A Point of View

A Point of View

Weekly reflections on topical issues from a range of contributors including historian Lisa Jardine, novelist Sarah Dunant and writer Alain de Botton.

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All episodes (189)

  • John Gray: Dostoevsky and Dangerous Ideas 21 Nov 14

    Fri, 21 Nov 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray points to lessons from the novels of Dostoevsky about the danger of ideas such as misguided idealism sweeping away tyrannies without regard for the risks of anarchy. "Dostoevsky suggests that the end result of abandoning morality for the sake of an idea of freedom will be a type of tyranny more extreme than any in the past." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Soylent and the Charm of the Fast Lane 14 Nov 14

    Fri, 14 Nov 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    The new food substitute Soylent allows you to give up eating meals in order to have more free time. But John Gray argues that human beings crave busy lives. We want to be distracted, he says, so we don't have to think too much. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

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  • John Gray: Capitalism and the Myth of Social Evolution 07 Nov 14

    Fri, 7 Nov 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray reflects on why the advance of capitalism is not - as is widely believed - inevitable. He argues that social evolution is often unpredictable and that the "seemingly unstoppable advance of market forces" could well be halted by political decisions and the "random flux of human events". Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Adam Gopnik: Cures for Anxiety 31 Oct 14

    Fri, 31 Oct 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik identifies four different types of anxiety that afflict modern people and suggests ways to cure them. "The job of modern humanists is to do consciously what Conan Doyle did instinctively: to make the thrill of the ameliorative, the joy of small reliefs, of the case solved and mystery dissipated and the worry ended, for now - to make those things as sufficient to live by as they are good to experience." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Adam Gopnik: A Lesson from Lovelocks 24 Oct 14

    Fri, 24 Oct 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik draws a poignant lesson on the nature of true love from the eyesore of love locks in Paris. "Love should never be symbolised by a shackle. Love - real love, good love, love to grow on rather than be trapped in - is a lock to which the key is always available." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Adam Gopnik: The Football Fallacy Fri 17 Oct 2014

    Fri, 17 Oct 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik explains why the English are better at watching football than playing it and why the Americans are better at talking about democracy than practising it.

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  • Adam Gopnik: Dying with Dignity 10 Oct 14

    Fri, 10 Oct 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Adam Gopnik thinks we fail too often to let people die with dignity at the end of their lives and believes the answer lies in showing deference. "Dignity, I think is an exceptional demand, one that depends on at least an illusion or masquerade of an anti-egalitarian, indeed pre-modern - indeed an essentially feudal sense - of deference." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Adam Gopnik: Short and Successful 3 Oct 2014

    Fri, 3 Oct 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik thinks there's a simple reason for the recent findings that short men enjoy stable marriages. It's not that they are desperate to please, but are desperate to prevail. "In every area of life, we underrate the merits of desperation, and persistently overrate the advantages of free choice." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Lisa Jardine: Keeping Time: 26 Sept 14

    Fri, 26 Sep 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Lisa Jardine reflects on the rich history of time-pieces and the power of clocks and watches. "Each watch on display in the British Museum's Clocks and Watchers galleries speaks to me of a world galvanized by scientific innovation, whose horizons were expanding through voyages of discovery and the new objects and ideas brought back." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Lisa Jardine: Red Dress Sense: 19 Sept 14

    Fri, 19 Sep 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    This season's fashion for red prompts Lisa Jardine to reflect on the power in the past of this colour for clothes. "In Tudor England successive monarchs tried to define social status by dress ... a strict code governed the wearing of 'costly apparel', and red was one of the colours most rigidly controlled". Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Lisa Jardine: The Horror of War: 12 Sept 14

    Fri, 12 Sep 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Lisa Jardine says while documenting and commemorating the First World War we should not lose sight of its horror. "Wars are not heroic, even if they prompt acts of heroism by soldiers and civilians. Our young people, raised in a Britain at peace for 70 years, need to know that." Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Lisa Jardine: When fiction comes to the historian's rescue: 05 Sept 14

    Fri, 5 Sep 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Lisa Jardine explores how fiction can be more useful than fact in helping us understand the past. She examines two works of fiction (a recent radio play "The Chemistry Between Them" and Michael Frayn's celebrated stage work, Copenhagen) to show how they often cast far more light on their respective subjects - and particularly the emotions and personal convictions involved - than that found in the history books. Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Will Self: Why Orwell is the Supreme Mediocrity: 29 Aug 14

    Fri, 29 Aug 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self takes on one of the nation's best loved figures, George Orwell ... and braces himself for the backlash! Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Will Self: What's Funny? 15 Nov 13

    Fri, 22 Aug 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self reflects on comedy, asking why we laugh and whether there's too much of the wrong type of humour in our culture. Producer: Caroline Bayley.

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  • Will Self: The Affliction of Consumption 15 Aug 2014

    Fri, 15 Aug 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self reflects on the power of modern day consumption and the effect it is having on us.

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  • Will Self: Believing in Beliefs : 08 Aug 14

    Fri, 8 Aug 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self argues that our modern secular brand of beliefs can't deal with the "heavy stuff" in life. Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Will Self: The Changing Nature of Utopias: 01 Aug 14

    Fri, 1 Aug 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self reflects on what the changing nature of utopias says about us, from Thomas More's sixteenth century Utopia to the recent TV series of the same name. Producer: Arlene Gregorius

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  • Is patriotism the last refuge of the scoundrel? 25 July 14

    Fri, 25 Jul 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Republican or royalist we all need something or someone in which to invest our loyalty. Will Self reflects on what really lies behind our sense of patriotism. Producer: Arlene Gregorius

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  • John Gray: Believing in reason is childish: 18 July 14

    Fri, 18 Jul 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Some critics of religion see having faith as being childish. But John Gray argues that believing that human beings are rational is more childish than believing in religion. The belief in the power of reason to improve humankind rests on childishly simple ideas he says. One of the commonest is that history's crimes are mistakes that can be avoided as we gain greater knowledge. But if history teaches us anything, Grey asserts, it's that behaviours and attitudes like cruelty and hatred are permanent human flaws. To imagine that we can become more rational is an example of magical thinking and an expression of the belief in the omnipotence of the human will that psychoanalysts identify as the fundamental infantile fantasy. John Gray believes that we'd all be better off if we saw ourselves as we are: intermittently and only ever partly rational creatures, who never really grow up. Producer: Arlene Gregorius

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  • John Gray: "Isis: a modern revolutionary force"? 11 July 14

