Can governments cultivate love in their citizens?

Should liberal governments try to cultivate certain emotional states in their citizens? In Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice, University of Chicago philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum argues that liberal political philosophers, from John Locke to John Rawls, have dangerously ignored ‘the political cultivation of emotion’, failing to explore how governments can encourage pro-social emotions like love, patriotism and tolerance, while curbing anti-social emotions like envy, shame and excessive fear.

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Beware toxic fatalism, in its atheist and theist forms

This week I met a charming young man who had recently dropped out of university. He was writing an undergraduate dissertation on free will, read Sam Harris’ book on the subject, and came to the conclusion that free will does not exist, therefore there was no point finishing his dissertation. So his university gave him a ‘pass’ and he’s now wondering what to do next (not that he has any choice in the matter).

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Robin Carhart-Harris on psychedelics and the unconscious

When Dr Robin Carhart-Harris finished his masters in psychoanalysis in 2005, he decided he wanted to do a brain- imaging study of LSD to see if he could locate the ego and the unconscious. That might have seemed an impossible dream, considering he had no neuroscientific experience and there had been no scientific research into psychedelics in the UK for over three decades.

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Getting practical philosophy into the classroom

I would love there to be more practical philosophy in schools. At the moment, the teaching of ethics and philosophy in schools and universities is almost entirely theoretical. Students learn that philosophy is a matter of understanding and disputing concepts and theories, something that only involves the intellect, not your emotions, actions or life outside of the classroom.

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The Stoic mayor

At the age of 19, Sam Sullivan, a lanky, athletic teenager from Vancouver, British Columbia, broke his spine in a skiing accident, and lost the use of his arms, legs and body. For six years, he battled with depression and suicidal impulses. Then he managed to get a philosophical perspective on what had happened to him, so that his spirit wouldn't be crushed along with his body. He says:

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Can one be spiritual *and* religious?

Yesterday we had the first public event in the RSA’s new project: Spirituality, Tools of the Mind and the Social Brain. It’s the child of the RSA’s Jonathan Rowson, who wants to rehabilitate the term ‘spirituality’ and re-connect it to our public conversation. As he noted, there is a large body of people out there who don’t sign up to any one particular religion, but still have a hunger for a spiritual life - including him.

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The philosophy of...Alexei Sayle

I might start doing a regular feature looking at people's life-philosophy. This week, it's Alexei Sayle, pioneer of alternative comedy, former member of the Communist Party, and one of the stars of the Comic Strip. Here he tells me about his fondness for Stoic philosophy, and why Alcoholics Anonymous is his ideal model of a philosophical community.

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