Category Archives: Book Reviews

A Thought-Provoking review of A ‘Final Theory’ of God, by Professor Vaughan Pratt of Stanford University

Genesis 1:26 and 3:22 refer to God in the plural. In his thought-provoking review of A ‘Final Theory’ of God, Professor Vaughan Pratt, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, argues the case for 9 gods, although not specifically in relation to Genesis. Here is a copy of his review from

“Top Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars McMillan is quite right, modulo details

“By Vaughan Pratt on June 12, 2015

“Format: Paperback

“I read Mr McMillan’s book with great interest. Having studied physics at the university level myself–in fact I obtained an honours degree in physics long ago and far away–I found his arguments based on physics for the existence of a god quite compelling.
However there is more than one particle in physics, and what I didn’t find was any evidence for McMillan’s unspoken assumption that there was only one god, which he seemed simply to take for granted with no discussion whatsoever!
“It is surely very reasonable that the number of gods should be a perfect square, namely one of 0, 1, 4, 9, 16, etc. This would constitute a much more stable foundation for the cosmos than some random number such as 11 or 19 gods. Atheists like Richard Dawkins and monotheists like Joseph McMillan should be equally comfortable with this premise.
“But on the equally reasonable premise, if not more so, that God passes judgment on us all, the problem with an even number of gods is that this gives no way to resolve a tie. Atheists favor 0, which would appear to be the least number of gods that can avoid a question on the ground of a tie. However larger even squares such as 4, 16, 36, etc. have the same problem, leaving 1, 9, 25, etc. as the only available options for breaking ties.
“I submit this line of reasoning as further support for Mr McMillan’s thesis that god exists, while further extending his thesis to rule out the possibility of an even number of gods.
“But now a problem rears its ugly head: the problem of management by large committees. A divine committee with 25 or 49 gods is surely an unmanageable number. Not even the Greeks envisaged 25 gods able to focus on serious decision making: Bacchus in particular would be insulted to be left out of any committee that large.
“This narrows the options down to 1 or 9.
“Now picture a Supreme Court of the US in which Justice Roberts was the sole member. This would have the great advantage that any question brought before the court could be settled in the time it took Justice Roberts to make up his mind on the matter. However it would leave those citizens who were on the wrong side of his philosophy of justice with the worry that they were getting the short end of the gavel.
“For citizens of any universe subject to divine intervention, the advantages of nine gods are (a) no ties, (b) a manageably small governance, and (c) fewer worries about undue bias from on high.
Taken in combination with every argument in Mr McMillan’s admirable book, which nowhere rules out the possibility of more than one god, it is hard to see how our own universe in general, and physics in particular, could expect supreme justice from any number of gods other than nine.”

Link to Professor Pratt’s Amazon review:


Joseph BH McMillan reviews A Study of Perceptions of Evil by Professor Ron Galloway

I have written that philosophy is at risk of rendering itself an extravagant academic indulgence. By that I mean it risks becoming so obscure as to be of no relevance to our everyday actions and behavior.

On the philosophy of science, the physicist Steven Weinberg went so far as to say this: “… I found [it] to be written in a jargon so impenetrable that I can only think that it aimed at impressing those who confound obscurity with profundity.” [Dreams of a Final Theory – Steven Weinberg (paperback) page 168]

So it was refreshing to read Professor Galloway’s Perceptions of Evil (if I may take the liberty of shortening the title).

Not to detract from its academic credentials, it is readable and enjoyable. But more importantly, it compels the reader to reflect on his or her everyday behavior. It does so by cleverly weaving into our perceptions of what is good and evil, philosophical thought going back to Plato.

The central theme is whether our perceptions of what constitutes good and evil are entirely rooted in our perceptions of what constitutes knowledge (epistemology), and our conceptions of what constitutes the right view of the world (our worldview).

