This is the website/blog of Philosopher Stephen Law. Stephen is retired, formerly Reader in philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. He is editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK, and has published books including The Philosophy Gym, The Complete Philosophy Files, and Believing Bullshit.
For school talks/ media: stephenlaw4schools.blogspot.co.uk
Subscribe to this blog
Follow by Email
Search This Blog
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)
(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
What is Humanism? “Humanism” is a word that has had and continues to have a number of meanings. The focus here is on kind of atheistic world-view espoused by those who organize and campaign under that banner in the UK and abroad. We should acknowledge that there remain other uses of term. In one of the loosest senses of the expression, a “Humanist” is someone whose world-view gives special importance to human concerns, values and dignity. If that is what a Humanist is, then of course most of us qualify as Humanists, including many religious theists. But the fact remains that, around the world, those who organize under the label “Humanism” tend to sign up to a narrower, atheistic view. What does Humanism, understood in this narrower way, involve? The boundaries of the concept remain somewhat vague and ambiguous. However, most of those who organize under the banner of Humanism would accept the following minimal seven-point characterization of their world-view.
Here's my central criticism of Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). It's novel and was published in Analysis last year. Here's the gist. Plantinga argues that if naturalism and evolution are true, then semantic epiphenomenalism is very probably true - that's to say, the content of our beliefs does not causally impinge on our behaviour. And if semantic properties such as having such-and-such content or being true cannot causally impinge on behaviour, then they cannot be selected for by unguided evolution. Plantinga's argument requires, crucially, that there be no conceptual links between belief content and behaviour of a sort that it's actually very plausible to suppose exist (note that to suppose there are such conceptual links is not necessarily to suppose that content can be exhaustively captured in terms of behaviour or functional role, etc. in the way logical behaviourists or functionalists suppose). It turns o