Menu
Donate
SIGN IN

Nigel Warburton

Consultant Editor and Interviewer, Aeon+Psyche

Nigel is a writer, philosopher and podcaster. He is interviewer for the popular Philosophy Bites podcast. His books include A Little History of Philosophy, The Art Question and Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction. Nigel is on Twitter @philosophybites.

Written by Nigel Warburton

Edited by Nigel Warburton

Defend the deep | Aeon
Save

essay

Oceans and water

Defend the deep

Instead of letting waves of exploitation sweep through the deep ocean, we could choose to protect this vast living realm

Helen Scales

Acoustic naturalism | Aeon
Save

essay

Architecture

Acoustic naturalism

Our movies and offices are engineered to sound natural based on what rang false in the theatres of 18th-century Paris

Joseph L Clarke

When hope is a hindrance | Aeon
Save

essay

Thinkers and theories

When hope is a hindrance

For Hannah Arendt, hope is a dangerous barrier to courageous action. In dark times, the miracle that saves the world is to act

Samantha Rose Hill

Germany’s Wollstonecraft | Aeon
Save

essay

Thinkers and theories

Germany’s Wollstonecraft

Brilliant and fierce, the philosopher and educator Amalia Holst demonstrated how the German Enlightenment failed women

Andrew Cooper

Maestro of more than music | Aeon
Save

essay

Music

Maestro of more than music

Look beneath the surface of Bach’s music and you will find a fascinating hidden world of numerology and cunning craft

Milton Mermikides

Pixel: a biography | Aeon
Save

essay

History of technology

Pixel: a biography

An exact mathematical concept, pixels are the elementary particles of pictures, based on a subtle unpacking of infinity

Alvy Ray Smith

The view from her | Aeon
Save

essay

Thinkers and theories

The view from her

Is there something special about the way women do philosophy or is that just another essentialist idea holding us back?

Elly Vintiadis

A just and loving gaze | Aeon
Save

essay

Thinkers and theories

A just and loving gaze

Simone Weil: mystic, philosopher, activist. Her ethics demand that we look beyond the personal and find the universal

Deborah Casewell

Lies and honest mistakes | Aeon
Save

essay

Virtues and vices

Lies and honest mistakes

Our crisis of public knowledge is an ethical crisis. Rewarding ‘truthfulness’ above ‘truth’ is a step towards a solution

Richard V Reeves

On the necessity of obedience | Aeon
Save

essay

Thinkers and theories

On the necessity of obedience

George Berkeley was a visionary immaterialist. And a philosopher whose views on subordination to God legitimised slavery

Tom Jones

Philosophy’s lack of progress | Aeon
Save

essay

History of ideas

Philosophy’s lack of progress

For centuries, all philosophers seem to have done is question and debate. Why do philosophical problems resist solution?

Chris Daly

Should we censor art? | Aeon
Save

essay

Art

Should we censor art?

Tearing down sexist paintings or racist monuments raises as many problems as it resolves. There’s a better way to combat hate

Daisy Dixon



Recent Comments

End of story

Nigel Warburton

There are several different questions here.

First, some people simply fear death, their own or other people’s . They don’t want anything to do with death; they’ll go out of their way to avoid confronting it even as an abstract concept, and will live their lives in such a way that they don’t really have to think about it. They’ll consider death a taboo subject. Such deniers of death preserve themselves in a candy floss cocoon of self-deception and sentimentality. Even when a relative or friend dies, for such people this is not a topic of conversation. I suspect this kind of fear of bringing death into everyday encounters is a kind of superstition, based on some kind of magical think...

READ MORE→ See comment

Rules in space

Nigel Warburton

There are millions of children across the world going to bed hungry each night and without adequate medical care or protection from abuse. That seems to me something that needs urgent attention. Similarly a global response to climate breakdown is something that needs co-ordinated agreement about how best to act, and soon. I suspect the technological difficulties of setting up habitable large population cities on Mars will stump scientists for a good while longer than you do, and the immense travel costs will make your future scenario an unlikely one. It might be interesting to imagine this scenario for the purposes of reviewing our political systems on Earth, though - a kind of sci-fi sta...

READ MORE→ See comment

Belief in supernatural beings is totally natural – and false

Nigel Warburton

The hyper-active agency detecting device (HADD), otherwise known as the human brain, provides a plausible explanation of why belief in supernatural beings is so widespread. That and the effect of the stories we are told as children by adults who believe or half-believe in ghosts, gods, and the like. It’s very hard to eliminate the tendency to look for supernatural explanations. Yet, as David Hume pointed out in the Eighteenth Century, in his essay ‘On Miracles’ we should try and proportion our belief to the evidence, and in the case of the apparently supernatural there is always going to be a greater weight of evidence supporting the idea that there is a natural explanation for any phenom...

