Philosophy talks back to power

hegelI was very heartened to read a comment piece in The Guardian by Paul Redding, Professor of Philosophy at Sydney University.

Redding is one of the recipients of an ARC grant which was ridiculed by the Coalition in the week before the election.

At the same time, the Coalition announced it would be redirecting research funding away from fields it considered “wasteful”, and would consider terminating grants already in progress. As Education Minister, Brendan Nelson vetoed 9 Australian Research Council grants. This is another order entirely – cutting off funds for work already in progress, and determining in advance what can be funded based on political perceptions of what has value. It will be difficult to see how an already eroded academic freedom can continue in being.

Ironically, at the same time, Christopher Pyne has been complaining that “Western Civ” has been overlooked in the history national curriculum for schools. I know there are multiple debates around a contested concept, but in his own terms, it’s hard to see how Pyne could fail to acknowledge that Hegel and Kant are central to the Western philosophical tradition. Perhaps Western Civilisation – qua Anzac – is just the history of wars in the mind of the Coalition.

Redding’s piece has a sting in its tail:

The discipline of philosophy developed in ancient Greece in opposition to a rival discipline popular, then and now, with politicians: rhetoric. The philosophers saw as mere rhetoric language used just to achieve a desired result – to trigger an immediate response rather than a reasoned one. A contemporary term for this, “dog-whistling”, captures the picture well. Dogs react to mere sounds, they don’t act on the basis of concepts expressed in words. The word “ridiculous”, unaccompanied by reasons, is really just a whistle.


« profile & posts archive

This author has written 2362 posts for Larvatus Prodeo.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

22 responses to “Philosophy talks back to power”

  1. paul burns

    Its all that thinking about God that’s got the Coalition worried, Mark.

    Jests aside, this attack on philosophy and philosophers is frightening. How and where are the rigorous thinkers of the future going to be trained if Government continues with this ignoramatic policy? This abbot Government makes me more and more frightened by the minute for my country.

  2. paul burns

    Well, that’s even worse, Mark. In fact, I’m so flabbergasted by the possibility I don’t know what to say. (and that’s the second time that’s ever happened to me on LP. Can’t remember what the first occasion was.)

  3. Helen

    That’s what the coalition are like: boys from the back of the class who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, and can’t see the point of education unless it’s firmly connected to ways of making money. But then, you all knew that anyway.

  4. Sam

    it’s hard to see how Pyne could fail to acknowledge that Hegel and Kant are central to the Western philosophical tradition

    Are you kidding? Pyne would not have even heard of Hagel or Kant. The only philosopher he would have read is Shane Warne, and even Warnie might be too high brow for him.

  5. don coyote

    Spot on, although I suspect that it is not only in the Coalition ranks that “Hagel and Kant” are unknown. Grant money comes from us taxpayers, and it is the government’s responsibility to keep the wastage to a reasonable level.

    However, this guy is a philosopher and must be able to make a coherent justification to the public and the government (philosophy talks back to power) of his grant. But is an article in the Guardian a sensible way to do this?

    Having Chicken Little run around crying the sky is falling does not achieve much.

    “…..Nietzsche also scorned democracy and socialism, which he linked to the slave mentality of the Judeo-Christian world view. He preached the inequality of man and could be used to sanction imperialism, despotism and war. Benito Mussolini was deflected from left-wing socialism to Fascism in a good part by Nietzsche; Hitler and the Nazis subsequently glorified him……..”

    Anyone like that at Sydney Uni ?

  6. Liz

    Although, he doesn’t understand dogs very well.

  7. Paul Norton

    “…..Nietzsche also scorned democracy and socialism, which he linked to the slave mentality of the Judeo-Christian world view. He preached the inequality of man and could be used to sanction imperialism, despotism and war. Benito Mussolini was deflected from left-wing socialism to Fascism in a good part by Nietzsche; Hitler and the Nazis subsequently glorified him……..”

    Anyone like that at Sydney Uni ?

    Certainly not Albo or Frank Stilwell.

  8. jungney

    There are all sorts of Nietzscheans at Sydney but they mostly congregate in the private colleges.

  9. Katz

    An article in the Guardian is a sensible way of point out the arbitrary and contemptuous behaviour of a self-satisfied philistine.

    Perhaps if Briggs had asked Redding to explain his project, then it may have been sensible for Redding to treat him with respect.

    But Briggs didn’t ask for an explanation. Instead, he dismissed the validity of an entire discipline.

    It is therefore apt for Redding to deliver a light slapping to Briggs in the form of a quick survey of the history of Western thought, conaining an insication about how Briggs’ thought fails to measure up to that tradition.

