School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Prostitution and the state in Victoria, 1890-1914
    Arnot, Margaret ( 1986)
    The later decades of the nineteenth and the early decades of the twentieth centuries were marked by considerable change in Victorian society. Rapid urban expansion and industrialization were among the most profound of these developments. They resulted in increasing problems of urban over-crowding, poverty, sanitation and, despite the youth of the cities, decay. Those in power began to see these urban problems as being partly related to the nature of working-class life, so sought to control aspects of working-class culture to an unprecedented degree. During this period, legislation relating to liquor, tobacco, drugs, and gambling, for example, were brought into effect for the first time or became more intrusive. Street life was becoming increasingly regulated. In 1891, for example, amendments to the Victorian Police Offences Act made important changes to the social construction of anti-social behaviour and placed increased power in the hands of the police and legal institutions to control the behaviour of individuals in public places. As part of this development, soliciting prostitution was made an offence for the first time. Women, too, had become subversive. Feminists demanded the vote, increased educational opportunities and threatened the established power differential between the sexes. At the same time, legislation was being passed and medical practices were emerging which increasingly impinged upon women's bodies and upon the areas of women's traditional power - life itself and child life. Kerreen Reiger has traced the increasing attempts to professionalize and rationalize family life, resulting in greater intrusion into the lives of women in relation to childbirth and motherhood.' Increasing attempts to control prostitution in Australia date from this same period, and can be seen as part of these processes. It was from the 1860s that an edifice of laws was constructed. Firstly, legislators were concerned with how women were forced into prostitution (procuring), the relationships between women working in prostitution and their children, and the spread of venereal disease. Later, from the 1890s, there was a new spate of legislation related to soliciting, the ownership and management of brothels, procuring, and living on the earnings of prostitution. During the same period a centralized, bureaucratized police force, which was crucially involved in the increasing control of prostitution, was established in Victoria. The prison system, too, became more organized and intrusive. By the later part of this period the move toward greater state intrusion into the area of prostitution was clear; the years 1890 to 1914 have been chosen for detailed study. This period was marked at the beginning by important new amendments to the Police Offences and Crimes Acts in 1891 and at the end by the advent of the First World War, which created new contexts and problems. (From Introduction)
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    The evolution of Wittgenstein's views of meaning
    Tran, Tuan Phong ( 1999)
    The problems of meaning and language play a crucial role in Wittgenstein's philosophy. Wittgenstein believes that philosophical problems are rooted in language, and that they can be understood and resolved when questions about linguistic meaning and the way language relates to reality are properly addressed. During his philosophical development Wittgenstein held different approaches to the problem of meaning and language. A clear view about his view about meaning is necessary in order for us to be in position to understand assess his philosophy. The aim of my thesis is to explore different accounts of meaning in different periods of the development of Wittgenstein's thought. In his first account of meaning, known as the Picture Theory of Meaning in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein developed a highly sophisticated and complex picture-theory which is the basis of his contention that language is a mirror of reality. At this early stage Wittgenstein had been influenced by the thoughts of Frege and Russell. In the Picture Theory of Meaning the notion of logical form plays a crucial role. Just as each proposition must share its logical form with the state of affairs it depicts, so language, the totality of propositions, must share logical form with what it depicts the. The harmony between language and reality which makes representation is - possible is logical-pictorial isomorphism, the structural identity between what represents and what is represented. Just as the elements in a picture correspond to a possible arrangement of objects in reality, so sentences contain names, which correspond to objects in the world; and the arrangement of names in the sentence corresponds to a possible arrangement of objects in the world. Meaning is possible because language mirrors reality in this way: from the structure of language we can read off the structure of reality. In other words we can learn about the structure of reality from sentences of language. In his early view, Wittgenstein believed that fact-stating discourse is really all the meaningful discourse there is. But in the later works it turns out that fact-stating discourse is just one type of discourse among many other types, just one type of language game along with a countless number of other types of language-game. So in his later works, Wittgenstein abandoned the picture theory of meaning in favour of a use account of meaning. He urges us to think of words as tools, think of sentences as instruments. To get a correct account of language and meaning we need simply to look at how it functions in real life; we need to look at what people do with words. Whereas the Tractatus envisioned a logical structure as the essential form and link of language and world, in the later works there are flexible constraints connected with human activities, with language-games and forms of life as the basis and structure of language. A shift has occurred from a pictorial structural approach to use-activity approach. Language is not just words and rules but words and rules in the practice of use. Meaning is understood as a social phenomenon. The meaning of words should be found in the practical context of everyday life, in the stream of thought and activity, in which a given use of words is embedded.