Although Galloway identifies coincidences between historical perceptions of evil and the theories of knowledge and worldview prevalent at the time, he does make this most astute observation: “Even developed perceptions of the evil and the good grounded in elaborated theories of knowledge and worldviews seem to owe their beginning to this at least partly intuitive, partly unlearned sense of the evil and the good. Why else does so much of humanity cry out against child abusers, child killers, mass murderers, and ethnic cleansing? Does humanity really feel a need to support or claim that such things are evil? Does not the near intuitive outrage itself seem to serve as the verification for punishments inflicted on offenders of this kind?” [Page 463 – emphasis in bold is mine]

That element of the inherent recognition of what constitutes right and wrong, or good and evil, comes across in Galloway’s analysis of the writings of some of the most commonly recognized names in philosophy so far as non-philosophers are concerned, such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and David Hume. Suddenly their writings don’t seem shrouded in philosophical mysticism. They speak of what we, as human beings, care about – what should I do in this or that situation?

Although we do not need to consult philosophical tomes to make such decisions, Professor Galloway’s exposition of some of these great philosophical works gives us reassurance that we can, in the final analysis, find in them the comfort to listen to that “voice [within] which makes even the boldest sinner tremble.” [Kant, Critique of Practical Reason].

It is becoming an increasingly rare thing to find a book on philosophy that is readable, enjoyable, and thoroughly informative. If only there were a lot more like this.

A highly recommended read.

Joseph BH McMillan reviews Philosophy is not Dead by Dr Steven Yates

The biggest problem I had with this book is that it is only available on Kindle, and I like to scribble my thoughts in a book as I go along.

But that small inconvenience aside, this is certainly a book worth reading.

The picture it paints of modern society, diseased with mindless materialism and suffocating political correctness, while sacrificing freedom for indentured slavery to corporate tyranny, is reminiscent of Albert Schweitzer’s The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization (available through Amazon as The Philosophy of Civilization). Of course, Yates does not refer to Schweitzer, because the philosophical ‘establishment’ determined some time ago that Schweitzer was not one of them – perhaps because he blamed “the suicide of civilization” on “philosophy’s renunciation of her duty.”

It is sobering to see that the deficiencies of civilization and philosophy (or philosophers) identified by Schweitzer almost a century ago are much the same deficiencies identified by Yates in 2014.

It is not surprising then that Yates admits that, from the outside at least, philosophy “may look dead – on life support, perhaps.” For some time now, my own view has been that philosophy is in danger of becoming nothing more than an ‘extravagant academic indulgence’ – and from what Yates says about academic philosophy, for those ‘blessed’ with tenure to this exclusive club, philosophy is certainly not dead – the party is in full swing; even though no one is really interested in what they have to say.

This book does not purport to be a definitive work, but rather sets out some preliminary issues that Yates believes need to be addressed if philosophy is to play any significant part in determining what ‘civilization’ may look like in the future. Yates devotes the last three sections of the book to giving some of his preliminary thoughts on the issue.

But for me, it is this statement from the section Materialism or Moral Agency? that holds the key: “Morality absent an authority transcending culture, reason, the quest for happiness (and to avoid unhappiness), commercial gain, etc ., cannot hold.”

Such a morality can only have freedom as its defining principle. And that happens to be the theme of  A ‘Final Theory’ of God – which is my modest attempt to awaken the human spirit to its true moral purpose, and its true moral destiny.

Yates sees philosophers as being “most qualified to serve” the cause of the revival of civilization, but insists that they would need to assume a more prominent place in the public conversation in order to carry out the task. He does acknowledge, however, that the current state of academic philosophy is not particularly well-equipped to assume that role, and that non-academic, or specifically non-tenured philosophers, simply don’t have the funds to indulge in such a luxury.

For me, it matters not who initiates a fundamental reappraisal of the way we live, only that it happens. But I am inclined to think Schweitzer was right: “Civilization can only revive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind independent of the one prevalent among the crowd and in opposition to it, … It is only an ethical movement which can rescue us from the slough of barbarism, and the ethical comes into existence only in individuals.

I look forward to seeing what Yates concludes philosophers can do, and how, in what, no doubt, will be a more definitive exposition of the preliminary issues he has identified in Philosophy Is Not Dead.

