The Philosopher as Gadfly

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Date(s) - 05/11/2016
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The Adelaide

The Philosopher as Gadfly:
stimulating dialogue in science and technology
Yasemin J Erden, St. Mary’s University, London
I am the gadfly of the Athenian people, given to them by God, and they will never have another, if they kill me. For if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and noble stead who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you (Plato, Apology, 30e-31c)
While on trial in Athens, Socrates is said to have presented the above defence of his life and manner of living. In so doing he urges his contemporaries to recognise the value of being irritated by philosophers and thereby offers a sort of template for what the role and value of philosophy and the philosopher might be. This talk examines the idea of the philosopher as gadfly, and as one who asks annoying or stirring questions. Within this a distinction between the two is considered, as well as how we might use dialogue as a method in such pursuits. As a way to ground these ideas, I’ll present some of my experiences with interdisciplinary work (specifically philosophy with science and technology) and talk about ethics, creativity, progress, and how we talk across disciplines