Questions for Dalrymple?

In a few days your friendly skeptical bloggers will travel to visit Dalrymple at his home in the south of France. If you have questions you’d like to ask of him, please submit them in the comments section of this post. I can’t promise we’ll have a chance to pose every one of them to him, but we’ll try.

74 thoughts on “Questions for Dalrymple?

  1. Rebekah Valerius

    Thank you for offering to ask some of our questions to Dr. Daniels. I thoroughly enjoy his writing and look forward to discovering what his opinion is on the myriad of subjects he writes on. I have often thought that if I could ask him one question it would be about his religious beliefs, or rather lack of. As we know, he is very ecclectic in the subjects he writes about, but I have yet to come across anything he has written on this topic. I appreciate his seemingly deep respect for Christianity – in particular, it’s benefits for society as a whole – but have wondered at his inability to, therefore, accept its truth claims himself. Has he ever investigated the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and if so, what about the evidence can he not accept? I have to admit that I am a Christian who struggles with doubts myself, but what keeps me coming back to Christianity is this evidence and the incredible benefits such a worldview can have for society and the individual. Of course, perhaps it is God’s existence that he cannot accept. I would be interested in hearing how he has thought through these important topics and what his conclusions have been. Thanks, again.

    1. Rob Martin

      I live in Japan and somehow it manages to get by without the ‘incredible benefits’ of Christianity. In fact I have never lived in such a civilised society. I’m sure it knocks the Christian society of the Bible Belt of America and most other Christian societies into a cocked hat.

      As for the evidence for the Resurrection, how would Mr. Dalrymple go about investigating this? All he can do is read books written by people who, like him, weren’t there. When such is the case, all you can do is to decide just how likely something seems to you. That the laws of physics, chemistry and biology were repealed for a short time 2,000 years ago in the midst of an illiterate and superstitious desert tribe is bound to appear unlikely to anyone with any knowledge of and respect for science, as a doctor must have.

      I think Mr. Dalrymple’s dislike of the so-called stridency of the New Atheists is wrong-headed but he no doubt sees any kind of belief, no matter how stupid, that counters cultural relativism, rampant selfishness and nihilism as beneficial. If religion really all did this I would be with him, but I see little evidence for it.

        1. Jaxon

          I’m ambivalent about religion. I recall seeing a newsreel or documentary in which a primitive african man, maybe Maasai, had found a pair of spectacles with what appeared to be rather thick lenses.

          He’d proudly taken to wearing them – I suspect that his eyesight was probably fine when he found them and that when he first put them on his vision was seriously blurred. Moreover I suspect that given time his eyesight adapted to the lenses and with this he was most proud; something like an achievement.

          Seems to me that for many people religion is something of this nature.

  2. Colin Parr

    My question is really a recommendation for Dr Dalrymple. I sense he is an unsatisfied atheist who would rather life wasn’t just ‘a lot of noise and heat signifying nothing’. i believe he has studied some of the philosophical arguments but perhaps you could recommend to him a philosopher/writer/blogger named Edward Feser. He supports Thomas Aquinas’ arguments and has a lot to say about the denial of ‘formal and final causes’ which occurred when science began in the 17th Century and the repercussions this has had for morality, politics and art ever since. I think Dr Dalrymple would be most interested because Feser gives the fundamental ‘whys’ for the state of the West that Dalrymple so brilliantly describes. Enjoy your trip guys!

  3. Mark Pilbeam

    Thank you for the offer. OH, here’s mine: To what extent does he believe that the UK is likely to have Communitarianism imposed upon it at the behest of those I think he calls “the Anointed” (Bilderbergers; senior politicians; judges etc) via Common Purpose? i.e. Does he believe that the advent of the Internet has made traditional forms of government difficult verging on impossible?

  4. Fred

    2 questions, if possible:

    1: What are Dr Daniels views on gay marriage?

    2: Dr Daniels has frequently invoked multiculturalism as an explanation for the breakdown of manners and civilising values in British society. How does he explain the phenomenon that many of the worst manifestations of a breakdown in civil society in this country seem to result from the failure of an ethnically and culturally homogenous monoculture (i.e. Saturday nights in market towns in the north of England)?

  5. Cybn

    Theodore Dalrymple brought me to the little known work by Tocqueville, Memoir On Pauperism, written in 1833, though only in French. Now many moderns might think that the first warnings against welfarism came with say Charles Murray in 1984. Not so. Since reading Tocqueville’s short piece I have wondered if Theodore could go one better as it were and cite an even earlier source. I am trying to get to the earliest known writings or arguments against state charity.

  6. Ian

    You’re very fortunate! I would love to meet Dr. Daniels in person, but I was privileged to have a brief e-mail exchange with him a while back, and he was the classy gentleman you’d imagine.

    One thing I’ve wondered about him is how many languages he speaks. He seems to have knowledge of French and Spanish (in addition to his exceptional command of English, of course). Are there any others?

    On the forum that was started in his name, there’s a thread of questions some of his readers have for him. There might be some questions worth asking there:

    1. Gavin

      Thanks for posting this, Ian. Yes, we have those questions there which perhaps Clinton and Steve will peruse and include. I have some more too which I will either put here or address directly to them.

  7. Kurt

    I, too, would be curious to hear Dr. Daniels’ opinion on gay marriage, especially since France only recently passed gay marriage legislation and the UK will probably do so very soon. As far as I know, it’s not something that he has addressed before.

  8. robert

    I’d really like to know more about Dr. Daniels’ biography; wikipedia is sketchy on this, and even the memoirs leave huge holes. Basic information – like his educational background, or the chronology of his practice – would be revealing, I think. I’d also like to know if he has plans to collect the many unpublished pieces he’s written.

