iai.tv news RSS feed https://iainews.iai.tv/articles-old/ideas-and-ideology Beard vs Taleb: Scientism and the Nature of Historical Inquiry https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beard-nassem-taleb-twitter-feud-and-dangers-of-scientism-auid-868 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/pigliucciarticle.png" /><br />Before reading this essay, you may want to watch this short BBC cartoon, aimed at an audience of children, and explaining basic facts about Ancient Roman life in Britain. Done? Okay, what did you think of it? This 5’30” video sparked a really nasty Twitter war (okay, “nasty” and “Twitter” may be slightly redundant, but still) involving two high caliber academics: historian Mary Beard (author of the highly readable and engaging SPQR) and statistician Nassim Taleb (author of the best selling and controversial The Black Swan). We’ll take a look at the exchange in a moment, but first — if you can stomach it — check out this “commentary” (I’m using the word very generously) by alt-right celebrity Alex Jones, who rails against the BBC for having succumbed to political correctness, on the grounds that one of the characters in the video is a young boy with a darker-than-white skin. The kerfuffle began in earnest when Beard tweeted that the video was “indeed pretty accurate, there’s plenty of f... Mon, 07 Aug 2017 16:40:15 +0000 Massimo Pigliucci https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beard-nassem-taleb-twitter-feud-and-dangers-of-scientism-auid-868 Anarchy, Open Borders and Utopia https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/anarchy-open-borders-and-utopia-auid-762 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Kukathas-New-3.jpg" /><br />Over the past century, many human freedoms have expanded. But even as people living under the tyrannies of the communist world or the alien rule of colonialism have secured a greater measure of liberty, one freedom has been noticeably diminished. The freedom in question is freedom of movement.It would be an exaggeration to say that it is now entirely lost. Indeed some – particularly the richest among us – may even have enhanced their ability to travel, and today enjoy a greater opportunity to settle wherever they choose. But for most people that freedom is much reduced. And for the poorest or most desperate it is almost gone – unless they choose to risk their lives and the pitiless justice of the law to cross borders of states they have no right to enter. We live in a world in which more people traverse borders than ever before – last year more than 360 million people entered the United States alone – but we also live in a world in which movement is more tightly controlled than at any ... Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:55:30 +0000 Chandran Kukathas https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/anarchy-open-borders-and-utopia-auid-762 The Universal Basic Income: For the Sceptics https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-universal-basic-income-for-the-sceptics-auid-1076 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/lucas-favre-489526-unsplash.jpg" /><br />Contrary to popular belief, the case for basic income does not rest on the assumption that robots and artificial intelligence will bring about mass unemployment, nor that it would be a more efficient way of relieving poverty and reducing inequality (although it would). As set out in my recent book Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen, the arguments for wanting everyone in society to have a basic income are ethical rather than instrumental: a basic income would serve social justice, enhance individual and social freedom, and provide the basic security that people need to be healthy and functional. Predictably, the growing interest in basic income has been met by a host of objections, all of which can be and have been refuted. Nevertheless, they persist. The two main criticisms are that basic income is unaffordable and that it will make people lazy. Take affordability. This tends to be the immediate response – we cannot afford to give everyone a basic income. Often, this disguises... Thu, 03 May 2018 14:29:55 +0000 Guy Standing https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-universal-basic-income-for-the-sceptics-auid-1076 Nietzsche and The Philosophy of Umbrellas https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-philosophy-of-umbrellas-auid-912 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/umbrella.png"><br>Tucked away amongst Friedrich Nietzsche's unpublished manuscripts is a small fragment of text, neatly enclosed in quotation marks: "I have forgotten my umbrella." The remark stands on its own, devoid of contextualising information and just as perplexing to the Nietzsche devotee as it is to the lay philosopher. In his slim volume Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles, Jacques Derrida interrogates this fragment for every shred of meaning - or not-meaning - it may hold, leading readers through a labyrinth of possibilities: “Could Nietzsche have disposed of some more or less secret code, which, for him or for some unknown accomplice of his, would have made sense of this statement?”  Or perhaps, “What if Nietzsche himself meant to say nothing, or [at] least not much of anything, or anything whatever? Then again, what if Nietzsche was only pretending to say something? In fact, it is even possible that it is not Nietzsche's sentence...”  Almost gleefully, Derrida references scholars who, convinced that N... Wed, 25 Oct 2017 15:26:40 +0000 Editor https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-philosophy-of-umbrellas-auid-912 10 Soviet Philosophers You Should Know https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/ten-soviet-philosophers-you-should-know-auid-915 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/CominternIV.jpg"><br>Given the radical ideological change that the November 1917 Russian Revolution brought, it's peculiar how little we speak about Soviet philosophers. One obvious explanation is that the government used philosophy to reinforce its ideology rather than allowing it to be a space for critical thinking and open debate. Fearful of giving philosophers too much autonomy, Soviet institutions not only exiled rebels but eventually marginalized even its main ideologues. Despite all these challenges, at least ten thinkers are worth our attention. There is one thing they all share - an interdisciplinary approach to their subjects. None of the thinkers below solely pursued philosophy – perhaps a happy by-product of the Soviet interference in academia. ___  “We have been nodding for so long that today we should learn anew how to distinguish life from death, reality from dream […] Diminished, in the Soviet way and without any energy, we lost the ability to understand politics […] The unreality of things... Thu, 02 Nov 2017 15:32:38 +0000 Paula Erizanu https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/ten-soviet-philosophers-you-should-know-auid-915 The New Utopianism https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-new-utopianism-auid-763 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/the-new-utopianism-5.jpg" /><br />The term “utopia” is used in two distinct ways: 1)       As a term of criticism; as in: “Your ideas are utopian; they are uselessly over-idealistic, they could never work.” 2)       As a term of positive appraisal; as in: “These utopian ideas give one real hope: the utopia they describe would be worth aiming for.” The standard view is that it is utopian in the first sense to seek to radically transform our society. This unfortunately tends to rule out the possibility of utopia in the second sense. And I believe it is that possibility which we have great need of, at the present time.Why? Because without it, we are probably finished. I mean: we are now in a situation which makes it the case that without radical transformation, without radical hope, we are doomed. Mere reformism will not be enough to save us from climate catastrophe and its causes: rampant fossil fuel interests; uncontrolled capitalist accumulation and commodification; the hegemony of economic growthism; continual product... Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:10:32 +0000 Rupert Read https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-new-utopianism-auid-763 Can plastic surgery make you more authentic? