Morality, Demons and Beasts

In this extract from ‘The Interbrain,’ Digby Tantam considers the implications of the interbrain for religion, morality and our ability to demonize other humans. 

For a very long time, human beings have explained harm coming to one person or to groups by attributing this to demons. Demonic possession is possibly the oldest explanation of psychopathology and is still widely held in Africa and other parts of the world.

Demonization of offenders increases the public’s desire to punish them retributively is most likely because of common knowledge, which seems to be widespread, that demons exist, that they are evil, and that evil is contagious. So humans cannot, and indeed should not without imperilling their own morals, consort or connect with demons. Demons must be cast out of individuals, as the Bible has Jesus casting out the demons, and of society. Psychiatrists and psychologists have updated this demonology by postulating that types of people exist who cannot empathize and consequently act in a deranged or demonic fashion. There is also the presumption,
as there often is when a person is said to lack empathy, that it is equally impossible to empathize with them.

Demonization is, for obvious reasons, a strategy that is particularly attractive to religious groups…

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For more information on The Interbrain, or to buy a copy of the book, click here. 

‘This is Pilates for the soul’ – Claire Foster-Gilbert talks to us about morality in public life

One year after Brexit, a stellar cast of eminent contributors from of politics, public service and religion explore why now more than ever, public servants must consider and reassess how to keep moral courage in public life alive in this new book of essays – ‘The Moral Heart of Public Service.’ Here, she talks to us about her motivations for writing the book.  

What first motivated you to collate these essays on morality in public life?

Westminster Abbey Institute, of which I am founder-director, was established by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster to revitalise morality in public life.  We offer twice yearly programmes of lectures to this end.  We have been able to invite some really stellar speakers and to work hard ourselves to produce thoughtful and high quality lectures.  I wanted to turn those lectures into essays and produce them in a form that would last.  The Institute is meant to offer timely wisdom that is also timeless, so the book form is a good one for us.  The test is whether the essays are still relevant in ten, twenty, even fifty years’ time.

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What’s the difference between a public service organisation and a sailing boat?

In this exclusive extract from ‘The Moral Heart of Public Service,’ Claire Foster-Gilbert of the Westminster Abbey Institute explores why we so often think that members of the public service lack moral integrity, and explains how public service companies, like the police, the military and government, can be imagined as a sailing boat.

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‘We live in an age when noisy moralism is everywhere, and the news and social media have invaded the pulpit. Quiet reflection on moral truth, however, and the noble sobriety of public administration, have become under-valued virtues. All power to a book like this in redressing that imbalance.’
– Matthew Parris, Times columnist and author

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