China Mieville’s The City and The City Coming to BBC

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/03/2018 - 6:33am in

Yesterday I caught a very brief trailer for what looks like a forthcoming Beeb adaptation of China Mieville’s The City and The City. This is a murder mystery set in a fictional eastern European country, and the Amazon review of it declares that stylistically it resembles Raymond Chandler and Orwell’s 1984, amongst other classic authors. Mieville’s an SF author, so it’s no surprise that this not going to be a straightforward thriller, but involves weirdness.

I’ve got a feeling that the book won at least one SF fiction award, though I could be wrong. Mieville himself is actually very left. He edited a book on Marxism and Science Fiction, which I found in the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s a couple of years ago. He and the late, great Ian M. Banks also gave a very interesting interview to the small press SF/genre fiction magazine The Edge back in the 1990s, where they made it very plain that they disliked the Tories and had absolute contempt for New Labour for their cuts to the welfare state.

Some of the attempts the Beeb has made in recent years to do proper SF or Fantasy dramas have been rather disappointing. But this could be worth watching.

Kudlow Predicts An Investment Boom

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/03/2018 - 4:06am in



Kudlow Predicts An Investment Boom Kudlow channels his inner Gerald Friedman: Larry Kudlow, picked to be President Trump’s new economic adviser, has privately told the White House that the nation’s economy is on the verge of 4 percent to 5 percent growth, or more than double the last decade. In a recent gathering with Trump, he […]

Books on God and Religion

On Thursday, Jo, one of the great commenters to this blog, asked my a couple of questions on the nature of the Almighty, which I tried to answer as best I could. I offered to put up here a few books, which might help people trying to explore for themselves the theological and philosophical ideas and debates about the nature of God, faith, religion and so on. I set up this blog about a decade and a half ago to defend Christianity against attacks by the New Atheists. I don’t really want to get sidetracked back there, because some of these issues will just go on forever if you let them. And I’m far more concerned to bring people of different religions and none together to combat the attacks by the Tories and the Blairites on the remains of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the impoverishment and murder of the British public, particularly the disabled, in order to further enrich the corporate elite. Especially as the Tories seem to want to provoke war with Russia.

But here are some books, which are written for ordinary people, which cover these issues, which have helped me and which I hope others reading about these topics for themselves will also find helpful.

The Thinker’s Guide to God, Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss (Alresford: John Hunt Publishing 2003)

This book is written by two academics from a Christian viewpoint, and discusses the Western religious tradition from Plato and Aristotle. It has the following chapters

1. Thinking About God – Plato and Aristotle
2.The God of the Philosophers
3. The God of Sacred Scripture
4. Religious Language
5. The Challenge of Anti-Realism
6. Arguments for the Existence of God
7. The Attributes of God
8. Life After Death
9. Miracles and Prayer
10. Jesus, the Trinity, and Christian Theology
11. Faith and Reason
12 Attacks on God, Darwin, Marx and Freud
13 God and Science
14 Quantum Science, Multi-Dimensions and God

God: A Guide for the Perplexed, Keith Ward, (Oxford: OneWorld 2003)

1. A Feeling for the Gods
God, literalism and poetry, A world full of Gods, Descartes and the cosmic machine, Wordsworth and Blake, the gods and poetic imagination, Conflict among the gods, Friedrich Schleiermacher: a Romantic account of the gods; Rudolf Otto: the sense of the numinous; Martin Buber: life as meeting, Epilogue: the testimony of a secularist.

2. Beyond the gods
Prophets and seers; The prophets of Israel and monotheism; Basil, Gregory Palamas and Maimonides: the apophatic way; Thomas Aquinas: the simplicity of God; The five ways of demonstrating God; Pseudo-Dyonysius the Areopagite; The doctrine of analogy; Three mystics.

3. The Love that moves the sun
The 613 commandments; Pigs and other animals; the two great commandments; The Ten Commandments; Jesus and the Law; Calvin and the Commandments, Faith and works; Theistic morality as fulfilling God’s purpose; Kant, the categorical imperative and faith, God as creative freedom, affective knowledge and illimitable love.

