Category Archives: Philosophical Keywords

Historical essays on words with philosophical meanings and cultural resonances, written mainly by students on the ‘Philosophical Britain’ module at Queen Mary University of London.

Existentialism

Edward Caddy took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2016. In this post he writes about ‘existentialism’ – one of the most widely used of all philosophical keywords.

Benedict Cumberbatch performs in Director Lyndsey Turner’s production of Hamlet at the Barbican, in London. Johan Persson / Reuters

“To be, or not to be: that is the question…” As a youth, sitting in class on a hazy summer afternoon, I didn’t wholly understand the question. In fact, I very much doubt anyone […]
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Veganism

Connie Thomas took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2016. In this post she writes about ‘veganism’ as a keyword in philosophy, ethics, and celebrity culture.

It was the day after the 2013 Super Bowl when my 26-year-old steak-loving, Mulberry-wearing sister declared she was embracing Veganism at the family dinner table. To say we were all shocked would certainly be an understatement.  While she has never shown any particular dislike of animals, it seemed unlikely to […]
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Have the British finally learnt how to express their emotions?

Jenny Chowdhury took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2016. In this post she writes about ‘Emotion’ as a philosophical keyword, especially in the context of British culture and history.

Can we confidently admit to knowing what ‘emotion’ means? If someone asked you about its definition, what would you say? You could give examples of it such as happiness, sadness and anger. But what does it mean and how do we understand the term today?

Our use of the term ‘emotion’ […]
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Utilitarian

Zena Gainsbury took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2016. In this post she writes about ‘utilitarian’ as a keyword, from John Stuart Mill to modern fashion magazines….

(Courtesy: ImaxTree) 2014 Paris Fashion Week: Utilitarian style by (Left-Right) H&M, Isabel Marant, Balenciaga, Balmain, and Lanvin.

When flicking through Grazia magazine on a Tuesday evening (I receive the joy of this subscription in my postbox weekly) nothing puzzles me more than the use of ‘utilitarian’ against a backdrop of khaki, pockets, and […]
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Egoism

Poppy Waring took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2016. In this post she writes about ‘egoism’ as a philosophical keyword.

Egoism is hardly a word that you’re likely to come across in your day to day life. In fact, I’d happily put bets on some high percentage of people having no definition to hand. Despite this, it’s also not exactly hard to grasp roughly what it discusses. ‘Ego’ is the self. As egoism stems off from this word, it encapsulates […]
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Common Sense

Isabel Overton took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2016. In this post she writes about ‘common sense’ as a philosophical keyword.

As a result of studying in one of the most expensive cities in the world, upon moving to London in September 2013 I found myself working part time in the supermarket chain Waitrose. Located in a particularly affluent area of London it boasted a continuous stream of business professionals and upper middle class families. Working in such an environment […]
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Materialist

Sophia Patel took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2016. In this post she writes about ‘materialist’ as a philosophical keyword.

What do Kanye West, Karl Marx and Lucretius have in common?

While this may sound like the set up for a terribly unfunny joke, rather than the introduction to the history of a philosophical word, it is not. What these three all share is that they could all be identified by the word ‘materialist.’

Although I cannot comment on whether or not Kanye […]
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Atheism

Holly Meldrum took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2016. In this post she writes about ‘atheism’ as a philosophical keyword in recent British cultural history.

‘Atheism’ – the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or god.

This clip of Christopher Hitchens, is taken from a debate with his brother Peter Hitchens, on the 3rd April 2008. The late Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was one of the most notorious and outspoken proponents of the ‘New Atheism’ movement that developed […]
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Orwellian

In this post, Alfie Turner, who took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2015, writes about ‘Orwellian’ as a philosophical keyword.

Aged 17, I got my first paid job washing-up in my local village pub. Describing working conditions on the phone to my aunt – the anti-Semitic chef and the cohort of Slovenian dogsbodies, jumping to every foul-mouthed order, – my aunt remarked, “it sounds Orwellian!”  Later that year she gave me ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’. […]
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Happiness.

Charlie Roden took the ‘Philosophical Britain‘ module at Queen Mary in 2016. In this post she writes about ‘happiness’ as a philosophical keyword, with the help of Charlie Brown.

Extract from the comic-strip ‘Peanuts’. Image from http://www.philipchircop.com/post/15448312238/incidentally-what-is-happiness-do-whatever

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘happiness’ is defined as ‘the state of being happy’, that is, ‘feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.’[1]  Happiness is a universal concept which, I believe, most people aspire to achieve. However, since happiness is so subjective, everyone interprets it in different […]
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