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  • The Importance of Flattery

    Flattery has a bad name. It’s associated with saying something upbeat but untrue in order to hoodwink its unsuspecting target for low personal gain. In Aesop’s famous fable, The Fox and the Crow, an ugly crow has found a piece of cheese and retired to a branch to eat it. A sly fox, wanting it for himself, flatters the crow, calling it beautiful and wondering whether its voice will be as sweet as its appearance. The crow lets out a horrific screeching sound and640px-Brasilia_Congresso_Nacional_05_2007_221
  • Akrasia - or why we don't do what we believe

    A central problem of our minds is that we know so much in theory about how we should behave but engage so little with our knowledge in our day to day conduct. We know - in theory - about not eating too much, about being kind, about getting to bed early, about focusing on our opportunities before it is too late, about showing charity and remembering to be grateful. And yet in practice, our wise ideas have a notoriously weak ability to motivate our actual
  • The Importance of Architecture

    In an odd but quietly very important way, works of architecture ‘speak’ to us. Some buildings, streets and even whole cities seem to speak of chaos, aggression or military pride; others seem to be whispering to us of calm or graceful dignity, generosity or gentleness. However, a dominant strand of modern opinion doesn’t think it matters very much what our buildings speak to us about. It is deemed pretentious or over-sensitive to suppose that something as
  • On Getting an Early Night

    To a surprising, and almost humiliating extent, some of the gravest problems we face during a day can be traced back to a brutally simple fact: that we have not had enough sleep the night before. The idea sounds profoundly offensive. There are surely greater issues than tiredness. We are likely to be up against genuine hurdles: the economic situation, politics, problems at work, tensions in our relationship, the family… These are true difficulties. But
  • The Meaning of Infidelity

    Infidelity is commonly interpreted as close to the greatest tragedy that could befall any relationship - and as the natural, inevitable prelude to the break-up of a union. It is viewed in such dark terms because, under the philosophy of Romanticism which has dominated our understanding of love since the middle of the eighteenth century, sex is understood to be, not principally a physical act, but the summation and central symbol of love. Before Romanticism,
  • The Art of Listening

    Many of us probably have a nagging feeling that we don’t listen enough to other people. Here we’re not going to make the guilt worse by telling you that listening is a good thing, worthy but in fact rather dull. We’re going to show you that listening to others is first and foremost an interesting thing to do, something that could be as pleasurable for you as it is for your speaking companion. And as a result, we try to minimise how much we’refun2

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