All entries by this author

Normblog Writer’s Choice: Russell Blackford *

May 12th, 2009 | Filed by

Stranger in a Strange Land has some of the characteristics of a monomyth, some of those of an encyclopaedia.… Read the rest

The Demjanjuk Case *

May 12th, 2009 | Filed by

The German judiciary is making the point that no one is immune from justice – even sixty years later.… Read the rest

AIRRA Update on Swat *

May 12th, 2009 | Filed by

The ongoing militancy in Swat and the military operation has caused huge hardships for the population of the area. … Read the rest

Hans Holzer, Ghost Scholar *

May 12th, 2009 | Filed by

The Other Side is run by a bureaucracy; spirits must ask permission and list their motives to contact mediums.… Read the rest

Let’s Ask God What To Do *

May 12th, 2009 | Filed by

Lisbon Treaty will secure a stronger consultative role for European religions in EU policy making.… Read the rest

UAE: Torture Sheikh Arrested *

May 12th, 2009 | Filed by

Video showed the sheik torturing a grain dealer with whips, cattle prods, and a plank with protruding nails.… Read the rest

Girls Punished for Being Born Female *

May 12th, 2009 | Filed by

Five girls went briefly into comas, nearly 100 were taken to hospital after a gas attack on their school.… Read the rest

Afghanistan: 84 Schoolgirls Gassed *

May 12th, 2009 | Filed by

A new way to keep girls from going to school: gas them.… Read the rest

O Who Hath Seen the Elephant’s Wings? *

May 11th, 2009 | Filed by

No one, but no matter, the sapient amongst us know they are there, hidden away inside the quantum.… Read the rest

Jeddah Judge Approves Woman-hitting *

May 11th, 2009 | Filed by

If a person gives money to his wife and she spends some on an abaya and he slaps her, she deserves it.… Read the rest

Salman Rushdie’s New Story ‘In the South’ *

May 11th, 2009 | Filed by

Abundance gave the ascetically inclined Senior a permanent low-level headache.… Read the rest

Reporters Without Borders Hails Saberi Release *

May 11th, 2009 | Filed by

The appeal court’s decision can be used as a legal precedent for other journalists detained in Iran.… Read the rest

Roxana Saberi is Out of Evin Prison *

May 11th, 2009 | Filed by

She is free to leave Iran.… Read the rest

Dial-a-fatwa to Launch in UK *

May 11th, 2009 | Filed by

Will draw on the ‘expertise’ of scholars from al-Azhar to tell people how to lead an Islamic life.… Read the rest

Measuring the Books: Truth Claims in Islam and its Others

May 11th, 2009 | By R. Joseph Hoffmann

All religions make truth claims. These may be specific, as in the form of particular doctrines—heaven, hell, the trinity, the virginity of Mary—or more general: the finality of the Prophet, the exclusive role of the Church as a means of grace and salvation, the belief in the divine election of the Jews.

What is not so widely acknowledged is that these claims of truth are supported by a set of rationales, or to use Van Harvey’s famous term, “warrants” that provide security and confidence to adherents of the religious tradition.

The warrants are seldom available in the sacred writings and doctrines explicitly, but they are often observable in teaching, interpretation and conduct. The three book religions, which often have been … Read the rest

Thinking we know what we don’t know

May 11th, 2009 11:30 am | By

I read something very interesting in an interview with Timothy Williamson the other day.

Not long ago I had a revealing discussion with a professor of ancient Greek literature, who was convinced that, by contrast with the tradition of Sartre, Foucault and Derrida, contemporary analytic philosophy had nothing useful to offer the study of poetry ― a common view in departments of literature. He claimed that it could not handle phenomena such as meaning more than one says. I discovered that he didn’t know of the analytic philosopher Paul Grice’s analysis of just such phenomena, which has had a huge impact on linguistics as well as philosophy. The point is that he had never even looked at Grice’s book (

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Papal absence of mind

May 11th, 2009 10:53 am | By

The pope’s a funny guy. The right hand knoweth not what the left hand getteth up to. The right hand has an attention deficit.

During his address in Amman, the pontiff called on Jordan’s Muslims and Christians to work together to improve their society. “Some assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world and so they argue that the lesser attention given to religion in the public sphere the better,” he said…”However, is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society?”

Yes…but…but Herr Rotweiler, sir, have you not noticed … Read the rest

States of feeling, and of thought coloured by feeling

May 10th, 2009 4:05 pm | By

You know how John Stuart Mill had a mental crisis, and became unable to take pleasure in anything. One thing that helped him was reading Wordsworth. Byron was no good to him, Byron was too melancholy himself, but Wordsworth was just the thing – ‘the miscellaneous poems, in the two-volume edition of 1815,’ to be exact.

“In the first place, these poems addressed themselves powerfully to one of the strongest of my pleasurable susceptibilities, the love of rural objects and natural scenery; to which I had been indebted not only for much of the pleasure of my life, but quite recently for relief from one of my longest relapses into depression. In this power of rural beauty over me, there … Read the rest


May 10th, 2009 1:07 pm | By

God damn spammers. They keep coming back. I’m having to spend two hours a day cleaning the god damn ads for viagra and xanax and the rest of it out of old comments. Miserable blood-sucking bastards.

[beats head against wall until the blood runs]… Read the rest

The Literature of Putative Blokes *

May 10th, 2009 | Filed by

Amis, Larkin, Osborne and Tynan had blokish tastes but they remained stubbornly literary.… Read the rest