Julian Baggini

Quote Topics Cited
Accepting that the world is full of uncertainty and ambiguity does not and should not stop people from being pretty sure about a lot of things.
Anger clearly has its proper place at work, which is neither wholly absent nor ever present. The manager who is an emotional blank is just as hard to work for as the volcanic boss, and both can do great harm by setting an unhelpful example for what kind of emotional expression is expected and accepted. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Any celebration meal to which guests are invited, be they family or friends, should be an occasion for generous hospitality. Families, Children & Parenting
As a teenager, I increasingly had questions about religion to which I found no good answers. Religion & God
Atheists have to live with the knowledge that there is no salvation, no redemption, no second chances. Lives can go terribly wrong in ways that can never be put right. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Atheists should point out that life without God can be meaningful, moral and happy. Life ;Religion & God
Being a good neighbour is about compassion, which is as warm-blooded as justice is cool-headed.
Being able and willing to complain is what makes us rational and moral animals, capable of seeing and articulating the difference between how things are and how they should be.
Being virtuous is wonderful thing, but feeling virtuous is a shortcut to vice.
Believers are right when they say that to understand a religion properly you need to get under its skin. But to understand it fully, you cannot stay there: you have to take a more objective view, too. Religion & God
Big sporting events and spectacles might give the national morale a shot in the arm, but they are too transient and taste-specific to stand as robust symbols of nationhood. Sports & Athletics
Christmas is a rare occasion when we are reminded that we have obligations to people we did not choose to be related to, and that love is not just a spontaneous feeling but something we sometimes really have to work at, with people we may not even much like. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Constructive complaint requires only two things: that what you are complaining about should be different, and that it can be different. It sounds simple, but too often our protests fail this test.
Cooking can be rewarding when it is a choice and no longer the onerous duty of the housewife, and when a dishwasher can lighten the load at the other end of the process.
Daily life is better when it involves interactions with real people who have a personal investment in their labour, like shopkeepers, than it is with someone 'just doing my job' or the infernal self-checkout machine. Life
Dover's cliffs call to mind the Roman invasion; the Battle of Britain; our proximity to, yet difference from, mainland Europe; and international trade and exploration, both fair and exploitative.
Economics is uncertain because its fundamental subject matter is not money but human action. That's why economics is not the dismal science, it's no science at all. Money, Coins & Minting ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
From time to time, it is worth wandering around the fuzzy border regions of what you do, if only to remind yourself that no human activity is an island. Time
Happiness is not the same as life satisfaction, while neither are identical to what we might call flourishing. Life ;Happiness & Unhappiness
Heathens are unredeemed outcasts from heaven who roam the planet without hope of surviving the deaths of their bodies. They may have values, but they are not secured by any divine source. Yet we embrace this because we think it represents the truth. Truth ;Hope
I don't believe in God because certain reasons and arguments weigh more heavily in my mind than others, not because I have willfully decided to reject my creator, as many religious people seem to think. I could no more simply decide to believe in God than I could decide to like beetroot, just like that. Religion & God
I don't feel proprietorial about the problems of philosophy. History has taught us that many philosophical issues can grow up, leave home and live elsewhere. History
I don't think anyone who genuinely embraced sincerity, charity and modesty could be intolerant or divisive.
I maintain the importance of an absolute prohibition against torture, while acknowledging that even absolute prohibitions can sometimes be broken. If that is a contradiction, it is a contradiction that ethics has to embrace, or else it becomes like glass: hard, clear, but fatally inflexible.
If I hammer my own thumb while doing some DIY, it's not nice, but it's not the end of the world. To care obsessively about similar levels of discomfort in animals seems to be a case of mistaken moral priorities.
If philosophy is to be a valuable part of life, we have to appreciate it for its own sake, and not just for what it's done for us lately. Life
If there is an art of living, it is not something that can be taught timelessly. We have lessons to learn from Aristotle et al, for sure, but not if we simply uproot them from their epoch and stamp them into 21st-century soil. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
If there's one thing that makes me cynical, it's optimists. They are just far too cynical about cynicism. If only they could see that cynics can be happy, constructive, even fun to hang out with, they might learn a thing or two.
If we find it hard to believe that winning millions might not be so lucky after all, we just don't have a good enough imagination. If I fantasise about winning the lottery, it doesn't take long before all sorts of worrisome potential consequences occur to me.
If we now find ourselves looking down on the cheap and convenient, it is only because we now have better things which are affordable.
If you believe you are right, then you should believe that you can make the case that you're right. This requires you to deal with serious objections properly.
In my experience, those who make the biggest fuss about not spending much at Christmas are generally the ones who buy what they want and eat where they want 12 months a year.
Indeed, without emotion it seems unlikely we can even have morality.
Instead of showing strangers kindness and giving them the benefit of the doubt, we increasingly show them only fear, and that is bad for us and them.
It is often said that having gone through any kind of suffering tends to makes you appreciate life more and live more in the present. I'm not sure how universal or long-lasting these effects really are. Life
It is true that legality is not morality, and sticking to the law is necessary for good citizenship, but it is not sufficient.
