June 30, 2005

David Botterill is now a Professor!

Writing about web page http://www.uwic.ac.uk/shtl/staff_profiles/DavidBotterill.asp

Some of you will know him as 'Cheeky Dave' or 'Jazzy Dave'.

PhD students have also appreciated his help and guidance.

It appears his talents have been recognised: he is now a Professor!


June 22, 2005

So Who is the Greatest Philosopher of all time?

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/greatest_philosopher.shtml

'The Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it'

….So said Karl Marx. The Radio 4 programme In Our Time by Melvyn Bragg is running a poll to find the nation's favourite philosopher. Marx is currently leading the race, proving, as Michael Gove put it in yesterday's Times, that "there is one place where Marxism can storm to victory in an open ballot".

Gove argues that "The author of The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital may be the godfather of more misery, death and criminality than any other figure from the last 200 years" This is a little harsh, but I accept that Marxism is totally discredited, that it crushes the human spirit, and that history can often be a better guide to human action than theory.

So who is the greatest philosopher of all time? It's a difficult (perhaps impossible question). However, the philosophers who have inspired me most would include:

Rene Descartes for making me think about the foundations of knowledge, when beliefs are justified and of what we can be certain ('cogito ergo sum': I think therefore I am)

John Stuart Mill for his belief that individuals should be at liberty to do as they please as long as they do not harm others (an idea of great relevance today!), and his notion of higher and lower pleasures.

Karl Popper for his work on the scientific method, induction and falsification.

John Rawls (not on the list of 20 nominees) for reviving political theory in the 1970's and his belief that inequalities can only be justified when they benefit the least well-off.

Rawls and J S Mill have been of great influence on my political thinking. Given the fomer's absence from the list, I am voting for Mill. He is well known, of course, for the quote (highlighted on the Radio 4 website):

'Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.'

To this day some still refer to the Conservative Party as 'the stupid party'. This links back to my previous blog posting: namely, the Tories will have to change dramatically if they are to prove an credible alternative government for the country.


June 19, 2005

Conservative Leadership Election

The number of people mentioned as possible candidates for the Conservative leadership is quite ridiculous. Damian Green has now indicated he won't take part, but the following remain:

David Davis (the current front-runner)
Malcolm Rifkind (Tory centrist who served in the Thatcher/Major government's)
David Cameron (38yr old yr old Shadow Education Secretary and apparently backed by Michael Howard)
Liam Fox (possible right-wing candidate)
David Willetts (intelligent Tory moderniser nicknamed 'two brains')
Alan Duncan (again a moderniser and the only openly gay Tory MP)
Andrew Lansley (current Shadow Health Secretary – key moderniser)
Ken Clarke (left-leaning former Chancellor, the most popular candidate with the public)
Tim Yeo (another moderniser – he recently resigned from the Shadow Cabinet)
Michael Ancram (Tory grandee)
John Redwood (hard-line Euro-sceptic)
Theresa May (who some think may stand on the grounds that there needs to be a female candidate)

I remain to be convinced that David Davis understands the extent to which the Conservative Party will have to change if they are to form a Government again. They need to reform and modernise as radically as Labour did in the late 80's and 90's. They must become a party that looks and sounds like modern Britain. They need to be diverse in character and generous in outlook, a party that combines the best of the 'one-nation' paternalistic Tory tradition with the social liberalism necessay to put them back in touch with the Britain of today. As Alan Duncan has put it, they should be a party of liberal economics and liberal attitudes

It is vital that a reinvigorated 'new' Conservative Party not only occupies but dominates the centre ground. This does not mean becoming identitical to Labour. Conservatives should care just as passionately as Labour about poverty and injustice but use different means to conquer it: such as taking the poor out of tax, and promoting a partnership between government, business and voluntary groups to help the most disadvantaged. They should care just as much about the environment as the Liberal Democrats but focus more on market orientated solutions. They should be 100% committed to state funded health and education but rely on decentralisation rather than a target driven approach. They should take a tough line on law and order but combine it with a strong defence of civil liberties and a genuine respect towards everyone in society, regardless of sexuality, gender, race or religion

The Conservative Party are still seen by many as 'the nasty party'. They must now lead the intellectual debate and show how they can promote both economic prosperity and social justice in the 21st century. They must stop their obsession with Europe and immigration and provide a broad agenda for multi-cultural Britain.


June 15, 2005

Do the terms 'left' and 'right' mean anything in the modern world?

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4086892.stm

So here we go! My first blog posting.

This is an interesting piece by Brian Walden about the confusion caused by the terms 'left' and 'right'. People often think of themselves as falling on the left or right, or in the centre. The media also seem obsessed with such terms. Politicians, however, often seem to dislike them. David Davis (the next Conservative leader?), for example, is anxious not to be seen as 'too right-wing'. I recall a recent interview in which he asked whether the sale of council houses under Thatcher was left-wing because it helped the poor, or right-wing because it promoted private property. Similarly, Charles Kennedy always seems to side-step the question of whether his party is to the left of Labour by stating that the left/right spectrum is no longer relevant. A sceptic may argue that Davis and Kennedy are simply trying to hide their true political positions (arguably quite right-wing and left-wing respectively). Clearly, however, there are problems with the left/right spectrum. Is an opposition to identity cards, for example, a left-wing or right-wing stance? Is it time, therefore, to do away with such terms? Would other labels be more appropriate: for example, authoritarian/liberal, or moderniser/traditionalist?


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