Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2016

THE MEANING MYSTERY (Wittgenstein on meaning, from my book The Philosophy Gym)

16. The Meaning Mystery Language is an extraordinarily powerful tool – the most important tool we possess. How do our sounds, squiggles and other signs come by their astonishing power to mean something? Indeed, what is meaning, exactly? This chapter introduces some of the key ideas of two philosophers: John Locke (1632-1704) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1989-1951). Where does meaning originate? Take a look at the following sequence of straight and curved lines.             ILLUSTRATION: I am happy In English these lines mean I am happy . But there could be other languages in which this same combination of lines conveys quite a different thought. There might be an alien civilization for which they mean my trousers are in tatters (I don’t say this is likely, of course. But it’s possible.) The lines are, in themselves, devoid of any particular meaning. The same is true of other forms of representation, including diagrams, illustrations and samples. They don’t

Oxford Literary Festival event with Prof Peter Atkins

This will be publicised shortly - March 2017, Oxford Lit Festival. Can science answer every question? Is 'scientism' true? Is there not a place for philosophy, or theology, or some other ‘armchair’ discipline? Are science and religion ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ - with science focused on the age of rocks and religion the rock of ages, each unqualified to pronounce on the territory of the other? A philosopher and a scientist explore these questions. Peter Atkins is Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at The University of Oxford, and has been called the Fifth Horseman of Atheism. Peter argues vigorously that science, and science alone, is capable of answering every legitimate question, and that disciplines such as philosophy and theology are a waste of time. Peter has said: that religious belief is 'outmoded and ridiculous’ and ‘I regard the teaching of religion as the purveying of lies’. Stephen Law is Reader in Philosophy at Heythrop College,