Here are the articles on Philosophy
Under postmodernism many ideas that were seen as objectively true came to be seen as mere constructions of language. Foucault refers to them as ‘discourses’ that construct knowledge. Consequently, since discourses are believed to create and maintain oppression, they have to be carefully monitored and deconstructed. This is not some obscure academic issue, it is the outlook that is behind calls for laws to outlaw speech which may cause offense.
Moral grandstanding is an ever-present, seductive force. It may feel impossible to avoid for many of us, but it is necessary to do so if we want to coexist meaningfully with each other. Next time you feel the urge to make a moral proclamation, consider whether you are actually advancing a cause, or yourself.
Is the world a better place? Opinions vary, though the enduring Western-centric belief is that humankind has never had it better. This belief is commonly espoused by technologists who praise the information age for ushering in a new era of opportunity and prosperity. The information age, coupled with industrialization, has certainly shaped the world in ways previously thought unimaginable. Advances in technology have transformed everyday life. Facial recognition software. Artificial intelligence. Microchip implants. Renewable energy. Genetic engineering. A revolutionary mRNA vaccine designed in just two days.
Given all this progress, it’s hard not to believe in the “prosperity presumption,” the belief that the world, as a whole, is getting better. Indeed, techno-utopians who adhere to the prosperity presumption also hold the belief that any form of technological stagnation is antithetical to progress. Some of the biggest technologists fall under this category.
Sophie Watson joins me to chat about her experience at Cambridge University, where she is currently working on an undergraduate dissertation about surrogacy. (Sophie’s proposed dissertation topic was detransition, but her advisors told her they would not and could not oversee this project, deterring her from writing it). In November 2020, Sophie published a piece in Unherd called “Cambridge is censoring any dissent on trans issues” about the student campaign against Kevin Price, a porter at Clare College who resigned as Labour Councillor rather than agree with a motion that included the statement “transwomen are women.”
In this episode we talk about some logical/argumentative fallacies and how they might pertain to the gender debate and identity politics in general.
Whether subconscious or not, most of us seek out rituals or initiations in whichever way we can. In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell writes, “Young people just grab this stuff. Mythology teaches you what’s behind literature and the arts, it teaches you about your own life. It’s a great, exciting, life-nourishing subject.” Kids are naturally drawn to mythology, but they seek myths out in different ways – in the 80s and 90s, kids found them in film and television, now they are found primarily through their digital devices.
Much of our rituals today do not support personal growth or transformation, instead they serve to confuse and disorient. And in the absence of myths altogether, personal transformation isn’t possible. According to Campbell, “The absence of myth is the absence of psychological transformation.”
A blog called Nullius in Verba could quite easily be about how brilliant and important science is. I am, amongst all the other hundred or so things I mentioned earlier (daughter, sister, student, friend, ex, dog-lover, prickly, undecided, uncertain…), a scientist. I became a scientist that day in the lecture hall, in the first term of my first year of university, the first time I heard the words nullius in verba. Thank you Horace. I love science - it’s a sharp, keen love, which I often feel stirring inside me and trying to come out at inconvenient moments. So, for lack of a more sophisticated expression, I have a horse in that race. Whichever career the older, perhaps slightly more certain version of myself chooses - and, in all honesty, I don’t think it will be in a laboratory - one of the things that I am, for better or worse, will always be a scientist. But this isn’t, after all, a blog about the brilliance and importance of science. It’s a blog about uncertainty. My uncertainty. And when I say “Nullius in verba,” I don’t mean quite the same thing as the scientist does.