Showing posts with label philosophy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label philosophy. Show all posts

Friday, July 4, 2014

"thought-provoking...fine book"

The June Gardens Illustrated (UK) has a review of my Voltaire's Vine and Other Philosophies.

Rory Dusoir, head gardener at Stud House, succinctly summarises many of the chapters, and rightly notes the lack of false finality in my book: "This thought-provoking book fuels...speculation without attempting anything so crude as a definitive response." Nicely put.

And I like Rory's conclusion: "I will not expect my own musings to reach a conclusion any time soon, but thanks to this fine book, we may think in the company of some great minds."

Click here to read a (dodgy) copy of the review.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Happinez (Or: Damon at the Vondelpark)


I'm featured in the new edition of Happinez, the European lifestyle magazine.

It's an interview with Dutch novelist and writer Susan Smit about my Philosophy in the Garden.

Aside from an occasional word, I've no idea what it says. But the photos -- taken in Amsterdam's lovely Vondelpark -- are quite schmick, and Susan was an engaged interlocutor.

A short précis of the feature is here. (In Dutch.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sydney Writers Festival - 2014


I just returned from a very busy Sydney Writers Festival.

David Braddon-Mitchell feeling the love
For the first two days I hosted the new 'Curiosity' lecture series: fourteen lectures on an astonishing variety of topics from cooking, to offence, to living and dying well. (I hosted twelve, then scampered off to my own panel.)

Highlights for me included Luke Russell on evil (see his essay here), David Braddon-Mitchell on love, and Chris Andrews on the Oulipo group.

(Chris' lecture also included my very favourite audience question. Inspired by Oulipo, I joking said the question had to be five words, and no 'e's. The commenter asked, quickly: "Why such a boys' club?" Brilliant.)

Tara Moss, Joker, Angela Meyer
I then spoke on a panel, 'Writing Bodies', with novelists Tara Moss and Irvine Welsh, hosted by the ABC's Rafael Epstein.

When I conceived the panel, I hadn't read Tara or Irvine's latest books: The Fictional Woman and The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins. But they are just spot on: Tara reflects on the stigmatisation and commodification of women's bodies, while Irvine brilliantly satirises the media cult of the fit physique. These themes, and others, complemented those of my How to Think About Exercise.

You can read a short Guardian review of the panel here.

"But my nanna is a..."
"NINJA!"
My next gigs, on Sunday, were for the festival's Family Day: a reading of My Nanna is a Ninja, and comedy storytelling (basically ten minutes of gross standup), alongside kids' authors James O'Loughlin, Tristan Bancks and Oliver Phommavahn.

My story involved diarrhoea, mucus, a bruised nose and dog biscuits. Good times.

I had little time to myself between gigs, and tried to avoid book-bloating (my European trip required a new backpack, just for books). But I did get to buy myself Captives, the handsome new book of flash fiction by Angela Meyer. Some marvellous awkwardness and uncanniness packed into those few words.

Kudos to the festival's artistic director Jemma Birrell, and all of the hard-working and astonishingly patient staff and volunteers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Melbourne Review Profile

Not thinking, squinting.
While I was in England, The Melbourne Review published a profile of me, written by Wendy Cavenett. Here's a sample:
Damon Young’s garden, where the bees currently swarm and delicate white flowers bloom and decay, offers a retreat or a reminder of life’s precarious state – the cycle of life and death that he is acutely aware of. Born 10 weeks premature, Young’s parents didn’t know if he would live or die. For many weeks, he was kept alive by a series of tubes in his side (he still has the scars there), and it was only when he started “ripping them out”, that the doctors told his parents that he would survive. 
Fast-forward almost 39 years, and Young’s fascination with mortality and its relationship to living a meaningful life – or “the good life” as he often says throughout our conversation – underpins much of his writings. 
(Photo: courtesy The Melbourne Review)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Botanic gardens: coffee, wonder and "the nature of things"

I've a piece with The Guardian today, 'Our botanic gardens are about more than prettiness, or even science'.

While I was in the UK, I read of budget cuts at Kew Gardens. Hardest hit will be Kew's scientific research, which is recognised internationally for its expertise.

