Buddhism podcast 3

Hi, the Buddhism podcast 3 is now on-line.

It is short, and about Not-Self (Anatta) – and is really just a reading of the start of the Buddhist text Questions of King Milinda – which uses the idea of a chariot…

The text – to read along – is at: http://web.singnet.com.sg/~rjp31831/nagasena.htm

The picture is me ‘podcasting’, as some have said it is hard to listen without a mental image – not sure if this will make it worse or better…


Group Discussions…

Following the post about the skills philosophy/ethics students need, we hagve been using the 187 (Skills) module to discuss what procedures might best enable group / class feedback discussions, and whether any ground rules are needed for them… Comments for this post will reflect the in-class thinking – and further comments, as ever, are welcome…

Buddhism Podcast 2: The Four Noble Truths

Hi, the second podcast for RPE (Religion, Philosophy & Ethics) 202 Buddhism is now available. This is a longer piece – so is hosted in a different location to the other podcasts for RPE.

This podcast is a reading (by me) of the Mahasatipatthana Sutta, on the Buddhist notion of the Four Noble Truths, with comments and explanations. While I will give a handout to you in class, the sutta is also at http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/mahasati.htm

The podcast download is at http://www.archive.org/details/DavidWebsterFourNobleTruthslecture/ or on the Higher Education section of iTunes.

As ever – do let me know if there are technical problems (it is a 27MB file, so you may need the patience of a Buddha…)


EZ205 Langauge and Ethics podcast / Utilitarianism powerpoint

For those on EZ205 Language & Ethics, there is a short podcast with some definitions of Moral Realism at:
http://pebblepad.glos.ac.uk/blog.aspx?blogoid=5503 – hope it is useful. [It may be of interest to those studying A-level, ( As / A2) Religious Studies, Philosopy & Ethics – or for thier revision]

Those studying RPE103 Contemporary Ethical Issues may also want to have a listen. I have also added, at the same location, a copy of the Utilitarianism powerpoint that EZ205 and RPE103 students may find of use…

Cheers, Dave

[Oh – posts about the skills needed to study philosophy and/or ethics are still very welcome on the post below…]

Ladies College Philosophy & Religion event

Last week, some of our staff and students attended an event at the Cheltenham Ladies College on Religion and Philosophy. This was mainly aimed at students of A-Level Religious studies (philosophy & ethics) – but they kindly had asked RPE students too.

Below is a report from two of the students who attended:
From Carol:

When we were given the opportunity to attend a Philosophy conference, three of us fellow students jumped at the chance. Not only did we think that the day would be philosophically interesting, we also wanted to have a ‘peek’ at the very famous Cheltenham Ladies College, where the conference was held. The building was very grand indeed. Although the conference was aimed at A-level students, it was a very intellectual discussion. In fact, we all feel that studying the ‘Philosophy, Science and Belief’ module (RPE 201) really helped us to gain a strong grounding in the discussions.

Keith Ward started the conference off by talking about the statement ‘God is a delusion’ and examined where our beliefs in God come from. He then opened the discussion to the students who asked many interesting questions. One young lady asked where our morals come from if we do not possess belief in God, Keith Ward very quickly replied that we cannot have a real morality if we do not believe in God, which of course we all disagreed very strongly with (as we feel we do possess morality!)

Anthony Flew was allotted to speak next, although he forgot that he had to be there and so he was late! (He is very old so we cannot hold him entirely responsible…) Keith Ward stepped in to talk about the Verification principle (he was a student of the very famous A. J Ayer!) and also spoke briefly on falsification. He was very impressive actually; he hadn’t prepared but managed to speak very coherently on the subject.

During this time, some students attended an exam preparation workshop, which we did not attend (mainly due to the fact that we have just finished our exams!). Then it was time for a break – tea, coffee and biscuits were supplied! Yummy! Back to the Princess Hall again for another talk from Keith Ward examining the problem of evil, and attempting to explain why there is evil in the world today. From a Christian view, he attempted to explain evil due to our freedom in the world, and God could not intervene otherwise he would jeopardise our freedom. He also attempted to explain the notions of God’s goodness and his omnipotence. Some ‘smart alec’ attempted to argue a very silly point – comparing God with Hitler – the room went incredibly silent by this remark!

Lunch time, and we went to a very cute little tea room.

