Essays

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Essay/Values & Beliefs

Beyond anger

Anger is the emotion that has come to saturate our politics and culture. Philosophy can help us out of this dark vortex

Martha C Nussbaum

Essay/Self-Improvement

Don’t think too positive

Fantasies about the future have a troubling effect on achieving actual goals. If positive thinking doesn’t work, what does?

Gabriele Oettingen

Essay/Death

Nadia’s story

It is a decision that no parent should have to make: should we let our very sick baby die before she was born?

Ana Todorović

Essay/History of Science

Spot the WEIRDo

Too much research is done on Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic students. Can science widen its base?

Robert Colvile

Essay/History

What Mortimer did

A diplomat in British India blundered a border. The consequences continue to shape world politics

Rafia Zakaria

Essay/Travel

Right on track

If there is a greater thrill of travelling than the discovery of unfamiliar places, for me it’s getting there by train

Margarita Gokun Silver

Essay/Data & Information

Datagasm

Ever-faster feedback loops and micro-targeted digital porn are pushing human sexuality into some seriously weird places

Mark Hay

Essay/Mood & Emotion

Only the lonely

Loneliness is hell: debilitating yet formative. Can we avoid the pains of loneliness yet enjoy the pleasures of solitude?

Cody Delistraty

Essay/Religion

Against Muslim unity

Even the pilgrimage to Mecca exposes the myth of a united Islam and the formative power of the wider world

Faisal Devji

Essay/Sleep & Dreams

Falling for sleep

When wakefulness is seen as the main event, no wonder so many have trouble sleeping. Can we rekindle the joy of slumber?

Rubin Naiman

Essay/Neurodiversity

The inheritance of crime

Eugenic ideas about criminal genes have been repudiated for decades, but a new biological approach to crime is emerging

Douglas Starr

Essay/Social Psychology

Metaknowledge

Crowds aren’t as smart as we thought, since some people know more than others. A simple trick can find the ones you want

George Musser

Essay/Politics & Government

Everyone was a liberal

On the Left, ‘neoliberal’ is an epithet but, not long ago, everyone wanted to be liberal. Will anyone claim liberalism?

Lawrence Glickman

Essay/War & Conflict

War, on drugs

Killing people is hard and horrible. No wonder that warriors, from berserkers to jihadis, need drugs to get in the mood

Peter Frankopan

Essay/History

Slavery as free trade

The 18th-century thinkers behind laissez-faire economics saw slavery as a great example of global free trade

Blake Smith

Essay/Gender & Sexuality

Gender is not a spectrum

The idea that ‘gender is a spectrum’ is supposed to set us free. But it is both illogical and politically troubling

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

Essay/Gender & Sexuality

The weaponised loser

Mass shootings have one thing in common: toxic masculinity. Where does it come from and what can be done to stop it?

Stephen Asma

Essay/History

The nature of Britain

A group of gentlemen antiquaries wanted to unite Britain. They turned to natural history, archaeology and linguistics

Elizabeth Yale

Essay/History

Six centuries of secularism

When the first ‘how-to’ books began to explain the way the world worked, they paved the way for science and secularism

William Eamon

Essay/Gender & Sexuality

A handy history

Condemned, celebrated, shunned: masturbation has long been an uncomfortable fact of life. Why?

Barry Reay

Essay/Self-Improvement

Don’t beat yourself up

Learning to be kind to yourself when you (inevitably) make mistakes could have a remarkable effect on your happiness

Mark Leary

Essay/Data & Information

‘Big data is people!’

The sum of our clickstreams is not an objective measure of who we are, but a personal portrait of our hopes and desires

Rebecca Lemov

Essay/History of Science

Hazard lines

The Fukushima disaster shows why the line between high and low risk is individual. Can we learn to manage our own safety?