I'm defending the value of botanic science, and revealing the intellectual rewards of gardens more generally. A sample:
My point is that institutions like Kew, in the UK and abroad, are at the forefront of plant and fungus research, and this work is vital in the original sense of the word: to do with life and its healthy continuity. Nature is, as Marx once put it, our “body”. And man, he continued in his 1844 Manuscripts, “must remain in continuous interchange” with this body “if he is not to die.” (Insert the usual disclaimers about gender.) 
But there is more to science than immediate benefit. Botanic research, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau noted, can also be a “pure curiosity”. On the island of St-Pierre, the misanthropic philosopher enjoyed a daily ritual of solitude and botany. “The different soils that occurred on this island”, he later noted in his Confessions, “offered me a sufficient variety of plants for study and amusement for the rest of my life”. He wandered, picked, peered with a magnifying glass, wrote and reflected. 
Instead of looking for the medicinal or gastronomic secrets of plants, Rousseau was interested in the logic of the plants -- for the plants. In other words, he enjoyed their beauty, and the pleasure of analysis, but he had no professional or pecuniary agenda. For Rousseau, the plant was a small miracle of design, not a source of status, drugs or food. 
We need not applaud Rousseau's often eccentric Romanticism to see the point: there is, for scientists and the general public, a genuine longing to comprehend the natural world, above and beyond immediate utility. These botanic institutions safeguard, not only seeds, but also that very human drive: to wonder.
By the way, I didn't write the headline, which seems to suggest that I don't value beauty, and that philosophy and science are somehow necessarily at odds.

(Photo: Benjamin Evans)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Trip of Two Cities: London and Amsterdam

The 'G8 of Philosophy' gang, Amsterdam. Clockwise from top left:
John Gray, some dude, Benjamin Barber, Markus Gabriel, Peter Sloterdijk,
Aziz al-Azmeh, Sophie Oluwole, Zygmunt Bauman
This month my book Voltaire's Vine and Other Philosophies appeared in the United Kingdom, along with its handsome Dutch edition: Filosoferen in de Tuin

How to Think About Exercise also came out England and the continent a few months ago. 

So I followed them.

Russell Square, Bloomsbury. The robin is there, honest.
After a day-long flight best left undescribed -- one of my row-mates was fermenting -- I arrived to London in spring. There were robins in Russell Square -- keen Emily Dickinson readers:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops — at all –
Fenton House
My first gig was a Saturday class at Fenton House and the Hamstead pergola for The School of Life: 'Philosophy in the Garden'

We strolled about the historical lawns, orchard and herbaceous borders, chatted, and did writing exercises. (I welcomed impressions and insights from much better gardeners than I.)

The next day I was back in Hampstead for another School of Life class: 'How to be Fit and Clever', based on my exercise book. We strolled in silence, sprinted, did karate blocks and punches, and sat in meditation. After each exercise was a written task, then conversation. It was a long but enjoyable five hours, and the class had some novel ideas about physicality.

An idler at the Idler Academy. (With hulk.)
Not long after, I spoke at the very chilled Idler Academy, discussing Cicero, Stoicism and the philosophy of gardens. There were gin and tonics with cucumber, and some excellent questions.

My free days in London were spent at the British Library, British Museum, National Gallery (the Veronese show), Tates Britain and Modern (Matisse) and the Natural History Museum. Some highlights:

Philosopher and fool, The British Museum
Morpho peleides butterfly, Natural History Museum
Paolo Veronese, 'Allegory of Love (Scorn)' (c.1575), The National Gallery
Barbara Hepworth, 'Pelagos (1946), Tate Britain
Eduardo Paolozzi, 'Newton' (after Blake) (1995), British Library

Mark Rothko, 'Red on Maroon' (1950), Tate Modern
Henri Matisse, 'Zulma' (1950), Tate Modern/National Gallery of Denmark
I also dropped into a few London bookshops, including the enormous Waterstones Piccadilly, Europe's largest bookshop. 

I signed a stack of Voltaire's Vine, and bought myself a copy of Julian Barnes' Levels of Life (which I bloody-well left on a train to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam).

After a week in London I took a tiny Cityjet flight to Amsterdam. My publisher at Ten Have patiently took me, at my agent's suggestion, to the Keukenhof, where I enjoyed the kitsch delight of tulips in spring.

Tourists interrupting one another's photos -- accompanied by tulips,
at the Keukenhof
VERY. BIG. POSTERS. Paagman
bookshop, the Hague
My first gig was actually in the Hague, south of the capital. I spoke at the very slick Paagman bookshop, in discussion with writer and editor Pieter van den Blink. 

Peter had read Filosoferen in de Tuin very carefully, and we had a fine, lively chat. (He also drove my publisher and me back to Amsterdam in his beautiful 1996 Mercedes. But this is another story.)

