Philosophy Conference challenges students’ world view

“A good philosopher can play both sides of the argument,” Dr David Efird of the University of York told more than a hundred students gathered last week at Sydenham High for the University’s first Philosophy Conference in South London.

Dr Efird’s message was at the heart of the aims of the conference, organised by the school’s Head of RS Emma Fenn – a University of York alumna – to provide students with a deeper understanding of degree level philosophical study and why it matters in modern life.  They were also encouraged to explore and challenge a range of ideas and beliefs involved in their world view.

Dr Louise Richardson and Dr Helen Yetter-Chappel joined Dr Efird and two current third year Philosophy undergraduates to run the day with students from Sydenham High Senior School plus several other GDST schools and local maintained secondary school, Graveney.

Senior lecturer in the Philosophy of Religion Dr Efird lead the first lecture on the problem suffering may cause for those who believe in God.  Girls were able to consider the exact nature of free will and whether God actually has the power to stop the suffering that human beings may inflict on one another.

Dr Yetter-Chappel then challenged the girls to explore whether they could know their own minds if they were unsure of their thoughts and introduced them to some interesting perspectives of the Philosophy of the Mind.  This made the audience really think and they had great fun with interpreting mental images.

Finally Dr Richardson introduced the problem of illusion, raising questions of how we perceive the world around us – do we in fact really perceive the outside world directly or is there something in between.  Dr Richardson encouraged the girls not to give up and remarked on their determination and resolve in the face of new and difficult ideas.

The conference concluded with a Q&A session in which the girls were able to ask questions of the two third year Philosophy students.  The girls wanted to know what they were currently studying, why they chose Philosophy, what university life was like and if they wished they had done anything differently during their A Levels.  The undergraduates gave thoughtful and honest responses, which will hopefully help the girls make their own decisions about university and degree courses.