As many of you now know, Trent University is home to a very unique annual series of lectures that is the topic of envy throughout humanity departments in colleges and universities all across Canada. The Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series, named after world-renown philosopher, Gilbert Ryle, gives Trent the opportunity to bring notable philosophers from all over the world to bestow their knowledge in an intimate session open to faculty, students, and the community.
This year, the organizers of the event didn’t have to look much further than our own presidential office in order to find a recognized and influential philosopher worthy enough to be the focus of the Ryle lectures.
Our very own Leo Groarke has been selected. Groarke is an author of over 90 scholarly article publications, a co-writer of textbooks from which many Arthur readers will likely have studied, and an all-around expert on argumentation and political philosophy.
At the first lecture, Dr. Groarke thanked the audience that packed the house in Lady Eaton College on Tuesday afternoon, and acknowledged the honour he felt for having been selected.
He then started in on his lecture entitled Words, Pictures, and Arguments: What Happens to Logic in an Age of Pictures? With a number of notable staff members listening attentively and contributing to the question period following the lecture, the audience included Dean of Humanities Moira Howes, Philosophy Professor Douglas McDermid, as well as members of the student body and community.
The lecture hall was packed, leaving some latecomers forced to stand in order to enjoy the lecture. One of the textbooks that Professor Groarke co-authored alongside Wilfred Laurier faculty member Chris Tindale, was the very book many of us Humanities students have studied in our Critical Thinking class Good Reasoning Matters.
Dr. Groarke commented that he and Tindale realized while writing this book was the fact that, in previous courses regarding argumentation and assessing arguments, while faculty were doing all they could to educate students on how to recognize and construct arguments themselves, there was a glaring misconnect when it came to purely visual arguments, void of all text or verbal influence.
How were students taking in this information, and how were they analyzing them? The lecture focused on the arguments that pictures present. With images ranging from satirical political comic strips, to WWII propaganda from nations around the world, Dr. Groarke delved deep into how our perceptions of these images are subject to our beliefs, and explained how these images try to guide us to a certain conclusion through key aspects that are being communicated without actual words.
He then went into detail about how the digital revolution, stemming from the invention and widespread use of the Internet marks the beginning of the “digital age” and is a sort of revolution comparable to that of the industrial revolution of the early 19th century.
The lecture then migrated towards an example that Dr. Groarke drew from an article in the New York Times, essentially saying that the future of journalism is not print, it is more towards virtual reality.
He believed this would have a profound effect on our consciousness and how we process visual information. He used the example of our understanding of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and compared it to the catastrophic effects that actually occurred.
A documentary was referenced of the bombings’ after-effects, which was previously covered up by the United States Military due to the graphic nature and poor light in which it painted the U.S. Dr. Groarke then turned to specific court cases such as that of Ivan Demjanjuk or Ivan “The Terrible”, and his trial of suspected war crimes against the Jewish people at a concentration camp during the Second World War, which relied almost entirely on images and other visual aids to determine guilt or innocence.
The Ryle lectures are a very important series to the Humanities not only at Trent, but also across Ontario, and we are very lucky for an event of this caliber to be exclusive to our University.
This event is one of the many ways Trent shines new light on the student experience and extends new ways to learn and grow both as individuals as well as a community.
Thank you to Professor and President Leo Groarke for taking the time out of what I can only imagine to be an extremely hectic schedule to share some knowledge of his craft with young and old both in the Trent and Peterborough communities.