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David Hume was born three hundred years ago, in 1711. The world has changed radically since his time, and yet many of his ideas and admonitions remain deeply relevant, though rather neglected, in the contemporary world. These Humean insights include the central role of information and knowledge for adequate ethical scrutiny, and the importance of reasoning without disowning the pertinence of powerful sentiments. They also include such practical concerns as our responsibilities to those who are located far away from us elsewhere on the globe, or in the future. Hume's influence on the nature and reach of modern thinking has been monumental. From epistemology to practical reason, from aesthetics to religion, from political economy to philosophy, from social and cultural studies to history and historiography, the intellectual world was transformed by the enlightening power of his mind.
On a hot autumn day in Rome not long ago, I crossed the vast expanse of St Peter’s Square, paused momentarily in the shade beneath a curving flank of Bernini’s colonnade and continued a little way beyond to a Swiss Guard standing impassively at a wrought-iron gate. He examined my credentials, handed them back and saluted smartly. I hadn’t expected the gesture and almost returned the salute instinctively, but then realised it was intended for a cardinal waddling into the Vatican from behind me. Just inside the gate, at Piazza del Sant’Uffizio 11, stands a Renaissance palazzo with a ruddy ochre-and-cream complexion. This is the headquarters of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose job, in the words of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, promulgated in 1988 by Pope John Paul II, is “to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals throughout the Catholic world”.
The Dreyfus Affair Piers Paul Read Bloomsbury, 416pp, £20 “What a poignant drama," wrote the French novelist Émile Zola about the spectacle of the Dreyfus affair as it unfolded in front of him. In 1898, he wrote an open letter entitled " J'accuse " to alert the public to what Piers Paul Read describes as an infamous miscarriage of justice. Read quotes Zola in defence of his decision to publish another book on the affair, hard on the heels of the excellent account by Ruth Harris, which appeared in 2010.
A prison is a trap for catching time. Good reporting appears often about the inner life of the American prison, but the catch is that American prison life is mostly undramatic—the reported stories fail to grab us, because, for the most part, nothing happens . One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is all you need to know about Ivan Denisovich, because the idea that anyone could live for a minute in such circumstances seems impossible; one day in the life of an American prison means much less, because the force of it is that one day typically stretches out for decades. It isn’t the horror of the time at hand but the unimaginable sameness of the time ahead that makes prisons unendurable for their inmates.
This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011 . China has decided to raise its poverty line to RMB 2,300 yuan (approximately USD 360) per capita annual income; the population below the poverty line will be raised from 26.88 million to 130 million accordingly. Premier Wen Jiabao has stressed [zh] that the adjustment is to include more people in the country's poverty relief scheme. However, does the new poverty line reflect the reality of China's poor? Poverty defined by policy The World Bank has defined extreme poverty as living on less than USD 1.25 a day , and moderate poverty as less than USD 2 a day , since 2008.