    Fri, 11 Jul 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Philosopher and author John Gray argues that the Sunni extremist group Isis (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) is actually more of a modern revolutionary force than a reactionary one intent on a reversion to mediaeval values. Surprising as this may sound says Gray, Isis is thoroughly modern. It's organised itself into an efficient company, and has become the wealthiest jihadi organisation in the world. And while it invokes the early history of Islam, the society it envisions has no precedent in history. Some of the thinkers who developed radical Islamist ideas are known to have been influenced by European anarchism and communism, especially by the idea that society can be reshaped by a merciless revolutionary vanguard using systematic violence. Isis is part of the revolutionary turmoil of modern times warns Gray, and until the West grasps that uncomfortable fact, it won't be able to deal with the dangers Isis presents. Producer: Arlene Gregorius

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  • AL Kennedy: To See Ourselves: 04 July 14

    Fri, 4 Jul 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    AL Kennedy argues that the British have much to gain from - in the words of Robert Burns - "seeing ourselves as others see us". Referring to last week's row over the appointment of the new European Commission President, she writes: "the EU's view of Britain might be that we're always yelling in a corner about chips!" An entertaining exploration of the down-sides of personal and national introspection. Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • AL Kennedy: Battling the Botnets: 27 June 14

    Fri, 27 Jun 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    It's a tale of "shadowy white-hatted hackers, more shadowy black-hatted hackers and the possibility that the pricey electronic equipment lurking in our homes may not have our best interests at heart". AL Kennedy reflects on the current spate of high-profile viruses that are threatening our computers ... invasive software that may be sending our bank details to criminals every time we connect to the internet. She says as more sophisticated computers become part of more appliances, the potential for virus infection increases. So is it time, she asks, for us to rethink our devotion to these machines? Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • AL Kennedy: If You Haven't Got Anything Nice to Say ... :20 June 14

    Fri, 20 Jun 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    AL Kennedy argues that our obsession with gossip is affecting our public discourse, and corrupting its content. She traces the history of gossip, explores how gossip is edging out real news and how it's taken over our political lives. "Gossip obscures truth" she writes, "sours our outlooks on each other and can trivialise any debate". She concludes that "we really could do with a lot less of it". Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • AL Kennedy: No Burning Required: 13 June 14

    Fri, 13 Jun 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    "Humanity's past thoughts are my inheritance" writes AL Kennedy. "I need them in order to learn how to prosper in the long term". As more and more public libraries close their doors, AL Kennedy argues that we must reassess the importance of books. She says library closures, culled GCSE reading lists, moves towards reducing prisoners' access to books are part of a "perfect storm" which means we're losing books on all sides. Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Tom Shakespeare: Bring Back the Heptarchy! 06 June 14

    Fri, 6 Jun 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Scotland could become independent. So, asks Tom Shakespeare, should England consider returning to an earlier order – a heptarchy of seven independent jurisdictions?

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  • Tom Shakespeare: Disability 30 May 2014

    Fri, 30 May 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Many people assume that disabled people must be unhappy. But the empirical evidence doesn't back this up. In A Point of View, Tom Shakespeare argues that disability is nothing to fear.

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  • Tom Shakespeare: Religious but not spiritual: 23 May 14

    Fri, 23 May 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    A growing number of people are describing themselves as spiritual but not religious. This is not a trend of which Tom Shakespeare approves. In this week's Point of View he argues, rather, that we should be religious but not spiritual. Producer: David Edmonds

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  • Mary Beard: Testing Times: 16 May 14

    Fri, 16 May 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    As hundreds of thousands of young people get ready to sit exams, Mary Beard reflects on exam season – past and present. Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Mary Beard: The Paradox of Growing Old: 09 May 14

    Fri, 9 May 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Mary Beard argues that in years to come, our treatment of old people will be as much of a blot on our culture as Bedlam and the madhouses were on the culture of the 18th century. Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Mary Beard: Digging Digitally: 02 May 14

    Fri, 2 May 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    "The archaeological wonders of today" writes Mary Beard "don't come from heroic subterranean exploration, still less from the efforts of teenagers with their spades and trowels in damp Shropshire fields. They are much more often 'virtual'". Mary reflects on the new face of archaeology - far removed from the days of Heinrich Schliemann who famously claimed "to have gazed on the face of Agamemnon". She traces the history of virtual archaeology from the early 1900s and admits "part of me thrills to the magic of the technology, and to the sheer bravura of displaying the plans of lost buildings, even lost towns, at the touch of a few buttons". She recognises it's far cheaper, quicker and leaves ruins where they are safest: under the ground. But she also admits a feeling of nostalgia for the old ways. When she sees an exciting new discovery, "my heart just itches to get out my spade and my trowel and go and actually dig it up". Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Mary Beard: Mile Milestone: 25 April 14

    Fri, 25 Apr 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Mary Beard looks forward to the 60th anniversary of the first "four minute mile". But in the midst of the celebrations, she argues that we should also remember that Roger Bannister's victory was a "glaring display of class division". Maybe appropriate then that this month also sees the return of that "wonderful working-class ... comic-strip hero, Alf Tupper". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

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  • William Dalrymple: Travel writing giants: 18 April 14

    Fri, 18 Apr 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    William Dalrymple celebrates the writing of Peter Matthiessen who died this month, comparing him with another of his favourite travel writers, Patrick Leigh Fermor. "Both were footloose scholars who left their studies and libraries to walk in the wild places of the world, erudite and bookish wanderers, scrambling through remote mountains, notebooks in hand, rucksacks full of good books on their shoulders." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • William Dalrymple: A Tale of Two Elections 11 April 2014

    Fri, 11 Apr 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    William Dalrymple reflects on the current pivotal elections in India and Afghanistan where religion, identity and economics will all help to determine the outcomes.

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  • William Dalrymple: A Lenten Reflection 04 April 14

    Fri, 4 Apr 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    William Dalrymple contrasts the Christian view of Lent – with all its self-discipline and self-deprivation – with that represented in great Indian art. Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Sarah Dunant: A Disease Called Fame: 28 March 14

    Fri, 28 Mar 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Sarah Dunant reflects on fame and the cult of celebrity following the recent success of the film "20 feet from Stardom". The film about backing singers - the unsung heroes of pop music - scooped best documentary at the Oscars. Sarah discusses how celebrity culture has given us a society where the dream is no longer to be the backing singer, but to take centre stage. "Andy Warhol" she writes "with his fifteen minutes of fame, has turned out to be a prophet as much as an artist". But "in a world where everyone wants to be the lead singer" she asks "who is left to swell the sound? Or more importantly to appreciate it". Producer: Adele Armstrong

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  • Sarah Dunant: Heavy Weather 21 Mar 14

    Fri, 21 Mar 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Sarah Dunant compares our reaction today to climate change with responses in the seventeenth century to extreme weather.

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  • Sarah Dunant: The Time Warp: 14 March 14

    Fri, 14 Mar 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Sarah Dunant reflects that today's harsher judgement of some of the sexual behaviour prevalent in the 1970s springs in part from the freedom forged in that decade. "Without the seventies, we would never have had the debate, the public awareness, the sense of outrage or even the occasionally blunt tool of the law to judge the present and the past." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Roger Scruton: Free the Schools: 07 March 14

    Fri, 7 Mar 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Roger Scruton believes the way to improve our schools is through tapping into the time and talents of middle class volunteers. "The philanthropic middle classes, who created our education system and made it one of the best in the world, have been for too long excluded from it". Producer: Sheila Cook.