    1. Steve

      Robert, did you read Fool or Physician? There was quite a bit of detail there about the development of his medical career. As for any other details, I think he still guards some aspects of his biography, and we generally don’t like to pry.

      We will ask about unpublished pieces. That’s a great question.

  9. Rachel

    I enjoy his travel writing. I would like to know if there are any countries he would still like to visit or if there any countries he regrets not visiting?

    I also wonder why on earth did he not visit the Middle East when he had done the whole of Africa, lots of Europe and Nauru and the like? Perhaps that would be a bit too intrusive to ask but it would be nice if you could ask any variation of these travel questions.
    I hope you enjoy your trip and thank you for telling us.

    1. Steve

      Thank you, Rachel. Those are good questions. He did write many years ago about a visit to Egypt. Maybe we will repost that as a “classic”.

  10. Alphonsus Jr.

    Dr. Daniels, to what extent have you studied traditional Catholicism; that is, Catholicism uninfected by the plague of the Hippie Council, aka the Judas Council, aka the revolution of the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65?

  11. Kevin

    I would like to know his views regarding whether he believes that a move toward socialized medicine in the U.S. might be an improvement over the current system and, if so, what steps would he recommend so that the U.S. might avoid the problems that the NHS faces.

  12. JimmyGiro

    Regarding Ritalin use in state schools:

    Why is the media so quiet about it?

    What are the official numbers [I believe it is approximately a million boys, presently on prescription]?

    If administering the mild sedative Rohypnol, to a woman, is regarded as a prelude to rape, then why is the administering of a cocaine like drug to a child, considered morally acceptable?

    And finally, compare it with cocaine use in the ‘sex industry’, and how it may effect a young boys mind when viewing compulsory gay-sex education media?

  13. James Simpson

    Please ask the Learned Doctor the following: “What is the secret to life, the universe, and everything?”

    Mucho Maas

  14. Benjamin Rossen

    Why is it that someone who does not believe in God can nevertheless hold strong views on right and wrong? From where, if not from some cosmic plan, does the ontology of morality spring? I, for one, am highly skeptical of anything that is not the serious subject of scientific inquiry. Unlike the majority, I can solve the wave equation (and know that “the collapsing wave function” is a fancy way of saying “…and then we have no idea what happened there, but we did make a measurement, of sorts.” I understand the partial differential matrix algebra of the general theory, and therefore do understand how the cutting edge of science touches on the metaphysical. Nevertheless, as Hawkins insists (he is a lot better qualified than I am to insist on this) nothing in science implies an supernatural entity of any kind, let alone one that might imply a moral dimension to the universe. I believe this too, as does the Skeptical Doctor. Yet I too have a sharp sense of justice, and yet I do not understand why? Since God is Dead, why does anything matter? Or, in other words, why bother writing your columns?

    1. Rebekah

      Good question, Mr. Rossen. I would add: if there is no God can there be any rationality in the universe at all? Why trust in our ability to not only perceive right and wrong, but also anything at all, including the observations we make in science? This is the question that C.S. Lewis poses in his book “Miracles” and is further developed by contemporary Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s “evolutionary argument against naturalism.”

      1. Benjamin Rossen

        There is surely no problem with the logos. We do not know why it is what it is, nor can we, but we can know some things (probably superficial) about it. We can neither concluded that it is God that (who?) made it (though some may elect to believe so) nor do we need to worship Number as the Pythagoreans once did. We simply observe that it is what it is. The question I asked is a different one. It is probably a psychological question, not a philosophical one. Why do we presume that good can be distinguished from evil? Why do we care?

        1. Steve

          I had a conversation with him about morality once. I share his views on religion and morality, by the way, and I said that although I was not a believer in God, I believed in morality but I didn’t know where it came from. He laughed and said, “Well, don’t worry. The greatest thinkers in human history haven’t been able to answer that question, so I doubt you or I will be able to.”

          I think he considers that question insoluble, but I will raise the issue again.

          1. Rebekah

            Oh no! I would have to respectfully disagree with the doctor in his reply to you, Steve. There have been quite a few great thinkers that have indeed wrestled with the ultimate source of objective morality and it has lead them to belief in God. His reply seems a bit dismissive of them, although that might not have been his intention. Perhaps, he meant that there are many great thinkers who have rejected God for other reasons who have wrestled with the ontological origins of morality and have failed. I wish he’d take this failure more seriously than he appears to… It might lead him to God. 🙂

    2. Rob Martin

      Hi Benjamin,

      Unlike you I don’t understand wave functions and stuff. However, I think I can hazard a guess at where morality and a sense of right and wrong and caring came from. They came from the same place our arms and legs and spleen came from. Namely, from evolution.

      When the universe first began there were no arms or legs but now they fill our little planet. How can this be? If there wasn’t a divine limb giver and limbs weren’t present at the birth of the universe, how can they now exist? We evolved them.

      In the same way, we also evolved ideas about right and wrong and we started caring. Those creatures that didn’t care about their offspring or anything else were worse at surviving than those that did. We thrived while those things that my old headmaster would have referred to as ‘not-botherers’ didn’t.

      I think it’s pretty safe to say that morality and caring, right and wrong, don’t exist outside of heads. But since the human experience is so similar the world over different cultures tend to converge on similar ways of organising their societies. At such moments morality starts to look like it exists outside us. But I don’t believe it does. The logic behind it is the same kind of logic that made eyes a good idea for creatures navigating through the clear medium of air or water.

      1. Benjamin Rossen

        Hi Rob,

        Caring is psychological and behavioral. So to is perception of fairness and by extension justice. Also our ‘sense’ of right and wrong. If this is what we are talking about, then I agree with you. But the distinction between right and wrong that may be an aspects of the ‘thing itself’ (in the Kantian sense) or understood as an ’emergent phenomenon’ as some contemporary philosophers prefer to phrase it, is not psychological phenomenon, but has an ontology that transcends human judgements. Now you say ‘right and wrong’ do not exist outside or our heads. Well, I am not sure of this. The truths of mathematics do not depend on us knowing them to be true. Are there objective moral truths? And if so, where do they come from? And what are they?

