Tim Grayson: God Without Religion

Religious freedom in an age of cultural diversity is an extremely pressing issue of our times. But perhaps we would be better off if we moved away from institutionalized religion while still retaining the concept of a divine or higher power? This week on The Provocateur, I talk to poet and author Tim Grayson to discuss his conception of God without religion.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Loubna El Amine: Hierarchy, Status and Order in Classical Confucian Political Thought

China remains one of the world’s oldest, richest and most enduring civilisations, stretching back thousands of years. Among its many contributions to the world history of ideas is the Confucian school of thought, which could arguably be said to be the cornerstone of Chinese culture. Even as Mao strenuously repudiated Confucian ideals in the 20th century, the legacies of Confucius and his followers can still be found in Chinese society today: for example, the emphasis on filial piety, harmony and social stability. Confucianism has even been claimed to be the bedrock of a ‘pan-Asian’ identity, as part of the debate on Asian values. These currents might suggest that if we want to understand the Chinese mindset both then and now, we should try to examine Confucianism more closely.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Loubna El Amine, assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University, to discuss her take on Classical Confucian political thought. We start by thinking about why Confucianism matters in the context of studying non-Western thought, before going on to discuss more specifically the work of Confucius, Mencius and Xunzi. Then we talk about Loubna’s radical new interpretation of Confucianism, which stresses the importance of hierarchy, status and order in the Confucian worldview, as opposed to the standard account which argues for the centrality of virtue. We also touch on the complexities of defining Confucianism and what it means to Chinese society today.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Primary texts:

Confucius (1979) The Analects, translated by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.

——— (2003) Confucius: Analects with Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Translated by Edward Slingerland. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Ivanhoe, Philip and Bryan Van Norden (eds.) (2005) Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, second edition. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Mencius (1970) Mencius. Translated by D. C. Lau. London: Penguin.

——— (2008) Mengzi: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Translated by Bryan Van Norden. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Xunzi (1988-1994) Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works, 3 vols. Translated by John Knoblock. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

——— (2014) Xunzi: The Complete Text. Translated by Eric Hutton. Princeton University Press.

Secondary readings:

Angle, Stephen C. (2017) “Social and Political Thought in Chinese Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2017/entries/chinese-social-political/>.

Brindley, Erica (2009) “‘Why Use an Ox-Cleaver to Carve a Chicken?’ The Sociology of the Junzi Ideal in the Lunyu.” Philosophy East and West 59 (1): 47–70.

Hsiao, Kung-Chuan (1979) History of Chinese Political Thought. Translated by Frederick Mote. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fingarette, Herbert (1972) Confucius: The Secular as Sacred. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Pines, Yuri (2009) Envisioning Eternal Empire: Chinese Political Thought of the Warring States Era. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Salkever, Stephen G and Michael Nylan (1994) “Comparative Political Philosophy and Liberal Education: “Looking for Friends in History,” Political Science and Politics 27:2, pp. 238-247.

Schwartz, Benjamin (1985) The World of Thought in Ancient China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Aarti Jagannath: The Mysteries of the Body Clock

It is difficult to overstate the impact that technology has had on us, transforming our ways of life and making us more connected than ever before. Where once you had to take days or months to reach the other side of the world, now you can fly from London to Hong Kong in a matter of hours. Where not so long ago in human history we could only rely on candlelight, now artificial lighting is so ubiquitous that we take them for granted. The demand for ever faster connectedness is having unprecedented effects on our circadian rhythms: jet lag is perhaps the best known example of one way in which the body clock gets disrupted, but the problems associated with electricity are arguably even greater, precisely because our 24/7 society is completely dependent on it in order to function. Body clock disruption has been implicated in a whole range of diseases, from depression to cancer, so it is now more urgent than ever before that scientists try to understand the mechanisms of the body clock, so we are in a better position to fix it when it does go wrong.

