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Artist Jeff Koons with sculpture. Photo by Bob Adelman/Corbis

Essay/
Beauty and aesthetics
The great swindle

From pickled sharks to compositions in silence, fake ideas and fake emotions have elbowed out truth and beauty

Roger Scruton

A reproduction detail of the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave painting believed to be around 36,000 years old. Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images

Essay/
Art
How wonder works

One emotion inspired our greatest achievements in science, art and religion. We can manipulate it – but why do we have it?

Jesse Prinz

A general view of the Terracotta Warriors photographed in 2017 in Xi’an, China. Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty

Essay/
Beauty and aesthetics
The copy is the original

In China and Japan, temples may be rebuilt and ancient warriors cast again. There is nothing sacred about the ‘original’

Byung-Chul Han

Eland antelopes, buffalos and humans, Republic of South Africa, Harrismith, Balmoral 8,000-2,000 BCE. Watercolour by Maria Weyersberg, 1929. Courtesy Frobenius-Institut Frankfurt am Main
Essay/
Human evolution
Imagination is ancient

Our imaginative life today has access to the pre-linguistic, ancestral mind: rich in imagery, emotions and associations

Stephen T Asma

Trails left by circumpolar stars, as viewed from Star Axis, a monumental work of land art in the New Mexico desert. Photo courtesy of Charles Ross
Essay/
Architecture
Embracing the void

The ancients had pyramids to tame the sky’s mystery. We have Star Axis, a masterpiece forty years in the making

Ross Andersen

Detail from Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama by Amy Sherald, oil on linen, 2018. Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Essay/
Beauty and aesthetics
The puzzle of beauty

Rather than a golden ratio or a moral judgment, beauty is more like a radical jolt that awakens us to the world

Shahidha Bari

A Sonia Rykiel dress detail from Paris Fashion Week, Fall/Winter 2016/2017. Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Essay/
Design and fashion
What do clothes say?

Clothes can be forms of thought as articulate as a poem or equation. Why then does philosophy like to dress them down?

Shahidha Bari

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket/Getty

Essay/
Art
Is it OK to make art?

If you express your creativity while other people go hungry, you’re probably not making the world a better place

Rhys Southan

The happy artist: Valentina 'Vava' Brodsky and Marc Chagall in the 1950s. Photo by Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Getty
Essay/
Mood and emotion
The myth of ‘mad’ genius

The Romantic stereotype that creativity is enhanced by a mood disorder is dangerous, and dissolves under careful scrutiny

Christa L Taylor

American oil executive, multi-millionaire art collector John Paul Getty attends a private viewing of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London, April 1965. Photo by McKeown/Express/Getty

Essay/
Art
Why people collect art

Collectors drive the art world, but what drives art collectors? It’s less about aesthetics than self-identification

Erin Thompson

John Berger at home in Quincy in the Haute-Savoie, France, in 2008. Photo by Franck Courtes/Agence VU

Essay/
Art
Ways of living

John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’ exploded a discipline. But his greatest legacy might be a quieter project of re-enchantment

Joshua Sperling

A version of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain at the Barbican Art Gallery, London. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty
Essay/
Beauty and aesthetics
It is and it isn’t

Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ is not just a radical kind of art. It’s a philosophical dialetheia: a contradiction that is true

Damon Young & Graham Priest

Not a Vermeer. Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus (1937) by Han Van Meegeren. Photo courtesy Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen/Wikipedia

Essay/
Beauty and aesthetics
Whys of seeing

Experimental psychology is providing concrete answers to some of the great philosophical debates about art and its meaning

Ellen Winner

The German artist Gerhard Richter with a panel from his 4900 Colours (2008) at the Serpentine Gallery in London. The seemingly arbitrary distribution of colours was generated using a specially developed computer program. Photo by Shaun Curry/Getty

Idea/
Art
If machines want to make art, will humans understand it?

Rui Penha & Miguel Carvalhais

A kind of beauty; the port at Alexandria, Egypt, 1998. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Magnum

Essay/
Art
La bella vita

True beauty pleases the eye and the mind – but can it help us to become better people?

John Armstrong

Andy Warhol in 1964. Photo by Mario De Biasi/Mondadori/Getty

Essay/
Art
Has art ended again?

Ever since Hegel, artists and critics alike have been claiming that art is finished. But what could that actually mean?

Owen Hulatt

At ‘La Révolution Surréaliste” exhibition, Centre Georges Pompidou, 2002. Photo by Raphael Gaillarde/Getty

Essay/
Language and linguistics
More than words

Human communication is a glorious chaos. And images, from art to emojis, sometimes say it so much better than language can

Thom Scott-Phillips

Photo © The Trustees of the British Museum

Essay/
Anthropology
Magic bowls of antiquity

Ancient Babylonia’s magic bowls offer a glimpse into the society of the Talmud, and today’s shadowy antiquities market

Samuel Thrope

Illustration by Stephen Collins
Essay/
Art
Head to head

Michelangelo and Raphael; Leibniz and Newton; Constable and Turner. Does every creative genius need a bitter rival?

Jacob Burak