Stephen Law is a philosopher and author. Currently Director of Philosophy and Cert HE at Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. Stephen has also published many popular books including The Philosophy Gym, The Complete Philosophy Files, and Believing Bullshit.
For school talks/ media: stephenlaw4schools.blogspot.co.uk
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George Ross - memorial lecture tomorrow
I am giving the George Ross Memorial lecture tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm, Conway Hall, London, part of the Philosophy Now Festival. I'll be talking about stuff from my book The War For Children's Minds, which George liked, I'm told. I didn't meet him but I have discovered a lot about him and clearly I missed out.
Here are George's Ten Commandments. Discuss...!
NEW TEN COMMANDMENTS
Published in Humanism Scotland Winter 2001, p. 11
1.Sapere aude - Dare to know. Take the risk of
discovery, exercise the right of unfettered criticism, accept the loneliness of
autonomy. Have the courage to use independently your own understanding, without
recourse to anyone else's guidance. Always question, always examine critically
your thoughts and deeds. Always ask 'why?' Try also to ask 'why not?' Be
2.Know thyself. To thine own self be true. Remember
that an unexamined life is not worth living.
3.Universalize your actions: never do anything which
you would not want to say that anybody and everybody should be able to do in a
similar situation. Treat your fellow human beings as you want them to treat
you. Do not have double standards: apply to yourself the principles and laws
that you yourself formulate. Never treat people as a means to an end: only as
an end in itself.
4.Be kind and compassionate, and be involved:
remember that the hottest place in hell is destined to those who adopt a
neutral attitude in a moral conflict.
5.Take very seriously your duty towards others, but
do not take yourself seriously. Always aim for the best result possible, not
for the best possible result.
6.Remember that all human opinions, values, tenets
and beliefs are of necessity subjective and relative. Always treat them as
hypotheses or premises. Never bestow upon an opinion, doctrine, dogma or belief
of any sort an absolute character: this is the cause of most heinous crimes
against humanity. Beware of peddlers of absolutes, for people have been – and
are – exterminated in the name of absolutes. Nobody has ever been killed for a
hypothesis, so far at least.
7.Be regular and ordinary in your life, like a
bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work. Do not make a
virtue of banality, by calling it 'common sense'. Remember that the surest
defence against evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking,
8.Tolerate any stance, except intolerance itself. To
detest another man's opinions is one thing. To suppress them is quite another.
This distinction is the essence of liberalism. Plan for freedom, and not only
for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security
9.Treat with respect the planet on which we live. It is
the only one we've got at present and we must bequeath it to our children – and
our children's children.
10.Strive to live in such a way that the world you
leave behind you is a better place, freer, wiser, more tolerant, than the world
you found when you were born. Try to make a difference – however small.
due acknowledgements to the ancient (pre-Socratic) Greeks, Socrates, Plato,
Horace, Dante, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Kant, Flaubert, G. B. Shaw, Popper,
Joseph Brodsky and … S. J. Simon (Why You
Lose at Bridge)
I have always voted Labour, and have often been a member of the Party, campaigning and canvassing for them. For what it’s worth, here’s my feeling about voting Labour next General Election: 1. When the left vote Labour after they move rightwards, they are encouraged to just move further right, to the point where they are now probably right of where e.g. John Major’s Tory party was. And each time the Tories go further right still. At some point we have got to stop fuelling this toxic drift to the right by making the Labour Party realise that it’s going to start costing them votes. I can’t think of anything politically more important than halting this increasingly frightening rightward slide. So I am no longer voting Labour. 2. If a new socialist party starts up, it could easily hoover up many of the 200k former LP members who have left in disgust (I’d join), and perhaps also pick up union affiliations. They could become the second biggest party by membership quite quickly. Our voting
(Published in Faith and Philosophy 2011. Volume 28, Issue 2, April 2011. Stephen Law. Pages 129-151) EVIDENCE, MIRACLES AND THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS Stephen Law Abstract The vast majority of Biblical historians believe there is evidence sufficient to place Jesus’ existence beyond reasonable doubt. Many believe the New Testament documents alone suffice firmly to establish Jesus as an actual, historical figure. I question these views. In particular, I argue (i) that the three most popular criteria by which various non-miraculous New Testament claims made about Jesus are supposedly corroborated are not sufficient, either singly or jointly, to place his existence beyond reasonable doubt, and (ii) that a prima facie plausible principle concerning how evidence should be assessed – a principle I call the contamination principle – entails that, given the large proportion of uncorroborated miracle claims made about Jesus in the New Testament documents, we should, in the absence of indepen
Thought I would try a bit of a draft out on the blog, for feedback. All comments gratefully received. No doubt I've got at least some details wrong re the Catholic Church's position... AQUINAS AND SEXUAL ETHICS Aquinas’s thinking remains hugely influential within the Catholic Church. In particular, his ideas concerning sexual ethics still heavily shape Church teaching. It is on these ideas that we focus here. In particular, I will look at Aquinas’s justification for morally condemning homosexual acts. When homosexuality is judged to be morally wrong, the justification offered is often that homosexuality is, in some sense, “unnatural”. Aquinas develops a sophisticated version of this sort of argument. The roots of the argument lie in thinking of Aristotle, whom Aquinas believes to be scientifically authoritative. Indeed, one of Aquinas’s over-arching aims was to show how Aristotle’s philosophical system is broadly compatible with Christian thought. I begin with a sketch of Arist