School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Neither bad nor mad : the competing discourses of psychiatry, law and politics
    Greig, Deidre Ngaio ( 1999)
    Garry David's dramatic threats of violence against individuals and the community, as well as his acts of gross self-mutilation, set in train a discourse between psychiatry, the law and politics, which focused on the place of the severely personality-disordered in the institutional context. The Victorian Labor Government's determination to detain him in custody, in the absence of either criminality or a legally-defined mental illness, tested the way in which the historically uncertain boundary between 'madness and 'badness' is drawn, as well as the differences between the concept of a mental illness and a mental disorder. It is argued that Garry shared many of the characteristics of other personality-disordered prisoners', who are ultimately released and, therefore, the reasons for his preventive detention and singular actions of the Government need to be understood, especially in the light of the social justice strategies, which had enhanced the rights of mentally disordered offenders by limiting their detention in custody. A major theme explores why he was singled out, and the significance of the Government's decision to proceed with the implementation of 'one-person' legislation, which was clumsily drafted, out of step with fundamental legal principles, and came dangerously close to making him a martyr through the exercise of powers of attainder. A sub-theme considers the interaction between psychiatry and the law, particularly in the courtroom, and the different way in which each discipline constructs its response to the same problem. It was concluded that the state's unusual action was triggered by the coalescence of a number of factors, rather than any clear demonstration of Garry David's propensity for dangerousness, apart from his sel-mutilation. Of particular importance were: the arousal of intuitive fears about dangerous persons in the wake of some recent multiple killings; the Government's need to reaffirm its support for the Victoria Police; the influence of structural changes within forensic psychiatry; and finally, the way in which Garry's dramatic and articulate threats were intensified by his ability to violate his own body and by his unusual tenacity in resisting carceral pressure. The legacy of Garry David was three fold: more general preventive detention legislation was implemented under the provisions of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic); a niche was created for the treatment of some of the more severely personality-disordered; and the High. Court of Australia rejected singular legislation for dangerous persons. This case is a palpable demonstration of the need to safeguard the traditional distinction between the Executive and Judiciary, and it points to the inadvisability of governments directly intervening in professional areas of decision-making.
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    Changing scientific perceptions of the Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus)
    Paddle, Robert N ( 1997)
    The thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus), with a recent distribution throughout Australian and New Guinea, became extinct when the last known specimen died in Hobart Zoo on 7/9/1936. Popular and scientific perceptions of the predatory behaviour of the species that preceded its extinction are considered. There appears to be little observational evidence to support either the more fantastic aspects of popular mythology - the thylacine as vampire and man-eater - or the more prosaic aspects of scientific authority - the thylacine as sheep killer - that led to the species' deliberate destruction, most notably through the government bounty scheme. Despite specific Federal and State government committees, supposedly designed to protect Australia's fauna, the species failed to obtain any adequate protection, and local government insensitivity resulted in the premature death of the last specimen in captivity. Post-extinction changes have taken place in scientific constructions of the thylacines' behaviour, often based upon blindly accepted oral history recollections of the species, untempered by a recognition that any observation of a twentieth-century thylacine was of a stressed individual from a relict population heading rapidly towards extinction, unlikely or unable to display normal social behaviour. Scientists have also moved, after the event, in a "blame-the-victim" approach, to distance themselves from accepting significant responsibility for the process of extinction, castigating the thylacine for inadequate adaptation and inherent inefficiency. The extinction of the thylacine illustrates how easily indisputable scientific knowledge may be marginalised and ignored, and species driven to extinction, by powerful economic and political interest groups within the community, when scientists lack the courage and commitment for direct political action. Regrettably, the lesson from the extinction of the thylacine has yet to be learned.