When we arrived back, feeling very full, Anthony Flew had arrived! He looked very old and doddery, but also had a very warm charm to him. Flew and Ward had a debate concerning God’s existence, but it was incredibly difficult to hear Flew, everyone had to strain their ears very hard. They both hated Darwin, and Flew became very animated indeed when he was arguing his point against Darwin. What we did find frustrating was that both Ward and Flew possessed belief in God, we would have liked to have seen an atheist there to stir things up a little!

Overall, it was a really enjoyable day!

From Shelley:

Anthony Flew apparently got the days muddled and didn’t arrive until the afternoon. So Keith Ward delivered an unrehearsed and, well, an unwritten, talk on verification and falsification, which was impressive, but I still found him irritating. (By the way, without Philosophy and Science RPE201, I would have been lost for a lot of the day). When he talked about ‘the problem with evil’ he seemed to be saying that without God, there is no criteria for morality, goodness, friendship, all the virtues, really. So a young woman challenged him on it and he answered in a kind of wet way, and what I gathered from his response was that he didn’t think morality, etc, was possible without God. Frankly, I didn’t think he answered any of the questions well. He could lecture from his own position, but he didn’t do well defending it. Also, he was always referring to striving towards the Good, as an objective reality that exists, God, Supreme Good, Ultimate Reality. And although, I couldn’t formulate a question, I wasn’t convinced by his argument (he also seemed like a dapper, chirpy-voiced, personable, cheerful, unangst-ridden little man which irritated me).

Frances, Emily and Carol asked very good questions.

Anthony Flew hates Richard Dawkins. That came over loud and clear. But it was the only thing from him that did. He became very excited about ‘time’. He was downright animated stating there hasn’t been enough time for the natural selection process to have evolved to where we are today. But the problem with using ‘time’ to refute evolution theory and thereby using the refutation to support independent design theory, is fallacious reasoning of the bifurcation flavour. It’s the same as using irreducible complexities to slam evolution theory but simultaneously and indirectly using it to support independent design (as Carol pointed out in her question to Keith Ward – which he didn’t answer properly – where’s the little symbol on the keyboard that sticks its tongue out?). What I mean is the faulty reasoning is the either/or one, ‘if it’s not this, it’s that’. The ‘time’ evidence falsifies evolution theory. But that doesn’t necessarily lead to the acceptance or truth of independent design theory.

Keith Ward hates Richard Dawkins too. I think he used the word ‘stupid’ several times to describe RD. Unfortunately, I had to strain very hard to hear Anthony Flew. The afternoon session was organised like a conversation between KW and AF. So it was a little frustrating because AF couldn’t be heard. Or Keith Ward would pontificate and Anthony Flew would nod his head and reply ‘Yes, yes’. He must be in his deep 80s and it was a great opportunity to see him, though.

Ethical Decisions – and the study of philosophy and ethics

I was reading a comment over at the UNF philsophy blog:(here) where a UNF philosophy student [I think] relates a (rather frightening) real-life incident that she was involved in – and then relates it to the topic at hand (the ‘Golden Rule’ in ethics):

But you can bet if I wake up and find a burglar in my home, the furthest thing
from my mind will be the golden rule, however conceived or applied. And when I
call 911, it won’t be because I have reasoned that doing so will restore a
person’s soul to a state of virtue. More particularly, I won’t be doing that
type of reasoning while the burglar is in my home.

Here is a point about how we decide – the process in the split-second moment – and whether we at that point apply any moral theory at all. Maybe we just act on instinct (that’s what is sometimes feels like). OR perhaps we implicitly apply some set of crtieria? Or maybe it is habit/training?

The second thing I thought about after reading this was: Does the study of ethics make you a better person?

[This is very pertinent in the UK, as many more people seem to be studying philosophy and ethics at A level
A-Levels (split into As/A2) are what UK students do between school and University – normally around the ages 16-18
AS and A2 Religious Studies now have a large portion of this type of material in them]


There could be numerous answers:

  • Yes – I now think about others much more, and more concerned to act in an appropriate manner.
  • No – but I am better at justifying my actions (actually driven by my lusts) to others as ethical.
  • No – it has no impact.
  • I still act the same – but tend to feel worse about it aftewards than I used to…

I am sure there are other answers – but wanted to ask readers: has the study of philosophy & religion (esp. ethics) changed you as a person?


Answers welcome from our Religion, Philosophy and Ethics students – and anyone else who has studied topics with an ethical/philosophical aspect: what did it do to you…