A Point of View

BBC Radio 4


A weekly reflection on a topical issue

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The trouble with referendums

09:00 | Jan 25th

Val McDermid argues that referendums have had a devastating effect on our political system. "I am by nature an optimist", she writes. "But I'm really struggling here. We've broken our democracy. I don't know how to fix it and I'm afraid nobody els...Show More

Brexit and the English Revolution

09:56 | Jan 18th

Linda Colley reflects on an historic week in British politics. She turns to Lawrence Stone's famous book, "The Causes of the English Revolution", to cast light on the present turmoil. And she asks if the bitter fractures over Brexit could eventu...Show More

Have we reached Peak Stuff?

09:27 | Jan 11th

As many Christmas presents start making the surreptitious trip to the charity shop, Stella Tillyard argues that many of us appear to be freeing ourselves from the unfulfilling grip of "things". She asks if - as the earth is dying under the weight ...Show More

The Online Password

09:30 | Jan 6th

"There is little more infuriating", writes Tom Shakespeare, "than some quotidian website which demands you devise a new 11 letter password, including a capital letter, a lowercase letter, a number and a non-alphanumeric character, just to buy a tee s...Show More

To Parks

09:32 | Dec 28th, 2018

Howard Jacobson on the joys of city parks. "I am, and always have been, a lover of city parks", he writes. "A park finishes, that's its beauty. It is circumscribed. If you want more you can walk it twice. If you want less you can slip back out in...Show More

On Not Being Oneself

09:43 | Dec 21st, 2018

"Is our taste for righteous self-blown indignation so indurated and inwrought" writes Howard Jacobson, "that we will never again be able to shrug our shoulders, forget who we are and what we believe and embrace people who believe differently?" Howar...Show More

Money Sense

09:18 | Dec 14th, 2018

"I listen to Money Box on Radio 4 as others might to a recording of Indonesian gamelan music", writes Will Self, "thrilling to the intricacies, even as I find them altogether alien". Will ponders why personal finance is such an alien concept for h...Show More

What did you do during the environmental collapse, daddy?

09:09 | Dec 7th, 2018

"Two things seem incontrovertible about the mounting environmental catastrophe", writes Will Self.. "It's genuinely unprecedented - and we really are in it together". Will wonders what we should say to our children about global warming and our r...Show More

The witch-hunt culture

09:40 | Nov 30th, 2018

Roger Scruton argues that political correctness, far from being the cure to our conflicts, is actually the ultimate source of them. The "isms" and "phobias", he says, have been used in order to "put some complex matters beyond discussion, so that on...Show More

Speak, History!

09:51 | Nov 23rd, 2018

"For most of my adult life", writes Stella Tillyard, "I have had a template which I have used not only to understand myself but also to interpret the world around me. History has been my guide". But today, she says, history appears inadequate "to...Show More

Cities of the Dead

09:50 | Nov 23rd, 2018

Stella Tillyard on how we bury and remember our dead. The idea of immortality, she believes, is taking hold in a new form. "Surely it will not be long before a new form of cemetery is created...a virtual space where all the digital remains of ...Show More

Going into Storage

09:44 | Nov 16th, 2018

Howard Jacobson on a very tricky dilemma - which of his possessions can he throw away or put into storage...and which must he keep? "I inhabit a simple moral universe when it comes to sheets of paper", he writes. "Paper with words on, good. Paper w...Show More

Only Remembered

09:16 | Nov 9th, 2018

Michael Morpurgo reflects on our future connection with the First World War. "How will we pass it on, this torch of history?", he asks. "Those missing men, those wounded, those who lived to count the cost, their story is our story and we must tell...Show More

Clothes and the Man

09:24 | Nov 2nd, 2018

Howard Jacobson discusses the politics of dress - form religious clothing ....via too short ripped jeans. And why are men so reluctant these days, he wonders, to put on a "little finery"? Producer: Adele Armstrong

In Praise of Mooching

09:23 | Oct 19th, 2018

Howard Jacobson on the end of mooching as a way of life. "Rooting around, doing nothing in particular, walking but not knowing where I was walking to....I can only regret the happy mooching hours of earlier times", writes Howard. He ponders whethe...Show More

Not a good time to be a man

09:36 | Oct 12th, 2018

Howard Jacobson reflects on maleness in the aftermath of the Brett Kavanaugh story. "With every sniff and grimace" Howard writes of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, "it wasn't sorrow or confusion we witnessed but petulance and menace, as thou...Show More

The Joy of Deferred Gratification

09:22 | Oct 5th, 2018

Val McDermid argues that the sheer scale of tourism on a shoestring is destroying the very thing we crave when we travel. "Our great cities are year-round destinations", she writes, "but when the hordes arrive, cultural simplification is seldom far...Show More

Fixing violence in London - Glasgow-style

09:16 | Sep 28th, 2018

Val McDermid asks if Sadiq Khan’s plan for a Glasgow-style crime reduction unit can have the same transformative effect in London as it did in Scotland. "If we change the script people live by", writes Val, "then surely we should be able to alter ou...Show More

Murder is not the point

09:48 | Sep 21st, 2018

Val McDermid argues that crime fiction isn't really about murder at all. "We shift people out of their comfort zones and make them squirm", she writes. "But not because we kill people". "It might be murder that sets the wheels in motion, but it's t...Show More

Serena and the Umpire

09:49 | Sep 14th, 2018

Adam Gopnik examines the issues raised by the row between Serena Williams and an umpire. "The question everyone is asking", writes Adam, is "would he have done the same to a man?" Producer: Adele Armstrong.

On Prefixes

09:42 | Sep 7th, 2018

Adam Gopnik on why the prefixes we use speak volumes about us. The "pregnant prefix", Adam writes, "is now the giveaway of class identity - and class bound condescension. The "um"s, "like"s, "look"s, "well"s and particularly "so"s of the world tell ...Show More

Parity of Esteem

09:39 | Aug 31st, 2018

"To stand in the corridor of a crowded locked ward in a contemporary British mental hospital" writes Will Self, "is still to feel oneself closer to Hogarth's hellish vision of Bedlam, than any enlightened healthcare". Will tells the disturbing story...Show More

Books do furnish a room

09:18 | Aug 24th, 2018

Tom Shakespeare is downsizing. But what to do with his books? He points out that he has nothing like the magnitude of problem faced by the Argentine-Canadian author, Alberto Manguel, a few years ago when he downsized from his medieval presbytery in ...Show More

Bin the Bucket List

09:24 | Aug 17th, 2018

Tom Shakespeare on why he rejects the idea of a bucket list. He proposes instead an idea dreamt up by one of his mates - a list that rhymes with bucket but begins with an F. "Let's call it a Forget-it-list" he says. Tom shares the top ten items o...Show More

The Road to Peace

09:39 | Aug 10th, 2018

As we near the end of four years of collective reflection on the First World War, Michael Morpurgo talks of the importance of never taking peace for granted. "We have been looking back, remembering, or trying to", he writes, "because remembering a ...Show More

Think Again

09:40 | Aug 3rd, 2018

Michael Morpurgo argues it's time to think again over Brexit. "It is surely time to accept that we have made a mistake", he writes, "that whichever way we voted, things are not turning out the way we expected". "Or are we too proud?" he asks. Pr...Show More


09:52 | Jul 27th, 2018

Michael Morpurgo on a new initiative to help refugee children. Michael says "it shames us" that Britain in recent years has done so little to help child refugees. "There are fine examples of how our predecessors have shown great kindness towards ...Show More

Brexit and Illiberal Europe

09:08 | Jul 20th, 2018

John Gray argues that in the Brexit debate, few Remainers seem to have noticed the illiberal and fragmented Europe that has recently come into being. "Illiberal forces are advancing across the European continent", he writes, with hard right politic...Show More

The Conundrum of Inheritance Tax

09:33 | Jul 13th, 2018

Sarah Dunant on her uneasy conundrum over inheritance tax. "Like most intelligent beings", Sarah writes, "I'm passionate about addressing climate change for future generations. But my urgency of commitment also comes from an attachment to one in pa...Show More

Cliches and Commonplaces

09:30 | Jul 6th, 2018

Adam Gopnik sets out to determine the difference between cliche and universal truth. Via Homer, Shakespeare and the Beatles, Adam observes that "the deepest statements in literature are very near relations to the dumbest statements in life". How ...Show More

The Past

09:38 | Jun 29th, 2018

Will Self argues that the past is not "a foreign country". He says we often have delusions about the past because of our "failure to grasp how our present shapes our hindsight". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Mindless Replicants

09:54 | Jun 22nd, 2018

"What would it be like to consciously feel you were nothing but a robotic phenotype", asks Will Self, "pre-programmed to replicate its own integrated genotypic code then become...obsolete?" Taking the contemporary TV series "Westworld" as his start...Show More

A New Anti-Semitism

09:14 | Jun 15th, 2018

Will Self once wrote that he could no longer identify as a Jew at all. As anti-Semitism once again comes back to the centre stage of British political life, Will says he's had cause to rethink his position. "Once societies contain a certain propo...Show More


09:48 | Jun 8th, 2018

"Cute mobile machines with arms, hands and big friendly eyes reminding you to take your next pill... or lifting people in and out of wheelchairs" - is this the way to look after a growing elderly population? Sarah Dunant reflects on the crisis in c...Show More

