Aeon: A-B
Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul)
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
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Website “About”1

  1. Since 2012, Aeon has established itself as a unique digital magazine, publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. We ask the big questions and find the freshest, most original answers, provided by leading thinkers on science, philosophy, society and the arts.
  2. Aeon has three channels, and all are completely free to enjoy:
    1. Essays – Longform explorations of deep issues written by serious and creative thinkers
    2. Ideas – Short provocations, maintaining Aeon’s high editorial standards but in a more nimble and immediate form. Our Ideas are published under a Creative Commons licence, making them available for republication.
    3. Video – A mixture of curated short documentaries and original Aeon productions
  3. Through our Partnership program, we publish pieces from university research groups, university presses and other selected cultural organisations.
  4. Aeon was founded in London by Paul and Brigid Hains. It now has offices in London, Melbourne and New York. We are a not-for-profit, registered charity, operated by Aeon Media Group Ltd.
  5. We are committed to big ideas, serious enquiry and a humane worldview. That’s it.

In-Page Footnotes ("Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: A-B")

Footnote 1:

"Aamodt (Caitlin) - On shared false memories: what lies behind the Mandela effect?"

Source: Aeon, 15 February, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Adamson (Peter) - Arabic translators did far more than just preserve Greek philosophy"

Source: Aeon, 04 November, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Adamson (Peter) - If Aquinas is a philosopher then so are the Islamic theologians"

Source: Aeon, 10 February, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Adamson (Peter) - When philosophy needed Muslims, Jews and Christians alike"

Source: Aeon, 21 April, 2017

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Philosophy and the sciences more generally offered a kind of meeting point or neutral ground for intellectuals of different faiths. Muslims, Christians and Jews who shared an interest in Aristotle’s metaphysics or the medical theories of Galen read each others’ commentaries and elaborations on the Hellenic tradition. This is shown even by the disputes that they had with one another: using Greek logic to debate the Trinity implicitly suggested that this was a topic that could be resolved by appeal to reason.
  2. And many of the thinkers mentioned above argued that philosophy offered the best resource for the interpretation of sacred texts, whether the Torah, the Christian Bible, or the Quran. So it is no coincidence that in the Muslim al-Kindi, the Christian ibn ‘Adi, and the Jew Maimonides, the One God of Abrahamic tradition bears a striking resemblance to the god of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Their shared enterprise as elite philosophers meant that they had more in common with one another than they did with most of their co-religionists.


This paper references Adamson’s others on Aeon that I’ve mostly not had time to follow up:-
  1. "Adamson (Peter) - If Aquinas is a philosopher then so are the Islamic theologians",
  2. “What can Avicenna teach us about the mind-body problem?” (Web Link)
  3. “Arabic translators did far more than just preserve Greek philosophy” (Web Link)

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Addyman (Caspar) - Why playing peekaboo with babies is a very serious matter"

Source: Aeon, 26 February, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Adelman (Jeremy) - Don’t look away"

Source: Aeon, 13 September, 2017

Author’s Conclusion
  1. It took Sontag decades to let her skepticism about heart-warming beliefs in technological progress, burnished in the age of Cold War certainties, give way to uncertainty and despair. In a sense, her voyage was part of the debate about photography and sympathy, spurring on a quarrel over whether the camera helped or hindered. Looking back, we can see the arc from heroic reportage to waning confidence in photographic objectivity. We were left poised between cynical disbelief and humanitarian urgency. In between the two is moral ambiguity, a realm that expands as the manufacture of images goes digital and their circulation goes global.
  2. Until now, the question has been: does a photograph make us act, or does it dull our senses? That question preoccupied Sontag. But it is too blunt; it misses that the photo works both ways. The photo is neither the answer nor the obstacle to our capacity to sympathise across distances. The camera gives feeling and emotional power, but insight comes from beholding the photo as an image made by events, and links that chain the viewed and the viewer in a shared, if often disjointed, narrative. The distance between them is connected by choices and small, forgotten acts of posing, staging, shooting, editing, selecting, captioning, circulating and making strangers visible to one another. These everyday practices of turning photos into stories that connect the viewer to the viewed may not dissolve moral ambiguity, but understanding them helps turn the passive spectator into a more active witness.

