All entries by this author

Too Polite and Agreeable *

Dec 2nd, 2002 | Filed by

Does ecofeminism even deserve a mention? Denis Dutton asks… Read the rest

“Talking too properly” *

Dec 2nd, 2002 | Filed by

Can identity politics make school seem “white”?… Read the rest

Hattersley on Rawls *

Dec 2nd, 2002 | Filed by

Rawls replaced evasion with precision, making bluster unnecessary when enemies of equality asked awkward questions.… Read the rest

Narrative or Ideas?

Dec 1st, 2002 8:26 pm | By

A couple of ideas that we’re interested in at Butterflies and Wheels were the focal points of a discussion among three historians I saw on tv recently. The US channel C-Span put Eric Foner, Robert Caro and Edmund Morris together to talk about the differences between popular and academic history, which is one issue that interests us, and in discussing that they also touched on the question of how to avoid the distorting effects of ideology in writing history. Edmund Morris is a popular biographer, who got a lot of attention, much of it derisive, for inserting himself, Zelig-like, into his biography of Ronald Reagan.
He asserted, in an emphatic and even truculent manner, that some history is “thematic” but … Read the rest

Green Spoon Worm Inhales Husband *

Dec 1st, 2002 | Filed by

David Barash reviews Olivia Judson’s book of sex advice for animals; disputes her definition of promiscuity, but on the whole approves.… Read the rest

Time for Psychologists to Join the Darwinian Revolution *

Nov 30th, 2002 | Filed by

Frans de Waal’s new book examines the potential of evolutionary approaches to the social sciences, and also the misapplications.… Read the rest

Who is Funding the Research? *

Nov 30th, 2002 | Filed by

Advertising disguised as news, a trap that even reporters don’t always see.… Read the rest

Permanent Correction

Nov 29th, 2002 9:42 pm | By

Fashionable nonsense is a perennial subject, almost by definition. Time passes and fashions change, therefore at any given moment there is likely to be some fashionable and/or conventional wisdom around that needs correcting. Alan Ryan’s obituary for John Rawls in today’s Independent reminds us that Rawls’ theory of justice was among other things a correction of the views of the logical positivists and the utilitarians. Those views were a correction in their turn, and so back and back it goes. Humans being what they are, it can’t really be any other way: we always make mistakes of one kind or another, all we can do is keep patiently correcting each other, trying again, taking it with a good grace when … Read the rest

They Respectfully Disagree *

Nov 29th, 2002 | Filed by

Christopher Hitchens and Katha Pollitt argue about The Nation, Iraq, Viagra, Norman Mailer, pacifism, guilt by association, whither the left, and more.… Read the rest

Greatest Happiness v. Winners and Losers *

Nov 29th, 2002 | Filed by

Alan Ryan explains John Rawls’ insight into the flaw in Utilitarianism.… Read the rest

GM Foods Could Be Good For You *

Nov 29th, 2002 | Filed by

Are unthinking objections to genetically modified food indicative of a world view which is at odds with the rational, open and questioning values of science?… Read the rest

Universities and Egalitarianism *

Nov 28th, 2002 | Filed by

Arnold and Huxley, Leavis and Snow, dustmen and doctors, prostitution and debt, tuition or taxation, all part of the argument.… Read the rest

Impostor Syndrome and Banal Jokes *

Nov 28th, 2002 | Filed by

Susan Greenfield discusses women in science.… Read the rest

Oh So That’s What Truth Is! *

Nov 27th, 2002 | Filed by

“We will defend it because it is truth, and you can’t deny truth.” Thus spake the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court of his monument to the Ten Commandments.… Read the rest

Where is the Outrage? *

Nov 27th, 2002 | Filed by

Salman Rushdie ponders all the new ‘Rushdies’ that are springing up around the world.… Read the rest

The Group

Nov 26th, 2002 6:02 pm | By

Malcolm Gladwell, in whimsical vein, writes in The New Yorker about the non-obvious connection between comedy-writing teams and groups that stimulate and encourage the creation of philosophy, psychoanalysis, art, ideas. He takes off from a book about the people who created the American tv show ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and then brings in Jenny Uglow’s The Lunar Men, about the group of thinkers and inventors around Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley in late 18th century Birmingham. Gladwell points out that one feature of group dynamics is that friends can encourage and provoke each other to take more extreme positions than they would on their own, and that this is generally considered a bad thing. “But at times this quality turns … Read the rest

‘Philosophical laughing’ *

Nov 26th, 2002 | Filed by

Groups can encourage people to take extreme positions, whence innovation is born.… Read the rest

Nussbaum on Rawls *

Nov 26th, 2002 | Filed by

Martha Nussbaum on John Rawls’ much-needed correction of Utilitarian-economist versions of morality.… Read the rest

‘Tell that to the Buddha’ *

Nov 25th, 2002 | Filed by

David Lodge’s book on consciousness and fiction is too accomodating to cultural relativists who say the self is a peculiar Western invention, but interesting anyway.… Read the rest

Popular History and its Enemies *

Nov 24th, 2002 | Filed by

Is the problem that the work is over-simplified, or that it’s commercially succesful? Orlando Figes is not the first to wonder.… Read the rest