Bobby Kennedy's Assassination - 50 years on

09:36 | Jun 1st, 2018

On 5th June 1968, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. In one of the most famous editions of Radio 4's "Letter from America" - Alistair Cooke gave an eye witness account of the assassination. This is an edited version of the original talk - broadcast ...Show More

Summer in the Movies

09:22 | May 25th, 2018

Amit Chaudhuri on why he believes modern movies have a "spiritual glumness". "Digitisation's subterranean agenda", he says, "is to repress natural light." Unlike old black and white films which were flooded in natural light, he sees the light of ...Show More

Ireland's Abortion Referendum - A Personal View

09:14 | May 18th, 2018

Sarah Dunant gives a personal view on Ireland's abortion referendum. She remembers one of her first jobs after university - working in a Pregnancy Advisory Service in London as a counsellor - and seeing many young women from the Republic of Ireland...Show More

The Brightening of History

09:20 | May 11th, 2018

"Calcutta was born old", writes Amit Chaudhuri. But restoration work of old buildings in the city, he says, "is now often based on the assumption that an old building...must have once looked new, or should have". He says restoration in Calcutta -...Show More

A Problem with Words

09:28 | May 4th, 2018

"My problem with words is something I have never written down or spoken out about". The writer, Stella Tillyard, talks about her "battle" with dyslexia - from her childhood to now. She vividly describes the "gremlin that takes me by the hand, pul...Show More

A Normal Need

09:34 | Apr 27th, 2018

Tom Shakespeare ponders why disabled sexuality is still so often taboo. "Sexuality is a human right", he points out....and says we must set aside the notion that disabled people have "special needs" when it comes to sexuality. "We have all the no...Show More

The Museum of Deportation

09:23 | Apr 20th, 2018

"The past is concretised and solidified in things", writes Stella Tillyard "and they vibrate with the experience of their use". Stella tells the story of a small Italian Museum - the Museum of Deportation and Resistance - and reflects on how we reme...Show More

The Mental Illness Metaphor

09:48 | Apr 13th, 2018

Tom Shakespeare on why we need to rethink our use of the mental illness metaphor. Is President Trump really "mad"?, he asks. Is Brexit "bonkers"? Or is the latest government policy "schizophrenic"? He says we all do it. "Within five minutes of st...Show More

China and the Retreat of Liberal Values

09:14 | Apr 6th, 2018

"Western liberals", writes John Gray, "are horrified by the rise of Xi Jinping". But as China's parliament votes to allow him to be President for life, John Gray argues that the future of the liberal West ironically depends on the continuing succes...Show More

Modern-day Empires

08:47 | Mar 30th, 2018

John Gray says the idea that empire has had its day is one of the delusions of our age. Old empires, he says, are being replaced by new ones - in China, Russia and - he argues - in Europe. He examines the idea of a European "empire of the good" - ...Show More

The Rise and Rise of Up Lit

09:04 | Mar 23rd, 2018

There was Chick Lit, then Grit it's "Up Lit" - uplifting stories about kindness and community that we all seem to be reading. Kamila Shamsie says she, too, has been carried along with this wave of escapism from "dark times". But she sa...Show More

The True Mark of Civilisation?

09:51 | Mar 16th, 2018

At a time when the word "civilisation" is the subject of great debate, Kamila Shamsie explores the meaning of the word through the prism of Indian art. "If you really want to understand how the world's civilisations interact and meld", she writes, ...Show More

Going Forward

09:55 | Mar 9th, 2018

Tom Shakespeare tells us why he believes the phrase "going forward" is an inelegant and negative replacement for "in future". When you talk about the future, he says, you are using a temporal concept. It's a different time from now - the time to com...Show More

Teffi: Silver Shoes and the Dream of Revolution

09:18 | Mar 2nd, 2018

"We're in one of those recurring periods in history", writes John Gray, "when the idea of revolution has become appealing again". In this context, John says we should dust off the work of Teffi - one of the best known writers in Russia before the re...Show More

The Dangers of a Higher Education

09:27 | Feb 23rd, 2018

John Gray argues that, throughout history, highly educated people have often made the worst decisions. Taking George Orwell as his starting point "There are some ideas so absurd that only intellectuals could believe them", he asks why we're still s...Show More

The Trolley Problem

09:14 | Feb 16th, 2018

In 1967, the philosopher Philippa Foot developed a thought experiment about a runaway trolley. It involved countless dilemmas designed to illustrate human behaviour. But whatever the scenario, the rhetoric was always the same....the overwhelming de...Show More

Memento Mori

09:54 | Feb 9th, 2018

"Death's not great for selling yoghurt" writes AL Kennedy, "but making Death dance through a culture seems to do more than reinforce dominant can lend power to the powerless". She says for millennia, the human race has searched for...Show More

Too Much Winning

09:43 | Feb 2nd, 2018

"Winning - isn't it great?" asks AL Kennedy. But she argues that our "winner takes all" mentality is suffocating democracy. "On both sides of the Atlantic, in regimes around the world", she writes, "we can watch the chaotic dissolution of adminis...Show More

The Heart in Drama

09:35 | Jan 26th, 2018

AL Kennedy on why Hollywood has never been a nice place. In 1919, barely three decades after the advent of moving pictures, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and others thought things were bad enough in the studio system to break away and form an inde...Show More

Daring to Marvel

09:49 | Jan 19th, 2018

"How long", asks Howard Jacobson, "before the protocols of looking forbid our looking appreciatively at anyone?" He explores the enormous difficulties surrounding the language of appreciation, "no matter whether the viewer in question is a mechanic ...Show More

On Misanthropy

09:45 | Jan 12th, 2018

Howard Jacobson ponders why misanthropy is out of fashion. "Where have they gone?", he asks, "such great haters of mankind as Juvenal, Swift, Flaubert". Mankind, he believes, has not grown less tribal over time. But instead of a general enemy, he...Show More

The Last Bohemia

09:28 | Jan 7th, 2018

Howard Jacobson on why we need to preserve Bohemia. London's Soho, he says, is the nearest the UK has to a Bohemia but "you don't sniff aesthetic licence in the streets of Soho as you once did". But one day recently, writes Howard, Soho recovered...Show More

Dramatic Speech

09:43 | Dec 29th, 2017

"It isn't just because they have become platforms for propaganda and interpersonal odiousness that we should declare war on the social media", writes Howard Jacobson. "It is because they reduce all discourse to a shout". Howard appeals for a re-dis...Show More

In Praise of the Feuilleton

09:47 | Dec 22nd, 2017

Howard Jacobson on the art of the feuilleton....and the joy of the ordinary. He says the feuilletonists - those writers of short observational pieces - show "you don't have to be tendentious to be of consequence". He asks us to step back and seek...Show More

The Novelist's Complicity

09:22 | Dec 15th, 2017

"Great television is taking over the space occupied by many novels", writes Zia Haider Rahman "and taking with it many excellent writers". He says that many novels have already moved in the direction of the televisual - written with an eye to a fil...Show More

The Assault on Reason

09:12 | Dec 8th, 2017

"It's not merely facts that are under assault in the polarised politics of the UK, the US and other nations twisting in the winds of what some call populism" writes Zia Haider Rahman. "There's also a troubling assault on reason". He argues that aut...Show More

A Folder Called 'Hope'

09:05 | Dec 1st, 2017

"On my computer", writes Zia Haider Rahman, "I have a folder of exchanges with organisations and corporations, a folder called 'Hope'". Zia describes the letters he's written to some of Britain's foremost institutions on their lack of diversity. ...Show More

Macbeth and the Insomnia Epidemic

09:49 | Nov 24th, 2017

Will Self reflects on the epidemic of sleeplessness. He explores the "heady cocktail" of modern life that's keeping us awake and argues that we all need the imaginative sustenance of dreams. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Mass Myopia

09:37 | Nov 17th, 2017

Will Self on how wearing glasses has become something that is entirely unremarkable. "Nowadays the acquisition of glasses", he writes, "is simply another opportunity for the conspicuous consumption we've all become so very expert at". But he says...Show More

The miserable pantomime of contemporary British vegetarianism

09:14 | Nov 10th, 2017

"As the years have passed", writes Will Self, "so gnawing on a bloody piece of cow rump has come to seem, to me, more and more...well, vulgar". Via Leviticus and Arcimboldo, he charts his conversion to vegetarianism. And he explains why it's not j...Show More

Men Against Women

09:41 | Nov 3rd, 2017

Will Self says we need creative solutions to end institutional misogyny and abuse. "Rather than addressing - as parliamentarians currently are - the business of shutting the stable door after the stallions have run amok", he writes, "we should be t...Show More

Ode to Space

09:37 | Oct 27th, 2017

Will Self on why he loves space.... From childhood dreams of being "strapped into the command module of a Saturn 5 rocket about to blast off from Cape Kennedy" to contemplating 1000-million-star mega-clusters in the sky today, Will describes why spa...Show More

I hope this email finds you well...

