David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In G. Oppy & N. Trakakis (eds.), The Antipodean Philosopher. Lexington Books. 61-66 (2011)
Let me tell you what philosophy is about, then about how Sydney does it in its own special way. Does life have a meaning, and if so what is it? What can I be certain of, and how should I act when I am not certain? Why are the established truths of my tribe better than the primitive superstitions of your tribe? Why should I do as I’m told? Those are questions it’s easy to avoid, in the rush to acquire goods and prestige. Even for many of a more serious outlook, they are questions easy to dismiss with excuses like “it’s all a matter of opinion” or “let’s get on with practical matters” or “they’re too hard”. They are questions that may be ignored, but they do not go away. They’re philosophical questions. There’s a right way to approach them – you read the writings of the classical and recent philosophers and consider carefully their arguments back and forth. There are many wrong ways to approach them, such as choosing at random among the ideas your parents or friends or gurus have, or ideas that feel good. Or you can just not bother. Sydney has a certain reputation for superficiality in this regard. A character in David Williamson’s Emerald City says “No-one in Sydney ever wastes time debating the meaning of life — it’s getting yourself a water frontage”, says If you have a Writers Festival or a conference on Happiness in Sydney, you don’t normally expect philosophers to be invited. Caroline Jones’ radio series, ‘The Search for Meaning’.
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