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/can-plastic-surgery-make-you-more-authentic-auid-971 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/gary-bendig-cosmetic-surgery-luna-dolezal.png" /><br />It is only very recently that elective cosmetic surgery has entered the mainstream as a routine and socially acceptable way to alter appearance. In the 1950s, for example, aesthetic plastic surgery was a largely marginal and unknown medical practice. Just a few decades later, in the present day, it is a recognized medical speciality, not to mention a highly lucrative multi-billion dollar global industry. Although cosmetic surgery is regularly performed on men, it is by and large a female practice. In 2016, for instance, in the United States, ninety-two per cent of surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures were performed on women, and only eight per cent on men. (Interestingly, although women are by and large the primary recipients of cosmetic surgery, approximately eight out of every nine cosmetic surgeons are male.) These figures are mirrored precisely in the UK, where women, in 2015, made up about 91% of cosmetic surgery recipients. It is commonly argued that women who undergo co... Tue, 14 Nov 2017 17:09:29 +0000 Luna Dolezal https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/can-plastic-surgery-make-you-more-authentic-auid-971 Why Philosophy Matters https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-philosophy-matters-auid-973 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/whyphilosophymatters.png" /><br />This November marks the 12th anniversary of World Philosophy Day, a moveable feast endorsed by UNESCO and aimed at underlining the significant and often overlooked impact and value of philosophy on everyday life and human thought. The benefits of philosophy on intellectual development have been well-documented, with a recent wide-ranging study in UK schools demonstrating that children who spent an hour each week participating in philosophical discussion, debate and reflection over the course of a year saw significant gains in maths and literacy skills, with disadvantaged students reaping the greatest benefits in terms of improvement. This of course attests to philosophy’s demonstrable social and economic ‘impact’ – a word quickly that has, quite deservedly, become anathema in humanities departments – but doesn’t speak to philosophy’s broader implications for self-reflection, confidence and reasoned deduction. At at a fundamental level, philosophy equips us with the tools to ask the qu... Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:30:28 +0000 IAI News Editorial Staff https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-philosophy-matters-auid-973 Christmas - the Orgy of Stuff https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/christmas-the-orgy-of-stuff-auid-1004 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/christmas-orgy-of-stuff.jpg" /><br />Pretty clearly, we really like our Christmas heavy on consumption, and light on religion. Let us call this Christmas tradition the Orgy of Stuff. It’s dark, it’s cold, and the wait will be long. The street outside the store is poorly lit, adding to the gloom. Some have brought sleeping bags and pillows, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep while they hold their place. And if the rain returns, they’ll get drenched. Still, there are hundreds of people in line, stretching around the block and out of sight. Why? Why would anyone endure such conditions? There are bargains to be had! In the retail world, the Christmas shopping season can make or break a company’s annual sales. And in the United States, Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, can make or break a brick and mortar store’s Christmas season. So far, the 2017 Christmas shopping season looks promising. Total sales for the season are estimated to exceed $680 billion, up several percentage points over 2016’s total of a... Fri, 15 Dec 2017 15:23:29 +0000 Scott Lowe https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/christmas-the-orgy-of-stuff-auid-1004 What Michelangelo’s David Can Teach Us About Radical Politics https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/what-michelangelos-david-can-teach-us-about-radical-politics-auid-1016 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/David-radicalism.jpg" /><br />A well-known May 1968 slogan reads: &quot;Be realistic, demand the impossible!&quot; Is that just an affected Parisian provocation, or does it contain a useful insight? Suppose you've every reason to believe that your political dreams are unachievable. Your ideals yield prescriptions--things we ought to try to bring about--that just won't happen. Not now, not anytime in the foreseeable future. Or maybe your ideals don't even lead to prescriptions: perhaps all they tell you is that the status quo is rotten and ought to be replaced by something else, though you don't know what. But the question is, as they say, academic, since the revolution isn't happening anyway. If that's what your political ideals tell you, what should you do about it? And does thinking in that way make you a political failure? To avoid answering the latter question in the affirmative, most philosophers would answer the former in one out of two ways. The first answer is to say that, well, you should revise your ideals, for the... Fri, 12 Jan 2018 13:39:16 +0000 Enzo Rossi https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/what-michelangelos-david-can-teach-us-about-radical-politics-auid-1016 The Strangeness of Race https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-strangeness-of-race-auid-671 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Kurt-Barling-50.jpg" /><br />My experience as a journalist has taught me that there are always stories to tell which can present a particular point of view without revealing the truth of the wider picture. It was just such a story, on what I felt was inaccurate reporting on the North London Broadwater Farm riots in 1985, which brought me into journalism in the first place. My experience in life has taught me that far from black and white, the answers to questions of identity are invariably grey. What drives us towards the simple answers is the desire of so many people to have clarity and certainty in an uncertain world. In the end, the only thing in life that is certain is that life is uncertain. As my career developed over the decades first at the London School of Economics and then the BBC, I recognised that there are legions of people who remain in denial on all sides of the so-called ‘race’ divide, who cannot help us heal the traumas of the past if they continue to live by the defunct codes of that past. The l... Sun, 15 May 2016 12:40:48 +0000 Kurt Barling https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-strangeness-of-race-auid-671 “The Courage to Face a Lifetime”: On the Enduring Appeal of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-courage-to-face-a-lifetime-on-the-enduring-value-of-ayn-rands-philosophy-auid-846 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/aynrandimahe.png"><br>  Over thirty million copies of English-language editions of Ayn Rand’s books have been sold since the 1940s, with many more in dozens of other languages, and sales have not slowed down [1].  This article’s sub-title captures the heart of why her work—especially her fiction—has enduring appeal, despite academia and the popular press being generally hostile even to the mention of her name. The quotation appears in the last part of The Fountainhead, Rand’s 1943 novel that put her on the cultural map. A young man recently graduated from college rides his bicycle through the hills of Pennsylvania, wondering whether life is worth living and whether he should pursue his dream of being a composer.  He longs to see others’ achievements as tangible products of their quest for happiness, if only to see that it’s possible. Suddenly, he is confronted with a newly finished summer home community that seems to spring organically from the sides of the hills. He notices a man perched on a boulder who s... Tue, 25 Jul 2017 14:05:48 +0000 Carrie-Ann Biondi https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-courage-to-face-a-lifetime-on-the-enduring-value-of-ayn-rands-philosophy-auid-846 Issue 53: Utopia https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/issue-53-utopia-auid-767 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/what-I-learned-3.jpg" /><br />We all want a better world with more freedom, technology and less prejudice. At times we appear to make progress, but utopia turns out to be strangely difficult to imagine, let alone achieve. Where once we paraded grand visions of change, many of us now see such goals as best left to the fanatical fringe. As ISIS and Trump demonstrate the dangers of dreaming the future, is the solution simply better, stronger ideals? Do we need utopia now more than ever? Or is there something impossible in the very idea?In this issue of IAI News, we examine utopia and the limits of imagination. Each of our contributors envisions a utopian future, the ideas that might realise it, and the dangers of trying to get there.As Trump’s bold plans to limit migration raise alarm, LSE Political Theorist Chandran Kukathas proposes a radical alternative: the abolition of all borders. Next, in the wake of the recent Women’s Marches, author of Women on Top Margaret Heffernan asks: what would a