#180 Asking The Big Questions: Philosophy  – Meera Finnigan

This week we go further into our inquiry and exploration into philosophy with local WA philosophical lecturer, Meera Finnigan.

Meera sets the scene of what philosophy and philosophical inquiry is all about, before sharing some of the big questions that she herself is wrestling with currently.

She takes you on a fantastic tour, through the origins of philosophy and introduces some of the great thinkers that have come before us. She also introduces you to the three main areas that of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, or in other words, questions relating to our reality, our knowledge, and our sense of right and wrong.

This is a fun and engaging conversation where we exchange many views.

What you will soon begin to realise is just how some of those bigger questions that many of the great thinkers that have come before us have wrestled with, still apply to today, and our current situation.

Read Full Transcript

Bryn Edwards 

This week we continue our inquiry and exploration into philosophy with local WA philosophical lecturer, Meera Finnegan.

 

Meera sets the scene of what philosophy and philosophical inquiry is all about, before sharing some of the big questions that she herself is wrestling with currently. She takes us on a fantastic tour, through the origins of philosophy and some of the great thinkers that have come before us. She also introduces us to the three main areas that of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, or in other words, questions relating to our reality, our knowledge, and our sense of right and wrong.

 

This is a fun and engaging conversation where we exchange many views. What you begin to see is just how some of those bigger questions that many of the great thinkers that have come before us has wrestled with, still apply to today, and our current situation.

 

So enjoy Meera.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Hello, and welcome back to WA Real. I’m your host, Bryn Edwards. Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming my guest Meera Finnigan, Meera welcome to the show.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Thank you.

 

Bryn Edwards 

So we’re gonna dive into philosophy.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

So just to set the scene. Yep. So you’ve been tutoring in academia and in the community for about 20 years.

 

Meera Finnigan 

And no, it’s not. It’s probably less than that. All right. I graduated with a degree in philosophy in 2006. But I didn’t actually start to use that degree. Until about 2010. Right. Yeah.

 

 

So you’ve been 10 years?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, probably. Yeah. So you to philosophy

 

Bryn Edwards 

for 10 years? Yeah. Okay. And so, I mean, you have an interesting background, you know, there’s training and some government, non government personal development with couples and families and stuff. What drew you to philosophy?

 

Meera Finnigan 

You know, any day I can answer that differently. Yeah. So today, today? I, I think it’s because I was trying to make sense of the world in my family, right, as a child. And so I think I’ve always been trying to do that in various kinds of settings, starting with my family, and then school and through all the institutions that one engages with over time. And in relationships, I think it’s just been an underlying concern of mine. To find out what’s really going on. Yes, yeah. And what can I do about it? Yes. And so yeah, that’s

 

 

underlying confusion of what’s going on out there. Don’t make sense of it.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Well, yeah, I guess I wouldn’t. Yeah, I, I guess whether somebody starts from ignorance in a way, right. Yeah. So it’s like, I don’t know. So it’s sort of not that I’m confused. Because I actually don’t know. So it’s not really confusion. Yeah. So I want to talk I want to find out. Yeah. And I worked in the helping profession for most of my adult life until, you know, my mid 50s. Yes, when I basically burnt out, right. And I knew that I couldn’t continue that work any longer. And, and I decided that I’d like to go back and do some academic study, just, you know, get get my head straight. Maybe. Yes. And I can’t remember why I have chosen last interview. I didn’t want to do philosophy. Yeah. Sorry. I didn’t want to do psychology. I already had been working in social work. I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to do I want to get away from that sort of World of helping in that sense of dealing with the trauma and the pain that we you know, and joy during our lives and yeah, so anyways, I landed in philosophy, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Yes. My first lecture on logic. Always right where I needed to

 

 

nectar.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

And so let, let’s get straight into it. Yeah. And because one of the things I’d like to be able to do with this conversation, yeah, is probably to do a bit of D stigmatising around philosophy. Great. I think people know about it or don’t know about it. Yeah. I think we probably know more about it than we realise and stuff. So I thought we’d be able to D stigmatise it as well as look at just why is it important? So let’s start with him. Let’s start with a nice, you know, a two, a two part massive question. What is it? And why is it important?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Right? The best way of answering what is philosophy is by doing it now that sounds trite. But it’s actually true.

 

 

Yeah. Doing it. You mean doing

 

Meera Finnigan 

it? Yeah. So engaging, engaging with the body of knowledge, if you like. And so it is a discipline in the sense that I’m using it. Yes, of course, we use it in our colloquial language, we say, you know, this is my philosophy, it’s that, you know, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or it’s better to be kind and, you know, then honest or so we each have a view of what we’ve developed as our own personal philosophy. And that’s valid. But that’s not what I’m talking about. More the discipline of philosophy that we’ve had in the West, but, you know, three and a half 1000 years of recorded history anyway. Yeah. So it’s engaging with that. Yes. That intellectual tradition? Yes. So it’s using reason. Yeah. To discover what what is real. What is knowledge? It’s the some philosophers might some of the, you know, enlightenment philosophers might say that. It’s the triumph of reason. Over passion.

 

 

Yeah. Yeah.

 

Meera Finnigan 

That Mary Midgley, brilliant woman, British philosopher, who only died last year at 98, in quite like 100. She said, philosophy is like plumbing, said, you get a bad smell. And you know, something’s wrong. And she said, you may have to pull up the floorboards and you know, dismantle this bend under the sink until you find what the bad smell is. And then you can start to do something about it. Right. And that’s a very earthy metaphor. It’s like plumbing is that someone’s

 

Bryn Edwards 

own plumbing, or is that collective plumbing?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, well, we, we deal with universal, so. Right, if I know, we were talking earlier about, you know, technology and philosophy. So in philosophy, we’re seeking to universalize to Yeah, to be general rather than damn particular. Yeah. So she’s talking about chunking. Right up and yeah, yeah, yeah. So yeah, so she’s talking about a bad smell. Maybe in the way we, you know, we do government, or, you know, the way we’ve managed COVID, or the way we’ve, yeah, so that’s the sort of bads. Now. She’s talking about like something rotten in the state of Denmark with Shakespeare.

