Transcript of Philosophy Video
Interview with Dr Dirk Baltzly & Honours student Sven Staalensen
Dirk: Our primary business is the evaluation of the strength of a conclusion on the evidence offered and that’s a perfectly general skill. We’re particularly interested in arguments around controversial questions that nobody else wants to ask.
What philosophy units are on offer?
Dirk: From a teaching point of view, philosophy will teach into the program international studies, so we’re doing subjects on the ethics of military conflict, what if any moral limitations there are on the use of armed force, the subject on justice and climate change is enormously popular. We also teach into a program around human rights theory. Some of our members of staff will actually do some lecturing in Law and we have strong research connections with Law and jurisprudence. We also collaborate with people who are in Information Technology and in Science. And of course we work, I in particular work with people who do History because my particular patch is the history and philosophy in classics. But yeah, philosophy is engaged with a variety of other disciplines around the university both in a teaching capacity and also in a research capacity.
First year philosophy experience?
Severin: I hadn’t confronted such clear thinking before and it was quite a challenge, it took probably the first semester, the first class, for me to get used to the fact that I had to really think through my arguments clearly and once I got my head around that part of it, it actually started slipping into place but it was something that I hadn’t been trained in, in high school and I was really surprised. It’s almost ridiculous to me that in high schools and in every course we’re not kind of taught to think critically.
Dirk: Most of the people that come up to university and do philosophy will not have done philosophy in school and that’s typically not an impediment. We make the assumption that most of our students have not encountered philosophical method, philosophical texts before. But it does take a student who is somewhat courageous because if you’re paying attention, sort of mid-way through your first semester you’re going to think “Gosh, I don’t know what to think. I came in being certain about a variety of different things and now when I consider the complexities that I had previously ignored and I weigh up the arguments that I hadn’t heard. I now don’t have the certainty that I had before.” So you need students who will sort of back themselves and say “Alright, look. I may not know what I want to say here, but I’m going to develop an argument, I’m going to follow the evidence where I think most of the evidence lies and put in an essay that way and that’s exactly what we’re hoping and expecting students will do.
Severin: It’s enabled me to engage with people that are, I suppose in renewable energy development which is kind of some work that I’ve been doing for a couple of years, you do come into a lot of conflict with a lot of people.
Dirk: So you think having an argument at work now is not a bad thing for you professionally and it’s not a bad thing for the business?
Severin: Nah it’s a good thing.
Dirk: Yeah because you now think an argument consists of the exchange of reasons in evidence and reaching an all things considered judgement.
Dirk: One of the things that I think is beneficial about Monash in particular is that you have such a number of world class researchers here. Many of my colleagues are the first people you would think of when you think of particular philosophical problems and I think that students get a sense of being on the cutting edge of knowledge by being around people who are on the cutting edge of research.
Dirk: Many people will think of University simply as preparation for a job but actually your future is rather more than your job ideally you should think about University as preparation for a life and an interesting one as well.