  • "Photography came of age amid the wars and atrocities, as well as the humanitarian aspirations, of the modern world."
  • See Web Link

"Adomako (Andrea) - Black stories matter: on the whiteness of children’s books"

Source: Aeon, 26 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Ahmad (Muhammad Aurangzeb) - This is the Muslim tradition of sci-fi and speculative fiction"

Source: Aeon, 27 June, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Akbar (Prayaag) - Caste lives on, and on"

Source: Aeon, 20 April, 2017

  • Sub-title: "Indian society deludes itself that caste discrimination is a thing of the past, yet it suffuses the nation, top to bottom."
  • See Web Link

"Alkhateeb (Ahmed) - Science has outgrown the human mind and its limited capacities"

Source: Aeon, 24 April, 2017

Author’s Introduction
  1. Science is in the midst of a data crisis. Last year, there were more than 1.2 million new papers published in the biomedical sciences alone, bringing the total number of peer-reviewed biomedical papers to over 26 million. However, the average scientist reads only about 250 papers a year. Meanwhile, the quality of the scientific literature has been in decline. Some recent studies found that the majority of biomedical papers were irreproducible1.
  2. The twin challenges of too much quantity and too little quality are rooted in the finite neurological capacity of the human mind. Scientists are deriving hypotheses from a smaller and smaller fraction of our collective knowledge and consequently, more and more, asking the wrong questions, or asking ones that have already been answered. Also, human creativity seems to depend increasingly on the stochasticity of previous experiences – particular life events that allow a researcher to notice something others do not. Although chance has always been a factor in scientific discovery, it is currently playing a much larger role than it should.
  3. One promising strategy to overcome the current crisis is to integrate machines and artificial intelligence in the scientific process. Machines have greater memory and higher computational capacity than the human brain. Automation of the scientific process could greatly increase the rate of discovery. It could even begin another scientific revolution. at huge possibility hinges on an equally huge question: can scientific discovery really be automated?
  4. I believe it can, using an approach that we have known about for centuries. e answer to this question can be found in the work of Sir Francis Bacon, the 17th-century English philosopher and a key progenitor of modern science.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Human minds simply cannot reconstruct highly complex natural phenomena efficiently enough in the age of big data. A modern Baconian method that incorporates reductionist ideas through data-mining, but then analyses this information through inductive computational models, could transform our understanding of the natural world.
  2. Such an approach would enable us to generate novel hypotheses that have higher chances of turning out to be true, to test those hypotheses, and to fill gaps in our knowledge. It would also provide a much-needed reminder of what science is supposed to be: truth-seeking, antiauthoritarian, and limitlessly free.

  • See Web Link
  • Contrast with "Ball (Philip) - Machine envy" - polar opposite evaluations of machine application of the Baconian method: Ball thinks it hopeless, whereas Alkhateeb is very positive.

In-Page Footnotes ("Alkhateeb (Ahmed) - Science has outgrown the human mind and its limited capacities")

Footnote 1: We are referred to "Colquhoun (David) - The problem with p-values".

"Allen (Benjamin) - Global cooperation depends on the strength of local connections"

Source: Aeon, 05 September, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Andersen (Ross) - Exodus"

Source: Aeon, 30 September, 2014


"Andersen (Ross) - In the beginning"

Source: Aeon, 12 May, 2015

  • Sub-title: "Cosmology has been on a long, hot streak, racking up one imaginative and scientific triumph after another. Is it over?"
  • See Web Link
  • Lots of waffle; the interesting part is the discussion of Cosmic Inflation and Multiverses, and whether or not this is science.

"Andersen (Ross) - Omens"

Source: Aeon, 25 February, 2013

Author’s Conclusion
  1. I asked Bostrom (Nick) about his approach to philosophy. How did he end up studying a subject as morbid and peculiar as human extinction?
  2. He told me that when he was younger, he was more interested in the traditional philosophical questions. He wanted to develop a basic understanding of the world and its fundamentals. He wanted to know the nature of being, the intricacies of logic, and the secrets of the good life.
  3. ‘But then there was this transition, where it gradually dawned on me that not all philosophical questions are equally urgent,’ he said. ‘Some of them have been with us for thousands of years. It’s unlikely that we are going to make serious progress on them in the next ten. That realisation refocused me on research that can make a difference right now. It helped me to understand that philosophy has a time limit.’