        1. Rob Martin

          It sounds to me that you probably know, and have thought about this, more than me. Even so I would say the following. I find it easy to believe that mathematical truths exist independent of us knowing them but difficult to imagine the same for moral truths. I think of moral truth in the same way as beauty. There are clearly properties about certain people, things and landscapes which make most of us describe them as beautiful. It is clearly not a coincidence that men from all cultures prefer young women with clear skin, bright eyes, white teeth and luscious hair over old ladies with acne, blood-shot eyes, jagged and blackened teeth and matted hair that is falling out. The fact that we all agree suggests that this is due to a property in the woman rather than it being all in our heads. However, without brains the whole concept of female beauty wouldn’t exist. It is like a key and a lock: a beautiful woman fits my lock in a way that an ugly one doesn’t. In some way my brain brings her beauty, though not the woman herself, into existence. If men’s brains were built differently evolution would have to build women differently.

          I think the same is true of moral truths; they fit most healthy locks. But it is the locks that bring the keys into being. Without the locks all keys would look the same.

          Just as the beauty of a woman affects the genetic health of her children (beauty in humans is, of course, a signal for reproductive health) so what makes one behaviour seem moral while another seems immoral all comes down to how that behaviour affects the welfare of a society. In my opinion.

          1. Benjamin Rossen

            I have taught a course called Theory of Knowledge several times, and have discovered that pupils generally have difficulty distinguishing between the psychological and the philosophical. You are emphasizing the psychological within a sociobiological explanatory framework; one with which I have no difficulty. But it doesn’t address the philosophical question I asked – or, at least, intended to ask. I have not asked Dalrymple what evolutionary selective pressures have, in his opinion, led him to become a person who cares, distinguishes right from wrong, and takes the trouble to express his opinions and judgments in his column. Nor have I asked him what experiences in his upbringing and social-psychological development have made him what he is. I have presumed that he can stand outside of his biology, and has developed a considered philosophical opinion about why it all matters.

            There are five types of claims, each reflecting one of the five areas of knowledge:
            (1) analytical claims, based on logic and mathematics;
            (2) synthetic claims, based on observation and measurement of facts;
            (3) moral claims, based on the distinction between good and evil;
            (4) aesthetic claims, based on the distinction between beautiful and ugly;
            (5) religious claims, based on the distinction between sacred and profane.

            Analytical claims must be primary in some way, for even this scheme is constructed from a logical distinction between types of claims. That being so, are we not compelled to recognize that logic must be called upon to illuminate the distinctions in each of them?

            As we go down the list, we progress from analytical claims (the only area of knowledge where absolute certainty is possible) to matters of taste, and finally to claims that cannot be justified by any kind of reasoning or evidence, and are hence matters of faith: ‘Faith’ defined by A.J. Ayre as “belief in lieu of evidence.” So, there is a continuum here. But on this continuum the category of moral claims lies in the middle. They seem much less to be matters of taste than aesthetic claims, and certainly not mere matters of superstition. In how far can objective criteria be found to make these distinctions. Does, for example, the fact of sentience invoke the possibility of moral claims. We do not judge it moral offensive if a nondescript stone is smashed, for a stone cannot experience its being smashed. Insects presumably not much, fish quite probably, and complex creature like dogs and primates surely do. So smashing them causes pain and suffering. Is this what makes the smashing of sentient creatures morally offensive? I do not argue that this should be our foundation of an objective criterion for making moral judgment. I merely wish to point out that this argument does not depend on psychological or sociobiological explanations of why we may experience empathy for a suffering creature, and might through our empathy be motivated to make moral judgements. The logical lies outside of the psychological.

          2. Rob Martin

            Hi Benjamin,

            I’m afraid your reasoning was too dense and difficult for me, especially since I have just been out on the piss with my work colleagues. Perhaps I should leave this until the morning but I have a sneaking suspicion that it will all look equally difficult then.

            First an observation: I have noticed that in Dr. Dalrymple’s writing he tends to be unusually un-analytical for someone who has read so much. I certainly don’t mean this as an insult. He seems to take people as they are, in a way that only people of the right seem inclined to do. I only mention this as he may not be remotely interested in your question about the selection pressures that evolution has exerted on his character. It may look to him like another Just-So story (though not to me).

            Your idea that Dr. Dalrymple could stand outside his biology strikes me as odd. In some sense we can never do this. All we could do is to add loops onto ever more loops that appear to become more objective but are in fact just more biology dressed up as impartiality. However, I am willing to be persuaded that each distancing step we take backwards away from ourselves is a step towards objectivity. A simple bear-hug strategy of claiming that we are all ultimately flesh and blood would negate such an attempt, but I am happy to believe that within our flesh we can achieve different degrees of distance from ourselves.

            I have no idea as to whether your five categories of knowledge are exhaustive or whether one or two can be collapsed into each other. Neither do I know whether we are compelled to use logic for whatever reason. But from the point of view of a slightly drunk bloke on a Friday night, I am more than happy to allow that logic should reign. That is how I usually feel, regardless of any philosophical underpinning.

            I think I would disagree that moral claims lie nearer to the 100% certainty point of a continuum than do aesthetic claims. I think this only appears to be the case because they are more important and more public. As I said before, it seems to me that aesthetic judgements reduce to facts about our genes and facts about our culture. A human might find Cameron Diaz more attractive than Joan Rivers but I don’t believe that a leopard could distinguish them (at least not in terms of beauty). This must be telling us something about human biology. I think the same could be said about telling a leopard he shouldn’t kill a deer. ‘What do you mean by shouldn’t?’, the leopard might ask.