feminist utopia look li... Tue, 31 Jan 2017 12:44:54 +0000 Editor https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/issue-53-utopia-auid-767 The Wealth of Ideas https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-wealth-of-ideas-auid-665 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Deirdre-McCloskey-49.jpg" /><br />We’re rich. Even the very poor in Britain are astoundingly rich by historical standards, some three thousand percent better off in food and housing and clothing and healthcare than the British poor two centuries ago. Economic historians can tell you. Yes, I agree: the poor, even if much better off, are still poor by our elevated standards, and you and I want to raise them up. But schemes of redistribution, or the impossible goals of equality (What? Equality of height? Equality of intelligence? Of fast-twitch muscles?), don’t do it. The Liberal Lady Glencora Palliser (née M’Cluskie) in Anthony Trollope’s political novel Phineas Finn declares, “Making men and women all equal. That I take to be the gist of our political theory,” as against the Conservative delight in rank and privilege. But Joshua Monk, one of the novel’s radicals in the Cobden-Bright-Mill mould, sees the ethical point more clearly, and replies to her: “Equality is an ugly word, and frightens.” The motive of the true Libe... Sat, 30 Apr 2016 07:46:38 +0000 Deirdre McCloskey https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-wealth-of-ideas-auid-665 The Unfounded Fear of Monopolies https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-unfounded-fear-of-monopolies-auid-874 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Deirdre-image-3-edited.png" /><br />The premise of the discussion here is wrong, which is, after all, a common problem with discussions of public policy. “Trade is zero sum.”  Wrong. “People do not respond to incentives.”  Wrong.  “Socialism had nothing to do with the collapse of the Venezuelan economy.” Wrong. Or in the present case, “When a company such as Facebook or Google has suddenly grown, it must be a dangerous monopoly and needs to be regulated by wise heads in Whitehall.” Wrong. Sure, in the short run we are all terrified that the big shoe company will sell us only its own shoes, or that Cadbury under Kraft will change the formula for Whole Nut, or that in other ways “the corporations” such as Google will upset our lives.  There are two things wrong with such a premise. For one thing, it is not at all obvious, in the case of the computer giants no less than in the case of New Balance or Cadbury, that the government can do better.  Suppose the Monopolies Commission or the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of... Mon, 04 Sep 2017 13:01:02 +0000 Deirdre McCloskey https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-unfounded-fear-of-monopolies-auid-874 Issue 60: Authenticity, Reality and Being https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/issue-60-authenticity-reality-and-being-auid-923 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/editorial-image-1-jpeg.jpg" /><br />Co-opted by brands and corporations, has authenticity become an empty fantasy? Where can you find the ‘real you’? How can we have authentic relationships in a world of inequality? Does authenticity mean the same thing for everyone?  We have long been obsessed with the authentic. 50 years after the Existentialists expounded the dangers of bad faith, self-help entreaties to ‘be true to yourself’ join a torrent of brands proclaiming themselves the ‘real deal’. Yet living authentically is far from simple. As Sartre said, “If you seek authenticity for authenticity’s sake you are no longer authentic. What does it mean to ‘be oneself’? Does authenticity promise fulfilment? And in a world where #nofilter selfies are posted for likes and plain-speaking politicians trade re-tweets for votes, is being ‘real’ a sham? In this issue of IAI News, we tackle authenticity. Our contributors examine this contested concept, investigating its role in philosophy, politics and popular culture. They ask wheth... Tue, 07 Nov 2017 10:15:35 +0000 Editor https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/issue-60-authenticity-reality-and-being-auid-923 Are we all suffering from collective amnesia? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/are-we-all-suffering-from-historical-collective-amnesia-auid-1048 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Make-rhodes-history.jpg" /><br />The student campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College at Oxford University failed. One may speculate about the true reasons behind the staunch resistance by this institution against the students’ protest. In the official defence of this choice, something no one can object to was called upon: freedom of speech. Both Chris Patten and Mary Beard argued in favour of keeping the statue because removing statues of individuals with whose views one disagrees is contrary to freedom of speech and historical accuracy.However, there is nothing free and open about the contribution of these statues to our discourse on British History. In fact, monuments make us forget more than they help us remember. By prompting some thoughts, statues suppress others, thus promoting an ideological view of the past. Seeing figurative public art every day subtly manipulates our minds. Surely, I hear you say, this is preposterous! Statues are not a means of mind control. Perhaps not, but consider ... Tue, 13 Mar 2018 17:15:28 +0000 Alessandra Tanesini https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/are-we-all-suffering-from-historical-collective-amnesia-auid-1048 Laughing and Crying About the Second World War https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/do-we-remember-the-second-world-war-wrongly-auid-1049 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/immortal.png" /><br />My existence represents peace. I am born of a post-war Anglo-German union, my elder uncles having fought on both sides. My German grandfather served first in France and then in the East. After the war, perhaps by conscious or unconscious compensation, my uncle worked with the Russian-German refugees in his small Rhineland town. His learning of Russian later encouraged my own, and his godson, who lives in the closed city of Seversk which is attached to Tomsk, visits me regularly in London. How all so inconceivable in 1945. As I write, we are living through the last phase of live memories of killing, injuring, and being injured. Britain The Second World War is less commemorated in Britain than the First, not just despite but because of the fact that the First is less a source of celebration. The First World War’s large, prominent and ubiquitous public monuments both acknowledge the large loss of life and try to justify it, whilst the Second World War is often a stonemason’s addition cove... Mon, 19 Mar 2018 11:10:52 +0000 Catherine Brown https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/do-we-remember-the-second-world-war-wrongly-auid-1049 Hawking, Dawkins, Einstein: Are Celebrity Scientists Just Memes? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/hawking-dawkins-einstein-are-celebrity-scientists-just-memes-auid-1052 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/einstein-dawkins.png" /><br />Stephen Hawking's recent death was on the front pages of newspapers and trended on social media. Cher and Katy Perry tweeted about it. It's not often that science or scientists get so popular. In this interview with Columbia University philosopher of science Philip Kitcher, author of multiple books including Science in a Democratic Age, we discuss how and when (some) scientists turned into celebrities, and what are the benefits and costs we derive from that, in a culture that celebrates memes and distrusts experts  —Paula Erizanu    PE: Could you explain the appeal of Hawking, Dawkins and Einstein as celebrity scientists? PK: So Dawkins and Hawking are very different cases.  