Photo bt Emin Ozmen/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Knowledge
Nihilism

The risk of nihilism is that it alienates us from anything good or true. Yet believing in nothing has positive potential

Nolen Gertz

From Voyage dans l'Amérique Méridionale, (v.IX, 1835-47), by Alcide Dessalines d'Orbigny. Courtesy the Biodiversity Heritage Library/Public Domain

Essay/
Illness and disease
This ragged claw

It is a crab; no, a worm; no, a wolf. Early physicians weren’t entirely wrong to imagine cancer as a ravenous disease

Ellen Wayland-Smith

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Photo by ragz13/Getty

Essay/
Philosophy of language
The ethics of speech acts

It’s one thing to say something. It’s quite another for a person to do (or not do) something because of what you’ve said

Guy Longworth

Wild geese in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York City, USA, 2017. Photo by Rebecca Norris Webb from the book Brooklyn, the City Within with Alex Webb/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Nature and landscape
A place of silence

Our cities are filled by the hubbub of human-made noise. Where shall we find the quietness we need to nurture our spirit?

Liam Heneghan

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Couple in the kitchen, USA, 1952. From the series ‘Love Story’. Photo by Dennis Stock/Magnum

Essay/
Love and friendship
Love is a joint project

For Simone de Beauvoir, authentic love is an ethical undertaking: it can be spoilt by devotion as much as by selfishness

Kate Kirkpatrick

Five O'Clock. Plate VII from the series Intimacies (1898), by Félix Edouard Vallotton. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago

Essay/
Love and friendship
The joy of intimacy

A polyamorous friend challenges me: are you really happily monogamous or are you just hung up about your philandering dad?

Lily Dunn

Bertrand Russell in November 1950, having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
Political philosophy
The politics of logic

Should philosophy express the national character of a people? Bertrand Russell’s ‘scientific’ philosophy was a bulwark against nationalism

Alexander Klein

Dee, JoJo, Frankie and Lisa after school on Prince Street, Little Italy, New York City, in 1976. Photo from Susan Meiselas’s series Prince Street Girls/Magnum

Essay/
Love and friendship
The biology of love

Humans teeter on a knife’s edge. The same deep chemistry that fosters bonding can, in a heartbeat, pivot to fear and hate

Ruth Feldman

Detail from Hannah Duston Killing the Indians (1847) by Junius Brutus Stearns. Courtesy Colby College Museum of Art; Gift of R Chase Lasbury and Sally Nan Lasbury

Essay/
War and peace
American torture

For 400 years, Americans have argued that their violence is justified while the violence of others constitutes barbarism

William Fitzhugh Brundage

Aldous Huxley in 1958. Photo by Philippe Halsman/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Perennial philosophy

Aldous Huxley argued that all religions in the world were underpinned by universal beliefs and experiences. Was he right?

Jules Evans

Planetary System. Eclipse of the Sun. The Moon. The Zodiacal Light. Meteoric Shower. From Yaggy’s Geographical Study, 1887. Courtesy the David Rumsey Map Collection

Essay/
History of science
Naming the Universe

How the quick thinking of internationally minded astronomers avoided stamping the solar system with petty European rivalries

Stephen Case

Black clothing, a distracted gaze: the height of Elizabethan fashion. Portrait of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland (1590-1595), by Nicholas Hilliard. Photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Essay/
Stories and literature
My mistress Melancholy

In The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton gave his life to charting a Renaissance disease both alluring and dangerous

Mary Ann Lund

Dee, JoJo, Frankie and Lisa after school on Prince Street, Little Italy, New York City, in 1976. Photo from Susan Meiselas’s series Prince Street Girls/Magnum

Essay/
Love and friendship
The biology of love

Humans teeter on a knife’s edge. The same deep chemistry that fosters bonding can, in a heartbeat, pivot to fear and hate

Ruth Feldman