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News: January/February 2014
Mike Tyson ‘Likes Philosophy’ • Aussie Govt ‘Doesn’t Like Philosophy’ • International Animal Cruelty Court Proposed — News reports by Sue Roberts
Trouble in Paradise
Over the last few decades, Australian philosophers have become renowned for their contributions to numerous areas of thought including research into the nature of consciousness, ethics and language. Thinkers such as David Armstrong, J.J.C. Smart, Frank Jackson, and David Chalmers have produced an impression of Australia as a philosophy superpower on a scale completely disproportionate to its relatively small number of professional philosophers. However, the incoming Coalition government recently announced (in a press release and followup interview) that it would “crack down on Labor’s addiction to waste by auditing increasingly ridiculous research grants and reprioritising funding through the Australian Research Council (ARC) to deliver funds to where they’re really needed.” It pledged to redirect $103 million in research funding away from the humanities towards medical research. The examples of ‘ridiculous research’ given were mainly drawn from Philosophy, and included a research project on ‘The God of Hegel’s Post-Kantian idealism’, led by Professor Paul Redding of the University of Sydney. The Vice Chancellor of that university protested about one of his academics being singled out in this way. Catriona Jackson, CEO of the advocacy group Science & Technology Australia, said “Australians should ask: Do we want politicians picking and choosing which grant proposals deserve funding?”
Professor Peter Geach – analytic Thomist philosopher and husband of the late Elizabeth Anscombe – died on 21st December aged 97. Like Anscombe, Geach was a student and follower of Ludwig Wittgenstein at Cambridge University. Geach brought together a commitment to analytic philosophy and a commitment to Roman Catholicism, particularly the ideas of St Thomas Aquinas. He also had some pretty fierce things to say about ethics from time to time.
Wilson in 1956
We are very sorry to report that the ever-controversial existentialist philosopher Colin Wilson died on Thursday 5th December. He shot to fame as a young author in 1956 for his book The Outsider and over then next 50 years he wrote dozens of books on an incredible variety of subjects, ranging from criminology to mysticism to carefully argued philosophical essays such as those in his collection Below the Iceberg.
According to The Wall Street Journal, boxing legend Mike Tyson now digs philosophy, particularly the ideas of Søren Kierkegaard. Tyson revealed in a recent WSJ article that he was reading The Quotable Kierkegaard, edited by Gordon Marino. Tyson admitted that he admires the rebellious nature of many philosophers in challenging the status quo. “Nietzsche’s my favorite. He’s just insane.” Historical figures also influence his reading; Alexander the Great is reported to have said “I would rather live a short life of glory than a long one of obscurity.” Occasional Philosophy Now contributor Gordon Marino, who is a part-time boxing coach as well as a philosophy professor, tweeted that “those who are surprised don’t know Mike Tyson.”
Animal Cruelty Court Proposed
A prominent animal ethicist has proposed that “systematic and widespread cruelty to animals” should be tackled by an international court and not on an issue-by-issue, country-by-country basis. Professor Andrew Linzey, Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, says in his introduction to The Global Guide to Animal Protection, (just out from the University of Illinois Press): “Humanitarian organisations worldwide should collaborate in setting up an international court to judge cases of animal cruelty and specifically to assess the culpability of governments.” The court would consist of humanitarians drawn from the legal and veterinary professions, together with ethicists, philosophers, theologians and “those accomplished in anticruelty worldwide.” Government and corporations found guilty would be named and shamed and placed on a register.
Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu says in his forthright foreword to the book that “It is a kind of theological folly to suppose that God has made the entire world just for human beings, or to suppose that God is interested in only one of the millions of species that inhabit God’s good earth.” A life-long champion of equal rights, Archbishop Tutu went on to say “Churches should lead the way by making clear that all cruelty – to other animals as well as to human beings – is an affront to civilised living and a sin before God.” The Global Guide includes more than 180 articles surveying the extent of worldwide human exploitation of animals from a variety of perspectives, and also provides examples of attempts by individuals to challenge and change exploitative practices.