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Frederick Wilmot-Smith: Environmental Law, 8 February 2018

... imperative to do more to tackle plastic in our oceans is clear.’ What should be done? New laws could be passed. But that will help only if they are obeyed. Although there are laws governing air quality in the UK, the National Audit Office has found that 85 per cent of air-quality zones breach legal limits. ...

What do clocks have to do with it?

John Banville: Einstein and Bergson, 14 July 2016

The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time 
by Jimena Canales.
Princeton, 429 pp., £24.95, May 2015, 978 0 691 16534 9
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... for unity in the universe,’ Canales writes, ‘believing that science could reveal its immutable laws and describe them in the simplest possible way. Bergson, in contrast, claimed that the ultimate mark of the universe was just the opposite: never-ending change.’ Bergson spent a few of his earliest years in England, but spent the rest of his life in ...

Mere Life or More Life?

Glen Newey: Bad Arguments, 14 July 2011

Great Books, Bad Arguments: ‘Republic’, ‘Leviathan’ and ‘The Communist Manifesto’ 
by W.G. Runciman.
Princeton, 127 pp., £13.95, March 2010, 978 0 691 14476 4
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Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy 
by Bonnie Honig.
Princeton, 197 pp., £15.95, August 2011, 978 0 691 15259 2
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... position, Runciman argues that the concluding, and no less voraciously skipped, Part III of John Rawls’s Theory of Justice is in fact the best bit, as it dispenses with the duff argumentation of Parts I and II, and looks instead to how the principles of justice get implemented institutionally. But whatever messages The Communist Manifesto ...


John Sutherland, 2 October 1980

Copyright: Intellectual Property in the Information Age 
by Edward Ploman and L. Clark Hamilton.
Routledge, 248 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 7100 0539 3
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... be. ‘Literary work’ in copyright law is thus a semantic convenience of the same order as ‘John Doe’: what it is all depends. The legal fiction that the literary work has an abstract, single existence which accompanies but mysteriously transcends any book fits in nicely with the academic theory of ‘text’. It is no accident that the century which ...

Short Cuts

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: Plainly Unconstitutional, 21 October 2021

... reached a decision that President Andrew Jackson disliked, Jackson is said to have remarked: ‘John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.’) If the court’s decisions are not seen as legitimate, its power could fade.Stephen Breyer, a Supreme Court justice since 1994, is concerned that this power is under threat. In his new book, The ...

Fine-Tuned for Life

John Leslie: Cosmology, 1 January 1998

Before the Beginning 
by Martin Rees.
Simon and Schuster, 288 pp., £7.99, January 1998, 0 684 81660 1
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The Life of the Cosmos 
by Lee Smolin.
Weidenfeld, 358 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 297 81727 2
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... yet produce are trillions of times below the Big Bang energies at which the elegance of Nature’s laws stands most fully revealed. They therefore ask astronomers for evidence left behind by the Ultimate High Energy Experiment, conducted some ten billion years ago in an exploding laboratory. Before the Beginning is at its finest when discussing life’s place ...

Short Cuts

Stephen Sedley: The Supreme Court’s Judgment, 2 March 2017

... of the British state. Its second article reads: ‘That the pretended power of dispensing with laws or the execution of laws by regall authoritie as it hath been assumed and exercised of late is illegall.’ For Scotland, the Claim of Right replicated the prohibition: ‘All Proclamationes asserting ane absolute power to ...


John Dunn, 4 April 1991

by Norman Hampson.
Blackwell, 245 pp., £27.50, January 1991, 9780631162339
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... foreign enemy under the law of nations, rather than as a fellow citizen subject to common laws and entitled to a share in their protection, it showed not only his extraordinary talent for brutal political simplification, and his capacity to seize the hour, but also the ease and completeness with which he was able to change his mind. Some eighteen ...

What security is there against arbitrary government?

John Gardner: Securitania, 9 March 2006

Rhetoric and the Rule of Law: A Theory of Legal Reasoning 
by Neil MacCormick.
Oxford, 287 pp., £40, July 2005, 0 19 826878 5
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... On the contrary, it uses its de facto control of the legislative assembly to secure the passage of laws that license it to do most of the things it does. Rarely does it actually break the law. But that is because it only rarely needs to break the law. The laws that it steers through the legislative assembly provide it with ...

Our Boys

John Bayley, 28 November 1996

Emily Tennyson 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 716 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 571 96554 7
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... unremittingly flirtatious before and after marriage, and a source of some anxiety to her august in-laws, and particularly to Emily, the Poet Laureate’s wife. Lively Lionel, who had romped with her since childhood, fell for the flirtiness as she grew up and wrote her a rather touching little poem. Did you speak in love or earnest? Did I feel a precious ...


John Ziman, 18 March 1982

From Being to Becoming 
by Ilya Prigogine.
Freeman, 272 pp., £13.50, December 1980, 0 7167 1107 9
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... in that it has no arrow pointing inescapably from past to future. If we are to believe Newton’s Laws of Motion – and the whole immense apparatus of dynamical theory constructed upon them – ‘time’ is simply a co-ordinate which might equally go one way or the other. That which goes up might equally well be coming down; those things that are being done ...

Least said, soonest Mende

John Ryle, 4 December 1986

Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art 
by Sylvia Ardyn Boone.
Yale, 281 pp., £30, August 1986, 0 300 03576 4
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... tells the story of the Reverend Max Gorvie, a Mende who wrote two small books on Sierra Leonean laws and customs which were published by the Society for Christian Literature in the 1940s. Gorvie was driven out of the country for his pains, returning only after 27 years’ exile and living out his life in self-imposed expiatory silence. It is now nearly ...

Not God

David Lindley, 30 January 1992

Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science 
by Michael White and John Gribbin.
Viking, 304 pp., £16.99, January 1992, 0 670 84013 0
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... profession, requiring cogitation first and foremost. On the other hand, as Michael White and John Gribbin intimate, Hawking seems to have been a listless student and a rather charmless young man before ALS struck, obviously intelligent but lacking any passion to use his intelligence in one direction rather than another. Thus arises the idea that it was ...


Linda Colley, 9 July 1987

Richard Cobden: A Victorian Outsider 
by Wendy Hinde.
Yale, 379 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 300 03880 1
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Richard Cobden: Independent Radical 
by Nicholas Edsall.
Harvard, 479 pp., £23.95, February 1987, 0 674 76879 5
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... his memory in laudatory poems and improving books for the young. But it was not to last. When John Morley published his massive official biography in 1881, agricultural depression and industrial decline were beginning to erode the appeal of free trade in Britain. Morley’s book became both a vindication and an exercise in tact, and Cobden the ...


John Bayley, 7 August 1986

No, I’m not afraid 
by Irina Ratushinskaya, translated by David McDuff.
Bloodaxe, 142 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 906427 95 9
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Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time 
by Martin Gilbert.
Macmillan, 467 pp., £14.95, April 1986, 0 333 39504 2
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The Russian Orthodox Church: A Contemporary History 
by Jane Ellis.
Croom Helm, 531 pp., £27.50, April 1986, 0 7099 1567 5
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... society which enables it to set aside the majority feeling in favour of hanging, anti-homosexual laws, rescinding state payments to hippies. If it comes to that, there would probably still be a majority in this country in favour of the Lord Chamberlain’s rules on the theatre. There are ways round this in a pluralistic society, but in a monolithic one the ...

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