Unpicking popular phrases

Everyday Philosophy Popular aphorisms, proverbs and phrases sometimes pithily summarise good ideas. And sometimes, well, they don’t. The enemy of my enemy is my friend You might figure that ‘strong opposition to the government and general programme of Josef Stalin’, might seem to be a pretty good indicator of virtue and wisdom. Not, however, if…

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A question of bias

Everyday Philosophy We’re all biased. All of us believe things for bad reasons. We believe things because of wrong assumptions we never question, because of people we want to impress, because of patterns of thought that are evolutionarily useful but not apt for finding the truth. There’s no getting around our bias: the best we…

Misconceptions about freedom of speech

Everyday Philosophy I probably hear more people complaining about free speech in modern society than about any other social or political issue. No-platforming, cancel culture, campus censorship and various other associated phenomena: all are condemned as restrictions on free and open discourse, both by people who share my unpopular opinions and by those who don’t.…

Don’t dismiss scientism too easily

Everyday Philosophy If there’s one thing philosophers hate, it’s scientism. This is, roughly, the claim that ‘science can answer all the meaningful questions that there are to ask’ or ‘the scientific method is all you need to acquire all the knowledge about the world that there is to acquire’. Philosophers hate this for a predictable…

What does ‘peace’ really mean?

Everyday philosophy There’s a chant that people seeking radical change have used for decades: it was used in the black civil rights movement in the US in the 1960s, and we’ve heard it a lot from the protesters in the past weeks. The chant is: “No justice, no peace.” The statement being made by the…

Discussing global justice during a pandemic

Everyday Philosophy   In this time of pandemic, we are keenly aware of the global scope of the crisis. We’re glued to the news, comparing different rates of infection and containment measures. At the same time, our spheres of immediate concern have shrunk. We are stuck in our houses, and our minds are occupied with…

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Beauty in the eye of the beholder

Everyday Philosophy   I’ve been thinking a lot about art lately. I’ve been catching up on the excellent Risking Enchantment podcast, which discusses beauty in art and culture and its place in the Catholic faith. And I recently had the privilege of hearing the art historian Elizabeth Lev talk about Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings. I…

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What are mental images made of?

Everyday philosophy   Sometimes it’s worth doing philosophy because it has some immediate practical implications, changing what you think is right or the way you live your life. But sometimes it’s worth doing because reality is wonderful, and contemplating it is good in itself. Philosophy of mind is worth thinking about for both reasons. There…

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