Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dr Roy Jackson interviews Professor Aaqil Ahmed.

Over  on our video-blogDr Roy Jackson interviews Professor Aaqil Ahmed, Head of BBC Religion and Ethics. Click the image below to go to the entry in the video-blog:

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Revision resources on video?

As A-level (and other) exam season approaches - you may be interested to note that we have a range of videos on topics that may be of use. Our video blog is at http://philosvids.wordpress.com/  - and down the right hand side you'll find a range of topics - or just browse through the (approx. 100) videos there.

We are always happy to record more if there are topics that people really want to focus on - use twitter to tell us what topics you'd like to see covered - we are at https://twitter.com/RPEatGlos.


See more about the RPE team at : http://r-p-e.blogspot.co.uk/p/rpe-staff-who-are-we.html 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Applicant Day!

Friday the 4th April sees us hosting another Applicant Day for RPE (and History/RPE) applicants, here at our Francis Close Hall Campus in Cheltenham.

All are very welcome - and we hope you find out everything you need to about the course.

Here are some pictures of the campus.. I'm hopeful it'll be dry tomorrow - but can't guarantee golden sunshine...

Another good way to get a sense of what we offer is to browse through our blog and other online resources - by using the tabs above..

Another way to get a good sense of what it's like to be a student here is to look at our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/RPEglos/ - and see students talking to each other and to us, or click the pic below for our photo gallery:

Click to see our Flickr gallery..

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

RPE Staff Portrait...

Some of the RPE staff - as perceived by our third years..
I hope you can tell who is who...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cats on Campus?

The mysterious FCH cat..
I noticed yesterday that when I post important matters on the RPE Facebook group, I get a few likes - some intelligent comment - but when I post a picture of a cat on FCH campus: the likes go wild...

Now - everyone knows that I like cats, have cats, and have been known to include cat memes in presentations - but this fever for the campus cat seems beyond reason?

If you spot the cat on site - email me a picture and I'll pop it on our course Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/58244916@N00/

Meditation visit..

Many thanks to Justin Whitaker, who came to do a meditation practice with year 2 yesterday. The meditation was a metta-bhavana practice, and we had a discussion of the practice before and after.  Justin is also the author of the influential American Buddhist Perspective blog, and students can read more there...

I also interview Justin about meditation in Buddhism on our video-bloh here too: http://philosvids.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/meditation-in-buddhism/

The Prezi from last week's class on Meditation is also available.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cordoba 2014...

So - we set of at 3am on 11th March for Spain - and after some exciting coach, plane, coach and walking: we arrived at our Hotel in Cordoba by early afternoon. We went on our usual orientation tour, featuring supermarkets, chemists, museums, fast and slow food outlets and a general bit of wandering around - culminating in Plaza Corredera for an early evening drink..

Looking back from Calahorra Tower towards the Mezquita
That allowed for an early start on the Wednesday at the Torre de la Calahorra museum - this is a museum (with audio headphone guides!) that covers the 'Golden Age' and talks of Mulsim, Christian and Jewish life in the region - it culminates on the roof of the tower - where we have 5 years of pictures (only one in actual rain!) 
Also on the Wednesday - we went to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos to look at the site used for the Alcazar - and get a sense of its history. Then to the Archaeological Museum - for a glance at Cordoba's more ancient (mostly Roman) past.

Imma with students in the Mezquita / Cathedral of Cordoba
We met Imma – our expert tour guide – for the tour of the Mezquita / Cathedral – which is a highlight of the trip for many.

The tour took us from the Mezquita courtyard to the Jewish quarter, to see a ruined synagogue, as we hear about the history of the town and region: we then entered the Mezquita and had a wealth of detail from Imma about the amazing building.

Thursday afternoon saw us head to the Bath-house of the Caliphs, a small underground museum - with some bloody tales...

Then we walked to the Museum of Jewish life –  for our guided visit: The tour guide, Alex, not only gave us a lot of detail - but also finished the visit by singing to us!

We then - on Friday - had a day in Seville to see the Royal Alcazar there - and the huge, huge Seville Cathedral.. - most students even did the massive walk to the top of the tower for the views..  Everyone made the late train back - as we returned to Cordoba.