  • Sub-title: "When we peer into the fog of the deep future what do we see – human extinction or a future among the stars?".
  • See Web Link

"Anderson (Mark) - Enter halophytes"

Source: Aeon, 10 June, 2014

  • Sub-title: "We are running out of land for traditional agriculture. Time to figure out what saltwater plants can do for us."
  • See Web Link

"Angle (Stephen C.), Appiah (Anthony Kwame), Baggini (Julian), Etc - In defence of hierarchy"

Source: Aeon, 22 March, 2017


"Arnold (Carrie) - Watchers of the earth"

Source: Aeon, 13 April, 2017

  • Sub-title: "Indigenous peoples around the world tell myths which contain warning signs for natural disasters. Scientists are now listening ."
  • See Web Link

"Askowitz (Andrea) - So I exaggerate a little – am I wrong to jazz up my stories?"

Source: Aeon, 20 June, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Asma (Stephen) - Imagination is ancient"

Source: Aeon, 11 September, 2017

  • Sub-title: "Our imaginative life today has access to the pre-linguistic, ancestral mind: rich in imagery, emotions and associations."
  • See Web Link
  • Probably a plug for his 2017 book "The Evolution of Imagination".

"Asma (Stephen) - We could all do with learning how to improvise a little better"

Source: Aeon, 29 May, 2017

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Ultimately, improvising is a form of receptivity to experience, and also a behavioural style based upon that experience. It evolved as part of our cognitive operating system to make good use of available resources. It is a fundamental inheritance, emerging out of our primate evolution.
  2. But the narcissistic improviser and the inexperienced improviser – so popular these days in politics and celebrity culture – leaps tragically into delicate situations with no plans, practice, tact or ability to read the room. That is an improvising ape of an altogether different kind.

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Asseraf (Arthur) - What’s so new about news?"

Source: Aeon, 09 May, 2017

  • Sub-title: "The interesting thing about news has never been its truth or falsehood but how it explodes our sense of onrushing time."
  • See Web Link

"Baggini (Julian) - Life-and-death thought experiments are correctly unsolvable"

