14th Murdoch Colloquium: Philosophy and the Arts

November 30, 2018
Philosophy Programme, Murdoch University

Hill Lecture Theatre
90 South St
Murdoch WA

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

Main speakers:

University of Birmingham
University of Western Australia
University of Western Australia
Charles Sturt University
Curtin University, Western Australia
University of Western Australia


Murdoch University

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The Murdoch Colloquium is an annual Philosophy conference aiming to strengthen the ties between academic philosophers in Western Australia, as well as reaching out to colleagues in other disciplines, students and to the wider community. Attendance is free and open to all (register on the day). The event is fully catered.



14th Murdoch Colloquium

Philosophy and the Arts

30 November 2018, 9am – 5:30pm

Hill Lecture Theatre, Murdoch University, South St Campus


9.00 – 9.15


9.15 – 9.30

Opening words

9.30 – 10.30

Session 1: Opening Address

Michael Levine (UWA) “Wollheim's ekphrastic aesthetics: emotion and its relation to art” 

10:30 – 11.00

Session 2: Philosophy and the Arts

Laura D’Olimpio (UNDA/Birmingham) “Narrative Artworks, Critical Engagement and Moral Education”


Morning tea

11.15 - 12.45

Session 3: Philosophy and the Arts

Danny Sheaf (MU) ”David Foster Wallace, Ethics and the Situational Subject”

Chris Edwards (MU) “Truth and Strife: Heidegger and the Question of Art”

Alan Tapper (Curtin) “Moby-Dick and the Philosophy of Language"



1.45 – 3.45

Session 4: General

Chris Letheby (UWA) “Being for No-One: Eliminating the Subject from the Theory of Subjectivity”

Clas Weber (UWA) “Locating the Self: A Case for Pluralism about the Self”

Piero Moraro (Charles Sturt) “One person - one vote: time to reassess?”

Charles Foster (MU) “Gadamer, Phronesis and the Practice of Medicine” 

3.45 – 4.00

Afternoon tea

4:00 – 4.30

Session 5: General

Daniel Burke (MU)Questioning ‘World Philosophy’: A Genealogical Examination of the Argument to ‘Redefine Philosophy’ as a Global Phenomenon of Culture”

4.30 – 5.30

Session 6: Closing address

Ingrid Richardson (MU) “What's (post)phenomenology good for? Sensory methods in mobile media and game studies”

5.30 – 6.45

Drinks, Prizes, and Q&A



Opening Address

Michael Levine (UWA) Wollheim's ekphrastic aesthetics: emotion and its relation to art

On Wollheim’s psychoanalytic understanding of emotion as providing one with an ‘orientation’ to the world, perception—and therefore what is seen-in—is partly driven by emotion and desire. Artistic intention as relevant to depiction cannot therefore be disentangled from that relevant to expression. Furthermore, there is a case to be made that Wollheim over-estimated the role of seeing-in in the experience of art. The result is that perceptual notions are not at the centre of Wollheim’s outlook on art; rather it is emotion, intention, and imagination as informed by psychoanalysis.

Michael Levine is the former Winthrop Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Australia and now Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the same university. Professor Levine has taught at the University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College and has been Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Baruch College and the University of Colorado. He was a Fulbright fellow in Russia and has received numerous fellowships and grants including support from the Rockefeller Foundation; the Mellon Foundation; the Japan Foundation; Indian Council for Cultural Relations Fellowship; Hugh Le May Fellowship, Rhodes University; Australian Academy of Humanities/Social Science; Chinese Academy of Social Science, Institute of Philosophy; and the Australian Research Council. Other awards include the American Philosophical Association, Baumgardt Memorial Fellowship in Ethics. His scholarly interests are diverse and often interdisciplinary, and he has taught a wide range of philosophy courses (e.g. Utopia/Disaster and Imagining the City in the Faculty of Architecture). Recent projects include research in aesthetics, philosophy and architecture; catastrophe, ethics and the built environment; the academic virtues and their place in the modern university; regret and other emotions of self-assessment; and philosophy and museums. He is widely published in journals and edited volumes and is the author of Hume and the Problem of Miracles (Kluwer 1989) and Pantheism: A Non theistic Concept of Deity (Routledge 1997). He is co-author of Prospects for an Ethics of Architecture (Routledge 2011); Thinking Through Film: Doing Philosophy, Watching Movies (Blackwell 2012); Politics Most Unusual: Violence, Sovereignty and Democracy in the ‘War on Terror’ (Macmillan 2009); Integrity and the Fragile Self (Ashgate 2003); and Engineering and War (2013 forthcoming). He is co-editor of Racism in Mind (Cornell 2004); The Analytic Freud (Routledge 2000); and Leadership and Ethics (Bloomsbury 2015).


