Dr Peter Vardy, who is the vice-principal of Heythrop College of the University of London, addressed four topics – truth, sexual and business ethics, and the environment – in his Tomorrow’s World seminar, which saw the School Chapel packed with inquisitive philosophy students.
Head of Philosophy, Ethics and Religion Dominic Hodnett organised for a number of interested Year 10 Christ Church students, the entire Year 11 cohort and Year 12 boys of the WACE Philosophy and Ethics course of study to attend the seminar.
“We are very fortunate to be able to expose them to someone of Dr Vardy’s intellectual calibre,” Mr Hodnett said, “The boys learnt about the need for a rational and considered philosophical basis to help them manoeuvre through complex contemporary ethical issues. Also, the rigour and logical analysis provided students with an insight into the demands but also joy of studying philosophy.”
Within each presentation Dr Vardy drew upon a wide range of theistic and secular sources ranging from ancient to contemporary philosophers and modern scientists and psychologists. He said “values have changed, attitudes have changed very considerably” and the students needed “to understand the past” in order to comprehend the present and make calculated decisions based on their beliefs.
“Post-modern art gets us to look at things in a different way – absolute meaning is gone and it depends on where you are coming from,” he said, “Over the last 40 years many people have been relativists… they have maintained there is no absolute truth.”
He also asked the student audience a number of provoking hypothetical questions.
“If there is something called ‘the good’, where is it to be found? Is there a distinction between right and wrong? What do you think is truth? Is anything worth dying for?”
A number of Christ Church students commented on how the seminar was relevant and timely to their age group. Year 10 student James Raymond said: “The section on truth was good, it got you thinking.” Year 11 student Matthew Stewart said: “Dr Vardy provided interesting and relevant examples from the real world to help illustrate his points.”
The engaging presentation included video excerpts from a number of popular films, including Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
“J.K. Rowling couldn’t have written the Harry Potter series without studying philosophy,” he said.
The Perth seminar was the first instalment in Wombat Education’s Tomorrow’s World series, which will see Dr Vardy also visit Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Brisbane, Canberra, Albury, Sydney, Auckland and Christchurch over the next several weeks.