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  • Roger Scruton: Our Love for Animals: 28 Feb 14

    Fri, 28 Feb 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Roger Scruton thinks we get our priorities wrong when we favour pets at the expense of wild animals. "We must recognise that by loving our pets as individuals we threaten the animals who cannot easily be loved in any such way." Producer: Sheila Cook.

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  • Roger Scruton: United We Fall: 21 Feb 14

    Fri, 21 Feb 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Roger Scruton argues for a voice for the English in the debate over Scottish independence. "As an Englishman I naturally ask why my interests in the matter have never been taken into account." Producer: Sheila Cook.

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  • Adam Gopnik: Money Matters: 14 Feb 14

    Fri, 14 Feb 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik explains why he thinks the pictures on our banknotes matter. "The iconography of money is more than just decor - it displays the true convictions of the commonwealth that intends to support its value." Producer: Sheila Cook.

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  • Adam Gopnik: Twitter Free: 07 Feb 14

    Fri, 7 Feb 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Adam Gopnik explains his indifference to Twitter and social media."After the introduction of a new device, or social media, our lives are exactly where they were before, save for the new thing or service, which we now cannot live without". Producer: sheila Cook

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  • Adam Gopnik: Why Sportsmanship Matters: 31 Jan 2014

    Fri, 31 Jan 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik reflects on the nature of sportsmanship ahead of the American Super Bowl following controversy over a player's supposedly unsporting comments.

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  • Adam Gopnik: Self Drive Manhood: 24 Jan 14

    Fri, 24 Jan 14

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Adam Gopnik hails the development of the self-drive car as the way to rescue his male identity after years as a non driver. He also muses on the need for such cars to have "ethical engines" capable of moral judgements. Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Adam Gopnik: Sex and the French: 17 Jan 14

    Fri, 17 Jan 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik reflects on the attitude of the French to the sex lives of their statesmen and gives his opinion that the price of privilege is prudence. "Puritanical societies are less morally alert than ones like France that aren't, because the puritanical societies have the judgments prepackaged and their hypocrisies, too. Instead, in France, the moral rights and wrongs, I've learned, are adjudicated case by case." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • John Gray: Unknown Knowns: 10 Jan 14

    Fri, 10 Jan 14

    Duration:
    9 mins

    John Gray reflects on "unknown knowns" - what we know but prefer not to think about, whether it's the truth about the invasion of Iraq or the failures of the financial system that led to the banking crisis. "We humans are sturdy and resilient animals with enormous capacities of creativity and adaptability; but consistently realistic thinking seems to be beyond our powers." Producer: Sheila Cook.

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  • John Gray: The Perils of Belief: 03 Jan 14

    Fri, 3 Jan 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray reflects on the damage that can be caused by evangelical belief in a religion or in a political idea. "Whether they are religious or political, evangelists seem to me a blight on civilisation. For them as for those they persecute or bully, belief is an obstacle to a fulfilling life." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • John Gray: Two Cheers for Human Rights: 27 Dec 13

    Fri, 27 Dec 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray gives only two cheers for human rights. We are in danger, he argues, of turning them into a "comforting dogma through which we try to escape the painful dilemmas of war and politics." "Rather than thinking of rights as a militant creed that can deliver the world from its conflicts, we should recognise rights for what they are - useful devices that quite often don't work".

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  • William Dalrymple: Islamo-Christian Heritage: 20 Dec 13

    Fri, 20 Dec 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    In the week when Prince Charles speaks out against violence against Christians in the Middle East, William Dalrymple says it's time to remember the "old and often forgotten cohabitation of Islam and Christianity". "Christmas time is perhaps the proper moment to remember the long tradition of revering the nativity in the Islamic world. ...There are certainly major differences between the two faiths, not least the central fact, in mainstream Christianity, of Jesus' divinity. But Christmas - the ultimate celebration of Christ's humanity - is a feast which Muslims and Christians can share without reservation." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • John Gray: Why Dickens Endures: 13 Dec 13

    Fri, 13 Dec 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray gives his own theory for the cultural longevity of Charles Dickens, celebrating his view of life as a theatre of the absurd. "Dickens enjoyed human beings as he found them: unregenerate, peculiar and incorrigibly themselves." Producer: Sheila Cook.

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  • Will Self: It's Always the Others Who Die 06 Dec 2013

    Fri, 6 Dec 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self reflects that our modern, secular society has silenced the voices of the dead. As a result, he thinks we fail to directly sympathise with what they have left behind.

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  • Will Self: Political Trojan Horses: 29 Nov 13

    Fri, 29 Nov 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self warns against politicians' superficially attractive policies which turn out to be Trojan horses. "It all comes down to gifts - presents that we save up for through the countrywide Christmas club we call progressive taxation, and which are then handed out by the jolly, hohoing Government in the form of public services." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Will Self: Rebuilding After 9/11: 22

    Fri, 22 Nov 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Will Self reflects from the top of the new One World Trade Center in New York on the challenge of rebuilding after the destruction of 9.11. "The downtown site, mired in ground sacred to mammon, has mixed into it a complex mulch of private rights and public responsibilities: to harmonise these competing interests in the frozen music of architecture has proved a gruelling compositional task.". Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Will Self: Self Confident Culture: 15 Nov 13

    Fri, 15 Nov 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self argues for greater British cultural self confidence in the debate over the wearing of the veil. Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Will Self: JFK Fifty Years On 08 Nov 13

    Fri, 8 Nov 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self reflects on America's view of the assassination of JF Kennedy, fifty years on. After years of talk of conspiracy, cover-up and doctored film footage, he concludes, "It isn't so much that the Kennedy assassination has transitioned smoothly into a commonsensical past; it's rather that it was the first instance of a peculiarly modern variant of the historic event: its media simulation".

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  • Will Self: Pity the Young 01 Nov 13

    Fri, 1 Nov 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self reflects on the malign influence of the older generation on the young as the population of Britain ages. "In my darker moments - of which there are quite a few - I often envision the baby boomer generation as a giant and warty toad squatting on the youth of our society". Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Lisa Jardine: Reflections on IVF 25 Oct 13

    Fri, 25 Oct 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Lisa Jardine reflects on the sensitive questions surrounding IVF as she comes to the end of her term as Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. "I would have loved to have been able to have spoken more often and more publicly,with more words of caution for those preparing to undertake IVF, or postponing their family because IVF seems a reliable option should natural conception fail." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Lisa Jardine: Machine Intelligence 18 Oct 13

    Fri, 18 Oct 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Lisa Jardine compares the contributions of Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing a century later to computer science and contrasts their views on the potential of and limits to machine intelligence.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Cross Border Science: 11 Oct 13

    Fri, 11 Oct 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Lisa Jardine reflects on the internationalism that underpins the progress of science in a week when individual nations celebrate their Nobel prize winners. "Science has always ignored national borders, in pursuit of the fullest possible understanding of nature." Producer: Sheila Cook

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  • Lisa Jardine: Ethical Science 04 Oct 2013

    Fri, 4 Oct 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Lisa Jardine draws lessons about the relationship between science and human values from the career of the Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, who helped to develop the atom bomb.