4. The God of the Philosophers

God and Job; Plato and the gods; the vision of the Good; Appearance and Reality; Augustine and creation ex nihilo, Aristotle and the Perfect Being; Augustine and Platonism; Anselm and Necessary Being; Evil, necessity and the Free Will defence; Creation as a timeless act; Faith and understanding.

5. The Poet of the World

The timeless and immutable God; The rejection of Platonism; Hegel and the philosophy of Absolute Spirit; Marx and the dialectic of history; Pantheism and panentheism; Time and creativity, The redemption of suffering; History and the purposive cosmos; Process philosophy; The collapse of the metaphysical vision.

6. The darkness between stars

Pascal: faith and scepticism; A.J. Ayer; the death of metaphysics; Scientific hypotheses and existential questions; Kierkegaard: truth as subjectivity; Sartre; freedom from a repressive God; Heidegger and Kierkegaard: the absolute
paradox; Tillich: religious symbols; Wittgenstein: pictures of human life; Religious language and forms of life; Religion and ‘seeing-as’; Spirituality without belief; Non-realism and God; The silence of the heart.

7. The personal ground of being

God as omnipotent person; The problem of evil; Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: beyond good and evil; Omniscience and creative freedom; God: person or personal; Persons as relational; The idea of the Trinity; The revelatory roots of religion; Conclusion: Seven ways of thinking about God.


Teach Yourself Philosophy of Religion, by Mel Thompson, (London: HodderHeadline 1997)

What is the philosophy of Religion?
Why study religion in this way?
What is involved?
The structure of this book
What this book aims to do.

1. Religious Experiences
Starting with experience
What happens when you experience something?
What is religious experience?
Induced religious experiences
Charismatic experiences
Some features of religious experience
What can we know?
Authority and response

2.Religious Language
A private language?
Knowledge and description
Faith, reason and beliefs
The rational and the non-rational
Interpreting language
Cognitive and non-cognitive
Language games
The limitations of language

3. God: the concepts
God as creator
Transcendence and immanence
Theism, pantheism and panentheism
Atheism, agnosticism and secularism
Nietzsche: God is dead
Secular interpretations of God
A postmodernist interpretation
The Christian concept of God: the Trinity
Beliefs, language and religion
Religious alternatives to theism
Basic beliefs

4. God: the arguments
The ontological argument
The cosmological argument
the teleological argument
the moral argument
the argument from religious experience

5. The Self
Bodies, minds and souls
Knowing our minds
Joining souls to bodies?
Identity and freedom
Life beyond death
Some conclusions

6. Causes, providence and miracles

7. Suffering and evil
The challenge and the response
the problem
God as moral agent
Suffering and the major religions
Coming to terms with suffering
The devil and hell
Religion and terrorism

8. Religion and Science
The problem science poses for religion
the key issues
the changing world view
the methods of science and religion
the origin of the universe
evolution and humankind
Some conclusions

9. Religion and ethics
Natural law
absolute ethics
Morality and facts
How are religion and morality treated?
Values and choices

Postcript, Glossary, Taking it Further

God and Evolution: A Reader, ed. by Mary Kathleen Cunningham (London: Routledge 2007)

Part One

1. Charles Hodge ‘The Protestant Rule of Faith’
2. Sallie McFague ‘Metaphor’
3. Mary Midgley ‘How Myths work’
4. Ian G. Barbour ‘The Structures of Science and Religion’.

Part Two
Evolutionary Theory

5. Charles Darwin, ‘On the origin of species
6. Francisco J. Ayala ‘The Evolution of life as overview
7. Michael Ruse ‘Is there are limit to our knowledge of evolution?

Part Three

6. Genesis 1-2
7. Ronald J. Numbers ‘The Creationists’.

Part Four
Intelligent Design

10. William Paley ‘Natural Theology’
11. Michael J. Behe ‘Irreducible complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution’
12. Kenneth R. Miller, ‘Answering the biochemical argument from Design

Part Five

13. Richard Dawkins, ‘The Blind Watchmaker’
14. Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s utility function’
15. Daniel C. Dennett, ‘God’s dangerous idea’
16. Mary Midgley, ‘The quest for a universal acid’
17. Michael Ruse, ‘Methodological naturalism under attack’.