09:48 | Oct 20th, 2017

Mary Beard ponders why email is governed by so few rules and conventions. "Fifty years ago, when I was at high school", Mary writes, "we spent many hours learning how to write a letter". She wonders why no one today seems to be teaching the art of...Show More

The Battle for Free Speech

09:53 | Oct 13th, 2017

Andrew Sullivan says a type of "cultural Marxism" is sweeping through American universities. Conservative ideas, he says, are increasingly being banished from campuses and free speech is seen as a delusion. "It's an ideology that is fast resembli...Show More

The Apocalypse Hasn't Happened Yet

09:15 | Oct 6th, 2017

Andrew Sullivan says Donald Trump is teaching a generation that the key to advancement in society is to bully, lie, slander and cheat. He examines the long-term effects of the Trump Presidency. "It may be that in the future", Andrew writes, "his ...Show More

The Triumph of Tribalism

09:31 | Sep 29th, 2017

Andrew Sullivan on how America has become "a truly tribal society". "I've lived here since the Reagan era", he writes, "and there have been plenty of divides. But none quite as tribal or as rooted in non-negotiable identity as this one". He warns...Show More

Talking of Empire

09:26 | Sep 22nd, 2017

Monica Ali with a personal take on why she believes the history of the British Empire must be taught in our schools. She recalls a conversation with her father where he told her that at primary school he'd been taught about the Black Hole of Calcut...Show More

On authenticity

09:38 | Sep 15th, 2017

Authenticity, writes Monica Ali, has become the yardstick by which we measure the value of much of our day-to-day lives. "In this hyper-mobile, hyper-connected world" she says, "the cult of authenticity is flourishing". But what does it mean to b...Show More

Tackling the moped menace

09:32 | Sep 8th, 2017

Monica Ali describes her desire for vengeance after her son was robbed by two boys on mopeds. She reflects on the recent surge in moped crime and what can be done to stop it. She says the criminals involved in this new brand of crime are nearly a...Show More

The Religion of Rights

09:34 | Sep 1st, 2017

"European society", says Sir Roger Scruton, "is rapidly jettisoning its Christian heritage and has found nothing to put in its place save the religion of human rights". But, he argues, this new "religion" delivers one-sided solutions since rights fa...Show More

The Meaning of Conservative

09:54 | Aug 30th, 2017

Roger Scruton asks: "What does the Tory Party really stand for?" He says the Conservative party at present is muddling along without a philosophy. But he argues that, far from being the 'nasty party', the most fundamental belief underpinning Cons...Show More

Pottering towards the new socialist state

09:44 | Aug 25th, 2017

Roger Scruton looks at the impact of Harry Potter on our world view. "People are starting to live in a kind of cyber-Hogwarts", he says, "a fantasy world in which goods are simply obtained by needing them, and then asking some future Prime Minister...Show More

Raising the Bar

09:57 | Aug 11th, 2017

Adam Gopnik muses on the art of parenting and the challenges of getting it right. "Too much praise... or too little?", he wonders. "You have to be hands off, smiling" but at the same time "engaged, unsparing in honesty". He concludes that raising...Show More

On Musical Theatre

09:47 | Aug 7th, 2017

Adam Gopnik reflects on why musical theatre makes its makers miserable. He should know - he's just finished an eight week run of a musical he wrote. He concludes that while films, for example, have a "natural author" in the shape of the director, a...Show More

Napoleons and Normalcy

09:57 | Jul 28th, 2017

"I have lived long enough now", writes Adam Gopnik, "to see several absolutely horrific epochs come and go...looking much less absolutely horrific once they're gone." He reflects on how Donald Trump's presidency will affect our sense of what constit...Show More

My Encounter with Shingles

09:15 | Jul 21st, 2017

Adam Gopnik reflects on why he turned to marijuana to relieve his pain during a recent bout of shingles. His 17 year old daughter was horrified. But Adam concludes that wise drug policy accepts the existence of intoxicants and says "this tale of ...Show More

What To Call Him?

09:18 | Jul 14th, 2017

"You can't call him crazy, because it isn't fair to crazy people", writes Adam Gopnik. "You can't compare him to a four-year-old because four-year-old children are not in fact tyrannical or egotistical". Six months into Donald Trump's presidency,...Show More

A Staircase in Sunlight

09:21 | Jul 7th, 2017

"I will now pause for a full two seconds to allow you to throw things at the radio", begins Adam Gopnik. He's working hard, he claims, at a literary festival in Capri. While there he goes in search of a white staircase - the subject of his favour...Show More

The Mark of a Man

09:00 | Jun 30th, 2017

"It seems indisputable, to me", writes Will Self "that what makes it possible for our attractions to each other to be as deep and profound as they are, is some sort of difference - whether it be given, or something we create". Will reflects on what...Show More

After Grenfell

09:53 | Jun 23rd, 2017

Will Self gives a very personal view of high-rise buildings in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster. "As a commentator on the built environment", Will writes, "I've been too wry, too cynical and too disengaged over the past twenty years". ...Show More

Get Over It

09:52 | Jun 16th, 2017

Howard Jacobson reflects on the political ironies that are emerging following the election. What should our response be to losing politically? Producer: Adele Armstrong.

A new politics?

08:49 | Jun 9th, 2017

"The election has left many people wondering if politics has morphed into a wholly new condition" writes John Gray. He reflects on whether politics really has been turned upside down by a momentous election. He argues that the situation is not un...Show More

Renouncing Middlemarch

09:31 | Jun 2nd, 2017

"It's late in the year to be making a resolution I'm probably going to break, but the words have to be spoken" writes Howard Jacobson. "I hereby renounce Middlemarch". Howard reveals what lies behind his obsession for George Eliot's greatest novel ...Show More

After Manchester

09:57 | May 26th, 2017

Howard Jacobson reflects on his home city's response to the Manchester attack. What confronts the city now, he says, is dealing with the fact that the perpetrator came from within itself. "All our cities shelter the same boy", he writes, "studiou...Show More

The Fearsome Nature of Literary Festivals

09:32 | May 19th, 2017

As the season of literary festivals gets underway, Howard Jacobson tells us not to be lured by their appearance of being civilized. "The prevailing tone of sweet concord shouldn't be allowed to disguise the violent nature of creativity", he says. ...Show More

In praise of the elite

09:34 | May 12th, 2017

Howard Jacobson speaks up in defense of the metropolitan liberal elite. He ponders why the word "elitist" has acquired such negative connotations in some fields - but not in others. "It makes no sense to me to love the best when they are football...Show More

On robots

09:25 | May 5th, 2017

Howard Jacobson argues that talk of the dangers of artificial intelligence is premature. "The idea that if we feed enough lines of literature into a computer it will eventually be able to write its own Iliad", he writes, "is as preposterous as the ...Show More

Trust in Voices

09:51 | Apr 28th, 2017

A L Kennedy commends paying attention to voices as a way to discern truth telling. "Listening to our media, our public voices, as if we're listening to people in our everyday lives, holding them to that standard and not their own can help us to kno...Show More

The Past in the Present

09:26 | Apr 21st, 2017

A L Kennedy reflects on the way our past shapes our present and our future. "As groups we get trapped in our pasts, not quite repeating them, but sometimes forcing our futures out of shape for the sake of their ghosts." Producer: Sheila Cook.

The Power of Reading

09:49 | Apr 14th, 2017

AL Kennedy extols the virtues of reading and its power to encourage respect for the value and sovereignty of other people's existence. "It allows you to look and feel your way through the lives of others who may apparently be very other - and yet h...Show More

Bad News is Good Business

09:55 | Apr 7th, 2017

AL Kennedy says we should reject the media outlets that peddle only bad news whether real or fake in ever shriller voices, depicting a world of unremitting awfulness. "Fake facts - let's just call them lies - and deceptively selective coverage have ...Show More

Dementia Rights

09:27 | Mar 31st, 2017

Tom Shakespeare argues that viewing dementia as a disability could help those living with the condition win greater rights. In the last few decades, he writes, we have seen many impairment groups unite to demand a better deal from government. "But ...Show More

The Power and Peril of Stories

09:25 | Mar 24th, 2017

Tom Shakespeare reflects on how all the political populists who now occupy our imaginations are master story tellers. People need stories and these stories appeal to us, he says. But he argues that as well as persuasive stories, more than ever we ne...Show More

Sic transit

09:04 | Mar 17th, 2017

Tom Shakespeare on why - in today's world of uncertainty and fear - it may give us some political consolation to remember that while everything positive in life is short-lived, so too is everything negative. He argues that believing that the best i...Show More

The Screensaver of Life, or the Idling Brain

09:20 | Mar 10th, 2017

Stella Tillyard looks at the phonomenon of the "idling brain" - when the brain is supposedly at rest. She ponders what it means that we have no idea what's running through the minds of the people closest to us and argues that - in an increasingly f...Show More

Flying Saucers and an Uncertain World

10:00 | Mar 3rd, 2017

"Human beings shape their perceptions according to their beliefs", writes John Gray, not the other way round. He says people "will persuade themselves to believe almost anything, no matter how far-fetched, if it enables them to preserve their view o...Show More

The Spectre of Populism

10:02 | Feb 24th, 2017

John Gray look at the history of populism. He argues that modern-day populism has largely been created by centre parties who have identified themselves with an unsustainable status quo. He looks at how populism is likely to play out in the upcoming...Show More

The Follies of Experts

09:03 | Feb 17th, 2017

John Gray assesses why experts failed to predict recent seismic events. He says they operated under the long-held but mistaken belief that history unfolds according to predictable patterns. "Human events have no overall direction", he writes, "an...Show More

The fun of work - really?

