The Head of Derek Parfit

Last Wednesday I had the good opportunity to see the great philosopher Derek Parfit give the Royal Institute of Philosophy’s Annual Lecture at University College London.   The place was packed to the rafters with eminent philosophers.  It is hard to discern when an eminent philosopher is discreetly, internally squealing with excitement, but I was quite sure that in this lecture theatre there were dozens of eminent philosophers doing just that.  And quite rightly so: Derek Parfit’s ‘Reasons and Persons’ is a masterpiece of highly wrought rational argumentation; the erudite audience had high hopes. Continue reading “The Head of Derek Parfit”

Dating Websites in 2037

“Hello”, as I think the people of your time say.  The date is 5th June 2037.  The insane engineers of my era have enabled me to send this report back in time thanks to Time Regression Communicative Technologies, developed under the auspices of The Institute of Scientifically Masked Literary Contrivances.

But that’s not all that our unstoppable technologists have done!  Continue reading “Dating Websites in 2037”

White Socks

This is the first article on fashion which I have ever written.  Every now and again, I feel like I’ve got the hang of what ‘fashion’ is.  I go to the shops, I look for it, I find it in the Sales section, I congratulate myself on finding it at a discount price, I leave the shops, and by the time I’m got outside I find that ‘fashion’ has changed.

Then I get home and read The Guardian and see that the ‘fashion’ I just purchased is made out of the bone marrow of Nepalese orphans.  Oy Vey. Continue reading “White Socks”

The Tesco in Surrey Quays

Let me tell you about my first visit to The Tesco in Surrey Quays.  As I got off the Surrey Quays tube station there was, looming above me, a Tom-Tom advert which corrected me on a misconception: ‘You are not in traffic.  You are traffic.’ Now, I may or may not have been harbouring this misconception (who can tell? Was I in traffic? Was I traffic?  Are we all traffic, and have been traffic for a very long time, but have been ingeniously tricked into thinking otherwise?) . Continue reading “The Tesco in Surrey Quays”

You (yes, YOU) can be a genius!

What I’m going to do now is I’m going to take some legitimate science, I’m going to draw a trivial truth from this, and I’m going to word it in such a way as to mislead you into thinking that you can be a genius.  I am going to finish by justifying what I’m doing by using the same defence as I would give a placebo.  Got it?

Legitimate science: “A trait [such as being a genius] emerges only from the interaction of gene and environment.”

Misleading triviality: “Everything about us is determined by the lives we lead.”

So perhaps: You could be a genius*.

What’s more: People who believe this seem to benefit.

Continue reading “You (yes, YOU) can be a genius!”

Religious belief as an infection

Recently I have noticed a stance taken by some members of the new wave of atheists and scientifically-informed ‘sceptics’, who define themselves largely by that which they oppose.  This is the stance that someone’s belief in a god is akin to an infection, from which the rest of their beliefs has no immunity.  To some, a question like this:

Can you be a creationist and be a good scientist?

has to be answered in the negative, since creationism lacks strong evidence and, therefore, a belief in it is incompatible with a rigorous following (I won’t say ‘worship’) of the scientific method.  Now, I think that this is a pretty bold position to take.  It goes much further than saying either of these things: Continue reading “Religious belief as an infection”

20 Questions: A Strategy Guide

The internet is an abundant resource, but it has its shortcomings. After an exhaustive examination I can declare that, astonishingly, it has no adequate strategy guide for the retro lo-tech classic ’20 Questions’ (or “20Q” if you unfortunate enough to have allowed the intangible wonders of your childhood to have been bought and rebadged by Mattel).

This is a guide for The Questioners; a guide for The Answerer is a work in progress.  We’re going to learn together by running through a blow-by-blow account of one game. Please try to throw yourself into this pedagogical relationship by trying to become one of The Questioners.

1. Is it on the planet earth? [Yes] Continue reading “20 Questions: A Strategy Guide”

The Poetry of Soup Blenders

This is a transcript of the latest Kenwood blender advert:

Discover the power of 3,
With the Kenwood triblade,
Kitchen technology to the power of 3,
3 blades faster,
3 blades easier,
3 blades cleaner,
The Kenwood triblade.

Those who think that adverts make ‘claims’ which can be tested and challenged, think again! What evidence, after all, would convince you that the triblade™ is not ‘technology to the power of 3’?

But seriously, I need to try out one of these triblades, because I hate washing up fiddly components, and I’m glad that this is going to make things 3 blades easier and 3 blades cleaner. Granted, ‘blades’ are not a standard unit of comparison, but, well, there are now 3 of them!

The first rule of advertising: give them poetry, not propositions.

Stewart Lee – Funny, Seriously

Like most people, I am a fan of comedy.  I have only personally known one person (an assistant head teacher) who claimed to not like comedy at all – not only stand-up comedians but anything.  She literally found nothing funny.  Nothing.  I wasn’t there when she confessed this nugget, but if I had been I wouldn’t have known whether to make a joke about it or not. It surely would’ve been a waste of energy. Continue reading “Stewart Lee – Funny, Seriously”

Life as a Set of Games

Here I’m going to defend this view: Life is best seen as a set of interconnected games.  I will probably provide little novel content, as I will draw vaguely on ideas from Kant, Quine and – significantly – Wittgenstein.  Since most people know of Game Theory, most people will know where I’m coming from.  These are ‘thoughts in progress’, not a final statement of my views – but this is the manner in which, I believe, most philosophy (if you can call it that) should take place. If people provide comments on this article, I hope they’re of the form “I think you’d find X interesting to read” or “I think Y is a good reason why you’re wrong to see it like this on that point”. If you don’t want to read vague, speculative philosophy, stop reading… now! Continue reading “Life as a Set of Games”