philosophy for life by rupert read, and bamford quaker community

philosophy for life: a series of essays by the green quaker norwich-based (uea) philosopher, chained together skilfully by editor m.a. lavery, this book is a serious, witty, and unashamedly intellectual attempt to take dame philosophie from her ivory tower and put her to use in the world of politics and political activism; for read, philosophy is a way of thinking critically, of unpacking and exposing the sleights of language with which the governing elites keep our thinking enchainedread’s style is forthright, clear, and ‘clever’ – by which i mean lots of brackets as the thoughts pile up; other writers might feel the need to tease out the complex thoughts into more formal sentences, but if you hold tight as you read it’s fine and rather fun

stand-out chapters include ones on chomsky (how rupert learned to love him), the ambiguities in the word ‘nature’ – an excellent example of wittgensteinian analysis of language-in-use, and a cogent analysis of religion, concluding that religion’s generally fine until you start believing in stuff, so (natch) quakerism’s best

my only nagging doubt might be read’s lack of nagging doubts: his conviction that philosophy, if done properly, leads one to become a green quaker activist, like, er, Rupert himself; as xenophanes once said, ‘if donkeys had gods they’d look like donkeys’ [subs please check animal type]

bamford quaker community

four days back at bamford, just staying (not a programmed event like last time):

  • discovering a lot more of the local area: the village itself with the angler’s rest a frequent source of food; the path up to lady bower reservoir; and various local paths to the shop at the petrol station
  • morning and evening worship with a handful of residents and visitors
  • reading the iliad (samuel butler’s translation)
  • wondering what living there (or somewhere similar) would be like

How they are related

I struggled here, but the link surely is that both represent attempts to make a better world as a consequence of careful thinking. The Quaker community at Bamford, for all its apparent challenges, and its clear fragility, sticks closely to its ground rules and religious practices, as they are the things which keep the place from folding or fading. Quakers have replaced commitment to a creed with commitment to a practice. Similarly Rupert Read argues that both religion and philosophy are nothing unless they lead to action in the world: the practice of activism is primary.

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