Co-ordinator : Tim McNamara 01902 751790
Philosophy Group I meets monthly on the second Monday at 10:30.
It is a discussion group and contributions from members are welcome. We have discussed some basic philosophical ideas such as Free-will, the mind, ethics and knowledge. We have looked at political philosophy from Hobbs to Rawls, citizenship and multiculturalism, art, science, and emotion. Also existentialism and Zen Buddhism.
This motto was used (possibly coined) in the First Book of letters by the Roman Poet Horace in 20 BC. It can be variously translated as “Dare to know”, “Dare to be wise” or “Dare to to think for yourself”. But why “Dare”? Think of Thomas Gray:
“where ignorance is bliss,
''Tis folly to be wise.”
or possibly Dorothy Parker:
“Oh, see the happy moron;
He doesn’t give a damn.
I wish I were a moron;
My god, perhaps I am.”
or if you prefer biblical authority:
“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more more grief.”
It was later used by Emmanuel Kant as the motto of the enlightenment, which he held as “man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity”. “It is too easy for me to have a book or a creed to follow, a priest to be my conscience, a doctor to judge my diet rather than to think for myself”. As we age we mature morally. Lawrence Kohlberg (1958) divided moral development into six stages: the first “Obedience and punishment orientation” stage commences at birth (no different from other animals). At stage four (adulthood) we see the importance of obeying laws and social conventions in maintaining a functioning society. This may be an acceptance of the parental views on morality based on culture, religion, politics, etc. or a rejection of these and an acceptance of a morality based on different principles. Many people do not develop passed this stage. At stage 5 more account is taken of the consequences of implementing the rules and an acceptance of other opinions. Compromise is necessary and an acceptance of majority decisions. Kohlberg thought that few people reached stage 6, in which individuals work out their own principles through reasoning, which is what Kant did in his book: “The Metaphysics of Morals”. A modern example might be Peter Singer, who has strong views on animal welfare. You do not have to agree with him but can admire his rigid adherence to his principles.
Philosophy is about more than morality, any subject can be illuminated by reasoned arguments and by looking at the evidence and different interpretations of that evidence. There is no doctrine but by increasing knowledge and reasoned arguments it may challenge you to question some of your foundational beliefs.