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    State, trauma, subjectivity and the Port Arthur massacre
    Green, Elizabeth A ( 1999)
    The role of government in the field of disaster response and recovery has expanded in recent years to incorporate the social and emotional recovery of individuals and communities. This paper reflects on the many players and processes inherent in an event such as a disaster and draws upon theories of subjectivity that further inform the process of recovery. A consideration of the different conceptualisations of the subject in psychology and social theory highlights the inadequacy of the psychological model in attending to the trauma of disaster victims. This paper draws on general disaster research, and anecdotal material from the experiences of individuals affected by the Port Arthur Massacre, to argue that it is 'social' rather than 'psychological' responses that generate for affected subjects, more successful integration of traumatic events. Anthony Giddens' theory of structuration with its duality of individual and society, and an emphasis on social order, ontological security, routine and the knowledgeable and active agent informed by practical consciousness, provides a useful theory of human subjectivity and social relations from which to undertake a psychosocial consideration of disaster response and recovery. This is further enriched through the theories of subjectivity offered by Cash and Weinstein that account for the role of unconscious processes in the maintenance of social order through the influences of ideology.
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    The Merits of moral relativism
    Smith, Dale ( 1999)
    The purpose of this thesis is to consider the merits of moral relativism. I do not seek to show that moral relativism is superior to its philosophical rivals (such as moral objectivism), but rather to elaborate a view of the status. of morality which can plausibly be labelled "relativistic", and to defend that view against several important objections. I begin by distinguishing moral relativism from competing views, before distinguishing my particular version of moral relativism from other versions of the same general doctrine. I then explain how different moral beliefs can be true for different people, and what determines which beliefs are true for a particular person. The core of the thesis, however, involves considering objections to the doctrine I have elaborated. These objections include: the claim that relativism overlooks the crucial distinction between what someone believes is right and what really is right; the claim that, if relativism is correct, communication between people with different moral beliefs is either impossible or pointless; the claim that Davidson' s critique of conceptual schemes relativism can also be used to show that moral relativism is untenable; and the claim that relativism is self-refuting. I argue that these claims are all mistaken. The relativist need not claim that whatever someone believes to be right is right (for her). On any moderate version of relativism, communication between people with different moral beliefs is neither impossible nor pointless. Similarly, only extreme forms of moral relativism can be shown to be untenable by reference to Davidson's attack on conceptual schemes relativism. Finally, relativism is not self-refuting. These conclusions do not necessarily mean that relativism is correct, however. To determine whether it is correct, one would have to compare its ability to account for important features of moral reasoning with that of its philosophical rivals (in particular, moral objectivism). Such a comparison is beyond the scope of this thesis. My aim is simply to show that such a comparison is necessary, because relativism cannot be shown to be unacceptable on its own terms.