Joseph BH McMillan reviews The Science of God by Gerald Schroeder

My wife thought this book, and Schroeder’s The Hidden Face of God, would be useful to contrast with my forthcoming book (A ‘Final Theory’ of God), which also touches upon the ‘convergence’ of science and ‘religion’ (the Scriptures), so it was interesting to read Schroeder’s perspective. On the positive side, Schroeder provides a clear and readable analysis of the science which confirmed (to a point) the analysis I had already gleaned from excellent books like Weinberg’s Dreams of a Final Theory, Brian Greene’s Fabric of the Cosmos, and Martin Rees’ Just Six Numbers, amongst others.

Unfortunately though, Schroeder’s obsession with seeking to fit science with a literal reading of the Scriptures, rather than a symbolic interpretation (see Proverbs 1:4-6), means he has missed some of the most fascinating ‘coincidences’ between Genesis and science. I deal with those in my next book.

I did also find a number of other negative aspects to Schroeder’s The Science of God.

First, although it may just be down to Schroeder’s style of writing, I detected a streak of condescension towards those Schroeder appears to consider insufficiently ‘knowledgeable’ about science and Torah to make any comment on such subjects, never mind any meaningful contribution to the debate. The book has just too many comments like the following: “To relate these two fields in a meaningful way requires an in-depth understanding of both.” [Page 3]; “With a superficial reading of Genesis, and certainly with a superficial reading of the text in translation, we haven’t a prayer of understanding the details.” [Page 18] This ‘ignorance’ of both the Bible (as Schroeder often calls it) and science, which he clearly regards as prevalent in the population of the world in general, is what he says he “ … intends, at least in part, to correct …” [Page xiii]

Having explained to the reader the knowledge he has gained from the study of science and Torah, Schroeder then ‘reveals’ what it is all about (and this goes to my second negative which I deal with below). He claims this: “With the stakes so high, life and death, it would seem prudent to make every effort to choose correctly. That takes knowledge, which is fortunately available. We only have to seek it.” [Page 182] Which made me wonder where this knowledge is ‘available’ that we may ‘seek it’? In his books, I guess! Or are we all to become scholars of the Torah and PhD’s in physics, chemistry, biology, paleontology and the like? Who then would make the world ‘go round’?

If I were to be unkind, I might say that Schroeder betrays a degree of ‘academic arrogance’ which, as with the majority of academics, has only been exacerbated by the advent of the web, something they despise and, I suspect, feel threatened by.

But at the heart of Schroeder’s arguments concerning the ‘acquisition’ of ‘knowledge’ as a path to ‘life’ lays a number of fundamental contradictions.

The first contradiction relates to Abraham. At pages 141 and following Schroeder sets out what he claims to be the origins of monotheism. Abraham lived, as I found out from the web, at about the time of Hammurabi (of the Hammurabi Code fame, incidentally also inscribed in stone) and in the same region. Under Hammurabi’s rule there were an abundance of what we would call today scientists, astronomers, philosophers, and a well defined legal Code. And, of course, Hammurabi claimed divine revelation for his Code. Yet, according to Schroeder, Abraham “realized that there must be a supreme ruler, a Creator of the heavens and the Earth who is not limited to the transience of material things. Abraham had discovered God.” [Page 142] But notably, according to Schroeder, this ‘realization’ was not some revelation from God – “God was to choose Abraham only long after Abraham had chosen God” (Page 141). Rather, if I understand the situation correctly, it was Abraham himself, going against all the perceived ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ and ‘science’ of his time, without the aid of Talmud or Bible, who ‘discovered’ it all on his own. So where did this ‘realization’ come from?? That is another theme of my forthcoming book.

And this fundamental defect in Schroeder’s argument applies equally to Maimonides and Nahmanides whose commentaries Schroeder so extensively quotes. The whole thrust of Schroeder’s argument rests of this statement: “Limiting ourselves to ancient commentators eliminates the possibility of text deliberately bent to match today’s scientific understanding of the world.” [Page xi]

So if we have Talmud, or the Bible, and we can glean all we need to know from them,  why the need to study science as well? And then there’s the question of whether commentators like Maimonides and Nahmanides had any ‘revelation’ to assist in their understanding of Genesis or, like Abraham, simply came to a ‘realization’ of the meaning ‘hidden’ in the text. By extension, the same applies to the author/s of Genesis – was it divine revelation, access to some science from another long-gone civilization, aliens, or simply an Abrahamic-like ‘realization’?

