Essays

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Nations and empires
Cosmopolitan Ottomans

European colonisation put an abrupt end to political experiments towards a more equal, diverse and ecumenical Arab world

Ussama Makdisi

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Nature and landscape
Rooted

What if, rather than mere props in the background of our lives, trees embody the history of all life on Earth?

Dalia Nassar & Margaret M Barbour

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Thinkers and theories
Secular pilgrimage

Visiting Wittgenstein’s home evokes the philosopher’s serious, ascetic mind (no doubt he would disapprove its restoration)

Julian Baggini

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Love and friendship
My friend, my self

Female friendship is central to much recent fiction and film. What can it say about the role of relationships in identity?

Susan Bright

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Beauty and aesthetics
Blackness and beauty

We need a radical new paradigm for thinking about blackness that recognises beauty’s potential to save lives

Enuma Okoro

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Thinkers and theories
The Bible’s first critic

Centuries before Spinoza, there was Ḥiwi al-Balkhi, a Jewish freethinker for whom the Bible was too irrational for faith

Pieter van der Horst

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Stories and literature
Orphans and their quests

The sympathetic plot is a type of story, rich in tropes, that is universal to human cultures. With one big twist…

Manvir Singh

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Philosophy of science
But is it science?

Theoretical physicists who say the multiverse exists set a dangerous precedent: science based on zero empirical evidence

Jim Baggott

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Cities
City on mute

When you stare at your phone or use Uber to navigate your neighbourhood, you flatten the rich texture of urban life

Kathleen Vandenberg

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Nations and empires
It is time to recognise

The Lakota, like other groups, see themselves as a sovereign people. Can Indigenous sovereignty survive colonisation?

Pekka Hämäläinen

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Animals and humans
The pointing ape

How a chimpanzee named Clint trained a psychologist to question human exceptionalism and reconsider the intelligence of apes

David Leavens

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Illness and disease
The best life possible

Living with chronic illness is hard. But there are psychological techniques that make it possible to thrive even when ill

Joseph Trunzo

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Consciousness and altered states
The consciousness illusion

Phenomenal consciousness is a fiction written by our brains to help us track the impact that the world makes on us

Keith Frankish

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Gender and identity
Sex on the brain

Humans, like other mammals, exhibit sex differences in their brains and psychological traits. But what do they signify?

Kevin Mitchell

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Wellbeing
A sage on the ward

Good nurses are attuned to the lived experience of patients. Can the theory of phenomenology add more to their practice?

Dan Zahavi

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Education
The well-educated person

If we took Aristotle seriously we would revolutionise our educational systems to enable citizens to learn throughout life

C D C Reeve

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Animals and humans
Prison, spectacle, refuge

Modern zoos are proud of their contribution to animal conservation but will always be haunted by their histories

Nigel T Rothfels

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Race and ethnicity
Race on the mind

When Europeans colonised North Africa, they imposed their preoccupation with race onto its diverse peoples and deep past

Ramzi Rouighi

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Consciousness and altered states
The whole-planet view

Psychedelics offer a sense of expansive connectedness, just like astronauts have felt looking back to Earth from space

Rosalind Watts, Sam Gandy & Alex Evans

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Mathematics
Citizens need to know numbers

A single statistic, or its misuse, can help upend a nation. Civic life depends on a basic level of statistical literacy

David Spiegelhalter

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Neurodiversity
Against neurodiversity

The movement has good intentions, but it favours the high-functioning and overlooks those who struggle with severe autism

Moheb Costandi

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Quantum theory
Splitting the Universe

Hugh Everett blew up quantum mechanics with his Many-Worlds theory in the 1950s. Physics is only just catching up

Sean Carroll

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Animals and humans
Birds are ‘winged words’

The Classical world abounded with avians – and so birds took up in the human imagination, nesting in our language and art

Jeremy Mynott

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Teaching and learning
The value of shame

Immanuel Kant held that moral education is hydraulic: shame squashes down our vices, making space for virtue to rise up

Louise Chapman

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Virtues and vices
Righteous incivility

The temptation to be uncivil grows as public discourse gets nastier and more aggressive. Can rudeness ever be righteous?

Amy Olberding

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Gender
Sex and prosperity

Nothing we can do will make the world more free, fair and prosperous than giving women control over their own bodies

Victoria Bateman

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Philosophy of language
The way words mean

Words stand for things in the world, and they stand apart from it. Perhaps meaning is more sunken into words than we realise?

Alexander Stern

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Technology and the self
Privacy is power

Don’t just give away your privacy to the likes of Google and Facebook – protect it, or you disempower us all

Carissa Véliz

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Human evolution
United by feelings

Universal emotions are the deep engine of human consciousness and the basis of our profound affinity with other animals

Stephen T Asma & Rami Gabriel

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History of science
No absolute time

Two centuries before Einstein, Hume recognised that universal time, independent of an observer’s viewpoint, doesn’t exist

Matias Slavov