            Somebody once said that reality is what is left once you stop believing in it. I think once you stop believing in beauty or moral truth then, unlike objective reality, they disappear in a puff of smoke. I simply don’t know what you would point to out there in the world that would convince someone suffering from either aesthetic or moral autism that both beauty and morality exist. You could show him picture of Penelope Cruz and ask him if he can’t see the beauty there. If he answered, ‘Where? Where am I supposed to be looking?’ I really don’t know what you would say to him.

            And the same is true for someone who is amoral. If you said ‘You shouldn’t kill children’ he could well answer, ‘I have no idea what this word ‘should’ might mean. Please point to something I can see that might make me understand why I should kill them’. To such a person moral truth is no nearer to the objective end of the scale of certainty than the fact that I like blue while you like yellow.

            You ask, ‘Does, for example, the fact of sentience invoke the possibility of moral claims. We do not judge it moral offensive if a nondescript stone is smashed, for a stone cannot experience its being smashed. Insects presumably not much, fish quite probably, and complex creature like dogs and primates surely do. So smashing them causes pain and suffering. Is this what makes the smashing of sentient creatures morally offensive?’

            As far as I can see, all you are saying here is that we feel empathy for things that can feel rather than for things that can’t. Yet that in no way places our empathy and our morality outside the sphere of biology. Either I’m missing something in your argument or you were confused (or were trying to confuse).

            Either way I like your comments and your way of thinking. I’m sure you could teach me a thing or two and I would be happy if you could convince me that morality exists ‘out there’ rather than ‘in here’. You see, I desperately need ammunition to counter the cultural relativists I meet on a daily basis.

          3. Clinton Post author

            First, let me say that I am flattered that such an excellent discussion by such intelligent and educated people is taking place on my blog.

            Secondly, I apologize and feel a bit guilty that my brother and I have not participated in it, and do not generally participate in comments as much as we should, as we often struggle to find the time simply to read and post all of Dalrymple’s pieces.

            Third, I would recommend a couple of Dalrymple’s essays, which you may not have ad, which touch brifely on some of the items you have discussed here at length:

            Guarding the Boundaries

            Do the Impossible: Know Thyself (from New English Review)
            I would provide a link, but as the New English Review site is currently down due to a denial-of-service attack, you couldn’t reach it anyway. Perhaps it is available publicly somewhere.

            I wish I could comment in more detail, but as I am (as always…ugh) pressed for time and as I am currently on an iPad (which I find somewhat limiting) I will try to respond more later. But suffice it to say that our visit with Dalrymple was interesting and immensely enjoyable, and we had some great discussions. It really is extraordinary how light-hearted, funny and just plain happy he is – in tremendous contrast to the way he is sometimes perceived.

          4. Gavin

            In response to Clint. I’m so glad you had a good time! I’m sure he was very genial. It’s such a fallacy that just because people write about serious matters they are at all times serious!

            In response to the discussion (that over moral realism) readers may also find The Moral Landscape an interesting read. I did. I had quite a lot of time for Mr Harris’ view, even though TD had a run-in with him over The End of Faith.

          5. Jaxon

            Firstly I’ll link to
            the Athiest Experience, I’d be quite interested were anyone tempted to phone in with their thoughts on the matter. I’ve watched quite a lot of Matt Dillahunty and I’m often thinking ‘yeah, I probably wouldn’t have thought of that in a discussion with an evangilist’.

            I think the moon is proof of God… four hundred times smaller than the sun and yet the sun is four hundred times further away, mate (yes, I said mate)… it’s too obvious really, so it had to be just coincidence.

            Dennett talks of Intuition Pumps (though he doesn’t deny outright that ‘wonder tissue’ could exist), and Hoffman, Life’s Ratchets (molecular storm gets sifted into order through little nano scale machines)… emergent phenomena is an interesting idea but don’t forget convergent phenomena (the idea that actually there’s a kind of blind teleology inherent in matter and forces (nature) people want sky hooks when cranes suffice etc etc

            This talk of ontology, just to ask any question, never mind,so much, about distinctions between good and evil… just to be able to ask questions; I suppose that is ontology… that the universe is just matter and forces acting blindly, I don’t actually buy that really – I kind of have rational moments where I do, but in my heart of hearts… not really, it seems absurd, but that’s personal thing.

            Really where my main issue with religion is, is probably cowardice. If I were in a muslim country and got taken hostage and asked on pain of torture, or just at gun point “Are you a christian?” I don’t even want to think what my response would be… it’s all very well having christian notions, and I do more and more, but could I really stand by them when it really matters?

            Also, I think generally I have a pretty good sense of truth but when I listen to the debate between Richard Swinburne and Bart Ehrman
            Hmmm.. my socalled heart of hearts is, I think, with Ehrman, but I’m also thinking actually I suspect Swinburne is basically right but I can’t really stomach it.

            Ehrman is very interesting, and though the Gospels do have quite considerable inconsistencies… I think they’re substantial, I still can’t help but think that actually the greatest minds in history really have retrospectively tried, in good faith (not because it was expedient or pragmatic like it may have been for Constantine), to recognise God as embodied here on Earth in human form, yes that also seems a bit nuts to me… but I think it might be right and true.

            Roger Scruton’s faith simply won’t cut it with evangellicals but I do recommend his book Our Church.

          6. Rob Martin


            I would love to read those two articles but one is behind a pay wall and as you mentioned, the other is somehow not there. Even so, I may come across them somewhere else. Thanks for the tip.


            Sam Harris is one of my favourite writers and The Moral Landscape influenced me a lot. Harris seems to be saying something of genuine importance yet most people either think that science has nothing to say about morality or that the subject is boring. I couldn’t agree less with either view.