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    Aesthetics, subjectivity and the sublime
    Capriolo, Nicky ( 1999)
    Three main issues will be addressed in this thesis. The first is the status of aesthetics; what is the relevance and scope of a contemporary philosophical aesthetics?; Can philosophy be distinguished from philosophy of art?; Is philosophy of art different from aesthetics?; Can philosophy be distinguished from art or aesthetics?; If so can any of these be distinguished from other philosophy such as epistemology or metaphysics. The second issue is the question whether any particular aesthetic concept such as beauty or the sublime can have any contemporary philosophical relevance. Thirdly, the sublime will be considered as a possible aesthetic concept that might preserve Kant's original concern to provide a transcendental aesthetic theory which demonstrates the obdurately essential element of aesthetic judgement in any experience. Notwithstanding Kant's prioritising of the aesthetic, and "feeling" in the Critique of Judgement, it is argued that Kant's theory remains pertinent because it maintains a critical, qua transcendental, position, and its insights should not be ignored by metaphysical, analytic, phenomenological or hermeneutic philosophy. Kant's sublime is explored, as are other aesthetic issues, by examining Kant 's theory of judgement. The Critique of Judgement will be presented as a theory of judgement which prefigures much contemporary philosophy and provides both support and interesting edification of the advanced views of Quine, Derrida and Wittgenstein. The concept of the sublime is presented as particularly prophetic of the contemporary complexities regarding self-consciousness, subjectivity and meaning.
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    Aspects of John Searle's biological naturalism
    Ford, Justin Bernard ( 1999)
    John Searle, in his theory of biological naturalism, attempts a solution to the mind-body problem that will overcome the 'conceptual dualism' (inherited from Descartes) which sets the categories of the mental and the physical in opposition. This dualism, he believes, leads many contemporary accounts either to deny subjective consciousness or to redefine it so as to eliminate its `first-person' characteristics, which are considered incompatible with the purely physical nature of reality. Searle maintains the reality of consciousness, and its centrality to the mental. As essentially first-person, it is neither directly accessible from a third-person perspective, nor identical with any feature available from such a perspective. By insisting that mental features form a subset of physical features, Searle thinks that the anti-physicalist tendencies of property dualism can be avoided: according to biological naturalism, mental phenomena are higher-level physical features of the brain, but are totally caused by lower-level neurophysiological processes, as liquidity is caused by molecular interactions. Thus the mental causally reduces to the non-mental. Biological naturalism depends on three central premises: the reality of the mental, the purely physical nature of reality, and the universal explanatory power of `bottom-up' causation from lower-level features such as molecular processes to higher-level features such as liquidity. The reality of consciousness, Searle maintains, is an immediately experienced fact, and so cannot and need not be directly argued for. The thesis supports this contention, while adding to Searle's indirect arguments some foundationalist considerations which help undermine the sceptical assumptions implicit in eliminative materialism. The physical nature of reality is next considered. The thesis maintains that the concept 'physical' is most usefully understood partly in opposition to 'mental', but Searle's usage is saved by categorising as physical whatever is causally reducible to the non-mental. A preliminary examination of causal reduction finds no obvious internal incoherence in biological naturalism. However, its truth still depends on the purely physical nature of the world, and this relies on Ockham's Razor for support. Physicalism is vulnerable to philosophical arguments that the mental is not causally reducible to the non-mental, since if successful, such arguments pre-empt Ockham's Razor. Biological naturalism relies on the absence of such proofs, and on the failure of non-physicalist systems such as Cartesianism. A more plausible non-physicalist system than Cartesianism is provided by a holistic system such as Aristotelianism. This is expounded as one alternative to biological naturalism, particularly in the light of quantum indeterminism. In comparison with Aristotelianism, biological naturalism is seen to be still partially Cartesian (in its atomist insistence on the universal explanatory power of bottom-up causation), and partially anti-mental (in its rejection of the possibility of causally irreducible me?tal features). Once we admit the reliability of first-person experience of the mental, various aspects of mental phenomena suggest their non-physical nature. Here we tentatively explore abstract mental contents, which seem ultimately explicable only by appealing to nonphysical ideas in the mind. So 'biological naturalism, whilst one of the best physicalist accounts of the mind, is called into question by threats to physicalism itself.
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    Laws of nature
    Torley, Vincent ( 1994)
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    Ethics and survival
    Scolyer, David ( 1999)