On the proper use of Cyberspace

In his book ‘Free Speech’, Timothy Garton Ash proposes the following principle related to knowledge: ‘We allow no taboos against and seize every chance for the spread of knowledge.’ In his attempt to delineate the contours of his liberal ‘open society, the former journalist turned academic acknowledges the central place played by knowledge in every aspect of human life and endeavour. Yet, in an age driven by computer technology, it is essential to be aware of the differences existing between ...

Pacifying Our Cyberworld (1)

At a time when freedom of speech and particularly freedom to criticise is being threatened by a pervasive climate of suspicion and rejection of the liberal press in western democracies, a much respected British journalist, Timothy Garton Ash proposes ‘Ten Principles for a Connected World’ in his latest essay, ‘Free Speech’, published by Atlantic Books, in 2016. The Internet revolution has unleashed a nonstop flow of unlimited information but also myriads of unvetted spurious opinions, ranging from thumb-up positive reactions ...

Parrhesia and the post-truth age

After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is ‘post-truth’ - and adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. Such is the entry to be found on the Oxford Dictionaries website. Socrates would, no doubt, be turning in his grave if he only knew the extent and triumph of the present doxa (or opinion) over truth ...

Aldous Huxley’s warning against a ‘Brave New World’

The prescient English writer and philosopher, Aldous Huxley, was through the 1930’s, a keen critical observer of the rise of political extremism, coupled with the irresistible progress of modern technology. Self-exiled in California, in 1938, for health and political reasons, he lamented the spread of fascist ideology across Europe and the absence of pacifist solutions to the imminent threat of a world conflagration. In March 1946, a few months after the end of the worst conflict ever, he published a ...

Iris Murdoch and the irresistible attraction of the Good

The writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) was fascinated by the intimate connection between ‘truth’, ‘beauty’ and ‘good’ in Plato’s dialogues. In the late Timaeus dialogue, written after The Republic, Plato introduces a divine figure, the ‘demiurge’, literally ‘the architect’, who inspired by his love for the Form of the Good creates the universe from pre-existent and therefore necessarily imperfect material. Murdoch sees in the story of the ‘demiurge’ the answer to the previous limitations of The Republic. Through the ...

Popular Sovereignty and Representative Democracy

Was Plato right after all when he remarked in ‘The Republic’ that the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavey rises out of the most extreme form of liberty.? For students of this political classic, contemporary events have never been so meaningful as Western democracies are going through a crisis of confidence in their social, political and financial élites. Popular sovereignty is being reclaimed throughout Europe by movements such as Indignados in Spain, Direct Democracy Now! in Greece or Nuit ...

Introspection and Action Part 2

The death of Jean-Paul Sartre in 1980 coincided with the end of a certain introspective philosophy, mainly preoccupied with the citizen’s historical place and moral obligations in a secular, industrialised Western society. Succeeding generations continued to see philosophy as an intellectual weapon to be used in new struggles such as feminist and gay rights movements. Sartre, himself, was fully aware that his legacy was precarious as new historical ‘situations’ would inevitably generate new attitudes and new schools of thought. Sartrean ...

Voltaire and the Principle of Action

Voltaire is regarded as the most ‘English’ among the French philosophers but his status as a bona fide philosopher is often cast into doubt. However, to consider him as a mere dabbler in philosophy is a gross misconception of his crucial input in the philosophical debates of his age. An extraordinary polymath, Voltaire was equally fascinated by the hottest philosophical quarrels and the latest scientific theories. After all, it was thanks to him that the radical ideas of Locke and ...

Corrupting youth in search of the ‘true’ life

In his latest essay, entitled ‘La vraie vie’ (the ‘true’ life), the seventy-nine year old French philosopher Alain Badiou, briefly revisits Socratic philosophy for the benefit of young generations. Socrates was sentenced to death by a democratic jury which considered his teaching as too subversive and therefore a threat to the social, religious and political order of Athens. Plato’s mentor was accused of disrespect for the gods of the city and more significantly, of indoctrinating his students with his systematic ...

William James and ‘The Will to Believe’

When analysing the origins of belief behind truth claims, matters of faith often seem to be reduced to pure blind faith on the part of candid believers or sceptical doubt when expressed by rational thinkers such as Hume. In his lecture ‘The Will to Believe’, published in 1896, William James offered six different options open to the ‘believer’ which can equally apply to a non-believer in his quest of epistemological truth: An hypothesis is anything that might be offered for ...