Sixth Form Symposium

Senior School
27 Nov 20

Each week, Mr Jones, Head of Academic Scholars, holds a symposium for our Sixth Form scholar students. James Mardon (Upper Sixth) reports on the latest discussion below:

‘Around 20 of us in the Sixth Form have been attending the newly created Symposium that was started at the beginning of this term. Thus far, the events have sparked a number of enlightening conversations, from reflections on the portrayal of Africa in the Western media, to the moral questions raised by art. It has been good to explore topics I never thought I would be discussing. It has given the members a chance to voice their opinions and critique the views of others. 

In our most recent meeting this Wednesday, we discussed the questions: ‘Are you condemned to be free? Suffering from ‘bad faith’? Finding life absurd?’. These questions are based on the work of the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, which was a new name to many of us.  

Sartre’s view that ‘existence precedes essence’ was most certainly at the heart of the discussion. Satre wrote: ‘We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards’. The idea that we are radically free and responsible for the choices we make provoked some interesting points of discussion. Whilst the thought seems quite obvious, its ramifications are huge if followed to its logical conclusion.

Another of Sartre’s ideas – ‘bad faith’ – is extremely pertinent to modern-day life. Discussing the notion of lying to ourselves to relieve short-term pain is perhaps exemplified by the use of “social media goggles” and editing photos to get short term gratification from others to make ourselves feel better.  There is perhaps a danger we convince ourselves that we are the ideal version of ourselves, as it is easier than taking the steps to genuinely change.

I look forward to more interesting discussions in the future. The early sessions have been led by Mr Jones, but some of us will soon take on the responsibility of choosing a topic and chairing the discussion. Anyone in the Sixth Form who wishes to attend can do so, and if you have a topic you would like to discuss you can contact Mr Jones for more information.’

James Mardon