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Cluster index: Anthony O’Hear


Anthony O’Hear: ‘Can there be education without some aims (against which success is to be judged)? Without some sense of where the lesson might lead, even if we as teachers should be prepared to adapt the goal in the light of what happens as we teach? Can there be teaching without assessment of some sort? Isn’t assessment an integral part of teaching (as opposed to uncommunicative lecturing)?’

The Perturbation of Baruch.

Anthony O’Hear: ‘This linking of the cosmic with the temporal, of the elevated with the lowly and the demotic, even the sordid, and of the well-intentioned with the ill-thought out, even the evil, permeates Baruch as it does much of Hill’s later work.’

What good are you?

Anthony O’Hear: ‘Aristotle, who wrote as well about virtue as anyone, insists on the way that virtue depends on habits, and very largely on habits acquired in one’s upbringing, before one can begin to reason. If one is brought up rightly, then one’s love of the virtues, along with an appropriate sense of honour and its countervailing shame, will enable one to reason well about morality. Otherwise, if one is not already attracted to virtue, in moral matters one is in danger of reasoning cleverly, but badly, and also of acting badly and without shame. ‘

On Simon Blackburn’s Truth.

Anthony O’Hear: ‘ In Blackburn’s book, short as it is, there are what among intellectuals and the like are the now ritual swipes at the election of President Trump, at Brexit, and even at the second Iraq war. No doubt it is good to get such things off one’s chest, but given that in the first two cases anyway electoral majorities went one way rather than the other, one wonders what has happened to the commonality of our common pursuit. Who are the “we” here?’

Popping the larger question.

Anthony O’Hear: ‘In Britain at least revisionism is currently going through on the nod, with barely any of the sort of discussion which has been happening in the USA, and I’m not clear how long resistance can be effective there either in the current political climate. In Britain anyway the homosexual lobby is so powerful in the worlds of politics and entertainment that the campaign is won almost without any effort on the part of that lobby, and they know it. Woe betide anyone who works in the media or local government and dares to appear as ‘homophobic’ (i.e. supporting a privileged position for conjugal marriage). ‘

Those hunky, tousle-haired, philosophical Americans.

Antony O’Hear: If only ‘we simply could dismiss Professor Romano as the Humpty-Dumpty of higher education (he is, apparently, something called Critic-at-Large of The Chronicle of Higher Education) and move on to something else – reading some philosophy, perhaps. ‘

On Sculpture.

Anthony O’Hear: I suppose, in most sculpture there will be several final causes, several purposes for which the work is done; but as human work, it will have always have some final causality, and in having it, a sculptural object will be distinguished from a purely natural stone, however similar the two might be in appearance. A whole host of other questions, about form and meaning, will then come into play in determining our response to the sculptural object.

Joseph de Maistre’s ‘different sort of progress’.

Anthony O’Hear: There is one respect in which Maistre might himself be too much a figure of his own age: he is as much a believer in progress as his Enlightenment opponents. It is just a different sort of progress.

• Fire this time: How the Arab Spring plays in London.

Anthony O’Hear: A few weeks ago, the Arab Spring notwithstanding, we had no inkling of what would happen in London and other English cities as soon as August 2011. We had no sense of what power to the people – welcomed by some of us in Cairo and Benghazi – might come mean in the world’s oldest democracy, now, so to speak, and in England, facilitated as it was here just as in North Africa by social media.

Historicism and the great beast.

Anthony O’Hear: We should consider whether the extreme unpredictability of the crowds we are seeing to-day in quite a number of places (including even London, as it happens) is not just an extreme illustration of what is actually always the case. Beneath its apparently smooth surface and underpinning the leaders who appear to shape it, human history is built on shifting sands, on countless inherently unstable actions and decisions of millions of individual people.

Ruskin and the distinction between Aesthesis and Theoria.

Anthony O’Hear: Vain, yet not all in vain… from the lips of the Sea Sybil men shall learn for ages yet to come what is most noble and most fair. So long as we are able to learn this (maybe guided by Ruskin himself), the distinction between Aesthesis and Theoria remains. From Ruskin’s point of view, the distinction is necessarily timeless.

Prince Andrew or President Adams?

Anthony O’Hear: Rulers and public figures will always be open to the very real temptations and to the flattery which they bring, whatever political system we have. The remedy is not improved regulation or a new political system, but rather to convince public figures that – contrary to Machiavellian pragmatism and the pleasures of swanning on the boats of oligarchs and consorting with tyrants – they remain subject to the natural law of God and the common decencies of mankind.

Marilyn Monroe and Roger Federer in ‘a wonderful world of sacred shining things.’

Anthony O’Hear: Does The Iliad really give us a picture of the Greeks as happy polytheists, or is it providing foundations of Aeschylean tragedy (as Aeschylus himself said), and even in some ways anticipating elements of Christianity, as Simone Weil thought? Then again, there is indeed a tension, as Dreyfus and Kelly say, between Platonism and Incarnational Christianity, but why can the transition to Christianity, as memorably described by Augustine in The Confessions, not be seen as an intellectual and moral advance?

Why doesn’t Britain have a Tea Party?

Anthony O’Hear: Do we have reluctantly to conclude that in 2010, for all our personal chippiness, when it comes to what really matters, deference and servility are now uppermost (or is it just laziness)?

Philosophy as a personal journey.

Anthony O’Hear: The picture of philosophy which I am here sketching, in which philosophy is part of a rational, but personal quest for meaning might not be recognised in many philosophy departments (or not by their students, anyway), and would be hard to discern in many of the most acclaimed philosophical writings of to-day.