Schroeder could well have quoted from the Bible, New and Old, to find the answer that could cure this fundamental defect in his argument. Take Psalm 46:10: “BE STILL, and KNOW that I am God.” Or if he had gone back a few verses from Deuteronomy 30:19 from which he derives his thesis that ‘free will’ is to choose between life and death, not good and evil [Page 153]. Then he would have read something similar to Psalm 46:10 – “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not HIDDEN from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, … Neither is it beyond the sea, …But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy HEART, that thou mayest do it.” [Deuteronomy 30:11-14] Or we could take some counsel from Christ: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is WITHIN YOU.” [Luke 17:20,21]

It seems to me then that Schroeder’s thesis that ‘knowledge’ is derived from the study of Torah and science, is directly contradicted and undermined by the sources he relies on as ‘evidence’. But then I am not a scientist, nor a theologian, nor a philosopher; neither am I a Jew, nor a Christian, nor Moslem, Buddhist, or indeed much else. And certainly, I am not an atheist. It seems then that I would be disqualified from making any comment or contribution to anything. Is my fate ‘death’?

And that brings me to the second negative in the book, and it relates to the ‘conclusion’. I had to read the last few chapters twice to find anything resembling a ‘punch-line’ in the book. Something that would give some guidance as to the import of discovering that there is some convergence between science and Talmud. Something that could provide some guidance for everyday behavior – apart from preferring life above death armed with ‘knowledge’.

But this is all I could find: “The decision-making process [free will] of the human nefesh [animal] now has two sources of information to consider as it strives for PLEASURE [my emphasis]: the desires and needs of the body and the spiritual goals of the neshama [spirit]. How I choose to achieve my PLEASURE [my emphasis] determines the quality of my person.” [Page 179] The neshama is explained like this: “But humans have a source of PLEASURE not evident in other animals. It arises from the neshama, our link to an all-encompassing unity that underlies what superficially appears to be a diverse and multifaceted universe. The neshama whispers to us of PLEASURE that transcends our limited physical existence.” [Page 179 – emphasis in capitals are mine]

I don’t need to study the Talmud, science, Old or New Testament, Buddhism, or anything much else to find something similar to such a ‘philosophy’. This is pure Jeremy Bentham, as ‘refined’ by the arch Utilitarian John Stuart Mill. Bentham ‘discovered’ that man is ‘governed’ by pleasure and pain, and that the goal in life is maximizing pleasure. Mill refined that ridiculous ‘discovery’ with a more ‘profound’ discovery of his own – some pleasures carry more weight than other pleasures – there are ‘higher’ pleasures and ‘lower’ pleasures. I have dealt with the ridiculous ‘philosophy’ of Bentham in my article “Origins of the Modern Liberal Fundamentalist State”, so I won’t make further comment on it here other than to quote Kant (and I note that Schroeder does have a quote of his own from Kant at page xvi). But here is my quote: “”It is surprising that men, otherwise acute, can think it possible to distinguish between higher and lower desires, according as the ideas which are connected with the feeling of pleasure have their origin in the senses and understanding; for when we inquire what are the determining grounds of desire, and place them in some expected pleasantness, it is of no consequence whence the idea of this pleasing object is derived, but only how much it pleases.” [Remark I of Theorem II]

To be fair, though, I suppose we could identify Schroeder’s conception of a neshama induced pleasure as a sort of Buddhist nirvana type pleasure, even though nirvana in Buddhism is to shed pleasure to get to some unity – but at least the words neshama and nirvana rhyme.

But the best quote I have seen on pleasure must come from Philo, the great Jewish philosopher, and ironically, referring to Eve eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: “And the serpent is said to have spoken in a human voice, because pleasure employs innumerable champions and defenders who take care to advocate its interests, and who dare to assert that the power over everything, both small and great, does of right belong to it without any exception whatever.”

To end this review I should add one final point, and that concerns Nahmanides. It is this. The most important thing any man could write is advice to his own son or daughter. And when Nahmanides did write to his son with an instruction to read it weekly, it focused on one principal theme – HUMILITY, or lack of VANITY. “Through humility you will also come to fear God.” So said Nahmanides to his son. If only that were the message of The Science of God – and not all this Utilitarian nonsense about pleasure.

