Wednesday 7 October 2009

This title has an obvious paradoxical and logical (illogical?0 ring - but there are many paradoxes in our everyday lives, from the sayings of politicians to the rules and regulations that generate bizarre outcomes, because of their inflexibility, to simply the way in which we hold each other responsible as free agents, yet do we have any firm grip on what it is to be responsible? What counts as our being free?

Well, this introduction to paradoxes, covers the well-known logical and space/time paradoxes, but also ones of politics, religion, everday life - and even the meaning of life!

Dare I say, 'Every word is a gem'? Well, yes, but maybe not the order of those words.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Voluntary sex okay; why not voluntary euthanasia?

With the inspiring and touching news of the assisted suicide by Sir Edward Downes and his wife, is it not time for further thought on the matter of assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia – and a change in the legislation?

This couple had to travel to Switzerland, instead of having their deaths in familiar surroundings, maybe with friends. This couple were lucky enough to have the knowledge and money at least to make use of the Swiss facilities. How unfair for others needing to embrace death, yet who lack of the wherewithal!

When lives have gone well, the need to embrace death is obviously very sad; but not as sad as spending a last few months or years in pain, distress, or hopelessness. Of course, some religious believers speak of the sanctity of human life – though we may note that that concern does not usually extend to giving up many luxuries to help the starving and the dispossessed. Some religious believers speak of not interfering with God’s ways – yet, as David Hume pointed out, they happily interfere with God’s ways when those ways are pointing to death.

Of course, what is often wheeled out is the slippery slope argument. If voluntary euthanasia is permitted, the slide will commence and we shall end up with many cases of people being persuaded to go for euthanasia, being pressurized into it – even into our accepting blatant involuntary euthanasia.

Were that sort of argument sound, then surely this one would also be sound. We should not permit voluntary sexual intercourse. In permitting it, we are giving the green light to people being persuaded against their true feelings into having sex, to date rapes and blatant violent rapes. Yet, no one seriously puts forward that argument. Why? Because they know that there is a clear distinction in many, many cases between someone voluntarily saying ‘yes’ to sex and someone not voluntarily saying ‘yes’. The slope is avoided through educating people about the importance of consent – and through the law.

We permit voluntary hairdressing. Do we, as a result, fear that people will slide into being frogmarched to the hairdressers?

We value people being allowed to flourish in their lives as best they can. A flourishing life – a full life – may often need to have regard to how death will come about. That is part of a flourishing life – and if people want to round off their lives in certain ways, instead of the ways of pain, indignity and hopelessness, then we ought not to interfere. It is a simple matter of the value of autonomy with regard to this most important matter. For more on this – well, modesty does not forbid – try my Humanism: a beginner’s guide.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Better off with - or without - God?

Well, it depends what you want out of life. Truth or illusion - I am tempted to say.

Many argue that without God and without belief in God, the existence of the world is somehow mysterious. What is paradoxical about this claim is that many people who argue thus also say that God is mysterious. So, on this view, one mystery is replaced by another. Is that progress?

Many argue that without belief in God, there would be no sense of right and wrong, of what is morally good and bad. That is a frightening claim. Are such believers really saying that if they lacked belief in God, if God did not exist, then they would think it was perfectly all right to rape and pillage, torture and kill for the sheer fun of it? - that it would be okay for me to give well-argued essays low marks and poor essays high marks? If they are not saying that, then it shows they do not depend on belief in God for a sense of right and wrong. If they are saying that rape and pillage etc would be fine, if God does not exist or there is no godly belief, well it is best to steer clear of such people...

For further links to such thoughts, try humanism.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Godly debate

After the event, I'd say, 'Beware the chicken nugget!' God does indeed move in a mysterious way...

Thursday 28 May 2009

Bertrand Russell, Isaiah Berlin, Bernard Williams

Hearing and seeing major philosophers from the past....

For some fine Bertrand Russell, interviewed - and note his troubles with sex and the States - towards the end of this linked part and then move to part 3, try Russell 2.

For Isaiah Berlin - and his stories about the great Maynard Keynes, Lydia Keynes and Wittgenstein, try Berlin.

More recently, following in the humanist tradition, there is Bernard Williams - after a long, long introduction, see/hear Bernard Williams (or BernNARD as he was introduced) and the following extracts.
And for the living, note the eccentric genius (pity the sound is bad), Saul Kripke.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Humanism: a beginner's guide

NOW AVAILABLE, e.g. Amazon

"Peter Cave brings to a serious subject his characteristic wit and humour, as well as wide knowledge and sharp insight. This is a very readable introduction to humanism - and a deeply human one."
Richard Norman, Emeritus Professor, Moral Philosophy, Univ. of Kent

"A book for our times. Read this as an antidote to unreasoning fear and the mental restrictions imposed by religious thought."
Polly Toynbee - President of the British Humanist Association

And for some wonderful humane music (though no doubt by a believer), try the splendid Jaroussky.

Comments at Humanism.

Friday 27 February 2009

Constructively so...

This webpage is slowly building up....
Recent 'humanist of soho' are: religion and atheist bus....
and see below for maze extract etc.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Dr Atomic

Recommend considering - ideally going along to - John Adams' Dr Atomic, at English National Opera. Some moving music - and thought provocations -....
Dr Atomic and trailer at: eno and batter my heart.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Who's relativist now?

Contrary to what is often said, humanists and atheists are not thereby relativists. Inflicting pain on someone for the sheer fun of it - against that individual's will - is wrong...full stop. For some cut and thrust, try a teeny extract from a recent BBC Radio 4: extract

Indeed, the guest religious believers seemed almost to accept moral relativism. I do my best, but my best is far from good enough - maybe even wrong.

Saturday 14 February 2009

At a slant to the universe...

Thus wrote E. M. Forster of C. P. Cavafy.

Forster was a splendid humanist - famous for his 'Only connect!'

He provided some good material for my Humanism - not least his
quip on receiving the Order of Merit, 'Had the Queen been a boy...'

Friday 13 February 2009

What's Wrong with Eating People?

Of course, the wrongness depends on the wine...

There are puzzles and paradoxes - from princesses to chasing bears to the absurdities of life - and why we should (or should not) care about Thug.

For extracts, see:

On the run and What will be will be.

Some topics at Food for Thought.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Absurdities - in Religion, Reason and Humanity

I am an atheist - so, I may be amused, disturbed, distressed even, by some elements of religion. Is it not absurd that some of those who believe in a loving God should yet seek to injure, even kill, those who believe in 'the wrong God' or no gods at all?

I am also aware, though, of the absurdities of our lives, even if non-believers. After all, incongruously, I enjoy religious choral music in chapel. After all, we all make use of words such as 'I' and 'self', yet do we have any clear concept of what a self is?

For more such thoughts, go to a short article on these absurdities: absurdities

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Can a Robot be Human?

These 33 puzzles fly us from starving Buridan's Ass, unable to choose, to Zeno's Tortoise who wins the race against the fastest runner in Athens. We also meet saints and sinners - and innocent murderers - and finally meet with an eternity that is the best that it gets.
For extracts:
Sympathy for the Devil and A Bale of Woe.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Humanism, controversies and more

Currently, I chair the Humanist Philosophers - more on humanism and other links are at the British Humanist Association, at: Humanism.

With the recent bombing of Gaza - and the missiles exploding in Israel - there was much wild talk about what counted as proportionate. For some more thoughtful thoughts by Walzer, go to On Proportionality.