Julian Baggini


British Philosopher and Author, Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Philosopher's Magazine

Author Quotes

If you want to understand why people believe what they do, you first have to identify what beliefs act as their bedrocks.

Kierkegaard achieved the necessary condition of any great romantic intellectual figure, which is rejection by his own time and society.

One of the cheapest and most effective rhetorical tricks in the book is the use of the debunking ?just? or ?mere?. Many perfectly sound ideas can be made to appear quite implausible by the judicious insertion of one of these words.

Postmodernists seem to me like thinkers who have tasted potent conceptual liquor and, lacking all moderation, have become intellectual dipsomaniacs.

Stressing the jolly side of atheism not only glosses over its harsher truths, it also disguises its unique selling point. The reason to be an atheist is not that it makes us feel better or gives us a more rewarding life. The reason to be an atheist is simply that there is no God and we would prefer to live in full recognition of that, accepting the consequences, even if it makes us less happy. The more brutal facts of life are harsher for us than they are for those who have a story to tell in which it all works out right in the end and even the most horrible suffering is part of a mystifying divine plan. If we don?t freely admit this, then we?ve betrayed the commitment to the naked truth that atheism has traditionally embraced.

The social aspect of identity is therefore of comparable importance to the bodily aspect.

This also provides the link between imagination and rationality. A detached reason that cannot enter into the viewpoints of others cannot be fully objective because it cannot access whole areas of the real world of human experience. Kierkegaard taught me the importance of attending to the internal logic of positions, not just how they stand up to outside scrutiny.

We believe in not being tone-deaf to religion and to understand it in the most charitable way possible.

In a pluralist world, there is no hope of understanding people who live according to different values if we only judge them from the outside.

Losing your self is so egotistical. The reason I am being a little brutal here is that I think there is a terrible dishonesty among some of those who claim that what they are trying to achieve is a lessening of attachment to ego. The clear truth is that people who find this path satisfying are living contented lives. In other words, they like their "spiritual practices" because they make them feel more content, at peace, or whatever, than alternatives they have tried. So despite all the fine words about losing their egos, they are in fact simply engaging in another form of self-gratification. This isn't materialistic or harmful to others, so we tend to look upon it quite kindly. But it is not in any sense a way of life which shows disregard for self-interest.

Only a minority of people are actually of consistent good character, and, likewise, only a few of consistent bad character.

Qualified support, then, but only from a confirmed atheist who is unusually supportive of religion, an agnostic ex-priest, an ecumenical former nun who has rejected all dogma, and another atheist. It?s like discovering that central state socialism has its defenders, it?s just that none are actual central state socialists? In this case, the worry is that people who do not at all represent real, existing religion are defending it by appealing to characteristics it doesn?t actually have.

Taken to its logical conclusion, postmodernism itself would simply be one narrative among others, constituted by the discourses of its time, and no more worthy of respect than any other system of thought.

The social matters for the psychological, but it is still inside the mind, not outside of it, that our identity resides.

This body here is a decision-making instrument and it will make decisions, given its necessity to do so and its ability to do so.

We can indeed think of ourselves as pluralities, but in doing so we lose more than we gain.

In different mind-states one does not have access to the same bag of memories.

Many philosophers have argued that we are constituted by a psychologically continuous web of thoughts, feelings, beliefs and memories. Dementia says, well, okay, let?s pick that web apart, piece by piece and see if anything of you remains.

Our knowledge of situationism should be used to build character more wisely, not to give up on it.

Real life is about accepting ups and downs, the good and the bad, the possibility of failure as well as the ambition to succeed. Atheism speaks to the truth about our human nature because it recognizes all this and does not seek to shield us from the truth by myth and superstition.

The brain is not like a tape recorder. ?Memories don?t just fade, as the old saying would have us believe; they also grow,?

The solidity of self is an illusion; the self itself is not.

This is the heart of the Ego Trick. The trick is to create something which has a strong sense of unity and singleness from what is actually a messy, fragmented sequence of experiences and memories, in a brain which has no control center. The point is that the trick works.

We can strive to be certain types of person but we should not expect to automatically behave according to whatever regulative ideal we set for ourselves.

In evocative aphorisms, Kierkegaard captured this sense of being lost, whichever world we choose: ?Infinitude?s despair is to lack finitude, finitude?s despair is to lack infinitude.? Kierkegaard thus defined what I take to be the central puzzle of human existence: how to live in such a way that does justice both to our aesthetic and our ethical natures. Kierkegaard showed that taking religion seriously is compatible with being against religion in almost all its actual forms.

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British Philosopher and Author, Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Philosopher's Magazine