An apt autonym 14th June 2007
William Skidelsky’s June “Will’s Words” was a treat. If I may add to his examples of an “aptronym”—the term for an especially appropriate name—few can be better than the World Health Organisation’s director of HIV/Aids, Dr Kevin de Cock.
Adrian Gahan London SW6
Hodge and housing 16th June 2007
Julian Baggini (June) argues that Margaret Hodge’s view that those who have lived longest in a community should have housing priority should not be condemned as racist. But it is more than disingenuous to let it be inferred, as do both Baggini and Hodge, that migration is largely responsible for the shortage of affordable housing.
Our concerns might have been allayed if Baggini or Hodge had noted that the majority of migrants do not enjoy an automatic right to public housing, and that a significant source of pressure on housing is the growth in single-person households. A balanced critique might also concede that it was the failure of successive governments to respond to the pensions crisis that precipitated the flight of personal capital into property, helping ensure that buying or renting an affordable home is an increasingly distant dream for younger people and those on low incomes.
Baggini and Hodge may not view themselves as racist, but by ignoring a number of contributory factors to the housing crisis, they leave themselves open to the charge of being careless of whipping up xenophobia.
Habib Rahman Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Grayling’s question 1 5th June 2007
AC Grayling’s treatment of the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” (June) is a reversion to the parody style of philosophy best known from Beyond the Fringe. When Grayling writes: “When all the chocolates are eaten, there is nothing in the box because there was something there before; you cannot introduce nothing… to a box other than by not putting something in it,” we are in a world without irony—the world of trivial “linguistic philosophy” that satirists skewered long ago.
Unlike his illustrious forebears, such as Bertrand Russell, Grayling combines silliness in the face of great questions with the malign energy of Richard Dawkins: “vacuous” and “fatuities” were not words those philosophers would have used; in fact, they are almost disqualifying terms for a philosopher, like obscenities in the mouth of a vicar. Grayling has no interest in the question itself,…