Blue skies over Poppleton

August 10, 2007

"Research councils' insistence upon measuring the direct economic benefits of research is killing blue-skies research" - The Times Higher , August 10.

University of Poppleton
From: W. B. "Bob" Shilling, Head of Philosophy.
To: All Academic Staff.

Following the vice-chancellor's recent letter about the dangers of "blue skies" thinking, I am now writing with news of a number of important decisions taken in the philosophy department that will radically reduce the amount of speculative thought currently undertaken by staff and students.

Free Will and Determinism

This department has devoted a considerable amount of time to "blue-skies" thinking about the relationship between free will and determinism, about whether the possibility of citing antecedent causes effectively negates the concept of indeterminism in human action. In the light of the new research directive, it has been decided by a majority vote that all Poppleton philosophers will now abandon the notion of free will and settle for an entirely deterministic perspective.

Relativism and Absolutism

After a great deal of "blue-skies" thinking about the particular merits of relativism and absolutism, we have now unanimously decided to come out firmly on the side of absolute truths that hold at all times and in all places. This means that our present five courses on the topic will henceforth be reduced to one and that in the near future we will be issuing a list of our top six absolute truths.

Materialism and Consciousness

Quite honestly, this is also an area to which we have devoted a great deal of speculative thought. We must have spent years wondering whether consciousness is nothing more than a physical state in much the same way that light is just electromagnetic radiation, or whether we need another special explanation for why the taste of cold ice cream is so very special. But the research council's new directive has finally impelled us to get off the fence, and I'm delighted to say that we have now agreed, by a clear majority, that consciousness can only be a material thing and that, therefore, there's nothing at all mysterious about it.

Philosophy with its feet firmly on the ground?

That must be Poppleton

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