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OUS Dorset announce the winner of their Bursary Award for 2014

OUS Dorset are pleased to announce the winner of their Bursary Award for 2014.

Our annual Bursary has been awarded to Hettie Burn, a second year Music student at Worcester College. She has been invited by ‘Balloon Kenya’ to work in that country with budding local entrepreneurs for six weeks as part of an international team of young people. Together, they will refine new business ideas, the best of which are then funded. ‘Balloon Kenya’ believes that supporting youth entrepreneurship is the most sustainable way to tackle poverty and create change. Whilst in Kenya, Hettie will also be researching local music and culture for an ‘ethnography portfolio’ for her degree.

On her return, Hettie will submit a report which will be available at the OUS Dorset Annual Lunch in 2015. 

Members were pleased to be able to fund the bursary, valued at £350, through voluntary donations.

The 2013 Bursary report will be available at the OUS Dorset Lunch on 6th May 2014 Clare Webb (left), The Queen’s College, Spanish & Portuguese, 2012, and Merton College Choral Scholar, received our 2013 award and trekked the ‘Portuguese Way’ from Porto to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain.

She reports, “It was with apprehension and yet determination that I started the pilgrimage; I wanted to prove wrong those who had been so concerned that I was travelling alone, show my family and friends that I could achieve such a project by myself. 

"Most of all, I wanted to show I was ready for an experience which would, I was sure, change my outlook on life and, essentially, make me a ‘better person’.” To her credit, Clare achieved all her objectives.

This followed an equally successful award winner in 2012, Claire Robertson (left), St Hilda’s, Biological Sciences, 2010, who sent us a wonderful report on her visit to Malaysian Borneo studying and helping with conservation projects.

Dr Tony Pawley - Hon. Secretary, OUS Dorset



04 April 2014 11:22:00

OUS Guernsey - Lecture by Roger Crisp, Uehiro Fellow & Tutor in Philosophy at St Anne's on ‘Can I Really be Happy AND Morally Good? Insights from Aristotle’s Ethics’.

On March 18 2014 Roger Crisp, Uehiro Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St Anne’s College, Oxford and Professor of Moral Philosophy in the Faculty of Philosophy, gave the annual Oxford lecture to the Guernsey Branch of the Oxford University Society at the St James Assembly and Concert Hall in St Peter Port. His topic was ‘Can I Really be Happy AND Morally Good? Insights from Aristotle’s Ethics’.

Crisp began by putting Aristotle’s project in its historical context, showing how the questions he was trying to answer – what is the good life? what is it to be just or virtuous? what is the relation between happiness and virtue? – were initially asked by Socrates, whose student Plato also addressed them.

Having outlined Aristotle’s account of happiness as consisting in the perfection of human nature (and in particular rationality), which involves acting virtuously, Crisp raised the question whether this view of human nature would be likely to persuade someone not already attracted to the idea that the happy life must be virtuous. He suggested that it might do so if the person wasn’t already vicious, and that Aristotle’s argument is backed up by his descriptions or portraits of the lives lived by virtuous people. He also discussed whether Aristotle (or indeed Socrates and Plato) were recommending an active life of political virtue, or a philosophical life of study and contemplation, arguing that Aristotle’s view would have been that what counts as happiness for anyone depends on their abilities and the circumstances they find themselves in.

He then explained Aristotle’s famous ‘doctrine of the mean’, bringing out how it requires not moderation in action and feeling, but the appropriate response to the situations virtuous people find themselves in, and how it has to be supplemented by a rational quasi-perceptual sensitivity to morally salient features that emerges through a good moral upbringing.

Crisp ended by ‘applying’ Aristotle’s account to some contemporary problems: Should we enhance human intellectual capacities through genetic engineering? Why should we preserve the environment? Should business people be honest even if they can get away with dishonesty? His view was that one cannot directly read off an Aristotelian answer to these questions, but that this does not mean it is not worth reading Aristotle now – his views suggest many different lines of thought we can pursue to answer the questions for ourselves.