In this episode of The Provocateur I talk to Aarti Jagannath, a research fellow at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford, to help us unravel the mysteries of the body clock. We discuss the fundamentals of the body clock and what happens when it gets disrupted in a whole range of scenarios, from shift work to divers undergoing decompression to students pulling the occasional all-nighter. We also talk about the ways in which neuroscientists are trying to figure out how to reset our natural circadian cycle and even how some biologists are coming up with innovative treatments that exploit the body clock to better target cancer cells.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Jordan Girardin: The Alps as Transnational Space (25th Episode) / Les Alpes comme un endroit transnational (25ème épisode)

French version below / Version française ci-dessous

The Alps might be most familiar to us as ‘the playground of Europe’ and indeed in modern times it is a vibrant hub for mountaineering, skiing and snowboarding. As many as 120 million people visit the Continent’s most famous mountain range each year and the tourism industry generates almost 50 billion euros in annual turnover, supporting around 10-12% of jobs in the Alpine economy. But this image of the Alps as a winter haven is a fairly recent invention. In the eighteenth century, the Alps were seen as a barren, even threatening, wilderness and it took many decades for the region to evolve into the tourist destination we know today.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Jordan Girardin, who has just completed his PhD in History at the University of St Andrews, to explore the transnational history of travel in the Alps from the 1750s to the 1830s. We discuss the attitudes of both scientific explorers and leisure travellers to the Alps in this period; the varied and sometimes amusing reactions of locals to the new wave of mass interest in the Alps; and the implications of considering the Alps as a transnational space. The episode marks a mini-milestone for The Provocateur as the 25th show in the series, so I thought I’d stay true to the transnational spirit of the topic and record a French interview with Jordan as well, which you can hear below.

You can listen to the (English) podcast here: 

Version française

Dans l’image populaire, les Alpes sont ‘le cour de récréation de l’Europe’ et c’est vrai que, de nos jours, elles sont un centre dynamique de l’alpinisme, du ski et du snowboard. Chaque année, les montagnes les plus célèbres du Continent attirent jusqu’à 120 millions personnes et l’industrie touristique amène jusqu’à 50 milliards d’euros, ce qui soutient 10-12% des emplois dans l’économie de la région. Mais cette image des Alpes comme un paradis hivernal n’est qu’une invention assez récente. Dans le 18ème siècle, on perçevait les Alpes comme une étendue sauvage, même menaçante, et il fallait attendre des décennies avant que la région se soit transformée à la destination touristique du présent.

Dans cet épisode du Provocateur je parle avec Jordan Girardin, qui vient de finir son doctorat en histoire à l’Université de St Andrews en Écosse. Ensemble, nous allons explorer l’histoire transnationale de la voyage alpine des années 1750 aux années 1830.  On va discuter les attitudes aux Alpes des scientifiques ainsi que des passagers de loisirs durant cette période; les réponses variées, même drôles, des gens locaux à cette nouvelle vague d’intérêt aux Alpes; et les implications de la considération des Alpes comme un endroit forcément transnational. J’ai fait cet entretien bilingue anglais-français avec Jordan en vue du fait que ceci est le 25ème épisode du podcast!

Vous pourriez écouter au podcast (en français) ci-dessous:

Further Reading / Lectures supplémentaires:

Bourdon, E. (2011) Le voyage et la découverte des Alpes : Histoire de la construction d’un savoir (1492 – 1713). Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne.

Gugerli, D. & D. Speich (2002) Topografien der Nation: Politik, kartografische Ordnung und Landschaft im 19. Jahrhundert. Zurich: Chronos.

Mathieu, J. & S. Boscani Leoni (eds.) (2005) Die Alpen! Zur europäischen Wahrnehmungsgeschichte seit der RenaissanceLes Alpes ! Pour une histoire de la perception européenne depuis la Renaissance. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Pyatt, E. (1984) The Passage of the Alps: from Hannibal to the Motorway. London: Robert Hale.

Reichler, C. (2013) Les Alpes et leurs imagiers: Voyage et histoire du regard. Lausanne: Presses Polytechniques et Universitaires Romandes.

Ring, J. (2000) How the English Made the Alps. London: John Murray.

Viazzo, P. P. (1989) Upland Communities: Environment, Population and Social Structure in the Alps since the Sixteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.