A.C. Grayling

Future generations may or may not judge Wittgenstein to be one of the great philosophers. Even if they do not, however, he is sure always to count as one of the great personalities of philosophy. From our perspective it is easy to mistake one for the other; which he is time will tell.

Behave in life as at a dinner party. Is anything brought around to you? Put out your hand and take your share with moderation. Does it pass by you? Do not stop it. Is it not yet come? Do not stretch your desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you. Do this with regard to children, to a spouse, to public post, to riches, and you will eventually be a worthy guest at the feast of life.

I believe that decisions about the timing and manner of death belong to the individual as a human right. I believe it is wrong to withhold medical methods of terminating life painlessly and swiftly when an individual has a rational and clear-minded sustained wish to end his or her life.

Perhaps worse still is what liberal societies might do to themselves in the face of this new and different threat [of terrorism]. They begin, by small but dangerous increments, to cease to be as liberal as they once were. They begin to restrict their own hard-won rights and freedoms as a protection against the crminial minority who attempt (and as we thus see, by forcing liberty to commit suidcide, succed in doing) to terrorise society.

Sensible Catholics have for generations been ignoring the views on contraception held by reactionary old men in the Vatican, but alas, since it is the business of all religious doctrines to keep their votaries in a state of intellectual infancy (how else do they keep absurdities seeming credible?), insufficient numbers of Catholics have been able to be sensible.

Socrates famously said that the unconsidered life is not worth living. He meant that a life lived without forethought or principle is a life so vulnerable to chance, and so dependent on the choices and actions of others, that it is of little real value to the person living it. He further meant that a life well lived is one which has goals, and integrity, which is chosen and directed by the one who lives it, to the fullest extent possible to a human agent caught in the webs of society and history.

Religious apologists complain bitterly that atheists and secularists are aggressive and hostile in their criticism of them. I always say: look, when you guys were in charge, you didn’t argue with us, you just burnt us at the stake. Now what we’re doing is, we’re presenting you with some arguments and some challenging questions, and you complain.