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  • AL Kennedy: The Horror of Love 27 Sep 13

    Fri, 27 Sep 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Stephen King says "Love creates horror." AL Kennedy agrees. "I don't personally welcome love's ability to make me fear," she writes.

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  • AL Kennedy: Someone to Watch Over Me 20 Sep 13

    Fri, 20 Sep 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    AL Kennedy reflects on our tendency to behave badly when we think no-one's watching or when we follow the wrong crowd. "When psychologists test how people behave with and without oversight, it becomes depressingly clear that if we think nobody's looking, we don't even remotely always let our consciences be our guides." "Even very normal, pleasant people can delegate their morality to other people who appear to be in charge, even of bizarre and disturbing scenarios."

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  • AL Kennedy: Great Pretenders 13 SEP 13

    Fri, 13 Sep 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    AL Kennedy reflects on the stuggle to establish truth in what she regards as an age of lies. Lies, she says, are proliferating on TV, in politics, in business and throughout public and private life. Extracting truths in moral and effective ways, she argues, is an ever greater challenge.

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  • AL Kennedy: Real Change 06 SEP 13

    Fri, 6 Sep 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Writer and performer A.L. Kennedy doesn't like change - but she thinks she should change her atittude.

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  • Roger Scruton: Of the People, By the People 4 30 AUG 2013

    Fri, 30 Aug 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Roger Scruton concludes his series of talks on the nature and limits of democracy. "We in Europe are moving not towards democracy but away from it," he says.

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  • Roger Scruton: Of the People, By the People 3 23 AUG 2013

    Fri, 23 Aug 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Roger Scruton argues that nations should be defined by language and territory rather than by party or faith. Looking at examples across the Middle East and in particular in Egypt, he explains why - in his view - a modern state cannot be governed by Islamic law.

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  • Roger Scruton: Of the People, By the People 2 16 AUG 13

    Fri, 16 Aug 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Philosopher Roger Scruton argues that democracy works only if we are prepared to be ruled by our opponents, however much we may dislike them. We need to accept politics as a process of compromise and conciliation - and for that, he says, the state must be secular.

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  • Roger Scruton: Of the People, By the People 1 09 AUG 13

    Fri, 9 Aug 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Philosopher Roger Scruton argues that democracy alone is not enough for political freedom as democracy, freedom and human rights do not necessarily coincide.

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  • Sarah Dunant: Machiavelli's Summer in Tuscany 02 AUG 13

    Fri, 2 Aug 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    It’s exactly 500 years this summer since Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his famous book 'The Prince', on how to gain and retain political power. Sarah Dunant takes us back to the hot Tuscan summer when Machiavelli put down his thoughts, including the view that in politics, virtue must be tempered by expediency.

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  • Sarah Dunant: The Pope's Twitter Feed 26 JUL 13

    Fri, 26 Jul 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Sarah Dunant reflects on the Catholic church and suggests what Pope Francis should tell his Twitter followers about problems within the Catholic Church.

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  • Sarah Dunant: A Big Day for Bert and Ernie? 19 JUL 13

    Fri, 19 Jul 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    The recent New Yorker cartoon showing Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie as a gay couple prompts Sarah Dunant to reflect on the power of such images to convey social messages.

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  • Sarah Dunant: A Sporting Catharsis 12 JUL 13

    Fri, 12 Jul 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    As Britain basks in post-Wimbledon glory, amid the Ashes, Sarah Dunant reflects on how sport has - throughout history - been used by the authorities to help populations let off steam.

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  • Sarah Dunant: Gender Matters 05 JUL 13

    Fri, 5 Jul 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Sarah Dunant reflects on feminism and the ousting of Australia's Prime Minister.

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  • Tom Shakespeare: Anyone for Art? 28 JUN 13

    Fri, 28 Jun 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Tom Shakespeare asks is it time to democratise art? Furtmore, should we, the public, be allowed to borrow works of art from our national collections - that way we could have an affair with art, rather than a one-night stand.

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  • Tom Shakespeare: A Midsummer Daydream 21 JUN 13

    Fri, 21 Jun 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    In Britain many of our holidays and festivals are rather dull - bank holidays for example. Tom Shakespeare, presenting the third of his four essays, says that when he looks at other cultures he feels a strong sense of festival envy. He wants Britain to have better festivals. To start with, shouldn't we celebrate Midsummer?

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  • Tom Shakespeare: Fly, Fish, Mouse & Worm 14 JUN 13

    Fri, 14 Jun 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Sociologist Tom Shakespeare says his favourite childhood book was 'Bear, Mouse and Water Beetle' - which inspires his own modern tale 'Fly, Fish, Mouse and Worm'.

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  • Tom Shakespeare: Can Compassion Be Taught? 07 JUN 13

    Fri, 7 Jun 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Sociologist Tom Shakespeare explores recent scandals in the health service, which revealed appalling cases of abuse and neglect. This has led to calls for people in the medical profession to be taught compassion - but Tom is sceptical and asks can, and should, compassion be taught?

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  • John Gray: Gatsby - The Perfect Fake 31 MAY 13

    Fri, 31 May 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Political philosopher John Gray finds new resonance for our own age in the story of The Great Gatsby.

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  • John Gray: The Doors of Perception 24 MAY 13

    Fri, 24 May 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Philosopher John Gray argues for another way of perceiving the world inspired by the fantasy fiction writer Arthur Machen. Instead of believing that meaning in life can only be found by changing things around us, he says some of the most valuable human experiences come about when we simply look around us without any intention of acting on what we see.

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  • John Gray: The Meaning of Evil 17 MAY 13

    Fri, 17 May 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray finds useful material for pondering the question of evil in the thriller writer Patricia Highsmith’s character Tom Ripley.

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  • John Gray: The Myth of Modernity 10 MAY 13

    Fri, 10 May 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray draws on the novels of Mervyn Peake to argue it's a mistake to imagine that modernity marks a fundamental change in human experience.

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  • John Gray: The Limits of Materialism 03 MAY 13

    Fri, 3 May 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    A story by Walter de la Mare inspires philosopher John Gray to argue that the prevailing creed of scientific materialism is a "simple minded philosophy" too limited for an unknowable world.

