One of our leading under-threat-of-redundancy philosophers, Dr D. W. Dingbat, has responded forcefully to the contention – first promoted by Norman Swartz, professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University – that “philosophy has a vicious streak”.
“It is certainly true”, Dr Dingbat told our reporter Keith Ponting (30), “that we have a few people in the present Poppleton department of philosophy who are several sandwiches short of a picnic, but otherwise there are only minor differences of theoretical perspective.”
Could he be more specific, asked Ponting. “Well,” replied Dingbat, “I might just mention the utilitarian member of our staff who could readily ensure the greatest good for the greatest number by immediate self-immolation; the positivist who utterly fails to recognise his empirically verifiable worthlessness; the existentialist who seems constitutionally incapable of deciding whether to come to work by bike or bus; the phenomenologist who’s not certain of the difference between marking exam scripts and imagining himself marking them; the dualist who frankly can’t get anything together; the relativist who maintains that the Vienna Circle could just as easily have been a Square; and, of course, the solipsist who’s been here 20 years and still can’t recognise the departmental secretary.”
Was there any way, asked Ponting, in which these very different people could be reconciled, be made members of a team serving a common goal? Dr Dingbat declined to answer. He explained that as a Platonist it was his job to ask the questions.
Talking the talk
Is it ever possible to make academic staff understand the extraordinary complexity of university finance?
That is a question that our very own Director of Creative Finance, Mr D. C. F. Tapstock, admits to having often asked himself. It was for this reason, he told our reporter Keith Ponting (30), that he now wished to compliment the vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton, Nick Petford.
Mr Tapstock explained that Professor Petford liked to bring home the hard realities of university finance by asking new members of his staff how much they thought it would cost to heat and light the university for a single year. He then proceeded to reveal that the cost was a staggering £2 million. “Two whole million. That’s telling it like it is,” said Mr Tapstock.
At this point, Ponting wondered if Professor Petford might not have further strengthened his analysis by showing how his vice-chancellor’s remuneration package of £200,000 a year (for 2011-12) – an increase of 20 per cent on his previous package – would ensure warmth and heat at Northampton for a whole six weeks compared with the average nine days of heat and light that could be generated by one of the new members of staff in his audience.
Mr Tapstock described this extension of the argument as “unhelpful”.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
“This week’s special lecture will consider the wonderful new regimen of ‘mindfulness’, the art of slowing down and paying more attention to what is going on around you. Our guest lecturer, yoga master Tink Thank, will emphasise the wonderful benefits that can be derived from a period of ‘non-doing’. That’s tomorrow evening in the Centre at 8pm. Everybody welcome, especially those with nothing else to do.”