There is no way in which we can retrospectively erase the Treaty of Vienna or the Great Irish Famine. It is a peculiar feature of human actions that, once performed, they can never be recuperated. What is true of the past will always be true of it.
Universities are no longer educational in any sense of the word that Rousseau would have recognised. Instead, they have become unabashed instruments of capital. Confronted with this squalid betrayal, one imagines he would have felt sick and oppressed.
A truly common culture is not one in which we all think alike, or in which we all believe that fairness is next to godliness, but one in which everyone is allowed to be in on the project of cooperatively shaping a common way of life.
Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is 'The Book of British Birds,' and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.
The British are supposed to be particularly averse to intellectuals, a prejudice closely bound up with their dislike of foreigners. Indeed, one important source of this Anglo-Saxon distaste for highbrows and eggheads was the French revolution, which was seen as an attempt to reconstruct society on the basis of abstract rational principles.
Virtue is something you have to get good at, like playing the trombone or tolerating bores at parties. Being a virtuous human being takes practice; and those who are brilliant at being human (what Christians call the saints) are the virtuosi of the moral sphere - the Pavarottis and Maradonas of virtue.
Evil is unintelligible. It is just a thing in itself, like boarding a crowded commuter train wearing only a giant boa constrictor. There is no context which would make it explicable.
Evil is often supposed to be without rhyme or reason.
In the end, it is because the media are driven by the power and wealth of private individuals that they turn private lives into public spectacles. If every private life is now potentially public property, it is because private property has undermined public responsibility.
Deconstruction insists not that truth is illusory but that it is institutional.
From the viewpoint of political power, culture is absolutely vital. So vital, indeed, that power cannot operate without it. It is culture, in the sense of the everyday habits and beliefs of a people, which beds power down, makes it appear natural and inevitable, turns it into spontaneous reflex and response.
The study of history and philosophy, accompanied by some acquaintance with art and literature, should be for lawyers and engineers as well as for those who study in arts faculties.
It is easy to see why a diversity of cultures should confront power with a problem. If culture is about plurality, power is about unity. How can it sell itself simultaneously to a whole range of life forms without being fatally diluted?
We face a conflict between civilisation and culture, which used to be on the same side. Civilisation means rational reflection, material wellbeing, individual autonomy and ironic self-doubt; culture means a form of life that is customary, collective, passionate, spontaneous, unreflective and irrational.
Dawkins considers that all faith is blind faith, and that Christian and Muslim children are brought up to believe unquestioningly. Not even the dim-witted clerics who knocked me about at grammar school thought that.
If history, philosophy and so on vanish from academic life, what they leave in their wake may be a technical training facility or corporate research institute. But it will not be a university in the classical sense of the term, and it would be deceptive to call it one.
The frontier between public and private shifts from time to time and culture to culture.
Americans use the word 'dream' as often as psychoanalysts do.
I value my Catholic background very much. It taught me not to be afraid of rigorous thought, for one thing.
For Aristotle, goodness is a kind of prospering in the precarious affair of being human.