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  • John Gray: Bitcoin’s Cyber Freedom 26 APR 13

    Fri, 26 Apr 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Philosopher John Gray wonders what the rise of the cyber currency Bitcoin tells us about our human need for freedom and protection.

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  • PoV Adam Gopnik: Children Leaving Home 19 APR 13

    Fri, 19 Apr 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik reflects on the terrible day when children finally leave home.

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  • Adam Gopnik: Science, Magic & Madness 12 APR 13

    Fri, 12 Apr 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    What is the difference between magic and science? What is the difference between Galileo and his contemporary, the famous Elizabethan astrologer and alchemist John Dee? Adam Gopnik says it's the experimental method - the looking and seeing and testing that goes with true science. But when he wrote about this recently he found that fervent members of the John Dee fan club disagreed.

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  • Adam Gopnik: The Irrationality of Nations 05 APR 13

    Fri, 5 Apr 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Every nation has a core irrationality - a belief about itself which no amount of contrary evidence can shift, says Adam Gopnik.

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  • Adam Gopnik: The Secret of a Happy Marriage 29 MAR 13

    Fri, 29 Mar 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Lust, laughter and loyalty is the prformula for a happy marriage, says writer Adam Gopnik.

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  • Adam Gopnik: Turkish Notions 22 MAR 13

    Fri, 22 Mar 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    As the world's top chess players battle it out in London, Adam Gopnik reflects on why we overrate masters and underrate mastery.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Celestial Bodies 15 MAR 13

    Fri, 15 Mar 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine reflects on comets and the lessons we can learn from early astronomers.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Dame Mary Cartwright 08 MAR 13

    Fri, 8 Mar 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Lisa Jardine celebrates the achievements of the mathematician Dame Mary Cartwright, whose work helped war-time radar engineers and became the foundation of chaos theory.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Modern Medicis: 01 Mar 2013

    Fri, 1 Mar 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Lisa Jardine celebrates the influence of art connoisseur Sir Denis Mahon and reflects on the impact of wealthy art collectors on public taste and government policy.

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  • Lisa Jardine: The Winter Queen: 22 Feb 13

    Fri, 22 Feb 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Lisa Jardine celebrates Elizabeth of Bohemia, the "Winter Queen", and sees her relegation to the margins of history as typical of our failure to recognise powerful women.

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  • David Cannadine: In Praise of Birmingham: 15 Feb 13

    Fri, 15 Feb 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    David Cannadine defends his home city of Birmingham against a slur in "Pride and Prejudice" by celebrating its past and its current cultural renaissance.

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  • David Cannadine: Grand Central celebration: 08 Feb 13

    Fri, 8 Feb 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    David Cannadine celebrates the saving of New York's now century old Grand Central Terminal and regrets the destruction of the city's other great beaux-arts station.

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  • David Cannadine: The Appeal of Teddy Bears: 01 Feb 13

    Fri, 1 Feb 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    David Cannadine reflects on the enduring appeal of the teddy bear in contemporary culture since they were first named after Theodore Roosevelt over a hundred years ago.

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  • David Cannadine: Presidential Inaugurations: 25 Jan 13

    Fri, 25 Jan 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    David Cannadine reflects on the history of presidential inaugurations and how American presidents since Abraham Lincoln have crafted their speeches when it's second time around.

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  • Will Self: Urban Designs 18 JAN 13

    Fri, 18 Jan 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Will Self laments what he sees as an absence of rational urban planning in our big cities and a fashion for dramatic sky scrapers driven by short term commercial values.

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  • Will Self: Terminal Thoughts 11 JAN 13

    Fri, 11 Jan 13

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self says he would rather commit suicide than die a slow, painful death and would like society to find his choice more acceptable than at present.

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  • Will Self: American Ambivalence 06 JAN 13

    Sun, 6 Jan 13

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Will self reflects on Britain's confused relationship with the U.S. Taking the Tom Stoppard plays his American mother took him to see in the 70s as his starting point, he says that our relationship with our friends across the pond changed little in the last 40 years.

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  • Will Self: The British Vomitorium 28 DEC 12

    Fri, 28 Dec 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self takes a historic foodie tour and explores how we've gone from being a culinary backwater to being "the most food-obsessed nation in Europe - if not the world".

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  • Will Self: The New Economics Priesthood 21 DEC 12

    Fri, 21 Dec 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Will Self warns against the false prophets of the new priesthood of economics.

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  • Will Self: Digital Past 14 DEC 12

    Fri, 14 Dec 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self reflects on the effect of technology throughout his six decades and how it has affected his perception of the passage of time.

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  • Onora O'Neill: Trustworthiness Before Trust 07 Dec 2012

    Fri, 7 Dec 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Onora O'Neill reflects anew on the theme of trust, which was the subject of her Reith lectures.

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  • Mary Beard: Marks Out of Ten, Please 30 Nov 2012

    Fri, 30 Nov 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Mary Beard on why "customer satisfaction" surveys have no place in universities and pines for the days when students were able to tell their professor their lectures were rubbish.

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  • Mary Beard: On Pompeii 23 Nov 2012

    Fri, 23 Nov 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Mary Beard ponders questions of privacy, archaeology and restoration as she wanders through the rooms of a new exhibition about Pompeii, the "City of the Dead".

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  • Mary Beard: Age of Consent 16 Nov 2012

    Fri, 16 Nov 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Mary Beard reflects on the age of consent and argues that accidents of history often determine how we choose to criminalize or regulate.

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  • Mary Beard: Rich man, poor man 09 Nov 2012

    Fri, 9 Nov 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Mary Beard on the long history of the rich looking down their noses - sometimes with a hearty Roman snort - at the poor.

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  • Martin Jacques: Understanding contemporary China 4/4 02 Nov 2012

    Fri, 2 Nov 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Martin Jacques presents a personal view on how best to understand the unique characteristics and apparent mysteries of contemporary China, its development and its possible future. In his final talk, he asks how the undemocratic Chinese state can enjoy legitimacy and authority in the eyes of its population.

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  • Martin Jacques: Understanding contemporary China 3/4 26 Oct 2012

    Fri, 26 Oct 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Martin Jacques presents a personal view on how best to understand the unique characteristics and apparent mysteries of contemporary China, its development and its possible future. In this third talk, he explores the nature of race in China.

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  • Martin Jacques: Understanding contemporary China 2/4 19 Oct 2012

    Fri, 19 Oct 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Martin Jacques presents his personal view on how best to understand contemporary China, its development and its possible future.

    Download 5MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Martin Jacques: Understanding Contemporary China 1/4 12 Oct 2012

    Fri, 12 Oct 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Martin Jacques presents a personal view on how best to understand the unique characteristics and apparent mysteries of contemporary China, its development and its possible future. In a new series of talks he sets out the building blocks for making sense of China today.