Source: Aeon, 17 January, 2017

Full Text
  1. People have concerns about the psychological effects of endlessly playing shoot-em-up video games but I sometimes wonder whether doing moral philosophy is just as corrosive. A worryingly large proportion of ethical thought experiments involve fantasies of homicide, requiring you to play God and decide who gets tortured or killed, with no option for everyone to get into a group hug or have a nice cup of tea.
  2. Here are just a handful:
    1. would it be right to torture someone in order to extract information to prevent a bomb going off, killing thousands?
    2. Is it justifiable to hang an innocent man to calm a mob who would otherwise run riot and kill many more?
    3. Should a parent take a lifeboat to a raft with five children clinging to it or to another with just their own child, knowing there is not enough time or fuel to do both?
    4. Should a doctor let a patient die, knowing that the patient’s organs can then be transplanted to save five other people?
    5. Should you divert a runaway train from a tunnel where it would crush five people into another tunnel housing just one unfortunate person?
    6. Or should you stop the train by pushing someone in front of it?
  3. Responses to such thought experiments are meant to expose the extent to which we think moral judgments should be made on grounds of duty and principle, or on utilitarian calculations about whether actions increase or decrease wellbeing. But interestingly, no matter what people’s ethical framework, the scenarios seem to most people to be genuine dilemmas. Those who take utilitarian options will usually be uneasy with the cold, callous, calculating nature of the judgement; while those who refuse often worry that trying to keep their hands clean only leaves more blood on them.
  4. You could explain this unease in purely psychological terms. Indeed, there is good evidence that psychology plays a major role in how we think about such problems. Generally speaking, we are more likely to make utilitarian choices where there is some distance between our imagined action and those who suffer as a consequence. But when we are up, close and personal with the victims, we tend to back off. The same distinction appears in real life: people have fewer scruples about killing others remotely with drones than in shooting them while looking into the whites of their eyes.
  5. Although psychology surely does play a part, I don’t think it’s the whole story. What these thought experiments also bring to light is that, in one way, we value life above all else, and, in another, there are things that matter even more than life.
  6. Life is, in a sense, of supreme value because without life there can be no value at all. That’s why, if we are asked to make choices in which there is more or less life as a result, it seems wrong to choose less.
  7. But what is it that makes life valuable? Not, it would seem, life itself. Most people think that there is no reason to prefer a permanent vegetative state to death. In many ways, the former is worse because it prolongs the agony for loved ones and takes resources away from others in need. Furthermore, despite some radical vegans’ claims to the contrary, most of us find it absurd to value the life of a hamster the same as that of a human.
  8. If life has value, it is surely because of what life makes possible: love, aesthetic experience, great moments, creativity, laughter. But even these things are not judged to be unqualified goods. The context in which they appear matters too. The love between two psychopaths, egging each other to horrendous crimes, might seem good to them but is an abhorrent perversion to others. Nor do we value the laughter of tormentors or the building of great monuments with slave labour.
  9. If we go back to those life-or-death thought experiments, in each case we can see that we are being asked to choose between saving more life at the cost of something that makes life valuable in the first place, or preserving more of what is of value at the cost of more life. When we allow innocents to die to save more people overall, we are sacrificing some of the dignity and respect we have for human life in order to keep more humans alive. When we torture to save life, we allow more cruelty into the world in order to keep more people in it. When we choose multiple strangers over one loved one, we reject the special bonds of love so that others can have a chance to maintain theirs.
  10. That’s why I believe most such thought experiments are never satisfactorily solved. Indeed, I would suggest that the best way to use them is not to see them as puzzles to be solved at all.
  11. If we ever face such situations in real life, we will be forced to choose, and will have to do so based on the very particular circumstances of each case. The only general lesson we learn from these thought experiments is that there is sometimes a tragic conflict between life and what makes life valuable in the first place.

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Ball (Philip) - Machine envy"

Source: Aeon, 07 January, 2014


"Ball (Philip) - Quantum common sense"

Source: Aeon, 21 June, 2017

Author’s Conclusion1
  1. Decoherence doesn’t completely neutralise the puzzle of quantum mechanics. Most importantly, although it shows how the probabilities inherent in the quantum wave function get pared down to classical-like particulars, it does not explain the issue of uniqueness: why, out of the possible outcomes of a measurement that survive decoherence, we see only one of them. Some researchers feel compelled to add this as an extra (you might say ‘super-common-sensical’) axiom: they define reality as quantum theory plus uniqueness.
  2. All the same2, thanks to the theory of decoherence, we no longer have to make quantum measurement some magical and mysterious event that crystallises knowledge. We have a mathematical theory to explain how information gets out of the quantum system and into the macroscopic apparatus. We can use the theory to calculate how quickly that happens, and how robustly. We have, at long last, a theory of measurement. What’s more, it is a theory that confers no privileged status on the conscious observer3, stripping away the seemingly mystical veneer from quantum mechanics.
  3. There’s no longer any need for Bohr’s arbitrary division of the world into the microscopic, where quantum mechanics rules, and macroscopic, which is necessarily classical. Now we can see not only that they are a continuum, but also that classical physics is just a special case of quantum physics. Regarded this way, common sense is a direct and utterly sensible outgrowth of quantum sense.
  4. This quantum theory of measurement is a reversal of the usual way that science works. We normally take our human common sense and experience for granted, and work back from it to deduce more fundamental physical behaviours. Sure, what we discover that way might sometimes seem a long way from common sense – heliocentrism, Higgs bosons, black holes, etc. But we typically get to those points by taking it for granted that there is an uncomplicated relationship between what we measure and what is there.
  5. Decoherence theory doesn’t take that common-sense view of measurement for granted. It starts by accepting that the world is fundamentally governed by quantum rules, which seem at face value to run deeply counter to experience, and then it works upwards to see if it can recover common sense. Remarkably, it can.
  6. That is why the quantum theory of measurement can be thought of as nothing less than a ‘theory of common sense’. Decoherence theory explains where common sense comes from – namely, out of principles that seem very far from common-sensical. The challenge is then on all of us to reconcile our instinctive common sense with its quantum origins. But we no longer have to regard the two as being in conflict, since they are not only consistent but inextricably linked.
  7. We can seek solace in the knowledge that the conflict between classical and quantum is not in the physics. It’s just in our minds.

