Renowned English cosmologist Stephen Hawking has made his name through his work in theoretical physics as a bestselling author. His life – his pioneering research, his troubled relationship with his wife, and the challenges imposed by his disability – is the subject of a poignant biopic, The Theory of Everything. Directed by James Marsh, the film stars Eddie Redmayne, who has garnered widespread critical acclaim for his moving portrayal.
Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Roxana’s perspective.
Marvin is a delusional dater. He somehow talked the gorgeous Maria into going on a date with him, and today is the day. Maria is way out of Marvin’s league but he lacks self-knowledge. He thinks he is better looking, better dressed, and more interesting than he really is. Yet his illusions about himself serve a purpose. They give him self-belief and as a result the date goes better than it would have done otherwise. Maria is still out of Marvin’s league, but is at least impressed by his nerve and self-confidence, if not by his conversation.
We like to think that we can control the contents of our mind, but if we watch ourselves think, we will quickly realize that this isn’t so.If you don’t believe me, try this experiment. Sit in a quiet room for five minutes, during which time you stare at a blank wall and try to empty your mind of thoughts.
Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Zac’s perspective.
Imagine that Banksy, (or J.S.G. Boggs, or some other artist whose name starts with “B”, and who is known for making fake money) creates a perfectly accurate counterfeit dollar bill – that is, he creates a piece of paper that is indistinguishable from actual dollar bills visually, chemically, and in every other relevant physical way. Imagine, further, that our artist looks at his creation and realizes that he has succeeded in creating a perfect forgery. There doesn’t seem to be anything mysterious about such a scenario at first glance – creating a perfect forgery.
Debates about conscience arise constantly in national and international news. Appropriately so, because these debates provide a vital continuing forum about issues of ethical conduct in our time. A recent and heated debate in the United States concerns the killing of an unarmed African American youth named Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.
Since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo on January 7, the saying (wrongly attributed to Voltaire), “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” has become the motto against radicalism. Unfortunately, this virtuous defense of freedom of speech is not only inefficient but is backfiring.
Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Bob’s perspective.
One of the benefits of contemporary atheism is that it has brought to the forefront of modern consciousness the demand that believers offer some reason for the belief that they have. Of course, this demand is nothing new, and it even has scriptural support behind it, with St. Peter insisting that Christians ought always be prepared to give a reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15).
Do we have free will? Free will is one of the central topics in philosophy, both historically and in the present. The basic puzzles of this topic are easily felt. For instance, it’s easy to wonder whether factors beyond our control — our genetic constitution, the environment in which we were brought up, and so on — might be among the causes of our behavior. In the light of this, we might wonder whether it’s really possible for us to act freely or, instead, whether everything we do is ultimately shaped by these factors in such a way that undermines our free will.
Christian and pagan symbols, obelisks, urns, broken columns and overgrown mortuary chapels in classical, Gothic and Byzantine styles record the determination that those who are buried there—the great and the good of 19th century Glasgow—will not be forgotten.
I call myself a moral philosopher. However, I sometimes worry that I might actually be an immoral philosopher. I worry that there might be something morally wrong with making the arguments I make. Let me explain. When it comes to preventing poverty related deaths, it is almost universally agreed that Peter Singer is one of the good guys. His landmark 1971 article, “Famine, Affluence and Morality”, not only launched a rich new area of philosophical discussion, but also led to millions in donations to famine relief.
A few really disastrous mistakes have dominated Western philosophy for the past several centuries. The worst mistake of all is the idea that the universe divides into two kinds of entities, the mental and the physical (mind and body, soul and matter). A related mistake, almost as bad, is in our philosophy of perception. All of the great philosophers of the present era, beginning with Descartes, made the same mistake, and it colored their account of knowledge and indeed their account of pretty much everything.
Head hits cause brain damage, but not always. Should we ban sport to protect athletes? Exposure to electromagnetic fields is strongly associated with cancer development. Should we ban mobile phones and encourage old-fashioned wired communication? The sciences are getting more and more specialized and it is difficult to judge whether, say, we should trust homeopathy, fund a mission to Mars, or install solar panels on our roofs.
One of the central tasks when reading a mystery novel (or sitting on a jury, etc.) is figuring out which of the characters are trustworthy. Someone guilty will of course say they aren’t guilty, just like the innocent – the real question in these situations is whether we believe them. The guilty party – let’s call her Annette – can try to convince us of her trustworthiness by only saying things that are true, insofar as such truthfulness doesn’t incriminate her.