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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

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

We must not own animals | Aeon
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Ethics

We must not own animals

We will never truly advance our ethical relationship with other animals until we stop treating them as chattels for use

Gary L Francione

The turbulent brain | Aeon
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Neuroscience

The turbulent brain

Energy flow between brain and environment drives the non-equilibrium that sustains life. Could turbulence help us thrive?

Morten L Kringelbach & Gustavo Deco

Inside ambiguity | Aeon
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Human rights and justice

Inside ambiguity

We are suspended between the inescapable facts of our lives and what we do to contest them, nowhere more than in prison

Andy West

Why you should eat meat | Aeon
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Ethics

Why you should eat meat

Not eating animals is wrong. If you care about animals, then the right thing to do is breed them, kill them and eat them

Nick Zangwill

Great books are still great | Aeon
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Stories and literature

Great books are still great

Read with love, rather than critical distance, the classics can provide tools to subvert oppressive hierarchies

Roosevelt Montás



Recent Comments

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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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.

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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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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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Books are dangerous

Nigel Warburton

As a philosopher there are many books that have changed my way of thinking. Early on reading Colin Wilson’s The Outsider and Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance got me excited about ideas. Sartre’s’ existentialist writing was liberating (though now seems far too optimistic about human freedom). Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics and Jonathan Glover’s Causing Death and Saving Lives both opened my eyes to ways in which philosophy could be rigorous and yet still address important questions that affect how we live. Both are clear and direct writers and have been an influence on me in that way too. John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty has been ...

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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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A Letter from Sam Dresser

Nigel Warburton

Thanks very much for the link to the article about Egon Schiele, Sam. Interesting, though in the end non-committal. I saw the recent Klimt/Schiele show at the Royal Academy in London (which, incidentally, had some of the best-written captions I’ve seen in an exhibition). It included some of these controversial pictures. It’s very difficult at this distance in time to know what transpired between artist and models. To my eye, though, the pictures fare much better than Modigliani’s (which are much more like stylised pin ups) in the way they empower the women depicted.

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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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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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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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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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