Detail of a miniature of Boethius lying in bed, with Philosophy standing beside him, from the beginning of Book I of The Consolation of Philosophy. Harley 4355 f.27. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Library

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Why read Boethius today?

Written while awaiting execution, the Consolation of Philosophy poses questions about human reason that remain urgent today

John Marenbon

Members of the Ik (Uganda) mime a ritual raid-and-escape dance, an element of which is to teach the importance of tending to the injured and vulnerable. All photos courtesy the author

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Anthropology
Neither nasty nor brutish

The Ik – among the poorest people on Earth – have been cast as exemplars of human selfishness. The truth is much more startling

Cathryn Townsend

Something for everyone. Workers at a Daimler-Benz car plant listen to a speech by a visiting dignitary in West Germany circa 1972. Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty

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Economic history
Thirty glorious years

Postwar prosperity depended on a truce between capitalist growth and democratic fairness. Is it possible to get it back?

Jonathan Hopkin

Photo by Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Essay/
Ethics
When to break a rule

A virtuous person respects the rules. So when should the same person make a judgment call and break or bend them instead?

Steven Nadler

Namanga, Arusha Region, Tanzania. February 2018. © Thomas Dworzak/Magnum Photos with support from the Pulitzer Center

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Family life
How parents are made

Attachment therapy helps us recognise and heal our childhood wounds so we can be free to become good parents ourselves

Juli Fraga

Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

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Philosophy of mind
The value of uncertainty

In fiction, it grips us. In life, it can unravel us. How can brains hooked on certainty put its opposite to good use?

Mark Miller, Kathryn Nave, George Deane & Andy Clark

Study For Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences, or The Genius of America Encouraging the Emancipation of the Blacks (1791-92) by Samuel Jennings. Courtesy the Met Museum/New York

Essay/
History of ideas
Philosophy’s systemic racism

It’s not just that Hegel and Rousseau were racists. Racism was baked into the very structure of their dialectical philosophy

Avram Alpert

A red deer stag in autumn mist. Photo by Arterra/Sven-Erik Arndt/Getty

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Biology
Sex is real

Yes, there are just two biological sexes. No, this doesn’t mean every living thing is either one or the other

Paul Griffiths

Activists clash with police on 1 March 2020 in Kolkata during a protest against India’s new citizenship law and following sectarian riots in New Delhi. Photo by Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty

Essay/
Mood and emotion
Politics is visceral

In an age thick with anger and fear, we might dream of a purely rational politics but it would be a denial of our humanity

Manos Tsakiris

A polio patient receives treatment via an ‘iron lung’, the nurse adjusting the flow of air pressure. United States c1955. Photo by Three Lions Inc/Getty

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Medicine
Life and breath

There’s a strange, and deeply human, story behind how we taught machines to breathe for critically ill patients

Sarah Ruth Bates

Illegal gold miners working in a pit in Manicaland, Zimbabwe. Photo by Robin Hammond/Panos Pictures

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Human rights and justice
Weak links

The idea of the ‘supply chain’ shackles how we think about economic justice. What forces could new metaphors unleash?

Michael Gibb

On the runway in 1962. Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty

Essay/
Travel
Fly with me

Jet-age glamour was more than just aesthetic: its promise of motionless movement reshaped perception of time and space

Vanessa R Schwartz

From Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion by William Blake, plate 53, printed in 1821. Courtesy the Yale Center for British Art

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Stories and literature
The four-fold imagination

William Blake saw angels and ghosts and the Hallelujah sunrise, even on the darkest day. We need to foster his state of mind

Mark Vernon

Photo by Corbis/Getty

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Language and linguistics
A history of punctuation

How we came to represent (through inky marks) the vagaries of the mind, inflections of the voice, and intensity of feeling

Florence Hazrat

Cologne Cathedral stands out from the rubble of a city destroyed during the Second World War. Photographed from a US spotter plane in September 1945. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

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History
Repetition and rupture

Reinhart Koselleck, the last great theorist of history, sought in the apparent chaos of events a science of experience

Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann

The view towards Milano Centrale station down via Vittor Pisani during lockdown, 29 March 2020. Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket/Getty