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan All Rights Reserved

Joseph BH McMillan reviews The God Argument, The Case against Religion and for Humanism, by AC Grayling

The best I could say about The God Argument is that it is just another contribution to the singularly undistinguished tradition of the ‘thoroughly mediocre … utilitarian Englishmen’ who walk ‘clumsily and honorably in Bentham’s footsteps’. It also has that ‘small-soul smell’ of the ‘socialist dolts and flatheads’ in their drive for the ‘animalization of man into the dwarf animal of equal rights and claims.’ [Quotes thanks to Nietzsche]

AC’s method is a compilation of first-year ‘philosophy lectures’ denying the existence of a God, which are ‘glued’ onto a sort of ‘self-help’ tract for college freshers, although the latter would be better described as a ‘self-destruction’ tract being, as it is, a call for sexual experimentation, and a not so ambiguous suggestion that ‘responsible’ drug use is no worse than smoking or drinking.

The method betrays a typical duality of the liberal ‘mind’. First, they need to convince themselves that there is no such thing as God, then they can indulge themselves in sexual clichés, and the latest liberal trends. Of course, they need the former to justify the latter, otherwise their ‘consciences’ may play tricks on them.

The ‘argument’ is totally confused. Essentially, it claims that there is no objective right and wrong, and certainly not one ordained by any God, and that humans can themselves construct a set of ‘rights and wrongs’ for themselves. Well, of course they can. In fact, that is all the human race has ever done. Genghis Khan had his version, as did Stalin and Hitler.

But, no doubt, AC would argue that their ‘reasoning’ was defective. The liberal/humanist/etc argument goes like this: ‘if you ‘reason’ in the right way, you will agree with us. If you don’t agree with us that, in itself, is ‘evidence’ that you have not ‘reasoned’ in the right way’. The obvious fallacy in such an argument, even if it were true, is that it is a claim that there is an objective ‘right and wrong’ which is discoverable by employing the right procedure. Sounds a lot like ‘religion’ to me.

The only difference is that the liberal ‘god’ is ‘reason’. However, to adapt from Alf Ross’s observation about ‘justice’ (another liberal favorite), ‘invoking ‘reason’ [in support of an argument] is like banging on the table.’

I see no difference in the Atheist/Humanist/Rationalist invoking ‘reason’, to this: ‘There are many who say that reason is not the decisive factor, but that other imponderables must be considered. I believe that there can be nothing of value which is not in the last resort based on reason.’

That, of course, was Adolf Hitler. The fact is, as I demonstrate in my next book, reason is a neutral faculty. Contrary to what Kant claimed, it tells us nothing ‘on its own account’. Worse still, if reason and instinct were the only ‘faculties’ in the human brain, then it would be better for mankind if reason were expunged from the brain.

Yet, I should consider for a moment AC’s application of ‘reason’.

Since liberals are obsessed with sex, let me look at some of his ‘reasoning’ on that subject. In true liberal fashion, AC scratches around in zoology textbooks to find examples of promiscuous sexual behavior in animals which he cites as a sort of validation of his views. He finds the example of ‘bonobo chimpanzees’ which ‘engage in sex almost as a greeting, casually and often’. (I expect that little example must be titillating to impressionable young students – must get loads of giggles). And, no doubt, this engagement in sex ‘casually and often’ leads him to be able ‘to report that chances of loving and being loved more fulfilling than ever before improve with experience. Thus might the voice of experience speak’. His ‘experience’, I presume. [Pps 205,203 respectively]

That is the kind of nonsense I would expect to hear from some ‘love-struck’ teenager, not a professor of philosophy. It is the product of an academically institutionalized mind. It is rather pathetic that a human would justify primitive behavior by claiming to be imitating monkeys.

But it gets worse – a lot worse. First, AC feels compelled to share this great ‘revelation’ with the reader: ‘pleasure is good – and sexual pleasure a great good.’ [p206] Such ridiculous statements make even Bentham’s silly ‘felicific calculator’ of ‘pleasure and pain’ seem ‘profound’.

