This page provides an overview of all of the feature articles, grouped into major categories. Some of the composite articles (like In Search of Sense and Sensibility) have been broken open with their subsidiary articles listed, others haven’t. Some of the articles appear in two categories (so A Philosophical Manifesto appears under Jane Austen and Philosophy), but I do this very sparingly. many of the articles could appear under multiple heads and I have for the most part picked the most important one.
- Inayat’s Choice
A very brief explanation of why we should be interested in Jane Austen.
- A Philosophical Manifesto
A somewhat more extensive explanation of why Jane Austen is interesting, putting her writing and philosophy in the context of the modern evolution of western philosophy.
- Hobbes, Moral Pesimism and Pride and Prejudice
Sometimes here is a fine line to be drawn between the critical, sceptical Austen and the cynical Austen, but an important one. Austen was no cynic. Indeed her most popular book was warning against the dangers of cynicism.
- Puritans, Prigs and the Tyranny of Petty Coercion
A look at Mansfield Park through the lens of two of Marilynne Robinson’s Death of Adam essays.
- The Battle of the Portraits
How ironic it is that we feel it is so important to prettify Cassandra’s portrait.
- The Janeites, the Brontës and Sense and Sensibility
A sketch of the orthodox liberal and conservative interpretations of Sense and Sensibility and why I disagree with them.
- The Nietzschean Austen
The recurrent idea that Austen’s novels were irreligious or even areligious betrays a shallow understanding of both Jane Austen and religion.
- The Prince and the Novelist
On the peculiar relationship between Jane Austen, The Prince Regent and Mansfield Park, and why the Prince Regent liked the novels that were attacking so much of what he stood for.
In Search of Sense and Sensibility
These articles are excerpts from the first (rough) draft of my on-line book In Search of Sense and Sensibility.
- In Search of Sense and Sensibility
This short article explains the book’s experimental on-line context.
- The Barbarians Inside the Gate
This article has been adapted from the preface to the book and explains why we really should be taking Austen’s novels seriously. It looks at the ideas of ‘enlightenment’, ‘civilisation’ and asks whether our complete certainty of our near-monopoly of these qualities in the modern industrial nations relative to our backward, unscientific ancestors and contemporaries is really merited by the data.
- Candour, Pride and Prejudice
This article is taken from one of the introductory sections of the book and explains the importance of ‘candour’ in the early novels, especially Pride and Prejudice, and how the change of meaning of candour says a great deal about our modern philosophy.
- A Romantic Mystery Novel
Sense and Sensibility is simply one of the most extraordinary books ever written. This article tries to unwrap the riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
- Emma’s Debt to Sense and Sensibility
Although an incomparably more sophisticated novel than Sense and Sensibility, the enigma of Emma has been penetrated by scholars first, it not being generally recognised that the techniques that made Emma so perplexing lie at the centre of Sense and Sensibility.
- The Modern Psyche
This article looks at our modern sentimental ethics that emerged from the Enlightenment and so devastatingly criticised by Austen, especially in Sense and Sensibility.
- Trapped in the Cabinet of Horrors
So much of our modern confusion and self-loathing comes from a failure to understand interdependence, reinforced by a romantic dogma that insists the self is absolutely unknowable and separated from the rest of reality. There is a better way.
- A Philosophical Manifesto
This series of articles explains the philosophical background to the articles appearing on this blog, looking at the idealism of Berkeley and how it anticipated non-classical physics (as Einstein appreciated), Hume’s and Kant’s bankrupt ethics and why they should have paid more attention to Butler and why we should all be paying more attention to Austen.
- Consciousness Really Explained?
This was the first article I wrote and it is in one sense makes the key point, that the modern fixation with physicalism–the idea that all phenomena can be coherently reduced to physical processes is the one metaphysical hypothesis that anyone who cares to think about it must know is spectacularly without merit. We can almost say it is false—which is quite an impressive achievement for a metaphysical viewpoint. In this article I propose a thought experiment to illustrate the folly of continuing to insist that the mind can be be explained physically. This is important, as once we start to lose sight of the mind, it is but a short step to losing our minds.