 

 

Right. Yeah. So it’s about asking bigger ticket question. Questions. Yeah, that, yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

We sort of meant this force recorded, but it’s about asking bigger questions that you won’t necessarily get to the answer. But it’s the point of wrestling with the question.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, that’s a really good way of putting it. Yeah. So it’s sort of their a reasoned pursuit of what is true. And what is knowledge? And how should we act?

 

Bryn Edwards 

Yeah. And the other three sort of?

 

Meera Finnigan 

That’s, yeah.

 

 

What is true? As in

 

 

what is real,

 

Bryn Edwards 

what is real? And yeah. So how do we make sense? Or how, what is reality? How do we make sense of what is right and wrong?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, that’s it.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Which one of the, I mean, I was gonna ask this quite a light question later on, but I’ll ask it now. I wonder what you think we’re all philosophers.

 

Meera Finnigan 

We all have the potential to be philosopher. Yeah. I think in the sense that I’m using it. Yes. Yeah. I think we are already philosophers. If we can reason. If we use our faculty of reason. Then we’re philosophising.

 

 

Yes.

 

 

And I’m Oh, reason you mean.

 

Meera Finnigan 

thinking thinking? Yeah, I’m thinking critically. Yes. Yeah. So sort of critical reasoning. So if I say I get a gut feeling about something, then you know, that informs me. But in order for that, to be For me to consider that knowledge, I need to reason about it. Yes. So you might say, why am I getting that? what’s what’s going on? Yeah. What do I think about it? What do I know about that? So it’s Yeah, so. So it’s the, it’s it’s mainly philosophy. It’s about thinking, hmm. And it’s thinking about thinking, which drives people mad that philosophy that people don’t like, but, but it is thinking about thinking as well. Is it?

 

 

And

 

Bryn Edwards 

because we have, one of the things I’ve started to was made helpful for me to make sense of the world is delineate from was an interior experience. Yeah, me versus an exterior, slightly more objective experience where, you know, if I was to, if I was to throw this panel, yeah, then we both know that I threw the panel. Yeah, that’ll be Right, exactly. But if I was to go off a little adventure in my head, he’d be none the wiser. And, and how does philosophy sort of apply to that interior? And or exterior? Yeah. Do you see? Yeah, I do think it’s important.

 

Meera Finnigan 

It’s a really important question. And it’s one that, you know, all good philosophers down the ages have grappled with.

 

 

Yes.

 

Meera Finnigan 

The so that, let’s say that there is an external world and not all, believe there is. Yeah, but let’s say there is an external world, is it sensible to say that as far as I’m concerned, and, and so that is a thing in itself? So, you know, you’re a thing in itself, the glass is a thing in itself. And so is the pen that you’re gonna throw at me? Yeah. But the meaning that we bring to those things is our own subjective experience. And that’s what the conflict is. How can our subjective experience of the world be knowledge? And we call it knowledge? Yeah. As in knowing knowing?

 

 

Yeah. And again, the next question I want to clarify there, is that like, personal knowledge or collective knowledge, well, and then we’re back into

 

Meera Finnigan 

the same thing? Wait, that’s the problem. So yeah, so this is so

 

Bryn Edwards 

switched off. Sorry.

 

Meera Finnigan 

So justified knowledge. So if it’s just knowledge that about me, and my perception, will, that’s not very useful to philosophy, the study of what is real and what is knowledge? I accept that. It’s, it’s your experience. And it’s knowledge to you that in order for it to be of interest to me, as a philosopher, it needs to apply to everyone, not just to you, yeah, in order for it to be justified knowledge, so that it’s not discounting your experience. But philosophically, it’s, it’s it, it’s not, unless you can justify it for all of us. Yes. Then it’s subjective knowledge that is valid in your life. And it’s essential.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Yes. So I would imagine in today’s society, where some of the sort of emerging themes are everyone’s opinion, everyone’s opinion is valid. Truth is relative and subjective. And, and we seem to be moving more towards that, as we those we look after minority identity groups and that they seem to increase and increase increases, we want to delineate linear delineate that then this, this pursuit of wanting to look for more sort of universal truths. Yeah. Cause even be confronting to that sort of cultural movement.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, it is a cultural movement. That’s right. It’s not a philosophical position. Yes. As you would know. And so it’s grown out of the post modernist movement. So those of us who’ve grown up in the 60s and, and, and to now, that’s been, that’s been how we, we’ve sort of been enculturated about truth. So, and it can be handy. You know, you’re in a dispute, you can say, Well, you’ve got your tooth, and I’ve got Mind

 

 

finisher. Yeah, not Yeah. Imagine in the 60s Not that I was there, but you know, yeah, came briefly after the 70s.

 

Bryn Edwards 

But, you know, you get a sense that there was really to push off again, from, you know, these very rigid, overly rational, and organisations and systems and it’s, you know, like, are working for the man etc. Yeah, I have feelings and thoughts. And you know, I have my own perspective, and there was something really solid and tangible to push off on, which now takes us to where we are.

 

Meera Finnigan 

And I guess that’s what post the address describing post modernism and yeah, why aren’t you deconstructing modernism? Which was about the it’s the age of reason and the lighten meant, and

 

 

pursuit in this capitalist market? Yeah. But it’s

 

Meera Finnigan 

never been a philosophical position within the halls of academia. Yes. So, you know, relativism is a it’s like, you need garlic, you know, to keep it away. It’s self refuting. It does its doesn’t really make sense philosophically. Yes. It’s as we said, you know, before it helps to defuse conflict. And you said, you know, so you can end the conversation there it politely peace and politeness. But of course, it’s

 

Bryn Edwards 

I’d much anymore.