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  • Sarah Dunant: Presenting the Past 05 Oct 2012

    Fri, 5 Oct 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Sarah Dunant reflects on the role of history in society - and how it changes over time. She also asks what history can learn from historical fiction.

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  • Sarah Dunant: Mouthing Off 28 Sept 2012

    Fri, 28 Sep 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Why is America so obsessed with dental perfection? While American comedians often mock the British for their bad teeth, Sarah reveals how Japanese fashionistas are paying to have their teeth made more crooked.

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  • Sarah Dunant: Sweet Charity 21 Sept 2012

    Fri, 21 Sep 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    As Sarah Dunant rummages for bargains in her local charity shop, she reflects on the history of charity shops and their growing importance in times of austerity.

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  • Sarah Dunant: In Search of Prizes 14 Sept 2012

    Fri, 14 Sep 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    As the Man Booker shortlist is published, author Sarah Dunant examines the merits of literary prizes and explores how new writers and readers find each other.

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  • Sarah Dunant: "Policing Sex" 07 Sept 2012

    Fri, 7 Sep 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Sarah Dunant looks at attitudes to sexual behaviour in the aftermath of recent remarks on rape from an American would-be senator. She argues men must be involved in the debate.

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  • John Gray: The alchemy of memory 31 Aug 2012

    Fri, 31 Aug 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray explores the role of memory in giving meaning to our lives. He reflects on how we struggle to preserve our past but at the same time sometimes long to leave it behind.

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  • John Gray: The trouble with stories of freedom 24 Aug 2012

    Fri, 24 Aug 12

    Duration:
    9 mins

    John Gray looks at the relationship between freedom and democracy. He argues that whenever tyranny is overthrown, the result is not necessary greater liberty throughout society.

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  • John Gray: Sherlock Holmes and the Romance of Reason 17 Aug 2012

    Fri, 17 Aug 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray reflects on the enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes at a time when we've lost confidence in the power of reason alone to solve problems.

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  • John Gray: Climate for Culture 10 Aug 2012

    Fri, 10 Aug 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray reflects on the climate needed for culture to thrive, identifying totalitarian regimes as the worst enemies of creativity.

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  • John Gray: The Price of a Postage Stamp 03 Aug 2012

    Fri, 3 Aug 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    The philosopher John Gray wonders what bulk buying of stamps ahead of the price rise tells us about economic gloom.

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  • John Gray: The Paradox of Immortality 27 July 2012

    Fri, 27 Jul 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray reflects on the paradox of immortality as captured by the writer Theodore Powys, "The longest life may fade and perish but one moment can live and become immortal."

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  • John Gray: Keynes Insights 20 July 2012

    Fri, 20 Jul 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray takes a fresh look at the thinking of John Maynard Keynes and wonders what he would have really thought about the current economic crises and how to solve them.

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  • John Gray: Visions of Violence 13 July 2012

    Fri, 13 Jul 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    John Gray reflects on the nature of violence which he sees as an inevitable part of the human condition, doubting the ability of reason to tame our warring impulses.

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  • Adam Gopnik: The Curse of a Ridiculous Name 06 July 2012

    Fri, 6 Jul 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik muses on what it means in life if - like him - you've been lumbered with a funny name.

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  • Adam Gopnik: Nazis - Gopnik's Amendment 29 June 2012

    Fri, 29 Jun 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Adam Gopnik reflects on our continuing obsession with the Nazis.

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  • Adam Gopnik: What to do about a bad review 22 June 2012

    Fri, 22 Jun 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik ruminates on how to handle a bad review. An amusing guide on how to get your own back on your critics.

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  • Adam Gopnik: Beatle Time 15 June 2012

    Fri, 15 Jun 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    As the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first concert approaches, Adam Gopnik ponders what it is that makes the fab four's music endure.

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  • Adam Gopnik: Embarrassing Parents 08 June 2012

    Fri, 8 Jun 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Adam Gopnik reflects on a universal truth of parenting: why, at exactly age 13, your child will discover that you are the most embarrassing, ridiculous and annoying person on the planet.

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  • Adam Gopnik: On Bees and Being 01 June 2012

    Fri, 1 Jun 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Adam Gopnik muses on why Shakespeare didn't seem to know that the top bee is a girl bee! He takes us - via a bunch of bee experts - on a journey of "long and buzzing thoughts".

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  • Will Self: A Right Loyal Toast 25 May 2012

    Fri, 25 May 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self reflects on the historical tradition of the Loyal Toast. A week before the Jubilee celebrations get underway, he muses on where deference is properly due.

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  • Will Self: Europe & My Quadriga-Spotting Tour 18 May 2012

    Fri, 18 May 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self ponders the future of Europe as he stands by Berlin's Brandenburg gate and asks whether we should consider an end to the European Union "in its current banjaxed form".

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  • Will Self: Military Matters 11 May 2012

    Fri, 11 May 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self calls for a return of National Service in the UK and asks why political leaders are so fond aligning themselves with the military to enhance their tough-guy credentials.

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  • Will Self: Lords, Lordlings and Crumpets 04 May 2012

    Fri, 4 May 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self savages the continuing role of hereditary peers in parliament and denounces the narrowing of the range of political choice in Britain.

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  • Will Self: The Rights of Humans... and Animals 27 Apr 2012

    Fri, 27 Apr 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self asks whether "human rights" really exist - when they can so easily be taken away?

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  • Will Self: Challenging Intellect 20 Apr 2012

    Fri, 20 Apr 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self says we should embrace the intellectual challenge of 'difficult' books and art, and value works which are more taxing than our increasingly low-brow popular culture.

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  • David Cannadine: Jubilee Celebrations 13 Apr 2012

    Fri, 13 Apr 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian David Cannadine looks ahead to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, reflecting on the history of royal jubilees worldwide and, in particular, the celebrations for Queen Victoria.

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  • David Cannadine: Cathedral Heritage 06 April 12

    Fri, 6 Apr 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian David Cannadine reflects at Easter time on the architectural glories of cathedrals and the part these buildings have played in our national history and culture.

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  • David Cannadine: Fat Policemen 30 Mar 2012

    Fri, 30 Mar 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Historian David Cannadine reflects on the changing images of the typical British Bobby, in light of a recent report that over half of the members of the Metropolitan Police are overweight.

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  • David Cannadine: The Fashion for Westerns 23 Mar 2012

    Fri, 23 Mar 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian David Cannadine recalls the heyday of cinema and television Westerns and wonders if a forthcoming adaptation of the Lone Ranger will find a new audience.

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  • David Cannadine: Power of the Press 16 Mar 2012

    Fri, 16 Mar 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian David Cannadine reflects on the power of the press, past and present, recalling how early twentieth century press barons attempted to influence British politics.

