Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Out of Hours

Bad faith, hope, and charity

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 12 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d163
  1. Christopher Martyn, associate editor, BMJ
  1. cmartyn{at}

If you disagree with what someone says, don’t resort to insult

If you came across someone searching the pages of a tabloid newspaper for philosophical principles and ethical values you’d be inclined to doubt their sincerity of purpose. But you might be being unfair. Last year the Daily Mail carried an article that set out 10 enduring philosophical ideas and discussed why they were easier to agree with than to follow in everyday life ( It is well worth a look if you’ve forgotten David Hume’s reasons for not believing in miracles or just what Aristotle was on about when he talked of the golden mean.

One of the things that impressed me about the piece was the way in which its author managed to compress his account into 1500 words for a readership that he had to assume knew next to nothing about the subject. It’s true that he didn’t discuss any of his 10 principles in much depth, but he succeeded brilliantly in making these abstract ideas accessible and relevant without recourse to jargon or fancy language. Educated people tend to sneer …

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