The next day I spent at the hotel being interviewed by magazines and newspapers: Happinez, Flow and De Truow. Then, after a run around the canals and Vondelpark, I strolled off to the so-called 'G8 of Filosofie', at the impressive Beurs van Berlage.

"I once caught ennui THIS BIG..."
First was a televised lecture on 'meaning' and freedom, loosely based on Distraction (which will be published in the Netherlands in their winter), but also incorporating ideas from the exercise and garden books. You can watch the talk here.

After that I was on a panel with medical doctor and philosopher Marli Huijer, moderated by Lisa Doeland. Zygmunt Bauman was scheduled to join us, but by that hour he was too knackered to continue. 

We had an excellent conversation about employment, the market and technology, drawing on Bauman's ideas and our own research. Marli's work on discipline and rhythm is fascinating.

Still talking at midnight -
about capitalism and
overwork
My last event of the evening was my lecture, 'The Woolf in the Garden', on modern work and the garden: how its unity of humanity and nature can encourage critical reflection. 

(A short version will be published in the May edition of New Philosopher magazine.)

With a few hours to spare on the next day, I had a brisk walk around Amsterdam, which involved: getting lost, eating cake at Pompadour, smiling idiotically at the millions of bicycles (so civilised), then more of the same. 

Amsterdam is a city I'd like to know better: human sized, foot-powered, chockers with antiquarian books, and full of ideas and food.

Fiets op brug (bike on bridge), Amsterdam.
I also dropped into the Athanaeum bookshop in the famous Spui square, signed some copies of Filosoferen in de Tuin, and browsed their fantastic Engels sections. (Speaking of which, they have How to Think About Exercise on sale.)

Then I was off to Zwolle, north-east of Amsterdam. After an hour or so of very cosmopolitan freeway (that is, you'd find it anywhere), we arrived at the amazing Waanders in de Broeren bookshop, housed in a fifteenth century church (seriously, check the photos on their website).

Damon and Renske at
Waanders
I gave my 'G8' talk, and had a great conversation with my host, history teacher, philosophy student and medieval enthusiast Renske ter Avest

There were some thoughtful questions about gardens, the nature of philosophy, and the dangers of preaching to the choir in philosophy.

Not long after, I was back in London, and being interviewed by journalist and critic, Anita Sethi, whom I originally met in Melbourne.

Hard-hitting literary interview
As the topic was exercise and gardens, we went for a quick run in Green Park, then sat on deck chairs and chatted for forty minutes.

(Not a bad gig, really.)

Not long after I was back on a plane to Hong Kong (eating a sixteen-dollar Snickers and tea), then Melbourne, and checking my pockets for the day I lost.

(The glamour of writing. It's a thing.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Voltaire's Vine: 'tremendous vistas of thought'


The Daily Telegraph (UK) had a review of Voltaire's Vine and Other Philosophies over the weekend.

In a generous review, Iona McLaren criticises my brief "bumptious" language and occasional "alliterative sprees" (I'm aghast at accusations of alliteration), but overall welcomes the book's "tremendous vistas of thought." A sample:
Voltaire’s Vine, by drawing plausible connections between authors who are rarely compared, cuts a fresh cross-section through literary history. This is, in itself, a great pleasure. Moreover, Young’s generous background detail would make most of these essays an engaging (if idiosyncratic) general introduction to their subjects; in this regard, the chapters on Nikos Kazantzakis and Leonard Woolf (Virginia’s widower) merit particular praise. 
Young’s navigation of the denser philosophy is deft and often enlivened by quotation, for which he has an anthologist’s eye. It is a joy to read, for instance, Cyril Connolly on Orwell: “he could not blow his nose without moralising on conditions in the handkerchief industry”. The Rousseau chapter is particularly readable in this respect, with Isiah Berlin praising him as “the greatest militant lowbrow of history”, while his disgruntled patroness Madame d’Epinay had called him “a moral dwarf on stilts”.
(Photo: Stowe House, Phillip Halling/Wikipedia)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Philosophy in the (Dutch) Garden

Following up from those last reviews...

Philosophy in the Garden is soon out in the Netherlands and Dutch-speaking Belgium, with the slightly new title of Filosoferen in de Tuin, or Philosophising in the Garden.

The first review's in, from the Belgian newspaper De Morgen. I've posted it here for its design as much as for its content (of which I only have a vague idea -- but I'm told it's positive).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Contemplation on the run

There's a review of my How to Think About Exercise in the Sydney Morning Herald today, by health writer Paula Goodyer.

