Sydenham High hosts University of York Philosophy Conference

Sydenham High has hosted the second annual Philosophy Conference with the University of York.  Year 11, Year 12 and Year 13 students from Sydenham High and four neighbouring sixth forms, including GDST schools and Graveney School, took part in the one-day conference.  Three highly esteemed philosophers, who are lecturers at the University of York, provided accessible and inspiring talks ranging from the problem of evil and suffering in relation to religion, to the reality of implicit biases and moral responsibility.

Dr David Efird started the day with a presentation focussed on the problem of horrendous evil in our world and how we could ever make that compatible with a loving God. He presented the perspectives of two female philosophers of religion, offering contrasting interpretations.

Dr Helen Yetter-Chappell’s presentation illustrated the cross over between philosophy and psychology. She began by explaining the difference between explicit and implicit biases that we might have. Implicit biases are those we hold but don’t realise we have them. They could be against a particular gender, race or age. Helen’s challenging question to the audience was: If we are not aware of them and are not in control of them, are we morally responsible for them?

Dr Louise Richardson delivered the final lecture. She covered the issue of knowledge from testimony. Knowledge from testimony is knowledge gained from what other people have told you. This could be direct speech or from a book or a website. Louise’s question was: Should we just believe what we are told? Do we have a good enough justification for believing people’s testimony or do we need further evidence as well as this? Students needed to consider what the impact would be on your knowledge if you couldn’t accept other people’s testimony – how much would you really know?

The final element of the conference was a question and answer session hosted by a PhD student, currently studying at York. She provided a helpful insight into university life and her study of philosophy and the students asked many important questions, the answers to which will hopefully assist in their choice of university and course. Dr Efird, who has a pastoral role at York, was also able to offer some really sound advice about university life.

The day was an interactive event, with plenty of time for discussion and feedback to the lecturers, the aim being to foster greater interest in philosophy and encourage students to explore the possibility of university study of the subject. It also gave Sydenham High students an opportunity to work with their peers from other schools both within the GDST and in the maintained sector.