Seven Types of Atheism by John Gray review: Another rant against humanity

I reviewed John Gray’s latest book here for The Irish Times:

‘There is a nihilistic streak in Gray’s work. Writing approvingly of the selfishness of one of his philosophical heroes, he says: “For anyone weary of self-admiring world-improvers, there is something refreshing in Schopenhauer’s nastiness.” Often Gray resembles a man awaiting the apocalypse just so he can tell everyone, I told you so. He is not a monster, however, and when his distaste for humanity occasionally bubbles up it can be understood, if not necessarily excused, by the depth of feeling he has towards man’s rapacious approach to life on Earth.’

Book review: ‘ 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’ by Jordan B Peterson

Review in The Irish Times of a powerful but significantly flawed book:

Book review: ‘Enlightenment Now’ by Steven Pinker

Book review in The Irish Times: Why Steven Pinker needs to pay more attention to the Pope.


We need more than ‘rhetoric’, we need ‘mind work’, says President

President Michael D. Higgins marked World Philosophy Day 2017 with a function at Áras an Uachtaráin where the Irish Young Philosopher Awards were announced. The scheme has been set up along the lines of the BT Young Scientist Awards as a showcase for original thinking for primary and secondary students.

In his speech, the President criticised what he called a “deep anti-intellectualism” in the media and a lack of critical thinking in schools and society. “The challenges of the next decade simply cannot be met with the old orthodoxies. We need mind work.” The full report is here.

There was also this Editorial in The Irish Times titled “Philosophy: in defence of mind-work”: “… It is easy to turn every discussion into a ding-dong, and every news item into an occasion for blame. It’s much harder to take responsibility for one’s own thoughts and actions.”

We need to start talking about the ‘meanings’ of life

World Philosophy Day, which takes place this Thursday, is one of the more neglected anniversaries in the calendar.

Last year it fell on the same date as World Toilet Day, a synchronicity that might have insulted some philosophers but had a certain logic.

As UCD lecturer Dr Áine Mahon pointed out, when launching the new organisation Philosophy Ireland last August, philosophy can be seen as a type of “plumbing”.

Attributing the analogy to veteran moral philosopher Mary Midgley (97), Mahon said beneath the surface of our culture was a complex system of ideas and concepts that “sometimes goes wrong”.

Said Mahon: “If our concepts are working badly . . . begin to drip through the ceiling and swamp the kitchen floor it’s at that moment that we phone for the philosopher”.  Continue reading

Sabina Higgins backs campaign for teaching philosophy in schools

Teaching philosophy in schools is essential to prepare children for modern life, Sabina Higgins has said at the launch of a new organisation aimed at promoting “thinking time” in the classroom.

“If we believe that all our children, the citizens of the future, should be offered the opportunity of understanding the decisions that affect their lives then we must offer them the capacity to do so,” Mrs Higgins, wife of President Michael D. Higgins, told the inaugural gathering of Philosophy Ireland at City Assembly House, Dublin.

Secondary schools will be able to offer philosophy as an optional short course under the new Junior Cycle programme, being rolled out on a limited basis this year.  Continue reading