Timothy Jorgensen

Essay/History

Medieval graffiti

Graffiti on the walls of Europe’s old churches reveals the real Middle Ages – a world far removed from knights and damsels

Matthew Champion

Essay/Cognition & Intelligence

Getting smarter

Brain-training games won’t boost your IQ, but a host of strategies can improve your cognitive abilities one piece at a time

Jeffrey M Zacks

Essay/Travel

The parlance of pilots

High above London, Tokyo and Cairo, the language of the cockpit is technical, obscure, geeky – and irresistibly romantic

Mark Vanhoenacker

Essay/Education

Schooled in nature

There’s a way to teach children without colonising their minds: the lifelong way of the indigenous people of Mexico

Jay Griffiths

Essay/Art

Moments of depth

Stuart Franklin has photographed conflict, nature and people. He discusses what makes a memorable image

Nigel Warburton Stuart Franklin

Essay/Social Psychology

Disgust made us human

Our ancestors reacted to parasites with overwhelming revulsion, wiring the brain for morals, manners, politics and laws

Kathleen McAuliffe

Essay/Sleep & Dreams

Life in Circadia

The ticking of the bodyclock can help us fight cancer, safeguard our hearts, time our meals, and enhance our intelligence

Jessa Gamble

Essay/Social Psychology

The outsiders

Has evolution programmed us to shun and turn our backs on refugees – even when they might die without our help?

Avan Judd Stallard

Essay/History of Science

The sexism problem

Harassment drove me out of physics 30 years ago and little has changed. Why is scientific sexism so intractable?

Margaret Wertheim

Essay/History

American secular

The founding moment of the United States brought a society newly freed from religion. What went wrong?

Sam Haselby

Essay/Biology

The songs of the wolves

Wolves’ howls are eerie, beautiful and wild. But what are they actually saying to each other?

Holly Root-Gutteridge

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

Essay/Sleep & Dreams

Are dreams predictions?

Dreams might not be omens or prophecies in a mystical sense, but they do have a distinct psychological predictive power

Sue Llewellyn

Essay/Design & 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

Essay/Neuroscience

The empty brain

Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

Robert Epstein

Essay/History

Cruel ships of prosperity

For more than two centuries the huge profits and profound suffering of the Manila Galleons helped create global capitalism

David Morris

Essay/Biotechnology

Bio-techne

Half-human soldiers, robot servants and eagle drones – the Greeks got there first. Could an AI learn from their stories?

Adrienne Mayor

Essay/War & Conflict

In praise of patience

Resilience is the fashionable prescription for trauma. But bouncing back is not the only – or best – way to bear sorrow

Samira Thomas

Essay/Space Exploration

To save Earth, go to Mars

If head-on problem-solving can’t save the Earth, maybe lateral innovation can. Will low-cost space research pave the way?

Joseph Mascaro

Essay/Neuroscience

Bring them back

Untold thousands of patients misdiagnosed as vegetative are actually aware. Theirs is the civil rights fight of our times

Joseph J Fins

Essay/Computing & Artificial Intelligence

Should we be afraid of AI?

Machines seem to be getting smarter and smarter and much better at human jobs, yet true AI is utterly implausible. Why?

Luciano Floridi

Essay/Energy, Resources, & Sustainability

Sunshine in a bottle

Mimic the dance between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and you can tap into clean solar energy and ease climate change

Peter Forbes

Essay/Cultures & Languages

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

Essay/Logic

Why is simpler better?

Ockham’s Razor says that simplicity is a scientific virtue, but justifying this philosophically is strangely elusive

Elliott Sober

Essay/Stories & Literature

Silicon phoenix

A gifted child, an adventure, a dark time, and then ... a pivot? How Silicon Valley rewrote America’s redemption narrative

Kat McGowan

Essay/History of Ideas

Why Spinoza still matters

At a time of religious zealotry, Spinoza’s fearless defence of intellectual freedom is more timely than ever

Steven Nadler

Essay/Nature & Environment

Ghosts and tiny treasures

We are quick to condemn a hunter posing with his prey, but all too slow to cultivate a chronic passion for wild things

Bryan Pfeiffer