Philosophy & Law

A page from a 17th-century edition of ‘Wonders and Rarities’.

Rarities and Marvels

Helen Pfeifer

30 November 2023

For the 13th-century Muslim scholar Zakariyya al-Qazwini and his contemporaries, to contemplate the wonders of nature was to contemplate the majesty of God, so much so that cosmography was a mainstay of Islamic theology. But wonder was also an intellectual method. It acted as the initial stimulus for acquiring knowledge.

Read more about Searching for the Bee: Rarities and Marvels

War Crimes

Conor Gearty

30 November 2023

International law​ takes a special interest in war. Where there is an armed conflict or an occupation it is not enough to hope vaguely that human rights will be respected and for the UN or a special . . .

When I Met the Pope

Patricia Lockwood

30 November 2023

The invitation​ said ‘black dress for Ladies’. ‘You’re not allowed to be whiter than him,’ my husband, Jason, instructs. ‘He has to be the whitest. And you cannot wear a hat because that . . .

Jean Jaurès’s Socialism

Philippe Marlière

2 November 2023

Jean​ Jaurès was a deserving child of the French republican meritocracy. An outstanding pupil from the town of Castres, near Toulouse, he came top in the entrance exam for the École Normale Supérieure . . .

The Pope at War

Richard J. Evans

19 October 2023

On​ 24 September 1943, following Italy’s surrender to the Allies and the subsequent occupation of Rome by German forces, Heinrich Himmler sent an order to Herbert Kappler, head of the SS in the capital . . .

Bantu in the Bathroom

Jacqueline Rose, 19 November 2015

Pistorius was surely not aware that when he insisted the person he shot in the bathroom was an intruder he was re-enacting one strand of his nation’s cruellest past.

Read more about Bantu in the Bathroom

The Adulteress Wife: Beauvoir Misrepresented

Toril Moi, 11 February 2010

In June 1946 Simone de Beauvoir was 38. She had just finished The Ethics of Ambiguity, and was wondering what to write next. Urged by Jean Genet, she went to see the Lady and the Unicorn...

Read more about The Adulteress Wife: Beauvoir Misrepresented

Where is my mind?

Jerry Fodor, 12 February 2009

If there’s anything we philosophers really hate it’s an untenable dualism. Exposing untenable dualisms is a lot of what we do for a living. It’s no small job, I assure you. They...

Read more about Where is my mind?

Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching: Richard Dawkins

Terry Eagleton, 19 October 2006

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology....

Read more about Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching: Richard Dawkins

No, it’s not anti-semitic: the right to criticise Israel

Judith Butler, 21 August 2003

Profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-semitic in...

Read more about No, it’s not anti-semitic: the right to criticise Israel

You can’t build a new society with a Stanley knife: Hardt and Negri’s Empire

Malcolm Bull, 4 October 2001

Forget Bob Geldof, Bono and the other do-gooders, Genoa’s only significance was as the latest battle in the war of Neoliberalism. It was a clear victory this time for the...

Read more about You can’t build a new society with a Stanley knife: Hardt and Negri’s Empire

Why anything? Why this?

Derek Parfit, 22 January 1998

It might have been true that nothing ever existed: no living beings, no stars, no atoms, not even space or time. When we think about this possibility, it can seem astonishing that anything exists.

Read more about Why anything? Why this?

Subduing the jury

E.P. Thompson, 4 December 1986

It was nice to be awoken on 12 November by the BBC informing us that the Queen’s Speech would announce measures ‘to strengthen the jury system’. It is, after all, a very ancient...

Read more about Subduing the jury

The Contingency of Language

Richard Rorty, 17 April 1986

About two hundred years ago, the idea that A truth was made rather than found began to take hold of the imagination of Europe. The French Revolution had shown that the whole vocabulary of social...

Read more about The Contingency of Language

Let them eat oysters: Animal Ethics

Lorna Finlayson, 5 October 2023

It hardly needs to be said that all is not well with our world. We are disempowered, isolated and (quite rationally) anxious about the future. The animal world offers both an escape and the promise of...

Read more about Let them eat oysters: Animal Ethics

We are our apps: Visual Revolutions

Hal Foster, 5 October 2023

The voice, the face and the gaze, all crucial to our ‘being with others’, are ‘disrupted and distorted’ by chatbots, artificial intelligence, eye tracking, iris scanning, facial coding and all...

