Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of mind
The value of uncertainty

In fiction, it grips us. In life, it can unravel us. How can brains hooked on certainty put its opposite to good use?

Mark Miller, Kathryn Nave, George Deane & Andy Clark

Study For Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences, or The Genius of America Encouraging the Emancipation of the Blacks (1791-92) by Samuel Jennings. Courtesy the Met Museum/New York

Essay/
History of ideas
Philosophy’s systemic racism

It’s not just that Hegel and Rousseau were racists. Racism was baked into the very structure of their dialectical philosophy

Avram Alpert

Detail of ‘Siege of the City’ by Jean Charlot, watercolour of a fresco at Chichén Itzá. The Maya mural from the Las Monjas building clearly shows a ship with the distinct wooden planks of a Viking boat © Jean Charlot/Artists Rights Society [ARS]; Copyright Agency, 2020

Essay/
Global history
Vikings in America

Centuries before Columbus, Vikings came to the Western hemisphere. How far into the Americas did they travel?

Valerie Hansen

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A red deer stag in autumn mist. Photo by Arterra/Sven-Erik Arndt/Getty

Essay/
Biology
Sex is real

Yes, there are just two biological sexes. No, this doesn’t mean every living thing is either one or the other

Paul Griffiths

Activists clash with police on 1 March 2020 in Kolkata during a protest against India’s new citizenship law and following sectarian riots in New Delhi. Photo by Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty

Essay/
Mood and emotion
Politics is visceral

In an age thick with anger and fear, we might dream of a purely rational politics but it would be a denial of our humanity

Manos Tsakiris

An American advertisement for Royal Crown Cola from 1955. Photo by Alamy

Essay/
Gender
Angels in the market

The heart-tug tactics of 1950s ads steered white American women away from activism into domesticity. They’re still there

Ellen Wayland-Smith

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Wyoming, United States, 1954. Photo by Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos

Essay/
History of ideas
On tact in dark times

Far from a social luxury, tact becomes imperative when life is cheapened. We exercise it to show gentle respect for another

Corina Stan

Photo by Corbis/Getty

Essay/
Language and linguistics
A history of punctuation

How we came to represent (through inky marks) the vagaries of the mind, inflections of the voice, and intensity of feeling

Florence Hazrat

Detail of ‘Siege of the City’ by Jean Charlot, watercolour of a fresco at Chichén Itzá. The Maya mural from the Las Monjas building clearly shows a ship with the distinct wooden planks of a Viking boat © Jean Charlot/Artists Rights Society [ARS]; Copyright Agency, 2020

Essay/
Global history
Vikings in America

Centuries before Columbus, Vikings came to the Western hemisphere. How far into the Americas did they travel?

Valerie Hansen

Cologne Cathedral stands out from the rubble of a city destroyed during the Second World War. Photographed from a US spotter plane in September 1945. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
History
Repetition and rupture

Reinhart Koselleck, the last great theorist of history, sought in the apparent chaos of events a science of experience

Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann

A polio patient receives treatment via an ‘iron lung’, the nurse adjusting the flow of air pressure. United States c1955. Photo by Three Lions Inc/Getty

Essay/
Medicine
Life and breath

There’s a strange, and deeply human, story behind how we taught machines to breathe for critically ill patients

Sarah Ruth Bates

Taylor Hackford and Isabella Rossellini get to the point. Photo by Eve Arnold/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of language
Thoughts into words

Here’s the paradox of articulation: are you excavating existing ideas, or do your thoughts come into being as you speak?

Eli Alshanetsky

Illegal gold miners working in a pit in Manicaland, Zimbabwe. Photo by Robin Hammond/Panos Pictures

Essay/
Human rights and justice
Weak links

The idea of the ‘supply chain’ shackles how we think about economic justice. What forces could new metaphors unleash?

Michael Gibb

On the runway in 1962. Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty

Essay/
Travel
Fly with me

Jet-age glamour was more than just aesthetic: its promise of motionless movement reshaped perception of time and space

Vanessa R Schwartz

Detail of Sunrise III (1936-37), by Arthur Garfield Dove. Gift of Katherine S Dreier to the Collection Société Anonyme/Yale University Art Gallery

Essay/
Evolution
Origin story

Perched on the cusp between biology and chemistry, the start of life on Earth is an event horizon we struggle to see beyond

Natalie Elliot

Wyoming, United States, 1954. Photo by Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos

Essay/
History of ideas
On tact in dark times

Far from a social luxury, tact becomes imperative when life is cheapened. We exercise it to show gentle respect for another

Corina Stan

From Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion by William Blake, plate 53, printed in 1821. Courtesy the Yale Center for British Art

Essay/
Stories and literature
The four-fold imagination

William Blake saw angels and ghosts and the Hallelujah sunrise, even on the darkest day. We need to foster his state of mind

Mark Vernon

Photo by Corbis/Getty

Essay/
Language and linguistics
A history of punctuation

How we came to represent (through inky marks) the vagaries of the mind, inflections of the voice, and intensity of feeling

Florence Hazrat