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    Wheel of time, wheel of history : cultural change and cultural production in an A mdo Tibetan community
    Stevenson, Mark J ( 1999)
    Examining art, literature and mass media this dissertation aims to understand processes of social and cultural change in Rebkong (Tibetan: Reb gong; Chinese: Huangnan Zangzu Zizhi Zhou [Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture]). Located in Tibet's north-eastern province of Amdo (now on the eastern edge of China's Qinghai Province), Rebkong has long been part of the Sino-Tibetan interface where symbols of identity and power were negotiated through complex and hybrid oppositions. The chapters in Part I describe the historical expansions of Tibetan and Chinese powers into Amdo, focusing on forms of administration and their relation to competing ideologies. From those findings it is argued that the cultural and administrative structures supported by the Chinese state in Amdo today have evolved from earlier forms of colonisation and, in response to forms of imperialism introduced by Western powers, are a modern advance on them. Continuing this theme in Part II the dissertation analyses cultural politics in Rebkong through an examination of ritual art and performance, temple scrolls (T: thang ka), butter sculpture, "socialised" painting, and the lives of individual artists. The mass-media and its impact on questions of identity and new forms of knowledge in Rebkong are also examined in the context of the "outsideness" of the ethnographer. The argument throughout is that change is always a question of power, particularly in colonial contexts. In Rebkong the opposition between Tibetan and Chinese visions of authority has resulted in a series of contrasting values, the most important of which has been that of religious versus secular, or ideal versus material. Since 1949 there have been a number of Chinese political movements that have attempted to eliminate Tibetan Buddhism, along with its symbols, institutions and representatives. The body of research developed here makes it clear that while such strategies have caused much destruction they ultimately strengthen the symbolic power of the cultural values they attempt to displace; as new forms of heterodoxy "Tibetan" values fall outside state control and become unmanageable. Finally the dissertation draws attention to forces of globalisation and to China's own ongoing cultural and ideological crisis. It is argued that the type of cultural analysis presented here, as well as the humanistic opportunities within the ethnographic encounter itself, can suggest new readings of "tradition" as a positive and liberating force for confronting reified and over-politicised forms of cultural life.
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    Difference, generalisation, and responsible critique : Papua New Guinea's village courts
    Rad-Hassall, K Sadghi ( 1999)
    Village courts are the lowest ranked courts in Papua New Guinea's legal hierarchy with jurisdiction over civil disputes and minor criminal offences as defined both by the laws of the State and customs of the people. The workings of village courts is controversial in both popular and academic discourse. in these critiques they are either praised or blamed for being "too customary", "too legal", or for being hybrid. The dualisms of society and individual, symbolic and material that are embedded in these accounts enable a cross-cultural generalisation that equates 'law' and 'custom' as mechanisms of "social control". I identify two forms of this foundationist critique: universalist and relativist. In developing a way of going beyond foundationist critique I elaborate a connection between the 'performative' approach used in science and technology studies by John Law and Bruno Latour, and the anthropological work of Marilyn Strathern and Helen Verran. I articulate a relational approach to generalisation in the context of critiquing the workings of Village Courts. I understand this relational approach as enabling a postcolonial form of critique. I argue that a postcolonial generalisation requires a way of seeing the micro/macro relation that does not rely on abstraction and objectification. As such, postcolonial generalisations require an ontology of figured relations, and an epistemology of specificities. This alternative non-foundationist image of making generalisations works by pointing to concrete, figured partial relations that make up persons and things. The task of analysis in postcolonial critique is thus to show the specific and material generalisations that link the micro and the macro through themselves. This is doing a relational politics of difference. Difference is not understood as existing between singulars, but as an outcome of concretely embodied relations that achieve singularities. A generalisation unravels these singularities figuring and perhaps re-figuring these relations through itself. Following these effects can show how difference is done, and how it might be done differently. In this thesis I unravel the "summons paper" as such a generalisation. I argue that making a "summons" unravels Village Court, the State, complainants, defendants, law and custom to show the multiple ways they are effected. Filling out a summons form performs a series of conversions. This notion of generalisation makes it possible to develop a generative critique of Village Courts by making explicit multiple sites of conversions, sites where critique is done with materials. It is showing, for example, that law/custom are connected, not externally through some argued for generalisation, but at multiple sites of conversion where one is converted to another. This notion of generalisation has the work of designing the summons form as not a mere technicality, but as a robust critique of Village Courts.