Read more about We are our apps: Visual Revolutions

Stay away from politics: Why Weber?

William Davies, 21 September 2023

Weber insists that everything remain in its rightful place. Politicians should stick to politics, and scientists to science. Religion should vacate public life, except as an inner psychological ‘vocation’...

Read more about Stay away from politics: Why Weber?

Macaulay seems to have belonged to what revisionist historians now refer to as the Christian Enlightenment, a movement that stood apart from the more familiar Enlightenment of sceptical or deistic philosophes....

Read more about ‘Drown her in the Avon’: Catharine Macaulay’s Radicalism

Short Cuts: Convention Rights

Tom Hickman, 7 September 2023

Only the Greek junta in 1969 and Russia last year have left the European Convention on Human Rights – Russia went shortly before it was to be expelled for invading Ukraine. No democratic country has...

Read more about Short Cuts: Convention Rights

Leader of the Martians: J.L. Austin’s War

Thomas Nagel, 7 September 2023

J.L. Austin was fascinated by many details of language for their own sake, and in 1947 brought together a group of philosophy dons, mostly younger than himself, to pursue these investigations collectively....

Read more about Leader of the Martians: J.L. Austin’s War

The Race-Neutral Delusion

Randall Kennedy, 10 August 2023

There are good reasons why some progressives tolerated racial affirmative action without feeling much enthusiasm for it, or are even quietly pleased that it has ended, hopeful that something better, more...

Read more about The Race-Neutral Delusion

St Francis wrote poetry, tamed a wolf, received the stigmata on a mountainside, and if you love a kitsch Nativity figurine, you have St Francis to thank. He was a poor scribe and a worse artist, but great...

Read more about At the National Gallery: St Francis of Assisi

Coke v. Bacon

Stephen Sedley, 27 July 2023

Both sides of Edward Coke’s reputation have endured. Not long ago the benchers of the Inner Temple refused to name a new building after him because of his brutal prosecution of Walter Raleigh. Yet Coke’s...

Read more about Coke v. Bacon

Intimated Disunion

Colin Kidd, 13 July 2023

The unionist fondness for Union Jacks does not preclude violent resistance to the British state when its policy conflicts with the interests of Protestant Ulster. Under the auspices of the Ulster Covenant...

Read more about Intimated Disunion

The question that motivates Matthew McNaught’s Immanuel is simple, but hard to answer. What prompted these white, Middle England Christians to leave their homes and families to join a church, the central...

Read more about A Bit like a Pot Plant: Wild Christianity

Cancelled: Can I speak freely?

Amia Srinivasan, 29 June 2023

Most of us would find it horrible to be told that we aren’t worth engaging with, that our views are socially unacceptable or merely a function of demography. But that it is painful to be on the receiving...

Read more about Cancelled: Can I speak freely?

Lost in Leipzig: Forgotten Thinkers

Alexander Bevilacqua, 29 June 2023

Research into intellectual auxiliaries has thrived in recent years. Translators, interpreters, secretaries and amanuenses are no longer considered intermediaries, but contributors in their own right. Martin...

Read more about Lost in Leipzig: Forgotten Thinkers

‘Thirty years had passed since I last interviewed Sharon Henderson. In 1992 I was sent to her flat on the Wear Garth estate in Sunderland after her seven-year-old daughter, Nikki, was murdered. The following...

Read more about All in Slow Motion: The Murder of Nikki Allan

Epictetus presents a version of Stoicism that often aligns with traditional Roman social norms, even if his expression of those ideals is often wonderfully vigorous. ‘I’ll cut off your head,’ a tyrant...

Read more about I have gorgeous hair: Epictetus says relax

Many white Southerners adopted their own equation of the era of the civil rights movement with Reconstruction, warning that federal civil rights legislation violated local freedom. Despite the courage...

Read more about The Little Man’s Big Friends: Freedom’s Dominion

Derek Parfit’s approach isn’t designed to get us to appreciate the mysterious, awe-inspiring significance of procreation and death in human life; it is simply the springboard for a new puzzle in moral...

Read more about Non-Identity Crisis: Parfit’s Trolley Problem

A general rule about rules is that one rule breeds another rule developed to catch an exception to the first rule, and so (potentially) ad infinitum, until there are so many darn rules that nobody can...

Read more about Algorithmic Fanboy: Thick Rules and Thin

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences