Category Archives: Philosophy

Reading bell hooks.

‘Teaching to Transgress’ ‘Teaching to Transgress’ is as fresh and powerful in 2021 as when it was first published in 1994. Its messages about teaching as discovery, resistance and liberation are as vital today as ever. Reading bell hooks is … Continue reading

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Freire for today

What can we learn from reading Freire today? The work of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997) was rooted in his adult literacy teaching among dispossessed and disempowered communities in Latin America and elsewhere and was influenced by both Marxism … Continue reading

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Seven ways to avoid a Frankenstein education.

Seven ways to avoid a Frankenstein education – Philippe Meirieu. The French educationalist, Philippe Meirieu, in his 1996 book ‘Frankenstein Pedagogue’ reviews popular accounts of attempts to fashion a person to a maker’s design. Such fictional person-making often proves futile … Continue reading

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Rebecca Solnit on Hope.

In a crisis, it is easy to despair. ‘Don’t mourn, organise!’ is a good mantra in such situations. Mourning has its place, but our response should be neither blind despair nor blind hope. We need to understand the objective reality … Continue reading

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In praise of lightness – Calvino’s Leggerezza.

The Italian writer, Italo Calvino, was invited to give the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University in 1985 but died before he was able to deliver them. Luckily, we have the text of 5 of these 6 planned lectures … Continue reading

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Knowledge-rich and skills-rich

We can learn a lot from the telly. Skills competitions like ‘Bake Off’ and ‘Strictly’ and quiz shows like ‘University Challenge’ and ‘Mastermind’ are among the most popular programmes on TV. These shows fall into two main camps, reflecting a … Continue reading

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Edgar Morin on ‘Thinking Global’.

How do we understand the difference between the behaviour of an individual and that of a society, between a small group of like-minded people and a political movement or between the ecosystem of a few acres and that of a … Continue reading

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Theodore Zeldin on ‘what is worth knowing?’

What is worth knowing? It’s a good question, given how much there is to know and the impossibility of knowing more than a tiny fraction of the total. Theodore Zeldin’s latest collection of essays, ‘The hidden pleasures of life’ (Quercus, 2015) … Continue reading

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What is Social Capital?

The Economy of Ideas #5 What is social capital? “Connections among individuals; social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.” Robert Putnam (b. 1941) Bowling Alone: the Collapse and Revival of American Community (2001) The American … Continue reading

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Capital as metaphor

The economy of ideas #4 We talk about social capital, cultural capital, creative capital, even ‘emotional capital’. It seems that capital can stand in for almost every human capacity. Why is this? Given its role as a real currency, it’s … Continue reading

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The global economy of care.

The economy of ideas #3. Is there a limit to how much we can care about others? Is it natural that we should care more about those who are closest to us? Is it in our nature to ‘look after … Continue reading

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Primo Levi on work and education

In his wonderful La chiave a stella (The Wrench) published in 1978, Primo Levi shares with us an exchange of stories told by Faussone, the itinerant Piedmontese rigger, and a narrator who, like Levi himself, is an industrial chemist at the point … Continue reading

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Thinking students and student research.

In his excellent book Think Again (2012), John Taylor makes a strong case for putting philosophy at the centre of our teaching in order to develop students’ ability to think. As he says in his introduction: “Education should be all about … Continue reading

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The social origins of human thinking.

What is thinking? Where does human thought come from? How did it evolve? These are important questions for us if we want to understand what makes humans different from other living things and to make the most of our abilities both as … Continue reading

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Reducing culture to memes

The economy of ideas #2 Human culture is such a complex and fluid assemblage of shared knowledge, ideas, beliefs, attitudes, perspectives and practices. How can we even begin to analyse and usefully study it? One way is to break it down into … Continue reading

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