Essay/
Engineering
Uncertain times

The pandemic is an unprecedented opportunity – seeing human society as a complex system opens a better future for us all

Jessica Flack & Melanie Mitchell

The cellar of the Codorníu winery Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Catalonia. Photo by Richard Kalvar/Magnum

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Archaeology
Accumulation and its discontents

Whether collecting, storing or hoarding, we’ve always had our issues with stuff – not least deciding what’s worth having

Astrid Van Oyen

Photo by Richard Kalvar/Magnum

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Thinkers and theories
The semi-satisfied life

Renowned for his pessimism, Arthur Schopenhauer was nonetheless a conoisseur of very distinctive kinds of happiness

David Bather Woods

The First Cloud (1888) by William Quiller Orchardson. Courtesy the Tate Gallery/Wikipedia

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Love and friendship
Forgive and be free

Hurts – your own or those done to you – keep you stuck. Forgiveness therapy can help you gain perspective and move on

Nathaniel Wade

Pope Benedict XVI, despite rumours, did not wear Prada. ‘The pope, in summary, does not wear Prada, but Christ,’ said the official Vatican newspaper in 2008. Papal footwear has traditionally been red and is regarded as the colour of martyrdom. Photo by Giampiero Sposito/Reuters

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Design and fashion
What do shoes do?

Partly of the earth, partly of our body, the shoe sits on the edge of an ontological threshold. Where can it transport us?

Randy Laist

US presidential advisor Ivanka Trump, managing director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde and German chancellor Angela Merkel share a laugh at the start of a panel discussion at the W20 summit in Berlin on 25 April 2017. Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Essay/
Knowledge
Confidence tricks

The ignorant pundit is absolutely certain; the true expert understands their own limits and how to ask the right questions

Andrew Little & Matthew Backus

An unknown male mummy found along with the mother and wife of Tutankhamun. Photo by Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic

Essay/
Archaeology
Mummies among us

Before death became a source of disgust and denial, Europeans cheerfully painted with – and ingested – human remains

Michael Press

Photo by Richard Kalvar/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Language and linguistics
The space between our heads

Brain-to-brain interfaces promise to bypass language. But do we really want access to one another’s unmediated thoughts?

Mark Dingemanse

Viewed from the International Space Station, stars glitter in the night sky above the Earth’s atmospheric glow. Photo courtesy Nasa

Essay/
Cosmology
Big space

Our planet is a tiny porthole, looking over a cosmic sea. Can we learn what lies beyond our own horizons of perception?

Katie Mack

Map of the Port of Alexandria, Egypt, from Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation) by Piri Reis, first published 1521, map taken from the revised 17th-century edition. Courtesy The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Essay/
Cities
The city is a lie

From Ancient Egypt’s deltas to Edinburgh’s crags and peaks, the city pushes back against the dream of human separateness

Sam Grinsell

Malibu, California, 1957. Photo by Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos

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Gender and identity
Sexual dinosaurs

The charge of ‘feminist bias’ is used to besmirch anyone who questions sexist assumptions at work in neuroscience

Cordelia Fine

Laugharne, Wales, 1959. Photo by Philip Jones Griffiths/Magnum

Essay/
Language and linguistics
Hand to mouth

If language began with gestures around a campfire and secret signals on hunts, why did speech come to dominate communication?

Kensy Cooperrider

Guilin, China. 1979. Photo by Hiroji Kubota/Magnum

Essay/
Economic history
Counting China

By rejecting sampling in favour of exhaustive enumeration, communist China’s dream of total information became a nightmare

Arunabh Ghosh

The Blue Boat (1892) by Winslow Homer. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Essay/
Neuroscience
Nostalgia reimagined

Neuroscience is finding what propaganda has long known: nostalgia doesn’t need real memories – an imagined past works too

Felipe De Brigard

Photo by George Georgiou / Panos Pictures

Essay/
Illness and disease
On Matthew’s mind

An operation to remove a brain cyst changed Matthew’s identity. Who will he become after the next round of surgery?

Ben Platts-Mills