For AC, like all liberals, the entire focus of any relationship, and indeed life itself, is vanity – or what is euphemistically referred to as ‘self-fulfillment’. The creation of a new life is itself perceived as something that should benefit, or give ‘pleasure’ and ‘gratification’, to the parent or parents, and not vice versa. This is what is meant by those who want children as a kind of ‘fulfillment’ of their own lives. The focus is on them, not the life they create.

So it is not surprising that Grayling, like all liberals, focuses on just such nonsense, except he calls it ‘flourishing’. That, to AC, is what it’s all about – ‘flourishing’! [p192, and nauseatingly repetitive thereafter]

When we read AC’s chapters on ‘The Ethical and the Moral’, and ‘A Humanist on Love, Sex and Drugs’ (which says it all, really), we have to look very hard to find any mention of children, and none concerning the obligations human beings may have in respect of the new life they bring into the world as a result of their experimentation with ‘love, sex and drugs’. All we find is a grudging acknowledgement that the ‘moralist is rightly concerned about the harm done by divorce, for example to children … [so] … the chance of trying to build a good and satisfying life has to be done responsibly, to minimise the harm such disruption causes.’ [p191] And note that reference to children – not ‘especially’ to children, but ‘for example to children’. It’s like talking about being careful not to scrape the car as you reverse out the drive on your way to do some ‘flourishing’.

Such statements demonstrate just how irrelevant children are to the liberal/humanist ‘mindset’. A child’s welfare cannot interfere with the parents’ drive for ‘self-fulfillment’, or ‘flourishing’, as AC calls it. And in order to ‘minimise the harm’ caused by those who subscribe to this type of nonsense, AC suggests that people ‘work together in providing a solution’. [p192] In fact, there is a whole industry now catering for the harm caused by just this type of primitive ‘thinking; it’s called ‘marriage counseling’. It is great for those who cause the harm in the first place by their ‘lack … of intelligence and courage’ which renders them incapable of resisting every primitive sexual urge they experience, and their total lack of anything resembling empathy, even with their own children. Because it is the victims, the party betrayed and the betrayed children, who have to be sat down and told why the likes of a Grayling are not ‘flourishing’ with them around, that he needs ‘space’ to indulge his ‘needs and interests’, so they, the victims, must ‘understand …accept and tolerate it, and be open minded.’ And, of course, it is all done for the sake of the children. [p193]

And after making these childlike claims about human ‘flourishing’, and not letting anything get in the way of that, even your own children, he then goes on to map out precisely the type of sexual behavior that is guaranteed to cause enormous harm to others and your own children that everyone must then run around trying to ‘minimize’.

What abonobo’!!

It is clear, and the evidence is everywhere to be seen, that if self-fulfillment, or ‘flourishing’, is the focus of marriage, it is a betrayal of the life two human beings bring into the world. The parents create life for their own benefit, to satisfy some ‘want’ or ‘need’ in themselves: or because the ‘biological clock is ticking’. And when sexual gratification comes into the mix as well, the results are disastrous, but precisely what the likes of AC prescribe, and regrettably, what the majority of people practice today, especially in the Western world.

It is precisely this kind of bankrupt ‘thinking’ that has led to the mess we see today with the economic crisis, drug abuse, teenage delinquency, casual violence and crime, ever increasing divorce rates, single parent ‘families’, venereal disease as common as the common cold, political and financial corruption and scandals, and so we could go on. When children see parents obsessed with their own ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ in their pursuit of pleasure and ‘flourishing’, with little regard to the harm caused to their children, children become conditioned to believe that their only ‘obligation’ in life is also to satisfy whatever ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ their primitive instincts present to them, irrespective of the effect on others. But I expect that the likes of AC will be blissfully unaware of the connection between the ills which afflict the ‘modern’ Western world and their ‘philosophy of me’, never mind accept any responsibility for them.