 

Meera Finnigan 

That’s right. And you don’t really get to that you’re talking about the tussle of ideas and so on. So that’s stymied, it’s an intellectual brick wall. For those of us who are too seekers. Yes. And it doesn’t allow for a belief to be false. And so you know, if we disagree on something, and then one of those is gonna be wrong, or both of us are gonna be wrong. Yes. We’re not gonna both be right. So it is self refuting in that way? Yes. And to say that all truth is relative is an absolute statement.

 

Bryn Edwards 

I know. That Penny drop dropped for me. I heard it. I think it was Ken Wilber. He dropped it for me. Earlier in the year, when I thought about it’s like, you know, the very fact of position that all truth is relative comes from a universal perspective. And for a lot of people that’s like, I don’t get that. It’s it’s you making a grand? Like, this is how it is statement. Yeah. Which says, These statements can’t exist. Yeah. Which then it collapses in the Nordics.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Does that sound and of course, absolutism? Which is in you know, religious dogma and doctrine. Yeah. Is, is sort of the antithesis to relativism. And yet the relative is falls into an absolute is trap. As you’re describing where,

 

Bryn Edwards 

yes, yeah, particularly my challenge this retreats back into that. So is it worth having a brief dive into where philosophy has come? Because many of us will track it back to Greeks? Yeah. Was there much before that? Or when we

 

Meera Finnigan 

record there’s no record or in the West Anyway, there is in other cultures? Yeah. So

 

Bryn Edwards 

by, you know, I mean, you know, I, the two of his heart from, from Europe, England, much like many people in Australia, yeah, if you’ve been here for generations, so there will be some, you know, there is something in our genes and Something in the way we’re brought up that has come from that sort of philosophy. So what are some of the major sort of heavyweight to the Greek thinking? And what did they bring? What did they start on the table? Yeah, there’s worth considering. Now Now,

 

Meera Finnigan 

yeah. I love that crap.

 

 

Charge cable podcasts and

 

 

I’ll be brief.

 

 

Yeah, but Gus, guest

 

 

Yeah, come back. Yeah. Oh, good.

 

Meera Finnigan 

So the earliest Well, according to Bertrand Russell, who wrote the, you know, definitive history of Western philosophy, it was published in 1945. And he’s considered a scholar in that field and his books fantastic. Yes. So he identifies valleys in the sixth century BC in, in malita switches. I think it used to be Turkey, but they shipped out there between Turkey and Greece. So it sort of took Greek Yeah. And he began to reason, in the face of, you know, the mythology of the day, where the capricious Gods governed everything, and they, they had dominance over everything and, and, and the world was understood in relation to the the goings on of the gods and their interaction with humans and so on. Of course, it was all a figment of their imagination. Yeah, that’s right. And dallies began to reason what is really going on that question that those of us who are thinkers will have, at some stage in our life, and and he he had that thought, what is the real Nate? I think that was his that was sort of the first question. And then what is the world made of contains the philosophical question, what is real?

 

 

Yes.

 

Meera Finnigan 

So that’s sort of where, where Roscoe places? The big the origin of our intellectual philosophical history, Big Bang of philosophy. Yeah. Yeah, the big fan of philosophy. Great. I might borrow that. Thank you. And so, so he reasoned that they were trying to find one thing, because, and that makes sense to me. Yes. Trying to find one thing when there’s absolute chaos. Yes. In that world of ancient Greece. So what is the one thing that the world might be made of? And he reasoned that it was water? Which, in a way, you know, it’s not an idea that stood the test of time. But he could, he thought that the, you know, that water the that the native, that water changed its form, and that everything seemed to need water. So it was required as necessary. It seemed to be universal. So it became that the first necessary universal idea yeah, that the world is made of water. Yeah. And then other fish around the same time, we’re trying to figure out what the world was made of. And between them, they came up with the four elements, earth, water, fire, and air. And snow wasn’t a bad go at it. Some of their ideas bizarre that Yeah, obviously not stood the test of time. But they were great thinkers and, and sallies as the first sort of epistemological question like this, the study of knowledge, what, you know, what is knowledge? That, you know, Dan is asked, Well, if this belief is true for me, can it be true for everyone? And, you know, that’s another other to be sang for? Yeah, that’s

 

 

the crap.

 

Meera Finnigan 

That’s the good. The aftershock?

 

 

Yeah,

 

Bryn Edwards 

so if this is true for me, can it be true?

 

Meera Finnigan 

And and that’s, that’s the basic of the study of knowledge. That

 

Bryn Edwards 

question right there. We could be doing more tonight, you know, without derailing this conversation to somewhere else. Yeah. In a world where our perception and our map of the world is highly influenced by the feeds, were getting onto smart devices of computers through algorithms and, and what have you, and particularly where, you know, in, I think it was in the US, you know, one feed can show you cops beating up black people, and then another freaking show fee can show you black people bidding of cops. Just to ask that question, right there is the truth that I believe in widely shared by others. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that’s not about questions. Check yourself with most.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Isn’t it a good question? Yeah. Yeah,

 

 

it is not questions over 2000 years old.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah. It’s like 3000 3000. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So those, what we call the pre Socratic philosophers. Yeah. We’re doing some major groundwork for the philosophers that came after them, like Plato and Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The Big Three

 

 

the heavy the heavy,

 

Meera Finnigan 

heavy weights. Yeah. So but you know, like Newton said, he was standing on the shoulders of John’s Yes. So, so with So with these Three. Great, so we’re standing on the shoulders of these pre Socratic philosophers who, you know, I mean, Sally’s. It’s reported predicted a solar eclipse to the day without any instruments. But, you know, they, they were studying math, mathematics and measurements and so, yes, so that’s so the next face as it gets referred to as the golden age of philosophy. And that’s with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. And, you know, you mentioned before about Socratic dialogue, and just that was a major contribution.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Just so read as a clear, by Socratic dialogue, we mean,

 

Meera Finnigan 

questioning, questioning each other, having a interlocutor

 

 

Yeah.

