SPS

UM Students' Philosophical Society


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As a university student organisation, we seek to promote philosophy and critical thinking through the exploration of knowledge and ideas. We encourage the active participation of philosophy students and university students in general through the organisation of frequent meetings which give ample room for discussion, film nights and social events.



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latest article:
why I think philosophy should be introduced earlier in schools

Philosophy: a subject loved by many, but simply not understood by many more. If you have ever expressed your interest in it with someone unfamiliar with its contents, you’ve surely heard a few comments on the lines of, ‘How is this useful nowadays?’, or even, ‘What is the point of studying it?’ I believe that by introducing the study of Philosophy at an earlier stage in schools, such questions will no longer need to be asked, and Philosophy would start getting the appreciation and recognition that it truly deserves.

Why Philosophy?

One of the most important building-blocks of Philosophy is logic. Logic aims to produce valid arguments, each line of the argument smoothly leading to the line that follows it. Studying logic means understanding what kinds of arguments make sense, what kinds don’t, and what kinds aren’t arguments at all. It teaches you not only to point out flaws in others’ arguments, such as personal attacks and irrelevant conclusions, but also to see them in your own line of reasoning, letting you express your claims in a much stronger way. These skills are essential for critical thinking, and developing better critical thinking means having a deeper insight into the world around you. Furthermore, having the multitude of branches that we have in Philosophy today may inspire those who study it to consider more than one solution to a problem they are presented with, or a solution that does not bring other problems with it but rather seeks to tackle as many troubles as possible together. Be it a fight with friends, a tough job at your workplace, or choosing which candidates to vote for in an election, critical thinking and awareness of the many aspects of a situation will help you assess a situation rationally, holistically, and sometimes faster.

How early should students start learning Philosophy?

Philosophy should be introduced at a point in a student’s life when they are independent enough to start seeing what they want to achieve from their own life. At some point, we start to formulate ideas about the world, regarding both others and ourselves, and it is well-known in fields of study like Psychology that the phase of adolescence is absolutely critical in one’s development of ideas. Therefore, introducing Philosophy around the age of fourteen would be ideal. Reaching out to a wider number of students at this age and allowing them to get a good idea of what Philosophy is all about would certainly expand interest in the subject as well as give students a nudge to engage in critical thinking.

What areas of Philosophy should be introduced?

While I believe in the importance of getting students interested in the subject, I fully understand that a number of concepts in Philosophy can be rather heavy and laden with deep meaning. Therefore, it would be necessary to choose areas that are straightforward, can generate healthy discussion, or even simply fun to go through. Some examples would be Plato’s Cave, virtue ethics, and some epistemological theories such as Descartes’s. It is key to stick to those topics that can be explained simply and with multiple examples in order to make the experience all the more engrossing and likeable.

To sum up, I feel that Philosophy can build a brighter world for students. Not only can it enhance their critical thinking, but with its help, they would be able to see the world in a completely different way from generations past. Philosophy is about questioning, and even though not all questions have been (or might ever be) answered, recognising the beauty of it creates open minds that can imagine multi-faceted solutions and great possibilities for our world.
- Skye Vassallo


in-vitro fertilization:
love it or hate it, it's none of your business

In Vitro Fertilisation was firstly introduced in the 1970s. It is the procedure of removing the egg from a woman's ovaries and fertilising it with a sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg, known as an embryo would once again return in the woman's womb to grow and develop. Yet such a regular procedure has constantly been debated as unethical due to the destruction of embryos and replacement of natural procreation. Yet in my personal opinion and mine alone, I believe that this is preposterous. Haven't we learnt already, that even though the traditional way to create a baby is by sex, doesn’t mean it should be the norm, considering the high rates of infertility?

“Infertility affects an estimated 15% of couples globally”; meaning 48.5 million couples are struggling to conceive. Infertility can be caused in many ways, and please note that about a decade ago it was always believed that women were the problem and that there is no such thing as infertile men. However, with the advancement of medical science and technology we have learnt that infertility is sadly a burden both Women and Men may face. So finally, we have been brought a solution to the dilemma and that is IVF.

How does IVF work? For starters, it is not as glamorous and simple as one may think. Women will receive a daily injection that will suppress their menstrual cycle for treatment to become more sufficient. After the female takes fertility hormones aka FSH in the form another injection to increase the number of eggs produced bringing a greater chance of producing an embryo. She will then receive a medical operation to physically remove the eggs which takes about 15 to 20 mins. Through the laboratory, the eggs will hopefully become fertilized with the sperm in the next 16 and 20 hours. If successful, the embryo will be transferred back to the women. Sometimes a surrogate is involved. However, the downside is that IVF is a very expensive product. It can go up to 12,000 dollars in America, yet thankfully in Malta, the highest it can be is 2,580 euros. Furthermore, it might not always work, some embryos will be lost but regardless the embryo would have never been achieved by the infertile couple to begin with; if it weren't for IVF. Even more so, the insufficient embryo found in the laboratory, wouldn't survive in the woman's womb creating more hardship, thus it is best to discard it.

