Posts in Academia
The lazy mysticism of Alan Watts

The only thinker whose popularity on YouTube comes close to prophet-of-rage Jordan Peterson is Alan Watts, the British popularizer of Eastern wisdom. Watts’ talks from the 50s, 60s and early 70s have millions of views on YouTube, and are often edited to the accompaniment of orchestral or ‘chillstep’ soundtracks and jazzy collages of modern life.

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Integrating ayahuasca into western healthcare: an interview with Milan Scheidegger

Milan Scheidegger is one of the most interesting young researchers in psychedelics, because he integrates several different perspectives. He's a clinical psychiatrist at the University of Zurich, who's spent a decade studying the effect of psychedelics on subjects in a laboratory, and on a meditation retreat.

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What UK universities can learn from the US about promoting well-being

As regular readers will know, I've begun a new research focus, looking at well-being in higher education. British universities have started to focus on this issue a lot more, spurred by worrying headlines about an 'epidemic of mental illness on campus'. But, judging by the events I've attended so far, universities don't yet get the complexity of this issue, and see it simply in terms of increasing funding for counselling.

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Universities should try to teach wisdom, not just knowledge

Should a university provide a moral or spiritual education to its students? The idea seems ridiculous in the age of the mega-university. Universities today are enormous corporations, employing tens of thousands of academics and staff, with anything from 5000 to 30000 undergraduates studying there at any one time. The university is a microcosm of our multi-cultural society - there can be no one over-riding ethos in the 'multi-university'.

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Anthony Seldon on venturing beyond happiness

Sir Anthony Seldon is the former headmaster of Wellington College, one of the first schools to introduce well-being classes into its curriculum. He's also a co-founder of Action for Happiness. In his new book, Beyond Happiness, he suggests we need to look beyond 'workaday happiness' to find something more non-rational and spiritual, which he calls joy or bliss. I interviewed him about this, as well as his thoughts on the 'politics of well-being' and his plans to create the first 'positive university'.

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Where next for well-being policy?

I went to the book-launch of a new book on well-being policy yesterday, which brought together some leading figures in this nascent movement - including David Halpern of the government’s ‘nudge unit’, Canadian economist John Helliwell, psychologist Maurren O'Hara, and Juliet Michaelson of the new economics foundation.

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Philosophy for life (and other sentences)

I’ll admit it, I was slightly nervous. I’d been invited to give a philosophy workshop in HMP Dumfries, a prison in west Scotland. Plummy-voiced and puny-framed Englishman that I am, I wasn’t sure what they’d make of me. Mincemeat, maybe. Anyway, I figured it was a low-security prison, otherwise they wouldn’t be inviting philosophers to give workshops, right?

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Mad Max: Escape From The Iron Cage

Imagine, if you will, the scene. The Enlightenment has defeated Religion, and its various champions meet to carve up the vanquished enemy’s territories. Philosophy takes the chair: ‘Right then, settle down everyone. Thank you. Now, let’s see...Religion used to offer ethics and laws.

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Can you make a living from 'street philosophy'?

I’m in Holland again, this time in Utrecht, where yesterday I did a three-hour workshop at the University of Humanistic Studies. It was gratifying to have lots of bright students scrutinising my ideas, though also grueling in so far as the students very intelligently saw the limitations of Stoic philosophy. 

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