Friday, 21 May 2010

Artificial Life

Hi all

A Trades Unionist friend - who follows this blog a bit - has just sent me this (see below). I guess that this is something that one or two of you might have had some thoughts about!!

Thoughts and reflections please




I saw this and thought you should see it:

What does philosophy have to say about this?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


I watched a fantastic film last night. It was called Hidden (Cache') directed by Michael Haneke.
Ostensibly the film is about accepting or refusing guilt; the protagonist's guilt, it is inferred, is mirrored by the refusal of guilt by the French people regarding Algeria, in particular the police massacre of large numbers of pro FLN supporters in 1961.
The film made me reflect on the nature of national guilt, a strange phenomenon that does indeed tend to be refused or accepted. The German's, for example, seem to completely embrace the guilt of the holocaust, but as the losing side in the war they had that guilt thrust upon them. The British rarely think about the incendiary bombing of Dresden (a war crime by anybody's standards) and the American's are always quick to justify Hiroshima. And perhaps this is just, what makes a nation accountable for the actions of individuals that are now dead or dying?
The American Government has made reparations to black families who can trace their lineage back to slavery, that is right back to their ancestor's abduction from Africa. In many ways I support this (though I think its overly selective) but I have two questions:
1. can money pay to wash away guilt? especially when the consequences of the thing that make you feel guilty are still active?
2. To what extent are the American Government responsible for the actions of their long dead predecessors?
The first question is a matter for future debate but the second raises some important points. Does this not introduce a process of eternal reduction and regression through history?
Can we, the nation of Britain, not demand reparations from Italy for the Roman conquest 2,000 years ago? The slave traders are just as dead as the Romans. Of course England would have to pay Wales and Brittany for the Saxon invasion, then Denmark for the Norse et cetera ad infinitum. Is this not ridiculous, when do we say STOP! that was too long ago, I was only born in 1986, I am not responsible for the Bloody Sunday Massacre or the conquest of India.
Of course the counter argument is: well somebody has to take responsibility. The American Government has a spiritual responsibility, the individuals are not taking responsibilty, the institution is... but when a Government accepts guilt it is very hard to separate that from the national responsibility of admission of guilt, and again, how far are we to go back to find the guilty? I suppose we could feel guilty if the standard of living we enjoy now comes directly from a crime of the past, for example, but even so what is to be done? Is the victim to blame the child of the culprit for the rest of his days>
Ultimately this brings me on to something Nick Clegg was criticised by the Daily Mail for saying a couple of years ago. Britain needs to stop harking back to WW2 as if it was yesterday: one great act 60years ago does not justify a nations actions for the rest of its existence. There is still a touch of xenophobia towards Germany that tends to come out in f0otball matches; their guilt cannot last forever! just as Britain must let go of its nostalgia it must also let go of its historical finger pointing. After all, one day the Germans may gather enough confidence to respond by pointing out one of the many horrific skeletons in this country's closet.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Philosophy and Politics

The sister blog to this blog - 'Philosophy and Politics' - will be taken down in the next day or two because of lack of interest.

It will be replaced by a more formal blog specifically tailored to blog-based academic assignments.

I have rescued and updated one of my posts from this blog that you might want to comment on. Here it is

One thing is clear: the current UK government will have to develop a range of policies designed to bring about a more cohesive society. After the excesses of liberal individualism a new sense of integration and belonging is required. The party that grasp this and articulates it in a populist idiom will be the one that triumphs at the next election.

Can Cameron do this? In theory yes, because these are his political instincts. However, he will be forced to distance himself from neo-liberalism in many ways and this is likely to put him into conflict with the right wing of his party. Cameron suffers from the difficulty that if fig leaf of red toryism is removed we will in all likelihood see his party for what it is, politically, remains: a 19th century liberal party with an outmoded belief in the necessity of a minimal 'nightwatchman' state.

Cameron's real threat comes not from labour or the lib dems but the right of his party.

Neil Turnbull

Launch of a New Philosophy Column

The New York times has just began a Philosophy column.
Simon Critchley provides the first piece.