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Wotton’s Society

Wotton’s Society
Secretaries’ Evening

Gabriel Hull OS (NCWS), ‘Heraclitus: Flux and Logos’
John Clark-Maxwell ma OS MS (GRP), ‘Philosophy Is Useless’

Gabriel Hull’s address was to correct to some extent a misunderstanding of Heraclitus’ notion of the nature of change and to propose that his view of matter was an eloquent precursor to such diverse thinkers as Nietzsche and Heidegger. The common view is that Heraclitus considers that as everything changes, notions of personhood and God are impossible. However, this conclusion ignores that flux is only possible because of the fundamental logos of the universe. Logos has always been a tricky idea to deal with but Gabriel turned to three moderns whose indebtedness to Heraclitus illustrates the range of its meaning. Hegel appreciated logos as the sense of the infinite in dialectical relationship to material world; Nietzsche argued that the world of words change although man as the thinking subject does not; Heidegger spoke of the deep mystery of nature when encountered by man as Dasein.

John Clark-Maxwell’s talk proposed to test whether philosophy is useless or not. It would have to pass a very simple test: to be useful it would have to be judged to have some advantage. This is not to say that philosophy is not fun or has some intellectual value; the question is its utility. He then set about showing that the verification principle of Ayer or James’ pragmatism and various aesthetic theories all fail the test. The two contenders for utility are ethics and politics. But then are these two areas really philosophical? This conundrum provided an appropriate place to end his talk.

To a packed room the two secretaries dealt with questions as if they had been doing it as professionals for years. Many congratulations to them both.


Date Posted: 23 May 2012

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