22 September 2010

Being and Mental Illness: Does neuroscience undermine existentialism?

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.

- Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

Freedom. Authenticity. Responsibility. Choice. These concepts form the basis of existentialist philosophy, one that challenges and provokes because it denies people their excuses for the (perhaps disappointing) quality of their lives. While acknowledging the limits, constraints and contingencies that affect the number and type of choices available to a person, existentialist ethics nonetheless declares this axiom: you may not have chosen what type of vehicle to travel in, or its condition, but you are the driver. The journey and the destination are your unavoidable responsibility.

20 September 2010

Secularism and democracy in Turkey

Earlier this month, Turkey held a referendum on changes to its constitution, with 58 percent of Turks saying ‘yes’ to the amendments. The proposed changes aim to reduce the power and remove the privileges currently enjoyed by the military – who created the present constitution after a 1980 coup – and restore the sovereignty of civilian institutions, among other goals. According to UCLA School of Law acting professor Asli Ü. Bâli, the revised constitution will include provisions that “empower civilian courts while reducing the jurisdiction of military courts; strengthen gender equality and protections for children, the elderly, veterans and the disabled; improve privacy rights and access to government records; expand collective bargaining rights; and remove immunities long afforded to those responsible for the 1980 military coup.”

16 September 2010

Good riddance to religious rubbish

Sometimes the system works. Australians who don’t care much for religious beliefs playing a role in policy-making have refused to reelect senator Steve Fielding of the Family First Party to the Senate. After serving only one term, Fielding failed to garner enough voter preferences in the recent federal election and thus lost his seat to the Democratic Labor Party’s John Madigan. Since senators serve fixed six-year terms, Fielding will remain in the Senate until June 30 next year.