Part Six
Evolutionary Theism

18. Howard J. Van Till, ‘The creation: intelligently designed or optimally equipped?’
19. Arthur Peacock, ‘Biological evolution-a positive theological appraisal’
20. Jurgen Moltmann, ‘God’s kenosis in the creation and consummation of the world’.
21 Elizabeth A. Johnson, ‘Does God play dice? Divine providence and chance’.

Part Seven:
Reformulations of Tradition

22. John F. Haught, ‘Evolution, tragedy, and cosmic paradox’
23. Sallie McFague, ‘God and the world’
24. Ruth Page, ‘Panentheism and pansyntheism: God is relation’
25. Gordon D. Kaufman, ‘On thinking of God as serendipitous creativity’.

The Klan in 1981 Showing the Fascist Reality of Anti-Migrant Boats for the Med

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/03/2018 - 9:19pm in

I found the above picture in Morris Dees and James Corcoran’s book, Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat (New York: HarperCollins 1996). it shows an anti-immigrant vessel crewed by members of the Texas Emergency Reserve, a 2,500 man paramilitary army set up and headed by Louis Beam, The boat terrorised Vietnamese fishermen by running ‘gunboat’ near the docks and their fishing fleets. Dees is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, an anti-racist groups which prosecutes Fascists and right-wing extremists. The book states that the SPLC brought a lawsuit against them, which forced Beam to disband his army of racist fanatics. As you can see, a couple of these Nazis are wearing Klan costumes.

I’m putting this up, because there have been demands for similar boats to deal with the migrant ships crossing the Mediterranean. Lauren Southern, a Canadian Alt-Right propagandist, was involved with a project by a group of European Fascists to set up an anti-migrant patrol boat, until it was scuppered by a campaign by Hope Not Hate. But other Fascists groups are making the same demands, like CasaPound, an insignificant Italian Fascist party, a video on which I put up about a week ago. And Katie Hopkins, the rightwing bigot and loudmouth, whose career on this side of the Pond spectacularly imploded a few weeks ago when she became too toxic for even the Scum and the Mail to employ, was responsible for a particularly odious tweet in which she recommended gunning down migrants and their boats without remorse. She then dared the TV presenter, Philip Schofield, to challenge her on these monstrous sentiments. This came a day or two before the bodies of the migrants aboard one such ship, which had sank, washed ashore, including the infant son of a man, who had stayed behind in Turkey.

Although this photo is from another time and place, it shows you exactly the kind of Fascist patrol boat the Fascists are demanding today. And it isn’t pretty.

NYC’s Fauxgressive Mayor De Blasio Turning into a Charter School Cheerleader

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/03/2018 - 7:37pm in

De Blasio again shows that he does not live up to his progressive branding.

Social Movements Are A Variety Of Identity Politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/03/2018 - 10:09am in



Great real science from a political scientist! Erin Mayo-Adam does it like Jane Goodall and applies what she found to the Parkland kids:

Social movements can form in response to a series of traumatic episodes — if and when they build grass-roots coalitions among groups and organizations that represent a variety of minority communities and others affected by the events. That can happen when the groups construct a collective identity based on two elements: common opponents and a shared traumatic past.

How Well Does Financial Regulation Work?

Sadly, reactive regulations don't have a great track record.

Desire, JS/Amia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/03/2018 - 10:31pm in



A state that made analogous interventions in the sexual preference and practices of its citizens – that encouraged us to ‘share’ sex equally – would probably be thought grossly authoritarian. (The utopian socialist Charles Fourier proposed a guaranteed ‘sexual minimum’, akin to a guaranteed basic income, for every man and woman, regardless of age or infirmity; only with sexual deprivation eliminated, Fourier thought, could romantic relationships be truly free. This social service would be provided by an ‘amorous nobility’ who, Fourier said, ‘know how to subordinate love to the dictates of honour’.) Of course, it matters just what those interventions would look like: disability activists, for example, have long called for more inclusive sex education in schools, and many would welcome regulation that ensured diversity in advertising and the media. But to think that such measures would be enough to alter our sexual desires, to free them entirely from the grooves of discrimination, is naive.-- Amia Srinivasan@London Rewiew of Books [HT: Dailynous & Catarina Dutilh Noveas]