There’s a really healthy side to the celebrity science movement and that is the tremendous increase in our acceptance that scientists, including eminent scientists, might write for a broader public. I think that’s something that’s happened over the past 40 years. Forty years ago scientists who wrote popular science... Tue, 27 Mar 2018 16:26:09 +0000 Philip Kitcher https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/hawking-dawkins-einstein-are-celebrity-scientists-just-memes-auid-1052 The Storm and the Butterfly https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-storm-and-the-butterfly-auid-662 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Rupert-Read-49.jpg" /><br />In the 19th and 20th centuries, standard economic models assumed that people would act in a rational and predictable manner. These models are flawed, of course, for if modern psychology has taught us anything it is that we are massively complex beings who are ultimately in important respects not predictable, often not rational, and certainly often rational in ways that are judged irrational by ‘experts’. We are moreover (and this is less widely understood) not predictable not only in practice but also in principle: i.e. this is not a limitation that can be overcome. For if the human future could be predicted, it would then be deliberately altered. Therefore it cannot be predicted. Human creativity and novelty and our ability to respond to predictions means that our actions cannot possibly by reliably modelled, even in principle. The same can be said to some extent of natural systems too. Many still consider these to be deterministic systems governed by the strict laws of nature. And in... Sun, 10 Apr 2016 09:45:35 +0000 Rupert Read https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-storm-and-the-butterfly-auid-662 Being Free and Making Choices https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/being-free-and-making-choices-auid-657 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Le-Grand-48.jpg" /><br />Both democracy and liberal economics rely on free choice. Yet we are all influenced by cultural norms, advertising and vested interests. Might our freedom be an illusion, and if so how can we respond? Or are our current choices sufficient to make us freer than we have ever been? Julian Le Grand is an academic specializing in public policy. He is a professor of social policy at the LSE and was a senior policy advisor to Tony Blair. He is the author of a number of books, including The Other Invisible Hand. Here Le Grand speaks to the IAI about choice, freedom, and the role of the government in individual decision-making. What did you feel was the concept of freedom during your debate? The context in which we discussed it was in terms of the welfare state, and people having choices in schools or hospitals. I think there was a general feeling that people ought to have those sorts of choices. Of course, we’re all aware that choice and the freedom that goes with it are not always easy to exe... Sun, 27 Mar 2016 11:06:11 +0000 Julian Le Grand https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/being-free-and-making-choices-auid-657 The Human Compass https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-human-compass-auid-656 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Teller-48.jpg" /><br />At the present time, extremism of all kinds seems to grow by the day, whether right-wing political nationalism in Europe, newfound xenophobia in America, or religious fundamentalism in parts of the Islamic world. The geo-politics behind the rise of fundamentalist beliefs – even of Al Qaeda, ISIS and other horrifically violent groups – in countries in conflict, like Afghanistan and Iraq, is complex, but well known. And it’s no wonder that people living under extreme duress, turn to extreme beliefs and means of response. But what are the reasons that in the richer Western world so many people, and in particular young people of many talents, choices and comforts, turn to fundamentalist ideologies? How in a digital, globalised world without the old-fashioned social control mechanisms inherent in small-scale geographically bound communities, do we halt this trend towards the perilously seductive blinding territory of one-and-only truisms?   The White Heart of Darkness When many years ago, i... Sun, 27 Mar 2016 10:52:24 +0000 Janne Teller https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-human-compass-auid-656 How To Be Human https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-to-be-human-auid-605 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/juan-gatti-ciencias-naturales-8.jpg" /><br />The word “humane” conjures the best we can be: kind, empathetic, considerate. Yet as a species we are uniquely competitive and warlike. Is this who we really are, and the source of our success? Should we encourage competition in our culture? Or seek to eradicate it as the likely cause of our own demise? Dr Finn Mackay specialises in feminist activism at the University of the West of England. In 2004 she founded the London Feminist Network, one of the largest grassroots feminist activist organisations in the country.  Here she argues that gender difference is neither natural nor inevitable and that competition does not lead to excellence, as neoliberalism would have us believe. You say that humans impose an artificial hierarchy onto all living things, yet there are hierarchies all across nature. Is it really so unnatural to be a hierarchical species? I believe that under patriarchal capitalism, a hierarchy has been imposed onto all living things. This constructed hierarchy is sanctified... Sat, 05 Dec 2015 10:17:02 +0000 Finn Mackay https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/how-to-be-human-auid-605 Suis-Je Charlie? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/suis-je-charlie-auid-597 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Brian-Klug-40.png" /><br />Nothing was more confusing in the IAI TV debate over Charlie Hebdo than the question of how to employ the language of rights. And nothing is more confused than the idea that there is a right to offend. When I speak of the language of rights I don’t mean rights that the law giveth and the law taketh away – entitlements that vary from time to time or from one jurisdiction to another. I mean fundamental rights, rights we regard as universal and inalienable: human rights. A fundamental (or human) right is a claim that each and every person, regardless of who they are, is entitled to make. But personal entitlement is not at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the main source of almost all modern human rights instruments. The UDHR was adopted by the United Nations in 1948, three years after World War Two ended and the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust were uncovered. Its preamble recalls “barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind”. Against this backg... Sat, 21 Nov 2015 22:19:37 +0000 Brian Klug https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/suis-je-charlie-auid-597 Get Real https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/get-real-auid-529 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/386-Being-Free-and-Making-Choices.ISD-3.jpg" /><br />It’s a sunny Sunday morning and I’m popping out to the corner shop with my little son in his pushchair. We are both in a carefree mood. But then I pass a BP petrol station, and I can’t help noticing that it’s bright green. How strange, I think to myself, to see a purveyor of pollution decked out in such an eco-friendly shade. Once inside the shop, I scan the shelves for a nice healthy treat. I’m tempted by tubs of Rachel’s Organic yoghurt, but then remember that they’re made by Dean Foods, the largest dairy company in America; and by Seeds of Change chocolate bars, inconveniently owned by Mars. You’d never know that, I note rather irritably, from the naturalistic, folksy packaging. And as I look for a newspaper to buy I see that the Times front page is sporting the headline ‘Cameron to Give Power to the People’. Is he now, I say to my slightly startled son. That’s a strange way to dress up public-spending cuts. My son’s eyes widen. He’s not yet used to my impromptu political rants. But... Thu, 07 May 2015 13:31:02 +0000 Eliane Glaser https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/get-real-auid-529 Ideology and The East https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/ideology-and-the-east-auid-550 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Ziauddin-Sardar-34.jpg" /><br />The brutal and rapid rise of the Islamic State has added a whole new dimension to Western foreign policy on the Middle East. With IS apparently “no weaker” after a year-long campaign of air strikes, might US militarism be exacerbating age-old misunderstandings between East and West? Or is it IS who are repeating the mistakes of the past? Critic and scholar Ziauddin Sardar is among Prospect magazine’s Top 100 Public British Intellectuals, and ‘Britain’s Own Muslim Polymath’ according to The Independent. His interests include Islamic science and transmodernity. Here he speaks to Claire Ramtuhul about interpretation and misinterpretation of Sharia law, and the history of conflict between Islam and the West. Has the West misunderstood Sharia law? What aspects of Sharia law do you think are often overlooked? First, it is important to understand that the West has always seen Islam as the alienable other. This means that, historically, the West has three main problems within Islam: the first... Fri, 31 Jul 2015 15:34:11 +0000 Ziauddin Sardar https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/ideology-and-the-east-auid-550 Beyond Left and Right https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beyond-left-and-right-auid-513 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Pippa-Malmgren-2.jpg" /><br /> The words “left” and “right” are no longer of real significance. Some people still do not understand that the debt burden in Britain and across the industrialised world is so large that it cannot be paid down. The belief persists that if taxes on the rich could be raised a bit more, that would fix it. But, even if all citizens were taxed 100% of their income, the debt burden would still surpass the income. Therefore, there is no longer a very fruitful debate to be had between the “left” and the “right”. The bigger question is: what is the appropriate relationship between the citizen and the state? After all, there is always the social contract that governs this relationship. Citizens abide by the law and pay taxes but expect the state to deliver certain outcomes in exchange. They expect a police force, a military, a certain level of universal education and a health system. What the financial crisis revealed was that the state has been over-promising for some time, possibly over the l... Sat, 21 Mar 2015 08:28:51 +0000 Pippa Malmgren https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beyond-left-and-right-auid-513 21st Century Heresy Hunting https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/21st-century-heresy-hunting-auid-491 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Frank-Furedi.jpg" /><br />Contemporary society is more comfortable with values in the plural than with a value that everyone can embrace. Instead of “the truth”, society prefers to lecture about truths. The celebration of non-judgmentalism and difference can be interpreted as a self-conscious attempt to avoid having to make moral judgments. On most issues we are free to pick and choose our beliefs and affiliations. Educators continually inform university students – especially in the social sciences and humanities – that there is no such thing as a wrong or right answer. Instead of an explicit moral code, Western society seeks to police behaviour through a diffuse rhetoric – such as appropriate and inappropriate behaviour – that avoids confronting fundamental existential questions. Paradoxically, the absence of moral clarity encourages an illiberal climate of intolerant behaviour. In a world where moralists find it difficult to clearly differentiate between right and wrong it is important that some kind of line ... Sun, 08 Feb 2015 10:29:51 +0000 Frank Furedi https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/21st-century-heresy-hunting-auid-491 The Strange Death of Liberal Democracy https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/new-gods-auid-495 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Scot-Atran-2.jpg" /><br />Decades on from George Bush’s War on Terror, the battle between liberal democracy and Islamic fundamentalism continues to rage. Whilst one is a political system, and the other an extreme form of religious ideology, is it possible that both are manifestations of the same innate human need to believe in a higher power? US anthropologist Scott Atran contends that a resolute belief in democracy is merely a modern version of our need to have faith. “To prevent the destruction of human democracy we are willing to destroy ourselves and the world,” says Atran. “All of the ideologies that have been successful since the French Revolution, that have carried people, have been salvational, secularised religious ideologies. That is, each contains the idea that we can save humanity and we have the right message.” These ideologies of salvation will go to extraordinary lengths to protect and justify themselves. Atran points to the development of the atomic bomb by way of example. “The people I knew who... Sun, 08 Feb 2015 11:07:01 +0000 IAI News Editorial Staff https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/new-gods-auid-495 The Party's Over https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-partys-over-auid-490 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Carl-Miller.jpg" /><br />Since at least the end of the Second World War, we’ve lived in an era of the mass political party. In the 1950s, three million people were members of the Conservative Party, and over a million of the Labour Party. 84% of the electorate turned out to vote, and most thought it was their democratic and civic duty to do so. Politics has changed. Today, less than 1% of the electorate is a member of a political party. At the end of 2013, Labour had around 190,000 members and the Conservatives – reportedly – 150,000. Notwithstanding recent surges in UKIP, SNP and, latterly, Green Party membership, the long decline of formal party membership is clear and general. Underneath this decline in membership has been a decline in trust. 85% of British citizens distrust political parties. And it’s not just the UK. 73% do so in Germany, and 89% in France. This shift is mostly generational. Young people are the least likely to have voted, for instance, in the 2009 European Parliament election, and the le... Sun, 08 Feb 2015 10:21:25 +0000 Carl Miller https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-partys-over-auid-490 The Real Problem with Liberalism https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/fulfilling-the-liberal-promise-auid-470 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/ggqdfqnGbPhcpaoGnfaQBrz5GHLxtqkd32qDQ-liYgk.jpg" /><br />The only political question that matters is the one asked by Plato: “What is the good?” That is how we should judge every decision and event in time. The good should be what predominates, and the good changes what exists into what ought to be. It is a revolution in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and it is exactly the kind of revolution we need today, to move conclusively beyond the failures of neoliberalism. There has never been a successful form of neoliberal economics. The legacy of neoliberal economics is the crash, the legacy is the new serfdom that we’re currently witnessing, in which more people become impoverished and reliant on welfare, while less people pay taxes – especially the corporations – for that welfare. What we have at the moment is the rhetoric of free markets and the reality of monopolies. Look at the leaders of the three main parties – each comes from a highly privileged background. In today’s society you can only really prosper if you’ve gone to the right schools,... Sat, 22 Nov 2014 16:45:06 +0000 Phillip Blond https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/fulfilling-the-liberal-promise-auid-470 The Burning Flame of Hope https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-burning-flame-of-hope-auid-472 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/209662750-826d454af2-b.jpg" /><br />The outcome of next year’s General Election is anybody’s guess. After decades of two-party politics, could coalition governments be here to stay? As the last election showed us, the “democratic majority” is becoming an increasingly nebulous entity. This time round, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg are all embroiled in their own distinct battles. Meanwhile, UKIP and the Green Party provide growing threats, and a comedian is taking up the mantle of the revolutionary. But is anyone paying attention?    Voter turnout at the last election was just 65%. It’s part of a long-term downward trend. Will that figure reach a new low in 2015, despite the anticipation surrounding the election run-up? According to columnist and author Owen Jones, it is resignation, not apathy, that’s plaguing the British public. “The problem is that there’s not much hope at the moment,” he says. “There’s a sense of general despair or defeatism, the idea that you might not like the way the world is, but it’s s... Sat, 29 Nov 2014 16:08:28 +0000 Owen Jones https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-burning-flame-of-hope-auid-472 Ending the Oil Age https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/ending-the-oil-age-auid-465 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/oil.jpg" /><br />In September 2014 the $860-million Rockefeller Foundation made an historic announcement. Timed to coincide with massive marches for climate action all over the world, the fund revealed it was going to divest from fossil fuels. Following in the footsteps of the World Council of Churches, the British Medical Association and Stanford University, the latest major institution to make such an announcement is also the most symbolic. Because the Rockefeller fortune owes its very existence to oil. The Rockefeller story is also the story of the rise and fall of the first ‘oil major’. Standard Oil, founded by John D Rockefeller in 1870, soon came to control the burgeoning US oil industry, from extraction to refining to transportation to retail. It built an unprecedented monopoly that became so publicly despised that the US government broke it up – birthing Exxon, Mobil and Chevron, among others. The forced break-up created the Rockefeller millions. A century later, those millions are being used t... Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:43:03 +0000 Jess Worth https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/ending-the-oil-age-auid-465 Why We Work Too Much https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-we-work-too-much-auid-397 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/thedevilswork2.JPG" /><br />The three-day week, advocated recently by the Mexican multimillionaire, Carlos Slim, is such an obviously good thing, like freshly-ground coffee and reading to children, that I can’t be bothered to argue in favour of it. The real issue is feasibility. Is it possible? I believe so because I’ve done it myself. As a lecturer, I always tried to get my week’s teaching into three days, by working evenings, so I could have the other two free for writing. The catch is that this was successful only because I took care to let no one know what I was doing. Officially I was still working five days and so there was no offence to the five-day mindset. The problem is that the five-day week is so long established it seems God given. And in fact this is partly true – it is a consequence of the combined interventions of God and Henry Ford, a formidable partnership. The six-day week was based on the time taken by God to create the world, a fact He should never have revealed (though few can resist braggi... Mon, 11 Aug 2014 01:08:39 +0000 Michael Foley https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/why-we-work-too-much-auid-397 On the Spot: George Galloway https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/on-the-spot-george-galloway-auid-449 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/800px-George-Galloway-2007-02-24.jpg" /><br />Who is the most significant living figure in global politics, and why? Well there is the most prominent one for sure, and that is Barack Obama, and not for the right reasons. I had great hopes for him when he was elected but these have gone entirely unfulfilled. He has acted, particularly on foreign policy, in exactly the ways of his predecessors. But for the most significant I'd go for Xi Jinping, the president of China. The country has developed amazingly in the last two decades – I'd hazard unprecedentedly – but it is going to become the dominant superpower in my lifetime, I'm sure. Of course it has its internal problems, currently over Hong Kong, but the country under successive leaders, now Xi Jinping, has been transformed into an economic and cultural powerhouse. I'll certainly be trying to convince my youngest that he should study Chinese at school. What makes a good idea great?   Putting it into practice, surely. We all have them, lying in the bath or when we're daydreaming or ... Fri, 03 Oct 2014 12:35:24 +0000 IAI News Editorial Staff https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/on-the-spot-george-galloway-auid-449 A Great British Conspiracy https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/auid-428-auid-428 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Barrister.jpg" /><br />Victims of Yalta was first published in Britain in 1978. Over ensuing weeks, the scandal it provoked filled the press, and resulted in numerous radio and television interviews. Among media and public alike, the reaction was one of almost universal horror and disgust at what could only be regarded as major war crimes. Particular obloquy was directed against the then British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, and his underlings in the Northern Department of the Foreign Office. The generally reluctant role played by British troops in despatching hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, to what Harold Macmillan blithely anticipated as ‘slavery, torture, and probably death’ at the hands of the Soviets, was viewed with mingled dismay and compassion. Feeling ran so high, that before long a committee was formed of members of the three principal political parties and both Houses of Parliament, to raise funds for erection of a monument to the memory of the victims. The only opposition of... Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:33:27 +0000 Nikolai Tolstoy https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/auid-428-auid-428 Tweet Truth to Power https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/tweet-truth-to-power-auid-488 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Steve-Richards.jpg" /><br />Green Party membership is rising fast. The recent “Green Surge” has seen the party’s membership overtake both UKIP and the Lib Dems in recent weeks. But will this translate into votes come the next General Election? Voter turnout at the last election was just 65%. It’s part of a long-term downward trend. At the same time, politics is becoming increasingly engulfed by short-lived social media storms – such as the 2014 resignation of Labour MP Emily Thornberry or the hashtag #cameronmustgo which trended on Twitter for nearly a week and garnered some 800,000 interactions within days. Has social media democratised political self-expression or is it actually contributing to a crisis of political participation? Steve Richards is a columnist for the Independent and presenter of the BBC's Week in Westminster. He has over 26,000 followers on Twitter and was recently ranked the 34th most influential person on the Left by the Daily Telegraph. With a career spanning a range of media, from BBC poli... Sat, 17 Jan 2015 10:11:59 +0000 Steve Richards https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/tweet-truth-to-power-auid-488 Climate Change: a Rhetoric of Risk https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/climate-change-and-the-rhetoric-of-risk-auid-388 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Climate-change-Benny-Peiser-1.jpg" /><br />Benny Peiser is a social anthropologist best known for his work on the portrayal of climate change. The founder of CCNet, a leading climate policy network, Peiser is co-editor of the journal Energy and Environment and director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Following the BBC's recent decision to uphold a complaint against comments made by climate change sceptic Lord Lawson on the Today programme, we spoke to Peiser about scientific consensus and climate change in the media.   The BBC's head of editorial complaint recently said that Lord Lawson’s views are not supported by any evidence from such things as computer modelling scientific research; thus, they should strengthen their editorial procedures to avoid misleading the public. Do you think there is such a thing as a unanimous scientific consensus about climate change today? I think this is irrelevant. I mean, there is a general agreement on CO2 and greenhouse gas: that we are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere and that this ... Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:49:32 +0000 Benny Peiser https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/climate-change-and-the-rhetoric-of-risk-auid-388 Democracy on Trial https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/democracy-on-trial-auid-374 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/democracy.jpg" /><br />Jamie Whyte is a philosopher turned management consultant whose books – including Bad Thoughts – dissect flawed reasoning. Whyte is leader of the free market party ACT in New Zealand. Below he discusses the possible future of democracy, the power of the English legal system, and why freedom of movement is the surest sign of good democracies.   Do you think democracy will be a flash in the pan of history? If so, what do you think will succeed it? I think the way to answer that question is to note that all systems of government are ultimately democratic in so far as the sovereign power is accountable to the people. It may be messy, it may be that the people overthrow the monarch, but there’s always some level of accountability. Even in the medieval period, there was the notion of kings who ruled with the consent of their people, and those who didn’t were considered tyrants. What we have today is a democratic system that avoids the need for bloody overthrows: you get a vote and its all v... Wed, 18 Jun 2014 21:05:20 +0000 Jamie Whyte https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/democracy-on-trial-auid-374 On Heresy https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/on-heresy-auid-371 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Heresy-2-flickr.jpg" /><br />Laurie Penny is a columnist for New Statesman and the author of Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism. In 2010, her blog Penny Red was nominated for the Orwell Prize. Below, she discusses the differences between heresy and controversy and the importance, for democratic societies of people who challenge authority.   