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  • David Cannadine: Churchill's American Speeches 09 Mar 2012

    Fri, 9 Mar 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Historian David Cannadine reflects on the enduring resonance of the important speeches which Winston Churchilll delivered in colleges and universities in the United States.

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  • David Cannadine: Why Wear a Tie? 02 Mar 2012

    Fri, 2 Mar 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Historian David Cannadine compares the traditions of tie wearing on both sides of the Atlantic. He reflects on the social significance of this element of male dress and observes a recent phenomenon - that politicians seem to campaign in open neck shirts but govern wearing ties.

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  • David Cannadine: A History of Monetary Unions 24 Feb 2012

    Fri, 24 Feb 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian David Cannadine reflects on the legacy of monetary unions and what causes success or failure. Ancient Greece was a pioneer, whereas modern Greece has hit problems before.

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  • David Cannadine: Bankers in America 17 Feb 2012

    Fri, 17 Feb 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian David Cannadine reflects on current and historic attitudes towards bankers in America. He sees today's criticism as mild by comparison with the attitude of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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  • David Cannadine: Anniversary Cornucopia 10 Feb 2012

    Fri, 10 Feb 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Historian David Cannadine surveys the current crop of anniversaries and finds a cornucopia of dates to prompt reflection. Awareness of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens may be widespread but fewer may know 2012 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the death of the only British prime minister to be assassinated.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Email Etiquette 03 Feb 2012

    Fri, 3 Feb 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine reflects on the perils of over-hasty emails compared with the time allowed for reflection by old fashioned letter writing.

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  • Lisa Jardine: The Thatcher Story 27 Jan 2012

    Fri, 27 Jan 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine reflects on the portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the film The Iron Lady, and considers the complexities of portraying the lives of both public and private figures.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Volume Control 20 Jan 2012

    Thu, 19 Jan 12

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine reflects on her aversion to today's new sources of noise and traces the history of some attempts at noise abatement.

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  • Lisa Jardine: The Nature of Gardening 13 Jan 2012

    Fri, 13 Jan 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine recalls the seventeenth century Lord Chancellor, and keen gardener, Sir Francis Bacon as she reflects on the art of gardening, as both pure human pleasure and a means of self advancement.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Information Overload 6 Jan 2012

    Fri, 6 Jan 12

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine proposes that information overload is not a new problem, explaining that by the seventeenth century there was widespread anxiety that the sheer volume of available knowledge was getting out of hand.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Glamour in Austerity 30 Dec 2011

    Fri, 30 Dec 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine remembers 2011 for the spectacle of the Royal Wedding, reflecting on the historic power of regal glamour in times of austerity. Queen Elizabeth I, she says, used ostentation and opulence in her dress as a political tool to increase national confidence in the solvency of her regime.

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  • Simon Schama: The Memory Business 29 Dec 2011

    Thu, 29 Dec 11

    Duration:
    15 mins

    Historian Simon Schama reflects on how the world, ten years on, remembered the events of 9/11 and ponders why it is vital to remember: Ten years is an aeon in tweet-time, he writes, but 9/11 bleeds, in every sense, into today's front pages.

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  • Will Self: Media Malpractice 28 Dec 2011

    Wed, 28 Dec 11

    Duration:
    15 mins

    Will Self reflects on the depth of the malpractices revealed by the Leveson inquiry into the media. He says it has drawn the attention of people outside the Westminster and Fleet Street villages to the existence of a systematically corrupt and corrupting dimension to public life in the UK.

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  • Sarah Dunant: The Meaning of Debt 27 Dec 2011

    Tue, 27 Dec 11

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Author Sarah Dunant looks back on 2011 and reflects on the meaning of the word 'debt'. While deploring what she calls the 'catastrophe' of the debt ridden economy, she views a debt also owed to the protest movements both in the Arab world and camped outside St Paul's Cathedral.

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  • John Gray: The End, Yet Again? 26 Dec 2011

    Mon, 26 Dec 11

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Political philosopher Prof John Gray reflects on the merits of living for the present. He argues that looking to the future to give meaning to our lives fails to cherish the here and now.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Carols at Christmas 23 Dec 2011

    Fri, 23 Dec 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine reflects on the power of music to move, especially at Christmas, when the singing of carols unites singers and listeners alike, in an outpouring of community spirit.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Climate Change Belief 16 Dec 2011

    Fri, 16 Dec 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine thinks selective hearing skews the debate over climate change and urges climate scientists to fully engage in a conversation with their sceptical critics.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Beware the Experts 09 Dec 2011

    Fri, 9 Dec 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Historian Lisa Jardine recalls the English physicist and novelist C.P. Snow, who served in several important positions in the British civil service, for lessons on the danger of government-by-experts. She says democracy depends on our being able to sustain informed debate about science and economics.

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  • Lisa Jardine: Finding Family History 02 Dec 2011

    Fri, 2 Dec 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    The historian Lisa Jardine finds herself converted to the value of family history after the discovery of a tape recording, which shed light on a puzzling family photograph taken in 1906.

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  • Mary Beard: The Oxbridge Interview 25 Nov 2011

    Fri, 25 Nov 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Cambridge university classicist Prof Mary Beard reflects on the purpose of the much-maligned Oxbridge interview and defends the 'would you rather be an apple or a banana?' school of questioning.

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  • Mary Beard: Reflections on Monetary Union 18 Nov 2011

    Fri, 18 Nov 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    With the euro in turmoil, classicist Prof Mary Beard reflects on the very first monetary union, two and a half thousand years ago - ironically masterminded by the Greeks in ancient Athens.

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  • Mary Beard: Age and Beauty 11 Nov 2011

    Fri, 11 Nov 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Classicist Prof Mary Beard takes a peek at Miss World 2011 and ponders why - unlike her days as a radical feminist teenager - the whole occasion doesn't fill her with fury.

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  • Mary Beard: Tyrants 04 Nov 2011

    Fri, 4 Nov 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    From the ingeniously ghastly ways they killed their opponents to their weird forms of dress, classicist Prof Mary Beard reflects on the uncanny similarities between Colonel Gaddafi and the tyrants of ancient Rome. She argues that the similarities were present in life - and in death.

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  • Will Self: The Arms Trade 28 Oct 2011

    Fri, 28 Oct 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Will Self deplores the arms trade and Britain's role in it, including the sale of weapons to authoritarian regimes which abuse human rights. He takes aim at the euphemisms that surround the sector, arguing: the elision of business-speak with the foggy verbiage of warfare is perhaps the most deranging aspect of the contemporary arms trade.

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  • Will Self: Class, Race and Social Mobility 21 Oct 2011

    Fri, 21 Oct 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self reflects that racism is rarely a sole cause of social injustice but alongside other problems, such as poverty, it can limit people's social mobility. He says: it's not a case of class or family or education or money or race, it's a matter of of class, family, education, money AND race."

