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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

Life in the buff | Aeon
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Subcultures

Life in the buff

Naturists believed nudity was profoundly beneficial to society. In order to spread the message, they took to photography

Annebella Pollen

Why we crave | Aeon
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Addiction

Why we crave

The neuroscientific picture of addiction overlooks the psychological and social factors that make cravings so hard to resist

Zoey Lavallee

The delights of mischief | Aeon
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Virtues and vices

The delights of mischief

Mischievousness requires humour, wit and a playful humaneness: qualities that make for a particular kind of virtue

Alex Moran

Why read Fichte today? | Aeon
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Thinkers and theories

Why read Fichte today?

Inspired by Kant, Fichte launched a radical philosophical system based on subjectivity and aspiring to freedom for all

Gabriel Gottlieb

Sleepwalk to the gift shop | Aeon
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History of ideas

Sleepwalk to the gift shop

Romanticism once radically challenged conventional pieties. Now it’s little more than marketable schlock. What happened?

Fiona Sampson

Old not Other | Aeon
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Ageing and death

Old not Other

Here’s a puzzle: why do we neglect and disdain the one vulnerable group we all eventually will join? Beauvoir had an answer

Kate Kirkpatrick & Sonia Kruks

Beyond dust and grime | Aeon
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History of ideas

Beyond dust and grime

Zhuangzi thought Confucians were like frogs trapped in a well, unable to perceive the limitlessness of the sea

Tao Jiang

More than muses and martyrs | Aeon
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Thinkers and theories

More than muses and martyrs

In the long 19th century, many women philosophers were marginalised or ignored. We need to rediscover them

Kristin Gjesdal & Dalia Nassar

Since Derrida | Aeon
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Thinkers and theories

Since Derrida

A golden generation of French philosophers dismantled truth and other traditional ideas. What next for their successors?

Peter Salmon

AI’s first philosopher | Aeon
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Computing and artificial intelligence

AI’s first philosopher

Alan Turing was a pioneer of machine learning, whose work continues to shape the crucial question: can machines think?

Sebastian Sunday Grève

The lady vanishes | Aeon
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Thinkers and theories

The lady vanishes

The history of ideas still struggles to remember the names of notable women philosophers. Mary Hesse is a salient example

Ann-Sophie Barwich

Poor sleep | Aeon
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Fairness and equality

Poor sleep

Being on-call, out-of-sync and underslept is not just personal but a pervasive political injustice. Bold change is needed

Jonathan White



Recent Comments

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...

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Do children have a right to be loved?

Nigel Warburton

At first reading it seems strange that someone should claim that a child has a human right to be loved. As S. Matthew Liao points out in his Opinion piece, part of the strangeness comes from the view that love is not something that we can choose to feel. Yet, whether or not you are convinced by Matthew’s arguments about it being possible to influence or even choose our emotions, given that being loved is a prerequisite of healthy psychological development, couldn’t we argue that the child has this right, whether or not this love is actually achievable by those around the child? Wouldn’t that be similar to the situation of a child in a drought, where the child certainly has a right to drin...

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How to be angry

Nigel Warburton
The philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote an interesting essay about (against) anger for Aeon.co https://aeon.co/essays/there-s-no-emotion-we-ought-to-think-harder-about-than-anger. Following Aristotle, she identified ‘payback’ as a key conceptual element of anger, and one of its more poisonous aspects. This aspect worth thinking about. Nussbaum’s desire that anger be considered a useless emotion (probably heavily influenced by Seneca’s De Ira) is, for me, idealistic and not realistic, particulalry in political contexts. I prefer the app...
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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...

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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 ...

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Is philosophy therapy, or is it simply a search for truth?

Nigel Warburton

Philosophy is enquiry. That’s the impetus: wonder at the world that leads to speculation, reasoning, debate, always with the view of getting more precise, more accurate, and more interesting viewpoints on reality, or at least discovering that such things are impossible to achieve. Philosophers ask questions and try to answer them. They want to discover how things are, and whether it’s possible to discover how things are. It’s true that in the Ancient World many philosophers set themselves up as gurus and purported to be able to teach their followers how to live better lives. Yet, to take one typical goal, namely to know yourself (or know yourself better): there is no guarantee whatsoever ...

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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 ...

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Reach out, listen, be patient. Good arguments can stop extremism

Nigel Warburton

It’s great to be reminded of such stories of hope. It is easy to adopt the more sceptical line that most people are unaffected by good arguments that threaten their core beliefs, and that to believe otherwise is wishful thinking. I’m very tempted by the sceptical position myself, but acknowledge that complete scepticism is probably unwarranted. Bringing people together in an arena that facilitates civil disagreement is key to understanding those who disagree with you, and from there to begin to appreciate the force of their arguments (assuming they have arguments).

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Wittgenstein and religion

Nigel Warburton

It’s a pity Wittgenstein wasn’t clearer about what he meant by his later remarks about religion. I know he didn’t want to spare us the expense of thinking for ourselves, but the result is that his views are extremely slippery and open to multiple interpretations. Stephen points this out early on in the Essay. It’s great to have such a clear analysis of several views commonly attributed to Wittgenstein - much better than simply gesturing towards ‘the Wittgensteinian position on religion’ as some writers do with all the ambiguity that that involves.

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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...

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Why does contemporary art make for wildly popular blockbusters?

Nigel Warburton

It would be interesting to know to what extent this is an American phenomeon. Vermeer, Leonardo, and Rembrandt, are all capable of pulling huge crowds in the UK. Could it, perhaps, involve a degree of chauvinism in that the most viewed artists in the US are American? I suspect an Edward Hopper , a Rothko, or yet another Andy Warhol show would, like a Jeff Koons retrospective, draw the punters in the US.

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Like a prayer

Nigel Warburton

The way this question is phrased implies that secular people can benefit from prayer. But it is not at all obvious that they can, whether as targets of religious people’s prayers, or as non-believers going through the motions of praying. So the wording of the question is question-begging.

As someone who was occasionally forced to recite the Lord’s Prayer at school, though an atheist, I am aware of how meaningless, and irritating that practice can be. Blaise Pascal in his Pensée addressed the question of how someone who really wanted to believe in God for pragmatic reasons (following the gambler’s strategy of avoiding eternal damnation and being i...

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