Laura D'Olimpio (Notre Dame Australia / Birmingham) Narrative Artworks, Critical Engagement and Moral Education

Narrative artworks can be evocative and powerful. One way we may learn, morally, from them, is by practising compassionate responses that eventually become rational habits. However, there are many different stories being told in contemporary culture. Thus, the focus on the critical thinker, the interpreter of the narrative, is vital. It is for this reason I defend critical perspectivism, a moral attitude that requires a moral agent be both critical and compassionate. Educationally, young people should be given the opportunity to reflect upon, and discuss, such narratives and associated ethical dilemmas. I defend this claim with reference to popular teen novels and films, the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises.

Dr Laura D’Olimpio is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame Australia and an affiliate of The Institute for Ethics and Society. She co-edits the Journal of Philosophy in Schools and is Chairperson of the Federation of Australasian Philosophy in Schools Associations (FAPSA). Laura completed her PhD at The University of Western Australia and is a regular contributor to The Conversation and Radio National’s Philosopher’s Zone and The Minefield. Her first book, Media and Moral Education: a philosophy of critical engagement (London: Routledge, 2018) won this year’s Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia’s annual book prize. In January 2019, Laura commences at the University of Birmingham, UK as Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Education.


Danny Sheaf (Murdoch) David Foster Wallace, Ethics and the Situational Subject

In this paper, I will offer a reading of David Foster Wallace’s fiction in order to elucidate his critique of a certain form of subjectivism that is the basis of a relativized understanding of truth which has become commonplace in matters of moral or human value in postmodernity. I will claim that Wallace’s fiction offers an account of selfhood as situational and free to reflect on this situation. This form of selfhood, I argue, is contrary to both the modernist self as the ‘Archimedean fulcrum’ that grounds knowledge and the postmodern subject, stripped of its autonomous agency and pluralized by its linguistic/cultural/historical circumstance. It is Wallace’s account of selfhood that, I suggest, offers a basis for ethics and a conception of truth as always tied to the actual context of human, communicative engagement. This, I argue, stands in opposition to notions of truth that are supposedly relative to a particular ‘language game’, as taken up by postmodernists such as Rorty and Lyotard, or conceived of as an abstract or ‘logically pure’ set of propositions that sit ‘outside’ of the situational and conflictual realm of human engagement. As I aim to show, Wallace’s situational subject forms the basis for his communicative understanding of truth that serves as a ground for questions relating to ethics and human value without reducing these concerns to the subjective realm of personal taste that can never be scrutinized or legitimized.


Chris Edwards (Murdoch) Truth and Strife: Heidegger and the Question of Art

In this paper, I will discuss Martin Heidegger’s conception of art. As is well known, the aim of Heidegger’s philosophical project is to return to the ancient question of Being, i.e., the question of what it is to be. When it comes to art, various problems arise when we overlook this fundamental question. One such problem is the metaphysical divide between object and subject. Can we understand the artwork in terms of a relation between subject and object? Can the question of the ‘value’ or ‘worth’ of the work of art be answered with reference to these terms? For Heidegger, the answer is no. In his view, the artwork is never just an ‘object’ that is presented to a ‘subject’. Rather, as I will explain today, Heidegger offers us a very different – and, I argue, enriching –  way to understand the being of art. He argues that the work of art is an instance of truth that is disclosed by what he calls the ‘strife’  between the world and the earth. As I will explain, the artwork is an instance of truth insofar as the artwork ‘works’ to bring the meaningful world around us from out of concealment and to the foreground of our concerns. In this way, the unique power of art is that it can afford us some insight into the most fundamental question of philosophy: what is it to be?   


