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Latest Trump Scam: AFPI (America First Policy Institute)

The ludicrous idea of a Trump policy institute #AFPI puts me in mind of John Stuart Mill’s delightfully cynical observation on the virtues of giving oxygen to idiocy rather than seeking to suppress it: “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well […]

Dutch Proverbs 12: Tie the devil to a pillow

Perseverance, or downright obstinacy, will overcome all obstacles. Detail from The Folly of the World by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. The painting (below) illustrates 112 Dutch proverbs.

Dutch Proverbs 7: Don’t crap on the gallows

Don’t be recklessly undeterred by the potentially grave penalty for your planned misdeed. Detail from The Folly of the World by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. The painting (below) illustrates 112 Dutch proverbs.

Dutch Proverbs 5: Don’t be a pillar-biter

Don’t be a religious hypocrite, one who is outwardly devoted but who in reality is gnawing away at the fabric of the church he purports to uphold. Detail from The Folly of the World by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. The painting (below) illustrates 112 Dutch proverbs.

Dutch Proverbs 4: Don’t fiddle in the pillory

Don’t draw further attention to your already publicly shamed behaviour. Detail from The Folly of the World by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. The painting (below) illustrates 112 Dutch proverbs.

Dutch Proverbs 2: He wears armour who bells the cat

Always make sure you are well protected before undertaking a potentially intricate and hazardous project. Detail from The Folly of the World by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. The painting (below) illustrates 112 Dutch proverbs.

Dutch Proverbs 1: Don’t be a Hen-Feeler

That is, don’t be miserly – checking if the hen is about to lay an egg when you’re in the point of slaughtering it. Detail from The Folly of the World by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. The painting (below) illustrates 112 Dutch proverbs.

Jeremy Bentham on Cruelty to Animals

Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) was an English philosopher, jurist and social reformer. He was the founding father of modern utilitarianism, a doctrine founded on his belief that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. Bentham is also  remembered for his lifelong commitment to prison reform and […]

R. I. P. Prince Philip, Master Logician and Cricket Fan.

Of all the over-hasty remarks Prince Philip made from time to time in a life devoted to public service, my favourite concerned a hypothetical and homicidal cricketer. It was an unfortunate attempt at the logical analysis of firearms legislation following the Dunblane shootings: “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school […]

John Stuart Mill on Individuality

A person whose desires and impulses are his own—are the expression of his own nature, as it has been developed and modified by his own culture—is said to have a character. One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam-engine has character.

John Stuart Mill on Eccentricity

I’ve always felt that the following utterance, in praise of eccentricity, is slightly problematic. What I believe it is not, and could easily be mistaken for, is a get-out-of-jail-free card for anyone who imagines that self-proclaiming buffoonery is a badge of individuality, originality, healthy dissent so on. Discuss. ☺️ In this age, the mere example […]

John Stuart Mill on War

A useful mini-primer by JSM, for whenever one needs gently to moderate the zeal of an over-militant pacifist… War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. When a people are used […]

John Stuart Mill on Liberty

Here Mill gives the essence of his philosophical essay On Liberty, published in 1859. This, then, is the appropriate region of human liberty. It comprises, first, the inward domain of consciousness; demanding liberty of conscience, in the most comprehensive sense; liberty of thought and feeling; absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical […]

John Stuart Mill on the Tyranny of Society Over Itself

Calling from a distant age, Mill describes the herd mentality that brought us Trump and Brexit. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many […]

John Stuart Mill on Stupidity

Mill’s very precise alignment of stupidity with the herd instinct and intelligence with individuality. Stupidity is much the same all the world over. A stupid person’s notions and feelings may confidently be inferred from those which prevail in the circle by which the person is surrounded. Not so with those whose opinions and feelings are […]