The audience, of around two hundred, included members of the OU Society, along with many non-members, among whom were numerous students from local schools. Several excellent questions were asked from different sectors of the audience, ranging from Aristotle’s views on cultural relativism to what he might have thought about current Russian foreign policy!


01 April 2014 12:12:00

Oxford & Cambridge Society of Rheinland Germany's Dinner with Stuart Laing, Master of Corpus Christi, Cambridge

 

Stuart Laing, Master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge spoke to the Cambridge Society in Düsseldorf on St David’s Day 2014. His topic was “Arab turbulence: what comes after spring?” 

Laing, a former British Ambassador to Brunei, Kuwait and Oman, opened by observing that after the Spring comes summer which is followed by the FALL. The Arab world has not seen fall or collapse everywhere, but the picture is worrying.

The Arab Spring was not the same as the Prague Spring, which was against identifiable external enemies. Starting in Tunis, it spread to Egypt where Mubarak’s own people told him to go. Laing showed a picture of the demonstrators in Tahrir Square and pointed out a section of the crowd set aside for prayer - a portent of the future direction of the revolution. 

In Syria, 140,000 have been killed, nine million displaced and two million are refugees. Britain has spent £600m on humanitarian aid for the refugees. There was a short moment when intervention might have worked but that moment has passed. Negotiation for a “transition” with the regime is difficult -“transition” to what? It could only be to the exit of the ruling regime.

Turning to the six GCC countries, he observed that in Saudi Arabia and in some Gulf countries two types of opposition are found to the ruling regimes: conservative and liberal. A major problem in several Gulf societies is unemployment or under-employment of indigenous youth and employers prefer to take on S Asians rather than locals who have lower motivation for hard work. Succession of the crown is an issue in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia dwarfs the other GCC countries, with a population several times the size of the other states, and with 17% of the world’s oil reserves.

Imbalance of foreigners to natives. Of four million in Kuwait only one million are Kuwaiti; in Oman there are two million Omani against one million foreigners. 20-30% of the populations are Shia including the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia, except Bahrain where the majority are Shia. In all Gulf countries hereditary rulers hold power, but generally use processes of shura (consultation) to understand popular opinion.

In Bahrain, GCC troops had to rescue the situation and the situation is now more stable.

In Oman, there were some demonstrations, in response to which Sultan Qaboos replaced several long-serving members of his Cabinet with members of the Shura Council.

In Kuwait, the Americans insisted on a democratically elected parliament after the expulsion of the Iraqis in 1991. While the Emir and his family are reformers, the majority in parliament is conservative and insist on segregated education etc.

In Dubai, 93% of the population are foreigners. 

With Iran, some progress has been made towards a comprehensive agreement over nuclear issues, but the road will be tough. Rohani is a genuine reformer but he is subject to Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard.

In conclusion, Laing posed the question “Why have democratic systems failed to take root in the area?” He dismissed the usual arguments that it was the history of Ottoman domination or that it was implicit in Islam. He made reference to a recent article in The Economist, “What’s gone wrong with democracy?”. There was a discussion of how people from the Middle East and Africa were looking towards the regime in China as a model. He discussed the mistakes made by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, especially in assuming that they could disregard the interests of minorities. In democracies, minorities are willing to accept democratic elections on either of two bases:

  • They know that they will have a chance to win at the next election, and/or
  • Minority rights are respected by the winners.

Neither of these conditions prevailed in Egypt.

The Economist article stated: 

“Western countries almost all extended the right to vote long after the establishment of sophisticated political systems, with powerful civil services and entrenched constitutional rights, in societies that cherished the notions of individual rights and independent judiciaries.”

Could we conclude that a benevolent dictator with a respect for minorities and the institutions of a civil society presents the best outcome for many of these countries?

David Clark, OUS Luxembourg 

Laing has published a book. “Unshook till the end of time: A history of relations between Britain and Oman 1650-1970.” 




07 March 2014 10:43:00

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