Alan Tapper (Curtin) Moby-Dick and the Philosophy of Language

Herman Melville was undoubtedly a philosophical novelist, but there is much dispute about what kind of philosophical viewpoint he favoured. This is especially so for his 1851 masterpiece, Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale, which is often regarded as an epic-mythic adventure story whose ultimate meaning is hard to fathom. In the novel Melville is explicit in stating some sort of philosophical position. “So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds forever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right” (Chapter 73). A recent interpretation by Kim Evans (One Foot in the Finite) takes a new tack, arguing that Melville intended Moby-Dick to be read as a fictional-factual account of the relation between language and reality. The novel is of course a story mainly about one whale, Moby-Dick, and one man, Ahab; but interspersed in that story is an encyclopedic account of whales and whaling. How, if at all, are the two related? Evans sees Melville’s novel as anticipating a Wittgensteinian account of meaning-as-use-in-a-social-practice, in this case the practice being that of whaling. To make her case she draws on Wittgenstein and the post-Wittgensteinian work of (amongst others), Bernard Harrison and Julius Kovesi. The case raises the problem of whether and how well fiction can function as philosophy. This paper will explore that problem.

Dr Alan Tapper is Adjunct Research Fellow at the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy, Curtin University. Between 1992 and 2006 he taught philosophy at Edith Cowan University. With Brian Mooney he co-edited Morality and Meaning: Essays on the Philosophy of Julius Kovesi (Brill, 2012). He is Treasurer of the Federation of Australasian Philosophy in Schools Associations and Vice-President of the Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics. 


Chris Letheby (UWA): Being for No-One: Eliminating the Subject from the Theory of Subjectivity 

Subjectivity theories of consciousness posit a constitutive link between phenomenal consciousness and self-awareness, and deny that the former can occur without the latter. Such views face apparent counterexamples: anomalous experiences claimed to lack a sense of self. Such experiences can result from pathology, drug use, and spiritual practice, and have recently been targets of a flourishing program of empirical research.  Defenders of subjectivity theories have responded to some of these apparent counterexamples by claiming that the states in question—in particular, selfless mental states in depersonalization disorder—are not, in fact, phenomenally conscious (Billon and Kriegel 2015). I argue that this defence cannot work in relation to other putatively selfless states: drug-induced ego dissolution induced by high doses of fast-acting psychedelics, and selfless experiences induced voluntarily by expert practitioners of Vipassana meditation. Subjects' descriptions make clear that such states are vividly phenomenally conscious. Taking these descriptions seriously favours the view that selfless experience is possible. Moreover, investigating such selfless states yields methodological lessons for the interdisciplinary theory of subjectivity. Theoretical debates about self-awareness are permeated by Cartesian intuitions that can be explained (away) by a neurocognitive theory of self-awareness based on evidence from altered states. Recent arguments for the universality of minimal subjectivity, particularly in the guise of a ubiquitous ‘for-me-ness’, trade on important ambiguities which must be resolved for progress to be made. 