  • Sub-title: "Despite its confounding reputation, quantum mechanics both guides and helps explain human intuition."
  • See Web Link

In-Page Footnotes ("Ball (Philip) - Quantum common sense")

Footnote 1:
  • There’s much good stuff in this paper that deserves consideration, and I hope to consider it in due course.
Footnote 2: The previous caveat seems to be left dangling.

Footnote 3: Excellent!

"Ball (Philip) - Too Many Worlds"

Source: Aeon, 17 February, 2015

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Baranowski (Brad) - How Robert Nozick put a purple prose bomb under analytical philosophy"

Source: Aeon, 01 May, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Barash (David P.) - Animal magnetism"

Source: Aeon, 13 May, 2014

  • Sub-title: "Humans are fascinated by our fellow animals – is that just an evolutionary hangover or something more profound?"
  • See Web Link

"Baron (Jessica) - White coats and mild manners: how to style a good doctor"

Source: Aeon, 13 June, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Barrett (Michael) - How a generation of consumptives defined 19th-century Romanticism"

Source: Aeon, 10 April, 2017

Author’s Introduction
  1. More than any other disease, tuberculosis (TB), or consumption, shaped the social history of 19th-century Europe. Its impact on the artistic world was just as powerful, with artists offering their own commentaries on the disease through painting, poetry and opera. Consumption was almost a defining feature of Romanticism, the style of expression for which the era was known.
  2. … Indeed, the preponderance of Romantic writers, painters and composers with TB created a myth that consumption drove artistic genius. Many assumed that the spes phthisica, a kind of elation that intermingles with depression during the disease, elevated the mind.
  3. The truth, of course, is that TB’s impact on the arts was merely a reflection of the savagery with which it ravaged the general population – artists and everyone else. In 1801, up to one third of all Londoners died from TB. Yet its course was insidious, with some victims dying slowly over months, and others – years. Talented victims, all of them doomed before the age of antibiotics, had time (paraphrasing Keats) for their pens to glean their teeming brains, in spite of, not because of, the disease.
  4. Then as now, the disease is caused by the transmission of the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis in sputum from infected individuals. TB germs land in their victim’s lungs and proliferate, provoking inflammation, severe coughing and breathlessness. Fevers and sweats ensue. Eventually, pulmonary blood vessels rupture, contributing to the anaemia that makes complexions pale. Apart from consumption, the disease comes with many synonyms. The word ‘phthisis’, from the Greek, meaning a wasting disease, was in use before we came up with the name TB. The nasty-sounding name ‘scrofulae’, derived from the Latin for ‘little pigs’, referred to swellings that appear around the body when bacteria spread beyond the lungs, was also widely used.
  5. Epidemic TB erupted with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. Expanding cities, filth and persistent human contact fuelled the disease. Like TB, Romanticism arose in response to growing urban squalor. Artists evoked rural idylls and mythical classicism to counterbalance its horror. Later in the 19th century, when city-planning reduced overcrowding, both TB and reactionary Romanticism retreated.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Although TB didn’t end with the 19th century, its link to a romantic ideal did. There was nothing noble or lofty when confronted by the stark truth of noxious germs gnawing away inside their victims to cause the disease once known as scrofula.

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Bartlett (Jamie) - Cover of darkness"

Source: Aeon, 14 January, 2015

  • Sub-title: "The cypherpunks are winning the crypto-war against government spies. What will happen when everyone is anonymous?"
  • See Web Link

"Bartlett (Jamie) - Return of the city-state"

Source: Aeon, 05 September, 2017

  • Sub-title: "Nation-states came late to history, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest they won't make it to the end of the century."
  • See Web Link

"Baskin-Sommers (Arielle) - Psychopaths have feelings: can they learn how to use them?"

