On Thursday 19th September, the Wotton Society met to read out the A.J. Ayer prize winning essays, and debate the arguments they raised. The A.J. Ayer prize is an annual philosophy prize for boys in F and E Block, named after Freddie Ayer, a philosopher and Old Etonian. The meeting began with Robson KS, the winner, talking about the relative values of the whole and of the part, and how interactions between individuals parts create value. His informative and analytical essay provoked lively debate from across the room. The Proxime, Chang KS, then argued that nothingness must exist. Using Popper’s falsification principle, he outlined four common disproofs of nothingness, before disproving them himself, concluding that ‘nihil’ must exist as nothing can suggest that it does not. Gibbons OS, one of four who was Highly Commended, continued on the theme of nothingness, arguing that our conceptions of ‘nihil’ must stem, ultimately, from nothingness. Archer OS then spoke about ethics, and the importance of morality, drawing upon the arguments of Simone de Beauvoir to support his argument. The next essay, given by Hilditch KS, focused on whether we have any moral obligation to the laws of a state by examining the nature of our social contract, and how our morality is dependent upon our individual viewpoint. Finally, Bhattacharya KS, speaking on the same question, addressed natural law and its relevance to the laws of the state. Each speech was marked by lively debate and discussion from around the room, and the format allowed each boy to be challenged and critiqued in a friendly and constructive environment.

With thanks to WING for allowing the society to be conducted in Timbralls, and LSM for hosting the society.

Thomas Hilditch KS