 

Meera Finnigan 

To to ask, like, he would ask him to he would go and just anyone that would engage with him, you ask them questions of the what is

 

 

your mind? And listen and question and clear and did

 

Meera Finnigan 

exactly that. Yeah. And he, you know, he won a group of admiring followers, but he also made lots of enemies, especially in high places, we would you would do? Yeah. Yeah. So he’d stand outside the Senate, for example. And, you know, the House of Representatives, as well. And when the senators came out, he would ask them questions like, what is justice? And he would keep exposing the fact that they don’t know what justice is, and they don’t really care what justice is? Yes. So he would expose people’s ignorance and their lack of commitment to their, you know, to the task that’s that the people are giving them? And so yeah, he he made lots of enemies. That he and of course, we we don’t know anything directly from him, there’s no source, primary source to him. It’s all coming to us through Plato. Right? Who you would have read Plato. And he writes in the form of dialogue, so they’re like plays and Socrates is always the central character. Right? So he creates these dramas where Socrates is engaging with with someone about the big questions, what is justice, what is virtue, what is knowledge? The things that they were that you know, that they were grappling with, and, and it was from those dialogues that Plato was able to, to form his theories, his philosophical theories, yeah. So that so yes, and then, you know, then philosophy goes in decline after the after the Golden Age. With the rise of the Roman Empire, the collaboration between church and state in wrong, the formation of the church go

 

 

for big questioning.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Now, philosophy in the West nearly died for 100 years. So they banned books. Philosophers were exiled, more killed. It wasn’t till the Renaissance. And in in philosophy, we use the term renascence as a renascence. of classical thought. Yes. So after the mediaeval period when you didn’t get burned at the stake, or, or, you know, meet some other terrible end, you your mind was free to, you know, begin to philosophise as the early Greeks had. Yes. So. So that’s the third big, big moment. Yeah. That’s the echo chamber. Yeah. So God, this is a real nutshell, isn’t it?

 

 

Yes.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Somebody said anything that can be said in a nutshell should stay in a nutshell. But

 

 

I know what to do. Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Gives us a good idea.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah. So it. So the idea is that the ancient grades, as I said, Really, the idea is that the priests, the pre socratics haven’t, most of the ideas haven’t stood the test of time. The questions have,

 

Bryn Edwards 

yes.

 

Meera Finnigan 

But they’re, you know, that that their resolutions haven’t. But when you read them the clarity of thought, and the curiosity, yeah, to ask the question. We can learn a lot about Yeah, that kind of thinking. And aim for that, you know, to ask genuine questions, because you really want to know, yeah, and he wants to know, just not for your sake, but for all our sakes.

 

 

Yes. Yeah. I was gonna say what what are the positive The benefits of doing this, right? Because

 

Bryn Edwards 

on one level, you’re engaging in a thankless task. Because Yeah, like I’ve said before, one of the things I’ve noticed is our minds like, finishes, right? Yeah, yeah, fine. Again, let’s use pens. Again, if I was to throw the pen up and throw the pen down, your mind is going to be processing it, but not happy until such time as it’s come to rest in my hand, because we want things to have come to an end. Yeah, essentially, what we’re saying here is we’re engaging in a, in a, in a pursuit where we’re not gonna get no, but but at the same time, you know, it’s more, it’s more the value of the questioning. Yeah. than the actual. I’ve got the answer.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, I agree

 

 

with you. And, and so what are the benefits of even engaging in this? Would you say?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Well, can I just comment on what you were just saying? That, you know, more and more, it seems that with we we show ourselves as sort of creatures of closure, like we that word closure is gets us rushes of closure? Yeah. We Yeah. So, you know, it’s like your endings, we want to close thing, yes. And it gives us some sense of being in control, I suppose. And that we’re observing something that that you know, has a beginning, a middle and an end. Yet, you know, that we can move on from. And, and, and we can’t do that in philosophy, because we, we need to keep art, we need to keep asking, and the and the phenomenology of life, has no closure, there is no boundary, there is no place where things start to finish. It’s so so we can’t do that yet in philosophy, but in a way, that’s one of the advantages that, you know, you you you’re challenged to, to keep an open mind to, to not just identify things as you think they are. But to stay open to the possibility that, that it might not be that yes. Yeah. And, and often, you know, you’re you’re right to do that, because you were a bit misguided in the first place. Yeah. Until you engage with someone else. But you’re saying before, when we engage with each other, then it’s sort of like coherence theory of knowledge. Yes, that Yeah. And a correspondence theory of knowledge. There are two main theories that we, by which we can gain some empirical knowledge at least Yeah. So yes. So keeping an open mind, I think is one of the benefits and yeah, and it means that life is more interesting. And I mean, it can also be difficult, like when, when somebody asked me, What do you do, for example, if I’m, you know, in a gathering of specially have an evening, mine and so on, ask me what I do. And I tell them, and then they just sort of glaze over, and then they just walk away from

 

 

probably Stanford hours.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Well, it’s very rare. Really? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it’s rare. And so you know, you mentioned before that philosophy, the, you know, the, it’s almost like a dirty word in some, in some ways. Just,

 

Bryn Edwards 

yeah, maybe. Maybe it seems like, big scary. is terrible. undefinable. Makes people’s heads hurt.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah. And that’s true. Yes. In the beginning, yes.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Yeah. And, and, you know, we like, and we like predictable outcomes. We like to reduce things down. Yeah. You know, how many times do you hear someone say, you know, well, the one thing that person or the one thing that will sort of this now, the one thing one thing the one thing?

 

Meera Finnigan 

I’ve always said it? Oh, yeah, the wrong thing.