Clas Weber (UWA) Locating the Self: A Case for Pluralism about the Self

Is the self real or not? A number of authors (e.g. Daniel Dennett, Tim Bayne, Jenann Ismael and John Pollock) have suggested that the answer is negative. You don’t exist, and — perhaps a small consolation — neither do I. Such anti-realism about the self seems perplexing and counterintuitive. In this talk I want to make the case for pluralism about the self. I distinguish two major roles for the self: the ownership role and the perspectival role. The ownership role conceives of the self as the subject and owner of mental states; the perspectival role characterises it as the centre of our phenomenal and intentional perspective on the world. I argue that while anti-realists may be right about the non-existence of the self in the perspectival sense, they are wrong about its non-existence in the ownership sense. Hence, you are real in one sense, but perhaps unreal in another.



Piero Moraro (Charles Sturt) One person - one vote: time to reassess?

Many philosophers defend democracy as intrinsically superior to other political systems; they argue that, by granting equal voting powers to all citizens, democracy promotes the value of individual equality. In this talk, I look at this claim from a critical perspective, raising some normative issues with the equal enfranchisement of all citizens. In doing so, I have no intention to undermine the democratic project: rather, my aim is to bring into the picture another value usually associated with democracy, i.e. justice. I argue that a system that grants equal voting power to all citizens fails to capture a crucial way in which citizens are not equal: citizens have different interests at stake in the electoral outcome. Some, most likely those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, risk losing more (in terms of basic needs) compared to their wealthier fellows, from a change in government. To capture what I believe to be a significant aspect of political life, I gesture at the possibility of a decision-making procedure based not on equality, but on proportionality, in which those who face more serious risks (in terms of basic needs) should be allowed more voting power at the election. Focusing on economic differences, I argue that, as a matter of justice, voting power should be granted based on income: citizens with significantly lower income levels should be allowed more votes than their wealthier peers. I conclude by suggesting that this system might be even more welcome under Australia’s compulsory voting regime.

Dr Piero Moraro is a political philosopher whose research focuses on law and justice. He has published several papers on civil disobedience, and is currently completing a monograph on the same topic. He has also published on democratic theory and on the ethics of voting. He holds a PhD in philosophy from Stirling University (Scotland), and a Master in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics. 


Charles Foster (Murdoch) Gadamer, Phronesis and the Practice of Medicine

In this paper, I propose to investigate Hans Georg Gadamer’s reappropriation of Aristotle’s concept of phronesis to illuminate physicians’ kind of judgement in the practice of modern medicine.  This paper is a contribution to philosophical discussions of medicine relating to a concern with the appropriate characterisation of physicians’ judgement in the clinical setting.  In The Enigma of Health, Gadamer argues that phronesis offers a fruitful path through which to conceptualise human-orientated judgements that are essential to the practice of medicine.  However, authors such as Duff Waring have problematized conceptualising a physician’s clinical judgement through a return to phronesis. They argue that, for Aristotle, medicine is explicitly a craft or techne, and thus is not an activity involving the moral dimension relevant to the virtue of phronesis as Aristotle conceived of it.  In order to defend Gadamer’s appropriation of Aristotelian phronesis from Waring’s concerns, I will, first, outline Aristotle’s discussion of phronesis in the Nicomachean Ethics with a stress on his understanding of medicine.  I will accordingly concur with Waring that, for Aristotle, medicine is a techne and clearly distinct from actions governed through phronesis.  Crucially, however, I will show that Gadamer’s rethinking of medicine concerns physicians’ aim towards the goal of restoring a patient’s health, which, he claims, differs from traditional accounts of techne insofar as the goal of health must be established for each concrete case in medical practice.  To conclude, I will argue that Gadamer’s appropriation phronesis is intended to serve as a heuristic to help rethink and understand clinical judgement in medical practice, and is accordingly not substantially challenged by an incongruency with Aristotle’s original characterisations of medicine as a techne.

Charles Foster is a PhD candidate studying at Murdoch University, where he graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Philosophy in 2016. In his PhD research, he focuses on the philosophy of medicine, stressing the importance of phenomenology for addressing concerns in this field, with a particular emphasis on the ontology of health. Following the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Martin Heidegger, he hopes to affirm and extend phenomenological efforts to reconceptualise human health beyond the limits of scientific objectification.