AC, and the whole rather pathetic liberal/humanist/atheist/rationalist ‘movement’, seem totally incapable of comprehending that each human being is a unique, exclusive, and special individual who deserves to be conceived in a unique, exclusive and special act, and brought up in a unique, exclusive and special relationship, which in turn should endure for the benefit of even the next generation. Anything else is a betrayal of the human life two free individuals bring into this world by their own voluntary act. It is not a question of whether the sacrifices required to make such a commitment may generate any ‘sexual frustration’ in those who ‘lack … the intelligence or the courage’ to properly make such a commitment. Every human life deserves nothing less. [Quote from p214, in relation to drug addicts][For further explanation of what ‘unique, exclusive and special’ means, see my article The Meaning, and Essential Ingredients, of Marriage.]

It is odd that the liberal ‘mind’ seems so incapable of grasping the fact that those things worthwhile in life, and most of us recognize that the creation of a human life is one of those things, require enormous sacrifices in respect of every aspect of life. The creation of a human life demands such sacrifices before, during and after the creation of that life. And yet, the sacrifice required in respect of the creation of human life doesn’t really amount to much more than sexual restraint – for women, don’t behave like a slut; for men, don’t be a Casanova.

Ironically, although I expect the irony will be lost on AC, those students who would wish the ‘honor’ of attending AC’s lectures (which would be a mystery worthy of philosophical and even scientific enquiry in itself), would be expected to have made very significant sacrifices in their youth to attain the grades worthy of being offered such a dubious ‘honor’. But for the creation of human life? No such sacrifices required!

All that said, I should at least extend a hand of gratitude to AC for providing me with the evidence I have been looking for to prove that the Harm Principle, as I say in my book, is nothing more than tendentious nonsense. The Harm Principle, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is an invention of John Stuart Mill (another thoroughly mediocre utilitarian English philosopher), and is regarded by Liberals as the pinnacle of human understanding. Not surprisingly, AC claims that “the simplicity of [the] principle should not mask its profundity”. [p194]

However, when we look at AC’s obsession with “flourishing”, we discover what he really means by the Harm Principle. According to AC we should be “concerned about the harm done by divorce, for example to children … [and try] … to minimise the harm”. The harm AC refers to, of course, is a result of the family getting in the way of someone’s “flourishing”. So when a person’s “flourishing” is being inhibited by a wife, or husband, or children, then the harm, according to AC, is actually being inflicted on the person whose “flourishing” is being inhibited. The ‘harm’ and hurt suffered by a wife, or husband, or children, as victims of a betrayal, through adultery for example, is of their own making because, according to AC,  they don’t ‘understand …accept and tolerate it, and be open minded [about it].’ [p192] In AC’s ‘thinking’, the victims are to blame because they don’t have “a good general understanding of the minimum conditions for human flourishing”. [p192] The “conditions”, of course, are that they should not get in the way. And we don’t really need to be too careful about reading between the lines to understand that in AC’s view, as with all Liberals, “flourishing” is all about sex, and career.

So we see what AC really means by the Harm Principle: If those around you inhibit (harm) your “flourishing” in any way, you can dump them; and if they get hurt, then it’s their own damn fault for getting in your way. And it doesn’t matter that they depended on you, trusted you, believed in you, even loved you (although it would be unfathomable to imagine why anyone could find much to love in the sort of character painted by AC), or that you brought them into this world by your own voluntary act. If they are perceived as ‘harming’ your ability to “flourish” in any way, they deserve what they get. The Harm Principle is extreme and ugly narcissism.

Yet, being a Utilitarian ‘principle’, it is how all Liberals understand the ‘Principle’. Its ‘utility’ lies in the extent to which it serves the ‘self’. And in addition to things like marriage counseling, a whole industry has emerged producing streams of ‘studies, research and statistics’ to demonstrate that this tendentious narcissism doesn’t ‘harm’ those affected by the self-indulgence of those around them, and closest to them. The ‘studies, research and statistics’ show, of course, that if those close to your feel hurt or harmed by your self-indulgence, it only serves to reveal in them some character defect due to their inability to be “sensible, constructive and generous” in “understanding … [the] …conditions for human flourishing” – nothing that a bit of counseling can’t sort out.

The Harm Principle is just a pathetic excuse for self-indulgence at the expense of others.

