Thich Nhat Hanh and the Spiritual Significance of Mindfulness Psychology


As I write this, the Vietnamese peace activist and meditation leader Thich Nhat Hanh has just passed away at the age of 95. With his charming simplicity and emphasis that everyone can meditate, he became the biggest figure behind the modern mindfulness movement. While he did not secularise Buddhist teachings as Jon Kabbat-Zinn has done in establishing mindfulness as part of modern medicine, Hanh nevertheless gained broad appeal from focusing on the need for self-care: “Keeping your body healthy” he said, “is an expression of gratitude”. And that “to take good care of ourselves, we must go back and take care of the wounded child inside of us.”

Taking the cue from Hahn’s turn to the child, here are some philosophical reflections which stem from what science tells us about mindfulness:

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What Jesus Says About Climate Change


In this article of mine, originally published on Critical Witness, we skip the usual Christian talking points on the splendor of God’s creation and humanity’s role as stewards, and focus instead on the key issue: how the moral teachings of Jesus illuminate our present environmental crises.

The Anglican Church called for a “radical change of heart” to combat climate change actively, rather than only praying and hoping that God will prevent humanity from suffering from its effects. That was back in 2009 when the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, explained that because God doesn’t generally prevent us from doing immeasurable damage to others, we shouldn’t expect God to prevent us from wreaking tremendous or irreversible damage on our shared home, the planet. Getting into a situation in which we, and the lives of millions of vulnerable people, are dependent upon miracles, would be an absolute failure of our responsibilities.

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Billionaire Profiteers & the Poverty of their Defense


While billionaires continue to multiply their wealth from the Covid Pandemic, there is a growing consciousness that free market ideologies have lost all credibility. And with libertarianism opposing crucial lockdown measures and protections in the name of freedom, we must ensure that such misplaced idealism is never taken seriously again. I explore this, and how a new social justice letter by Pope Francis helps to expose the central fallacy of right wing libertarianism.

Let’s recap some current trends. If you can remember back to late 2019 and early 2020, one of the main talking points aside from Extinction Rebellion was billionaires, and in particular how the wealth (and hence power) of individuals like Jeff Bezos is growing at rate unprecedented in previous decades. Nobel Prize winning economist Thomas Piketty said that billionaires should have their wealth taxed until they’re no longer billionaires, because they do not add wealth to the economy.

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The Biggest Problem with Christianity


Fratelli Tutti is Pope Francis’ second and probably final major letter to the world on societal issues, after his 2015 letter on the environment. Released in October 2020, this message on ‘Fraternity and Social Friendship’ has been met with popular approval in the media all over the world- much as the Pope has been himself. But if people approve so much of the message the Church has for the world, what problem do they have with Christianity itself that they tend to oppose it so dismissively? Read the rest of this entry

The Fetal Position: Why we Need a Stand other than Pro-Life or Pro-Choice



I am a Brit in Europe, and I have followed the topic of abortion and studied it as a philosopher since 2004. Despite being a progressive, for 16 years I identified as pro-life. This was mostly through social media, but also through pro-life organisations, events and public witness. In 2013 I even gave a talk in the main shrine of St. John Henry Newman at his Oratory church in Birmingham. This was on the validity and importance of men’s voices in the abortion debate, which was based on my article here for Secular Pro-Life.

As of 2020 I am pro-choice insofar as I support abortion being legal until 12 weeks with some rare exceptions for later term abortions (which is the norm in most ‘civilised’ countries.) (I am also in favour of legal assisted dying -as distinct from assisted suicide- in some cases). I had to accept that I could no longer identify even with my secular, feminist, pro-LGBT and/or leftist pro-life community, given the obsessive nature of the groups and subculture. And when I say ‘obsessive’ I mean their tendency towards an all-consuming fixation on saving embryos and fetuses -and denigrating pro-choicers- which makes for an unhealthy lifestyle, and neglects other social causes that need to be fought for.