  10. alfred venison

    someone from a medium called my prof (ret’d) on 13 august ’13, just after the election was called, he glossed over the name of her (minor) outfit in his urge to tell me what went down. she said she got his name from a colleague.

    – so, she asked, you taught joe hockey at uni, didn’t you?

    – i taught a lot of people over 30 years at sydney uni, he replied, and joe hockey was one of them.

    – he did the fascism course didn’t he? she asked.

    – he was one of the students who did that course over the years, he said.

    – he liked hitler, she asked, didn’t he?

    – no one liked hitler in that course, he countered.

    – but he did like nitschke, didn’t he?

    – the only nitschke i know, the prof (ret’d) answered, is ray nitschke, linebacker for the green bay packers, and i’m sure joe hockey didn’t know him.

    at that she ran out of questions, thanked him for his time & rang off. -a.v.

  11. Sam

    Here is all you need to know about Jamie Briggs, from his Wikipedia entry.

    Jamie Briggs was born in Kyneton, Victoria and grew up in the River Murray town of Mildura, where his Dad was a local bank teller and his Mum volunteered in the canteen at the Sacred Heart Catholic primary school. He attended St Joseph’s college where he excelled in cricket before moving to Adelaide to pursue his dreams of playing for Australia. At 22, Briggs worked for Business SA, assisting South Australian businesses in managing their workplaces. It was around this time that he joined the Liberal Party.

    It doesn’t exactly scream “deep thinker”.

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is Tony Abbott’s Australia.

  12. Ootz

    Perhaps Heidegger’s ‘inner truth and greatness’ is more in tune with the present ‘being and time’ jungney. Afterall wasn’t he another temporary jesuit seminarian?

  13. jungney

    a.v., great story. He liked Hitler, didn’t he? What’s not to like about the guy. Strong, independent minded, better spoken and more literate than Clive Palmer.

  14. jungney

    Well, given my druthers it’d be Heiddeger over Nietzsche for the times. Although I’m always open to The Marquis. Jesuit seminarians? They’re everywhere, it seems: in the Police, in the Scouts, in The Lodge, in the dock. What sort of a nation are we to elect a deep Catholic at the time of the Royal Commission into Catholic Church and other institutional depredations on the young?

    dada

  15. alfred venison

    yup, dada for the times, for sure. -a.v.

  16. jungney

    a.v. – I’ve never written this before … but … LOL.

  17. philip travers

    There was a headline I read today that in a workplace in Russia a dispute over Kantian philosophy led to a murder.I am not sure of its accuracy.My Grandfather on my mother’s side was a Carpenter who bought some land as close as he could to the Woodend iron sculpture of Christ,in Victoria.No longer in existence.What is very strange about European based and influenced criticism of Christianity is it to easily dismisses the varied approaches of Christianity in a harsh country.People go to England and Europe to see the Cathedrals and the multiple meanings in Architecture.Brisbane Anglican Cathedral was taxpayer supported.A rusty but enchanting iron sculpture of Christ couldn’t even get the attention of a working committee.My brother,who didn’t know about the sculpture visited Woodend and the local tourist promotion shop didn’t even know about it.I sometimes miss that stern but friendly grandfather,as memories fade and what is important about memories loses meaning.Be careful about how you decide you cannot respect Christian distinctions.There couldn’t be a more darkening reality in a lot of Australian lives than to think,only the Capital city dominance shows our history and entanglements of philosophy.Como Park as history when I lived in ancient,if you like country railway houses.You people are losing me.My grandfather was a free settler came to build Australia.The Lib Nats and Labor are fondlers of self.Rusting Iron couldn’t be any closer a try to the problem of a sustained sense of proper purpose and a homegrown morality than a shadow of a Church,undergoing the shadows of even taller buildings.A figure out in the seasons bearing a witness to its own rust,is a very humble symbol.

  18. Patrickb

    Is Philip mellowing? I actually found his contribution to be not only comprehensible but eloquent.

  19. wmmbb

    From the little I know regarding Kant and Hegel, they sound like ratbags to me, especially Immanuel. He argued that human beings are ends in themselves and should not be treated as means to end. There goes Western Industrial Civilization, Imperialism, and probably, Border Protection. Fight, fight, Christopher Pyne, against the dying of the light.

    Who are Christopher’s and his “party’s” philosophers of preference? Has anyone asked?

  20. Tim Macknay

    Who are Christopher’s and his “party’s” philosophers of preference? Has anyone asked?

    No need – Ayn Rand, obviously.

  21. Tony

    Western civilization? Didn’t that begin with John Wayne?