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Philosophy and Ethics with Julie Arliss

On Thursday, 16 August, Siena hosted Julie Arliss, an international presenter from the UK, Director and Founder of Academy Conferences, a former Cambridge CIE examiner, and a Fellow at Harris Manchester Oxford University, 2018. She presented to our Year 11 students for their third Eckhart seminar and challenged them to consider ‘The Philosophy of Sex’. 

Julie deconstructed modern attitudes to women as portrayed through the media and movies which can continue to uphold and reinforce values of gender inequality. Our students came to realise that many had accepted these ideas unquestioningly in film and text. Julie differentiated between ways of interpreting love as well as intimacy. She also explored the ideas of famous philosophers; Plato’s view of spiritual love, free of lust, with a focus on the adoration for one’s soul, rather than the physical self; as well as the beliefs of Aristotle, that all things, including relationships, can enable the potential in each partner through shared virtue. This love reflects our pursuit of happiness. Julie ultimately linked this with Christian love, emphasising that all love is formed in the image of God, and that, as his followers, we are called to love and cherish all of his divine creations.

Our key learning in Year 10 Religion and Society Unit 2 is centred on Ethics. We were privileged to secure Julie to present a Masterclass to our Year 10 cohort on Relativism. She approached this learning from two perspectives: Cognitive Relativism, which is subjective, and Cultural Relativism, which is social. Julie argued that with Relativism, there is no single moral standard that applies to all people and all places. She drew on art (Caravaggio’s painting, The Sacrifice of Isaac), and famous philosophers, from Nietzsche to Immanuel Kant, to highlight that, if morality is culturally defined, only those who are part of the culture can be part of the conversation. Julie was able to reinforce the way this attitude, in turn, has massive Justice implications if we are working to overcome slavery, prejudice and human rights issues across the world.

Such enrichment in the learning of Religion and Society at Year 10 and 11 should develop critical thinking, engagement with the big, existential questions of life and recognition of the importance of the inquiry process. Julie’s passion for a structured philosophical and ethical approach to learning and as a way to access deeper thinking is contagious and inspired so many of our students to want to explore Philosophy and Ethics further. 


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