It may not have the virtuous ring of the golden rule, but the maxim 'never say never' is one of the most important in ethics.
It's not leftovers that are wasteful, but those who either don't know what to do with them or can't be bothered.
Justice can only be dispensed when you have all the facts in front of you.
Life is full of what-ifs, many of which could easily have been realities, had just a few things been different. Life
Looking out over the port of Dover, with the endless steam of boats coming in and out, every British citizen is reminded that belonging here has never been about blood or genes. It's simply about being at home on this discrete island and being aware of the privileges and responsibilities that brings.
Love is indeed, at root, the product of the firings of neurons and release of hormones. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Many people are never happier than when they get the opportunity to complain, while others are deeply unhappy with how things are but just accept the fact. Complaint occurs when we refuse to accept that things are wrong and we do something about it, even if that something is simply articulating our unease.
Metaphorical tone deafness is when people are unable to discern what is of value in something. I think I'm tone deaf to poetry, for instance. Despite having studied it into a second year of university, most of it just leaves me cold. Literature, Writers & Writing
Most people believe, more or less, that the value of a human life is the same, irrespective of where on the planet it happens to find itself. But, of course, not every life has the same value for us. Life
Nature deals the cards without thought or care, and there is no point in blaming the dealer. All we can do is make the best of the hands we have been dealt. Nature
No genuine choice is ever simply a matter of the arbitrary exercise of will. Take your choice of lunch today. You can't decide to want anything, but what you want will at least in part be a result of a series of other choices and judgments you've made in your life to date. Life
No matter how convinced we are that someone is nasty, evil or just plain criminal, if they have not been convicted of any crime and support views that are upheld and defended by many law-abiding citizens, the only way to tackle them is through democratic debate.
No one who has understood even a fraction of what science has told us about the universe can fail to be in awe of both the cosmos and of science. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
On social networking sites, we may expose ourselves, but we choose to do so. We are in control and, often wrongly, we do not feel we are giving away tradable data.
One reason why it has become harder to promote the beneficial side of emotions such as anger is that the moral vocabulary of good and bad has been replaced by the self-help lexicon of positive and negative thinking.
People do care where their food, or other goods, comes from, not merely if the price is right. And that means no business can afford to ignore the impacts their buying practices have on producers and on the perceptions and choices of consumers. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Nutrition, Food, Starvation, Farming & Agriculture
People should not expect the state to protect them from fraudsters. If we do, we get into the habit of neglecting our own powers of intellectual discernment.
Perhaps the biggest myth about cynicism is that it deepens with age. I think what really happens is that experience painfully rips away layers of scales from our eyes, and so we do indeed become more cynical about many of the things we naively accepted when younger.
Philosophy has to be enquiring; it can take nothing on faith, and its methods are based not on the blind acceptance of authority, but on establishing truths by reason and argument. Religion & God
Philosophy is at its most engaged when it is impure. What is being recovered from the Ancient Greek model is not some lost idea of philosophy's pure essence, but the idea that philosophy is mixed up with everything else.
Prayer provides an opportunity to remind oneself of how one should be living, our responsibilities to others, our own failings, and our relative good fortune, should we have it. This is, I think, a pretty worthwhile practice and it is not something you can only do if you believe you are talking to an unseen creator.
Progress is more of a challenge for the cynic but also more important and urgent, since for the optimist things aren't that bad and are bound to get better anyway.
Right and wrong are not simply matters of evolutionary impacts and what is natural.
Rules matter, and to be rules they need to be universal in form: always do this, never do that. But it is foolish to rule out in advance the possibility that an occasion might arise when normal rules just don't apply. Rules are not there to be broken, but sometimes break them we must.
Science works because the phenomenon being described can be relied on to remain the same. Even in quantum physics, where phenomena are changed by observation, the way in which observation interferes is regular and falls within a limited range of possibilities. Human culture, however, has the nasty habit of never staying the same for very long. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Seek first what is true and of value, and then whatever happiness follows will be of the appropriate quantity and, more importantly, quality. Happiness & Unhappiness
Since Plato, we have been considering the nature of knowledge, the meaning of meaning and the status of the physical world. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Nature
Society needs both justice and compassion, a head and a heart, if it is to be civilised. Society
Stress means something different if it is the result of rewarding work rather than struggling to keep the family out of debt. Families, Children & Parenting ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
'That which does not kill me makes me stronger' is not a law of the universe. What it can be, if we so choose, is a resolution.
The border between the natural and the supernatural, religion and philosophy, may not always be clear. But there are lines, and we should know and accept which side of it we are on. Religion & God
The capacity to make free choices is not something we either have entirely or not at all. Rather, choices become freer the more they are the result of our own capacity to reflect on and assess facts and arguments.
The greatest moral failing is to condemn something as a moral failing: no vice is worse than being judgmental.
The idea that the mind can extend even beyond the body is an intriguing one, and is bound to become more pressing as we increasingly develop technologies that augment our natural abilities.