In 'Contemplation on the run', Paula picks up on my themes of reverie, creativity and 'flow', and also (and like Mark Rowlands) notes the importance of play:
don't forget the sense of freedom that can come with breaking into a run, especially after a day stuck to an office chair. Although Young gets his own after-work buzz from sprinting up and down hills, he is not suggesting we all do the same. Instead his advice is to just run as fast as you can for as long as you can. This is exactly what kids do - it's just that when they run around we don't call it exercise, we call it play.
(Photo: Jeff Drongowski)

Forthright defence of atheism

I've a review in The Australian today, 'Forthright defence of atheism'. It's of 50 Great Myths About Atheism, by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk.

This is less an attack on religion, and more a defence of atheism from unfair or misleading charges. In clear, straightforward prose, Blackford and Schuklenk have written a very helpful resource for weary atheists and curious theists. A sample:
As Blackford and Schuklenk note, prejudice against atheists still exists, including in the US, where some states prohibit non-believers from taking office, and more than a third of the population refuse to vote for atheists. There is also an emancipatory justification: helping religious readers who may be doubting their faith, but fearful of atheism's supposed gaffes and grief. 
The so-called "myths" are well-documented, the sources ranging from Fox News to broadsheet opinion and Christian apologetics. Some are relatively silly and fall apart quickly ("Atheists Have No Sense of Humour"), while others ask for more careful dismantling ("Atheism Robs Life of Meaning and Purpose"). 
And despite tetchiness here and there, the authors are patient, generous and sincere. For example, in "We Should Fear a 'Fundamentalist' or 'Militant' Atheism", Blackford and Schuklenk note that "fundamentalism" is often not defined, or else defined quite differently from its occurrences in 19th and 20th-century American Protestantism. "Fundamentalist", like "militant", is more vague slur than precise label. "There may be some people who could, by analogy, be described as 'fundamentalist' in the way they cling to a political ideology and its founding texts," the authors write, "but we cannot think of any significant figure who could meaningfully be described as a 'fundamentalist atheist'."
(Image: Zazzle)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Out now: How to Think About Exercise


My first copy of How to Think About Exercise has just arrived. As with all the School of Life books, the designers have done a brilliant job: it's an eye-catching cover.

Inside, you'll find plenty of ideas about sport and fitness: not as mute mechanical movements, but as intellectual and imaginative exercises. It's a book about wholeness: the body and mind, working together.

It'll be in bookshops internationally on January 2nd: just in time for the turkey and pudding buzz to wear off, and for new year's resolutions about jogging, weights and yoga.

My hope is that How to Think About Exercise will be as helpful to read as it was for me to write (I now run for the reverie, not for the pulse rate).

Best season's greetings from me: see you in the new year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Philosophy in the Garden: Dutch cover


I'm very pleased to showcase the new cover of the Dutch edition of Philosophy in the Garden, Filosoferen in de Tuin. It'll be published by Uitgeverij Ten Have in April.

To coincide with the release, I'll be talking at the 'Night of Philosophy' in Amsterdam, as well as some local bookshops in Holland.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

World Philosophy Day 2013

'Philosophy' skin care: not actually philosophy at all
Today is World Philosophy Day -- a day to celebrate thinking well, thinking boldly, and thinking oddly (but with precision and a certain panache). 

If you're new to philosophy, here are some helpful thinkers, communicators and teachers to look up:

- Stephen Law
- Nigel Warburton
- Mark Vernon
- Mark Rowlands
- Rani Lill Anjum
- Alain de Botton
- John Armstrong
- Russell Blackford
- Kylie Sturgess
- Michelle Sowey (Philosophy for Kids)

And here are a handful of my own columns (hundreds more here):

- World Philosophy Day (ABC)
- critical thinking for teachers (ABC)
- David Hume and ideas (ABC)
- philosophy as a contact sport (The Australian)
- how to have a bad argument (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- fiction and philosophy (Meanjin)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to think about exercise (and science)

I'm happy to show off the final cover for How to Think About Exercise, my forthcoming book with Pan Macmillan UK and The School of Life.

As with the previous series of 'how to' books, the designer has gone with a striking, minimalist look. (And they've even chosen the Australian national sporting colours.)

How to Think About Exercise will be out in January 2014.

*

Meanwhile, and continuing the green theme, my copy of Best Australian Science Writing 2013 has arrived from Newsouth Press.

Edited by Natasha Mitchell and Jane McCredie, it's thick with fine writing on natural philosophy -- sorry, I mean 'science' -- from an impressive variety of writers. 

