Philosophy & Law

Artwork by Naomi Frears.

Dead to the World

Hal Foster

29 July 2021

How​ long can you be absent before you are declared dead? Do you have any civil rights during this interval – which some societies set at the biblical seven years – or are you merely the target of legal action? What happens if you return and your spouse has remarried or the kids have sold the farm? Do you have any recourse apart from revenge?

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In Baltimore

Gary Younge

29 July 2021

When​ Black Lives Matter demonstrations erupted across the United States and then the world last year, their target was not Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd . . .

‘Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint’

Julia Smith

15 July 2021

Thomas Becket​ was not the first archbishop of Canterbury to meet a violent end – Archbishop Alphege was killed by Vikings in 1012 – but he was unique in other ways. Unlike his predecessors . . .

Law Lords

Stephen Sedley

1 July 2021

Working​ in 2010 on a knotty judgment about the power of the home secretary to include additional criteria in immigration rules that she had previously laid before Parliament as required by statute . . .

Kant Come Alive

Stuart Jeffries

17 June 2021

Walter Benjamin praised Siegfried Kracauer as a fellow ragpicker, sorting through cultural trash for meaning. In writing about our bewitchment by ephemera, Benjamin wanted to shock readers out of consumer . . .

Bantu in the Bathroom

Jacqueline Rose, 19 November 2015

Pistorius was surely not aware that when he insisted the person he shot in the bathroom was an intruder he was re-enacting one strand of his nation’s cruellest past.

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The Adulteress Wife: Beauvoir Misrepresented

Toril Moi, 11 February 2010

In June 1946 Simone de Beauvoir was 38. She had just finished The Ethics of Ambiguity, and was wondering what to write next. Urged by Jean Genet, she went to see the Lady and the Unicorn...

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Where is my mind?

Jerry Fodor, 12 February 2009

If there’s anything we philosophers really hate it’s an untenable dualism. Exposing untenable dualisms is a lot of what we do for a living. It’s no small job, I assure you. They...

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Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching: Richard Dawkins

Terry Eagleton, 19 October 2006

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology....

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No, it’s not anti-semitic: the right to criticise Israel

Judith Butler, 21 August 2003

Profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-semitic in...

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You can’t build a new society with a Stanley knife: Hardt and Negri’s Empire

Malcolm Bull, 4 October 2001

Forget Bob Geldof, Bono and the other do-gooders, Genoa’s only significance was as the latest battle in the war of Neoliberalism. It was a clear victory this time for the...

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Why anything? Why this?

Derek Parfit, 22 January 1998

It might have been true that nothing ever existed: no living beings, no stars, no atoms, not even space or time. When we think about this possibility, it can seem astonishing that anything exists.

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Subduing the jury

E.P. Thompson, 4 December 1986

It was nice to be awoken on 12 November by the BBC informing us that the Queen’s Speech would announce measures ‘to strengthen the jury system’. It is, after all, a very ancient...

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The Contingency of Language

Richard Rorty, 17 April 1986

About two hundred years ago, the idea that A truth was made rather than found began to take hold of the imagination of Europe. The French Revolution had shown that the whole vocabulary of social...

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Winged Words: On Muhammad

Tariq Ali, 17 June 2021

Muhammad never claimed to be anything other than a human being: he was a Messenger of God, not the son of Allah, and not in direct communication with him. The visions were mainly aural: the Prophet heard...

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The question I am asking is whether, looking at ourselves from outside, we should come to view our attachment to rights and deontology as an unnecessarily cluttered moral outlook, which grossly magnifies...

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A Singular Entity: Classical China

Peter C. Perdue, 20 May 2021

The typical temple of Chinese popular religion contains multiple areas devoted to many gods, more like a circus model of culture than like the Temple of Heaven, where a single officer performed the sacrifice....

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Favourably Arranged: Horoscopy

Claire Hall, 20 May 2021

Ancient anatomists drew what scanty conclusions they could about the inner workings of humans from pigs and dogs; cosmologists speculated about the structure of the world without much evidence, or much...

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Short Cuts: Courthouse Hotel

Duncan Campbell, 20 May 2021

Fifteen​ years after its closure, Bow Street Magistrates’ Court, which over its 271-year history provided a stage for Oscar Wilde, Emmeline Pankhurst, Dr Crippen, ‘Lord...

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The ‘unconstitution’ has worked only because England’s ruling elites, out of decent self-interest, have never fully exploited its incredible lack of formal constraint on executive power....

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At the House of Mr Frog: Puritanism

Malcolm Gaskill, 18 March 2021

No one wants to be ‘puritanical’: better to be thought fun-loving, broadminded, easygoing, even (perhaps especially) if we’re not. Puritans hold a mirror to the anxious self-image of...

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Stainless Steel Banana Slicer

David Trotter, 18 March 2021

Gimmickry is the séance during which some commodities, at least, have begun to dance as if of their own free will. Marx’s term for ‘of its own free will’ is ‘aus freien Stücken’...

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The Sun and the Daily Mail needed individuals for their readers to hate or fear: scroungers who made piles of cash out of trivial or imaginary injuries, whingers who turned their self-regarding grievances...

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Reinventing Islam

Elias Muhanna, 4 March 2021

Just like the term ummah, the practical salience of the concept of dar al-islam waxed and waned throughout history. Cemil Aydin wants to remind us that Muslims have always lived in discrete empires, spoken...

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The Ramsey Effect

Kieran Setiya, 18 February 2021

Picture,​ if you can, a single person with the talents of Keats, Schubert and Seurat: an inspired poet, a prodigious composer, a revolutionary painter, a figure of unlimited promise who died, like...

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Charlie’s War

Jeremy Harding, 4 February 2021

In an email to staff shortly before his murder, Samuel Paty explained that his class was meant to confront students with the following question: should cartoons of the Prophet not be published in order...

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Name the days: Holy Spirits

Marina Warner, 4 February 2021

The strangeness of such religious material again and again makes it incomprehensible that such figures should be considered holy, but if you look instead at their adventures as a remedy for the drudgery,...

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In this febrile yet curiously static environment of competing claims on our subjecthood and sympathy, we could all do with bearing in mind Wollstonecraft’s distinction between real and affected sentiment....

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The Bergoglio Smile: The Francis Papacy

Colm Tóibín, 21 January 2021

It’s easy to see why Bergoglio would have been selected for early promot­ion by the Jesuits and then by the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires and then by the Papal Conclave. He exudes authority...

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Cynical Realism: Supreme Court Biases

Randall Kennedy, 21 January 2021

Although anxiety about the court is spreading, there is little chance that major reforms – the end of life tenure, for instance, or substantial enlargement of the number of justices – will...

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Short Cuts: The Classic Apocalypse

Nick Richardson, 7 January 2021

The​ end of the world has always been nigh. The ancient Assyrians, nearly five thousand years ago, expected it to arrive any minute. Tenth-century Christians thought it would come in 1000,...

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Short Cuts: RBG’s Big Mistake

Frederick Wilmot-Smith, 8 October 2020

Should Trump’s nominee be confirmed, the Supreme Court will shift to the right, probably far to the right, and will remain there for a generation. Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes the lion’s share...

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