Showing posts from May, 2017


One thing that makes philosophers unique among academics is just how often, and how fervently, they defend the importance of the subject. Almost every university has a ‘Why study philosophy?’ page, selling the subject to potential undergrads. Very few universities, as far as I’m aware, have a ‘Why study biology?’ page. The first question seems to require answering in a way that the second doesn’t. So whenever some celebrity-scientist questions the point of philosophy, you get one-hundred furious responses from philosophers arguing for the importance and even  urgency  of tackling philosophical problems. Philosophical reflection, they tell us, is vital. "As far as I’m concerned philosophy is the most important subject of all because other subjects get their importance by how they relate to the larger issues. And that’s what philosophy is about – the larger issues." – John Searle, New Philosopher "When someone asks 'what’s the use of philosophy


One of my professors at Oxford used to say “the beginning of wisdom in philosophy is to learn not to jump straight in to answering questions but to begin by questioning the questions themselves.” Granted, this is exactly the kind of saying that tends to give philosophy a bad name, but we’ve got to side with him in this case. What is a philosopher? As you might expect, philosophers can’t even agree on this. Here’s a selection of definitions that have been proposed over the years: A lover of wisdom This is the definition you get by analysing the etymology of the word. ‘Philo’ is Greek for love and ‘sophos’ is Greek for wisdom. Ergo, a philosopher is a lover of wisdom. I think this is an overly-romantic definition for what is often, in its current guise, a thoroughly unromantic discipline. When I hear the word ‘wisdom’ I think of an old woman who knows what’s important in life. She’s got a healthy sense of perspective and is untroubled by small anxietie


Until about three years ago, I was very much a Two Door Cinema Club kind of person. I liked the kind of guitar bands you’d find on the FIFA soundtrack, the kind that made good background music for looking out the window of the bus. Without wishing to sound too dramatic, that all changed around the end of 2013. I was in the bar at uni with some friends and someone came in with their laptop – I don’t remember who – and said something like ‘Guys look at this Kanye West music video.’ Then all of a sudden we’re watching and it’s the landscapes and the horses and the piano and Kanye is on the motorbike with Kim in front of that shitty background. And the whole thing sounds a bit slow and disjointed, like there’s too much going on and none of it fits together quite right. It was pretty funny at the time. I watched it a few more times over the next couple days and found myself saying ‘uh huh honey’ under my breath. I downloaded the song onto my phone, got bored of it about

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