In fact, one of the joys of the collection is its catholicism, in the best sense of the word. While conscientious with facts and theories, these authors give a rich portrait of science and scientific discovery. The blurb is right: "chock-full of intrigue, curiosity and controversy." 

My essay on Darwin is a celebration of the thinker's curiosity, but also his humility: the best science is cautious and careful, not arrogant (even if individual scientists are up themselves).

Last night (Thursday 7th) the collection was launched at Readings Books in Hawthorn. Some photos below.

Conversation
Jane McCredie, Jo Chandler, Peter Doherty
and Natasha Mitchell
Editors and Contributors
Back row: Peter Doherty, DY and Sophia, Jane McCredie (ed.), Natasha Mitchell (ed.)
Gina Perry, Nick Haslam, Cordelia Fine
Front row: Elizabeth Finkel, Jo Chandler
Book Signing
Jo Chandler, Elizabeth Finkel, DY, Jane McCredie,
Peter Doherty, Natasha Mitchell

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Philosopher: "What is a mind, and what is it good for?"


Not long ago, I was given the debut copy of a new magazine, New Philosopher. I was impressed by the calibre of the authors -- often professional philosophers -- but also by the variety of topics, and elegance of the magazine itself. Stylistically, it's very striking.

As it happens, I have an essay in the second issue of New Philosopher, which has 'mind' as its theme. (But, again: plenty of diversity is packed into this one topic.)

The essay is an edited version of my talk for the Brisbane Writers Festival, "What is a mind, and what is it good for?" Here is a sample:
Where these minds? David Hume’s famous answer was ‘nowhere in particular’. He pointed out that we never actually see these ‘minds’ we go on about. We have impressions of the world, and impressions of our own impressions; we have feelings from without and within, even if the ‘in’ and ‘out’ are dodgy metaphors. But we never have any evidence that there is this simple thing called a ‘mind’ – let alone a deathless soul, which moves north once the body is retired. For Hume, what we call ‘the mind’ is often just…an idea -- with all the vagueness and caprice this suggests. 
The point is not that we can’t have good ideas. The point is that ideas are good partly because they recognise this bigger, blurrier world. They acknowledge their own abstraction. The point is also that if ideas work in minds, when we say ‘minds’ we are also talking about ideas.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Curiosity vs celebrity: why do some reject fame?


I've a piece with the ABC today, 'Curiosity vs celebrity: why do some reject fame?'

Prompted by Nobel laureate Peter Higgs' post-prize holiday, I'm explaining why many scholars choose research over fame.  A sample:
Yes, scholars can also be driven by envy, contempt and egotism – for some, the grants are greener on the other side. But unless these drives are uncoupled from love of truth, the pettier impulses can be quite fruitful: they encourage intellectual criticism, ambition, risk-taking. 
In other words, basic research can be an invitation for a whole community – including amateurs – to develop their curiosity, however tinged with ressentiment
This is also why scholarship needs great communicators, like Paul Davies or Carl Sagan, to name two formative favourites from my teenage years: their prose and stories help others to develop their palate for truth. 
And more vaguely, but perhaps most strikingly, intellectual curiosity exemplifies humanity. 
We are, as far as we know, the only species who can speculate on the nature of reality. We have a gift for precise, systematic thinking, which combines deft calculation with bold imagination. 
This is not what we are for, but it does seem a waste to devote the only known higher intellect in the cosmos solely to brute necessity or restless distraction – or the combination of the two: celebrity.
By the way, I've used 'CERN' (the organisation) in place of the LHC (the particle collider) -- a metonym. They're not the same thing.

(Illustration: painting of Peter Higgs by Ken Currie. Currie was commissioned by the University of Edinburgh to paint the portrait, which was unveiled in 2009.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

On "rocking the boat" reasonably: how to argue well

A little while ago I wrote a column about arguments, and how not to have them: 'How to lose an argument before you've really started'.

After this, I was interviewed by John Stanley on 4BC's 'News Talk'.

We covered the ideas in the column, but also the reasons for the rarity of good conversation: including teaching kids not to "answer back" or "rock the boat". You can listen here.

(Image: 'Two boys fighting', by Giulio del Torre, photograph by Dorotheum)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Brisbane Writers Festival 2013

The enviable view from the writers' green room verandah
I've just returned from three days at the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Smug, post-run
I arrived on Friday and went for a run. Perfect.

Then dinner, a whisky with fellow Zeitgeist author Dawn Barker, second dinner with Dawn and David Thornby, and wired half-sleep.

