School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Beyond an Antagonistic Approach: the Role of Universalism in the Formation of Koine Culture
    Matanis, Athanasios ( 2022)
    Classical scholarship has tended to emphasise dichotomies and polarity when addressing the topic of Greek/non-Greek relations in antiquity. This anachronistic paradigm however is insufficient for understanding the multidimensional nature of Greek/non-Greek interactions and exchange during the Hellenistic period. Rather, this thesis argues the dominant strategy adopted in cases of Greek/non-Greek interactions were both sides appealing to certain similarities and commonalities (universalism) that would allow diverse cultural traditions to bridge the gaps between them and overcome barriers to acculturation and exchange.
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    Distaff Displacement: Narratives of Female Exile in Ovidian Poetry
    Zindilis, Stephanie Sara-Rose ( 2022)
    Displacement is a torment experienced by numerous women in Ovid’s Heroides and Fasti. Reading these episodes from a gendered perspective reveals nuances in the female vs. male experience of exile, broadening understanding of how exile is experienced by women and its impact on their psychology, agency, and identity. These episodes explore the myriad of factors that can influence a woman’s success or failure in finding refuge, and how gender and exile intersect to create an oppressive cycle of dual-marginalisation. The increased vulnerability of exiled women provides a powerful model for Ovid to voice his own experience of displacement in the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto. Thematic and linguistic echoes link his pre- and post-exilic work, bridging poetic fact and fiction to identify the poet with his characters through the shared experience of social exclusion and persecution by a more dominant, masculine force.
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    On the relationship between the infinite and finite, and between adequate and inadequate knowledge in Spinoza's philosophy
    Mickova, Josipa ( 2021)
    The relationship between substance and modes is an enduring problem in Spinoza studies. How this relationship is understood is consequential on all aspects of Spinoza’s tightly–knit philosophical system. This thesis focuses on two problems downstream from this core issue, namely the relationship between the infinite and finite, and that between adequate and inadequate knowledge, both of which are also matters of ongoing debate. I propose new solutions to these problems that avoid the consequences of fatalism and escapism that, I suggest, are endemic in dominant solutions to these problems in the contemporary Anglo–American literature. The latter are characteristic of naturalising renderings of Spinoza’s system that, I suggest, level the ontological ground between substance and modes, thereby construing substance as a top–down force that determines modes. By contrast, I maintain an ontological distinction through a bottom–up model, on which substance becomes the determining ground that determines modes insofar as it enables them to be modes. My solution explains the relationship between substance and modes through Spinoza’s causal apparatus, which allows for these downstream problems to be reframed and thereby dissolved.
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    Pragmatic Silencing
    Johan Abdullah Munday, Sakinah Nadiah ( 2021)
    Philosophers have long theorised that we use our words not just to communicate ideas, but also to perform everyday actions known as ‘speech acts’. More recently, feminist philosophers have argued that speakers, particularly individuals from marginalised groups, might be systematically and unjustly prevented from performing certain speech acts. This idea has sparked a wealth of work in feminist philosophy of language, commonly referred to as the ‘silencing’ literature. Because the term ‘silencing’ is broad, and other terms are theoretically laden, I suggest we label the phenomenon ‘pragmatic silencing’. The question of how we should conceive of this nuanced form of silencing is not yet settled. My goal is to contribute to this enquiry. Specifically, I explore two questions. First, what do we want to achieve with a concept like pragmatic silencing? That is, what are the political and social aims for implementing such a concept? Second, given these aims, how should the concept be constructed, and which (if any) theoretical tools are most apt for the job? In answering these questions, I sketch how the notion of pragmatic silencing has the potential to radically challenge existing mainstream paradigms around ideas of language use and its value, paradigms that are often socially and politically detrimental to marginalised speakers. I then argue that, to realise this potential, we should not articulate pragmatic silencing through an intentionalist lens. Instead, I advocate for an amended conventionalist framework: our understanding of pragmatic silencing should account for the central role of social norms in constraining and enabling speech acts.