Should we celebrate heretics? Well, I think that the British political culture (in particular) is very in love with the idea of controversy and very much likes the façade of high-profile disagreement, debate and iconoclasm for its own sake. The difference between everyday controversy and heresy, particularly useful heresy, is that heresy is the telling of particular truths that either expose authority and oligarchy or undermine its premise. This is why Galileo and Darwin were considered heretics, but Isaac Newton and Louis Pasteur were not. Not all heretics set out to be iconoclastic and to challenge power. If you go down the centuries and look at people who have been ... Tue, 03 Jun 2014 23:43:57 +0000 Laurie Penny https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/on-heresy-auid-371 Rationalising Suicide https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/rationalising-suicide-auid-350 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Euth.jpg" /><br />Michael Irwin is an ex-GP and former Medical Director of the United Nations. He is a humanist and secular activist, who, since 2005, has sponsored the National Secular Society's £5000 Secularist of the Year award, known as the Irwin Prize. He is a prominent campaigner for voluntary euthanasia. We asked him about the relationship between the state and the individual in matters of life, death, and liberty.             The government often takes measures to keep us from self-harm, but is this a violation of liberal principles? Of course not. Four other European countries – Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Switzerland – have the right attitudes. Their governments have adopted good right-to-die laws, which I believe should be applied to the UK. Is the state too overbearing or is the balance between freedom and protection just right? In the UK today, in general, this balance is about right. But, basically, the right to die is a philosophical and medical matter. Firstly, who owns m... Sat, 19 Apr 2014 17:17:08 +0000 Michael Irwin https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/rationalising-suicide-auid-350 Nomads and Neoliberal Society https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/nomads-and-neoliberal-society-auid-341 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/7Lp8uUvUUBQshIWNh3sp7zaffJK3nBwnE3G1w8p7pqk.jpg" /><br />Marcel Theroux is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, broadcaster and the face of BBC4. He was born in Kampala, Uganda, where his father, travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux was teaching at Makerere University, and then spent two years in Singapore before coming to London. His most recent book, Strange Bodies, is published by Faber &amp; Faber.   Do you think that the nomad is an occidental myth invented by Romantic philosophers? I think we have to be a bit careful because people mean different things when they use the word &quot;nomad”. It's come to mean something like &quot;rootless wanderer&quot;, with connotations of freedom and rebellion and living outside society. But to an anthropologist, or a historian, nomadism describes a particular way of life: the way of life of people who have no settled home. Historically, nomads moved around to follow migrating animals, or because they lived in areas where the soil was too poor to support settled agriculture. In northern Siberia, for instance, the... Sun, 06 Apr 2014 20:37:40 +0000 Marcel Theroux https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/nomads-and-neoliberal-society-auid-341 Europe's Philosophical Rivalry https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/europes-philosophical-rivalry-auid-353 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Union-Jack-and-the-european-flag.jpg" /><br /> In an article in the Telegraph under the title “Europe’s dogmatic ruling class remains wedded to its folly”, Peter Oborne draws the quarrels over Britain’s future in the European Union into relation to age-old philosophical rivalries: “The problem is that European and British leaders tend to come from rival intellectual traditions”: “In Britain, empiricism – most closely associated with Hume, though its roots can be traced back to William of Ockham and others – is the native inheritance. Empiricism insists that all knowledge of fact must be based on experience. Most European schools of philosophy claim the exact opposite, namely that ideas are the only things that truly exist. This school of metaphysical idealism can be traced back through Hegel (for whom history itself is the realisation of an idea) and Kant to Plato. Anglo-Saxon empiricism and the idealism found on the Continent therefore prescribe directly opposite courses of political conduct.” Oborne’s attempt to align contempora... Sat, 19 Apr 2014 17:29:34 +0000 Simon Glendinning https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/europes-philosophical-rivalry-auid-353 The Virtues of the Table https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-virtues-of-the-table-auid-322 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Baggini1.jpg" /><br />Julian Baggini makes an unlikely iconoclast. The author of The Ego Trick and Everytown is best known for bringing philosophy to the masses, not pricking our intellectual vanities. But although his new book, The Virtues of the Table, may do for gastronomy what Alain de Botton did for Heathrow, it’s also an assault on one of humanity’s most comforting delusions: the notion that rational thought can somehow deliver us from the needs of the flesh.   Think of an archetypal philosopher and you’ll see just how deeply this myth is ingrained in our culture. Are you imagining a corpulent hedonist or a scrawny ascetic nourished only by his genius? It’s a ludicrously unrealistic image, of course; Baggini reminds us that David Hume for one was a proud glutton and the creator of a sheep’s head broth that was the talk of Edinburgh. But it’s philosophers themselves who have encouraged the idea. “Even philosophers who do enjoy their food don’t tend to talk about it,” Baggini says. “The philosophical bi... Mon, 24 Feb 2014 22:37:06 +0000 IAI News Editorial Staff https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-virtues-of-the-table-auid-322 What is a 'Good War'? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/what-is-a-good-war-auid-334 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Dennis-Marks.jpeg" /><br />About this time last year, I remember watching the funeral of Baroness Thatcher being celebrated in St Paul’s cathedral at a public cost of £10 million. Although it could not be a state funeral, the addition of a gun carriage and a troop of soldiers mirrored Churchill’s military interment half a century ago. At the front of the congregation sat Tony Blair, then recently resurrected into national political life. Is it fanciful to detect a link between Thatcher’s death and Blair’s resurrection? All that week, the British media was crowded with editorials stressing Blair’s debt to Thatcher – primarily in neo-liberal economic policy, but also in controversial foreign adventures. As the walls of Christopher Wren’s masterpiece echoed the tramping boots of the Baroness’ cortege, memories of war overcome contemplation. The few distinguished transatlantic guests only reinforced the military theme. America was represented, not by its President or current Secretary of State, but by Dick Cheney an... Sat, 22 Mar 2014 22:31:03 +0000 Dennis Marks https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/what-is-a-good-war-auid-334 Is Modernity Biodegradable? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/is-modernity-biodegradable-auid-343 The American biologist Edward Wilson once said that the human species is an &quot;environmental abnormality&quot;. We rationalise the destruction of the planet as if we live somewhere else. And, we are now told (in a 2013 paper presented to the Royal Society) that we may be seeing the end of this civilisation if we don’t change our ways and change them  soon. Yet we continue to behave like those poor souls on the Titanic who couldn’t stop dancing even after their ship had hit an iceberg. It does not seem to have entered our consciousness that if the planet suffers, we suffer, and that we have nowhere else to go. We have lost sight of ourselves as being a part of nature,  that destroying the natural world means destroying ourselves. By alienating ourselves from nature we have reduced it, and by extension ourselves, to an exploitable resource. In the Islamic tradition, we are required to submit ourselves to the divine presence, not dominate the natural world to serve our consumerist appetites. So,... Sun, 06 Apr 2014 20:46:48 +0000 Fazlun Khalid https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/is-modernity-biodegradable-auid-343 DIY DNA https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diy-dna-auid-311 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/why-oh-why.jpg" /><br />I had the perfect present lined up for my father this Christmas. For a recently retired surgeon what better gift than a personal genomics kit from 23andme. Its ongoing stream of genetic self-insight would provide him with a medical amuse bouche via a spit-and-send kit wired up to an internet profile. And since our debate at HowTheLightGetsIn last year, the price of 23andme had bottomed out from $699 to $99, placing it well within my budget.  