So rather than focusing on the embryos, I say let us focus on the women who experienced this procedure. A follow up study in 2001 by K. Hammarberg, J. Astbury, H.W.G. Baker had asked females for their opinion. Many reported that they were happy with IVF as they were able to have a child. Other women reported negatively due to the fact that they didn't receive a child and felt like it was a waste of time. Does this mean we eliminate IVF completely because of the expense and the fact that some women feel like lab rats? NO, we work harder to make it humane. IVF has come a long way since the 1970s and has improved immensely in regards to fertilization. So I believe science has a duty to drastically improve its medical discoveries in a humanitarian approach. In addition, why ban it? Aren't you just making it more difficult for desperate couples to have a child? Malta has proven that couples will find a way to receive IVF and rather than having it at a modest price rate. They waste more money going abroad, away from their families, in hopes of a child. Thankfully, that is no longer the problem.

Does IVF need to be the only solution for infertility? Not at all, I greatly believe that we should focus on adoption. “According to UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund), there are roughly 153 million orphans worldwide. Every day, an estimated 5,700 and more children become orphans.” It would be amazing, if we gave such children opportunities to be in a loving family. However, it is not as easy as one might think. Adoptions are also expensive and overly complicated when compared to IVF. So again, the solution is to make it accessible and create campaigns to focus on the importance of adoption. Yet it doesn't mean we limit people's choices by banning IVF and forcing adoption.

In the end, any decision an infertile couple takes will be difficult, whether it is IVF, adoption or having no children at all. We must be gentle and let the couple decide for themselves, not impose religious or political beliefs upon them. Having a baby, does not have to be through sex and most importantly just because you had sex to create a baby, doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good parent. A good parent is kind, considerate, diligent, and most importantly loves unconditionally. They sacrifice a lot to give the best for their child. So who are we to prevent couples from being good parents, just because we dislike IVF. In my opinion, let them be, you don't need to participate in IVF but you don't need to force restrictions on others either.

- Sarah Vella


top 5 philosophers to study for beginners

Philosophy may appear to be incredibly vast with no clear beginning for those who are new to the subject. And whilst this is generally accurate there are a few philosophers who we recommend for any beginner to study, both because of the kind of content they provide as well as the methods they came up with to help navigate the area of philosophy better.

SOCRATES

Socrates is considered the father of western philosophy, not because philosophy began with him but because of what he contributed to the subject. Socrates came up with what is now known as Dialectic, which is an incredibly useful method when attempting to answer any philosophical question. He is also a particularly unique philosopher because even though he is widely known and spoken about, as are his teachings, he never wrote anything down and so much of what we do know was written down by his pupils, one of whom was Plato.

PLATO

Plato is one of the most influential philosophers to date. His influence stretches from the Ancient Greek period through the Medieval Period up to modern day. He is a highly recommended philosopher to study at a beginners level because he was the first philosopher of his time to bring together multiple different areas of philosophy and connect them through his ideas. He explains his views through the use of similes and dialogues and consequently makes reading his writings more entertaining.

EPICURUS

Epicurus, was an Ancient Greek philosopher who is now classified as a hedonist because of the views he held about what the goal of a happy person’s life should be. His main premise centres around the observation that when someone is happy they experience pleasure and consequently no pain and thus he concluded that the happy life is a life full of pleasure and one absent of pain. Besides this he also gave reasons as to why people shouldn’t fear the gods/God or dying. His philosophy is a great one to study because it brings to light the importance of friendship and love as well as the joys of a life free from anxiety.

JEREMY BENTHAM and JOHN STEWART MILL

Unlike the other philosophers mentioned so far we recommend reading these two philosophers together as they were both essential in the development of Utilitarianism, a philosophy that holds that the morally correct action is that which provides the most pleasure for the greatest number of people. Bentham focused more on the quantity of pleasure produced whereas Mill gave more importance to the quality of pleasure produced. Their ideas resulted in a philosophy, which albeit has many flaws, is one which is preferred by many individuals and one which continues to be appealing nowadays.

DESCARTES

Renee Descartes’ philosophy has influenced many modern and contemporary thinkers and his ideas reach past the field of philosophy into other areas, such as mathematics. His views are considered to be so important that he is considered by many to be the point at which modern philosophy properly begins. Descartes’ philosophy on the mind-body problem introduced a way of thinking which has rooted itself in the way most people living in the contemporary era think, despite many not even knowing who he was or what his philosophy entailed.

RECOMMENDED READINGS
SOCRATES:
Apology by Plato
The Clouds by Aristophanes

PLATO:
Apology by Plato
Euthyphro by Plato
Meno by Plato
The Republic by Plato

EPICURUS:
The Essential Epicurus by Epicurus, Eugene O'Connor

BENTHAM AND MILL:
Utilitarianism and On Liberty: Including Mill's 'Essay on Bentham' and Selections from the Writings of Jeremy Bentham and John Austin, 2nd Edition by John Stuart Mill, Mary Warnock (Editor)

DESCARTES:
Discourse on Method
Meditations on First Philosophy

- Emma Cassar


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