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    P. R. Stephensen and Transnational Fascism: From Interwar Adoption to Postwar Survival and Transmission
    Parro, Joseph Yeno Bromham ( 2021)
    This thesis examines Percy Reginald ‘Inky’ Stephensen (1901 – 1965), Australian author, publisher, authors’ agent, and political activist, in relation to the transnational fascist phenomena of the twentieth century. It challenges previous characterisations of Stephensen as an Australian nationalist first and a fascist second, who retired from political activism after the war. It utilizes the historiographical frameworks of transnational fascism and historical network analysis to position Stephensen within the history of fascism: first as it spread over the globe in the interwar period through complex multidirectional processes of transfer, adoption, adaptation, and recontextualization; and then in the survival of fascism, and its transmission to new generations of actors, through marginalized mutually-re-enforcing subcultural networks after 1945. Fascism as it emerged in Europe deeply resonated with Stephensen’s nationalist vision of a racially homogenous white Australia, and his desire for a cultural and political revolution that would rescue European culture from the decadent liberal-democratic forces that were driving its decline. Australia’s history as a British colony, in particular the violent process of colonization, complicated fascist understandings of violence for Stephensen, but Hitler’s self-declared war against a racial Jewish-Communist enemy became a foundational component of Stephensen’s support for the White Australia Policy. After Stephensen’s release from internment, he played a significant role in the survival and transmission of fascism in Australia by providing emotional and ideological encouragement, validation, and support for like-minded actors, and serving as a conduit for material, information, and ideas in an internationally-connected extreme-Right network that existed in the political margins. Stephensen remained committed to the cause he had adopted prior to internment, and demonstrated an ability to edit his message for different post-war audiences, without compromising his belief in an international Jewish-Communist conspiracy that posed an existential threat to white nations. This thesis contributes to understanding not only the impact that fascism had in Australia, but also the processes by which fascism spread in the interwar period and survived in a hostile post-war environment.
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    Disjunctivism, Perceptual Capacities and Our Point of View on the World
    Rajaratnam, Alisha ( 2021)
    Negative Disjunctivism is a frequently misunderstood position. Disjunctivists of this stripe hold that all that can be said about the phenomenal character of a hallucination of an F is that it is introspectively indiscriminable from a veridical perception of an F to an subject (Martin 2004; 2006). Many take this account to be unsatisfying in that it fails to account for the sensory nature of hallucinations. What critics are missing is that introspective indiscriminability, when properly interpreted, characterizes a subject’s apparent point of view which is sufficient for phenomenal consciousness. I argue that a positive claim can be derived from Martin’s (2006) position, that characterizes a subject’s apparent perceptual ‘point of view’ which is sufficient for phenomenal consciousness. I argue that the notion of a ‘perceptual capacity’ can bolster Martin’s notion of a ‘point of view.’ The following are two constraints that a disjunctivist approach must adhere to: Constraint 1: The indiscriminability of a hallucination from a veridical perception to a subject does not entail that the two share introspectable phenomenal properties in common. Constraint 2: The phenomenal character of a hallucination must be characterized derivatively from a veridical perception. I develop a proposal that utilizes Schellenberg’s (2018) Perceptual Capacity Approach to specify a ‘point of view’ in terms of a subject exercising perceptual capacities to discriminate and single out. In doing so, I argue that my proposal meets constraint 1 & constraint 2, staying true to Disjunctivism.
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    The Truth of Heidegger’s Existential Analytic of Dasein
    Stove, Blake Peter ( 2021)
    Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time is an ambitious work that fuses transcendental-ontological and historical themes. Critics have argued that these two aspects of the work are inconsistent and, in light of Heidegger’s substantive claims regarding the historical structure of human existence, the methodological commitment to the transcendental-ontological notion of originary truth should be abandoned. ‘Detranscendentalised’ readings of Being and Time, to adopt Steven Crowell’s term, suggest this is because the historical themes cast doubt on the ability of the philosophising subject (Dasein) to identify and conceptualise timeless and ahistorical ontological structures. This thesis argues that the apparent tension between the transcendental-ontological and historical aspects of Being and Time can be resolved using the existential analytic of Dasein as the guiding theme. The existential analytic of Dasein is the explication of the universal existential structures of the philosophising subject. Heidegger’s achievement in Being and Time is to acknowledge the historical structure of human existence and incorporate it within the possibility of transcendental-ontological inquiry. This thesis is divided into three chapters. The first chapter introduces the existential analytic of Dasein as the guiding theme and examines the apparent tension by outlining Heidegger’s methodological commitments in Division I and substantive claims in Division II of Being and Time. The problems of access and articulation, which prove decisive for resolving the apparent tension, are also introduced. The second chapter begins by outlining Crowell’s challenge to the detranscendentalists and details the argumentative strategies employed in the detranscendentalised readings of Cristina Lafont, Richard Rorty, and Jacques Derrida. The final chapter resolves the apparent tension by arguing that the detranscendentalists’ argumentative strategies are insufficient for rejecting the transcendental-ontological themes in Being and Time. This chapter also argues that detranscendentalised readings typically contain latent transcendental-ontological commitments that are inconsistent with the predominant role assigned to the historical themes. The detranscendentalised readings are in this respect beset by the same inconsistency that they claim to find in Being and Time.
