School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses
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ItemCountryminded Conforming Femininity: A Cultural History of Rural Womanhood in Australia, 1920 – 1997Matheson, Jessie Suzanne ( 2021)This thesis explores the cultural and political history of Australian rural women between 1920 and 1997. Using a diverse range of archival collections this research finds that for rural women cultural constructions of idealised rural womanhood had real impacts on their lived experiences and political fortunes. By tracing shifting constructions of this ideal, this thesis explores a history of Australian rural womanhood, and in turn, centres rural women in Australian political and cultural history. For rural women, an expectation that they should embody the cultural ideals of rural Australia — hardiness, diligence, conservatism and unpretentiousness — was mediated through contemporary ideas of what constituted conforming femininity. This thesis describes this dynamic as countryminded conforming femininity. In this respect, this research is taking a feminist approach to political historian Don Aitkin’s characterisation of the Country Party as driven by an ideology of countrymindedness. This thesis uses countryminded conforming femininity as a lens through which cultural constructions of rural womanhood may be critically interrogated, and changes in these constructions may be traced. This thesis represents the first consideration of Australian rural womanhood as a category across time that is both culturally constructed and central to Australian political and cultural life, drawing together histories of rural women’s experience, representations and activism. It theorises what ideals of Australian rural womanhood have meant across the twentieth century and finds that they have had an under-considered role in Australian political life, and on constructions of Australian national identity.
ItemPhenomenologies of the lived body : Husserl, Stein, Merleau-Ponty and Marcel on embodimentJoseph, Felicity Anne ( 2005)On the topic of embodiment, the phenomenological tradition in philosophy departs significantly from the standpoint of the dominant philosophical tradition. Rather than approaching embodiment through the framework of the 'mind/body problem', its method is to adopt the subject's point of view and ask what the phenomenon of embodiment is like for the subject experiencing it - for instance, what is it like to be a body? And what is it like to have one? Sometimes this query is formulated as 'what is it correct to say about' the role of the body in personhood - for instance, is it more correct to use the word 'have' or the word 'be' to express my relationship to my body? However, the inquiry is not principally a linguistic one: it is an inquiry into our experience of embodiment, in its relation to other things in the world and to consciousness. It is the phenomenologists' acknowledgement of the subject-inquirer's point of view on embodiment that renders their approach a particularly appropriate one for this topic. Accordingly, in this study I have chosen to investigate the theories of phenomenological philosophers. This research project thus consists of a comparative study of four phenomenological philosophers on the topic of embodiment (the body-person relationship): Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Gabriel Marcel. In addition, I look at some remarks Ludwig Wittgenstein in his later writings makes about the language of embodiment, and investigate how the issues raised there may condition the conclusions drawn from these phenomenological studies of the body. I also investigate how feminist critiques of phenomenology may affect our examination of issues of embodiment and prompt us to further investigate the nature of embodiment. In response, I argue that the 'lived body' schema is compatible with more specific accounts of embodiment and that the phenomenologists are aware of and cautious about their use and interpretation of the language of embodiment.