 

Bryn Edwards 

The one thing

 

 

you know, and I have found now that as soon as somebody comes to me, the one thing Yeah, typically the sales and marketing environment, run for the hills.

 

Meera Finnigan 

You say that’s a bit crazy pre Socratic? Yeah.

 

 

Yeah. Yeah.

 

 

There you go.

 

Meera Finnigan 

There you go.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Well, thanks, Mark. Opening up for discussion anyway. Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk about the one thing that

 

 

really,

 

 

if we go, so,

 

Meera Finnigan 

can I just say, yeah, I’m talking, you know, off the top. I mean, I’ve benefited benefited enormously from being philosophy And I think it’s, if it’s true for me, I think it’s

 

 

true for quite a few.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah. That it, it’s a moral pursuit, I feel a moral obligation to, to use the faculty that I have the faculties I have to, to be in the pursuit of knowledge and, and truth and to act accordingly.

 

Bryn Edwards 

I think, too, yeah, that’s the really big thing. Me, that’s what’s drawing me further into this, and had been discussing this in previous podcasts. But it’s, it’s that to really start to engage and wrestle with this, what is reality? What is knowledge, what is right and wrong, and then act according to that. The just, it doesn’t mean that we all have to agree. But to me, it does bring about a greater level of transparency between how we interact with people, there’s a greater level, there’s a greater openness to respect, ya know, if our, if you and I are sitting down to converse, or we’re going to get into a project together or something like that, if you’re clear about how you want to work or not, and I know you’ve done the work, and you know, I’ve done the work to not out what’s right. Me and my Yeah, and, you know, it’s not to say that I’ve got it nutted. But currently, this is this is where I find myself in the world. Yeah, my views on reality this, our views on my knowledge, this my view on what right and wrong is this, and this is how I’m going to act on that, but not so dogmatically that it can’t move from one place to another based on you know, because don’t have to be right all the time. No. And then one more peaceful and easygoing world to live in.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, that’s true, isn’t it? Yeah. And, yeah, now I really, I really appreciate what you’re saying. And, and the study of ethics, of course, it’s one of the three major areas of philosophy. And that goes back to Aristotle. Well, at least he he systemized a theory of knowledge of, of ethics, and it’s referred to as virtue ethics. And, and then, so there are three key theories and, and the theories in philosophy, they try to understand human nature in order to develop a theory. So, Aristotle, are Aristotle, reason that people want to be virtuous. And, and so and we can we judge each other by our virtue, we judge each other, whether we’re good or bad. So he figured that putting together a system of virtue would would satisfy what we already do. And he would help us by presenting the system to us to do it. Well. So, so he identified the sort of the key virtues. For the Greeks it was, you know, courage and justice and temperance and fortitude. And and then he, you know, he, he, he identified what the deficits were. So with courage, for example, the deficit is, is cowardice. And the excess is recklessness. Hmm. So he just created this whole sort of talks on it. Yeah. bell curve of it. The bell curve of it. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Sure. Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Yes. Too much shows up like this. The dials will be less bell curve. More dial.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah. But it sometimes does get referred to as a bell curve. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and the dial for Yeah, you’ve nailed it. And

 

Bryn Edwards 

I think also as well, too. We prefer that most people are virtuous. I think most people do want to live. Yeah. meaningful, fulfilling. And I say the word easygoing I mean, as easygoing as in distress from the levels of anxiety that we deal with now. Now, we want we want to be able to engage in an endeavour that brings us meaning and probably gives us an opportunity to expand we want to live in a nice place, look after the ones that we love. contribute to our community. Yeah. And, you know, I might go out on a limb here, but I would say that’s probably applies for the vast majority of the people on the planet. Yeah. yet. We seem to be polarised or, or the presentation of content, whether it’s not just social media, but also the news and the newspaper, because it’s set, often the content delivery set impossibly awaited, and it can consume a capitalist basis. Yeah, it is polarising as more. And so therefore, we’re going out into the world. Probably possibly, in error thinking that the people around me have so much more different. And so therefore, that can lead me quite anxious and unsure of where I am in the world. And so by actively engaging in interaction about people’s morality, people’s virtues, then we can start to potentially see there’s greater overlap. So we can all just take a breath and be peaceful in accordance in the world. Yeah, that makes sense.

 

Meera Finnigan 

It does make sense and strikes me as

 

 

the benefit of it even just engaging in Yeah,

 

Meera Finnigan 

yeah. And I think that sense of anxiety about not knowing the other or, you know, sort of dehumanising depending on the different the amount of difference between who we regard as the other one. That anxiety is, is there because there are bad apples as lock? Unlock? Yes. Yes. Yeah. That, you know, so that we know that there are bad apples, but we don’t know who they are. So it creates uncertainty. Yes. And so in order to alleviate that anxiety, we conform to a social contract, where we hand over our rights to the government to protect this laws and capital punishment and incarceration and so on. So that we Yeah, the government deals with that element that we’re afraid of that causes that anxiety that you referred to. But yours is a much more, you know, communal way that we we if we take back some of that, yeah, back on our that we’ve Yeah, pull the contract back a bit, which is I don’t want to keep mentioning philosophers but but the social contract theorists have all had a view on on how much we give over how much we should give over. And, and it’s more result, you know, researcher, the Swiss philosopher, yes. It’s more you know, you’re more resilient than you are Hobbes, you know? Because Hobbes said that we just descend into the state of nature through fear. Yes, of of a, you know, man against man, as he called it. Yeah. And outright war when we announced that

 

Bryn Edwards 

the animal the socialised. And then the moral.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Well, he says, we descend into the state of nature with that, you know, life is sort of nasty, brutish, and short, brutish, and short. That’s his famous sort of fearsome the Leviathan. And in order to protect ourselves from the threat of nature, we give our power our rights over Yes. to the government. So he’s got a really pessimistic view of human nature, that we have to hand it all over to the king in his case, because you know, he’s writing in his phone tree

 

Bryn Edwards 

yet from ourselves.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, to protect us from ourselves. Yeah. And then Locke agrees with him that, that the state of anarchy is to be defended against, yes. But he he takes that view that I mentioned before that it’s, we’re not all, you know, sort of greedy, murderous beasts, like Hobbes did in this talk. We are in the state of nature. He, as I said, he thinks that some of us do the wrong thing. Yes. And that’s what creates the anxiety for us. Not that we’re going to descend into a state of nature. But, but Hobbes is writing during the Civil War in England. Yes. And, and so that’s the context. Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Yeah. Yeah. And again, you know, that may have been several 100 years ago. But here we are now. Yeah. In 22. Renting whereby, you know, how much of that social contract? Has the entities that are on the other side of it suddenly gone? Oh, no, we’ll take a bit more of the land ground. Yeah. Under the guise of will keep you safe.