Daniel Burke (Murdoch) Questioning ‘World Philosophy’: A Genealogical Examination of the Argument to ‘Redefine Philosophy’ as a Global Phenomenon of Culture

In this talk, I examine a recent movement – emerging from within the scholarly tradition known as comparative philosophy – which seeks to bring about broad-scale change in how philosophy is understood and taught within the academy. Comparative philosophers such as James Heisig, Thomas Kasulis, and John Maraldo (among others), argue that philosophy is a more or less ‘universal’ activity, practiced by practically all human cultures. However, because of the broad acceptance of an orthodox, Eurocentric conception or ‘definition’ of philosophy, the contributions of the rest of the world remain ‘locked-out’ of the philosophical forum. As they understand it, the challenge, therefore, is to ‘redefine’ philosophy as something ‘radically plural’ in respects to aims and methodologies. Given the scope of their ambitions for the philosophical tradition, it is important for philosophers to come to grips with the ‘redefinition’ argument, to be aware of what kind of understanding of philosophy underpins it. What I seek to demonstrate in this talk is the value of situating the redefinition argument within the history of ideas. For, although the form it takes is new, I suggest that the pluralistic, ‘cultural’ understanding of philosophy and human beings which undergirds it has roots stretching back to the late 18th century and the thought of Herder. A reconstruction of this understanding, from Herder, through the comparative linguists and mythologists of the 19th century, and on to the birth of comparative philosophy at the beginning of the 20th, can help bring into clearer focus the kinds of sedimented understandings which underpin it.

Daniel Burke is currently completing his PhD at Murdoch philosophy, on the topic of comparative philosophy and the argument to 'redefine philosophy' as a 'global phenomenon of culture.' He has previously completed a masters degree at the University of Kyoto, Japan, specializing in the history of Japanese philosophy. Daniel is originally a graduate of philosophy and Asian studies at Murdoch. His research interests include positivism and pragmatism, the history of Enlightenment thought, orientalist studies, philology, comparative mythology, comparative religion, and comparative philosophy. 


Closing Address 

Ingrid Richardson (Murdoch) What's (post)phenomenology good for? Sensory methods in mobile media and game studies

In this paper I consider the socio-somatic aspects of mobile gaming, and the ways that postphenomenology as an approach and method has influenced my ethnographic research into mobile media use. In ethnographic work, a postphenomenological approach can effectively inform the design of participant activities, allowing us to reveal the haptic intimacy of wearable and handheld media in specific life-contexts, and explore how the routines of bodily movement and interaction are modified by mobile media user-practices, affecting the experience of touch, immediacy, proximity, distance and togetherness. Moreover, the practical application of postphenomenology to ethnographic methods turns our attention towards the multi-sensory and tactile nature of our being in the world, countering the predominance of audio-visual approaches in the study of contemporary media. If we are to critically interpret the way sensory perception and experience are integral to the process of mediation, I argue, we must devise methods of data-collection and analysis that are more corporeally attuned to the fixings, concretizations, routines and habits of everyday media practice. As an applied phenomenology, Don Ihde’s postphenomenology is readily adaptable to this endeavour; the robust spectrum of human-technology relations, and the cultural and contextual specificities of micro- and macro-perception, are critical conceptual tools in the development of innovative research methods and techniques, enabling us to grasp the experiential variables of mobile media use and gameplay.

Ingrid Richardson is Associate Professor at the School of Arts, Murdoch University. She has a broad interest in the human-technology relation, and have published on topics such as scientific technovision, virtual and augmented reality, technology and phenomenology, mobile media and small-screen practices, video games, urban screens, remix culture and web-based content creation and distribution. She is contributing co-editor of Studying Mobile Media: Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication and the iPhone (Routledge, 2012), and co-author of Gaming in Social, Locative and Mobile Media (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), Ambient Play (MIT Press, forthcoming), and Understanding Games and Game Cultures (Sage, forthcoming).

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