- An Email to Christopher Titmuss
In this letter to Christopher Titmuss I outline the philosophical ideas behind a proposed series of seminars on Peace. The philosophy of Leo Strauss (philosophical father of the neoconservatives) gets a mention.
- What is Enlightenment?
An exchange between myself and Peter Knox-Shaw (author of Jane Austen and the Enlightenment) on Jane Austen’s relationship to The Enlightenment and what the enlightenment was.
Politics and Foreign Affairs
- ‘Big’ Ethics and the War on Terror
This article looks at the ethics of the War on Terror and torture and so on.
- Dead Party Governing
The Labour party in the UK is showing alarming signs of entirely losing the plot. This article looks at how the Home Secretary is making poisonous policy proposals that go entirely against the grain of a remarkable development that she has cultivated in her constituency.
- Jane Bennet and Barack Obama
It is often not appreciated how forcefully Pride and Prejudice is warning against cynicism. There has long been a disagreement in Austen criticism as to whether Austen was a cynic or not, with one school insisting on cynical undertones that others refuse to acknowledge. The issues here are not entirely unrelated to the problems the junior senator from Illinois is having in bringing his critics round to his New Politics. This series of articles looks at the issues.
- Stop the Demonising
This article looks at Scott Ritter’s widely held belief that Israel is manipulating US foreign policy, proposing a complementary idea that turns Ritter’s analysis on its head–that certain powerful interests in the US have been manipulating US and Israeli foreign policy, very much to the detriment of Israeli long-term security. The central point of the article is that those on the left (not Ritter, who is on the right) should stop demonising Israel; it is self-indulgent and entirely counterproductive.
- The Significance of the Iraqi Death Toll
Here I explain (with the help of MediaLens) why we have no reason to believe that the Anglo-US invasion of Iraq hasn’t lead to the violent deaths of well over a million Iraqis (relative to the mortality rates of pre-invasion, sanctions-riddled Iraq).
- Desmond Tutu: Human Rights Abuser?
In this article I look at a proposal by Desmond Tutu to force Sri Lanka of the UN human rights council. This same proposal coming from other pens would be a candidate for abusing candidate for abusing human rights. Is this true of Tutu? I think not.
- Pity the Moderator
On how so few understand the difference between robust discussion (healthy) and angry and aggressive commentary (unhealthy). The distinction lies entirely in the motivation of the commentator, making the job of moderators reliant on judgement that no rules can capture.
- Precision Time for the Press
Mainstream media of coverage of the standoff with Iran cleaves to a pro-Western narrative that is so narrow that it is little more than propaganda. Here I analyse one particularly lamentable example from the Guardian.
- Idiot Compassion
In this short series of articles I challenge some aspects of the Media Lens campaigns that may not be as compassionate as they believe. David Edwards replies and I reply to his reply.
- War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
In a striking passage in the introduction to Chris Hedges’ War is a Force that Gives us Meaning we are told that the attraction of war is that by bringing death closer it clears away the daily dross that we get trapped in and infuses life with a purpose. This is actually an old idea, one that can be exploited entirely safely from within the confines of your own home with the same wonderous effects (and none of the nihilistic death and destruction).
- Original Sin
In this short article I explain the similarities of the idea of Original Sin in Christianity and the first noble truth (that unenlightened existence is in the nature of suffering) and how they habitually get misunderstood in the same way.
- Only a philosophical revolution can save us from climate catastrophe
For David Gray the reality of the human condition means that we must forsake any solutions to the looming climate catastrophe that seek to alter people’s behaviour–I beg to differ.
- Face facts, George Monbiot…
In a curious symmetry, the environmental campaigner George Monbiot shows how Cardinal Murphy O’Connor is undermining himself in promoting abortion by undermining contraceptive programmes while apparently being unaware that by attacking institutional religion he is undermining one of the most effective agents for preventing climate catastrophe.
Studies in Peace and Wisdom
- Studies in Peace and Wisdom
Here lie the remains of a series of philosophical seminars that I ran in Brighton this spring. At some stage they will be declassified as ‘Feature Articles’.