 

 

Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

I think one of the, one of the big one of the big conferences for me this year, and listeners will have heard me talk about this before in different podcasts. But it’s probably, it was a real switch for me was when Mark McGowan came out and originally told us that we have to stay at home and this that the other, the next person he handed over to, was the chief of police, and said, I have empowered this person and his guys and girls to, to make sure you all can do this. Yeah. And I suppose that what I started to ponder with is to start with, it was, why do we live in a society where that has to occur? And then, and then after a period, and, you know, I tried that with a few friends. And the answer to them is obvious. It’s like, no, cuz it’s dickheads out there. And then it told him this than the other. Yeah. Then my next question came was just a subtle refinement of that, which is, why do we accept living in a society? Where that has to happen?

 

Meera Finnigan 

What’s alternative?

 

 

Why do we accept it?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, it’s the spirit of the state of nature. In ourselves. Indeed. Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Fair enough. Yeah. Maybe? Freud said, Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Flies within it,

 

Meera Finnigan 

Lord of the Flies. Yeah. And we see elements of it. Yes. You know, some of the big demonstrations in America? Well, I think we’ve had element. Yeah, here and in Britain, where there’s a breakout of that hubs instead of nature. Yes. And, and then the police come with their rights by them. And so we’ve, we’ve given our power to the police to do that. And so when you know, when that that movement in America that says we want to defund the police? You know, whilst I’m sympathetic to the view, when police have been, you know, found guilty of murdering black people,

 

 

yeah.

 

Meera Finnigan 

To take that power back, Where, where? Where there’s,

 

Bryn Edwards 

yeah. And and yeah. And Has everybody got the the moral structure and the boundaries, and the dependability, and humility to receive that?

 

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

So one of the it’s probably a big question as well. But that are even even though you were saying how I was leaning more towards a Rousseau type. Yeah. You know, bringing the sort of moral development back into us as adults as humans and how that could impact society versus the Hobbesian? You know, there’s a, there’s a scary animal within all of us. Yeah. On one level, it would be easy for me and this, but I’ve sort of been wrestling with it. Yeah. On one level, it would be easy for me to go well, you know, you’ve got these two competing. And almost, yeah, views on philosophy. Yeah. And you know, what is right, what is wrong? Both right, both wrong, etc, etc. To what degree do you suspect that? The role? Correct, but they reflect a level of development or Asian evolution as we move individually through life, and they collectively?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Interesting question is a big question. Yeah, I could answer it on different levels. Really?

 

Bryn Edwards 

Did you see a man because Fang, yeah. You’ve already said, was it? Hobbes wrote what he did with the backdrop of an English Civil? Yeah. So that’s gonna have a sir. And it’s foolish of us at times, I think, to look back on to discredit, thinking and philosophy from the past. Because, you know, they came up with that answer. Yeah. And it’s like, that’s, that was leading edge at that point in time. Yeah, that’s right. And now we’ve moved on, you know, yeah. This is a great thought experiment. I can’t remember who Eric Weinstein or his brother said that, you know, as I look back I have held beliefs, which I now look back at. And should it with embarrassment to now? You go.

 

 

Yeah, actually,

 

Bryn Edwards 

yes. If I sit here with you now and try to take an audit of all the police on hold right now, I can’t tell you which one’s going to be next for that,

 

Meera Finnigan 

that that thing. Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Yeah. To me that demonstrates that we do develop and evolve as human beings, therefore, are the different are there, you know, are all philosophies in theory without being relativistic correct, but they reflect different levels of journey, it big question,

 

Meera Finnigan 

it is a big question and your what your what what I think about when you say that is the struggle in philosophy for that objective truth versus, you know, empirical knowledge that based in, in our experience and our sensei faculties and from the from the pre socratics. Today, there are philosophers who cannot accept an empirical view of knowledge, per se, right? That there has to be necessary universal truths that don’t change over time, you know, that, that they’re not temporal, they’re not societal, then don’t pertain to particular cultures. They are to they are truths, the people, in all possible worlds, all conceivable worlds. And so they’re true for everyone. And I guess maths is an easy one to two will always before whether there’s anyone around account or not. And we don’t have to go into the empirical world and get to things and two things to know that it’s for we reason about those things. Yes. So that so so these are the, you know, objective truths, that not all math is objective, because like, we can say that the three sides of the triangle equal 180 degrees, but we do have to measure to get that knowledge. So that’s fence that that sense that it’s very empirical knowledge. And some philosophers are just not interested in Yes, we’re seeking, especially in ethics, we’re seeking necessary universal truths that we can all live by. And I guess my interested is more it is in ethics, like how do we act? But in order to figure that out, I’ve stood up and, you know, metaphysics and as the all the philosophers have, so when you engage in philosophy, that’s what you have to do. That’s the that’s the task. Yeah. So so so your question is, oh, yeah, different levels of development. Yeah, yeah. So the empiricists say yes, and that’s true. Because, you know, what, what we discovered at one time, in one context changes and you identify that you’ve identified that, but but other philosophers and they refer to as the rationalist and going back to the pre socratics parliament, it is a rationalist and Heraclitus that people have ever heard of, you know, he’s the one who said you can never step in the same river twice. So he’s got this, this view on morality, everything’s in flux and changing. And, and that’s, that’s the truth about life. But Pam energies, Plato, Kant, and others have said, That’s not good enough. We have to if we’re gonna survive, we have to find, you know, universal, necessary truths that we can all live by. Yes. So let’s take ethics, for example, which support is very important. So can we find the necessary universal? Truth? Let’s just find one and see how we go. It could be something like we should never kill innocent people. Yeah. But there’s an argument against that. The just war theory Yes. I’m