ItemTerra nullius : Lacanian ethics and Australian fictions of originFoord, Kate ( 2005)The fiction of terra nullius, that Australia was 'no-one's land' at the time of British colonisation, was confirmed in law in 1971. At precisely this moment it had begun to fail as the ballast of white Australian identity and the fulcrum of race relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Where white Australia had historically produced a gap, an empty centre from which the white Australian subject could emerge, fully formed, there was now a presence. The emergence of the Aboriginal subject into this empty space inaugurated the anxiety of white Australia that has characterised the period from the 1970s to the present. During these decades of anxiety, the story of this nation's origin-the story of 'settlement'-has retained its pivotal part in the inscription and reinscription of national meanings. Each of the three novels analysed in the thesis is a fictional account of the story of 'settlement published during the closing decades of the twentieth century. Of all the contemporary Australian fiction written about 'settlement' and the race relations conducted in its midst, these texts have been chosen because each is emblematic of a particular national fantasy, and, as is argued in this thesis, a particular orientation, to the tale it tells. The structure of each fantasy-of the frontier, of captivity, of the explorer and of the Great Australian Emptiness- offers particular opportunities for the refantasisation of that national story. The thesis asks how each novel is oriented towards the national aim of not failing to reproduce a satisfactory repetition of the story of national origin and the inevitable failure of that project. All of these questions are framed by an overarching one: what is an ethics of interpretation? The thesis offers a Lacanian response. Interpretation, for Lacan, is apophantic; it points to something, or lets it be seen. It points beyond meaning to structure; it alms to show an orientation not to a 'topic' but to a place. Lacanian psychoanalytic theory offers an ethics of interpretation that includes and accounts for that which exceeds or escapes meaning, and it does this without rendering that excess irrelevant. That something remains constitutive yet enigmatic, making interpretation, in turn, not merely the recovery and rendering of meaning but also a process which seeks to understand the function of this enigmatic structural term. Through its theory of repetition and the pleasures that repetition holds, Lacanian theory offers an approach to analysing the pleasures for the non-Indigenous Australian reader in hearing again the fictions of the nation's founding. It now seems possible for a white Australian encountering any such retelling to ask how our pleasure is taken, and to see the intransigence of our national story, its incapacity to respond to its many challengers, as a particular mode of enjoyment that is too pleasurable to renounce. A Lacanian ethics of interpretation opens up the question: what are the possibilities of re-orientating ourselves in our relation to our founding story such that we did not simply repeat what gives us pleasure?
ItemAn examination of an argument of E.L. Mascall's in The Christian universeHughes, David John Malcolm ( 1977)E.L. Mascall's book The Christian Universe was chosen as as a basis for this thesis because the argument he presents there is a distinctively modern attempt to provide a justification for religious belief. Although it is not merely a reiteration of the traditional arguments, it is deployed in the same way to provide grounds for belief in God. While not dismissing or discounting the value of recent work done in clarifying uses of language in religious contexts -- indeed, the methods and fruits of linguistic and conceptual analysis have been employed in interpreting and assessing the force of Mascall's argument -- there remains the substantial question of whether engaging in religious discourse finally has any point. The impetus to investigate this problem - and thus Mascall's attempt to answer the problem - was gained from an article by- H.E. Root ("Beginning All Over Again," Soundings, A.R. Vidler (ed.), C.U.P., London, 1966). In it be upbraids Christian theologians who . suppose, they can justify their beliefs by reference to revelation. He points out that unless they can give a more appropriate reason for what they believe "there are no grounds for believing that a Christian scheme is preferable to some non-Christian one" and the choice between "Christianity and some other religion (or note) becomes arbitrary, irrational, even trivial" (p.13). There are no easy solutions to this old problem of justifying belief in God. It is significant even to make a small advance in understanding what could provide such a justification. In treating Mascall's argument attention has been paid to the distinct notion, implied there, that the 'usefulness' of the belief -- the function it performs in satisfying the human need for sense and meaning in life -- is a basis, or part of a basis, for asserting that there is such a God, To treat grounds for belief in this way provides a. new insight into theistic argument.
ItemThe evolution of Wittgenstein's views of meaningTran, 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.