Yet this does not automatically make me pro-choice, as it is not a binary option. I would primarily identify myself neither as pro-choice nor as pro-life, but as pro-fetal science. This is the rationalist position. It means being pro-women as well as pro-fetal human beings. And pro-evidence-based policies for both promoting women’s equality and reducing the rate of human beings dying as fetuses. Naturally this involves increasing social welfare support, particularly to pregnant women and young families, and improving sex education and access to contraception. But it also involves promoting a culture of care and virtues for defending life, as I argued for in the third section of this earlier article. Read the rest of this entry

Philosophy of Tabletop Game Design: Engine Building



We’ve seen some popular mechanics showcased in the role of action selection but many are also found in ‘engine building.’ A motor race is won not just by making good turns but by having developed a good engine to drive with. By ‘engines’ in board games we mean processes players work through to pursue their goals, which is perhaps more comparable with how a business or economy develops. For example, the resource management game Splendor is about more than just collecting jewels to purchase cards worth victory points, it’s also about knowing when to spend your turn (and jewels) on cards that increase your income of certain jewels, hence allowing you gain more points in the long run. This investment of time and resources to develop your abilities is ‘engine building’. It is using your present turns in a way that improves your ongoing economy and hence the effectiveness of your future turns at achieving your ultimate goal. Read the rest of this entry

Philosophy of Tabletop Game Design: Action Drafting



In the previous part we saw that incorporating action points can improve upon the experiences offered by traditional games by offering a larger degree of freedom, albeit with the new limitation of the number points per turn. In this part we’re discussing action drafting, which increases the challenge of action selection by constraining such freedom in a different way. ‘Action drafting’ is a mechanic where rather than a game’s rules making certain actions always available, they are instead associated with certain locations in the play area at which players can take these actions. Often these action spaces are drafted by placing pieces on them referred to as your ‘workers’, hence the genre known as ‘worker placement’ games. Read the rest of this entry

Philosophy of Tabletop Game Design: Action Points



The rest of this article will be less explicitly philosophical, as unlike the first part where I discussed play in the abstract, here I’m going to explain and analyse aspects of games design, and the variations available to draw upon in implementing them in a new game. This functions both as a toolkit for aspiring board game designers and as a tour through the innovations that have made hobby board games much more fun since the millennium.

In the previous part I concluded that in designing a board game we should begin by identifying the experiences we want players to enjoy, and put that at the centre of our design as we develop it. In such a way that the game is geared towards maximising those positive experiences over negative ones. In order to do this a design will need to incorporate engaging play mechanisms (referred to in the hobby as ‘mechanics’). A mechanic will be specified in the rules, but it is not just the same thing as a rule. If a game’s main rules were like hard science, the mechanics would be like technologies players actually use towards achieving their aims. A simple example of a mechanic is rolling a die to decide something, such as how many spaces you move. That ‘roll and move’ mechanic is so synonymous with board games that non-hobbyists would be forgiven for thinking that it plays a part in most games, but for the last few decades has rarely featured in any serious new game. Read the rest of this entry

Philosophy of Tabletop Game Design: Play


Board games cn and TM

For the first 4 years I had this blog, philosophical writing was still my main pastime, but from the subsequent 4 years to present, my time has been dominated by a new hobby: tabletop gaming. Philosophy and board games naturally go together as they are both about thinking, and the social pleasure of sharing that thinking in the company of others. Whether you’re drinking coffee or wine, and whether you’re debating with colleagues or playing cards in a mothers’ group, these are social experiences which are expressive of your thinking and reasoning. Read the rest of this entry

What Socialists and Marxians Should Celebrate Instead of Lenin


EWNi3xrWoAAe4yyThis week saw lashes of praise and respect poured upon Lenin on his 150th birthday, not only by Communists, but by many socialists and Marxian thinkers too. Even Vince Cable, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats (and minister under a Conservative-led government) in the UK said that one didn’t need to be a socialist to appreciate Lenin’s great achievements. It is true that most of the time the people who we hear being praised are terrible celebrities and right wing figures, but we shouldn’t let that provoke us into praising a left wing figure who was the head of an authoritarian government which ruthlessly killed thousands. Not only does such polarisation damage our civic debate in general, but such particular admiration of Lenin’s record in government undermines efforts to persuade the majority that we can build a fairer world for all. Read the rest of this entry