 

 

for

 

Meera Finnigan 

puts the kibosh on that. So we can we can keep seeking, you see, this is the thing about philosophy, we have to keep seeking and seeing instances where you know, where that that universal truth breaks down. But I, I I will never stop wanting there to be necessary universal truths. Yes. Even though they’re incredibly hard to find. Yeah. And I think I think what what it means to me is that we taught together like using Your model that we taught together, because then we can find a place even though we haven’t got an our definitive answer, we can find the best possible solution to it. Which could be well, you know, we’ve we start to demonstrate against war like we, you know, we actively engage in the things that getting in the way of that universal moral truth to be realised. In an ideal world, yes, yeah. Just Does that make sense? Yes. Am I answering the question? Bryn?

 

 

Well, there was never gonna be a yes or no.

 

Meera Finnigan 

When you interview somebody like me, you’ve got the brain space to you know, it’s been really pleasant. Thank you.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Yeah. Good. Good. And, and that’s, I mean, look. In part that’s, that’s been the journey of doing doing the podcast, and I’ve listened to many of the conversations will save me and then evolve. And, and with that, you know, hold more nuance and tension of opposites. Yeah, I’ve mentioned before, and I mentioned before, with you that on one level during this podcast has ruined by Yeah. Because Because I can’t do a quick reduction list. conversation. Yes. No, that just doesn’t. Doesn’t work. Yeah. Doesn’t nourish me. And my bullshit detectors going off. All that so good to hear. Yeah. And so but that, but then the ability to hold nuance, yeah. The tension of opposites. Or that that takes development. And that takes repetition to hold mental spaciousness and emotional spaciousness? Yeah, you know, because I can listen some stuff and get, like, all sorts of stuffs gonna like this person talking. Right? Yeah. Yeah. But that’s not helpful. Because there could be an element of truth in it. Yeah. You know, yeah. So,

 

Meera Finnigan 

yeah, I think it gives you the intellectual rigour, the intellectual strength to question your own views as well as the views of others. And, and I guess that’s what’s been happening for you. Yeah, you know, through this process.

 

Bryn Edwards 

But at the same time, it’s difficult to describe exactly, but particularly. I mean, even with the with the brief background you gave about yourself.

 

 

Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

about, you know, you got burnt out and then started to look for something else. Yeah, it was like this pushback from the world. And I’ve started to see that pattern has turned up in over 100 podcasts. If there’s if there’s almost like a pattern. Yeah. of things occur. I can’t tell you the actual subjective expression of it. No. But so how it arrives is different and interesting. Yeah, the fact that it arrives is not wholly unsurprising now. Yeah. Right. So it’s finding that Yeah, again, and it’s holding that balance between the seems to be a universal truth that’s also relatively expressed.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, for it to be universal. It has to be true for everyone. Yeah. Yeah. I guess people in the helping profession are likely to experience that, but as I burn out, or whatever you want to call it. And I guess we could predict that a certain percentage of us will, you know, we’ll come to that. I think you were wise. In your decision. If you didn’t get to the point where you got burnt out.

 

Bryn Edwards 

I had plenty of pushback from the world.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yes. But in your decision about psychology, yes. To you know, to, to branch out into doing organising within organ

 

Bryn Edwards 

organisation.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Psychology, yeah. That doing, you know, the coalface sort of work for, you know, for many, many years, then, you know, it’s the wear and tear on oneself is can be immense, really. So, yeah, learning to take care of ourselves.

 

Bryn Edwards 

So, earlier, we were talking about I think it was is this idea of being able to share what we resonating where we are most with? Whether it’s the the reality, knowledge or morals? Yeah, I’ve asked you a lot of questions. Yeah. From her. What do you was the big thing you’re resonating on at the moment? So you as somebody who engages in the thought, what are some it was some of the biggest questions that are popping up for you,

 

Meera Finnigan 

at the moment at the moment? Well, everything we’ve been talking about, because the work that I do is really about helping people to question for us to question our prejudices and biases so that there’s less harm in the world, we do less harm to each other. I guess that’s, that’s really important to me. And I think, I think one way of doing that is, is to teach philosophy. Yes. And that is to question, question our beliefs, expose our biases, that, you know, that that the harmful beliefs that we have, and that don’t serve us and that don’t serve each other. So that that’s really my primary work. And I think I’ve had a very strong feeling about racism, all my life. And I think that really underpins my work. I don’t ever run a session on racism, or I rarely talk about it. That might, that’s what my work is about, about trying to free ourselves from harmful views and beliefs. And my dad fought in the war in Burma. Right. And, and when he came home, he was absolutely shattered. Yes. And he died young side. I didn’t have the benefit of fortunately have a good father. But he was. But they they televised in the 19, late 1950s, the Eichmann trial? Well, they film The Eichmann trials in in Germany. And then they put them on the BBC in the late 50s. And my father used to stay up and watch them. And, and I didn’t like leaving him on his arm. So I used to stay up with him. And, and so I watched these, right, the Eichmann child. Wow. And, and I think that was so formative for me. And it really has given me the impetus. For now I’ve just realised about doing philosophy. Yes, it’s all, you know, making sense. Makes sense. Making Sense of that. Yes. And, you know, my father being crushed by war, and then the impact that had on us on our family, but you know, families all over

 

 

Europe.

