"The narrow alleys of pestilence and poverty run along the walls of the very richest in the land… in our current times, as the gap between rich and poor widens, there are many resonances across centuries to unearth.” Lucy Jago
Posts tagged "philosophy"
The vulgar, not the Vulgate

The vulgar, not the Vulgate

A brief note on the word, ‘sex’. I find myself avoiding it often. It is an ugly word. Not because it is boorish, but because it is too refined. ‘Sex’ is clinical: sterile, precise, institutional. It comes from the Norman French, originally Latin – what philologists Reneé and Henry Kahane called ‘the status symbol of...
The rhinoceros in the room

The rhinoceros in the room

In one of the most famous duels of elephantine minds, Bertrand Russell would challenge Ludwig Wittgenstein to concede that there was no rhinoceros in the Cambridge room that served as their legendary battleground (in a different version of the story, Russell claimed that the pachyderm to be located was a hippopotamus). The question, under ongoing...
From heaven to earth

From heaven to earth

One of the most striking characteristics of Socrates, as we know him from Plato, Plutarch, Xenophon, Cicero or Diogenes Laertius, and the numerous, yet exasperatingly fragmentary sources that survive, was his talent for convincing his interlocutors of his utter ignorance of any subject – his signature style was to present himself to the unwary as...
Don't hurry over them

Don’t hurry over them

John Gaskin (he likes to write his first name with a soupçon of Hellenic omega in its spelling) is a rather extraordinary man. A banker quickly turned philosopher and academic, he has been lecturing and writing prolifically on almost all things ancient for more than half a century. Revered for his scholarship and mellifluous paeans...
Laura Beatty: Insight and wonder

Laura Beatty: Insight and wonder

One comes away from meeting and talking with Laura Beatty with a combined sense of awe and the closest human affinity and immediacy. She possesses a formidable mind, a very composed and elegiac conversational style that one may only call a delicately poetic oral prose. The beginning of a thought or a sentence soon acquires...
New travels with myself and another

New travels with myself and another

Laura Beatty’s new book Lost Property, a nearly sublime hybrid between a novel and a philosophical essay, begins with an England in a state of utter crisis – social, humanitarian, political, cultural, a crisis of identity, values, place, purpose and meaning. Beatty’s heroine describes herself as tottering between being and non-being, reason and insanity. “At...
Man the measure

Man the measure

Back in the roaring Sixties and Seventies, literary criticism and especially the philosophy of literary aesthetics and of socio-political analysis through literary texts acquired a distinctly ‘cool’ status. At last, academia was coming out of the dusty cupboards, climbing down from its ivory towers and marching into the streets arm in arm with the most...
Wondering at the world

Wondering at the world

“We are confused about happiness. Almost everyone believes that they want to be happy, which usually means a lasting psychological state of contentment,” writes Edith Hall in Aristotle’s Way, pointing out however that most of our everyday expressions of happiness are ephemeral, if not outright trivial and insubstantial, unsustaining, and eventually even fundamentally disappointing. In...
A biblical paradise

A biblical paradise

An impish dog playing tricks on his mistress brings about a meeting that will change the life of a monarch. Or so goes the story in Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, where a corgi-chasing Elizabeth II runs into a travelling library. The rest is a journey into a world of enchantment, discipline, determination, revelation. What...
A wager

A wager

One evening in Toronto, the gods Apollo and Hermes were at the Wheat Sheaf Tavern. Apollo had allowed his beard to grow until it reached his clavicle. Hermes, more fastidious, was clean-shaven, but his clothes were distinctly terrestrial: black jeans, a black leather jacket, a blue shirt. They had been drinking, but it wasn’t the...