It says something how normalized coupling is that the near-universal state ban on polygamy,  which, if not in intent than in effect, entails that sex is shared relatively equally is not recognized as 'grossly authoritarian' anymore. I don't mean to suggest in the previous sentence that marriage regulation is solely about sex-sharing (yes, it's about property, procreation, patriarchy, desire formation, etc.). I also do not mean to defend polygamy; from the perspective of preventing violence and violent revolutions, it's probably a good thing that the odds of becoming entirely sexless are reduced in such a structural fashion (without impoisng partners on each other). It is worth keeping this in mind, now that consent has become the all important norm, and more arguments are developed in favor of poly-amorousness; it's a predictable side-effect of poly arrangements that one generates higher odds for a group of structurally sexless.

I teach a sequence that includes Plato's Republic, More's Utopia, Bacon's New Atlantis, Le Guin's The Dispossessed (or The Left Hand of Darkness), because they all put the regulation of sexual partners and the formation of sexual desire as a central issue at the heart of political philosophy.  (Thanks to Srinivasan I will consider including Fourrier in the series!) And I have always struggled to find a liberal text to insert into the sequence. In her fascinating piece, Srinivasan suggests that liberalism looks away from the formation of our desires--treating them as givens of the autonomous agents whose choices that need to be respected. Here's the passage I have in mind:

It would be too easy, though, to say that sex positivity represents the co-option of feminism by liberalism. Generations of feminists and gay and lesbian activists have fought hard to free sex from shame, stigma, coercion, abuse and unwanted pain. It has been essential to this project to stress that there are limits to what can be understood about sex from the outside, that sexual acts can have private meanings that cannot be grasped from a public perspective, that there are times when we must take it on trust that a particular instance of sex is OK, even when we can’t imagine how it could be. Thus feminism finds itself not only questioning the liberal distinction between the public and the private, but also insisting on it.

Yet it would be disingenuous to make nothing of the convergence, however unintentional, between sex positivity and liberalism in their shared reluctance to interrogate the formation of our desires.'*

It's worth reflecting a bit on this reluctance. For there is no such reluctance in, say, Mandeville, Hume and Smith (as I show in my book). I think the key inflection point -- while mistrusting such a Foucault inspired focus on ruptures -- is the central paragraph of Mill's On Liberty (edited slightly for length):

To a certain extent it is admitted, that our understanding should be our own: but there is not the same willingness to admit that our desires and impulses should be our own likewise; or that to possess impulses of our own, and of any strength, is anything but a peril and a snare. Yet desires and impulses are as much a part of a perfect human being, as beliefs and restraints: and strong impulses are only perilous when not properly balanced; when one set of aims and inclinations is developed into strength, while others, which ought to coexist with them, remain weak and inactive. It is not because men’s desires are strong that they act ill; it is because their consciences are weak. There is no natural connection between strong impulses and a weak conscience. The natural connection is the other way. To say that one person’s desires and feelings are stronger and more various than those of another, is merely to say that he has more of the raw material of human nature, and is therefore capable, perhaps of more evil, but certainly of more good. Strong impulses are but another name for energy. Energy may be turned to bad uses; but more good may always be made of an energetic nature, than of an indolent and impassive one. Those who have most natural feeling, are always those whose cultivated feelings may be made the strongest. The same strong susceptibilities which make the personal impulses vivid and powerful, are also the source from whence are generated the most passionate love of virtue, and the sternest self-control. It is through the cultivation of these, that society both does its duty and protects its interests: not by rejecting the stuff of which heroes are made, because it knows not how to make them. A person whose desires and impulses are his own — are the expression of his own nature, as it has been developed and modified by his own culture — is said to have a character. One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam-engine has a character. If, in addition to being his own, his impulses are strong, and are under the government of a strong will, he has an energetic character. Whoever thinks that individuality of desires and impulses should not be encouraged to unfold itself, must maintain that society has no need of strong natures — is not the better for containing many persons who have much character — and that a high general average of energy is not desirable (emphasis added.