 

Meera Finnigan 

At that time, and I think I mentioned that when you asked for some biographical details, and, and I just started by saying, I was born in Manchester, three years after the war. Yeah. And the adults around and and actually, I thought, why did I start out with that? And, and it’s, it’s because I’ve just been reading Hobbs. And he said, that he wrote in a short autobiography, he said that his mother went into premature labour. The day that she’d heard that the Spanish Armada had landed on the coast of Ireland, right, and was coming for England. And she is, so he referred to himself as a twin of fear.

 

 

Right.

 

Meera Finnigan 

And that, so that, and his whole philosophy is based in fear. Leviathan is about fear. Yes, and defending against fear and creating a political philosophy to protect us. From the fear of this state of nature, the more bags at war, you know, yeah. And so I’d been reading Hobbes, yeah. For the session. I was going to be running the next week and so that’s why I just came in so of course he hops didn’t know into uterine what they Armada was, but his mother’s anxiety Yes. knew about. So I think I knew about my parents anxiety and the anxiety of the adults around me to the war, Manchester was bombed badly. And, and, and I, you know, I think that has influenced me pursuing this this path of philosophy in the last stage of my life. And, and I’ve helped, I’ve helped in many, many ways in my profession. But this feels like the crown. Yeah, yeah. Yes. Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

There’s a real sense of it’s kind of just switching off for me. Yeah. There’s a real sense of this is the most important thing to be doing, not just for me, but for others. And for those that come after me.

 

 

Yeah, good. Yeah. Yeah.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Yeah. So if someone’s been listening to this, yeah. And I’m still in it.

 

 

Everybody still knows anybody.

 

Bryn Edwards 

And other thinking, you know, on a crude level, I want to get me some of this philosophy on Yeah. Where do you start? How’d you go?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah. Well, I mean, you can, you can enrol in an academic course. Yeah. Although they’re getting seen on the ground now, because of that, you know, then policies again, about, you know, job ready courses, you know, geared towards the capitalist economy.

 

 

Yes. And then that’s our

 

 

podcast. Yeah. So

 

Meera Finnigan 

they, you know, the humanities is suffering badly yet nonetheless, that there should still be courses available that that you know, people can do in academia, but it means enrolling in a in a, you know, in an academic course, if you want to get government support, yes. Otherwise, if you do the odd unit here and there, it costs quite a bit and so you know, that that might be one or two for people but that is one thing. The other thing is community courses like the ones that I run. I don’t do them privately. I just do them for organisations. Yeah, that I’m sort of, well I’m not retired. It’s not part of my vocabulary, but but they’re very reasonably priced the organisation have confessions and

 

Bryn Edwards 

I guess when she put the word philosopher into what you do you never retire. No, that’s right. Never.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Sorry. So yeah, the gliding Community Centre runs. I run courses there and I think one of the language teachers runs courses in philosophy as well. There’s a mature adult learners Association in Perth Rockingham and mantra, I run courses for them. Yeah. Other community centres. You know, just have a look what you what the local community learning Center’s doing. University Extension used to run courses in philosophy at night, but I think that’s the thing of the past now. So, yeah, it’s not, you know, it’s not that accessible. We need peripatetic philosophers like Socrates, who will just go around and engage people in the shops. But if I did that people would do I get locked up in you. And that’s when you know

 

Bryn Edwards 

it’s almost like, flash philosophising, isn’t it? Yeah. You know,

 

 

yeah,

 

Bryn Edwards 

yeah. But I guess, I guess what, what’s coming out for me is that it’s one thing to sit and read. But that’s only half of the coin. The other part of it is to discuss doing it and, and and being in amongst that Socratic discussion. Yeah, exchange of views. And then so that then being is really shade. And then a third, suppose the third part is then going out and living by that in the world.

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. That’s

 

Bryn Edwards 

how that works for you. Yeah. How should I get the real life? feedback?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Love it.

 

 

So God,

 

Meera Finnigan 

I was gonna say, yeah,

 

Bryn Edwards 

yeah. So the last question. I asked all my guests which you’re going to love this. And is, if you could upload one question into the collective unconscious. Everybody just sat still for five or 10 minutes and he said it would be asinine I act. How should I act love it. First,

 

Meera Finnigan 

yeah. And would I be willing to put my have my act televised on national TV on national radio? If you don’t want to then don’t do it.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Mirror. It’s been brilliant talking to you today. Yeah. Loved it. Have you enjoyed it? Oh,

 

Meera Finnigan 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a sense that I would I think you responded to a comment. I made it a talk about Bill Shanklin, that they know that wasn’t manager

 

 

football,

 

 

I thought it was you know,

 

 

they sat quietly

 

Meera Finnigan 

the person that did respond said not only was he the best manager of Liverpool Football Club that he really cared about the people. And I thought that was lovely. Yes. I thought you had said that’s the sort of thing you could have said.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Yes, Bob, probably a bit more rugby or

 

 

a bit more.

 

Bryn Edwards 

If people want to find you, how can they find you?

 

Meera Finnigan 

Um, that’s a good question.

 

 

We have a Facebook

 

Meera Finnigan 

I I did use Facebook, but I don’t use it anymore. I did have a have a website, but I don’t really use that anymore. So yeah, I’m declining Community Centre in instrumental where I run the courses. Get in touch in touch with you.

 

Meera Finnigan 

That’d be great. Yes. And the gliding or having a summer school? Yeah, I’m doing a course on nature. Oh, wow. So we’re looking at questions of power and liberalism. Yeah, yeah. Uber person. Yeah, yeah. So that should be fun. Yeah, absolutely.

 

Meera Finnigan 

It’s just been great. I was a bit nervous. I’m sure that you’ve you’ve you’ve really treated philosophy and the very well thank you.

 

Bryn Edwards 

Thank you.

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