Mind-altering Parasites and their Zombie Hosts

I have spent time, perhaps too much time, discussing with my girlfriend and closest friends (you don’t talk about this kind of thing with just anyone, after all) about what we would do to ensure our survival in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Ideally I would like to be holed up in Bamburgh Castle in my homeland of Northumberland only with people I completely trust, with plenty of food and weapons. Less Ideally,but more realistically, I would make for the top of my block of flats in Bethnal Green with a tent, a baseball bat and as many boxes of coco-pops I could carry and weld the door shut behind me.

This is my favourite thing about zombie movies; that they make you reflect about your own potential for survival in that situation.

Continue reading “Mind-altering Parasites and their Zombie Hosts”

Happiness: If You’re Not Feeling it You’re Committing a Crime Against Yourself

In these secular days most of us accept we haven’t got an afterlife to look forward too, and most of us don’t hold the belief that we are going to come back in another form. In short this is the only chance we have to be happy, and since this is the only shot we’ve got we owe it to ourselves to make sure we are happy, and so we feel that any time spent suffering is time we have failed to utilise. This is the conclusion the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner came to in his book Perpetual Euphoria: On the Duty to be Happy in 2001 (although it has been in the news recently as it has just been made accessible to the English speaking world thanks to a new translation of the work by Steven Rendall).

Continue reading “Happiness: If You’re Not Feeling it You’re Committing a Crime Against Yourself”

The Death of Philosophy?

Philosophy is dead. Or, more specifically, the philosophy of science is dead.

This is the controversial conclusion Professor Stephen Hawking has now famously (or infamously, if you’re a philosopher) come to in his latest popular work The Grand Design. Hawking claims that which was once in the realm of philosophy is now in that of science. He went on to say that philosophy has failed to keep up with science in general and physics in particular (a strange claim, seeing as physics, as noble a pursuit as it is, was spawned by philosophical curiosity). He goes on to say that philosophers have lingered on concepts such as the theory of knowledge, the foundations of knowledge, what can and cannot be known, the problem of induction etc for too long. As someone who’s main interest area is early modern metaphysics, I am not out of the woods but I am casting a sidewards glance to the epistemologist, regarding these main criticisms of Hawking against philosophy.

Continue reading “The Death of Philosophy?”

Achieving Immortality.

HAL9000: A ready and easy way to become immortal.

I once read a quote by John Cottingham, a philosopher famous in the field, and perhaps out of the field, of philosophy, about philosophy and the meaning of life. To paraphrase, it went something like; “People are often drawn to philosophy to find answers to the big questions. If someone finds themselves reading philosophy hoping to find an answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?”, they will most likely be sorely disappointed.” I would have to agree.

It is this thought people should have in mind when reading about immortality and what philosophy may have to say about it. Philosophy does from time to time discuss the subject, though usually this discussion is about the morality of such a concept, rather than the ability to actually achieve it. Continue reading “Achieving Immortality.”

Is There a Middle-Ground for Multiculturalism?

Mass migration is a fascinating subject. It’s been happening for hundreds of years and can often be an attributing factor to changes in course of the history of humanity. Personally, I think mass migration is a driving force of progress and inevitably improves the outlook of any society which is host to mass migration over time by virtue of the broadening of the outlook of that society as a whole (for a detailed account of immigration by a renowned philosopher I cannot recommend highly enough On Immigration and Refugees by the great Michael Dummett, in which he condemns the kind of nationalism which leads to suspicion of new comers into a society). Unfortunately this takes time, and can cause serious teething pain for both the host majority and the incoming minority. Continue reading “Is There a Middle-Ground for Multiculturalism?”

Climate change and wilful misunderstandings.

Retreating glacier.

People often have problems reasoning effectively. Everyone of us fails to understand or misinterpret information many times each week, month or year. But from personal experience I believe that there is no one area in which people so frequently commit so many logical fallacies and fail so spectacularly to apply their reason, and with such potentially catastrophic consequences, as in discussions about climate change.

Climate change is now scientific mainstream. Scientists from any discipline with any amount of credibility who still refuse to believe that the Earth’s temperature is increasing and humans are the cause of it are few and far between. The Earth’s temperature is increasing and there is only one explanation which succeeds over reasonable doubt (abductive reasoning would be very useful here. We should be able to apply inference to the best explanation and close the chapter). Continue reading “Climate change and wilful misunderstandings.”

GM Food and it’s Ethical Problems

The thought of genetically modified food, for most people, automatically produces feelings of revulsion, perhaps in some people, even visions of mutated carrots with wings and potatoes with three eyes. Fear of GM food is something which seems to be fairly ingrained in popular consciousness, but peoples reasoning for why they feel this way about GM food is often murky and confused.

Given this fear of GM food, it will be with some trepidation to many people that it has been suggested by the governments chief scientist, Sir John Beddington, that human survival may depend on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops, given the prospect of high food prices, slower food production and a general trend of increase in world population. Continue reading “GM Food and it’s Ethical Problems”