This essay, on the debate over Shamima Begum, was my Observer column this week. (The column included also a short piece on the BBC’s attitude to abortion.) It was published in the Observer, 17 February 2019, under the headline ‘The possibility of redemption is central to a humane society’. How do you solve a problem like Shamima? In February 2015, 15-year-old east London schoolgirl Shamima Begum travelled to Syria with two friends, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, to join Islamic State. Last […]
Last week, the Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced the birth of the first CRISPR baby (actually, twins). Two beautiful little Chinese girls, Lulu and Nana, came crying into the world as healthy as any other babies a few weeks ago’, He said in the first of five videos posted on to YouTube. He’s claim is as yet unverified, but if true, it would signal a landmark moment in human genome-editing. It has also been widely met with outrage and condemned […]
This essay, on the debate about genome editing, was my Observer column this week. (The column included also a short piece on being banned in Pakistan, a shorter version of my previous Pandaemonium post) It was published in the Observer, 22 July 2018, under the headline ‘Fear of dystopian change should not blind us to the potential of gene editing’. ‘Designer babies on horizon’, ran the headlines. Last week, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent body advising on […]
Categories: Philosophy & Ethics, Science • Tags: bioethics, biotechnology, crispr, designer babies, dystopia, ethics, gene editing, genetic enhancement, genetics, genome editing, gremlin editing, ivf, louise brown, Nuffield council
This is a transcript of the RICS Harris lecture that I gave on 14 November 2017 on ‘The public interest and the common good’. The public interest. The public advantage. The public good. The common good. These are all phrases that seem indispensible, phrases which we all use, and of which we have an instinctive understanding, yet the meanings of which are all contested and seemingly impossible to define. These phrases are often used interchangeably. Many philosophers and political thinkers would […]
Categories: History, Philosophy & Ethics • Tags: aquinas, aristotle, common good, enlightenment, ethics, greek philosophy, history of moral thought, individualism, liberalism, locke, mo tzu, public interest, social contract
Here is a recording of a discussion between myself, Rebecca Huntley and Emrys Westacott at the Byron Writers Festival on ‘Living Ethically’. It was broadcast on ABC’s ‘Big Ideas’ programme on Monday 14 August. . The image is Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’.
An excerpt from my latest column for the New York Times on the contrasting cases of Charlie Gard and Noel Conway: Usually, a decision about a child’s best interests involves two alternative futures. Is he better off with his mother or father after a divorce? Is it in his interests to stay with parents who may be having difficulties, or to be taken into care? . In Charlie Gard’s case, though, the choice is between a possible future and a […]
To accompany my essay on the ‘decolonizing our minds’ debate at SOAS, the Observer asked me to compile a (very) short ‘alternative’ philosophy book list; alternative in the sense of being broadly non-European and consisting of works or authors of whom people may not have heard but nevertheless are significant in the history of ideas. Being limited to just six books necessarily makes the list arbitrary, but I have tried to find a selection that spans both history and geography, […]
Categories: Culture & Books, History, Philosophy & Ethics • Tags: al-ma'arri, chinese philosophy, clr james, ethics, frantz fanon, ibn rushd, islamic philosophy, jonathan israel, mo tzu, philosophy, toussaint l'ouverture
This is the text of my talk at the Galle Literary Festival Last week. What can the history of morality tell us about the nature of morality? And about ourselves as human beings? These are the questions at the heart of what I want to explore today. For some, the questions themselves might seem absurd. There is a widespread perception of morality as occupying a sphere of its own. We imagine that morality can, and should, be understood in its […]
Categories: History of moral thought, Philosophy & Ethics • Tags: anti-imperialism, chinese philosophy, christianity, enlightenment, ethics, europe, greek philosophy, history of moral thought, human agency, human nature, imperialism, modernity, monotheism, nietzsche, plato, radical enlightenment, thrasymachus, viktor frankl
. The Quest for a Moral Compass is now out in paperback! You can read reviews of the book. And you can buy it from most bookshops, from Amazon or via my Pandaemonium bookstore. The US version of the paperback will be published later this year. . ‘This is intellectual history in the grand manner, in the tradition of Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, written with the same clarity, accessibility and narrative verve as the master himself…We are all […]
My latest column for the New York Times is on the debate about ‘three parent babies’, published in the NYT under the headline ‘The Three-Parent Baby’s First Step’. Here are the opening paragraphs. You can read the full article in the NYT. The British Parliament can be an archaic, backward-looking institution, wedded to tradition, and not known for taking a revolutionary stance. Yet its members have just made a groundbreaking decision, one that no other legislature has so far been willing to […]
The North American edition of The Quest for a Moral Compass is published this week by Melville House. I will be in New York and Toronto to talk about it. While I am away, I will be publishing on Pandaemonium short extracts from the book. This first snippet is from Chapter 1, and discusses Aeschylus’ trilogy of tragedies, the Oresteia, and what it reveals to us about the transformation of Greek moral thought. I have previously published the opening section […]
Bread and Roses is a TV magazine show hosted by Maryam Namazie, Fariborz Pooya and Bahram Soroush and broadcast in Iran in both English and Persian. The latest episode is a discussion of ‘Morality without God’, part of which features a conversation between myself and Maryam (that part of the show begins around 7 minutes in).
The politics/philosophy blog Crooked Timber organised recently an online symposium on political philosopher Joseph Carens’ book, The Ethics of Immigration. I wrote a contribution; the responses of the other contributors are here. Joseph Carens has now responded to the various arguments: It is an author’s dream for his or her work to receive the sort of wide-ranging, substantive, thoughtful and generous reactions that this symposium on my book has elicited. So, I want to begin by expressing my deep appreciation to Chris Bertram for […]
This is a (slightly edited) video of a talk I gave last month at London’s RSA entitled ‘Where do values come from?’. It explores some of the themes in my book The Quest for a Moral Compass. .
The politics/philosophy blog Crooked Timber, is organising an online symposium on political philosopher Joseph Carens’ book, The Ethics of Immigration. I published my contribution last week. These are links to the other contributions so far. Carens himself will respond in time, and all contributions will be published as an e-book. . Chris Bertram Some worries about Carens’s democratic consensus One difficulty I have in thinking about how to discuss the work in a symposium such as this is in finding […]