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  • Will Self: In Praise of Wind Farms 14 Oct 2011

    Fri, 14 Oct 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self praises the beauty of wind turbines and says protests against them spring from a misconceived idyllic view of our already man-made landscape.

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  • Will Self: Why Prisons Fail 07 Oct 2011

    Fri, 7 Oct 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Will Self sees an urgent need to reform the prison system and deplores what he sees as a lack of political will to tackle its present failings. He says: not only does prison, for the vast majority of those who endure it not work - either as punishment or as rehabilitation - but there is no escaping the conclusion that it functions as a stimulant to crime, rather than its bromide.

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  • Will Self: Political Party Membership 30 Sept 2011

    Fri, 30 Sep 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Will Self attacks the people who join political parties as "donkeys led by donkeys". He criticises the spectacle of party conferences - "a parade of endlessly biddable Dobbins" - and argues that members repeatedly see their principles betrayed by the actions of leaders who are continually fighting over the same patch of turf.

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  • John Gray: Churchill, Chance and the Black Dog 23 Sept 2011

    Fri, 23 Sep 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Political philosopher Prof John Gray argues that Winston Churchill's appointment as wartime Prime Minister came about through a strange conjunction of events and chance encounters in a couple of days in May 1940. He also ponders whether it was it Churchill's recurring melancholy which made for his greatness.

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  • John Gray: Believing in Belief 16 Sept 2011

    Fri, 16 Sep 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Political philosopher John Gray argues that the scientific and rationalist attack on religion is misguided. Atheist critics do not realise that religion is not generally about personal belief.

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  • John Gray: Cats, Birds and Humans 09 Sept 2011

    Fri, 9 Sep 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Political philosopher John Gray considers why the human animal needs contact with something other than itself - and tells the tale of an eminent philosopher who persuaded his cat to become a vegan.

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  • John Gray: The Revolution of Capitalism 02 Sept 2011

    Fri, 2 Sep 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Political philosopher John Gray argues that one side-effect of the financial crisis is an increasing number of people who believe that Karl Marx was right. He outlines why Marx's belief that capitalism would lead to revolution - and end bourgeois life - has come true, but not in the way Marx imagined.

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  • John Gray: Kim Philby 26 Aug 2011

    Fri, 26 Aug 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    As recently discovered letters from Kim Philby are published, political philosopher Prof John Gray argues that the spy's life illustrates why we are so poor at predicting the future. Where Philby saw a bright future in Soviet Communism - one that led him to betray friends and colleagues - many in the West hoped for a different utopia in Russia as Communism collapsed. Neither saw their dreams realised.

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  • John Gray: Greece and the Meaning of Folly 19 Aug 2011

    Fri, 19 Aug 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Political philosopher Prof John Gray reflects on the meaning of folly. Taking the myth of the Trojan horse as his starting point, he explores what he sees as the modern day folly unfolding in Europe. He calls on European leaders to reconsider the single European currency - a project he says was always doomed to fail.

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  • Alain de Botton: The Advantages of Pessimism 12 Aug 2011

    Fri, 12 Aug 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Alain de Botton reflects on why pessimism is the key to happiness. He argues that the best way to find contentment is to learn to be a bit more gloomy.

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  • Alain de Botton: Modern Parenting 05 Aug 2011

    Fri, 5 Aug 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Alain de Botton takes a witty look at modern parenting. He explains why today's parent simply can't avoid baking biscuits and helping to paint Tyrannosaurus Rex's scales.

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  • Alain de Botton: Social Climbing 29 Jul 2011

    Fri, 29 Jul 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Alain de Botton reflects on social climbing and argues that the activity should be seen, at times, as evidence of a natural curiosity about the modern world. He says in the current environment, it is often not idle pleasure-seeking but an attempt to keep oneself in a job.

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  • Alain de Botton: What's in a Marriage? 22 Jul 2011

    Fri, 22 Jul 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Alain de Botton reflects on our high expectations for modern marriage. He argues that expecting one person to be a good partner, lover and parent is, almost, asking the impossible. He shows how different it all was before the mid eighteenth century.

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  • Alain de Botton: The Art of Conversation 15 Jul 2011

    Fri, 15 Jul 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Alain de Botton on why preparing conversation is as important as preparing a good salad for a summer picnic. He questions why we put so much effort into our social encounters, but leave our conversation to chance. With examples from history and literature, he argues that it is when there are rules to our conversation that our spirit can best be set free.

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  • Alain de Botton: In Praise of the Zoo 08 Jul 2011

    Fri, 8 Jul 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Alain de Botton muses on the value of exotic animals in helping to give us perspective on our own lives. He explains why he has rediscovered wild animals and suggests a zoo trip as a perfect summer outing.

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  • Alain de Botton: On Marriage 11 Feb 2011

    Fri, 11 Feb 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Alain de Botton muses on why a bookish life is a poor preparation for marriage. He says Western literature's obsession with unrequited love means the average love story is of help only to the lovelorn.

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  • Alain de Botton: In Praise of the Nanny State 04 Feb 2011

    Fri, 4 Feb 11

    Duration:
    11 mins

    Alain de Botton asks why the idea of a nanny state is so unappealing. He says complete freedom - left totally to our own devices - is rarely what we want and there is a lot to be said for a paternalistic nudge in the right direction.

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  • Alain de Botton: Are Museums Our New Churches? 28 Jan 2011

    Fri, 28 Jan 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Alain de Botton explores the notion that museums are our new churches. But museums - he says - have a lot to learn from churches about getting their message across and appeals for a complete revamp of some of our favourite museums.

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  • Alain de Botton: Man and Nature 21 Jan 2011

    Fri, 21 Jan 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Alain de Botton gives a philosopher's take on our ecological dilemmas. He argues that fear of environmental destruction has forever changed our relationship with nature. Far from being a threat, it is now something to be pitied and protected.

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  • Alain de Botton: News and Concentration 14 Jan 2011

    Fri, 14 Jan 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Alain de Botton argues that in our mad desire to keep up with what's new, we have lost our ability to concentrate. We are made to feel, he says, that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties. He suggests that a period of fasting from our obsession with 'news' may be what's needed.

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  • Alain de Botton: What Humanities Should Teach 07 Jan 2011

    Fri, 7 Jan 11

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Alain de Botton argues that teachers of humanities in universities have only themselves to blame for many of the swingeing cuts they are facing. He says they have failed to explain to the government - and the public at large - why what they do really matters.

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  • Joan Bakewell: Dear Diary 31 Dec 2010

    Fri, 31 Dec 10

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Joan Bakewell celebrates the art of diary writing by public figures and private individuals whose accounts of everyday life help shape our view of the past.

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  • Joan Bakewell: Sympathy 17 Dec 2010

    Fri, 17 Dec 10

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Joan Bakewell contrasts our empathy for fictional characters on stage and screen with a reported increased lack of sympathy for real people in need.

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