            I think that we can and must agree that some ways of living represent very definite troughs in the moral landscape and though it might be hard to decide which way is best, it is less difficult to agree on which kinds of behaviour should discouraged. If humans belonged to different species this project would be much harder, but we don’t, so it isn’t. Yet this in no way suggests that morality is a feature of the universe that is lying around, like gold, waiting to be discovered. Just as there are only a limited number of ways to build a bridge or a house, ways that must be in tune with engineering principles, so there are only so many ways of structuring a functioning society. Tolstoy once said that all happy families resemble each other while all unhappy families are unhappy in there own unique ways. I think this is for the same reason that all workable bridges, houses and societies resemble each other: because there are some physical and biological forces that you just can’t ignore.

            Right now I am more interested in his ideas about meditation. I simply can’t decide if meditation has some value or whether it is just so much new age self-absorption. I have a lot of faith in Sam Harris but he still hasn’t begun to convince me on this matter.


            I don’t much like stream of consciousness in works of fiction but I think it works even less well for difficult non-fictional discussions.

      2. Jaxon

        Apology’s ( did I get that apostrophe right?), I should have been paying more attention, I mistook you, Rob, for Benjamin… I thought that was a bit odd, now it makes prefic sense.

        1. Jaxon

          Last comment for now, I’m using a new computer and it’s more less imposing things on me, and it throws me. Not that I’m blaming it for my Heracliteanisms. I meant apologies.

  15. Damo

    What does he think of social media and why so many people want to publicise every facet of their lives?

  16. Conrad

    1) Are there plans to bring “Sweet Waist of America” to eBook soon, like some of his other, earlier travels books have been in the last two years?

    2) How many books does Dalrymple read in a given month, on average?

    And I’d like to second or third the questions about his beliefs, or disbeliefs, re: Christianity, as well as his thoughts on homosexual marriage and the rise of social networking.

  17. Chris Cleary

    What proportion of Dr Daniels’ readers would he estimate to be in principled disagreement with everything he writes? Does he have any evidence of having made converts to his view of the world?

    A response to an earlier contributor: the phrase “the Anointed” was coined by Thomas Sowell. I believe it would correspond to Dr Daniels’ “Nomenklatura”.

  18. Rob Martin

    Could you ask Mr. Dalrymple why he uses Gibson Square as a publisher. I read ‘Spoilt Rotten’ and ‘The Pleasure of Thinking’, both published by Gibson Square, and I have never read such poorly proof-read books. There were repeated passages, half a dozen spelling mistakes on every page and once or twice sentences that just didn’t seem to make sense. I found this sloppiness especially strange in a book such as ‘The Pleasure of Thinking’, which was actually more about a love of books than thinking.

    In ‘The Pleasure of Thinking’ Mr. Dalrymple indulged in a little self-criticism and I really enjoyed these passages. I wonder if you could ask him whether with age he is growing more self-critical and less impatient of his own follies.

    And one last question. Whenever I watch Mr. Dalrymple speaking or being interviewed, he comes across as being both amused and bemused by a certain section of the public. There is a kind of humour in this, but I would like to know if he ever gets really angry and shows it. If he never shows it, why doesn’t he?

    Needless to say I wouldn’t be bothered about any of these if he wasn’t a writer whose writing I devour.

    Thanks and good luck on your trip.

  19. TD fan

    What a great oportunity for me, but I can’t remember any of things I wanted to ask him 🙂

    -Is secular conservatism strong enough to endure, or is it just some kind of slow-motion liberalism?
    -Is religion still relevant for understanding the world and how young people behave these days?
    -What will happen with EU in the world of the future? ( because of China, SE Asia, S America) Will Europe become irelevant not only in economical sense, but also cultural?
    -Can Africa develope on it’s own? Will Influence of China make Africa a better place in the long run?
    -What is the future of political class? Will politicans become only like pop stars, will NGO replace them, or maybe scientific boards?
    -Is it possible that some other system of goverment will emerge/return (except liberal democracy)?

    1. Rob Martin

      TD fan,

      Just a quick question. In which countries do you see secular Conservatism? Probably the last attempt at that in the UK was under the great Margaret Thatcher. In what sense could what she did be described as ‘slow-motion liberalism’ (I have no idea what that phrase might mean). You must surely know that David Cameron’s party is ‘conservative’ only in name. It is really just politically – though not classically or economically – liberal.

      1. Td fan

        As you can guess from my half literate questions, I’m not from english speaking part of the world so I am not really that familiar with situation in GB. (Plus, I was half-asleep laying in my bad with laptop – no time or concentration for explaining my questions.)

        I didn’t have any specific country in my mind, but obviously there are secular conservatives – like our dear doctor.

        As philospher Feser explains, problem is;
        quote>>This is why I argued in my article “The Metaphysics of Conservatism” that when it is not grounded in a classical realist metaphysics, conservatism tends to degenerate into little more than a slow-motion liberalism.

        And that is, I think, exactly what we see happening around us, as mainstream “conservative” support of traditional sexual morality and other elements of “social conservatism” weakens every day. When all your arguments are pragmatic rather than principled, it’s hard to maintain them — not only publicly, but even where the strength of one’s personal convictions is concerned — in the face of an ever more degenerate and hostile electorate, braying like the mob outside Lot’s door.<>Stage 1: “Mark my words: if the extreme left had its way, they’d foist X upon us! These nutjobs must be opposed at all costs.”
        Stage 2: “Omigosh, now even thoughtful, mainstream liberals favor X! Fortunately, it’s political suicide.”
        Stage 3: “X now exists in 45 out of 50 states. Fellow conservatives, we need to learn how to adjust to this grim new reality.”
        Stage 4: “X isn’t so bad, really, when you think about it. And you know, sometimes change is good. Consider slavery…”
        Stage 5: “Hey, I was always in favor of X! You must have me confused with a [paleocon, theocon, Bible thumper, etc.]. But everyone knows that mainstream conservatism has nothing to do with those nutjobs…”<< end quote

        So, I am not really thinking about conservatism as political force in some specific country, I am just worried that secular conservatives, like our good Doctor, will change to something – I don't know what, but I won't like it.

