I missed Peter Singer’s discussion on ‘What Really Matters’ when it was last brought to Melbourne by the The chool of Life. I was not going to miss the opportunity again, and joined an equally enthusiastic audience at the Athenaeum Theatre for a repeat event, all of us keen to engage in some riveting philosophical debate.
As Singer emphasised, philosophy traditionally challenges beliefs and encourages examination of values and beliefs; and whilst the views raised may seem controversial to some, its very purpose is to provoke thought, however unsettling.
Being a fan of Singer, I have heard him speak on a variety of subjects. However, the format of this event was different. Singer spoke on seven topics for about three minutes each, followed by approximately five minutes of questions from the audience. This made for a fast-moving, focussed discussion, yet managed to cover some depth and raise some interesting questions.
The topics were: rights, justice, wellbeing, knowledge, freedom, nature, and survival of intelligent life on earth — so certainly something to cover all interests. To ensure the event stayed on track, a timer was projected on a screen. This was an effective tool to prevent both presenter and audience from veering off topic.
We were left pondering a range of ethical dilemmas. For example, would our donations be more effective in saving the planet then eradicating malaria? In what circumstances should we withhold knowledge? Should society strive for equality of opportunity, or equality of outcome? To take a recent real-life situation raised within the German Parliament: should a government be able to shoot down a plane known to be held hostage by a terrorist, in order to prevent the loss of greater lives should the plane hit a public target? (In case you are wondering, the verdict was no.)
A concise introduction to philosophy and ethics, it was a fantastic evening with practical application as to how we live our lives and the ethical decisions we make daily. There was a real buzz in the venue and I genuinely felt honoured to be in the same room as such a renowned philosopher and articulate speaker. Thank you, School of Life!
Celebrating six years living in Melbourne, Rachel is a fan of theatre, food, the outdoors and all things new and exciting.
The School of Life is a global organisation dedicated to developing emotional intelligence. They run a range of classes and events. View their calendar to browse what is on offer.