Source: Aeon, 18 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Battistella (Edwin) - When nations apologise"

Source: Aeon, 27 March, 2017


"Baumeister (Roy F.) - The meanings of life"

Source: Aeon, 16 September, 2013

Author’s Conclusion
  1. The meaningful life, then, has four properties.
    1. It has purposes that guide actions from present and past into the future, lending it direction.
    2. It has values that enable us to judge what is good and bad; and, in particular, that allow us to justify our actions and strivings as good.
    3. It is marked by efficacy, in which our actions make a positive contribution towards realising our goals and values.
    4. And it provides a basis for regarding ourselves in a positive light, as good and worthy people.
  2. People ask what is the meaning of life, as if there is a single answer. There is no one answer: there are thousands of different ones. A life will be meaningful if it finds responses to the four questions of purpose, value, efficacy, and self-worth. It is these questions, not the answers, that endure and unify.

  1. Distinction between Happiness (to do with the present) and Meaning (which binds a life together into a narrative).
  2. Consequently, Baumeister disagrees with "Strawson (Galen) - I am not a story".

  • Sub-title: "Happiness is not the same as a sense of meaning. How do we go about finding a meaningful life, not just a happy one?"
  • See Web Link

"Begley (Christopher) - Ancient ruins keep being ‘discovered’: were they ever lost?"

Source: Aeon, 10 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Bergreen (Laurence) - The real Casanova"

Source: Aeon, 20 March, 2017

  • Sub-title: "His name is synonymous with serial seduction but Casanova's memoirs reveal a man greater than the sum of his ‘conquests’."
  • See Web Link

"Berlinger (Nancy) - More than just sanctuary, migrants need social citizenship"

Source: Aeon, 29 August, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Berman (Sheri) - It wasn’t just hate. Fascism offered robust social welfare"

Source: Aeon, 27 March, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Bess (Michael) - Why upgrading your brain could make you less human"

Source: Aeon, 08 February, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Birhane (Abeba) - Descartes was wrong: ‘a person is a person through other persons’"

Source: Aeon, 07 April, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Blum (Jason) - Bad things happen for a reason, and other idiocies of theodicy"

Source: Aeon, 31 January, 2017

Concluding Extract
  1. Natural disasters and terrorist attacks are either random events in a chaotic world, or they are explicable events within a discernible pattern. In the former case, we inhabit an essentially amoral universe: bad things happen to good people, children die premature deaths, and tragedy strikes without remorse, all without rhyme or reason. In the latter case, we inhabit a much more hospitable universe where there is some sort of inherent order: a place where morality is inscribed into the very fabric of things, assuring us that, if only we play by the rules, evil will be punished, goodness will be rewarded, and justice will reign supreme.
  2. It is easy to understand the attraction of that vision. But it has a substantial dark side. Like any theodicy, it cannot simply unmake suffering, and so it instead tries to justify it. The claim that the universe is inherently just then implies that those who suffer deserve it. The existence of a just God and a moral universe is gained at the cost of condemning victims of misfortune as blameworthy. And so, hundreds of thousands of Haitians died because their ancestors made a pact with the devil. Women and homosexuals agitating for equal rights are blamed for deadly natural disasters.
  3. Such a worldview conveniently scapegoats someone, usually whatever population someone wishes to demonise: women, homosexuals, the poor, etc. It also normalises social ills that could otherwise be addressed and meliorated. In a dark irony, holding that the universe is ultimately a just place ends up condoning the suffering and injustice that happens within it, often on the backs of those most in need.
  4. Visions of a just universe need not function this way. Theodicy authorises only the suffering of the less fortunate when it indulges in wilful blindness and insists on justice as a foregone conclusion, denying reality in favour of comforting ignorance. Alternatively, when justice is construed as hope – as a vision of what the world could possibly be – it functions as a lodestar. This acknowledges the disturbing realities with which we are surrounded, and refuses to be disillusioned by them. By regarding justice as an ideal rather than a present reality, one’s vision of the inequalities and brutalities of the present moment remains unobstructed, allowing them to be faced. The just universe in which we should believe is the one that can be created only through dedicated effort and real action on our part. But that can happen only if we refuse to take shelter in soothing fantasies.