        I can see now that "secular conservatism" is kind of problematic description because you can be secular and still subscribe to natural law theory or something like that.

        1. Td fan

          I apologize, something happened with my comment so one part is missing,

          original comment was;

          As you can guess from my half literate questions, I’m not from english speaking part of the world so I am not really that familiar with situation in GB. (Plus, I was half-asleep laying in my bad with laptop – no time or concentration for explaining my questions.)

          I didn’t have any specific country in my mind, but obviously there are secular conservatives – like our dear doctor.

          As philospher Feser explains, problem is;
          quote– This is why I argued in my article “The Metaphysics of Conservatism” that when it is not grounded in a classical realist metaphysics, conservatism tends to degenerate into little more than a slow-motion liberalism.

          And that is, I think, exactly what we see happening around us, as mainstream “conservative” support of traditional sexual morality and other elements of “social conservatism” weakens every day. When all your arguments are pragmatic rather than principled, it’s hard to maintain them — not only publicly, but even where the strength of one’s personal convictions is concerned — in the face of an ever more degenerate and hostile electorate, braying like the mob outside Lot’s door. — end quote

          Or, as he explains in his post about evolution of liberalism(and conservatism), there are five stages in evolution of conservative;

          Stage 1: “Mark my words: if the extreme left had its way, they’d foist X upon us! These nutjobs must be opposed at all costs.”
          Stage 2: “Omigosh, now even thoughtful, mainstream liberals favor X! Fortunately, it’s political suicide.”
          Stage 3: “X now exists in 45 out of 50 states. Fellow conservatives, we need to learn how to adjust to this grim new reality.”
          Stage 4: “X isn’t so bad, really, when you think about it. And you know, sometimes change is good. Consider slavery…”
          Stage 5: “Hey, I was always in favor of X! You must have me confused with a [paleocon, theocon, Bible thumper, etc.]. But everyone knows that mainstream conservatism has nothing to do with those nutjobs…”– end quote

          So, I am not really thinking about conservatism as political force in some specific country, I am just worried that secular conservatives, like our good Doctor, will change to something – I don’t know what, but I won’t like it.

          I can see now that “secular conservatism” is kind of problematic description because you can be secular and still subscribe to natural law theory or something like that.

  20. Wheelhouse

    Any chance to meet Tony Daniels is a wonderful opportunity. I am generally interested in his views on psychiatric topics; the media attention given to the latest iteration of the DSM has attracted my attention. Are there any psychiatric diagnoses that he thinks are particularly suspect or any drugs that he thinks might be wrongly over-prescribed? How would those who suffer from grave mental illnesses be better served in the future? Such questions are very interesting, and I am sure he has some informed opinions, but such topics do not seem to figure very prominently in his published writings. Anyway, I love this website, and I was especially happy to find out that dozens more BMJ columns are forthcoming.

    1. Rob Martin

      Tony Daniels? Why not simply ‘Tone’ or ‘Danners’? You make him sound like a footballer (and yes, I do know that his real name is Anthony Daniels).

  21. Kim

    I am interested in knowing if Mr.Dalrymple is a materialist or a spiritualist. He is clearly an atheist, however he does not seem like a hardcore materialist either. His views seem to lie somewhere in the middle.

  22. Taylor

    Dr Daniels recently testified in a murder trial to the effect that mental illness was not a relevant factor in the homicide. The late psychiatrist Dr Thomas Szasz would undoubtedly have come to the same conclusion – that the accused should be found criminally responsible if found guilty – though the chain of logic would probably have differed.

    Question: Would Dr Daniels care to comment at all as to how his personal approach to psychiatry in general, and the interface of psychiatry and criminal law in particular (with or without reference to any actual case Dr Daniels is involved in), would differ to those espoused in the writing of Dr Szasz.

  23. William Vaughan

    Dr Daniels is so refreshingly open with his opinions, I wonder to what extent he modifies his writings, if indeed he does, in favour of “political correctness”.

  24. Terence Collingwood

    As he was raised in a non-observant Jewish family and became an atheist early in adolescence, does Dr. Daniels nonetheless have a strong sense of identity as being culturally Jewish and as exemplifying secularized Judaism’s tradition of extraordinary intellectual accomplishment? As an Englishman and atheist, did the 1662 Anglican Book of Common Prayer have any significant influence on his literary life? Would he care to offer any anecdotes about physicians he has met over the years who exemplify Sir Thomas Browne’s “Ubi tres medici, duo athei”? What does he think of “The Building”, i.e., Philip Larkin’s disquieting poem about a hospital (…for unless its powers/Outbuild cathedrals nothing contravenes/ The coming dark, though crowds each evening try/With wasteful, weak, propitiatory flowers.”)? And, when did he become a passionate bibliophile? Did he have a significant personal library before he began his medical studies? I have the greatest respect and admiration for Dr. Daniels, whose work I have been reading faithfully for the last 12 years. Many thanks from a 58 year old American for considering my questions. P.S. The only book of his which I haven’t yet read is FOOL OR PHYSICIAN, so I may have asked several questions he addressed therein, albeit indirectly.

  25. Josh

    I would like to ask Dr. Daniels what role he thinks modern medicine has played in increasing the level of casual violence in society by decreasing the consequences of said violence.

