democracies. While immersed in a particular political system, it is hard to imagine how things could be any different. But go back several hundred years, and the change is phenomenal. Women…Read

10 July 2012

What is this thing called Philosophy?


Students of philosophy tend not to be as compliant as those unfortunate citizens of Athens who happened upon Socrates in one of his troublesome moods. (Yes Socrates, No Socrates, You’re right there Socrates). They not only ask questions like “What is philosophy?”, they expect an answer. Philosophers are expected to tackle a simple question from simple folk and provide a simple answer. Admittedly the question, the folk and the answer turn out to be not that simple, but philosophers will go to almost…Read

Is Beauty Subjective?

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the saying goes. We are now living in a world where we can no longer assess whose taste is better or worse, for the subject of beauty lies in the realm of pure subjectivity, which one can proudly proclaim he is the greatest living aesthetes, or perhaps even artist, of his own time. A subject which once belonged to a professional minority is now only considered a confused private imperative.

But it wasn’t always like this. In what sense is something beautiful? How can one…Read

Part 2 Catherine Cunningham - Song Writer / Singer

“Socrates” “Aristotle”, “Pythagoras”, “Philosophers” - words I remember jotting into my history notebook in secondary school. Somehow, without having ever really thought about it, I had assumed they had all died uneventfully in Ancient Greece. So two days into college, I was delighted to discover that they were alive and well - sort of. I was particularly delighted because I was simultaneously discovering that I had no interest whatsoever in the “Business Studies” course on which I was enrolled.

One easy downgrade later (yes, that was how…Read

Meditations and Discourse on the Pursuit of Philosophical Studies - Part 1

As a learned student of Philosophy, I have struggled with and explored many of the most perplexing questions of this era. Questions such as “Is there a God” “Is one’s mind synonymous with one’s body”, “Are we determined beings” etc.

At the risk of sounding immodest, I think I have managed to grasp and pontificate admirably on these problems and perhaps have even helped future generations in their quest for truth.

I am forced to admit though, that Philosophy still poses one problem which I…Read

Morality is a Culturally Conditioned Response

Jesse Prinz argues that the source of our moral inclinations is merely cultural

Suppose you have a moral disagreement with someone, for example, a disagreement about whether it is okay to live in a society where the amount of money you are born with is the primary determinant of how wealthy you will end up. In pursuing this debate, you assume that you are correct about the issue and that your conversation partner is mistaken. You conversation partner assumes that you are making the blunder. In other words, you both assume that only one of…Read

Don’t blame the postmodernists

Religion and Politics

Multiculturalism has its drawbacks and paradoxes, but it is still worth defending if the alternative is enforced cultural homogeneity. It depends how the concept is interpreted. At the moment it is increasingly an argument for cultural separatism, whereas it ought to mean peaceful coexistence and the mutually-beneficial sharing and disseminating of ideas. Perhaps that would be better termed polyculturalism? Crucially, however, I do not see how such a system can work without a context of secularism. Personally, I'd like to see religion wither away as a force in human affairs, but…Read

Moral Relativism & Cultural Chauvinism


“When in Rome do as the Romans do” - Cultural Relativists Agree

Depending on whom you ask, moral relativism is either an overdue and salutary antidote to imperialism and cultural arrogance, or else it represents a self-defeating, wishywashy gesture in the direction of cultural even handedness. The often excitable and high-voltage nature of popular debates about these issues suggests that many of us feel unsettled about them.…Read

The Pope Launched a Renewed Attack on the “Moral Relativism” that he has blamed for Britain’s Riots

In a message for the 2012 World Peace Day of January 1, Pope Benedict said that neither peace nor justice was obtainable if the objective norms of morality expressed in the Ten Commandments continue to be rejected.

His words represent another severe criticism of moral relativism, the humanistic creed that holds there can be no objective standard on which to base morality.

They come just months after the Pope told Nigel Baker, Britain's Ambassador to the Holy See, that the spread of the ideology was to blame for the riots that convulsed British cities over four…Read

It’s All Relative, Dude

Many philosophical problems are destined to remain the province of unread journals, dusty manuscripts and specialist-level seminars. Their debates are conducted in, what to most people is, a foreign language, saddled with complex and obtuse points that could only occur to those who ponder the topic at every waking hour.

