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News: August/September 2018

Famous Philosophers’ Huts on Display • Japan’s Football Captain Writes Philosophy • Reasoning Skills May Help Mental Health — News reports by Anja Steinbauer and Tim Beardmore-Gray

Football and Philosophy

Existentialist philosopher and goalkeeper Albert Camus is rumoured to have once claimed: “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.” As it turns out, he is no longer the only philosopher-footballer. Japan national football team captain and Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Makoto Hasebe has written a book of philosophical thoughts entitled The Order of the Soul, a best seller in Japan. Hasebe is a voracious reader of philosophical books, especially Nietzsche. Though perhaps not yet in the same philosophical ballpark as Camus, Hasebe plans to keep up his writing and his retirement from international football a few days ago should give him the opportunity to devote more time to philosophising. Watch this space!

Philosophers in Huts

Machines à penser by Mattia Balsamini
© Fondazione Prada

An exhibition at Fondazione Prada, Venice, open until 25 November 2018, will make the hearts of philosophy nerds everywhere beat faster. It is curated by philosopher Dieter Roelstraete, and is an exploration of philosophers’ retreats, hideaways and special thinking spaces. Roelstraete explains: “The title of the show is Machines à penser, an allusion to the famous quip by Le Corbusier, who called a house a Machine à Habiter – a machine for living. It looks at philosophers who have been associated with huts in various degrees.” The two best known are Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger who both had huts built for them where they went to live and write undisturbed. Heidegger’s hut still exists today in the Black Forest village of Todtnauberg; Wittgenstein’s used to stand on the edge of a fjord in the Norwegian village of Skjolden. Thirdly, there’s the figure of Theodor Adorno, who never lived in a hut, but strangely enough inspired an installation called Adorno’s Hut by British sculptor Ian Hamilton Findlay in 1987. Roelstraete revealed: “My discovery of the existence of Adorno’s Hut many years ago is what triggered the thought process that eventually culminated in the exhibition.”

Philosophy Against Depression

A pilot scheme at a primary school in Croydon has pioneered an attempt to use philosophy as a tool for guarding against depression in children. The intellectual virtues and rewarding fun of early philosophical activity with children have been explored by many over the last couple of decades or so. Thivvia Ragunathan is doing something similar: using activities involving Lego, dressing up and cartoon films, he is getting children to do some great quality reasoning. The big difference is that Ragunathan is in it for the possible psychological benefits to his young thinkers. His idea is based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a talking treatment designed to help psychiatric patients think about themselves more objectively. It’s a widely used treatment, but relies on developing certain thinking tools and for this reason, says Dr Ragunathan, “is not as effective as it could be because a lot of people don’t have those skills. But if those skills are something you have learned early on, it might be more therapeutic.” At a recent conference of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Birmingham, he presented his first findings which suggest that the approach works well. The 30 children who took part in the pilot gave the lessons a rating of 4.6 out of five, clearly having a good time. Finding out what difference it makes to their later lives will not only require patience but will be difficult to quantify. We still think it’s a great idea.

Hail to the Chief!

On 1 July Anita L. Allen became the first black woman to be President of the American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division. This is a position of great prestige in America’s philosophical community, held over the years by such luminaries as Sally Haslanger, Linda Martín Alcoff, Thomas Scanlon, Jerry Fodor, Daniel C. Dennett, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Christine Korsgaard and Robert Nozick. Allen is professor of law and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania and author of several books on privacy in law and ethics. In 2010 she was chosen by President Obama to be part of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

Stanley Cavell

Stanley Cavell passed away on 19th June 2018. Philosophy stole Cavell away from an initially promising life as a musician. After playing hooky from his composition course at the Juilliard School in New York City to watch films and theatre, he embarked on a sparkling career in philosophy. Throughout his life, he managed to combine his interests and abilities in the arts with his philosophical work. Cavell’s Pursuits of Happiness is perhaps the blueprint of the philosophical film review. A philosopher showered with fellowships and honorary degrees, his work aimed to reflect the interests and concerns of the general public. Cavell was a life-long champion of Ordinary Language Philosophy, the approach developed at Oxford University by J.L. Austin and others which focuses on detailed examination of the many ways in which words are used in everyday speech. He wrote extensively on Wittgenstein and Heidegger, and aspired to break down the barriers between the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy.

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