I may not be as unambiguously hostile to capitalism as many people are, but what I don't like about it is the commodification of personal experiences, it turns everyone into actors.
Might there not be a connection between the attempt to eradicate religion and the loss of freedom? It is unlikely that Mao, who launched his assault on the people and culture of Tibet with the slogan Religion is poison, would have agreed that his atheist world-view had no bearing on his policies.
The true goal of the bourgeois life, in other words, is not self-enactment, but diversion. Most people need the organised distraction of work (if they can find it). Idleness - the life of the playboy who doesn't answer the phone - is simply too demanding.
Moral philosophy is very largely a branch of fiction. Despite this, a philosopher has yet to write a great novel. The fact should not be surprising. In philosophy the truth about human life is of no interest.
Other animals do not need a purpose in life. A contradiction to itself, the human animal cannot do without one. Can we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?
It is because human needs are contradictory that no human life can be perfect. That does not mean that human life is imperfect. It means that the idea of perfection has no meaning.
The result of toppling tyranny in divided countries is usually civil war and ethnic cleansing.
The belief in unity that has fuelled so many utopian dreams is an effort to reconcile the irreconcilable that ends in repression. Berlin suggests we renounce this venerable faith, and learn how to live with intractable conflict.
Knowledge grows, but human beings remain much the same. Belief in progress is a relic of the Christian view of history as a universal narrative, and an intellectually rigorous atheism would start by questioning it.
Nothing is more alien to the present age than idleness. If we think of resting from our labours, it is only in order to return to them. In thinking so highly of work we are aberrant. Few other cultures have ever done so. For nearly all of history and all prehistory, work was an indignity.
The unalterable character with which Schopenhauer and sometimes Conrad believed all humans are born may not exists; but we cannot help looking within ourselves to account for what we do. All we find are fragments, like memories of a novel we once read.
There is no more consensus on what justice means than there is on the character of the good. If anything, there is less. Among the virtues, justice is one of the most shaped by convention. For that reason it is among the most changeable.
Blair has been the modern man he claims to be: for him, a sense of subjective certainty is all that is needed for an action to be right. If deception is needed to realise the providential design, it cannot be truly deceitful.
The mass of mankind is ruled not by its intermittent moral sensations, still less by self-interest, but by the needs of the moment.
According to the most influential twentieth-century philosopher of science, Karl Popper, a theory is scientific only in so far as it is falsifiable, and should be given up as soon as it has been falsified. By this standard, the theories of Darwin and Einstein should never have been accepted.