MQ@50: Philosophy at Macquarie University

[email protected]: Philosophy at Macquarie University

August 15, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


[music] The department also celebrates its 50 years this year, as it was one of the founding departments in the University. We’re offer units in three different streams in ethics, in mind metaphysics and meaning, and in European philosophy. Last year and this year four of our staff have received prestigious future fellowships. I’m philosopher of psychology, a lot of what that means is that I look at things like psychology, and of neuroscience and try to figure out how people in these fields move from evidence to theory. A lot of what I’ve been interested in and what I’m going to be working on for the next few years, involves thinking about what’s functional brain imaging. One of the things I’m interested in is this connection of what sometimes is called manipulation or manipulability. And the idea is take the spot in your brain that lights up when you love – if you were to stop that from firing you should be indifferent to the person you’re looking at. This kind of link between on the one hand, activity and on the other hand, the possibility of changing and manipulating things. In the same way that if you’ve got a gene for blue eyes, one thing that means if it really is the gene for blue eyes is if you’ve changed it, you can give someone brown eyes. I work generally in the field of healthcare ethics, which means I start with practical problems in healthcare and look at the ethical issues that arise and try and develop solutions that are useful for practitioners and for policy makers. My most recent project, for which I’ve just been funded, is on the ethics of over-diagnosis, which is the problem that happens when people get diagnosed with conditions which aren’t really diseases and which they don’t really need to be treated for. For example, one source of over-diagnosis is when the boundaries of disease are widened. For example, diabetes is now defined at a lower blood sugar level than previously. This raises issues about conflicts of interest, because clearly, when you create a wider category, more people have got the disease. There’s more opportunities for treatment. My project will look at how we can define disease in a way that stops over-diagnosis from happening and also examine the ethical issues that arise and trying to think about ways that we might be able to overcome them. The Future Fellowship Project that I’m working on is a project about how our brains get transformed by our surrounding social, and cultural environments, so traditionally a lot of people think that minds are simply dependent upon what our brains do. Philosophically there’s a big issue about whether or not our minds are entirely encapsulated within our skull, but the kind of view that I’m looking at is that perhaps there’s a non-dualistic way of thinking about our minds and that’s by looking at the way that we actually interact with the world. So there’s a big philosophical question about how we ought to conceive of the mind whether we ought to think it’s simply in the head, or whether we ought to spread our conception of the mind to include our bodies and also the way that we interact with our local environments. Well my main area of research is film and philosophy so I’m looking at the intersection between film and philosophy not just philosophical questions raised by the cinema, about the moving image, what it is that’s happening when we’re watching a film on screen. But also the idea – a bit more radical – that film itself might be a way of doing philosophy. So my current project’s called cinematic ethics, and it’s looking at the positive potential of cinema to present an experience that we can describe as ethical. So how do moving images, audio-visual images, catch our attention, engage our imaginations, involve us emotionally in ways that might transform how we understand and see the world. And in particular how we respond ethically to the kind of situations that we can see and experience through the movies. So it’s very exiting times for the department at the moment with all these great research projects. We’re looking forward to another 50 years of success for philosophy at Macquarie. [music]