Unfortunately my pre-festive brainwave came on the 23rd of November, the day after the FDA sent out a cease-and-desist letter to 23andme ordering the company to stop marketing a product that repeatedly failed to prove its predictive calculations. Apart from thwarting my idea, the cease-and-desist letter went on to trigger the most widespread series of debates to date regarding the validity of unfettered access to medical information. From the New Yorker to the Daily Mail the pros and cons were laid out, establishing battle lines of of paternalism v... Sat, 25 Jan 2014 16:30:06 +0000 Matt Jameson Evans https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diy-dna-auid-311 An Irreconcilable Conflict https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/an-irreconcilable-conflict-auid-310 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Chess-bw4.jpg" /><br />The internet is, like the printing press and papyrus before it, “a good thing”. Yet, it seems that this quantum leap in our ability to access information comes at a cost that we have yet to value fully. The reasons for this are interesting. We in the West are only slowly beginning to grasp that our love of rationality and factual knowledge, and the remarkable comforts it seems to have brought, is happening at the expense of other equally vital aspects of our nature such as ethics, memory and common sense. Thinkers from fields as diverse as art, politics, psychology and neuroscience are beginning to realise that all information – useful or otherwise – is processed and understood in an emotionally charged context. Human beings are inherently social creatures and so one of the most vital sources of emotional charge lies in the way we relate to other people. Emotions are, after all, social events.  The way in which our emotions modulate and even control the conclusions that we draw from fu... Sat, 25 Jan 2014 16:19:03 +0000 Mark Salter https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/an-irreconcilable-conflict-auid-310 In Memoriam Tony Benn https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/in-memoriam-tony-benn-auid-340 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Why-I-am-a-Bennite.jpg" /><br />I have been a “Bennite” (which became a considerable term of abuse in the 1980s) since the 1960s. I was brought up in a Labour household in which the premiership of Harold Wilson was the sun and Mr Benn was the brightest of the many stars clustered around that Labour cabinet. There were so many stars – James Callaghan, Roy Jenkins, Barbara Castle, Tony Crosland, Richard Crossman, Dennis Healey, George Brown – but even in that company, the young, fresh-faced, bursting with ideas Wedgwood-Benn (as he was then known) stood out. For us he seemed to exemplify the “white-hot heat” of the “technological revolution” – Mr Wilson’s wheeze for disguising his socialist purpose from a hostile media and the “Gnomes of Zurich” who, even then with their financial power had the means of destroying any real Labour government. Mr Benn was brim-full of innovative unorthodoxy, and seemed just what the doctor ordered. From his heroic (and successful) fight to remain in the Commons upon the death of his fath... Sat, 22 Mar 2014 23:11:52 +0000 George Galloway https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/in-memoriam-tony-benn-auid-340 Live Fast, Die Young https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/live-fast-die-young-auid-284 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/282011600x1200-wallpcrop.jpg" /><br />Each day we embark on a small personal epic: to earn money, to survive, to nurture our families; also, to contend with the trials of being “realistic” or at least convincing to others. I am a novelist and one of the philosophical notions that particularly concerns me is this idea of “realism”. Realism is, as social and aesthetic judgment, almost always positive and set against its disreputable opposite, “unrealism”. People are rebuked for “unrealistic expectations”, advised instead to “be realistic”, to “get real”. Likewise, “realist” novels are supposed to represent “real life”. But what does this even mean? Even as you strive to respond to society’s calls – to be the adult, the parent, the employee – you are bemused by rival selves, former calls. You intuit an unchanging kernel self, deep within, your thoughts drift through imaginary futures. We live with one foot in the wider world of cultural creeds and givens, otherwise, as Larkin wrote in Days, we soon come to the notice of “the ... Thu, 05 Dec 2013 14:09:42 +0000 Joanna Kavenna https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/live-fast-die-young-auid-284 What Shall We Tell the Children? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/what-shall-we-tell-the-children-auid-280 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/lucidity4.jpg" /><br />&quot;Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,&quot; the proverb goes. Like most proverbs, this one captures at least part of the truth, but is also in part obviously false. The fact is that words can hurt. For a start, they can hurt people indirectly by inciting others to hurt them: a crusade preached by a pope, racist propaganda from the Nazis, malevolent gossip from a rival... They can hurt people, not so indirectly, by inciting them to take actions that harm themselves: the lies of a false prophet, the blackmail of a bully, the flattery of a seducer... And words can hurt directly, too: the lash of a malicious tongue, the dreaded message carried by a telegram, the spiteful onslaught that makes the hearer beg his tormentor say no more. Sometimes indeed mere words can kill outright. There is a story by Christopher Cherniak about a deadly &quot;word-virus&quot; that appeared one night on a computer screen. It took the form of a brain-teaser, a riddle, so paradoxical that it fata... Thu, 05 Dec 2013 13:00:06 +0000 Nicholas Humphrey https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/what-shall-we-tell-the-children-auid-280 Science Says So https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/science-says-so-auid-255 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/presidential-leadership2.jpg" /><br />“Gravity exists. The world is round. Climate change is happening.”So tweeted Barack Obama's advocacy group Organizing for Action on Monday, adding the hashtag #ScienceSaysSo. Had the hashtag read #ThePresidentSaysSo, no one would have bought the bogus appeal to authority. But many will buy the appeal to scientific authority.Few nowadays defer to the traditional authority figures of old – parents, priests or politicians. But many are inclined to take scientists' word for things. If scientists say that anthropogenic climate change is happening, well, then anthropogenic climate change is happening. (Mr. Obama's tweeters must mean anthropogenic climate change, since no one denies that the climate is changing, as it always does.)Deference to scientists is sometimes warranted. But the general deference to science suggested by President Obama and other campaigners is absurd. It underestimates the variety of science and the incentives scientists have to exaggerate the credibility of their theo... Sat, 23 Nov 2013 12:47:38 +0000 Jamie Whyte https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/science-says-so-auid-255 The Tribe of Science https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-tribe-of-science-auid-814 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/ScaleWidthWzE1MF0/Sheldrake-2.jpg" /><br />Scientists, like everyone else, are social animals, and at any given time work within a shared set of assumptions and methods, often called a paradigm. But the current scientific paradigm or worldview is immensely influential. It goes beyond the subtribes of scientists, each within their specialized discipline, because the sciences have been so successful. Their achievements touch all our lives through technologies and through modern medicine. Our intellectual world has been transformed through an immense expansion of our knowledge, down to the most microscopic particles of matter and out into the vastness of space, with hundreds of billions of galaxies in an ever-expanding universe.But now that science and technology seem to be at the peak of their powers, when their influence has spread all over the world and when their triumph seems indisputable, unexpected problems are disrupting the sciences from within. Most scientists take it for granted that these problems will eventually be so... Mon, 10 Apr 2017 10:01:27 +0000 Rupert Sheldrake https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-tribe-of-science-auid-814