John Waterhouse society




Being in year 11, this year I was given the opportunity to join the John Waterhouse society which is a philosophical discussion group which debates and explores ethical issues, areas of philosophical interest and current affairs. We meet roughly once every three- two-four weeks to listen to two presentations, prepared by our peers, roughly 45 minutes in length. Between these presentations, we eat supper and take our discussion further.

We also engage in Ethics centre talks roughly 3 times a year, a program where speakers come in and speak regarding ethical issues and philosophy in general the details of these are as follows:

1) Julian Burnside QC

 - What is justice?

2) Panel discussion on journalism, democracy and freedom

Ethics, Democracy and Journalism

As part of the Newington College LitFest, the Centre for Ethics will host a panel discussion with Greg Bearup, Angus Grigg, David Marr and Lisa Murray. Lisa Upton will emcee.

In an era of so-called fake news, where world leaders malign the media and Facebook can determine election outcomes, is journalism still the lauded Fourth Estate? As business models collapse, reality television stars hold the public spellbound and media managers decide who will be interviewed and what they’ll be asked, is news still ‘what somebody does not want you to print’? Has news become advertising? Or do we live in a world that, thanks to the ability to reach millions with a single post, has never been more democratic, and never more able to expose truth, hypocrisy and folly?

Four of Australia’s most experienced journalists wrestle with what it means to be a journalist when time, competition and commercial considerations mean the very nature of truth is questioned.

3) AI and Ethics: Why all the fuss?

- Professor Toby Walsh

There's a lot of discussion within the media, governments and elsewhere about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Ethics. We've seen lots of examples recently of technology companies behaving in ways that challenge us. In this talk, Professor Walsh will attempt to identify what new issues AI brings to the table, as well as where AI requires us to address otherwise old issues. He will cover topics from autonomous cars via predictive analytics to killer robots. 

Interim reflection:

Three meetings ago, Alistair shaw and I presented the concept of 'art' and how its perception and manifestation differs wildly between people and societies. We discussed abstract art and how and why it is art, we debated what constitutes an artwork and we formulated ideas regarding the development of art over the years. The group came up with some exceptionally nuanced ideas and I was highly impressed with the calibre of discussion.

Furthermore, three times a term, we attend the 'ethics centre presentations', organised by Dr Hall, in which external speakers come to Newington to speak about their own issues/ideas. Recently, we listened to a talk by Julian Burnside QC who offered some interesting insights into whether or not we had the grounds to call Australia a 'just' country.

Intermediary reflection:

Since I have been in John Waterhouse society, I have been given the chance to reflect on ethical issues in modern-day society while have also been given the chance to formulate manyh of my own philosophical opinions. It has been a highly intruiging co-curricular to participate in and it raises many interesting philosphical questions I will be sure to explore in greater depth.

Through this experience to date, I have learnt a considerable amount regarding what it measn to work effectively with other people, especially in the sense that the most can be learned from this process when in fact one works in a team and collobratively. In the coming terms, I hope to gain a greater insight into how different philosphical issues are considered by other people, and how other people come to philosphical conclusions.

Final reflection:

The John Waterhouse program this year has been a real conduit for growth, in my opinion, as it has fostered an environment where the achievements of everyone is lauded and a space where you want other people to succeed, not only yourself. This has been very beneficial, as it has lead me to act more within the framework of a group. This pertains to my previous comment about personal growth, as often in philosphy, big egos form and it becomes less about working collobratively. 

I also think I have improved my critical thinking, which was a goal at the start of the year, Dr Hall has noted that there has seemed to be an increase in the quality and lucidity of my philosophical thought and aility to listen to others, which i think is on account of this shift. I also believe that I have become a far more considered philosophical thinker.

Group Photo:


Presentation Link - View Only 'What is Art' completed with Alistair Shaw on the 9th of March 


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