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    On the logic of moral language
    Galatis, Aristidis ( 1998)
    Richard Hare has long advocated the view that the function of moral philosophy is that of helping us to think better about moral questions by exposing the logical structure of the language in which this thought is expressed. In The Language of Morals, a book written now almost half a century ago, Hare set out to do precisely this; to investigate the very complex logic of moral discourse and use this logical study to help us better understand some of the most fundamental problems of morality. And, in part, he succeeded, for Hare has gone on to propose some of the most interesting and ingenious philosophical ideas, both in meta-ethics and in ethics proper. I have set out in the first chapter to write a clear but brief introduction to Hare's key contributions to ethics whilst bringing the reader as directly as possible to grips with some of the fundamental problems of the subject. In Freedom and Reason, numerous articles and, more recently, Moral Thinking, Hare has also gone on to use the logical characteristics of moral terms to generate certain logical canons governing moral thinking and formulate in the process a highly original and detailed account of the nature of moral judgements and of moral reasoning in general; an account which, he claims, finally gives sufficient scope to reason to allow us to reach, in principle, a determinate conclusion to any moral deliberation. Despite its detractors, Hare's theory (of universal prescriptivism) has emerged as the most substantial and sophisticated formulation and defence of utilitarianism in recent ethics. But can Hare's system of moral reasoning plausibly be assigned to the logic of moral language alone or does it amount to a strong substantive moral position? Has critical moral thinking finally been allowed a certified role in ethical decision making? In Chapter 2, I argue that despite his many achievements Hare has left himself with considerable unfinished business here and, with a theory which leaves very little room for manoeuvring, it is alas doubtful whether he has managed to frame for us a sound basis for rational agreement in ethics. The problem I suggest, is that our understanding of the moral concepts and of the logical properties of the moral terms is far from complete. So in Chapters 3, 4 and 5 I analyse the notions of universalizability, prescriptivity and overridingness (which for Hare constitute logical theses) while in Chapter 6 1 propose a new feature altogether; what I call propagativity. Whilst 1 agree with Hare that logic can help in moral argument (and that the exercise or function of reason cannot be confined just to the determining of facts or discovering of truths) the object of my thesis is to show that this logic is even more elusive and complex than has previously been supposed. My aim is to contribute to its elucidation.
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    The provision of hospital care in country Victoria 1840's to 1940s
    Collins, Yolande M.J ( 1999)
    Many hospital histories have been written whose authors have usually made exaggerated claims about the significance of individual hospitals. This narrow approach fails to take into account the influences of ideological and economic changes such as the rise of the Labour movement between 1890 and 1915, the erosion of the charitable ideal, the secularisation of Australian society and the increased acceptance of certain welfare provisions as a right rather than a privilege. This results in some misconceptions and a blinkered view of hospital development. A comparative analysis of how country hospitals were administered during this early founding period is important because it reveals that prior to 1862, three categories of hospitals were established, namely, working men's hospitals, custodial or hospital/benevolent institutions and semi-voluntary hospitals. All were controlled by hospital committees dominated by lay community leaders. Country hospitals provided an important focus for small communities with hospital committees defending their independence and resisting attempts by central authorities to wrest administrative control from them. The control exerted by an increasingly centralist State government over hospitals in country Victoria (heavily influenced by the medical profession), hindered their development to a greater degree than those in metropolitan areas. The mechanisms for achieving this were the enforcement of the Appropriation Acts from 1862 and the rigid implementation of the 1923 Hospital and Charities Act. Both of these kept hospitals tied to the voluntary/philanthropic model (or semi-voluntary model because charities received significant funding from the state) until the 1930s thereby delaying the establishment of more viable community hospitals. After the early 1930s, a transition from charities to community hospitals occurred. A major source of their concern was the already inequitable levels of funding compared to metropolitan hospitals. This inequity meant that Hospital Committees spent much time raising funds through enlisting subscribers, fund-raising and soliciting bequests. Their first collective action was the formation of the Country Hospitals Association in 1918. The number of charitable hospitals in country Victoria grew rapidly from fourteen in 1859 to thirty-four in 1891 and sixty-one in 1923. In that year there were also 476 private hospitals, which prior to the 1890s were little more than nursing homes. Whilst the Charities Board sought to control the spread of public hospitals, hospitals established by the Bush Nursing Association proliferated outside their control, leading to conflict between the Board and the Association. Funding for public hospitals dropped significantly between the 1890s and 1930s. At the same time there was an increase in the demand for beds in public hospitals by the lower middle classes who found private hospital costs prohibitive and wanted the higher standard of care provided in public hospital facilities. An increased dependence on medical technology led to an urgent need for the upgrading of Victorian country hospitals' technologically obsolete equipment. Additionally, Victorian hospitals were heavily influenced by North American views on efficiency and standardisation. Finally, the impetus to improve hospitals came in the 1930s when unemployment relief funds and a gambling tax levy subsidised new hospital facilities.
