The fall and rise of philosophy

IN the middle of the 20th century philosophy was on its knees. A group of intellectuals in Vienna – known as the Vienna Circle – led by Moritz Schlick and brought to the UK by the brash young philosopher A J Ayer – declared war, not on a field of philosophy but philosophy itself. At …

The evolution of altruism

THE idea of altruism is attractive. The very possibility that at least some of the time humans are able to act with the intention of benefiting others either at some cost to oneself or at least without expectation of a reward is important to secular ethics. For religions it is problematical because every act is …

An indifferent world

WHAT if the universe is completely indifferent to us and to all life on earth? There is no God or gods and no guiding rationale. It’s an idea that runs counter to the age-old search for meaning – the succour that is supposedly offered by a supreme being. But what if a truly meaningless universe …

The weirdness of rationality!

FOR most of human history the world has been understood by humans through the prism of mythology, superstition, magic and gods. Some would argue that it still is. But the Enlightenment was supposed to change all that, or at least some thought that tempering it with it with a bit of reason wouldn’t be such …

Do humans need to be commanded?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” So Christ is reported to have said to his disciples in John 13:34. As it happens it is also the commandment that the Venerable Alan Jeans, Archdeacon of Sarum, chose to form …

Engage in resistance through dialogue!

IT is often argued, with some truth, that we live in an age of wilful ignorance in which thought is undervalued and we are encouraged to live in the now. Delayed gratification is discouraged and replaced with the present. Commercial institutions have fuelled this process by encouraging us to think of ourselves as free-standing, self-interested …

The pitfalls of oratory

IS it better to suffer wrong than to do wrong? It’s an interesting question and one is rarely, if ever. asked these days. It goes beyond mere altruism, which simply demands that we act with the aim of benefiting others with expectation of reciprocal good. This has more to do with the Bible’s claim that …

To humanity and beyond!

WHAT must it be like to reject all of our beliefs? Liberalism, humanism, neoliberalism, socialism, Christianity – indeed, all religion – in fact ALL the characteristics and ideas with which we define ourselves. All gone. Even the category of being human. What if we only care about ourselves and have no interest in others? Well, …

Why the authorities hate XR

NON-VIOLENT protest or civil disobedience is often thought of in a passive, negative or defensive way. We shuffle along on marches, sit down on roads blocking traffic and annoying people. As Shelley writes in The Mask of Anarchy: “With folded arms and steady eyes,/And little fear, and less surprise,/Look upon them as they slay/Till their …

Judgement versus Reckoning

DEPENDING on what you read Artificial Intelligence (AI) is either the ultimate threat to humanity – always supposing we survive the climate crisis of course – or it’s our great saviour. Some argue that AI is developing so fast that it will take over the jobs currently done by humans, leaving humanity without meaning or …