Philosophy, Social Class, Political Parties, Bookselling

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

He Wrote The Future

Andrew Robinson | Nature | 18th January 2017

In praise of Arthur C. Clark, best remembered as the creator of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, and who — with Isaac Asimov – defined a golden age of science fiction in the 1950s and early 1960s. Carl Sagan recalled Clark’s Interplanetary Flight as “a turning point in my scientific development”. Wernher von Braun used Clark’s The Exploration of Space to convince President Kennedy that Americans should go to the Moon. His Profiles of the Future (1962) inspired Gene Roddenberry to create Star Trek (1,400 words)

Life-And-Death Experiments

Julian Baggini | Aeon | 17th January 2017

We may reasonably worry about the psychological effects of playing violent video games — but perhaps moral philosophy is just as corrosive. “A worryingly large proportion of ethical thought experiments involve fantasies of homicide, requiring you to decide who gets tortured or killed. Is it justifiable to hang an innocent man to calm a mob who would otherwise run riot and kill many more? Should a doctor let a patient die, knowing that the patient’s organs can save five other people?” (880 words)

The New Politics Of Class

Terry Eagleton | Guardian | 19th January 2017

Social class divides Britain as deeply as ever. What has “changed radically” is class representation in national politics. The Labour party’s conversion to market liberalism under Tony Blair threw open the competition to represent the working class. “For the most part, ideological viewpoints have remained as constant as class identities. The so-called Thatcherite revolution of values never happened. It is just that people who were greedy and selfish anyway became more brazenly so” (1,300 words)

The Parties Decline

Jacob Levy | Niskanen Institute | 18th January 2017

Democracy needs strong and lasting political parties because parties have long time-horizons. An individual politician may pursue short-term personal power by means of corruption or false promises; the party has an interest in keeping that person in check. But whereas democracy needs parties, parties do not need democracy. “As a method of integrating large numbers of people into organized mass politics, the party has also been a tool of authoritarianism and totalitarianism” (2,200 words)

London’s Most Beloved Bookshop

Francis Wheen | Vanity Fair | 20th January 2017

A glimpse behind the scenes at Heywood Hill on Curzon Street, which is certainly London’s poshest bookshop, owned by the Duke of Devonshire and run for a while by Nancy Mitford. One perk for regular customers is the “Year in Books” scheme, whereby some 700 subscribers are sent a new book each month, based on a “reading consultation” in which they have specified the books and authors they have most loved, and the genres they cannot abide. “No two people get the same” (1,700 words)

Video of the day: Diversion

What to expect:

Scenes from city life in which people are partly replaced by fish (3’30”)

Thought for the day

All stable processes we shall predict. All unstable processes we shall control
John von Neumann

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