Category: Philosophy

A mood on the march?

A mood on the march?

Eight years on from the global debt crisis, the most remarkable thing about US politics is that it remains the same asinine, catchpenny charade that it was in the decades leading up to it. Notwithstanding the devotees of the Tea Party, who after grabbing the wrong end of the stick with both hands proceeded to beat themselves into irrelevance, and […]

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In defence of the New Atheism

In defence of the New Atheism

‘Another day, another tweet from Richard Dawkins’ wrote Eleanor Robertson last July, in response to the controversial professor’s latest foray into the twittersphere. Ah yes, I can remember thinking, and another article on Richard Dawkins and how he and his fellow New Atheists are disappointing progressive expectations! Not that he didn’t deserve it, mind, having just used a moral taxonomy […]

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Mining the work of a national resource

It is a principle of Raimond Gaita’s thought that one cannot separate moral truths from the manner of their articulation, and that the manner of their articulation will depend on who is doing the articulating. In other words, what we say about morality is deeply connected to the way we say it, which is connected, in turn, to who we […]

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Free speech: the path to true equality

Free speech: the path to true equality

This May, at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in one of the ‘Coffee and Papers’ sessions. Designed for the festival early birds, the purpose of these gatherings was to bring together local journalists with one of the SWF’s invited authors, whose work, it was hoped, would throw fresh light on some […]

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No honour in killing debate

The organisers of the 2014 Festival of Dangerous Ideas have made two mistakes in the last week. The first was to call an upcoming talk ‘Honour Killings are Morally Justified’; and the second was to cancel it. The first mistake shows a lack of judgment; the second shows a lack of nerve, plus an almost Neville Chamberlain-like faith in the […]

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Bad Faith: on Ronald Dworkin’s Religion without God

For all that he tried to extend the scope of human sympathy in his influential oeuvre, Professor Ronald Dworkin, who died last year at the age of 81, was a divisive figure. To his critics, the US philosopher and scholar of constitutional law was the theorist-in-chief of ‘rights culture’ and the poster boy for an anti-democratic (and always progressive) judicial […]

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Moonlighting in Moccasins

Moonlighting in Moccasins

In the political debates of the 1980s, one common (and very irritating) rhetorical manoeuvre was the Conservative Appeal to Human Nature. More conversation-stopper than debating point, this nifty ideological clincher was ever on the lips of smooth-talking Tories for whom politics was reducible to a question of self-interest aggravated by prejudice. Certainly the shtick wasn’t hard to master. ‘Well, socialism […]

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The Flame of Power

For Plato, the ideal city-state was one in which ‘philosopher-kings’ would take charge; ‘Unless philosophers bear kingly rule in cities,’ he has Socrates say in The Republic, ‘there will be no respite from evil.’ In reality, however, the history of intellectuals in power has not been a happy one; indeed, it seems that theoretical acumen and practical ability are often […]

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Philip Dodd and I go head to head

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On Geoffrey Robertson and Michael Kirby

‘Although an expatriate, I am not an ex-patriot’, writes the human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson in his introduction to Dreaming Too Loud, a collection of essays spanning thirty years and touching on subjects as diverse as drones, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Julian Assange. It’s a point on which he insists more than once, perhaps because, as well as living in […]

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