One of my favourite fairy tales is the Emperor’s New Clothes. The emperor is persuaded that he is wearing some incredible new outfit when actually he is naked. And he parades in front of his people who are too shocked to say anything, and perhaps become involved in the delusion that he is finely attired. And of course there’s just one little boy in the crowd who says the obvious, calls out the fact that he is naked, and breaks the spell.

This story came to mind as I was writing this book – but in reverse as it were. For the first part of my argument is that we do have a positive core belief in our culture – in the West generally – but we tend to speak as if it is not there, or as if it’s too empty to be taken seriously. We often speak as if the emperor is naked – the emperor being our basic shared ideology – but in fact no, he’s wearing something very impressive. And maybe it takes a certain naivety, like that of the boy in the story, to say so…


The full text of Theo Hobson’s lecture will be available in 2018 in our publication: Being Human.

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