Philosophy conference gives sixth-formers plenty to think about

QE pupils heard university lecturers expound on philosophers from Plato to Simone Weil and on topics ranging from hedonism to the philosophy of Science in a mind-broadening Sixth-Form conference.

And the event at North London Collegiate School was especially memorable for the QE contingent because it was announced there that a younger QE pupil – Binu Perera, of Year 11 – had taken second place in a prestigious philosophy essay-writing competition.

""The one-day conference featured the following contributions:

  • Dr Chris Hamilton, Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Religion at King’s College London, who looked at the 20th-century French philosopher, Simone Weil, exploring how her philosophy connects with everyday life and is not merely to be studied, but instead makes demands on how we live our lives.
  • ""Professor Roger Crisp, Uehiro Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St Anne's College, Oxford, who discussed the relationship between utilitarianism and hedonism.
  • Professor David Miller, Reader in Philosophy at Warwick, who explored the philosophy of Science, asking whether the scientific method is our only hope of discovering truths about the universe.
  • Angie Hobbs, Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at Sheffield, who revealed how Plato’s philosophy still has plenty to teach us, even though it is 2,500 years old.

QE Head of Religion & Society, Jack Robertson, said: “Our boys asked a number of interesting questions after the lectures, with the organisers commenting on the high level of those questions.”

""He also congratulated Binu, who was QE’s entry in the North London Philosophy Writing Competition, the final round of which was judged by Professors Crisp, Hobbs and Miller.

Binu’s essay tackled the question: Mark Zuckerberg has pledged 3bn dollars over the next 10 years to try to eliminate disease. Should we aim to extend people’s lives indefinitely? 

""His closely argued composition concluded with a clear answer to the question posed: “To strive for immortality would only be an extension of all the discovery and research that has happened in the past century. We would be throwing away everything that we have worked so hard to achieve and would be failing our species not to work towards extending life indefinitely – to continue to innovate and learn is only human.”

Mr Robertson said: “The judges, who are three highly esteemed philosophers, were particularly impressed by the quality of the evidence provided for his argument, which demonstrated a great deal of research and hard work.”