CEU Summer School on Applied Philosophy 2014

The Hungarian Parliament Building, view from the Danube.
The Hungarian Parliament Building, view from the Danube.

Where else would one go to learn the sound a male gorilla sounds during orgasm, how Norwegian flesh would taste like and whether we can sell it by the kilo, or to measure the value of a life of a tragically family-deprived newborn— and whether we can cannibalize the organs of said orphan to save the lives of five other children? The consensus was yes on the orphan, maybe on the Norwegian, and you’d need to ask Richard Arneson about that gorilla.

The Central Eastern University’s course on Applied Philosophy was my last working-destination this summer, and I feel quite comfortable in saying that CEU was the best organized, most welcoming university I’ve been to in Europe. Not only did the CEU staff take care of us throughout the application and pre-departure process— from sending us visa documents, to providing housing options (and easy-to-fill forms), to a discounted pre-arranged round-trip shuttle from the airport to CEU Residence, to a welcome tour of the campus and even personal assistance with purchasing our BKK bus passes for the duration of the course. On top of that, because I had no funding, the even waived my 550 course fee. Never have I experienced such a level of care, not even at my home university in Rome, and it was extremely touching that they would extend so much effort for people who aren’t even ‘real’ students.

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The group of Applied Philosophy summer school participants was huge, and very daunting for myself as a reluctant introvert. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the lively and unrestricted discussion. It’s in very few places and with very few people that you can weigh the value of a human life (or animal life, or fetus life, or disabled-human life) without automatic ‘you monster!’ reactions slapping you in the face. That said, everyone participating in the summer school self-identified as a philosopher and held the belief that we all owe each other something— neither identifier nor belief I can comfortably claim as my own. Fundamentally, I’m still a constructivist-realist at heart.

Also, older philosophers like older persons of any field, don’t seem to appreciate opinions that contradict their own. That’s absolutely valid of course, it was just a surprise to me that I would encounter this type of attitude from people who study such an ephemeral concept as philosophy and applied ethics. Though perhaps the amorphous nature of the field is precisely the reason holding hard to one’s beliefs is more necessary?

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Budapest in itself felt like home, and I don’t make that statement lightly. I felt physically miserable when it came time to leave, and I’ve only felt that pull in few places, Canberra being one. It didn’t help that in the very short time I was there I’d already made a few links, the friends CEU Residence staff being some, but most importantly Gábor who runs the Bestsellers bookstore along Nádor utca. I feel quite guilty for spending my lunch hours curled up in a corner of Bestsellers reading a book— done for three good reasons, (1.) I love books, (2.) I’m afraid of people, and (3.) almost everyone at the summer school was vegetarian and all I wanted was a quick bite of a nice juicy hamburger— and thus I found myself in the bookstore every single day and also found my luggage stuffed full of new escapist material to bring back to Rome, recommendations courtesy of Gábor as well as the other friendly Bestsellers staff.

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A small caveat to my enjoyment of the city— my laptop died four days to the end. It still works when plugged in to an external monitor, but on its own it’s a brick.

And a further deduction to the enjoyment was that at the Budapst airport, already depressed knowing I’d be headed back to Rome, I had the pleasure of being beside an Italian girl waving around her carta d’identita and cursing loudly at the WizzAir staff (to quote, “you f***ing idiots!”) because she didn’t check herself in online and thus had to pay an extra 30€ for an airport-printed boarding pass. In defense of WizzAir, they give repeated reminders to check in online and I even got a reminder email that basically said ‘don’t pay extra at the airport, check in now.’ I thought the WizzAir staff would handle things professionally, but this crass Italian was given priority boarding, a reserved seat, and she was so proud of her achievement that she bragged about it to the person on the other end of her phone. I am absolutely disgusted that people like that are rewarded for bad behavior, and I felt so bad for the WizzAir person who was verbally abused and only reacted with politness. Can’t say I’m surprised though, I’ve lived in Italy for almost a year now and few other nationalities can match an Italian f*** you for f*** you.

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