  26. Franz von Trotta

    -Why did he chose to become a doctor?

    -When did he start writing—when did he discover his ability to write? How did he develop his writing skills and who has been of influence in that matter?

    -I am also interesting in his thoughts on homosexuality, gay marriage and adoption rights for gays.

    -I recently visited London. When I went for a drink, I was asked by a young British servant: ‘What do you want, mate?’ I remembered the column Theodore Dalrymple had recently written in which he criticised a man for calling his customers ‘mate’. I also remembered Mr Daniels reply and one moment I thought of adressing the employee in the same way. But I didn’t do it because as a young man and as a tourist I did not feel comfortable to do so.

    Later, I thought about this again and it seemed to me that my preference to tolerate my own frustration in order to avoid an awkward situation was at least one reason why social control is dissappearing.

    My question, therefore, would be: Is it our moral duty to overcome difficult situations in order to maintain (or perhaps rather: restore) social control?

    Also: Is a society in which social correction has vanished, doomed to fall into barbarism?

    1. Rob Martin


      You did right not to say anything though not for the reason you gave. There is nothing insulting about one young man addressing another as ‘mate’ in a pub. If anything it is quite a warm form of address. I wouldn’t use it to my doctor, elderly and dignified old men or while waiting to be knighted but in pubs and among people at common events like football matches I would resent being called anything other than ‘mate’.

      Perhaps your English isn’t fine-tuned enough for you to distinguish friendly from insulting and for that reason you should err on the side of caution and not immediately jump on your high horse because you have read an article by an English doctor that as against such chumminess.

      I have to say that I lived in Germany for several years and was struck by the coldness and even rudeness of what you comically refer to as ‘servants’. I think I would take being called ‘mate’ over being treated coldly any time. But that’s just me.

      1. Franz von Trotta


        Your assumptions are wrong. It didn’t occur in a pub or a sportsbar and I’m not a sloppy dressed adolescent. I never claimed it to be any better in my home country, which is Flanders. I didn’t mean to insult the British people, whose traditions and culture I adore. I was merely trying to make a point about the breakdown of social control by using an example.

        My English is, indeed, far from perfect, but I don’t think it is all that bad. My understanding of the English language is far better than my ability to write in English.

        1. Jaxon

          “My understanding of the English language is far better than my ability to write in English.”

          I know the feeling

        2. Rob Martin

          Your English is very good. However, the fact that you called someone a ‘servant’ and used the term ‘I went for a drink’ would make any native speaker think you went to a pub and thought the person serving you was a servant. I can only go by what you write, not what you would like to have written.

          Apart from that, my point main still remains: until you have mastery of a language you should perhaps hold back on the righteous indignation that you haven’t been sufficiently respected.

          By the way, I never suspected for a moment that you were sloppily dressed. I actually envisaged you wearing a cravat.

  27. William Hayhoe


    I have some questions for Dr Daniels:

    How long has he been without a television? Did this begin as accident or design? Does he consider Television to be an evil and does he think that its fault lies in the passivity of the act of watching?

    I am very interested in his views on conceptualism in art. Is the decline of draughtsmanship and aesthetic standards inevitable with its transcendence and if not what principles could maintain those standards? Is it a symptom of the decline of western civilisation, I am always reminded of Gibbon’s remarks about the retrogression of Byzantine art mirroring the decay of the state.
    Does he feel that the rise of conceptualism is linked to individualism? If appreciation of art becomes a mere Trojan horse for the self expression of the viewer then an intellectual vacuum is infinitely more desirable, it cries out to the almighty ‘interpreter’ and provides no check to his opinons .
    Also if Pop/Rock music and the like, however poor, is the common man’s expression of the human appreciation of music where does art manifest itself lower down the social scale? The Cd racks of the working man groan with the likes of the Rolling Stones and their ilk but his walls are bare.

    Does he feel that populist atheism promotes a greater degree of intellectual laxity towards the important philosphical questions of life than did/does populist religion or vice versa?

    I work in the NHS and its corruption is manifest, does Dr Daniels view fiscal unaccountability to be the root of this evil?
    Also given that the NHS is a predominantly female environment (my hospital is composed of 81% female staff) has he found that this effects the tenor of corruption to a significant degree and if so in what way? In my own experience there is difference of character as compared with, say, the Ministry of Defense (though of no less quantity). Much has been made of the Sir David Nicholson’s reluctance to resign and there is no defiance of this sort without power but in my experience this sort of thing extends even to the very lowly and seems rooted in type of apathy. In an informal interview I once attended a new employee of two weeks was asked by her manager why she had simply walked out one day. “I didn’t” she said, there were 3 witnesses and CCTV evidence to the contrary however this was not mentioned. “Oh good” said her manager “because if you had, well that would have been naughty. But of course you didn’t. Good.” And there the matter rested. Toleration of this sort even at the lowest levels is endemic and I have often wondered if this is partly a feminine distaste of conflict, compassion gone sour or is it simply bureaucracy the world over?

    In the Doctor’s experience what is the best healthcare model for reform of the NHS?

    Apologies if this is illegible in parts as it was written in haste and I have also not had time to read the other comments post so please ignore any questions I have accidentally duplicated.

    Thank you

  28. William Hayhoe

    Just thought of another one.

    I’ve read a few articles by Dr Daniels about the awfulness of modern architecture but I don’t think I’ve ever heard him give a definitive verdict on why this is so, does he have one?