10:08 | Feb 16th, 2017

"I haven't been visiting schools and drowsing during headteachers' PowerPoint presentations for nothing this past quarter century", writes Will Self. "I know full-well that the purpose of both British education and British employment is the same: t...Show More

Protecting Our Way of Life

09:26 | Feb 10th, 2017

John Gray examines what lies behind our desire to protect our "way of life". "If people are forced to choose between insecurity and a promise of stability through tyranny", he writes, "many will opt for tyranny". He argues that spending vast amoun...Show More

States of Confusion

09:49 | Feb 3rd, 2017

Will Self argues that, at a time when we're observing "our so-called leaders, fretting and strutting on the world stage", it really is a worthwhile exercise to spend time worrying about why we're here. "I'd argue", he writes, "that to engage fully ...Show More

Teaching to the test

09:47 | Jan 27th, 2017

Will Self says it's time for schools to stop "teaching to the test". He argues that in the contemporary wired world, "it seems obvious that young people need more than ever to know how to think outside the boxes, rather than simply tick them". Th...Show More

The Fourth Plinth

09:51 | Jan 20th, 2017

Will Self explores the significance of the art work that adorns the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. He asks what such public art projects represent in this "festival of ephemerality our society seems to have become". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

Re-launching National Service

10:01 | Jan 13th, 2017

"We're constantly being reminded that this is a democracy", writes Will Self "one, indeed, which we should take back control of". But in the arena of national defence, he says, the role of the citizen "is relegated to that of a guilty bystander, hi...Show More

The Shape Of Our Time

09:55 | Dec 30th, 2016

Adam Gopnik revisits a much explored subject - the differences between patriotism and nationalism. In the light of the events of the past year, he questions why the politics of nationalism appear irresistible today. He wonders "if we cannot now s...Show More

Word of 2016: People

13:55 | Dec 23rd, 2016

"Perhaps we should try, before the year's out", writes Howard Jacobson, " to agree on the International Word of 2016 - the word that most describes where we've been these last 12 months". "Post-truth", "Trump" and "Farage" are all in the running. ...Show More

"Baby It's Cold Outside"

09:41 | Dec 16th, 2016

The Christmas song "Baby It's Cold Outside" has become the cause of intense controversy in the US where it's been described as a "hymn to rape" . "As the father of a teenage daughter" writes Adam Gopnik, "I will stand down to no one in the fight ag...Show More

Holes in Clothes

09:51 | Dec 9th, 2016

"I work hard so that my teenage daughter can have holes in all her clothes", writes Adam Gopnik. He reflects on the greater significance of designer holes in jeans...and why it's a trend to be celebrated. "I know what you are asking", Gopnik says...Show More

Bob Dylan and the Bobolaters

09:56 | Dec 2nd, 2016

Adam Gopnik - a lifelong fan of Bob Dylan - muses on Dylan's "utterly predictable lack of gratitude" towards his Nobel Prize. "The terrible and intriguing truth", he writes, is that "people are tragically impressed by indifference...and pitifully co...Show More

A Liberal Credo

09:47 | Nov 25th, 2016

Adam Gopnik muses on liberals and liberalism - and why liberalism is so despised. "At a moment when it seems likely to be drowned out in America" he writes, "I shall make a small forlorn effort to speak its truths". Producer: Adele Armstrong.

The Week Gone By

09:58 | Nov 25th, 2016

Adam Gopnik asks what hope is there of a liberal, open society in America during the next 4 years. He argues that Americans must hold to the faith that liberal politics really do rise from the ground up.

The Trump Card

09:58 | Nov 18th, 2016

Roger Scruton assesses some of the reasons behind Donald Trump's victory. And he asks why many who intended to vote for Donald Trump would not have confessed to their intention. "They wanted change," writes Scruton. "A change in the whole agenda ...Show More

America Votes

09:43 | Nov 4th, 2016

Adam Gopnik reflects on why he believes a victory for Donald Trump would be a disaster for America. The American Presidential election "posits a simple eternal human confrontation between sensible and crazy", he writes. He says we must not preten...Show More

In Praise of Prophets of Doom

10:06 | Oct 28th, 2016

Howard Jacobson argues that dissatisfaction with life is essential for the health of the human spirit. "It might come to outweigh other emotions to the point where it is detrimental to the vigour of an individual or a society, but without it there ...Show More

Shylock's Mock Appeal

10:05 | Oct 21st, 2016

Howard Jacobson applauds the granting of an appeal by Shylock in a mock trial in Venice as a symbolic revoking of a bad decision in Shakespeare's play. "It's natural to rage against wrong decisions, miscarrriages of justice or the inclemencies of n...Show More

In Praise of Difficulty

10:04 | Oct 14th, 2016

Howard Jacobson applauds the playwright Tom Stoppard's attack on the ignorance of the average audience, arguing we should not only aspire to be educated ourselves but should not be offended by the evidence of education in others. "We are an entangle...Show More


10:02 | Oct 7th, 2016

Howard Jacobson deplores the fashion for "whooping" as a mark of approval, and sees it as a species of social blackmail. "The whoop is on an errand to keep things simple. That which strikes audiences as true because it is what they think already, el...Show More

Against Safe Spaces

09:02 | Sep 30th, 2016

John Gray reflects on the controversial "safe spaces" policy being pursued by some universities. It may have been devised to ensure that people of all identities are entitled to a tolerant environment ...but John Gray argues that the policy not only...Show More

The Real Meaning of Trump

09:30 | Sep 23rd, 2016

John Gray assesses what lies behind the Trump phenomenon and the remarkable political upheaval that could - possibly - see Donald Trump propelled into the White House. From the start, he says, Trump's campaign has been an audacious experiment in ma...Show More

Who Cares About Independence?

09:22 | Sep 16th, 2016

Wheelchair user, Tom Shakespeare, reflects on what it feels like to be dependent on others. He says care often leaves the recipient in a devalued state. He calls for society to respond to the challenge of delivering help "without creating dominat...Show More

My Idea of Heaven

09:12 | Sep 9th, 2016

John Gray muses on what his idea of heaven is....and why it shouldn't be a perfect world. History teaches us that trying to create a perfect society leads to hell on earth, he writes. "But dreams of a perfect world don't fail because human beings...Show More

Every Dog Has His Day

09:40 | Aug 26th, 2016

Tom Shakespeare - a new dog owner - reflects on what dogs can teach us about contentment. Remembering his childhood obsession with the Peanuts cartoon, he quotes Snoopy "My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm Happy. I...Show More

Finding Our Roots

09:47 | Aug 19th, 2016

Will Self reflects on the joys of genealogy - truffling in census returns and parish records and establishing "our genuine links to multiple generations of nonentities"! "As a passionate Londoner", he writes, "I wanted to establish when the first S...Show More

What's wrong with modern art?

09:44 | Aug 12th, 2016

Will Self explores what's wrong with modern art. "I've been responsible for a fair amount of absolutely total nonsense in my time", he writes, but says most contemporary art is little more than "overvalued tosh and useless ephemera". Instead of a...Show More

Act Your Age

09:41 | Aug 5th, 2016

Will Self explains why he finds it hard to always act his age. "To alternate between being an errant child and a corrective adult must, I think, be intrinsic to the human condition." Producer: Sheila Cook.

Canaries in the Coal Mine

09:48 | Jul 29th, 2016

Tom Shakespeare gives a very personal view of the implications for society of a prenatal screening technology due to be announced shortly. Tom inherited the genetic condition, achondroplasia, or restricted growth from his father and passed it on to...Show More

Being English

10:00 | Jul 22nd, 2016

Via steak and kidney pie and a spot of Morris dancing, AL Kennedy reflects on a time, she writes, "when Englishness is struggling to decide what it can be". She appeals to England - with all its different views, customs, history an...Show More

Facts Not Opinions

09:55 | Jul 15th, 2016

AL Kennedy ponders the importance of facts... in a world dominated by opinion. "The Chilcot report highlights how a war can conjure the demons it promised to suppress", she writes "because facts were dodged or massaged and fantasy outcomes were tak...Show More

Brexit and our cultural identity

14:18 | Jul 15th, 2016

The historian Mary Beard presents the last in the series in which some of Britain's leading thinkers give their own very personal view of "Brexit". Mary Beard asks whether the referendum result will change our cultural identity. And as she sits a...Show More

Strategic Shift

13:57 | Jul 14th, 2016

Peter Hennessy sees the UK's vote to leave the European Union as the biggest strategic shift in British history since the Second World War, rivalled only by the disposal of the British Empire. As a consequence, we need a serious national conversation...Show More

Democracy After Brexit

14:06 | Jul 13th, 2016

In these special editions of A Point of View, five of Britain's leading thinkers give their own very personal view of "Brexit" - what the vote tells us about the country we are, and are likely to become. Today, the philosopher Roger Scruton reflects...Show More

Britain, Europe and the World

13:37 | Jul 12th, 2016

In these special editions of Radio 4's long-running essay programme, A Point of View, five of Britain's leading thinkers, give their own very personal view of "Brexit" - what the vote tells us about the country we are, and are likely to become. Toda...Show More

Onora O'Neill

14:21 | Jul 11th, 2016

The philosopher Onora O'Neill criticises the standard of public debate on both sides of the European Union decision and asks how this democratic deficit can be repaired. "The disarray that we now witness, and the retractions, revelations and recrimi...Show More


09:50 | Jul 8th, 2016

"Transitions shake us" writes AL Kennedy. "and you don't need me to tell you that as a nation we're sharing one". Alison reflects on how disturbing transitional times can be ...and writes of her own personal experience and that happening in post-Br...Show More

On Brexit

09:47 | Jul 1st, 2016

The philosopher John Gray argues that Brexit will have a greater impact on the EU than it will on the UK. And he predicts the British experience is likely to be repeated across much of continental Europe over the next few years. But, he says, rathe...Show More

The power of language

09:58 | Jun 24th, 2016

AL Kennedy reflects on how being able to communicate clearly is the work of a lifetime. She argues that the present school testing regime could have a catastrophic effect on our children's ability to find their voice. Producer: Adele Armstrong.

