'In terms of secular ethics, Aquinas embraced Aristotle and strangled him at the same time!'
To see my views on Natural Law, written for A-level students and originally published in Dialogue, click here. Or, for general notes on ethics, use the 'Notes for Students' link above.
Here is my 'Visual Philosophy' post for June:
This vineyard is in Provence, but ithe image can serve for all the many places I love in mainland Europe. This month Britain takes a decision that will effect its future for generations - whether to remain in the EU or leave. I'm not arguing for one side or another here, nor even saying how I will vote, but simply want to express my despair at the terrible level to which British political debate (if it even deserves the term 'debate') has sunk. What is needed, for everyone to take responsibility for what we will decide, is a serious and open discussion, free of narrow political in-fighting and the distortion or exaggeration of facts for the sake of scoring political points. All I observe at the moment is a childish political game. None can predict the future with any degree of accuracy - that is universally acknowledged by economists, for there are always unknown and complex factors to be taken into account - and it is foolish to present possibilities as though they are certainties. This political debate is far too important to hinge on trivialities, narrow prejudices and the internal needs and future of political parties.
Some years ago, I wrote a Teach Yourself book on Political Philosophy (still available!), and was reminded in doing so of all the great and bold thinkers of the past who took the issue of social and political life seriously. Seflishness and prejudice are not the basis on which to decide our future, but rather a good hard look at what is in the interests of everyone, not just in this country but globally.
This month also marks the centenary of some of the most terrible weeks of slaughter at the battle of Verdun - weeks experienced by Paul Tillich and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in a book I am writing about the impact of war on their thought. If this is the moment to pause and take stock in our thinking about the future of Europe and the need for serious cooperation, not just economically but as human beings and nations with our own unique and treasured cultures, then Verdun provides a horrendous warning and example of what has happened in the past when political decisions have got it wrong.
The reason why little new material is appearing on this website at the moment is that I'm busy working on my next book...
In June 1916, two remarkable religious thinkers found themselves on opposite sides of the battle of Verdun; for both the experience was uniquely formative, but they responded to it very differently. It transformed their ideas of God, their careers and their lives.
A German Lutheran chaplain and a French Jesuit stretcher bearer, although separated by only a few hundred yards of mud and barbed wire, tried to cope with, and make sense of, that horror of death and destruction on an unprecedented scale.
They – Paul Tillich and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – reflect a century of thinking about religion, politics, humanism, existential angst and the global future. Fashionable in the radical days of the 1960s, their ideas, and the experiences that gave rise to them, remain surprisingly relevant in the very different world of 2016, when the old supernatural ‘God’ is still surprisingly alive, in spite of predictions to the contrary, and a new one - in whatever secular form she may eventually appear - struggles to be born. It also happens to be a world in which people continue to slaughter one another for political, religious or ideological reasons, destroying the hope that the Great War of 1914-18 would be a ‘war to end war.’
Working on this book, which I shall probably self-publish later this year, I'm exploring the impact of the Great War on religious ideas, linking Heidegger, Bultmann, Hitler, Wittgenstein and others to work of the main characters, Paul Tillich and Teilhard de Chardin. It's the story of those two men and their struggles with religious belief, but also of the whole way in which ideas about God and religion have been shaped and re-shaped during the last hundred years. As the work progresses, I shall start posting extracts on this site and will welcome your comments.
Notes for AS and A level students...
I've added a set of notes on Kant's ethical theory - touching on both the Categorical Imperative and the postulates. (Added October 30th, 2015)
Utilitarianism offers a basic set of outline notes, including Bentham, Mill, Preference Utilitariaism and an assessment of some of its problems and advantages as an ethical theory. (Added October 29th, 2015)
The Cosmological Arguments gives a basic outline of Kalam Argument and the Cosmological Arguments from Aquinas,along with a link on the page to the Wi Fi presentations on the Cosmological Arguments. (Added October 20th, 2015)
The Problem of Evil - These notes have been revised and are now set out on a single web page, with clear section headings. and an outline of the Irenaean and Augustinian approaches, along with the Free Will Defence, a brief look at the impact of this problem on ideas of God and a note on the distinction here between philosophy and theology. (Added October 18th, 2015)
I have also revised and posted a set of notes on The Argument from Design, based on the relevant sections in my Introduction to Philosophy and Ethics. These are supplemented by the notes on the Anthropic Principle and Argument. (Added October 16th, 2015)
To see my range of books on Philosophy, Ethics and Religion...
Are you in the USA? If so, please help support this site by clicking this link when you shop on Amazon.com ...