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 ...

John Dewey on Democracy and Education

In his essay ‘Democracy and Education’, published a century ago this year, John Dewey champions cultural diversity and the paramount priority for educators to develop a ‘common intelligence’ as the foundation of an harmonious, tolerant community. The idea of a ‘participative’ approach of education where the ‘learner’ is at the core of the learning process sounds like a forerunner of the very philosophy behind the International Baccalaureate, launched over fifty years after Dewey’s seminal publication. Dewey cherished the multi-ethnic dimension ...

Hope in Philosophy?

The literary and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton is the author of over forty books, ranging from ‘Literary Theory: an Introduction (1983) to ‘Culture and the Death of Gods’ (2014). His sustained critique of Postmodernism stems partly from a disillusioned faith in Marxist socialism and partly from what he regards as the lack of viable political and cultural alternatives offered by its resigned proponents. Paradoxically, the resurgence of religious faith is considered by Eagleton as an inevitable factor in any culture. ...

Is the Internet the answer to everything?

How can a Silicon Valley entrepreneur become the harshest critic of the digital hand that feeds him? Andrew Keen is nicknamed ‘the Antichrist of Silicon Valley’ and in his book ‘The Internet is Not the Answer’, he presents a scathing indictment of the high tech revolution, which, far from democratising societies, has, instead, contributed to create more barriers between a ‘connected’ élite and the millions left on the roadside of the information superhighway. What is wrong with our digital dreamworld, then? ...

Wittgenstein and religion as ‘language-game’

Religion and language have been associated with twentieth-century philosophers long before religious conflicts reappeared on the world scene a decade ago. Among the thinkers who tested the validity of religious language, Wittgenstein offered a very personal view which is part of his wider theory of the possibility of truth in linguistic statements. A most intense individual who spent his life asking himself the most fundamental questions and even considered suicide in his quest of the Absolute, the Austrian thinker remarked ...