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Philosophy & Law

House of Lords illustration by Thomas Rowlandson, 1809

The Case for a Supreme Court

Stephen Sedley

21 May 2020

It isn’t wholly fanciful to envisage an aggressive Parliament determining that a judge who has stood up to the government on an issue of legal principle has failed to behave well, and using its majority in both houses to procure the judge’s dismissal. That, as Montesquieu said of a putative loss of the separation of powers, would be the end of everything.

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Becoming homeless is easily done

David Renton

7 May 2020

Government support for tenants has been partial and grudging. No minister has suggested that tenants should be granted rent holidays, or that any delay in paying rent during the lockdown should be ignored . . .

A nice girl like Simone

Joanna Biggs

4 April 2020

Almost​ from the moment she published The Second Sex in November 1949, Simone de Beauvoir was asked why she’d never written a female character who lived a free life, the sort she imagined in . . .

Walter Pater

Elizabeth Prettejohn

27 January 2020

Few authors​ of such historical importance have so high a proportion of their writings forgotten or neglected as Walter Pater. I used to think his essays on ancient sculpture the least studied portion . . .

Life on Licence

Harry Stopes

9 December 2019

John​ is one of more than 250,000 people in Britain living under the supervision of the probation service. He got out of prison in April 2018, when his sentence still had some years to run. I met . . .

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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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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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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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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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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Part 1

Derek Parfit, 22 January 1998

Why does the Universe exist? There are two questions here. First, why is there a Universe at all? It might have been true that nothing ever existed: no living beings, no stars, no atoms, not even...

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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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Autumn in Paris

Musab Younis, 25 November 2019

On​ 11 October, Julien Odoul, an official from the Rassemblement National, formerly the Front National, interrupted a French regional council session to ask a woman in the audience either to...

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After al-Baghdadi

Patrick Cockburn, 19 November 2019

For a brief, astonishing period, this reborn caliphate governed, in brutal but well-organised fashion, a population of ten million, claiming divine inspiration in its pursuit of true Islamic principles....

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The Wittgensteins

Jonathan Rée, 19 November 2019

Wittgenstein wasn’t particularly impress­ed by Bertrand Russell’s adoration. If his philosoph­ical capacities were as exceptional as Russell seemed to think, then this was a curious...

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The Prorogation Debacle

Stephen Sedley, 10 October 2019

For at least​ four centuries the courts have contested the claims of monarchs to untrammelled authority. ‘The king,’ Chief Justice Coke said in 1611, ‘hath no prerogative but...

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Justice eBay Style

Frederick Wilmot-Smith, 26 September 2019

The​ Shield of Achilles, as described in the Iliad, portrays two cities. One of them is at war, circled by ‘a divided army/gleaming in battle-gear’. In the other, there is a promise...

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In Time of Meltdown

Stephen Sedley, 12 September 2019

Jonathan Sumption throughout the Reith Lectures takes it as given that the UK is a parliamentary democracy. Nowhere does he speak of what the UK actually is, a constitutional monarchy. The irony is that...

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How to draft a constitution

Jeremy Waldron, 12 September 2019

Framing​ a constitution for a country undergoing political upheaval is a messy and dangerous business, and it is by no means guaranteed to succeed. We think of South Africa in the early 1990s...

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Masada

Josephine Quinn, 12 September 2019

Highway​ 90 follows the Great Rift Valley from Jerusalem down to Masada alongside what’s left of the Dead Sea, making it the lowest road on earth. On the right, sheer cliffs hide the...

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Kierkegaard

Terry Eagleton, 1 August 2019

There are​ a number of modern thinkers who might be described as anti-philosophers. Anti-philosophers aren’t simply people who don’t reckon much to philosophy, but thinkers who are...

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St Patrick’s Purgatory

Diarmaid MacCulloch, 1 August 2019

What​ do we know about St Patrick? Most people could probably place him in Ireland, amid every short cut to Irishness – shamrocks, Guinness, lots of green things – while a little...

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Magical Thinking in 1918

Malcolm Gaskill, 4 July 2019

In​ 2001 an architect called Danny Sullivan claimed to have found cine film of an angel while rooting around in a Monmouth junk shop. This was, unsurprisingly, a hoax, as were claims that...

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How to Run a Caliphate

Tom Stevenson, 20 June 2019

The horrors of IS rule are well known: the killings of Shia; the choice offered to the Christians of Mosul (conversion, ruinous taxation or expulsion); the slaughter of polytheists; the revival of slavery;...

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Short Cuts: Jury Duty

Deborah Friedell, 23 May 2019

For months​ after I was summoned to appear for jury duty in North London, I couldn’t stop asking people – in England, in America – if they’d ever been called up too. The...

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Living in Her Own Grave

Mary Wellesley, 23 May 2019

Life as an anchoress began with a death. On entering their cell for the first time, the recludensus (novice recluse) would climb into a grave dug inside the cell.

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‘Being and Nothingness’

Jonathan Rée, 18 April 2019

At the turn​ of the 20th century, Gaston Gallimard was one of many suave young men about Paris with exquisite taste in literature, music and art. Then he became friends not only with Proust,...

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Short Cuts: The p-p-porn ban

Tom Crewe, 4 April 2019

Have​ you p-p-picked up a porn pass? In April the UK government plans to introduce – or at least plans to announce a definite date for the introduction of – the world’s first...

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The Palais de Justice​ in Brussels is a product of civic and architectural delirium, a Circumlocution Office looming over the historically working-class Marolles district like a sinister,...

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Justinian’s Wars

Michael Kulikowski, 21 March 2019

Had​ you been a sixth-century Christian, living in lands that had been or still were part of the Roman Empire, you would probably have met a demon. Every tree, hill and stream, every hovel and...

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