Securing the Future for All

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At the time of writing, Pope Francis has been making the news for his visit to Egypt, a 90% Muslim country, and the message of peace he has made with Islamic leaders. But he has also just given a secular TED talk which is very worthy of our reflection.

Solidarity

His first message is about solidarity (which not only means unity, but in the register of Catholicism, also connotes the social aspect of morality as a whole):

“How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.”

So as Francis said elsewhere this week, we need to resist our cultural dichotomy that gives efficiency free reign over the economy and consigns solidarity to our social lives. But I love how he phrases this in this talk, bringing to my mind the idea of transposing what social work strives to do into all other contexts of human life. That is, the idea of the attention and care given to people in social work becoming the paradigm for how we relate to other persons generally. And as I’ve said before I think almost everyone should be involved in some kind of social work whether it’s with children, the elderly, or the disabled etc. (See related posts here.) But the important part is the spirit in which you connect with others, not whether you work with helping people directly. Francis continues by linking this to what have become the core messages of his papacy:

“Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the ‘culture of waste,’ which doesn’t concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realising it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.”

The challenges of our time, including but not limited to the environmental crisis, demand that we equip people with the skills and mindset to tackle them. Education –life-long education– must promote a ‘culture of care’ for all people, and prioritise the value of connecting with others on a personal level, as subjects rather than as objects. (See an article where I discuss this in more detail.) Fostering such a culture allows associations comprised of mutual assistance to evolve into fraternal communities comprised of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.

Tenderness

Building on this theme, the Pope speaks about the need for a “revolution of tenderness”, not a political revolution, but a revolution in how we relate to one another. Tenderness he says, is giving attention to the other in a heartfelt way, but not only engaging and listening with one’s heart but through the senses, often including touch.

What tenderness means is “to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need” – including nature. Tenderness is “being on the same level as the other”, co-creating a shared space of communication, a space of relationship for souls to be touched.

Francis adds humility to tenderness as another ingredient we need for our works of solidarity to be a service to others, rather than power which we impose on them. Elsewhere he has said that solidarity with the poor and with our endangered environment requires the courage to live what, by comparison to worldly expectations, are lives of simplicity. To do this is the gift of humility.

Hope

Francis says that “the future does have a name, and its name is Hope.” Hopefulness is the virtue of focusing, not on the past -or even the present- but on a positive future. With this essential role, “hope is the humble, hidden seed of life” and it is a final ingredient for a solidarity that can secure a just future for all:

“Does hope begin when we have an ‘us?’ No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ [But] when there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.” Therefore “the future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold enormous responsibility, but the future is most of all in the hands of those people who recognise the other as ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’.  We all need each other.”

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Watch the full talk here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=36zrJfAFcuc

Mobile Principles

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As Benjamin Gibbard sang, “The glove compartment isn’t accurately named, and everybody knows it.”

Phone Compartment

It’s good to see a well thought out ethical campaign from the government. Especially as we’ll no longer be getting progressive safety legislation from the EU. And I said ethical, not because the campaign will do good, but because it goes further than simply informing people of the change in the legal penalties and actually helps them to improve their behaviour. Such guidance is an important responsibility of governments, especially given that law and morality are inextricable. Read the rest of this entry

3 More Climate Concepts from Catholicism

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Energy

With the crucial UN Climate Conference taking place in Paris, 30 Nov–11 Dec 2015, it is fitting to look at some alternative ideas that have been published partly in an attempt to influence it. In a previous article I introduced Pope Francis’ environmentalist manifesto, Laudato si’, as a radical social justice document, and noted that recent papal writings have developed four concepts on debt, waste, ecology, and poverty. In that article I focused on Francis’ concept of ‘ecological debt’, so here I will overview the remaining three: ‘the culture of waste’, ‘integral ecology’, and ‘the earth as the poor’. Read the rest of this entry

Entering the Stoic World Pt. 2- Metaphysics

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Marcus Auerlius, Roman Emperor and Stoic

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic. I was not able to source this quote but it looks cool.

This article examines the metaphysics or philosophy of nature behind the Stoic views on community and detachment described in Part 1, and how this metaphysics changed in the later centuries of the school’s history. Before going into detail it will be helpful to contextualise the Stoics’ metaphysics within their broader tradition of philosophy. Despite preferring their porticoes to the horticultural environs of their Epicurean contemporaries, a popular Stoic metaphor depicts philosophy itself as a garden where:

“Logic is the walls, metaphysics the soil, and ethics the fruit”. [G. & S., (2012)] Read the rest of this entry

Entering the Stoic World Pt.1- Cynicism 2.0

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Epictetus on Stoicism's fundamental principle.

Epictetus on Stoicism’s fundamental principle.

This article of mine was written for The Partially Examined Life.

This week, Monday 2nd to Sunday 8th November 2015, is the fourth annual international Live Like A Stoic Week. The organisers, Stoicism Today, have provided lots of resources on mental exercises and principles of virtue to assist you in the endeavor, along with psychological reasons for aspiring to this practice in the modern world. So why I am here? To provide some less practical, historical and philosophical background to the deeply inspiring, pragmatic tradition of Stoicism. The Partially Examined Life’s recent podcast focused on the Enchiridion, the popular handbook from the later Roman Stoic Epictetus (55-135 CE). This was wise because about half of Epictetus’ work survives, whereas as they noted, sadly very little survives from the earlier Greek tradition.

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Papal Environmentalism’s “Ecological Debt”

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This article of mine was originally published on The Partially Examined Life

That the Pope refers to experts rather than his own scientific research does not nullify Rick Santorum's embarrassment here.

That the Pope cites experts rather than scientific research of his own does not nullify Rick Santorum’s embarrassment.

If you needed proof that Pope Francis’ recent encyclical letter on care for the environment, Laudato si’, was not only seminal but radical, it would be that it is now being published by Verso, a leading publisher of leftist continental philosophy. It is sad then, that rather than focusing on the ideas themselves, all of the attention being given to this event is to sensationalist reactions to the Pope among conservatives- not least of all when he visited the USA. Even the respected philosopher Robert P. George tried to downplay Francis’ ability to know that climate change is anthropogenic, presenting the consensus on the matter by 97% of scientists as if it were of equal weight to the opposite opinion. But as Francis says in the document, this consensus means that the burden of proof is on the proponents of a business as usual approach to demonstrate that it will not cause serious harms. (§186) In this piece I will engage with just a little of the criticism of Francis, as an aid to clarify the ideas as well as to examine their limitations. Read the rest of this entry

Any Hope (for the British) Left? 8 Positives from the 2015 Election

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Increased support for a more representative electoral system is one of the reasons to be hopeful.

Increased support for a more representative electoral system is one of the reasons to be hopeful.

In the UK, us left-wingers were dealt a devastating blow last week with the election of a Conservative government for the next 5 years. The proverbial dust has settled, but is this little more than glitter on a turd? I hope not, and here are my reasons for being positive.

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