Many of my best friends think that some of my deeply held beliefs about important issues are obviously false or even nonsense. Sometimes, they tell me so to my face. How can we still be friends? Part of the answer is that these friends and I are philosophers, and philosophers learn how to deal with positions on the edge of sanity. In addition, I explain and give arguments for my claims, and they patiently listen and reply with arguments of their own against my – and for their – stances. By exchanging reasons in the form of arguments, we show each other respect and come to understand each other better.
Before 2012, if you had voiced suspicions that the Australian government had been anything but open and honourable in dealing with East Timor – its newly independent but impoverished neighbour – you would likely have been dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. But it was then revealed Australian Secret Intelligence Service agents had bugged East Timor’s cabinet office during treaty negotiations over oil and gas fields.
Life extension – using science to slow or halt human aging so that people live far longer than they do naturally – may one day be possible.
Imagine that someone you care about is procrastinating in advance of a vital exam. If he fails the test, he will not be able to go to university, an eventuality of major consequence in his life. If positive encouragement doesn’t work, you might reverse strategy, making your friend feel so bad, so worried, so scared, that the only strategy left is that he starts studying like mad.
Most religious people think their morality comes from their religion. And deeply religious people often wonder how atheists can have any morality at all.
Astrobiology, the study of extra-terrestrial life seeks to discover the essential features common to life anywhere in the universe, and especially “intelligent life,” organisms anywhere that can communicate with language.
It seems indisputable that there are holes. For example, there are keyholes, black holes and sinkholes; and there are holes in things such as sieves, golf courses and doughnuts. We come into the world through holes, and when we die many of us will be put into specially dug holes. But what arethese holes and what are they made of? One of the big philosophical questions about holes is whether they are actually things themselves or, as the German-Jewish writer Kurt Tucholsky suggested in ‘The Social Psychology of Holes’ (1931), whether they are just ‘where something isn’t’. To help us investigate this issue, let us first dissect the anatomy of the hole.
Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the wilfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: ‘I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says, and I have a right to believe it!’ But is there such a right?
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — still a widely misunderstood event, but one that divided the recent history of the world into “before” and “after” — the French philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard floated a hypothesis that many Americans, including some on the left, found shocking or unacceptable. The destruction of the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan, which Baudrillard described as “the ‘mother’ of all events, the pure event uniting within itself all the events that have never taken place,” represented for him the fulfillment of a collective desire, reflecting a “deep-seated complicity” between the dominant world order and those who would destroy it. “The West, in the position of God,” Baudrillard wrote, “has become suicidal, and declared war on itself.”
The following is an excerpt from The True Life by Alain Badiou, translated by Susan Spitzer (Polity Press, May 2017):
Next week we will mark the 100th day that Donald Trump has been president of the United States. Tens of millions of Americans are still in a state of shock. These 100 days have made them feel like enemy outsiders in their own country.