Print Edition: November 21, 2012
On November 15, World Philosophy Day, UFV’s Student Association of Philosophy came together for a discussion, questioning the designation of World Philosophy Day.
“Are we supposed to be proving ourselves?” Professor Moira Kloster asked.
The discussion brought up more observations about the term “World Philosophy Day” (how does world philosophy differ from Western philosophy) as well as insights about what humanities bring to the table for society, and questions about why United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) would “force philosophy into a certain mode, or avenue,” as Peter Raabe wondered.
The three philosophy professors—Glen Baier, Moira Kloster and Peter Raabe—led the discussion, facilitated by the Student Association of Philosophy co-president Nathan Todd.
Afterward, Todd sat down for an interview about the association, how students can get involved, and what philosophers are all about.
How many years have you been involved?
Three years, this just finishing my first year as co-president.
And why are there co-presidents?
Well there is Association for Philosophy, and then there is Student Association for Philosophical Counsellors . . . And you can only have one student association per faculty, so we did the co-president thing so each would have equal control of what’s going on within the whole association.
So did you help start up the group, or how did that go?
No, the association was led by a friend of mine two or three years prior to me even getting here . . . And I took over after he left.
Okay. I had assumed the association started up when the degree program started up [three years ago].
No, yeah, I think the [association] kind of helped bring the idea of the degree program around.
Right. I’ve only ever taken the one philosophy course . . . Just the basic Reasoning.
Yeah, everyone has to take that one.
Is it kind of like the English 105 of philosophy?
Yes, it’s really – Reasoning is really more like the logical aspect, method of philosophy, not really looking at the content, so looking at logical fallacies, critical thinking, basic reasoning, whereas philosophy courses you’re looking at specific philosophers and what their arguments were. They’re going to be based on and involving these things covered in Reasoning but using it to prove or disprove is a different [thing].
So how did you think this event went?
I thought it was great, really well attended. It always produces a bit of . . . anxiety just about how [the discussion] is going to run, because we’re just kind of running blind for the most part . . . But I couldn’t see it going better, there was more people than I expected.
Yes, it is really difficult to get students involved sometimes.
Absolutely. It’s part of the culture of the school, being a commuter school, right? No one comes here to live, they come here to do their class and leave.
What other troubles do you run into as a student-run association?
Well . . . I mean, the issues of bureaucracy I find are pretty minimal, because I just don’t pay attention to them. If we need money, I just put in a request, and because there is so little activity at the student association level, I feel like SUS is pretty willing to get involved and provide resources. But, yeah, organisation stuff, room bookings is really difficult sometimes. This wasn’t the optimal room I wanted, but it turned out to work great. At this point the problem that I am running into is trying to find someone to replace executives of the association because a bunch of us are done in April . . . It’s bringing in the new students to keep it going.
So I try to run groups like this, that are accessible, that can draw in a few people. I had a few people express interest in going to the meeting, and that’s something.
So if a student wanted to hold a position on the association, what do they have to do?
We cover all that kind of stuff at the Annual General Meeting—we’ve never had more than one person running for a position at one time, but we’ll be having the AGM in the winter, and people will announce their candidacy and we’ll vote at that time . . . It’s pretty open. You’re going to want to get involved to get voted in. The position will always go to a philosophy major over someone that isn’t, so we do have that written into the constitution.
Did you find the discussion kind of . . . increased your hope for your future as a philosopher?
Umm . . . No. Short answer no. I don’t have much of an anxiety because I know philosophy’s place, I don’t think that’s going to change, I think it’s kind of inherent to what it is . . . Philosophy is about deconstruction, whereas they’re trying to make education about construction; building platforms or trying to create technologies, built things . . . Philosophy is there for asking questions about all of it, deconstructing everything. The funny thing is, I’ve heard Glen Baier talk about this too; when universities went to businesses and asked them what they want from universities, what’s going to help them, they said they wanted people who can think – and so philosophy is like “okay, we can do that.” The problem is that the thinking business wants is problem solving. [What] critical thinking philosophers do is problem finding. So we’re creating more problems, not solving, as a grand activity. I don’t think it’s going anywhere, I think it’s going to get relegated and sloughed away as it always has.
In the discussion, there was a mention about the relationship between philosophy and psychology. Can you clarify?
Psychology is an empirical science focused on human activity and cognition. Philosophy is the method of questioning positions and developing fundamental knowledge claims, claims about being, claims about the world. So in order to be a psychologist you have to assume certain philosophical positions, so you have to assume that there is a self that is knowable, that can be studied, and psychology branches off further into how do we study that self, what is the nature of that self in terms of various neurons firing off in the brain, in terms of behaviour that is manifested, in terms of concept management, all that stuff. That’s going to be after the fact of philosophy, so philosophy is going to be prior to that.
Okay. Upcoming events?
I’m kind of tapped out for this semester, because I have way too much work to do. I have some ideas for speakers in the winter semester . . . I am toying with the idea of doing something on existentialism because there might be some guest speakers we could get. I don’t want to commit anyone, but yeah, I want to do at least one more speaker event in the winter as well as some social events.
So all in all, what was your conclusion today? Why is there a World Philosophy day?
Because UNESCO decided to start one.
Yes, that’s the thing, it’s just going to keep devolving into more questions; it’s not necessarily going to come to a solid conclusion, you know what I mean?
For students looking to get involved, drop by room D 125 on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. for Student Philosophy Association meetings.