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    Femina Necans: A Study on Gendered Violence in Greek Tragedy
    Henry, John ( 2021)
    In Greek tragedy, there were various methods available for a tragic woman to destroy her enemies: poison, a sword or dagger used in stealth, among other indirect methods. In this thesis, Femina Necans, these tropes will be investigated in a series of case-studies on tragedies from Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. Several matters are raised: did Clytemnestra use a sword or an axe against Cassandra in the Oresteia? How could ‘heroic’ characters such as Euripides’ Medea be portrayed using poison, a decidedly unheroic method? Finally, could the origins of tragedy and its relation to Dionysus explain Greek tragedy’s curious preoccupation with violent women?
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    Philosophy and the method of cases: three interpretations
    Arnaud, Paul-George ( 2021)
    The method of cases is an approach to philosophical theorising that involves the use of thought experiments to evoke intuitions for the purpose of evaluating philosophical claims and theories on the basis of their fit with these intuitions. Although there is a widely shared view that this method plays a central and distinctive role in philosophical inquiry, traditional accounts are increasingly met with scepticism following several decades of critical scrutiny. The recent surge of interest in methodology and metaphilosophy has also brought with it exciting new ways of understanding and pursuing philosophical work. Among these, conceptual engineering and metalinguistic negotiation seem to have produced the most enthusiasm. These alternatives conceptions of philosophy raise new questions concerning whether the method of cases still has a place in philosophy, and present new possibilities for understanding it. This thesis outlines and evaluates three interpretations of the method of cases and its role in philosophy. The first is a traditional interpretation, according to which the intuitions evoked by philosophical thought experiments are used in the first instance as evidence for or against descriptive semantic claims about shared concepts or linguistic meanings. I will refer to this interpretation as ‘Conceptual Analysis’. The second is a normative metalinguistic interpretation, according to which philosophers use the method of cases in arguments about how philosophically interesting concepts or expressions should be used in various contexts. I will refer to this interpretation as ‘Revision’. The third interpretation analyses the method of cases from the perspective of cultural evolutionary theory. It claims that philosophical work using the method of cases reliably contributes to the refinement of our linguistic tools, not through intentional normative evaluation like conceptual engineering, but by influencing the cumulative cultural evolutionary processes that produced these tools in the first place. I will refer to this interpretation as the ‘Innovation View’. These interpretations will be evaluated in respect to their ability to rationally explain philosophical practice with the method of cases. This is important because, the method of cases has a very long history and seems to play an important role, more or less directly, in many if not most philosophical arguments. Without a satisfactory explanation, we may not be able to avoid the conclusion that much of this work is epistemically deficient.
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    The Mischief Wrought by the Master of the Skerryvore: Victoria at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876
    Jakubowicz, Stephen John ( 2021)
    This thesis is a study of the colony of Victoria’s involvement in the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. The chance to send a display to Philadelphia provided an exciting opportunity for the colony to foster a sense of racial and cultural belonging with the Exhibition’s fairgoers with the aim of consolidating economic, cultural, scientific and social networks between Victoria, the United States and the world. Of the Australian colonies, Victoria sent the largest exhibition contingent to Philadelphia. However, restrictive trade laws, parliamentary disunity, and doubts regarding the usefulness of sending exhibits to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition negatively impacted its planning and staging. These problems ultimately led to the attempted scuttling of the Skerryvore, the ship tasked with transporting the Victorian exhibits to the United States, and the subsequent damage to many of the items sent to represent the colony at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. This thesis uses Victoria’s involvement in the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition as a lens through which to consider how competing visions of the colony’s future, as well as economic and political factors, impacted the colony’s representation at Philadelphia. By re-embedding this event in the complex economic, political, and cultural context within which it took place, this thesis sheds light on the broader role played by these influences in affecting the representation of colonies, dependencies and nations at nineteenth-century exhibitions.