Mill's underlying argument is that in order to combat the regressive tendencies of conformist public opinion (which is focused on fashionable novelty but not advance), we need to make space for exceptional [Mill embraces the cult of 'genius' wholeheartedly in context] characters whose individual "experiments of living" will advance the whole society (where the less adventurous will imitate the successful experiments). Rather than scorning aristocratic eccentricity, we need to nurture it. It is not an accidental/opportunistic argument because Mill's argument combines his concern for individual happiness, public good, and the progress of civilization.

The argument itself appeals to a distinction between natural and cultivated feelings (which,as I show in my book, is also central to Adam Smith's arguments).+ Mill is clear that the formation of desire, is a duty that accrues to society. In context he is not very clear on what this entails in practice. (He does discuss it more with Taylor in The Subjection of Women.) Mill clearly wants to encourage a diversity of (what we may call) authentic desires because these will be the material for experiments  of living that will advance society in ways that will surprise.

Interestingly, an authentic desire, for Mill, is itself a cultivated feeling which is shaped by one's culture. So, within Mill's framework the health of a culture is clearly a political matter with regard to desire formation. However, Mill clearly thinks that the risks of socially oppressive conformism of his own democratizing and industrializing age are so great that he has nothing to say about, perhaps no eye for, other risks when the formation of desire is left to the play of market forces and our racialized (etc.), discriminatory 'taste.'

I should close. When we are told -- by the self-help industry, and well meaning therapists -- to own our feelings and desires we can hear in these the echoes of Mill's liberal plan for the creation of genius. Srinavasan is, in fact, more Mill-ian than that, because she reminds us that "Desire can take us by surprise, leading us somewhere we hadn’t imagined we would ever go, or towards someone we never thought we would lust after."

Srinivasan wants to ground our "hope" in (such) desire that "can cut against what politics has chosen for us, and choose for itself." The point here is not to suggest Srinivasan is more liberal (in Mill's sense) than she realized. Rather to make the more substantive point that her own analysis and Mill's suggest that in our time, there is an urgent public interest to invent or find room for (perhaps playful) institutions and practices that allow desires to be cultivated in ways that do not reinforce subordination and violence. 


*Of course, the point of the passage is about the domestication (sorry bad pun) even contradiction at the heart of contemporary pro-sex feminism.

+Ryan Hanley's book on Adam Smith and the Character Virtue develops the issue at greater length and originality; but my own book focuses more on the role of emotions and desires.

Thousands of Students Protest Gun Violence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/03/2018 - 9:07pm in

A first-hand report on some of the student gun protests in California.

South Australia To Decide: Devon, Fritz Or Belgium

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/03/2018 - 8:32am in

South Australia will head to the polls this weekend to vote on whether to continue to call luncheon meat “fritz” or switch to calling it devon or belgium.

Leading the campaign to continue referring to it as fritz is South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, who told The (un)Australian about fritz saying: “This state has stuck with fritz for almost 20 years it has done so in the good times and the bad. Now is not the time to switch to devon.

“We need to embrace our culture and come Saturday night we will all celebrate with a fritz sandwich, farmer’s union ice coffee and a bag of fruchocs. Good times.”

Meanwhile, opposition leader Steven Marshall is leading the charge towards devon, and said of its chances: “For too long we have been forced to live with fritz. The population of this state is going backwards and we need to grow the population and we will achieve this by embracing devon.

“I know I’m sick of having to explain to out-of-towners the meaning of fritz.”

Though considered a long shot, the switch to belgium is also a possibility with it’s cause being championed by former federal senator Nick Xenaphon who said of belgiums’ chances: “Don’t rule out belgium. We may not win outright but we are a chance of doing some sort of a deal like, fritz on weekdays and belgiums on weekends. Or maybe even a coalition, delgium or bevon.”

Mark Williamson

You can check out our new show Decennium Horribilius at this year’s Sydney Comedy Festival. Hosted by The (un)Australian, the quiz show features teams of some of Sydney’s best comics trying to answer questions about the decade of the 1990s — with prizes for the audience.

Saturday May 5, 5.30pm. The Factory Theatre. Book tickets here.

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook.