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Essays

Longform Essays written by serious and creative thinkers on philosophy, psychology, science, society and culture
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Pleasure and pain

Eulogy for silence

Tinnitus is like a constant scream inside my head, depriving me of what I formerly treasured: the moments of serene quiet

Diego Ramírez Martín del Campo

A close-up of an orange and black butterfly perched on a leaf with a soft, pastel-coloured background.
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History of ideas

Chaos and cause

Can a butterfly’s wings trigger a distant hurricane? The answer depends on the perspective you take: physics or human agency

Erik Van Aken

X-ray image of a single flower with visible petals, stem, and internal structures on a black background.
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Philosophy of mind

Do plants have minds?

In the 1840s, the iconoclastic scientist Gustav Fechner made an inspired case for taking seriously the interior lives of plants

Rachael Petersen

Intricate artwork of robed and winged figures in a mystical forest, surrounding a glowing central figure adorned with flowers.
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Beauty and aesthetics

All aquiver

The Decadent movement taught that you should live your life with the greatest intensity – a dangerous and thrilling challenge

Kate Hext

Shopfront of NY 99 Cent Fresh Pizza with an open sign, vaccine notice, and menu visible through the window.
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Economic history

Economics 101

Why introductory economics courses continued to teach zombie ideas from before economics became an empirical discipline

Walter Frick

Cyclists in a professional race riding in rainy conditions. The leading cyclist in a blue jersey raises his arms in victory, with other cyclists closely following behind on the wet road. Everyone is wearing helmets and sunglasses for protection.
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Sports and games

Performance-enhancing vices

Selfishness channels ambition, envy drives competition, pride aids the win. Does it take a bad person to be a good athlete?

Sabrina Little

Image of a human colon highlighted in blue, with a contrasting yellow-orange background, taken using a medical imaging technique to show the internal structure.
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Illness and disease

Getting past ‘it’s IBS’

While science illuminates the gut-brain relationship, doctors remain ignorant and dismissive of patients with gut problems

Xi Chen

A young woman and a man, both dressed formally, sit at a table with an electronic device in front of them. The woman is engaging with the device, which has several buttons and dials, while the man observes attentively. The setting appears to be an office or classroom. The image is in black and white.
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Technology and the self

Tomorrow people

For the entire 20th century, it had felt like telepathy was just around the corner. Why is that especially true now?

Roger Luckhurst

A colourful, abstract image featuring a large, black and white bird in flight. The background is a swirling mix of purple, orange, and yellow hues. A small figure of a child walks in the distance, casting a long shadow.
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Ageing and death

Peregrinations of grief

A friend and a falcon went missing. In pain, I turned to ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ – and found a new vision of sorrow and time

Emily Polk

Black and white image of Japanese soldiers in battle gear marching with a Rising Sun Flag, superimposed with large Japanese calligraphy characters on a plain background.
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Nations and empires

Chastising little brother

Why did Japanese Confucians enthusiastically support Imperial Japan’s murderous conquest of China, the homeland of Confucius?

Shaun O’Dwyer

A historical painting of a woman in a detailed blue and silver gown with lace sleeves. She wears a pearl necklace and a hat adorned with white and pink flowers. The background features a golden tapestry and dark pillars.
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Stories and literature

Her blazing world

Margaret Cavendish’s boldness and bravery set 17th-century society alight, but is she a feminist poster-girl for our times?

Francesca Peacock

View from space of Europe at night, showing bright city lights and the Northern Lights in the distance. The image features a clear outline of countries and coastlines illuminated by artificial light, with a dark sky speckled with stars overhead.
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Ecology and environmental sciences

Dominion

To take care of the Earth, humans must recognise that we are both a part of the animal kingdom and its dominant power

Hugh Desmond