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Ethics Part 12: Hero Worship, the Welfare State and Totalitarianism

Tolstoy’s War and Peace is not about hedgehogs and foxes as Isaiah Berlin would have it. It is about whether history is made by great men or, as Tolstoy preferred to think, providence arranges things including creating opportunities for exceptional people who may then fall because of hubris. Napoleon’s apologists were inclined to say you […]

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Ethics Part 11: Utilitarianism, Positivism and the Descent into Nihilism Still Masquerading as Scientific Certainty

Jeremy Bentham’s stuffed body was on display at the University College, London for 150 years.  Before he died he gave us such wonders as the panopticon and utilitarianism as a replacement for earlier types of ethics that is supposedly based on science rather than superstition, and legal postivism  which was about legal reform to remove […]

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Ethics Part 10: The Legacies of Kant and Goethe and the German Enlightenment

Frederick II, (1712 – 1786) was King of Prussia. Called “The Great” and “Old Fritz,” he was a powerful prince who sponsored the growth of arts and sciences across the entire spectrum of learning. As a military leader and statesman, he was among the greats and doubtless the people of Lithuania and Poland had less […]

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Ethics Part 9: The Birth of a Nation and Invention of the American Ethos

The American Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775 when British soldiers fired on Massachusetts militia who refused to surrender their arms after being ordered to do so. In the immediate engagement at Lexington and Concord, casualties numbered about 90 colonists and 300 red coats.  Both sides comprised British citizens, and so this marked the […]

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Ethics Part 8: The French Enlightenment and its Fruits

The 18th Century French Enlightenment represented a considerable range of ideas and temperaments. Insofar as the key thinkers, or philosophes, formed a consensus, there were thematic elements around which they gelled and which they vigorously debated among themselves and with their counterparts in other lands, especially in Britain, Benelux and the German speaking lands including […]