Saturday was the day of our trip to the ruined Islamic city of Medina Azahara - about 8km from the city - with a really detailled and informative museum at the site. After coaches, shuttle buses, gift shops and sunshine (with lots of learning thrown in) - we returned for an afternoon of gift shopping (Mosque snow-domes anyone?) - before walking back over the roman bridge at 6.30 am on Sunday to begin our journey home...

Monday, March 10, 2014

RPE Cordoba Trip 2014..

We will be leaving for Spain shortly - meeting in just over ten hours, at 2.30am - to study the Islamic, Christian and Jewish history, philosophy and culture of Andalusia, via our base in Cordoba.

You can follow the trip via our photo gallery: HERE, and via Twitter HERE...

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Anger kills...?

Over at the Guardian's Comment is Free you can find me wondering about different types of anger..


Just some speculation, wondering about perhaps thinking more about different types of anger, but it seems to have generated plenty of comment (which was probably the point...)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil: Chapter Three and the Eternal Recurrence

Given that Nietzsche has a reputation for being an atheist, this chapter may come as something as a surprise to many, as it demonstrates Nietzsche’s own ‘religiosity’. In looking at religious belief, Nietzsche is more concerned with why people believe what they do, not what they believe. It is the psychology of religion that is his main concern.

Here I want to focus on the key Section 56, as this presents his notion of the ‘eternal recurrence’. Apart from Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the doctrine of the eternal recurrence only gets a few mentions in his later works. However, the doctrine was first elaborated in The Gay Science (S341) where Nietzsche presents a ‘what  if’ image.  He asks what if a demon were to creep up to you one night when you are all alone and, feeling lonely, and were to say to you that the life you have lived and continue to live will be the same life you will live again and again for infinity. This life will be exactly the same; no additions, and no omissions, every pain, every joy, every small and great event.  If this were the case, would you cry out in despair over such a prospect, or would you think it to be the most wonderful outlook ever? Though not mentioned specifically, this ‘what if’ scenario sums up the eternal recurrence: whatever in fact happens has happened an infinite number of times in the exact same detail and will continue to do so for eternity. You have lived your life an infinite  number of times in the past and will do so an infinite number  of times in the future.

Importantly, like seemingly the doctrine of the will to power, Nietzsche presents the eternal recurrence as a thought experiment,  not a provable truth. In his unpublished notes of the time (which should always be treated with caution) he argues for it as a cosmological thesis. However, it is most appropriately (given what we know about Nietzsche’s epistemological views) seen as an existential challenge: given this burdensome thought how can we turn it into something joyful? It is essentially the same kind of question that has preoccupied a number of existential thinkers, most notably Camus. Nietzsche goes beyond Schopenhauer’s pessimism here in expressing the need for a human being to be world-affirming: you have to be well-disposed towards yourself, not full of world-weary pessimism or hoping for the next life. You have to look at your life and, like seeing a drama or hearing a musical, declare ‘de capo’ (‘from the beginning’): wanting it again and again. Saying ‘yes’. Nietzsche ends S56 with ‘a vicious circle made god?’, but this is the god Dionysus, not the Christian God.

The eternal recurrence is meant to have a transforming effect, which requires a revaluation of all values. It requires us to be proud of our achievements because they are our creation. Nonetheless, like religious belief, adopting the eternal recurrence is a matter of ‘faith’. Where it differs from religious belief is that it does not place that faith in something other-worldly, but in this life.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil: Chapter Two and the Will to Power

The ultimate concern of this chapter is the possibility of philosophy.  If we accept that our ‘truths’ are merely the prejudices of philosophers, then we are led to scepticism.  However, Nietzsche believes that there is a role for the genuine philosopher, and this involves a ‘free spirit’ (‘spirit’ [geist] also translated as ‘mind’) that goes beyond scepticism and involves a new insight into nature.  This leads to a new philosophy, a new ‘religion’ that also entails a new morality and politics.

The ‘free spirit’ is what anticipates the ‘philosopher of the future’. Here Nietzsche asks us to see the world differently – ultimately as expressions of the will to power. A key section of Chapter 2 on the topic of the will to power is Section 36. Note how Nietzsche uses terms such as ‘assuming this’ and ‘supposing that’, so this passage presumably cannot be seen as a straightforward statement of what the will to power is (keep in mind what Nietzsche has already said about the will to power in Sections 13 and 22, in particular that all is ‘interpretation’). To some extent then, what Nietzsche is presenting is a thought-experiment and is highly speculative. Having said that, Burnham points out that, given that truth equals representation for Nietzsche, then Section 36 – and all of Nietzsche’s views for that matter – are both statements of what is and are highly speculative.

Whereas scholars such as Arthur Danto argue that this is Nietzsche’s ontology, other scholars such as Maudemarie Clark, points out that this view would conflict with what Nietzsche says in Sections 13 and 22, which is why the passage is deliberately set out in hypothetical form. Having said that, as Janaway notes, Nietzsche is nonetheless presenting his view; not so much ‘ontological’ as ‘psychological’.

In Section 36, Nietzsche presents a series of hypothesis:

1.    Suppose that one ‘representation’ (i.e. what is ‘real’) of the world is that it consists of drives and passions and nothing else. Thinking (intellect) is only a relationship between these drives. Thinking is not a representation of these drives, but the drives themselves!
2.    Suppose also that the ‘material world’, the world of mechanistic cause and effect, is also part of this model and so is actually an organic unity. i.e. drives, the will, etc. are not something separate from the physical. So the physical world is not delusion, not ‘appearance’ but, rather, part of Nietzsche’s  model (which is itself an ‘appearance’)
3.    All organic functions can be ‘traced back’ to the will to power in the sense that all things are a power relationship, to achieve mastery and dominance (not something separate from the drives, but rather that which consolidates the drives). This includes thought itself (and philosophy): it is the will to power spiritualized! It is abstract ideas etc. that, ironically, often set out to disguise the will to power by giving other explanations for the world.

The key thing to note here is that the scientific view of the world sees everything in terms of physical cause and effect, whereas Nietzsche speculates that it is will; a kind of ‘instinctual life’ which includes emotions. Even physical process, such as animals or plants feeding on other animals or plants, involves the will to power, of matter acting on (and taking over or consuming) other matter. In an existential (phenomenological) sense, Nietzsche is saying that we experience the world this way, not that this is the way the world really is.

Friday, February 14, 2014

New book out by RPE tutor

Roy Jackson’s new book What is Islamic Philosophy? has just been published by Routledge. It offers a broad introduction to Islamic thought, from its origins to the many challenging issues facing Muslims in the contemporary world. The chapters explore early Islamic philosophy and trace its development through key themes and figures up to the twenty-first century.

Topics covered include:
  • ethical issues such as just war, abortion, women’s rights, homosexuality and cloning
  • questions in political philosophy regarding what kind of Islamic state could exist and how democratic can (or should) Islam really be
  • the contribution of Islam to ‘big questions’ such as the existence of God, the concept of the soul, and what constitutes truth
    "This excellent book provides a user-friendly introduction to the emergence and subsequent developments of Islamic philosophy. Jackson’s problem-oriented approach also shows, in a skilful manner, the relevance of this philosophy to some of the most pressing issues of our time in important fields such as politics, ethics and religion." - Ali Paya, University of Westminster (UK), Islamic College (UK), and National Research Institute for Science Policy (Iran)

Applicant Day..

There will be an Applicant Day for people who've applied for the RPE (Religion, Philosophy & Ethics) course on Wednesday 19 February.
It’s a chance to get a feel for the University of Gloucestershire, for what it would be like to study here, and to ask any nagging questions about the course (if you have them). One of the sessions will offer a taste of what RPE students experience in lectures, and the subjects they explore:

Religion, Philosophy and Ethics: The Examined LifePlato famously said that an unexamined life was not worth living. But what is an unexamined life? How would you live a life that had no religion, philosophy and ethics in it, and if you did, would that really be a problem? 

Don’t worry if you can’t make 19 February, there will be another Applicant Day on 04 April.