Ebola is a vicious disease. And the latest outbreak in West Africa has wreaked a terrible toll. It has also created considerable panic and scaremongering, particularly in the West, about worldwide pandemic. In Britain, the government convened a meeting of COBRA, its emergency response committee, worried about the threat of the virus spreading to the UK. In America, Donald Trump even suggested that US health workers helping contain the spread of the virus in West Africa who contract the disease […]
David Papineau is Professor of Philosophy of Science at King’s College, London. He also publishes More Important Than That, a blog about sport (and about ‘How philosophy can illuminate sport and vice versa’). I am delighted to republish on Pandaemonium his latest post, on the social function of amateur values in sport. My thanks to David for contributing here, and do check out his blog. David Papineau Give Me a Defender of Amateur Values, And I’ll Show You a Hypocrite […]
This is a transcript of a talk I gave last week to the Academy, a conference organised by the Institute of Ideas. ‘If God does not exist, everything is permitted’. Dostoevsky never actually wrote that line, though so often is it attributed to him that he may as well have. And yet, misattributed it may be, it is nevertheless a sentiment that runs through much of Dostoevsky’s work, including his greatest novel The Brothers Karamazov. And it does so because […]
Categories: Atheism & Religion, Philosophy & Ethics • Tags: alasdair macintyre, aristotle, christianity, death of god, elizabeth anscombe, emotivism, enlightenment, greek philosophy, harriet martineau, marx, nietzsche, religion, sam harris, sartre, telos
When I was first in Orford, it was forbidden to approach ‘the island’, but now there was no longer any obstacle to going there, since, some years before, the Ministry of Defence had abandoned secret research at that site. One of the men sitting idly on the harbour wall offered to take me over for a few pounds and fetch me later after I had had a look around. As we crossed the river in his blue-painted boat, he […]
This is my latest column for the New York Times, on ideas of Britishness, belonging and identity. (We had to cut the essay slightly because of the space available; I will publish the full version next month.) How times change. Last week, I was at the Lord’s cricket ground in London — the ‘home of cricket’, as England cricket administrators like to boast — to see England play India. I was born in India. Yet I was cheering on England. […]
Bread and Roses is a TV magazine show hosted by Maryam Namazie, Fariborz Pooya and Bahram Soroush and broadcast in Iran in both English and Persian. The latest episode is a discussion of ‘Morality without God’, part of which features a conversation between myself and Maryam (that part of the show begins around 7 minutes in).
This is the full version of my essay on the so-called ‘ Trojan Horse’ controversy, first published in the New York Times last month under the headline ‘Education should be beyond belief’. Last year, the council in Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city, received an anonymous document that supposedly advised militant Muslims on how to take over the governing bodies of state schools and impose upon them Islamist values. Since the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot was reported in March, it has […]
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 […]