A Petition Against Petitions

09:55 | Jun 19th, 2016

Roger Scruton says the fashion for government by petition is out of step with representative democracy in which representatives are not elected to relay the opinions of their constituents but to represent their interests. "The common good, rather t...Show More

How Should We Build?

10:04 | Jun 10th, 2016

Roger Scruton says we should protect the English countryside by making beauty our priority when we build new houses while in towns we should reverse the damage done in previous decades. "Surely the time has come to tear down the post-war estates, a...Show More

The Ring of the Nibelung

09:52 | Jun 3rd, 2016

As Wagner's Ring - that huge and controversial cycle of operas - goes on tour, self-professed Wagner fan, Roger Scruton, tells us why The Ring is absolutely a story for our time. "Despite our attempts to live without formal religion" writes Scruton...Show More

I Gave It All Away

09:16 | May 27th, 2016

Will Self argues that instead of holding onto money until old age, we should give children their inheritance when they're most in need of it. "Forget the old right/left, rich/poor division" he says, "nowadays the greatest divergence lies between th...Show More

Psy Wars

09:32 | May 20th, 2016

Will Self - with a nod to the "valetudinarian pop-person, Morrissey" - poses the question "Does the mind rule the body or the body rule the mind?" Before 1960, he says, "a Briton could probably go their entire life without encountering a psychiatri...Show More

Spell-checking the Futr

09:56 | May 14th, 2016

Self-confessed "digi-drunkard" Will Self on predictive texting, spellchecking and algorithms. Will tries to convince himself - and us - that his use of technology is considered and practical, not the "glug-glugging of the cyber sozzled"! But, he ...Show More

Florence Under Water

09:35 | May 6th, 2016

50 years after one of the worst floods in Florence's history, Sarah Dunant reflects on the events of 1966 and the work still going on to save some of the greatest art in the world. She talks to some of those who were there about their memories of t...Show More

The Power of the Pen

09:46 | Apr 29th, 2016

On a visit to her local flea market in Florence, Sarah Dunant stumbles across a love letter. The date: November 1918. There's the challenge of the Italian of course....but the biggest hurdle, she says, was the handwriting. It was "as if a conscientio...Show More

Reading Renaissance Art

09:49 | Apr 22nd, 2016

Taking a tour of some recent blockbuster art exhibitions, Sarah Dunant reflects on the importance of context for us to properly appreciate art. She argues that increasingly we're sold art as a list of superstars. "To grab the headlines, put big numb...Show More

When Is Enough Enough?

09:29 | Apr 15th, 2016

Sarah Dunant takes an historical look at avarice. She argues that the revelations in the Panama Papers are just the latest proof that man's greed is woven into the human psyche. Dante gave it a harder time than lust...two centuries later, it's one ...Show More

The Meaning of Time

09:44 | Apr 8th, 2016

Will Self reflects on our sense of the meaning of time and the changes in our perception brought about by new technologies. "Obviously the world wide web and the internet have played a key role in making each and every one of us a little hot spot of...Show More

Virtual Violence

09:43 | Apr 1st, 2016

Will Self draws no comfort from an alleged drop in violence in the real world, as he sees us increasingly expressing our innate tendency towards violence in the virtual and online worlds. " I don't think watching violence drives us to commit violent ...Show More

Allergic to Food

10:02 | Mar 25th, 2016

Finding himself on a restricted diet, Will Self reflects on the rise of food allergies and intolerances which used to fail to invoke his sympathy. "It's not so much that I doubt the physiological component of all this tummy rumbling and grumbling, ...Show More


10:05 | Mar 18th, 2016

Adam Gopnik struggles to keep his New Year's resolutions to find a "monastic moment" in the day to meditate and listen to good music. "What gets in the way of our dream of practising our daily practice of attachment, which may be the...Show More

Human Hybrids

09:57 | Mar 11th, 2016

Adam Gopnik deplores the fashion for attacking so-called "cultural expropriation" as in the recent fuss over American students wearing sombreros at a Mexican theme party. "Cultural mixing - the hybridization of hats, if you like - is the rule of ci...Show More

Moral Futures

09:36 | Feb 26th, 2016

Adam Gopnik thinks future generations will be as appalled by some practices that are accepted today as we are by aspects of the past. "Even as we condemn our moral ancestors, we need to hold our ears to the wind, and listen for the faint sounds of o...Show More

Vanilla Happiness

10:00 | Feb 19th, 2016

Adam Gopnik says the secret of happiness lies in unexpected pleasures, like finding yoghourt is vanilla when you expect it to be plain. "Are the intrinsic qualities of something more powerful than the context in which we perceive it, or are what we ...Show More

Star Wars Obsession

09:57 | Feb 5th, 2016

Helen Macdonald has made her name writing about nature and birds of prey. So why has she become so fascinated with the recent Star Wars movie that she's been to see it six times? In her first "A Point of View" she tries to get to the bottom of her ob...Show More

Expert by Experience

09:36 | Jan 29th, 2016

After hearing a former political prisoner in South Africa and a holocaust survivor tell their stories, Tom Shakespeare concludes that personal experience is the most powerful form of expertise. "Hearing their testimonies affected me more deeply than...Show More

Face to Face

10:01 | Jan 22nd, 2016

Tom Shakespeare is concerned by the growth in cosmetic procedures and the pressure more and more women and girls, in particular, feel to conform to a face and body type. "My anxiety is about the society that first generates body dissatisfaction and...Show More

Sing a New Song

10:02 | Jan 15th, 2016

Tom Shakespeare argues that we need a new national anthem, one that celebrates what's great about the whole country, reflects the diversity of the population and the values of modern society. He suggests that existing anthem-like hymns such as Jerus...Show More


10:13 | Jan 8th, 2016

Tom Shakespeare argues the House of Lords should be completely reformed and turned into a Senate of 300 members (down from over 800). He suggests they should consist of 100 politicians, selected in proportion to parties' showing in the previous gener...Show More

Howard Jacobson: Wisdom

10:06 | Jan 1st, 2016

Howard Jacobson does not feel complimented when someone describes him as "wise". He would sooner have understanding, akin to that of Shakespeare. "What's wrong with wisdom is it implies stasis, as though our greatest faculties of cognition and intui...Show More

Howard Jacobson: Sermons

10:13 | Dec 27th, 2015

Howard Jacobson would sooner see Radio 4's Thought for the Day more not less religious and argues that humanists and the religious can meet in sermonizing when it's of the majesty of a great preacher like John Donne. "I fall to wondering what exact...Show More

Howard Jacobson: Christmas

10:04 | Dec 18th, 2015

Howard Jacobson recalls the healthy mongrel mix of traditions in his Jewish family's festivities at Christmas. "Let's rejoice in the eclecticism, I say, and find in the varieties of ways people choose to mark or miss the point of Christmas the unive...Show More

Sarah Dunant: Protest, Paris, Terror

09:51 | Dec 4th, 2015

Sarah Dunant reflects on the nature of protest against the threat of terrorism and the threat of climate change and their coming together in the city of Paris. "How do we find a sense of potency in the face of terror, how do we embrace life when thr...Show More

From Pot to Profit

10:08 | Nov 27th, 2015

Sarah Dunant welcomes Canada's plans to fully legalise marijuana and sees the benefits of a booming cannabis products industry in the American states where it's already legal. "It costs society too much, in all senses, to criminalise so many people ...Show More

Sarah Dunant: Crisis in Catholicism

10:07 | Nov 20th, 2015

Sarah Dunant sees a new crisis in the Catholic church as a result of unchanged policy over divorce, homosexuality, celibacy and the role of women. "Men may truly believe in God but for most of them chastity is too big an ask and if enforced leads, ...Show More

Roger Scruton: The Tyranny of Pop

10:04 | Nov 13th, 2015

Roger Scruton deplores the tyranny of banal and ubiquitous pop music. Young people, above all, need help to appreciate instead the great music of our civilisation. "Unless we teach children to judge, to discriminate, to recognize the difference betw...Show More

Roger Scruton: Offensive Jokes

09:34 | Nov 6th, 2015

Roger Scruton says we must feel free to express opinions and to make jokes that others may find offensive; censoring them them only leads to a loss of reasoned argument. "The policing of the public sphere with a view to suppressing 'racist' opinions...Show More

Roger Scruton: In Defence of Free Speech

10:04 | Oct 23rd, 2015

Roger Scruton argues that the law on freedom of speech ought to protect those who express heretical views and not be used to close down debate. "Free speech is not the cause of the tensions that are growing around us, but the only possible solution t...Show More

Will Self: On Gardening

09:45 | Oct 16th, 2015

Will Self reflects on our relationship with gardens and gardening.