ItemAn unreasonable profession : spiritualism and mediumship between the wars in BritainHazelgrove, Jennifer P ( 1996)In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Spiritualist claims that the dead survive in another world and communicate with the living became a subject of heated debate within English society. Originating in America in the eighteen-forties, Spiritualism found ready converts in England. By 1870, many periodicals were devoted to chronicling the activities of believers, while newspaper articles, church sermons and scientific reports issued a stream of diverse interpretations to a fascinated audience. Spiritualism has become a subject of lively historical interest in recent times, but most historians assume that it was a Victorian and Edwardian phenomenon, with little relevance in post World War I Britain. I began this study with similar assumptions, but as my research progressed, it became clear that the number of people who identified as Spiritualists grew in the interwar years and that Spiritualism was as controversial during this period as in the previous century. In sketching its passage and growth between the wars, I emphasise Spiritualism's ability to absorb and organise both modem and ancient tropes. As the movement continued to gain in popularity the debate over its meaning and possibilities for humankind grew apace. At the centre of these controversies stood the figure of the medium. The mediumistic persona was constructed inside and outside the Spiritualist movement as feminine. This project engages with issues of gender, subjectivity and power in relation to the development of the mediumistic identity. In doing so I stress the profound ambiguity of that identity. The medium, as represented through diverse narratives, appeared as both subject and object, the source of truth and lies, and the mother of life and death. It was always unclear whether she was psychically gifted or demented, or whether she intended to harm or heal. Confronted with opposing narratives, a coherent sense of "self' was not easily achieved by a medium. Ultimately, this study attempts to show that the mediumistic "self' was never a stable result of private conviction, but a deeply unstable and continually shifting production that developed within particular historical circumstances
ItemHistory as science : Michael White and his contributions to cytogenetics and evolutionary theoryMcCann, Douglas Andrew ( 1994)Michael White (1910-1983) was foundation professor of the Department of Genetics at the University of Melbourne and one of the world's leading cytogeneticists. He made fundamental contributions to general cytogenetics and evolutionary cytogenetics. In 1945 White published Animal Cytology and Evolution which integrated an enormous amount of previously disparate data on cytogenetics into an evolutionary framework. This book was praised by his colleagues as a primary contribution to the emerging Neo-Darwinian evolutionary synthesis. Yet since then his status in the history of the evolutionary synthesis has become ambiguous. Some recent commentators omit him from their accounts. In this thesis it is argued that White's disappearance from history is not accidental but the result of a successful strategy by competing scientists to construct a version of evolutionary biology that legitimates their own discipline, research program and world view. This study takes the form of a biography but with an emphasis on the social and cultural context of science. A social constructivist conflict model has been employed, specifically Bourdieu's 'struggle for scientific authority' metaphor, as articulated by Sapp (1987). It is suggested that unless social factors are included in any account of the production of scientific knowledge then the analysis is incomplete. It is further claimed that the 'internal politics of science' can be an important determinant in scientific knowledge construction. Competition between scientists can be both interdisciplinary and intradisciplinary. It will be shown that White was engaged in just such a struggle for scientific authority with several scientists and that this competition stimulated and informed his own research. A major theme of the thesis is that history itself is a resource which scientists can deploy in support of their knowledge claims and/or to enhance their own standing in the field. It is argued that White's place in the history of science has been determined (and is being re-determined) not only by the quantity and quality of his scientific work but also by the way this work had been interpreted (or ignored) by his colleagues and competitors. It is not simply a question of the 'factual' basis of the scientists' research but whether that work supports, or does not support, currently accepted views and whether or not it serves the social and technical interests of others within or outside the field. Scientific knowledge is thus both negotiated and constructed.
ItemConceptions of experience : a confrontation between contemporary analytic and continental philosophyFennell, John Garde ( 1993)
ItemMerleau-Ponty and the body : some comments on the phenomenological approach to the personBerry, Catherine ( 1962)In this thesis I intend to sketch out some of the most interesting concepts Merleau-Ponty uses which contribute to our understanding of the person. I will approach his notion of the person through his concept of the world, since it is always in the context of the world that I do in fact know myself and other people, and it is therefore in this situation that I must consider man if I am to understand him conceptually as well as existentially. This will lead to a consideration of the notion of the human body, as it is likewise always through the body that I meet other people, communicate with them and act In the world myself. Then I will try as best I can to assess Merleau-Ponty's contribution to and originality in his phenomenology of the person, and in doing so, I will raise a few questions which need further study.
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