Stephen Law is an English philosopher and senior lecturer at Heythrop College in the University of London. He also edits the philosophical journal Think, which is published by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and aimed at the general public. Law currently lives in Oxford, England, with his wife and two daughters. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts and Commerce, and in 2008 became the Provost of the Centre for Inquiry UK. Law has published both a variety of academic papers and more popular, introductory books (including three children's philosophy books).
Stephen Law attended Long Road Sixth Form College, in Cambridge, England. However, having been "asked to leave", he began his working life as a postman. At 24 he successfully managed to persuade City University in London to accept him for the BSc in Philosophy, despite his lack of A levels. There he managed to achieve a first class honours, allowing him to move on to Trinity College, Oxford to read for a B.Phil in Philosophy. He was also for three years a Junior Research Fellow at The Queen's College, Oxford, where he obtained a doctorate in Philosophy.
Law has published academic papers on a variety of topics including Wittgenstein, modality, and philosophy of mind (for example, "Loar's Defence of Physicalism", Ratio 2004). His most recent focus is on philosophy of religion. Recent publications include:
- "The Evil God Challenge", Religious studies 2010,
- "Plantinga's Belief-Cum-Desire Argument Refuted", Religious studies 2011,
- "Evidence, Miracles and The Existence of Jesus", Faith and Philosophy 2011.
- "Naturalism, Evolution and True Belief", Analysis (forthcoming 2012)
The Great Philosophers
"The Great Philosophers: The Lives and Ideas of History's Greatest Thinkers" was published in 2008. It covers 50 "great thinkers" but very briefly with only a few pages for each. It is a brief introduction for readers with little previous knowledge of philosophy.
The Philosophy Gym
Law's book, The Philosophy Gym, is an introduction to philosophical thinking aimed at adults. It covers twenty-five philosophical questions, chosen for their relevance to today's society. The book aims for accessibility. This is often done, as in "What's wrong with gay sex?", by putting the question into a theatrical script.
The German version of The Philosophy Gym won the first Mindelheim Philosophy Prize in 2009.
- 1. Where did the universe come from?
- 2. What is wrong with gay sex?
- 3. Brain - snatched (discussion of metaphysical issues of knowledge of the external world, and Déscartes' 'Cogito Ergo Sum' (I think therefore I am))
- 4. Is time travel possible?
- 5. Into the lair of the relativist (a look at and analysis of relativist claims, mainly ethical relativity)
- 6. Could a machine think?
- 7. Does God exist?
- 8. The strange case of the rational dentist (a look at specific knowledge of other minds and the extent to which we may have knowledge of them)
- 9. But is it art?
- 10. Can we have morality without God and religion?
- 11. Is creationism scientific?
- 12. Designer babies... (a look at the case for designer babies)
- 13. The consciousness conundrum (a look at the debated nature of consciousness)
- 14. Why expect the sun to rise tomorrow? (an examination of Hume's problem of induction)
- 15. Do we ever deserve to be punished?
- 16. The meaning mystery (an examination of linguistics and the ways in which language may have meaning)
- 17. Killing Mary to save Jodie (a discussion of utilitarianism and the nature of ethics)
- 18. The strange realm of numbers (discussion of the nature of mathematics)
- 19. What is knowledge?
- 20. Is morality like a pair of spectacles (a look at subjectivism amongst other things)
- 21. Should you be eating that (a look at the case for vegetarianism)
- 22. Brain transplants, teleportation and the puzzle of personal identity
- 23. Miracles and the supernatural
- 24. How to spot eight everyday reasoning errors
- 25. Seven paradoxes
The War For Children's Minds
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Law's The War For Children's Minds discusses different approaches to moral and religious education. The book was written as a response to academic and more popular tabloid calls for a less relativist morality in schools, justified by the West's current "moral malaise" and the rise of moral and cultural relativism. Law disagrees with these arguments, concluding that there is, in fact, every reason to be very liberal indeed in our approach to moral and religious education, so long as "liberal" is properly understood. He aims to "nail" certain widespread anti-liberal myths, including the myth that the Enlightenment was responsible for the Holocaust, that liberals are moral relativists, and so on. While not opposing faith schools, Law nevertheless recommends certain basic minimum standards that all schools should be expected to meet, such as encouraging an open, questioning attitude in pupils regarding moral and religious issues. Phillip Pullman said about the book, "should be read by every teacher, every parent, and every politician." The book was widely featured in the media, including on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
- The Philosophy Files 1 (2000) ISBN 1-84255-053-5
- The Philosophy Files 2 (2006) (formerly called The Outer Limits) ISBN 1-84255-525-1
- The Outer Limits: More Mysteries from the Philosophy Files (2003) ISBN 1-84255-062-4
- The Philosophy Gym (2003) ISBN 0-7472-3271-7
- The Xmas Files (2003) ISBN 0-297-84722-8
- The War For Children's Minds (2006) ISBN 0-415-37855-9
- Philosophy (Eyewitness Companion Guides) (2007) ISBN 1-4053-1763-9 translated also into Hungarian (Filozófia, 2008)
- The Great Philosophers (2008) ISBN 1-84724-398-3
- Israel, Palestine and Terror (2008) 0-82649-793-4
- Really, Really Big Questions (2009) 0-75341-781-2
- A Very Short Introduction to Humanism (2011) ISBN 0-19-955364-5
- Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole (2011) Prometheus Books: New York. ISBN 1-61614-411-4
- Official Site
- "What is wrong with gay sex?" - a chapter from 'The Philosophy Gym'
- "Systems of Measurement" - an academic paper on Wittgenstein and Kripke on the standard metre.
- Centre for Inquiry UK Centre for Inquiry UK, of which Stephen Law is Provost.
- Premier Radio Stephen Law debates Denis Alexander on "God & Science" on Premier Christian Radio
- Law in discussion with Alvin Plantinga - Law and Plantinga discuss Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism
- "A Fair Way to Fight Religious Indoctrination of Children" - blog post relating to Law's children's book "Really, Really Big Questions"
- "Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot" - an interview with Professor Law by Common Sense Atheism blogger Luke Muehlhauser