Peter Cave

Peter Cave was made a patron of Humanists UK for his contribution to humanist philosophy.

Philosopher, author, speaker, and lecturer

Photo of Peter Cave

E.M. Forster, humanist, wrote of Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, humanist, that he, Goldie, was no great philosopher, writer or reformer:

He was never shipwrecked or in peril, he was seldom in great bodily pain, never starved or penniless, he never confronted an angry mob nor was he sent to prison for his opinions… From a material point of view, Fate gave him an easy time, which he frankly appreciated. He was, though, beloved, affectionate, unselfish, intelligent, witty, charming – qualities fused into such an unusual creature…  He did not merely increase our experience: he left us more alert for what has not yet been experienced and more hopeful about other men because he had lived.

Peter Cave has for many years been active in humanism, as chair of the Humanist Philosophers’ Group, a prime mover in the annual Bentham Lecture, organiser of and contributor to many humanist conferences and publications, as well as speaking and debating philosophical, ethical, religious, and socio-political topics in the media – usually with humour and a lightness of touch. To contact, please email: or

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Over the last decade or so, Peter has written more than ten books (they are often praised) of philosophy, including a beginner’s guide to humanism.  He is author of numerous articles, some serious, some humorous, some formally academic, many accessible – many with philosophical, social or ethical flavours, his particular taste being for philosophical paradoxes and meaning of life concerns – nay, worries. Hence, he often writes on death and ‘ceasing to be’.

Peter has scripted and presented BBC radio philosophy programmes. Indignation being a powerful force, he cannot help but also write to newspapers, pointing out fallacies in reasoning and how horrendous are certain policies and beliefs that hit the poor and dispossessed here and worldwide
– and/or restrict freedoms.

Until recent retirement, he lectured for New York University (London) for many years and for The Open University for many, many, many years – though he has also lectured at the University of Khartoum as well as elsewhere in London.  He is often invited to take part in university conferences, from Stockholm to Bucharest, as well as in university debates in the United Kingdom.

He draws attention above to Forster and Lowes Dickinson, not merely because Peter pursued postgraduate philosophy research at their college, King’s College, Cambridge – he was originally a godless student of Gower Street, University College London – but because the accolade given to Goldie by Forster is splendidly humanistic.  “For what more could we ask?” says Peter.

Curiously. Peter is also a principal examiner for the Chartered Insurance Institute – which perhaps gives him an insight into the discrepancies between the world of the City and worlds elsewhere.

Peter is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, one-time Council Member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and involved in various other significant groupings, including Population Matters.

He enjoys lieder and string quartets at the Wigmore Hall, opera at ENO and despite his atheism, the occasional evensong when back at King’s, Cambridge.  He lives in Soho and is often to be found with a glass of wine – or two.

His books:

  • How To Think Like a Philosopher: Scholars, Dreamers and Sages Who Can Teach Us How to Live (London, Bloomsbury, April 2023),
  • the expanded and updated edition of Humanism: a beginner’s guide  (London, Oneworld, 2022)
  • The Myths We Live By: A Contrarian’s Guide to Democracy, Free Speech and Other Liberal Fictions (London, Atlantic Books, 2019; extended pbk edition, 2020)

A recent article (April/May 2022) is: ‘Judaism: Naturalism, Neurology, and Narrative’ in Free Inquiry.
For philosophy more generally:

  • The Big Think Book: Discover Philosophy Through 99 Perplexing Puzzles (London, Oneworld, 2015). It is a revision and combination of a trilogy of thought-provoking philosophical and ethical concerns, each subtitled 33 Perplexing Philosophy Puzzles, with additional material:
  • Can a Robot Be Human?  (2007)
  • What’s Wrong with Eating People? (2008)
  • Do Llamas Fall in Love? (2011)

More straightforward works, though all with a lightness of touch, all through Oneworld, include:

  • Ethics: a beginner’s guide (2015)
  • Philosophy: a beginner’s guide (2012)

Two recent works co-authored with a rabbi and emeritus professor of Judaism, Dan Cohn-Sherbok,

  • Arguing about Judaism: a Rabbi, a Philosopher and a Revealing Debate (Routledge, 2020)
  • Jews: Nearly everything you wanted to know – but were too afraid to ask (Equinox, 2018)

A more challenging work, philosophically is:

  • This Sentence is False: an introduction to philosophical paradoxes (Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2009)

Another light-ish work is:

  • How to think like a bat –  and 34 other really interesting uses of philosophy (Quercus, 2011), reissued and revised as How to outwit Aristotle (Quercus, 2012)

Peter has also edited and/or contributed to the following Humanists UK publications:

  • Thinking about Death (2004)
  • John Stuart Mill on… (2006)
  • Right to Object? (2011)
  • The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism (2015)