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  • The Meaning of Life

    i: Introduction To wonder too openly, or intensely, about the meaning of life sounds like a peculiar, ill-fated and unintentionally comedic pastime. It isn’t anything an ordinary mortal should be doing - or would get very far by doing. A select few might be equipped to take on the task and discover the answer in their own lives, but such ambition isn’t for most of us. Meaningful lives are for extraordinary people: great saints, artists, scholars, scientists,titian_-_pope_paul_iii_with_his_grandsons_alessandro_and_ottavio_farnese_-_wga22985
  • The Importance of Selfishness

    We’re highly attuned to the notion that being selfish is one of the worst character traits we might possess, a way of behaving associated with greed, entitlement and cruelty. And yet some of the reason we fail to have the lives we should springs from an excess of the very opposite trait: from an overweaning modesty, an over-hasty deference to the wishes of others, a dangerous and counter-productive lack of selfishness.   We are at risk because we
  • Why Self-Analysis Works

    There are some of us who regularly feel a powerful need to go away and think rather more than is typically allowed or taken to be normal. This business of thinking can seem to us like one of the most meaningful things we ever do. After too long in company, we crave (the word may not be too strong) to be alone with our own minds. Raw experience proves too overwhelming, dense, messy, confused or exciting - and, on a regular basis, we long to sort through it. We stay
  • Why We Do - After All - Care about Politics

    We live in societies in which it is hard to count as a good and intelligent adult without seeming to take a deep and fairly constant interest in politics. We have to hand, at minimal cost, a stream of reliable and penetrating bulletins about the latest events in parliament, law courts, bureaucracies, battlefields and markets. It is not really a viable option to fail to know, or to care, ‘what is happening’.   And yet, in the privacy of our
  • The Importance of Utopian Thinking

      To be accused of ‘utopian thinking’ is a particular insult in our times. We pride ourselves on being grounded, realistic and sober. Insofar as we dare to imagine the future, we do so with one peculiar tic: we cautiously ask ourselves what the future will be like on the basis of current trends; we almost never ask the one big philosophically-minded question: what should the future be like? We proceed as humble futurologists, viewing the future as
  • How to Tell the Story of Our Life

    At moments of sorrow and exhaustion, it is only too easy to look back over the years and feel that our lives have, in essence, been meaningless. We take stock of just how much has gone wrong: how many errors there have been; how many unfulfilled plans and frustrated dreams we’ve had. We may feel like the distraught, damned Macbeth who, on learning of his wife’s death, exclaims at a pitch of agony that man is a cursed creature who: ...struts and frets his

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