Melbourne University Philosophy Society 2020–2021

Despite rolling lockdowns, the SHAPS undergraduate societies have continued to operate and thrive, doing vital work in creating innovative ways for students to connect and interact throughout the pandemic. In this article, we feature the Melbourne University Philosophy Society (MUPS). We farewell the outgoing 2021 committee and look back on their activities over the past year. 

The Melbourne University Philosophy Society is a student-run club for everyone studying or interested in philosophy. We aim to promote the exploration of philosophical ideas in an inclusive and accessible way. We do this through regular seminar-style discussion events, as well as other activities like film nights and trivia nights.

In 2020 to 2021, the pressures of COVID-19 and online learning made it difficult to connect with fellow philosophers; however, we did hold a number of events aimed at enabling social and intellectual interaction, including:

  • SHAPS Clubs Welcome Event, a now annual gathering at the start of each semester for members and prospective members of the Philosophy Society, History Society, and Classics and Archaeology Society to get to know each other and their new committees;
  • Discussion-style events on topics including thought experiments, existentialism, Nietzsche, mental illness and philosophy, Heidegger’s Question Concerning Technology, and Deleuze’s film theory;
  • A panel on studying honours in philosophy, which included a few of our longtime members who were studying honours in 2020;
  • Reading and study groups including on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, the philosophy of dissent, and Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks;
  • The launch of the very first issue of our sister publication Meraki Magazine! Meraki was founded by our previous executive who continue to run the publication. It aims to publish philosophical work on ideas which have traditionally been excluded from the western academy;
  • MUPS trivia night featuring fun facts from the history of philosophy;
  • Film screening and discussion event in collaboration with the Melbourne University Genetics Society (MUGS);
  • SWOTVAC Study Sesh with the other SHAPS undergrad clubs;
  • Regular talks on different philosophy topics, including sex and consent; dogwhistles in contemporary political discourse; and Deleuze and video games.
  • SHAPS Clubs Speed Friending and Games Night;
  • Annual General Meeting in August.

Outgoing 2021 MUPS committee

The 2021 MUPS committee comprised a group of passionate students who are keen philosophers, although we’re not all studying philosophy.

President: Bree Booth

Why I joined the Philosophy Society: Philosophy has been my passion since I took my first VCE Philosophy class, so I immediately joined the Philosophy Society when it was established in 2017. I completed my BA in philosophy and history in 2019 and now study the JD at Melbourne Law School with the ultimate goal of pursuing a career in jurisprudence (legal philosophy).

The Philosophy Society keeps me involved with the philosophy scene at Melbourne University and they are an amazing, fun and incredibly talented group of people dedicated to the cause of making philosophy accessible to everyone. I could not recommend joining highly enough (but I might be biased!).

Favourite area of philosophy: There are too many to choose! I am interested in existentialism, particularly the Christian existentialisms of thinkers like Kierkegaard and Marcel. I am also interested in jurisprudence, in particular critical legal theory and its intersection with the philosophy of ideology.

Philosopher/philosophical work I think everyone should read: If I had to choose just one it would be Louis Althusser and his essay ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’. Althusser was a French Marxist philosopher born in Bir Mourad Raïs in Algeria (then French Algeria) in 1918. His theory of subjectification and understanding of history has been incredibly influential for thinkers like Foucault, Butler, Badiou and Žižek. Althusser is concerned with how a human being comes to understand, recognise and interpret themselves and how this understanding is mediated by the ideological apparatuses of the state.

Secretary: Sam Leeder

Why I joined the Philosophy Society: I joined MUPS because I wanted to meet other people who enjoyed talking about philosophy outside of class. I do philosophy because I enjoy it and so I wanted to do as much of it as possible. I found MUPS events were a great place to do extra philosophy and hear about really cool things that I wouldn’t have come across in class. All the MUPS events I’ve been to have been really engaging and interesting and I wanted to help other people have that experience.

Favourite area of philosophy: Metaphysics. Although some people would describe it as a bad smell, I think there are really interesting questions that metaphysics can answer. Philosophy has a particular skillset in being able to examine things closely and through metaphysics we can apply that focus to things like race, gender, and consent in really useful ways.

Philosopher/philosophical work I think everyone should read: If you’ve ever had a frustrating conversation with someone who is trying to tell you that you can’t be sure the world is real then Michael Devitt is what you need. There is a short chapter in Realism and Truth called ‘Why be a common-sense realist?’ that really cuts through all the stuff that people might think philosophy is meant to be.

Treasurer: Porter Mattinson

Why I joined the Philosophy Society: Nothing too special: I had noticed some gaps in the subjects I had taken hitherto and wanted to expand my philosophical horizons, as well as develop some relationships that lasted more than one semester. MUPS solved both these problems, as I can consistently have interesting philosophical discussions now, and a decent group of friends.

Favourite area of philosophy: At MUPS I am generally referred to as the ‘Deleuze guy’, as my general answer to this question is something along the lines of: ‘anything to do with Deleuze.’ In reality, my real interest lies in accurately understanding the way the world works. I just think that Deleuze and some (read: very few) Deleuzean thinkers have gotten the closest anyone has to completing this project. So, for now at least, I will leave my answer as anything to do with Deleuze.

One philosopher/philosophical work I think everyone should read: Towards a New Socialism by Paul Cockshott. This is against the spirit of the above response and is in many ways more politics and economics than strict philosophy, but this is also my most honest answer to this question. It was written in the nineties, arguably the worst decade for Marxist politics, but it unashamedly, and quite convincingly, argues for a directly democratic, cyber-socialist planned economy. The fact that it goes through all aspects of a potential socialist society, from basic economics to international trade, from political structure to property law to the organisation of communal living, renders it absolutely invaluable, and a riveting read from beginning to end.


Incoming 2022 MUPS Committee

The 2021 AGM saw the creation of two new committee positions: Social Media Manager and Events Coordinator, and the election of new committee members for 2022.

President: Porter Mattinson (former treasurer)

Secretary: Beau Kent

Treasurer: Joel Duggan

Events Curator: Aika Toktonazarova

Social Media Manager: John Porter

The society looks forward in the rest of 2021 to hosting more collaborative events with other clubs, holding a book swap, and continuing the work of the previous committee in making philosophy accessible at the University of Melbourne!

To sign up as a member, follow this link – membership is $2 per year and open to all – and like us on Facebook.

This is the first in a series of articles on SHAPS student clubs and societies. For more info on different ways to get involved in the SHAPS community, see our SHAPS School Life page.

Feature image: Members of the Melbourne University Philosophy Society Committee 2022 (John Porter missing)