    I have always wondered if this is very much a multitude of sins type of affair but the only thing I’ve ever been able to put my finger on is this. Opposite to my house is old police station, converted into housing naturally, which is a quite lovely red brick victorian building. On waste ground next to it the developer built a second three storey block in an attempt at the same style, it was not pleasing to the eye. I pondered on this and though it was devoid of the others decoration, hand made bricks, weathering etc. it seemed to me a question of scale. New developments of this type always seem to be roughly three to six feet higher than the exsisting neighbour, yet the windows were considerabley smaller (energy efficiency?) and since they must have been bought in bulk they were all the same size and simple, flat, four pane design. This precluded the replication of the large curved bay windows but it also created larger expanses of bare brick. Now you could argue that the developer didn’t care much for the aesthetics and I’d agree but it seemed to me that without intention they’d created a building with very inhuman proportions something that was subconciously unpleasant. There was something a bit cyclopean about it. Still they all sold.

    1. Jaxon

      Hello William
      You raise some interesting points, issues, questions all the things, really as far as I can make out, that Dalrymple regularly writes about; hopefully he can respond to your questions more directly. In the meantime, if I may? (yes, I’m going to anyway) have you read this
      I think it may be of interest.

      I’m not sure I know what you mean when you say of the common man “but his walls are bare”. More probably they’re not nearly bare enough.


      “In an informal interview I once attended a new employee of two weeks was asked by her manager why she had simply walked out one day. “I didn’t” she said, there were 3 witnesses and CCTV evidence to the contrary however this was not mentioned.”

      Some years back, you’ll probably have been aware (though you’d perhaps prefer not to be reminded), there was a considerable stir caused on Big Brother, the focus was on Shilpa Shetty and Jade Goody but I think this was missing something more significant.
      Danielle Lloyd (now Danielle O’Hara)'Hara

      On youtube someone put a compilation of her blatant denials… in spite of knowing full well she was being filmed 24/7. Her flimsy grasp of honesty was/is the product of a life of flattery because she’s reasonably attractive the reason so many girls want to be ‘WAG’s’ – it gets results.

      But I daresay I didn’t need to tell you that and besides, you were thinking more of the toleration of it – I think it’s just too endemic, like you say, people become resigned; the apathy you speak of.

      Really though, the main reason I reply to you is that I thought you might be interested in a book by Iain McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary.

      You may already be familiar with it but very dubious of it for reasons, I think, fairly competently raised here.

      I think that debacle, as it were, prompted McGilchrist somewhat to elaborate better on these thorny issues in a recent talk and interview (the interview, the style, does not begin promisingly)

      You may be aware of Dalrymple’s recent article

      McGilchrist holds Decartes’ influence as somewhat fundamental to the Left brain disposition becoming predominant. I don’t think so, I mean I’d agree that the radical scepticism and logical deduction… objectivity that followed on in the sciences have made technology and therefore affluence and therefore leisure time (something that most people seem to be very bad at) possible like never before, this is crucial but more fundamental (evil is the root of all evil and it takes root most readily and stubbornly where mother child relations are the most troubled) and for deeper insight into that I turn to Dalrymple.

      “Cassatt’s repudiation of such painters was as much a return to tradition as a break with it. As I looked at her prints in the Adelson, I recalled a painting that I have loved ever since I first saw it over 40 years ago, and that I revisit whenever I can. It was painted more than two centuries before Cassatt’s work by Pieter de Hooch, who was second only to Vermeer in his ability to make us see beauty in the ordinary. The painting, A Woman Peeling Apples for Her Daughter, hangs in the Wallace Collection in London. A seated woman in a Dutch interior peels an apple for her solemn child, who is standing before her, with intense concentration on what her mother is doing. Neither mother nor daughter is beautiful in the conventional sense: in fact, both are decidedly plain. The beauty is in the moment and in the relationship between mother and daughter, not in the purely physical features of their faces. In this undramatic scene, we see not merely a moment of an era gone by, but the expression of a much deeper, enduring human verity that lies beyond appearance.”

      Although McGilchrist does go into some detail about the scale, or pyramid, of values based on the thinking of Max Scheler and Scheler, I believe, saw the relationship of mother and child as fundamental.

  29. Steve

    Add me to the people interested in Dr. Daniel’s views on religion. It seems to me (and I think he has more or less conceded) that maintaining Western Civilization is only possible in a context of fairly widespread religious belief. I’m curious about his ultimate justification for defending traditional culture in the way that he does.

  30. Adam Butera

    I would appreciate his perspective on the following article with regard to efforts in Belgium to ease the criteria by which assisted suicide is sanctioned under law. In the past, we have been reassured that individuals experiencing episodes of depression or difficult chapters in their life would be protected, and further, assisted suicide would be highly regulated and authorized only for a small percentage of patients suffering profoundly who are terminally ill; however, as we can see, once the proverbial camel’s nose appears, I don’t see the basis in which the state has any moral authority to deny the request to just about anyone who can combine some subjective and objective elements to warrant suicide. Thank you.

  31. Paul Brady

    Unfortunately I only seen this post last night so I’m most likely too late with my questions, but no harm in putting them down here. Might spark a little debate of our own.

    In “Fool or Physician: the Memoirs of a Sceptical Doctor” Mr. Dalrymple details how, early in his medical career, he resolved to lead an interesting life. It was, in part, the advice of a particularly hated teacher that convinced him this was the right road to take. Does Theodore feel he succeeded? Has his life been satisfying in a professional and intellectual sense. To those of us who read his work it appears he has achieved just that, but sometimes what we see doesn’t always match up with the truth.

    And with the benefit of his considerable experience and learning what advice would Mr. Dalrymple proffer to those of us who are relatively early in our lives on how to lead a full and interesting life? At 38, perhaps I am not that young anymore but I hope there are a good few decades left in me yet. Like many others I feel I am at something of a crossroads in my professional and personal life, and would welcome the doctor’s suggestions.

    I am very much envious of your trip to the South of France. Enjoy and I look forward to reading your thoughts and Mr. Dalrymple’s comments on your return. Safe trip.


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