There is a terrible irony in Israel’s current assault on Gaza. More than 200 Palestinians have died in an onslaught supposedly aimed at weakening Hamas and degrading its capacity to fire rockets into Israel. It was Israel itself, however, that helped Hamas to power in Gaza. For more than thirty years,from the 1960s to the 1990s, successive Israeli governments viewed radical Islamism as a useful tool with which to counter the influence of the secular Palestine Liberation Organization (of which […]
So, another World Cup, another German victory, another England humiliation. And at the end of it all some (not quite) random thoughts about the tournament. . 1 A fine World Cup, some truly great games, but no truly great team – not even Germany, outstanding though they were, and worthy winners though they are. . 2 Part of what made this tournament so riveting was the way it upset so many received wisdoms and footballing myths. Most of the ‘big’ […]
The philosopher John Gray, in his review of my book The Quest for a Moral Compass, claimed that I ‘airbrush, Soviet-style’ all ‘repugnant and troubling elements of rationalism’ that I ‘prefer not to know’ about ‘sleazy side of rationalism’, such as racial science or the history of slavery. It is a strange claim given that the thread that runs through virtually all my work has been the paradoxes of modernity, and the contradictions within rationalism and liberalism. Hence two books of […]
I took part last week in a discussion on BBC World Service’s The Forum on the scientific, philosophical and cultural meanings of ‘invisibility’ with Philip Ball and Susan Blackmore. You can listen to the broadcast (for a year) on the BBC website; it is also downloadable as a podcast. . The image is from Anthony Gormley’s 2007 show ‘Blind Light’ at London’s Hayward Gallery.
It may be blasphemous for a Lancastrian to say so, but I love the landscape of Yorkshire, of bleak fells and pastoral valleys, of limestone and millstone grit, of viaducts and ruined abbeys. So, on the weekend that the Tour de France winds its way up hill and down Yorkshire dale, a portrait of the Yorkshire fells. The landscapes are mainly around Littondale and Malham, the sheep shearing is near Kettlewell, the viaduct is Ribbleshead, on a sunny day and a […]
Earlier this week I posted an essay by Greg Hollin on changing scientific conceptions of human nature and of the ‘social’, and of the way that autism has become ‘window to the soul’. As a coda here is a review I wrote in 2006 of Michael Blastland’s book Joe, about his autistic son. I am struck by how, having read Greg’s work, I might well ask different questions now of the book, and perhaps even look upon it differently. The […]
Gregory Hollin is a researcher at Nottingham University’s Institute for Science and Society whose work explores changing perceptions of autism, both scientific and cultural. He recently wrote a superb essay for the anthropology website Somatosphere which looked at the relationship between the rise of autism as a cultural phenomenon and changing scientific conceptions of human nature and of the ‘social’, and at how these changes have led to the view of ‘the social hole in autism’ as ‘a window to the […]
Review of A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade (Penguin) Jews are adapted to capitalism. The Chinese have evolved to be conformist. Iraqis lack the genetic mechanisms necessary for democracy. It is not difficult to find such claims in the darker recesses of the Internet. It is more surprising, though, to find them at the heart of a much-heralded new book by the former science editor of the New York Times. Yet, not only does Nicholas Wade make these claims, they […]
The politics/philosophy blog Crooked Timber organised recently an online symposium on political philosopher Joseph Carens’ book, The Ethics of Immigration. I wrote a contribution; the responses of the other contributors are here. Joseph Carens has now responded to the various arguments: It is an author’s dream for his or her work to receive the sort of wide-ranging, substantive, thoughtful and generous reactions that this symposium on my book has elicited. So, I want to begin by expressing my deep appreciation to Chris Bertram for […]
My latest column for the International New York Times is about the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in Britain. Here are the opening paragraphs; the full version is in the INYT, where it was published under the headline ‘Education should be beyond belief’. Last year, the council in Birmingham, Britain’s second city, received an anonymous document that supposedly advised militant Muslims on how to take over the governing bodies of state-run schools and impose Islamist values on them. Since the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ […]
In 2009, London’s Wellcome Collection conducted a series of interviews about the meaning of identity, to coincide with its exhibition Identity: Eight Rooms, Nine Lives, part of an Identity Project season. They were published in a book called Identity and Identification. The interview I gave as part of the project has some bearing on the current debate about British identity and values. So, here is a cut-down and somewhat reworked version of my interview. Who are you? The question ‘Who am […]
This is a (slightly edited) video of a talk I gave last month at London’s RSA entitled ‘Where do values come from?’. It explores some of the themes in my book The Quest for a Moral Compass. .
News on talks that are coming up, possibly coming up and moving. . London My London Philosophy Club talk next week has been moved back from Thursday 19th (when England are playing Uruguay in the World Cup) to Tuesday 17th. I would have sacrificed football for philosophy but the organisers decided that it was not worth risking an empty room. However exciting it might be to listen to me talk of Confucius or Kant or Original Sin, it might be a […]
John Gray, former Professor of European Thought at the LSE, last week reviewed The Quest for a Moral Compass for the New Statesman, for which he is the lead reviewer. (The review is not online but I will try to include it in my next round-up of commentary on my book.) It was what you might call a ‘scorched earth’ review. The Quest for a Moral Compass is, Gray claimed, a ‘rationalist fairytale’ from which ‘all of the repugnant and troubling […]
This is a transcript of a talk I gave last week at the Bruno Kreisky Foundation in Vienna. It is part of a series of lectures the Foundation is organising on the ‘Enlightenment and its legacy’. . 1 No Enlightenment philosophe talked of the ‘Death of God’. The ‘Death of God’ is a nineteenth century phrase, which we know of today largely through Nietzsche (though it was not Nietzsche who coined it). ‘God is dead’, as he put it The […]
Categories: Atheism & Religion, History, Philosophy & Ethics • Tags: 1848 revolutions, atheism, christianity, comte, death of god, enlightenment, french revolution, hume, jonathan israel, locke, marxism, morality, nietzsche, positivism, racial science, radical enlightenment, reason, reformation, spinoza