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    The self and political theory
    Moss, Jeremy ( 1999)
    This thesis is an attempt to analyse some of the connections of political ontology to normative political thought. Part one consists of an interpretation and defence of three pieces of political ontology generated by the later work of Michel Foucault: power, agency and autonomy. Chapter one clarifies Foucault's account of power and argues that the most interesting feature of this account for political philosophy is his account of power as influence. Chapter two discusses the first of two major objections to Foucault's work - his lack of an adequate conception of agency - and argues that Foucault's account of the subject is able to deal with this objection. In chapter three I develop a conception of autonomy from Foucault's later work that is able to answer the second major objection to Foucault's work, that it is 'normatively confused'. In part two I apply Foucault's conception of power and autonomy to three central areas of political, thought: communitarianism, Rawlsian political liberalism and equality of condition. In chapter four I analyse and reject the communitarian account of embeddedness in favour of a Foucaultian account. Chapter five discusses Rawls' autonomy based political liberalism and argues that his idea of public reason is too narrow to address the types of constraint to autonomy outlined in part one. On the basis of these conclusions I argue for the first of two theses of justice - the principle of political autonomy, which expands the scope of public reason. Chapter six is a discussion of competing metrics of equality of condition. I argue that the account of equality that is compatible with the principle of political autonomy and with the ontology of part one, is 'capability equality', which focuses on the capabilities that a person is able to attain. I conclude with a discussion of what a theory of justice that incorporated these ontological and normative insights might be like.
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    The abstract character of modern technological relations
    Scrinis, Gyorgy ( 1998)
    This thesis engages with and develops theoretical frameworks and concepts for understanding the relationship between technology and social relations. I argue that technologies substantively contribute to constituting the form of the cultural and structural relations they mediate, including relationships to nature. In particular, a social theoretical framework will be developed which distinguishes more and less abstract levels of technologically mediated social relations. In Part 1, I outline a methodological framework and series of conceptual distinctions for understanding and analysing the relationships between technology and society, and for clarifying some themes and debates in the literature on the philosophy and sociology of technology. In Part 2, I consider more closely the work of four substantive theorists of technology: Marshall McLuhan, Langdon Winner, Martin Heidegger and Albert Borgmann. In Part 3, I turn to a number of case studies of the ways technologies shape the form of social relations: firstly, comparing manual, mechanical and electronic technologies (including the clock, steam engine, railway, automobile, telephone, radio, television and internet); and secondly, comparing organic, chemical and genetic forms of agricultural production and modes of engagement with nature, focusing in particular on genetic engineering and the new biotechnologies. In the Appendix, I briefly outline a framework for comparing different paradigms of scientific knowledge and practice in terms of their more or less abstract character and level of engagement with the world.
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    The myth of "One Nation" in multicultural Australia : an analysis of contemporary discourse and nationalism
    Lee, Michelle A ( 1999)
    The primary aim of this thesis is to examine discourses of multicultural politics in contemporary Australia and to analyze how these discourses impact upon the definition of national identity. Through an analysis of nations and nationalism, and the ways in which political discourse shapes these concepts, this thesis discusses how `one nation' discourse in Australia attempts to bind the nation together; at the same time the growing call to promote diversity and recognize difference unsettles the notion of being `one nation' and questions traditional, homogenous definitions of national unity. Drawing on the rhetoric of former Prime Minister Paul Keating, current Prime Minister John Howard, and MP Pauline Hanson, various perceptions of what it means for Australia to be 'one nation' are explored in this thesis. While each of these public figures conceive of national identity in different ways, each of them maintains that a shared, collective identity is possible. However, alternative definitions of difference destabilize this possibility, and suggest that the aim of national unity, as it has conventionally been defined, is inappropriate in a world where nations are becoming increasingly multicultural in nature. This thesis does not assert that nationalism as an ideology should be abandoned; indeed, this may not even be possible. However, nationalisms which seek to eradicate difference and sustain a homogenous culture are at odds with developing global trends. The active recognition and promotion of difference should be central to the contemporary nation-state, and political philosophy and rhetoric should reflect this. In furthering such a change, however, it is critical to understand that the recognition of difference furthers the state of permanent tension in which the nation finds itself. The promotion of a 'unity through sameness' framework will ultimately point to the reality of diversity, while a framework of 'unity through diversity' will ultimately recall nostalgic notions of a homogenous, collective community. A polarity of unity and separation emerges, and the two continually unsettle one another. In promoting a discourse of difference within the public sphere, the possibility for a 'detached we identity' emerges to allow a shared national identity that also allows individual and cultural differences to exist uneasily with one another.
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    Wisdom : the Socratic view
    Meghaizel, Henry ( 1997)