Will Self: Looks Matter

10:06 | Oct 9th, 2015

Will Self says we can't pretend that looks don't matter or that everyone is beautiful, including the obese. "That different cultures, during different eras, have found different aspects of the human form beautiful is another straw the sub-gorgeous c...Show More

Will Self: What's in a Name

09:59 | Oct 5th, 2015

Will Self reflects on the significance of names, including his own. "We desire to be recognised for who we really are, and seek out in our very ascription the means of uniting our intimate identities with our social selves.".

Will Self: A Life of Habit

09:56 | Sep 25th, 2015

Will Self sees our love of habit as a shield against the unexpected in life. "For us, custom, and its bespoke application, habit, are integral to our lives; because - or so we sort of reason - if we fill up our days with oft repeated actions, we can...Show More

Will Self: Losing Sleep

09:55 | Sep 18th, 2015

Will Self reflects on the various reasons for his inability to sleep soundly any more. "I concede there is something about our contemporary existence, especially in big, bustling cities, which seems altogether inimical to a good night's rest." Prod...Show More

P J O'Rourke: Presidential Candidates

09:30 | Sep 11th, 2015

P J O'Rourke sizes up the candidates aspiring to be the President of the United States. "Who are all these jacklegs, high-binders, wire-pullers, mountebanks, swellheads, buncombe spigots, boodle artists, four-flushers and animated spittoons offering ...Show More

The Abolition of Man

09:49 | Sep 4th, 2015

John Gray warns about the dangers of science that attempts to enhance human abilities. He says such knowledge can jeopardize the very things that make us human. More than 70 years after C.S. Lewis wrote "The Abolition of Man", John Gray argues that...Show More

Another Kind of Atheism

09:52 | Aug 28th, 2015

John Gray looks to history to argue that it's time to rethink today's narrow view of atheism. He ponders the lives of two little known atheists from the past - the nineteenth century Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi and the Somerset essayist and novel...Show More

John Gray: Recalling Eric Ambler

09:40 | Aug 21st, 2015

John Gray recalls the life and work of the thriller writer Eric Ambler and finds uncomfortable echoes of today's society in the pages of his novels. "What they reveal is a world ruled by financial and geopolitical forces that care nothing for the hum...Show More

John Gray: Euro Despair

09:15 | Aug 14th, 2015

John Gray sees the European currency as a misconceived project from the outset and thinks the austerity policies imposed on Greece are destructive and self defeating. "Attempting to maintain the euro at any cost can only result in mounting desperati...Show More

Adam Gopnik: Long-Form Television

09:57 | Aug 7th, 2015

Adam Gopnik reflects on the reason for our obsession with long - form television series and sees a link to the current brevity of all our other forms of discourse. "As communication, public and political and spiritual, becomes ever more condensed - a...Show More

Adam Gopnik: Role Reversal

10:04 | Jul 31st, 2015

A weekly reflection on a topical issue.

Peter Aspden: In Love with Greece

10:01 | Jul 24th, 2015

Peter Aspden thinks the powerful influence of Greece, both ancient and modern, on European sensibilities makes the current economic crisis full of emotionally charged symbolism. "I often think that the hostility between Greece and its harshest curren...Show More

Adam Gopnik: In Praise of Privacy

09:46 | Jul 17th, 2015

Although he loves to read collections of private letters by public figures, Adam Gopnik feels disturbed and offended by the lip-smacking ease with which people thumb through Hillary Clinton's or Amy Pascal's once private e-mails and asks what are the...Show More

Adam Gopnik: Power, Persecution and Pluralism

10:02 | Jul 10th, 2015

Adam Gopnik wonders why religious people are feeling "persecuted" following the US Supreme Court ruling making same sex marriage legal in all fifty states. Can a religious person free to practice their religion actually feel persecuted? Are they just...Show More

Adam Gopnik: Family Reunions

09:57 | Jul 3rd, 2015

Adam Gopnik's ten-year family reunion brings into focus the passage of time. "The inescapable material of any family reunion, British or American, Jewish or Celtic, is always the same: each offering a hair-raising or hair-losing seminar on the effec...Show More

Adam Gopnik: Words and Music

09:45 | Jun 26th, 2015

Adam Gopnik's experience of writing a libretto casts light on the mysterious relationship between words and music. "Sung words belong more fully to the world of ritual and routine, of incantation and mother's murmurings, than to the fully lucid and w...Show More

Adam Gopnik: Indispensable Man

10:10 | Jun 19th, 2015

Adam Gopnik found himself supplanted as his family's waffle maker while he was away on a trip and concludes there are no indispensable people in any organization (or family) anywhere, though we all like to imagine that there are. There are only instr...Show More

AL Kennedy: The Worth of Education

09:50 | Jun 12th, 2015

"A school's core strength is that it's a school" writes AL Kennedy. She argues that the "monetisation" of learning - where its value is assessed in purely monetary terms - risks destroying the very essence of learning. She says we need to rethink thi...Show More

AL Kennedy: Creamola Foam remembered

10:07 | Jun 5th, 2015

"I'm getting old. Not older, just old" begins AL Kennedy. Through childhood memories of drinking Creamola Foam, her grandfather's voice ...and being kicked by a boy in the shin during playtimes, she reflects on how age changes our perception of the p...Show More

In Praise of Courtesy

10:03 | May 29th, 2015

AL Kennedy takes the recent death of a friend - the screenwriter Gill Dennis - as her starting point in an exploration of courtesy. "When courtesy walks into a room," she writes, "it seems to turn a light on". She contrasts this with a striking examp...Show More

Politics of Hope

10:08 | May 22nd, 2015

AL Kennedy says the election results in Scotland reflect a surge in political engagement in which people continue to feel they have the power to make a difference. "A significant percentage of Scotland's voters on both sides of the independence quest...Show More

Presidents as Monarchs

10:02 | May 15th, 2015

David Cannadine says when Barack Obama's critics accuse him of acting like a king they're forgetting the origins of the office of President. "From the outset, the American presidency was vested with what might be termed monarchical authority, which m...Show More

Election View

09:46 | May 8th, 2015

The American writer PJ O'Rourke gives his view of the UK election. "In the once solidly red-rosette glens and braes and lochs and heather the Scottish National Party snatched the sporran, ripped the kilt off and walked away in the ghillie brogues of ...Show More

Leaders Old and Young

09:56 | May 1st, 2015

David Cannadine reflects on the merits of youth and age in our political leaders and finds the current set taking their parties into next week's election strikingly young. "It's a curious and unexplained paradox that in earlier times, when life expec...Show More

Commemorative Style

10:05 | Apr 24th, 2015

David Cannadine compares the enthusiasm for national commemorations in Britain with the more understated syle in the United States. "It's easier for Britain, which is a relatively small and unified nation, with a strong central government, to stage n...Show More

Ideology Versus Art

09:31 | Apr 17th, 2015

Howard Jacobson explains why he prefers art to ideology, especially at election time, and always has. "I consider myself fortunate enough to have been brought up in a state of dogma-free grace." "...the point of art is to refute whatever it is we've ...Show More

Life's a Selfie

09:33 | Apr 10th, 2015

Howard Jacobson explains why he dislikes the narcissism of the selfie. "It's always possible that there's some Rembrandt of the selfie out there, using his 'phone to investigate the ravages of age, the incursions of melancholy, and even the psycholo...Show More

Mankle Image Crisis

09:47 | Apr 3rd, 2015

Howard Jacobson thinks the current focus of male fashion on the ankle region or "mankle", revealed by the trousers of skimpily cut suits, shows men are suffering from a self-image crisis. "It would be a brave person who argued that what we wear count...Show More

The Price of Independence

09:32 | Mar 27th, 2015

Tom Shakespeare says that disabled people's right to independent living is under threat as a result of the imminent winding up of the Independent Living Fund. "I hope that whichever parties are in government after May will have a rethink about social...Show More

Trial by Select Committee

09:56 | Mar 20th, 2015

Tom Shakespeare thinks our reformed Select Committees have revitalised Parliament but he warns against the temptation to play to the gallery and to cross examine unfairly. "Their main business is the worthy task of holding the government and the civi...Show More

Cognitive Decline

10:10 | Mar 13th, 2015

Tom Shakespeare says increasing wisdom in middle age is at least some compensation for declining cognitive powers. "Wisdom is not the amount you know, it's how you see and how you interpret what you see." Producer: Sheila Cook.

The Nature of Time

10:09 | Mar 6th, 2015

Will Self reflects on the unsettling nature of time. "What gives our human cultures any sense of cohesion at all is an almost relentless effort to shore up our collective memory of the past against the remorseless depredations of time." Producer: Sh...Show More


10:00 | Feb 27th, 2015

A weekly reflection on a topical issue.

