A new survey of leading intellectuals shows many of them are preoccupied by trying to answer: who are we?
What is preoccupying the world’s leading minds? It is an audacious question for sure. Some might say leading physicists will be concentrating on physics, leading philosophers on philosophy, historians on history and so on.
And yet when we look back on different eras, we can sometimes spot a thread – the preoccupation with truth in ancient Athens, with beauty in Renaissance Europe, with political “reason” during the Enlightenment, with scientific progress during the industrial age. There is, I believe, likewise a new preoccupation lurking in the biggest brains of our time, and that theme is summed up in one word – identity.
Amy Hart’s departure from the reality show highlights the excessive sympathy women offer to the men who hurt them
You might be surprised to learn that Love Island is shedding light on contemporary developments in feminist philosophy. You might also be surprised that philosophers are avid watchers of reality television.
But the ITV show gives us a unique opportunity to observe the relationships of 20-somethings – from their beginnings to the point where they flourish and, often, break apart. With these glimpses of human behaviour – albeit in the context of a television show – we can get an insight into how many women act, particularly at the end of a relationship.
What is particularly striking is the way that many have positively reacted to Hart's display of himpathy
One is a legendary composer. The other makes spectacular shows out of Sellotape. Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott talk about their new work about loss and religion – with puppets
‘I’ve done very good collaborations with people I don’t know very well,” says Philip Glass. “Even with people I didn’t like very much.” Sitting in La MaMa, the experimental theatre in New York’s East Village, one of the founders of minimalist music is talking about a body of work that includes three symphonies based on David Bowie’s Berlin albums, two sci-fi operas with Doris Lessing, an orchestrated version of Icct Hedral by Aphex Twin – and that’s only scratching the surface.
Now 82, Glass has found another collaborator, one who “has a comfortable relationship with his unconscious”, and who is bringing the composer’s unearthly music to a new generation. Already renowned for his Olivier award-winning adaptation of Shockheaded Peter and such outdoor shows as Sticky (which saw the construction of a 100ft tower using Sellotape), Phelim McDermott has directed three of Glass’s great operas – Satyagraha, about Gandhi; The Perfect American, about Walt Disney; and Akhnahten, about the pharaoh who briefly brought monotheism to Egypt.
When you've lost a piece, it can be devastating, like the loss of a child
The hypnotic, repetitive, incrementally unfurling nature of Glass's music make it as gorgeous as it is hard to perform
With the decline of the left, only populism seems to offer a sense of social solidarity
‘What we may be witnessing is the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” So wrote Francis Fukuyama in his 1989 essay, The End of History?, as he surveyed the collapse of the Soviet empire.
Thirty years on, the argument seems to have been turned on its head. As Vladimir Putin, virtual tsar of the Russian nation that has emerged from the debris of the Soviet Union, declared on the eve of the G20 conference in Osaka, it’s not history but liberal democracy that seems to have “outlived its purpose”. Liberalism, he told the Financial Times, has “come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population”.
The rise of populist movements reveals a yearning for belonging and identity that liberalism cannot satisfy
The controversial thinkers debated happiness, capitalism and Marxism in Toronto. It was billed as a meeting of titans – and that it was not. But it did reveal one telling commonality
The event was billed as “the debate of the century”, “The Rumble in the Realm of the Mind”, and it did have the feel of a heavyweight boxing match: Jordan Peterson, local boy, against the slapdash Slovenian Slavoj Žižek, considering “Happiness: Capitalism vs Marxism” in Toronto.
Peterson, in his opening remarks, noted that scalped tickets were selling at higher prices than the Maple Leafs playoff game happening on the other side of town. He couldn’t believe it. Who could?
The French people’s impulse to share responsibility for the disaster shows individualism is less entrenched than we think
It’s easy to understand the grief that the French people are feeling in the wake of the devastation of Notre Dame. More puzzling is the sense of shame that the Guardian’s Paris correspondent Angelique Chrisafis highlighted in her report. “On our watch we let it burn,” she quotes an older woman in tears saying.
This sentiment was echoed in Jonathan Miller’s Spectator blog in which he wrote, “There is also a shame to this. How could this have happened? Isn’t France better than this?” Both Chrisafis and Miller have lived in France for years and are reporting from the ground. The shame they have identified seems real.
There are many who instinctively understand when any society goes wrong its members have to share the responsibility
Jeff Smith and Stephen Douglas discuss the controversy surrounding Suella Braverman and antisemitism, and Shelagh Garvey defends the Rotary Club
The Guardian should not refer to “the antisemitic term ‘cultural Marxism’” as if that were a settled fact (Tory in antisemitism row, 27 March). Suella Braverman can explain for herself what she meant by it – the article does not give her exact quote – but “cultural Marxism” was in common use in British and American humanities departments in the 1980s and 1990s, not for anything conspiratorial but merely as a term for a certain approach to what is still called “cultural studies”.
Numerous examples of that usage can be found by searching the phrase on the academic database Jstor. For instance, Ioan Davies’s history of “British cultural Marxism” in the spring 1991 issue of the International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society. The term also appears in this academic context in The Cambridge Companion to Critical Theory, published in 2004 by Cambridge University Press. If it has since been seized upon by the alt-right, that is very unfortunate, and any antisemitic use or implication should be condemned. But it already existed long before that as a term for an academic enterprise that was, if anything, often rather abstruse, even boring. Jeff Smith Brno, Czech Republic
Her ambition was harnessed to a kind of patriotism and an ideal of serving society that is much less widely believed in today
In many ways Mary Warnock, whose death was announced on Thursday, represented the best of Britain’s ruling class as it was between the war and the rise of Margaret Thatcher.
The kind of tough-minded, realistic and self-confident liberalism that she embodied was once a quality that foreigners admired in Britain. It was elitist and not particularly democratic: she and her husband rose to the very top of the Oxbridge system, he as vice-chancellor of Oxford University, she as the head of colleges in both universities. When I went to see her in her semi-retirement, in a village on the edge of Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, she was unashamed about collecting her attendance allowance from the House of Lords. She needed the money, she said, and she earned it – she did the work.
Moral philosopher who headed the inquiry into embryo research and surrogate motherhood
The philosopher Mary Warnock, who has died aged 94, is most remembered for chairing the committee of inquiry into human fertilisation that laid down guidelines on embryo research and surrogate motherhood. She was never “a real blood-and-bones philosopher”, she said, or “much good” at the subject, and her books she principally wrote for money.
She recalled her dismay at the insistence by her fellow philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe that there should be at least one philosophical problem that she found agonising. She did not. Brisk, shrewd and energetic in all she did, she considered philosophy useful in analysing the practical issues debated on the numerous committees and commissions she chaired or sat on.