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Borel (Brigid) - I’d rather be dissected"

Source: Aeon, 04 October, 2013

  • "There are not enough whole-body donations to science. Why don’t people want their death to help the living?"
  • See Web Link

"Boyle (Rebecca) - The end of night"

Source: Aeon, 01 April, 2014


"Bradatan (Costica) - Everyone fails, but only the wise find humility"

Source: Aeon, 18 August, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Bradatan (Costica) - Philosophy has a lot to learn from film"

Source: Aeon, 03 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Brown (Richard D.) - ‘Here we are all the same’"

Source: Aeon, 28 June, 2017

Author’s Introduction
  1. The age of revolution brought an enlightened political ideology to the modern world. Among its many achievements, none faces greater global challenges than freedom of religion. Today, it seems almost unthinkable that any deeply religious people, whether in the Middle East or the United States, would create constitutions, bills of rights and statutes that would not only guarantee their own freedom of conscience, but also the religious faith of others. Why, we wonder, and how, did revolutionary-era Americans choose to adopt a radical regime of religious freedom?
  2. Their reasons did not rely on any idealistic consensus that religion must be separate from politics and instead owed everything to their deep suspicion of power in the hands of flawed humanity. Informed by centuries of European history, revolutionary era Americans believed that governments empowered to coerce belief – long the common European practice – became tyrannical. History proved that, where religion was concerned, governments resorted to coercion. Consequently, to provide a barrier against tyranny, key American patriots believed that protecting religious freedom was vital.
  3. But old ways died hard. Leaders in every American state argued that religious observance was not only a divine commandment, but also a bulwark of social and political order. As a result, defenders of Protestant faiths battled over religious taxation almost everywhere, and debated whether to maintain established churches. At independence in 1776, nine of the 13 colonies were supporting state churches; yet by 1860, the US would become a country of almost complete religious freedom. How did this happen?1

  • Sub-title: "The US Constitution guaranteed freedom of religion, but the fight for religious equality was only just beginning."
  • See Web Link

In-Page Footnotes ("Brown (Richard D.) - ‘Here we are all the same’")

Footnote 1:
  • The paper describes this development, and includes many fascinating facts, in particular that none of the first 6 presidents was a “converted Christian”.
  • It ends by alleging a parallel between the current popular antipathy in the US to Muslims and similar struggles in the past to accommodate the odd practices and affiliations – from a Protestant Christian perspective – of Mormons and Catholics (and, to a lesser extent, Jews).
  • A key theme is a distinction and contrast of the secularism of the State and the religiosity of individual Americans.

"Buchanan (Anne) & Weiss (Kenneth) - Things genes can’t do"

Source: Aeon, 09 April, 2013

  • Sub-title: "Simplistic ideas of how genes ‘cause’ traits are no longer viable: life is an orderly collection of uncertainties."
  • See Web Link

"Buckingham (Angela) - Murder in virtual reality should be illegal"

Source: Aeon, 24 November, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Burak (Jacob) - Overvaluing confidence, we’ve forgotten the power of humility"

Source: Aeon, 28 July, 2016

Important Snippets
  1. "Dweck (Carol S.) - The Secret to Raising Smart Kids" has shown that if you believe intelligence can be developed through experience and hard work, you’re likely to make more of an effort to solve difficult problems, compared with those who think intelligence is hereditary and unchangeable.
  2. Intellectual humility relies on the ability to prefer truth over social status. It is marked primarily by a commitment to seeking answers, and a willingness to accept new ideas – even if they contradict our views. In listening to others, we run the risk of discovering that they know more than we do. But humble people see personal growth as a goal in itself, rather than as a means of moving up the social ladder. We miss out on a lot of available information if we focus only on ourselves and on our place in the world.


"Burton (Robert) - Our world outsmarts us"

Source: Aeon, 03 May, 2017


"Burton (Tara Isabella) - What is a cult?"

Source: Aeon, 05 June, 2017

  • Sub-title: "Cults are exploitative, weird groups with strange beliefs and practices, right? So what about regular religions then?"
  • See Web Link

"Butler (Isaac) - Why Is Othello Black?"

Source: Slate, 11 November 2015


"Butterworth (Jon) - How the rainbow illuminates the enduring mystery of physics"

Source: Aeon, 03 January, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: A-B"

Source: Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon

COMMENT: Time recorded on the Aeon papers as a whole is recorded against this Paper.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2017
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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