The Power of Fiction

10:01 | Feb 20th, 2015

Will Self reflects on the power of our relationship with fictional characters. "People need people whose lives can be seen to follow a dramatic arc, so that no matter what trials they encounter, the people who survey them can be reassured that when t...Show More

The Purpose of Satire

10:06 | Feb 13th, 2015

Will Self finds himself driven to reconsider the nature and purpose of satire in the wake of the murders at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. "The paradox is this: if satire aims at the moral reform of a given society it can only be effective within that parti...Show More

Having Children

09:24 | Feb 6th, 2015

Will Self reflects on the growing and vexed divide between people with and without children. "The real indication that we don't know what value parenting currently has is that to either valorise or demonise this state of being seems as ridiculous (if...Show More

Losing Touch

10:07 | Jan 30th, 2015

Will Self regrets our growing lack of physical contact with one another and with the natural world as a result of the rise of technology. "What the touch screen, the automatic door,online shopping and even the Bagladeshi sweatshop piece-worker who ma...Show More

The Power of Art

10:00 | Jan 23rd, 2015

AL Kennedy reflects on the importance of the beauty and creativity of art to sustain the human spirit. "Art is a power and most of its true power is invisible, private, memorised and held even in prison cells and on forced marches, so you can see wh...Show More

Language and Listening

10:06 | Jan 16th, 2015

AL Kennedy reflects on the importance of learning languages and listening to one another. "More words give me more paths to and from the hearts of others, more points of view - I don't think that's a bad thing." Producer: Sheila Cook.

Charlie Hebdo

09:49 | Jan 9th, 2015

Adam Gopnick reflects on the Charlie Hebdo massacre. "The notion that what some have called France's 'stark secularism' - or its level of unemployment, or its history of exclusion, that imposed invisibility - is in any way to blame or even a root c...Show More

The Pursuit of Happiness

10:04 | Jan 2nd, 2015

A L Kennedy reflects on what it means to pursue happiness in a world where "not having enough money can be utterly miserable" and indulging our desire to acquire is also unsatisfying. The answer may lie in seeing that happiness is, "not so much a con...Show More

Monarch's Message

10:07 | Dec 26th, 2014

David Cannadine reflects on the history of the Queen's Christmas message. Following the success of the first broadcast in 1932 by the Queen's grandfather, King George V, "what had begun as a one-off innovation" soon "became an invented tradition". ...Show More

Art: The Real Thing

09:59 | Dec 19th, 2014

In the last of his three talks on art Roger Scruton asks what constitutes real art, as opposed to cliche or kitsch. He says we must ignore the vast quantities of art produced as commodities to be sold, in contrast to symphonies or novels that cannot...Show More


09:50 | Dec 12th, 2014

Philosopher Roger Scruton looks at kitsch in the second of his three talks on art. Kitsch, he says, creates the fantasy of an emotion without the real cost of feeling it. He argues that in the twentieth century artists became preoccupied by what th...Show More

Faking It

10:05 | Dec 5th, 2014

Philosopher Roger Scruton reflects on the difference between original art that is genuine, sincere and truthful, but hard to achieve, and the easier but fake art that he says appeals to many critics today. He argues that original artists from Beeth...Show More

Thinking the Unthinkable

09:02 | Nov 28th, 2014

John Gray argues that "thinking the unthinkable" as a way of making policy does nothing more than extend conventional wisdom to the point of absurdity and fails to take account of the complexities of reality. "Capitalism has lurched into a crisis fro...Show More

Dostoevsky and Dangerous Ideas

09:22 | Nov 21st, 2014

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 sa...Show More

Soylent and the Charm of the Fast Lane

09:05 | Nov 14th, 2014

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 Armst...Show More

Capitalism and the Myth of Social Evolution

09:23 | Nov 7th, 2014

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 de...Show More

Cures for Anxiety

09:52 | Oct 31st, 2014

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...Show More

A Lesson from Love Locks

09:57 | Oct 24th, 2014

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...Show More

The Football Fallacy

09:48 | Oct 17th, 2014

Adam Gopnik explains why the English are better at watching football than they are playing it and why the Americans are better at talking about democracy than they are at practising it. "Call this the Constructive Fallacy of the Secondary Activity ...Show More

Dying with Dignity

10:05 | Oct 10th, 2014

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 ...Show More

Short and Successful

09:51 | Oct 3rd, 2014

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 pe...Show More

Keeping Time

10:03 | Sep 26th, 2014

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 wer...Show More

Red Dress Sense

09:56 | Sep 19th, 2014

This season's fashion for red prompts Lisa Jardine to reflect on the past power of the colour. "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 t...Show More

The Horror of War

09:39 | Sep 12th, 2014

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 ...Show More

When fiction comes to the historian's rescue

09:39 | Sep 5th, 2014

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 ...Show More

Why Orwell Is the Supreme Mediocrity

09:54 | Aug 29th, 2014

Will Self takes on one of the nation's best loved figures, George Orwell.....and braces himself for the backlash! "Not Orwell, surely!" he hears the listeners cry. He uses Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" to make his point. This - ...Show More

What's Funny?

09:49 | Aug 22nd, 2014

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.

The Affliction of Consumption

09:41 | Aug 15th, 2014

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

Believing in Beliefs

09:36 | Aug 8th, 2014

Will Self offers a weekly reflection on a topical issue.

The Changing Nature of Utopias

09:56 | Aug 1st, 2014

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. The utopias and dystopias of the past offer a range of different futuristic scenarios but, ...Show More

Is patriotism the last refuge of the scoundrel?

10:01 | Jul 25th, 2014

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. In Britain we invest the idea of sovereignty in an individual, namely the Queen - or rather...Show More

Believing in reason is childish

09:14 | Jul 18th, 2014

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 si...Show More

Isis: A modern revolutionary force?

10:01 | Jul 11th, 2014

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 m...Show More

To See Ourselves

10:06 | Jul 4th, 2014

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...Show More

Battling the Botnets

09:38 | Jun 27th, 2014

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...Show More

If You Haven't Got Anything Nice to Say...

09:57 | Jun 20th, 2014

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 obsc...Show More

No Burning Required

09:56 | Jun 13th, 2014

"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. ...Show More

Bring Back the Heptarchy!

09:57 | Jun 6th, 2014

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

Should we be frightened of disability?

10:03 | May 30th, 2014

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.

Why we should be religious but not spiritual

10:01 | May 23rd, 2014

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.

Testing Times

10:06 | May 16th, 2014

As hundreds of thousands of young people get ready to sit exams, Mary Beard reflects on exam season - past and present. The Cambridge don describes how the "tough, engaging and intelligent young people" she has taught for years "suddenly morph into ...Show More

The Paradox of Growing Old

09:46 | May 9th, 2014

Mary Beard reflects on recent TV programmes and newspaper articles about what's going on in care homes for the elderly. She says she believes that in a few hundred years' time, "our treatment of old people will be as much of a blot on our culture as...Show More

Digging Digitally

09:34 | May 2nd, 2014

"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 ref...Show More

Mile Milestone

09:59 | Apr 25th, 2014

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 appropri...Show More

Travel Writing Giants

10:05 | Apr 18th, 2014

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 wil...Show More

A Tale of Two Elections

10:00 | Apr 11th, 2014

William Dalrymple reflects on the current pivotal elections in India and Afghanistan where religion, identity and economics will all help to determine the outcomes. Feeling a mixture of unease and optimism, he celebrates, nevertheless, the good news ...Show More

A Lenten Reflection

10:01 | Apr 4th, 2014

Taking Lent as his starting point, William Dalrymple contrasts the Christian view of Lent - with all its self-discipline and self-deprivation - with that represented in great Indian art. He visits the painted caves of Ajanta, dating from the 2nd cen...Show More

A Disease Called Fame

10:10 | Mar 28th, 2014

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 ce...Show More

Heavy Weather

10:06 | Mar 21st, 2014

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

The Time Warp

09:50 | Mar 14th, 2014

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 ...Show More

Free the Schools

09:57 | Mar 7th, 2014

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...Show More

Our Love for Animals

09:37 | Feb 28th, 2014

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 Co...Show More

United We Fall

09:45 | Feb 21st, 2014

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.

Money Matters

09:45 | Feb 14th, 2014

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.


10:08 | Feb 7th, 2014

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". Produce...Show More

Why Sportsmanship Matters

09:59 | Jan 31st, 2014

Adam Gopnik reflects on the value of sportsmanship ahead of the American Super Bowl following controversy over a player's supposedly unsporting comments. "Sportsmanship is this day's triumph's salute to time...We will not always be the winner." Prod...Show More

Self-Drive Manhood

10:07 | Jan 24th, 2014

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.