READ MORE→ See comment

Why sexist and racist philosophers might still be admirable

Nigel Warburton

I wrote a piece on this topic for Prospect in 2009 https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/10903-everydayphilosophy in which I pointed out that some of David Hume’s contemporaries (notably Samuel Johnson) didn’t share his racist attitude - it was certainly possible to be more enlightened about race in the Enlightenment than Hume was. You might be too quick to let him off the hook completely, Julian, though obviously there are mitigating circumstances (who thinks there aren’t?). I’m also worried that your line of thinking might seem to discourage holding...

READ MORE→ See comment

Myths about red hair are rooted in fear of difference

Nigel Warburton

I asked this question partly because I have been disturbed by the acceptance of casual anti-redhead comments made by comedians and others in the UK, comments which were they focusing on racial features of a minority ethnic group would be deemed beyond the pale. Drawing attention to red hair and the associated fair skin in a pejorative way is not far from some sorts of racism which can similarly target a group on the basis of appearance - in Britain it might have its historical roots in anti-Irish feeling. It worries me that some children may be bullied as a result of such comments. I’m also not clear why if racism is intolerable, such auburnophobia isn’t damned by the same reasoning.

→ See comment

The long revolution

Nigel Warburton

Isn’t the issue here partly education? Unless citizens are good critical thinkers, well-informed, reasonably numerate, and able to resist rhetoric to some degree they won’t be in a position to make good judgments on a wide range of issues, and probably won’t have a great deal of time to remedy the situation. Plato’s worries about the passengers voting on how to steer a ship in a storm still hold: better to get an expert on the case, or at least someone who is competent. So, if the question is asking about the weak link in any proposed direct democracy, then yes, it is likely to be the citizens who are the weak link rather than, for example the voting technology, which I’m sure Go...

READ MORE→ See comment

What primary school children can teach academic philosophers

Nigel Warburton

The philosopher Hubert Dreyfus put forward 7 stages that we go through in the move from being a novice to achieving mastery of a subject in his book On the Internet (the title of the book has meant that this interesting framework for understanding learning is less well-known than it should be). This framework suggests a model that could be used for teaching philosophy, though empirical research would be needed to back up what are essentially hunches about how the different skills are best taught. I’ve summarised the key features in this blogpost.

→ See comment

Why I never want to dress up in black tie again

Nigel Warburton

I’m actually torn on this. I agree with most of what Julian Baggini says in his Opinion piece. But I also believe that just as different idioms in writing suit different occasions, different styles of dress are appropriate in different circumstances and that as social beings we need to be sensitive to the messages we give off by the way we choose to dress. I wouldn’t want to force anyone to comply with a dress code, and have been irritated by invitations which stipulate it; but I do believe it is sometimes useful to know what an organiser of an event is expecting in terms of what people wear - then if I choose not to wear that, it is not as a result of misjudging the occasion, but a delib...

READ MORE→ See comment

Bad thoughts can’t make you sick, that’s just magical thinking

Nigel Warburton

My thoughts can without question cause physiological changes. I can think of leaning over the edge of a cliff and increase my heart rate, or remember something embarrassing that causes me to blush. So it would seem odd to rule out a priori the possibility of psychosomatic illness. In the article Angela Kennedy questions some popular assumptions about particular illnesses, but it would be going too far to conclude from that that no psychosomatic illness exists. Lack of conclusive evidence that thoughts caused illness in the cases she mentions (assuming her evidence is reliable) doesn’t completely disprove the possibility of psychosomatic illness, or that thoughts can cont...

READ MORE→ See comment

One more time

Nigel Warburton

What makes music so important is it’s direct route into our emotions. It evokes and mirrors our emotions. As Lydia Goehr points out in the Aeon Interviews video, music is performed in a context, and the presence of the performer, their appearance, their interactions with other musicians and audience can all be part of our ‘musical’ experience - these things are often ignored. Also, what we know affects what we hear. But the universal importance of music for human beings is very likely based on the way we are tuned to tonal and rhthmic subtleties of the human voice.

→ See comment

End intellectual property

Nigel Warburton

I’m not sure that the rhetoric of using the term ‘Intellectual Property’ is the main problem in relation to copyright of writing. It seems obvious to me that the 70-year postmortem copyright arrangements that we have in Europe (the result of homogenisation with German copyright law) are a bad compromise. This is far too long. Ten to twenty years from publication date would be better. But there were practical reasons why a shorter copyright period could not be negotiated. There have been a number of attempts to dismantle copyright, by Lawrence Lessig and others, but it is generally something that benefits both the publishing industy and writers (both from primary licensing, and then, also ...

READ MORE→ See comment

Master of many trades

Nigel Warburton

In some of the sciences, it is unlikely that an individual could easily remain a competent generalist for long. There is simply so much to grasp, so many details, new research to keep abreast of. But in the Humanities and some of the Social Sciences it is still possible to be a Renaissance man or woman and that is a good thing. In my own subject Philosophy, there is a tradition of some of the very best philosophers making contributions to several areas of philosophy. Wittgenstein made contributions to discussions of mind, language and much else besides. Popper was influential in both the philosophy of science and in political philosophy. Nozick worked on epistemology as well as political ...

READ MORE→ See comment