The idea that there is a sharp boundary between our true inner selves and the outside world is pervasive but highly questionable. The boundaries of the self might well be more porous than we ordinarily think.
The mark of a mature, psychologically healthy mind is indeed the ability to live with uncertainty and ambiguity, but only as much as there really is. Uncertainty is no virtue when the facts are clear, and ambiguity is mere obfuscation when more precise terms are applicable.
The modern believer is not suspicious enough, which is perhaps why, when they try to construct arguments in their defence, the convictions are left doing all the work and reason, debilitated by neglect, weakly fails to prop them up. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The only good reason to embrace a philosophical position is that you are convinced it is true or at least makes sense of the world better than the alternatives.
The optimist underestimates how difficult it is to achieve real change, believing that anything is possible and it's possible now. Only by confronting head-on the reality that all progress is going to be obstructed by vested interests and corrupted by human venality can we create realistic programmes that actually have a chance of success. Success
The reason Buddhism can be so naturalised is because, stripped of its supernatural elements, its core teachings can be giving a sound, secular philosophical interpretation. In other words, it becomes a religion acceptable to the contemporary, naturalistic mind only when it ceases to be a religion. Religion & God
The reason to be an atheist is not that it makes us feel better or gives us a more rewarding life. The reason to be an atheist is simply that there is no God and we would prefer to live in full recognition of that, accepting the consequences, even if it makes us less happy. Life ;Religion & God
The simplest and clearest motivation for taking animal welfare seriously is the recognition that pain is in and of itself a bad thing, and that to inflict significant amounts of it unnecessarily is wrong.
The supposed revelations of God to humanity through Christ, or the word of God to Mohammed through the angel Gabriel, had the power they did because they indicated new truths, new directions for followers. Power ;Religion & God
The truly humble feel the ground beneath their feet every day and do not only become aware of it when held aloft or pushed down to their knees.
The very act of questioning whether you exist proves you do, because you must be there for the doubt to be entertained in the first place.
There are many things you shouldn't measure. Don't, for example, try to measure how much you love your wife! Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
There is such a thing as fanaticism, it is always wrong, and if you disagree, you're wrong too.
This is the deal: we are happy to single out people as superior just as long as they don't accept the description themselves. We want heroes and idols, but we also want egalitarianism, and that requires proclamations of humility from our gods.
To become a stoic is to endorse the truthfulness of its world view and accept its prescription for how you ought to live, not just to like how it makes you feel.
Too often, complaint is not about principled objection on moral grounds, but opportunistic objection on grounds of self-interest. To rectify this, we need to work on mastering the art of complaint. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Trade has played a vital role in the social evolution of humankind. It allowed people to specialise, which raises both skill levels and efficiency. It brought people from different lands together, co-operating rather than competing over resources.
Traditional arguments for the existence of God and contemporary attempts to use fine-tuning and cosmology to back up the case for his existence always strike me as kinds of games, since hardly anyone believes on the basis of these arguments at all. Religion & God
True humility is expressed in deeds, not words. The humble are those who truly walk the same ground as everyone else - not necessarily with grovelling, hunched backs, but certainly not lording it over others, either.
True respect means taking other people's beliefs seriously and assuming they are adult and intelligent enough to be able to cope with it if you tell them, clearly and civility, why you think they are totally, utterly and disastrously wrong. Respect
True virtue would never liken its rewards to points on a loyalty card, not because it is its own reward, but because it is not something we should practice to accrue future benefits. Future
Trying to keep up with health advice can feel like surfing the Net for weather forecasts: what you find is always changing, often contradictory and rarely encouraging. Health, Healthcare & Medicine
Untested assumptions and lazy habits of thought can be shown up, once put in a spotlight of a different hue.
Waiting is so unusual that many of us can't stand in a queue for 30 seconds without getting out our phones to check for messages or to Google something.
We can take suffering to be an opportunity to learn and to grow. But if we are honest, we should remember that this is making the best of a bad job, and that minimising suffering takes priority over optimising its outcome.
We can't control whether we are rewarded for our endeavours, with cash or recognition. It is not up to us how much cash or time we get on Earth, but it is down to us how we spend it. Time
Wellbeing is a notion that entails our values about the good life, and questions of values are not ultimately scientific questions. Life
Whatever your religious persuasion, if you believe that that the universe is governed by benign forces, at some point you have to explain why there is so much suffering, misfortune and misery in the world.
When you do the right thing, but not to any particular person, we instinctively feel that we have earned some sort of pay back. Since no-one will do that for us, we opt for self-service reciprocation.
When you try to cool down hot emotions, what tends to happen is that you end up either repressing them or losing them altogether. Neither is desirable. Without emotion, much social interaction loses its meaning or changes for the worse.
Yesterday's news feeds our fear that our neighbours are more likely than not to be bad eggs: benefit fraudsters, bogus asylum seekers, paedophiles or jihadist terrorists.
You don't choose what you believe moment to moment, but choices you have made do shape what you come to believe.
You should protest about the views of people you disagree with over major moral issues, and argue them down, but you should not try to silence them, however repugnant you find them. That is the bitter pill free speech requires us to swallow.