Getting Better: How Philosophy Can Help Things Improve – Prof Graham Parkes (Seminar, Durham Philosophy Department, 6 August 2012)

Readers of this blog are warmly invited to a talk by Professor Graham Parkes (UC Cork), entitled ‘Getting Better: How Philosophy Can Help Things Improve‘, hosted by the Applied Phenomenology Research Group, on Monday 6th August, 10.30am, in room 005, 48/49 Old Elvet.

Abstract: ‘Our personal lives are full of things we would like to see get better. Many of them are beyond our power to change, but even those we try to do something about often end up getting worse instead. Enlarge the picture to include family, the rest of society and the wider world around us, and we only feel all the more  powerless. As the years go by, and we see how more and more things are going from bad to worse, the hope that they’ll get better begins to look more and more delusional. Most of us would like to improve our lives, but two things appear to hold us back. First, it’s hard to disrupt the routines that we’ve grown used to; and second, it’s easy to stop paying attention to what’s wrong with our lives and the effect this has on everything around us. Indeed an important function of our habitual routines is to reduce the need to pay attention. Paying attention is a gift from our human nature, yet one that we squander day after day by letting ourselves be pulled this way and that by the demands of daily life. So much of the world we live in seems to have a stake in diverting our attention from the things that matter most. But how on earth do we tell what matters most? This question points to another way of getting better, which involves discovering what’s worth our attention in the first place. So it’s not just a matter of getting better at what we’re already doing, but also of getting better at telling what really matters in life. If we can manage this, we may find we need to change our ways, perhaps by stopping doing some of the things we’re accustomed to doing, and starting doing some new and different things.’

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