I had the absolute privilege to present a paper at the Australasian Post-graduate Philosophy Conference (APPC) in Wellington. The event was hosted at Victoria University from the 6th to the 8th of December 2019, with 23 philosophers from Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia all gathered to share their ideas.

Day 1 of the conference kicked-off with a workshop on Strategic Publishing. I was a little daunted at first by the workshop as it made me being a philosopher could be a cut-throat profession. I was also rubbing shoulders with a bunch of philosophers who were all working on their Master’s or PhD theses, whereas, I’m not yet in that league yet. The workshop was extremely valuable as it clarified what academia is today, gave brilliant advice on which journals to write for, which journals to avoid since some out there are ‘dodgy’, and even proposed to write papers according to the philosophical interests of the journals as a way of increasing your chances of being published. This workshop made me feel like there was a clearer ladder to climb in a field that is already well established. Whilst gaining the skills of writing for journals, it also fanned a little ambition in me to pursue this profession.

What gladdened me about this conference was how communal and welcoming it was. After the workshop and the key-note address, we all went to the uni-bar and got to know each other over a few drinks. A conference dinner was also held after the second day of presentations. I met some brilliant minds, but I was most of all happy to just be making new friends. Usually people travel overseas with their friends but what I would recommend to other students is to go seek international experiences on your own. I found that being on my own in foreign places makes me more aware of my surroundings, which fans a greater courage in me to speak to people I don’t know. I’ve been blessed to have made new friends in New Zealand whom I would definitely hit up for a drink (or two) should I visit again.

The third and final day of the conference came, and I was the very last person to present. I was both in awe and intimidated by the presentations made over the weekend. Philosophical topics ranged from questioning which entities have well-being, philosophies of science, luck, artificial intelligence, to demolishing the romanticisation of nature were all held at this APPC. I thought that I was in a room full of people capable of saving the world. A sense of inadequacy rose in me as I noticed that my paper was the only one on theatre and the arts. I argued that some trending theories of tragedy which stem from Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’ were inadequate. So, I used Aristotle’s fourfold theory of causes as a guide to find the purpose for its performance, which was linked to Aristotle’s definition of chance according to his ‘Physics’.

What doubled in my sense of inadequacy was the fact that someone else presented a brilliant paper indirectly relevant to mine: a theory of luck presented by a fellow Australian philosopher. This only added to the precision to both our ideas, however. His input was so valuable after my presentation. It took me a while to figure it out as I was answering his questions, but I found a clear distinction between luck and chance: that we are passive in luck, but active in chance (at least, according to Aristotle’s definition). We have since kept in touch and he has recommended further reading material to me as though our philosophical interests may certainly complement each other. This experience taught me how to think on the spot in collaboration with others towards an idea that was not pre-empted. Due to this freshness of thought, I realise how long it took me to answer his question; so, my lesson was also to be more concise in answering the question.

Surprisingly, my sense of inadequacy also seemed out of joint with the reality of the scenario. It seemed that my paper was well received for its  argument, poetic delivery, and most of all its uniqueness in topic. Here I learned that you don’t have to be saving the world in the way we currently understand it, in order to save the world. At the end of the conference, we went out for dinner and drinks.

I’d like to thank UQ for the Globetrotter Grant and I highly recommend any student whose never been overseas before to take advantage of this opportunity. Even if you feel inadequate for it.

Silvan Rus

Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy & Chinese

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

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