My four gigs were shoe-horned into Saturday and Sunday. Busy but fun.

I began with 'Inspire: Mind', a TEDx-style talk and panel, looking into the mind, brain, creativity and cognitive skills.

Signing books with Barbara Arrowsmith Young
and Ruth Ozeki (Dr. Karl in the background)
Canadian-American author (and Zen priest) Ruth Ozeki spoke first, giving a sharp summary of some Buddhist principles, and a great demonstration of meditation. I look forward to reading Ruth's latest novel, A Tale for the Time Being, which sounds fantastic.

Next I spoke about philosophy, the love of ideas, and ideas of the mind -- and gave some suggestive examples: Iris Murdoch and Martin Heidegger. 

My general point was to note the caprice and vagueness of ideas in general, and ideas of mind in particular; and to highlight a couple of ideas that resist the mind's selfishness or pettiness. I might publish the talk later this year.

Speaking last was Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, who demonstrated the practical importance -- in her life and others' -- of 'neuroplasticity': the brain's capacity to grow and develop, with targeted training. Barbara's own story was moving and inspiring: testament to the danger of neat medical labels, particularly with children.

Raising our glasses to Jane Austen: Lesa Scholl,
Kim Freeman, Kate Forsyth
Next I was on a panel: 'The Pemberley Inheritance', which celebrated two centuries of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. My fellow guests were novelists Kate Forsyth and Kimberley Freeman, and Lesa Scholl chaired. 

We drank champagne. Conversation was as free-flowing: we touched upon Austen adaptations, characters, plotting, history, and the urge to make the author an Expert on Everything.

We also touched upon the garden in Austen's novels: its standing-in for Darcy and Mr. Collins' souls. We also speculated about the love-life of Lizzie and Darcy, Jane and Bingham. Kimberley had the perfect line for Bingham: "He would have fucked her like an apology."

Out of the woods: Anna Krien and Inga Simpson
After Austen, I joined Anna Krien, Inga Simpson and chair Megan McGrath for 'Into the Woods'. We chatted about the threads stitched between art, philosophy and landscape. 

Anna's journalism and Inga's novel both offer meticulous and often quite touching stories of 'nature' -- in varied ways. Anna's Into the Woods details the fraught, often violent world of logging protests in Tasmania -- this is what journalism ought to read like. Inga's Mr Wigg is a slow, meditative novel that celebrates small pleasures -- particularly those of gardening, agriculture, cooking and unheralded human intimacy.

We spoke about the artist's obligation (or not) to attend to the environment, particularly if it's threatened. We touched on the dangers of fetishising 'nature', and faking reverie. Drawing on Philosophy in the Garden, I explained why gardens are particularly philosophical. The session began and ended with haiku: Japanese miniature poetry from Brisbane poet Matt Hetherington, with a 'nature' theme. (They were excellent: suggestive, smart, attentive.)

That done, I sprinted (well, power-walked) off to Comics Etc to find some gifts... 

Speaking of which, there was a fantastic comics and genre mood to the Brisbane Writers Festival this year. Our sessions clashed, so I wasn't able to catch Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction and Marjorie Liu. But I did enjoy a great dinner with comics writer and illustrator Dylan Horrocks, alongside novelists (and comics fans) James Bradley and Elizabeth Wein, and Ashley Hay. I also chatted briefly with Kelly Sue and her lovely kids.

Astonishment in black, white and blue
On Sunday I taught a three-hour masterclass, 'Everyday Philosophy'. I spoke about philosophy's ambitions and discipline; about the slipperiness of ideas, and how to do them justice. 

Many in the class had never read philosophy before, but we had some excellent conversation about Seneca, Nietzsche and a poem by Alison Croggon. The common theme was human relationships, and the ideas were thrown to and fro boldly, but with care.

After my class, I saw Philosophy in the Garden was number one on the bookshop's bestseller list. They were sold out. A shock -- and a welcome one. (The overall bestseller list is here.)

Congratulations to the festival director, Kate Eltham, and to all the festival staff and volunteers. You rock.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The 2013 AAP Media Prize

The AAP's symbol: the Owl of Athena
I'm delighted to announce that I've been awarded the Australasian Association of Philosophy's (AAP) media prize for 2013.

The AAP give the prize "for the best philosophical piece(s) published by a professional philosopher in the popular media in Australasia during the previous calendar year."

The AAP described my work as "highly accessible and yet still intellectually sophisticated," which is high praise from this association of scholars.

I am, in short, really chuffed to be recognised. You can read more about the prize here.