Not so with the question of morality. Everybody who can think has a view on it. This is because we are forced to make moral decisions every day. Whether to help a blind man cross the street, or to steal that cupcake you are sure nobody will…Read

2 May 2012

Counsellor – 22

Flossarian, a research postgraduate in philosophy at Rio Tinto University, had a problem, a dilemma. He hesitated in the corridor, listening to the bursts of manic laughter that came from Lionel Cashcard’s room. He waited for the student counsellor to pause for breath before knocking.

“Come in!” said Cashcard, looking up from his expenses form and creaking in his leather jeans. “What can I do for you?”

“I’ve got a problem, a dilemma,” said Flossarian.

The counsellor, writing furiously, gestured to a plastic…Read

It’s all in the Imagination

When he said “Imagination is more important than knowledge”, Albert Einstein implied a contrast between fact and possibility. I should like to suggest that there no distinction in kind between the two, but that many people mistakenly accord too much importance to the idea of reality, that is, to what they think we can know for certain. Let us begin, then, with something that seems to combine the real and the unreal: fictional drama.

In discussing drama with students, I have found that many of them, to start with, invoke realism as the yardstick. The…Read

A Job For Philosophy

D r. Shenkman writes a letter saying “Please Philosophers, tell me how we can survive in such a hostile environment as our universe”. He asks philosophers to tell him ‘what we are’ and ‘how we should behave towards others’. He describes what he has seen of philosophy so far as the “behaviour of a headless chicken” referring I suspect to the fragmented and specialised nature of the subject as it is practised today. It might be just to accuse modern analytic philosophy, unlike philosophy in other periods of history, of having…Read

Editorial, May 2012

Google recently announced that they have built goggles which allow human beings to hook their brains up to an online feed, giving them constant bursts of information. Like a smart phone for your mind, these ‘augmented reality glasses’ respond to your voice commands and fill your field of vision with constant reminders, directions and suggestions about where to have lunch. It is not far from the scenario depicted in M.T. Anderson’s satirical novel Feed in which just about everybody has a chip installed in their brain which is permanently hooked up to the Internet.…Read

7 March 2012

Wait just a moment, before you begin married life

Here’s ten tips for a great marriage from Friedrich Nietzsche to help you make it succeed.


Friendship is the highest form of love, according to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, because great friends inspire each other and can even push each other towards the ideal of the Übermensch (German word for superman)

While he was doubtful that many people would be strong enough for this kind of higher relationship, Nietzsche saw friendship as essential to a good marriage. Sex, in contrast creates complications because…Read

With the Wedding Came the ‘Wife’

Marriage was never something that I quite imagined for myself, for a variety of reasons-not the least of which is that I happen to be a lesbian. As a professor of philosophy, well versed in feminist theories, a child of the '80s, marriage was definitely something to eschew. It was, it appeared, a symbol of women’s oppression, hetero-sexism, perpetuation of "traditional" values, etc. The institution of marriage did not connect up with my perception of loving unions, commitment, and the like. So I put it out of my mind completely.

I met Abelina when I…Read

An Intimate History

In 1782 Pierre Choderlos de Laclos published Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a novel about sexual depravity among the French aristocracy. Largely ignored in the nineteenthcentury, since the 1950s Les Liaisons has been performed using countless formats and titles.

Using a tactic common in the eighteenthcentury, Les Liaisons consists of a series of letters in which the characters themselves describe their actions. The book chiefly concerns two characters, the Vicomte de Valmont and his former mistress the Marquise de Merteuil, and their use of intricate sexual schemes to amuse themselves and settle scores. The novel chronicles their efforts to seduce…Read

Much Ado About MARRIAGE

A cynic once said that tying the knot involves three rings: an engagement ring, a wedding ring and suffering. It is true that many marriages are disastrous, and a higher percentage end in failure now than ever before.

However, some people will claim that it is the best thing they ever did. My uncle and aunt found each other at 17 while still in high school, exchanged vows and now enjoy in their 60s, if not ‘marital bliss’ then something reasonably close.

Even philosophers have wives. Marriage raises important philosophical issues, and not just…Read

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