Sex and the French

09:53 | Jan 17th, 2014

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 puritan...Show More

Unknown Knowns

08:59 | Jan 10th, 2014

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...Show More

The Perils of Belief

09:22 | Jan 3rd, 2014

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, ...Show More

Two Cheers for Human Rights

09:21 | Dec 27th, 2013

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 tha...Show More

Islamo-Christian Heritage

09:21 | Dec 20th, 2013

In the week when Prince Charles has drawn attention to violence against Christians in the Middle East, William Dalrymple says it's time to remember the "old and often forgotten co-habitation of Islam and Christianity". "Christmas time is perhaps the...Show More

Why Dickens Endures

09:53 | Dec 13th, 2013

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: She...Show More

It's Always the Others Who Die

09:46 | Dec 6th, 2013

Will Self reflects that our modern, secular society has silenced the voices of the dead. As a result, he argues, we fail to appreciate the sacred buildings, art and literature of the past. "Having purged them on the basis that they can furnish no p...Show More

Political Trojan Horses

09:56 | Nov 29th, 2013

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 t...Show More

Rebuilding After 9/11

10:01 | Nov 22nd, 2013

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...Show More

Self Confident Culture

09:32 | Nov 15th, 2013

Will Self argues for greater British cultural self confidence in the debate over the wearing of the veil. Apologies are not needed for an insistence on uncovered faces in court, he says, and the best safeguard against extremism is engagement with th...Show More

Kennedy 50 Years On

09:55 | Nov 8th, 2013

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 i...Show More

Will Self: Pity the Young

09:42 | Nov 1st, 2013

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 squattin...Show More

Lisa Jardine: Reflections on IVF

10:02 | Oct 25th, 2013

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...Show More

Machine Intelligence

09:54 | Oct 18th, 2013

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. Producer: Sheila Cook.

Cross Border Science

09:57 | Oct 11th, 2013

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...Show More

Ethical Science

09:55 | Oct 4th, 2013

Lisa Jardine learned the story of Leo Szilard from her father who regarded him as an exemplary figure in science. Szilard, an Hungarian physicist, helped to develop the atom bomb, but later fought against its use. His story provides lessons about the...Show More

The Horror of Love

10:02 | Sep 27th, 2013

Stephen King says "Love creates horror." AL Kennedy agrees. "As someone who often says 'I think' and almost never says 'I feel', I don't personally welcome love's ability to make me fear not only for myself, but others," she writes. But love makes u...Show More

AL Kennedy: Someone to Watch Over Me

10:00 | Sep 20th, 2013

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 l...Show More

Great Pretenders

10:05 | Sep 13th, 2013

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 ...Show More

Real Change

09:53 | Sep 6th, 2013

Fear of change can lead us astray. It can keep us from mercy. It can be used by authorities as an excuse for sticking with the status quo. It's a barrier to happiness. AL Kennedy doesn't like change. But she thinks perhaps she should change her mind.

Of the People, By the People 4/4

10:08 | Aug 30th, 2013

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. "There is no first-person plural of which the European Institutions are the political expre...Show More

Of the People, By the People 3/4

10:07 | Aug 23rd, 2013

Roger Scruton continues his series of talks on the nature and limits of democracy. This week he argues that nations should be defined by language and territory rather than by party or faith. And, looking at examples across the Middle East and in part...Show More

Of the People, By the People 2/4

10:12 | Aug 16th, 2013

Roger Scruton continues his series of talks on the nature and limits of democracy. 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 proce...Show More

Roger Scruton: Of the People, By the People 1/4

10:12 | Aug 9th, 2013

Roger Scruton argues that democracy alone is not enough for political freedom. Democracy, freedom and human rights do not necessarily coincide. "In the underground universities of communist Europe ... my friends and colleagues prepared themselves ...Show More

Machiavelli's Summer in Tuscany

10:10 | Aug 2nd, 2013

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...Show More

Reforming Catholicism in 140 Characters

10:03 | Jul 26th, 2013

Sarah Dunant says Pope Francis should use his Twitter account to demonstrate that he's prepared to deal with the 'mess' inside the Catholic Church. Perhaps, she says, with this Tweet, he's already started: 'If we wish to follow Christ closely, we can...Show More

A Big Day for Bert and Ernie?

10:02 | Jul 19th, 2013

The recent New Yorker cover showing Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie as a gay couple, delighted by the American Supreme Court ruling that the Defence of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, prompts Sarah Dunant to reflect on the power of cartoons to conve...Show More

A Sporting Catharsis

09:51 | Jul 12th, 2013

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. In Florence, in the late 1500s, townspeople played a form of foot...Show More

Gender Matters

09:54 | Jul 5th, 2013

At a party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the feminist press Virago last week, writes Sarah Dunant, the current head of the company told the story of how one night she asked one of Virago's founders why she had started the company. "To change t...Show More

Anyone for Art?

09:56 | Jun 28th, 2013

Isn't it time to democratize art? Shouldn't 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. Tom Shakespeare presents the last of his four essay...Show More

A Midsummer Daydream

09:53 | Jun 21st, 2013

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 ...Show More

Fly, Fish, Mouse and Worm

09:55 | Jun 14th, 2013

"When I was a child, one of my favourite books was Bear, Mouse and Water Beetle," says Tom Shakespeare. "Today, I want to tell you a contemporary story, which you could call Fly, Fish, Mouse and Worm." These 'model animals' help scientists to unders...Show More

Can Compassion Be Taught?

10:02 | Jun 7th, 2013

Tom Shakespeare presents the first of his four essays. There have been several recent scandals in the health service, with appalling cases of abuse and neglect coming to light. Not surprisingly, this has led to calls for people in the medical profess...Show More

Gatsby: The Perfect Fake

09:49 | May 31st, 2013

John Gray finds new resonance for our own age in the story of "the Great Gatsby". "Just as in the Roaring Twenties, we've lived through a boom that was mostly based on make-believe - easy money, inflated assets and financial skulduggery." "We want no...Show More

The Doors of Perception

09:32 | May 24th, 2013

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, "Some of the most valuable human experiences, Mac...Show More

The Meaning of Evil

09:47 | May 17th, 2013

John Gray turns to the writer Patricia Highsmith and her character Tom Ripley for a perspective on the meaning of evil. "For me she's of the great twentieth century writers with a deep insight into the fragility of morality." Producer: Sheila...Show More

The Myth of Modernity

09:37 | May 10th, 2013

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. "The modern world is founded on the belief that it's possible for human beings to shape a future that's be...Show More

The Limits of Materialism

09:50 | May 3rd, 2013

John Gray draws on a story by Walter de la Mare to argue that the prevailing creed of scientific materialism is a "simple minded philosophy", preferring de la Mare's unsettling portrayal of everyday existence as insubstantial and unknowable. "Even if...Show More

John Gray: Bitcoin's Cyber Freedom

09:37 | Apr 26th, 2013

John Gray wonders what the rise of the cyber currency Bitcoin tells us about our human need for freedom and protection, "The dream of finding some kind of talisman, a benevolent tyrant or a magical new technology, that can shelter us from power and c...Show More

Adam Gopnik: On Children Leaving Home

09:59 | Apr 19th, 2013

Adam Gopnik's son is about to leave home. His suitcase is already packed. It's not a day Adam is looking forward to. Why is love between parents and their children so asymmetric, he wonders? Why do parents love their children infinitely - while child...Show More

Science, Magic and Madness

09:49 | Apr 12th, 2013

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? According to Adam Gopnik it's the experimental method - the looking and seeing an...Show More

The Irrationality of Nations

09:50 | Apr 5th, 2013

Every nation has a core irrationality - a belief about itself which no amount of contrary evidence can shift - says Adam Gopnik. Adam tries to uncover the core irrationality of the four nations he knows best: the United States, France, Canada and the...Show More

The secret of a happy marriage

09:58 | Mar 29th, 2013

Adam Gopnik reflects on what makes a happy marriage. Darwin, Gopnik writes, when first thinking about marriage, made a list of pros and cons. Cons included the expense and anxiety of children and the odd truth that a married man could never go up in ...Show More

Turkish notions

09:36 | Mar 22nd, 2013

"Lately I've been thinking a lot about the Turk", writes Adam Gopnik. He's talking - not of the Ottomans - but the famous chess playing machine constructed in the late 18th century. A mechanical figure of a bearded man, dressed in Turkish clothing,...Show More

Celestial Bodies

10:03 | Mar 15th, 2013

When two spectacular comets appeared in the night sky in 1664 and 1665, many feared they were harbingers of doom. Not long afterwards, the Great Plague and the Great Fire were visited on London. Lisa Jardine has been looking upwards this week in an ...Show More

Dame Mary Cartwright

09:44 | Mar 8th, 2013

Lisa Jardine celebrates the achievements of the mathematician Dame Mary Cartwright, the first woman mathematician to be elected to the Royal Society. During World War Two, she responded to a request from the British government to address an issue wi...Show More

Modern Medicis

10:03 | Mar 1st, 2013

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. "Art collectors with a fortune to spend inevitably exert an influence on artistic tas...Show More

The Winter Queen

10:09 | Feb 22nd, 2013

Lisa Jardine celebrates the achievements of Elizabeth of Bohemia, the "Winter Queen", and sees her relegation to the margins of history, "despite the pivotal role she played in international politics throughout much of the seventeenth century", as a ...Show More

In Praise of Birmingham

10:07 | Feb 15th, 2013

David Cannadine defends his home city of Birmingham against a slur in Jane Austen's "Emma" as, "not a place to promise much", by celebrating its heritage and its current cultural renaissance. Producer: Sheila Cook.

Grand Central celebration

10:10 | Feb 8th, 2013

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. "Many New Yorkers... had initially opposed, and subsequently regretted, the wanton de...Show More

The Love of Bears

09:08 | Feb 1st, 2013

David Cannadine reflects on the enduring appeal of the teddy bear in contemporary culture. Why, he wonders, have they been such popular toys and featured so prominently in literature and song since they were first named after Theodore Roosevelt over ...Show More