The British bestseller Straw Dogs is an exciting, radical work of philosophy, which sets out to challenge our most cherished assumptions about what it means to be human. From Plato to Christianity, from the Enlightenment to Nietzsche and Marx, the Western tradition has been based on arrogant and erroneous beliefs about human beings and their place in the world. Philosophies such as liberalism and Marxism think of humankind as a species whose destiny is to transcend natural limits and conquer the (...) Earth. John Gray argues that this belief in human difference is a dangerous illusion and explores how the world and human life look once humanism has been finally abandoned. The result is an exhilarating, sometimes disturbing book that leads the reader to question our deepest-held beliefs. Will Self, in the New Statesman , called Straw Dogs his book of the year: “I read it once, I read it twice and took notes . . . I thought it that good.” “Nothing will get you thinking as much as this brilliant book” ( Sunday Telegraph ). (shrink)
Using various official sources (such as Ofsted reports), the article explores competing conceptions of the 'under-achieving' school which have been operationalised in recent years. It suggests that there have been multiple, potentially conflicting definitions in policy discourse to which recent innovations have merely added a further layer of complexity. Using a simple conceptual framework comparing judgements made within 'standards' and 'progress' frameworks for evaluating schools' performance, it highlights the very limited range of conditions where judgements made within one tradition (...) would complement those made within the other. As the educational system begins to turn increasingly to use of so-called 'value-added' approaches as a way forward, the implications of these analyses for policy development, particularly in relation to the alleviation of social and educational disadvantage, are considered. (shrink)
It is argued that the moral theory undergirding J.S. Mill''s argumentin On Liberty is a species of perfectionism rather than any kind of utilitarianism. The conception of human flourishing that itinvokes is one in which the goods of personal autonomy and individualityare central. If this conception is to be more than the expression ofa particular cultural ideal it needs the support of an empiricallyplausible view of human nature and a defensible interpretation ofhistory. Neither of these can be found in Mill. (...) Six traditionalcriticisms of Mill''s argument are assessed. It is concluded thatin addition to depending on implausible claims about human natureand history Mill''s conception of the good contains disablingincommensurabilities. It is argued that these difficulties andincommensurabilities plague later liberal thinkers such as IsaiahBerlin and Joseph Raz who have sought to ground liberalism in avalue-pluralist ethical theory. No thinker in Mill''s liberal posterity has been able to demonstrate the universal authority of liberal ideals. (shrink)
The 3rd batch of 6 books in this series on the Greatest Philosophrs by acclaimed specialists writing for the General reader. From Aristotle to Wittgenstein, from Democritus to Derrida, this series provides a lucid and concise survey of philosophers ancient and modern. Each volime is by an acknowledged expert briefed to address the adventurous non-specialist reader.
Value-pluralism is commonly held to support liberal political morality. This is argued by John Rawls and his school and, more instructively, by Isaiah Berlin and Joseph Raz. Against this common view it is argued that a strong version of value-pluralism and liberalism are incompatible doctrines. Some varieties of ethical pluralism are distinguished, and the claim of value-incommensurability made by strong pluralism is elucidated. The argument that liberal political morality consists of principles of right that are unaffected by the truth of (...) strong pluralism is examined and rejected. Strong pluralism is understood as the view that some goods and bads are rationally incommensurable. It is argued that if strong value-pluralism is true, then liberal political morality cannot be defended. Neither negative liberty nor individual autonomy can have general priority if it is true that the central goods specified by liberal political morality are incommensurables. This difficulty is not avoided by liberal theories that do not demand the maximization of a single value such as liberty. If strong pluralism is true, then liberal institutions are not a standard of legitimacy by reference to which all regimes are to be assessed. They are merely one variety of modus vivendi . Liberal institutions have no universal legitimacy. Yet liberal cultures are partly constituted by a belief in the universal authority of the principles which inform their practices and institutions. This belief strong pluralism subverts. Value-pluralism and liberalism are rival doctrines. The political implication of strong pluralism is not liberalism but modus vivendi . Sometimes modus vivendi is best fostered by liberal institutions. Sometimes it is best fostered by non-liberal institutions. Where the latter is true, liberals and pluralists part company. (shrink)
For more than three decades judgements of schools' quality have been dominated by the frameworks, developed by members of Her Majesty's Inspectorate (HMI). This article reviews the approaches employed in the national survey conducted for the Plowden Committee, subsequent surveys undertaken by HMI during the seventies and eighties and the changes brought about by the advent of the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) in the early nineties. The frameworks employed appear to have changed from one decade to the next, (...) sometimes subtly, at other times more radically. Overall, such changes have been sufficiently major for it to be difficult, if not impossible, to make anything other than the broadest statements about changes in the state and quality of the nation's schooling over time. (shrink)
Philosophy is one of the most intimidating and difficult of disciplines, as any of its students can attest. This book is an important entry in a distinctive new series from Routledge: The Great Philosophers . Breaking down obstacles to understanding the ideas of history's greatest thinkers, these brief, accessible, and affordable volumes offer essential introductions to the great philosophers of the Western tradition from Plato to Wittgenstein. In just 64 pages, each author, a specialist on his subject, places the philosopher (...) and his ideas into historical perspective. Each volume explains, in simple terms, the basic concepts, enriching the narrative through the effective use of biographical detail. And instead of attempting to explain the philosopher's entire intellectual history, which can be daunting, this series takes one central theme in each philosopher's work, using it to unfold the philosopher's thoughts. (shrink)