Most of them own a mobile and a computer, they’re often logged on 24/7, they usually have their own blog and a 2007 survey of Australian employers found they’re bad spellers, don’t bother with grammar and have little understanding of how to behave at work.
Yet Gen Y are turning more and more to philosophy at The University of Western Australia and one of their lecturers, 31 year-old Gen X-er Dr Nic Damnjanovic, said they are interested in big questions such as, ‘what is morality?’, ‘is there life after death?’ and ‘what is truth?’. In three years, the numbers of Gen Y attracted to the ancient and rigorous discipline of philosophy has almost doubled.
Dr Damnjanovic said in the past, students tended to come to philosophy believing that all morality was culturally relative, or that there were no such things as right and wrong. “But, just anecdotally, I’m finding that Gen Y students are more likely to say that there is an objective fact of the matter about what is right and wrong.”
Dr Damnjanovic’s own work is a project that involves examining the nature of truth and meaning. He is writing a series of papers defending a ‘deflationary’ theory of truth, which he jokingly adds, might be called the Pauline Hanson theory, since it gives ‘simple answers to complex questions’. He argues that more traditional philosophical theories suppose truth is in some way mysterious whereas in fact it is a very simple property.
Questions about truth are important, Dr Damnjanovic says, as it is easy to excuse all sorts of unfounded opinions by arguing that there is no such thing as truth. “In fact, one thing that hasn’t changed from previous years is that Gen Y students seem sympathetic to the idea that many truths are just a matter of opinion.”
Gen Y students may not agree with him, he said, but in engaging in such debates, they are learning how to think critically and how to analyse concepts.
Dr Nic Damnjanovic 61 8 6488 2106