UKZN hosts MEPSS II in Durban

The second Metaphysics, Epistemology and Philosophy of Science Symposium (MEPSS) is to be held in Durban, hosted by the philosophy discipline at UKZN.

Speakers and topics at the event, taking place on June 27 and 28, include:

Jane Anderson (University of Johannesburg) “Psychodynamic Explanation Versus Scientific Explanation.”

Michael Pitman (Wits University) “What can we learn from empirical approaches to the philosophy of psychiatry?”

Greg Swer (University of KwaZulu-Natal) “Collingwood, Spengler and the Nature of History.”

David Martens (Wits University) “Frachantianus on Possibility, Impossibility, and Divine Omnipotence.”

Hannah Kirkaldy (Rhodes University) “Confirmation bias: friend or foe?”

Helen Lauer (University of Ghana) “Impacts of intercultural epistemic injustice upon Africans’ health and scientific Practice.”

Blaize Kaye & David Spurrett (University of KwaZulu-Natal) “Herbert goes to Monte Carlo: Distributed control and the problem of efficient allocation.”

Sean Muller (Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit / Independent) “When is economics bullshit?”

John Collier (University of KwaZulu-Natal) “Dynamical conditions for strong emergence and their consequences.”

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February 2015 – More on philosophy and employability

Here’s an interested recent article about philosophy and employability, and more specifically about the impact on lifetime earnings of studying the humanities, and some humanities disciplines more specifically:

Surprise: Humanities Degrees Provide Great Return On Investment

This piece refers to an analysis, conducted in the USA, of lifetime earnings depending on course of study. It reports that the average lifetime gains from a humanities education are high, and especially so for philosophy majors:

“The present value of the extra earnings that graduates in humanities majors can expect over their lifetime is $302,400 for drama majors, $444,700 for English majors, $537,800 for history majors, and $658,900 for philosophy majors. If a person goes to a top-level, in-state, public university with no financial aid of any kind, the total cost is likely to run around $80,000 (tuition, books, and living expenses). That means the much maligned humanities majors are still getting an A in economics because the returns on their investments are quite high (in the 300 to 700 percent range).”

(We have no idea whether there are similar results outside the USA, nor do we mean to imply that the value of the humanities (philosophy in particular) is exhausted by the economic advantages that study provides.)

For another account of the same results, see this article.

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Recent articles about Philosophy and the workplace

Here are some additional articles about philosophy and the workplace.

Key to Innovation: Hire a Philosophy Major

This is a commentary on a 2013 piece in the New York Times called “How to get a job with a philosophy degree” (previously linked from this blog). The author of this article argues that the case in favour of philosophy is significantly stronger than the one made in the New York Times.

Don’t kid yourself about BAs

This is a 2014 opinion piece in TimesLive by Jonathan Jansen, Rector of the University of the Free State in South  Africa. It is focused on the value of humanities education in general, rather than philosophy specifically, but refers to analytical skills that are especially emphasises in philosophy.

Philosophy’s Popularity Soars

In this piece from California Magazine (the alumnus magazine of the University of California at Berkeley) Patricia Yolin focuses on the growing popularity of philosophy at UCB, and includes comments by a number of recent philosophy graduates working in a wide range of fields.

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Third Year Philosophy Courses in 2015

The following courses will be offered at final year level in 2015.

Semester 1

Phil 301 (A central philosophical problem)
Philosophy of Law – Prof Patrick Lenta

This module, comprised of four sections, provides an introduction to the philosophy of law. In the first section we shall address questions relating to the nature of law including: What is law? What is the relationship between law and morality? What should judges do when a legal rule mandates an unjust result? In the second section, we shall take up the question whether the law should enforce morality. In the third section, we shall ask whether judicial review is democratic, and to the extent that it is undemocratic, whether it could be changed to make it more democratic. In the fourth and final section, we shall examine some rationales for criminal punishment and justifications advanced for certain types of punishment.

Phil 302 (Cognitive Processes, Language and Consciousness)
Philosophy of Mind – Dr Adriano Palma

This course will focus on three related topics in philosophy of mind. The first is innate knowledge and arguments for it. The second is the problem of dualism, or the separation of mind and body. The last is the possibility of artificial intelligence, and the related notion that minds are in some sense machines.

Semester 2

Phil 305 (Philosophy and Society)
Natural Kinds and Race – Prof David Spurrett

This course focuses on the philosophical question of what, if anything, is a ‘natural kind’ (something featuring in laws and explanations) and applies these philosophical questions to the specific topic of race. We will ask whether races are natural kinds, and what races, and racism could be if they are not.

Phil 306 (History of Philosophy)
Hume and Kant – Mr Deepak Mistrey

This is a course in classical modern epistemology focusing on Hume and Kant. Its aim is to give students an introduction to, and an opportunity to read and examine, significant parts of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. In particular it is expected that students will emerge with an understanding of Hume’s basic position, his treatment of causality, of personal identity, and other matters of epistemology and metaphysics; and with an understanding of the basic position of the Critique of Pure Reason, esp. Kant’s views on space and time and the deduction of the pure concepts of the understanding. Students will be expected to know these particular aspects of Hume and Kant well, and to be able to respond analytically and critically to them.

For more information about any of these courses, please contact the lecturers concerned.

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What is Philosophy? A partial answer in quotations

Maria Popova over at Brainpickings has compiled a collection of statements about philosophy is, mostly by relatively well known contemporary philosophers. Taken as a collection, they give a sense of what it is that professional philosophers today think they are up to. Here is the link: What is Philosophy? An Omnibus of Definitions from Prominent Philosophers.

For more on this topic, see the ‘What is Philosophy‘ page on this site.

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Philosophy and Employability – Update

Here is a recent blog post by David Bain about the topic of employability with a philosophy degree (or a first degree with a major in philosophy): Employability of Philosophy Students.

In addition, the Subject Centre for Philosophy and Religious Studies at the Open University (in the UK) has compiled a guide for employment with the skills gained from studying philosophy. There is a video interview with philosopher Nigel Warburton here. In addition, you can download a PDF copy of their booklet Where next? Unlocking the potential of your philosophy degree.

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Public talks by UKZN Philosopher

In December of 2013 the Free Society Institute held a conference in Johannesburg called Thinking Things Through. One of the speakers there was UKZN Philosophy Professor David Spurrett, on the topic “Showing your working: Science, and the collaborative nature of good reasoning”. His talk was recorded, and can be watched on YouTube:

Earlier in 2013, Spurrett spoke at TEDxUmhlanga, on the subject of ‘Inner Conflict’. That talk is now also available on YouTube:

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