A Point of View
Summary: Weekly reflections on topical issues from a range of contributors including historian Lisa Jardine, novelist Sarah Dunant and writer Alain de Botton.
Political philosopher John Gray argues that the scientific and rationalist attack on religion is misguided. Atheist critics do not realise that religion is not generally about personal belief.
Political philosopher John Gray considers why the human animal needs contact with something other than itself - and tells the tale of an eminent philosopher who persuaded his cat to become a vegan.
Political philosopher John Gray argues that one side-effect of the financial crisis is an increasing number of people who believe that Karl Marx was right. He outlines why Marx's belief that capitalism would lead to revolution - and end bourgeois life - has come true, but not in the way Marx imagined.
As recently discovered letters from Kim Philby are published, political philosopher Prof John Gray argues that the spy's life illustrates why we are so poor at predicting the future. Where Philby saw a bright future in Soviet Communism - one that led him to betray friends and colleagues - many in the West hoped for a different utopia in Russia as Communism collapsed. Neither saw their dreams realised.
Political philosopher Prof John Gray reflects on the meaning of folly. Taking the myth of the Trojan horse as his starting point, he explores what he sees as the modern day folly unfolding in Europe. He calls on European leaders to reconsider the single European currency - a project he says was always doomed to fail.
Alain de Botton reflects on why pessimism is the key to happiness. He argues that the best way to find contentment is to learn to be a bit more gloomy.
Alain de Botton takes a witty look at modern parenting. He explains why today's parent simply can't avoid baking biscuits and helping to paint Tyrannosaurus Rex's scales.
Alain de Botton reflects on social climbing and argues that the activity should be seen, at times, as evidence of a natural curiosity about the modern world. He says in the current environment, it is often not idle pleasure-seeking but an attempt to keep oneself in a job.
Alain de Botton reflects on our high expectations for modern marriage. He argues that expecting one person to be a good partner, lover and parent is, almost, asking the impossible. He shows how different it all was before the mid eighteenth century.
Alain de Botton on why preparing conversation is as important as preparing a good salad for a summer picnic. He questions why we put so much effort into our social encounters, but leave our conversation to chance. With examples from history and literature, he argues that it is when there are rules to our conversation that our spirit can best be set free.
Alain de Botton muses on the value of exotic animals in helping to give us perspective on our own lives. He explains why he has rediscovered wild animals and suggests a zoo trip as a perfect summer outing.
Alain de Botton muses on why a bookish life is a poor preparation for marriage. He says Western literature's obsession with unrequited love means the average love story is of help only to the lovelorn.
Alain de Botton asks why the idea of a nanny state is so unappealing. He says complete freedom - left totally to our own devices - is rarely what we want and there is a lot to be said for a paternalistic nudge in the right direction.
Alain de Botton explores the notion that museums are our new churches. But museums - he says - have a lot to learn from churches about getting their message across and appeals for a complete revamp of some of our favourite museums.
Alain de Botton gives a philosopher's take on our ecological dilemmas. He argues that fear of environmental destruction has forever changed our relationship with nature. Far from being a threat, it is now something to be pitied and protected.