I recently went to a public lecture at LSE hosted by the Forum for European Philosophy. The discussion was entitled “Does philosophy have to be obscure?” It struck me as a bit odd that both possible responses presume that philosophy is indeed obscure. If we understand “obscure” as “unclearly expressed” or “not easily understood”, so many things seem more obscure – Facebook’s terms of agreement, say, or … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Does philosophy have to be obscure?
While robots can’t be ethical agents in themselves, we can programme them to act according to certain rules. But what we expect from robot ethics is still a subject of hot debate. For example, technology companies have discovered that people share some of their darkest thoughts with virtual assistants. So, how do we expect them to respond? What do we expect from virtual assistants? When … Continue reading The Times’ Raconteur: Should robots be expected to make ethical decisions?
A new show about consciousness takes a terrifying look at how scientists, philosophers and artists deal with “the hard problem” In the 17th century, Descartes famously argued that the body and mind are two different things. Philosophers have been discussing the difference ever since, and this “mind-body problem” is far from solved. Today, science is still struggling to explain how our soggy grey brains give rise to the … Continue reading The Economist’s 1843: The malleability of our minds
Large charities embroiled in scandals have brought charitable giving into disrepute, from Oxfam staff who sexually exploited victims of the Haiti earthquake, to harassment at Save the Children. But the failure of these charities should not put you off donating. Indeed, the philosopher Peter Singer argued that ‘if you are living comfortably while others are hungry or dying from easily preventable diseases, and you are … Continue reading Marina’s Monetary Musings: How to become an ‘effective altruist’
Compliment or theft? At a literary festival in Brisbane last year, Lionel Shriver faced a backlash when she argued that accusations of cultural appropriation threatened “our right to write fiction at all”. It remains a contentious issue. At this year’s Battle of Ideas, Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas, introduced a talk at the Barbican in London on whether “cultural appropriation is a compliment … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: On cultural appropriation
Like the tales told to Dante by the souls he meets in The Divine Comedy, literature provides us with mirrors to discover our own secret features, Alberto Manguel argues. The quest to figure out who we are and what we are here for, explains our delight in the tales of others. In this search for self-knowledge, literature does not provide all the answers, “but rather … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Where there is no why
In Heinrich von Kleist’s essay The Puppet Theatre, published in 1810, the character Mr C wanders through a public park, where he meets the recently appointed first dancer of the opera house. A puppet theatre has been erected at the market and Mr C had frequently spotted the dancer in the audience. When they meet, Mr C expresses his surprise that a dancer should attend … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: No strings attached
“Journalism and scholarship usually inhabit different planets”, Jeffrey J. Williams writes. Journalists and academics have different gods and languages. While journalists favour speed, paying homage to Hermes, scholars look to Apollo, favouring rumination. In How To Be an Intellectual, Williams, who is Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, argues the twain shall meet in the writing of criticism. Academics should take lessons … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: How to be an intellectual
Women who engage in public speaking are seen as “freakish androgynes”, argued classics professor Mary Beard in her recent London Review of Books speech at the British Library. Throughout the centuries we have come to believe that public speaking is men’s business, Professor Beard said, citing Homer’s Odyssey and referring to the likes of Aristotle and Cicero. However, Aristotle and Cicero had female contemporaries who are … Continue reading Standpoint Magazine: Beards need not apply
Simon Blackburn credits L’Oréal’s slogan, “because you’re worth it”, as a source of outrage and inspiration for Mirror, Mirror: The uses and abuses of self-love. Drawing on the myth on Narcissus, Blackburn writes on vanity, pride and amour propre with deep insight. He introduces “lofty pride”, for instance, with reference to the House of Pride, allegory of fickleness and superficiality, in Spenser’s Faerie Queene. A more … Continue reading Times Literary Supplement: Book Review of Simon Blackburn’s “Mirror Mirror”