Harm done by any action can only be objectively ascertained in relation to a set of clear and unambiguous moral principles, not subjective, self-satisfied pontificating about “flourishing”. Any violation of any of the Principles of morality (as described in Freedom v A Tyranny of Rights) is by definition harmful. But the consequence of a violation of a real moral principle cannot itself be a ‘principle’ – it’s a consequence. To define the consequence of an action as a principle to define the action is to turn logic on its head, which is precisely what AC does. To him, the only ‘harm’ that counts is any limitation to self-indulgence.

The homage AC pays to the Harm Principle is kindergarten ‘philosophy’. It goes something like this. Teacher tells the children that it is wrong to upset other children by taking away the toys they are playing with. Little Jack sees Tim playing a game with a toy and joins in the game. But Jack gets bored with the game and Tim doesn’t want to play what Jack says is a more exciting game, so Jack takes the toy and goes over to play his new game with Kevin, leaving Tim in tears. Teacher calls Jack over to give him a scolding for upsetting Tim. But Jack says that Tim upset him because his game was boring and Tim wouldn’t play his more exciting game. So it is Tim’s own fault for getting upset. That’s AC’s Harm Principle for you.

There is, of course, another version of the Harm Principle which finds its justification in deception. According to this version, it is OK to commit adultery, for example, as long as your wife or husband doesn’t find out about it, because what they don’t know can’t hurt them. It is the ‘philosophy’ of deceit. It can be applied to most things. It would thus be OK to commit fraud as long as the victim doesn’t realize that he has been duped, and you don’t get caught.

Whichever version of this ridiculous ‘principle’ we consider, the Harm Principle demonstrates the utter stupidity of founding ‘morality’ on the consequence of an action rather than the action itself, and its motivation. Adultery is wrong whether the victim knows about it or not. Fraud is wrong whether the victim knows about it or not. Theft is wrong even if the victim thinks missing property was lost rather than stolen.

The Harm Principle is just another way of saying that anything goes as long as you don’t ‘harm’ yourself by getting caught, because that would inhibit your ‘freedom’ to “flourish”.

We even now see this perverted ‘logic’ being invoked by governments against so-called whistleblowers. The argument goes that government suffers ‘harm’ by disclosures of unlawful activities by government agencies. The ‘harm’ claimed to be suffered is that the government has been caught, thus inhibiting its ability to continue with its unlawful activities, rather than the fact that the real harm done by its unlawful activities is to have put in place the mechanisms for the establishment of an authoritarian state.

It is unfortunate that a professor of philosophy can’t see the stupidity in such ‘thinking’, but that is what can happen when a life is spent in an institution surrounded by impressionable young teenagers hanging on your every word. You begin to live in a fantasy world. The problem is, however, that those impressionable teenagers take their fantasies out into the real world to wreak havoc on the rest of us. Cue crooked bankers, corrupt politicians, shameless insurance companies, and a host of other institutions that exist to relieve us of our property and freedom with “bewildering propaganda”.

Like the rest of The God Argument, the Harm Principle is fantasy ‘philosophy’ guaranteed to drag humanity down into the gutter.

In his book Dreams of a Final Theory, the physicist Steven Weinberg gives the anecdote of the complaining university Chancellor – the physics department costs an enormous amount of money with the experimental equipment it requires; the mathematics department is better, they only require pencils, paper, and wastepaper baskets; but the best is the philosophy department, they don’t even need the wastepaper baskets. In the case of The God Argument, a wastepaper basket would have been a sound, if relatively costly, investment.

The back cover of my book Freedom v A Tyranny of Rights says that for any philosophy etc to be of any worth it will have to clear the hurdle set by the Ten Principles of Freedom. Grayling’s work is written proof of that prediction.

Yet, to be fair to AC, I will present him with a riddle – perhaps he could set it as an examination question: ‘When Nietzsche mocked Kant for having discovered a ‘moral faculty in man’ he inadvertently solved Kant’s dilemma of being unable to identify what his ‘moral law’ actually was, and where it came from, for fear of offending against the charge of empiricism from the likes of David Hume.’

If AC hasn’t solved the riddle by the time my next book is published, I would be happy to send him a complimentary copy. BIG HINT: the solution can be found in this review.

The answer to the riddle can be found in my latest book A ‘Final Theory’ of God which is available from or

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2013