UCT Philosophy Course

For three consecutive Thursday evenings from 16 August, UCT held their annual ‘Foundations in Philosophy’ course open to grades 10-12 from selected schools. The lectures took place in the Leslie Social Sciences building at UCT and the theme this year was “Ethics in the 21st century”.

A group of interested Rustenburg girls completed the course and found it to be an interesting and valuable experience. They were given readers containing information about each session, sources, and open-ended questions about the topics to make people really think. UCT offers the programme because they believe that philosophy can be highly beneficial to not only adults, but teenagers too.

Philosophy, they say, consists of three main features: a “broad range of fundamental concerns” that question our basic human existence and help us reflect in order to inform our understanding of the world; “careful, explicit reasoning”; and finally that there are “no sacred claims”; meaning that the field does not adhere to one view about politics, ethics, religion, etc. This liberation comes with the responsibility, however, to be thorough and to motivate your opinion well.

The first topic covered was about the basic argument for vegetarianism, given by Dr. Elisa Galgut, in which American philosopher James Rachels argues that eating meat is morally wrong. The main lecture covered Rachels’ main arguments and reasoning and brought up questions that the tutorial groups, which everyone was divided into, would discuss in their separate venues. The second session, given by Dr. Greg Fried, titled “Ignorant, Irrational, Misinformed Nationalists”, explored democracy and whether or not it is still the best option. The final lecture asked the question, “Should we grant moral veto to the hypersensitive?” given by Prof. David Benatar. It questioned what offence actually is, when it is wrong or not wrong to offend, and how to respond to those who offend us.

All three sessions sparked exciting conversation and questions amongst the students, and were informative and extremely relevant to our lives. Thanks are due to UCT for inviting Rustenburg students to engage with such compelling topics.

Article by Nicole Oosthuisen