A cemetery in Bristol, England, seen from a hot air balloon flight in August 2009. Photo by Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Essay/
Death
This mortal coil

The fear of death drives many evils, from addiction to prejudice and war. Can it also be harnessed as a force for good?

Jeff Greenberg

This colour-enhanced frontal view of the head, neck and shoulders confirms brain death by absence of blood flow to the brain. Photo by Living Art Enterprises, LLC/SPL

Essay/
Bioethics
Neither person nor cadaver

The body is warm, but the brain has gone dark: why the notion of brain death provokes the thorniest of medical dilemmas

Sharon Kaufman

Armed Armenian revolutionaries, Turkey, 1906. Photo courtesy of B Dickson/Royal Geographical Society/Getty

Essay/
Nations and empires
Roving revolutionaries

Moving between the Russian, Iranian and Young Turk revolutions, cosmopolitan Armenians helped usher in the 20th century

Houri Berberian

Five O'Clock. Plate VII from the series Intimacies (1898), by Félix Edouard Vallotton. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago

Essay/
Love and friendship
The joy of intimacy

A polyamorous friend challenges me: are you really happily monogamous or are you just hung up about your philandering dad?

Lily Dunn

Bertrand Russell in November 1950, having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
Political philosophy
The politics of logic

Should philosophy express the national character of a people? Bertrand Russell’s ‘scientific’ philosophy was a bulwark against nationalism

Alexander Klein

Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots celebrates a 12-yard touchdown against the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLVI on 5 February 2012. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Essay/
Sports and games
Invisible tattoos

Many athletes are propelled by childhood trauma to succeed, but it’s a toxic myth that healing the wounds blunts the edge

William D Parham

  Erotic ‘Spring Picture’, Ming Dynasty, 16th century, China, artist unknown. Courtesy Wikimedia

Essay/
Sex and sexuality
Anti-climax

Coitus reservatus is an ancient technique promising bliss and longevity. Does orgasm data back up these tantric ideas?

Peter von Ziegesar

The Funeral of Shelley (1889), by Louis Édouard Fournier. Photo courtesy the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool/Alamy

Essay/
Rituals and celebrations
Death by design

We can chose how we live – why not how we leave? A free society should allow dying to be more deliberate and imaginative

Daniel Callcut

Ostend, Belgium, 1988. Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Mental health
Depressive realism

We keep chasing happiness, but true clarity comes from depression and existential angst. Admit that life is hell, and be free

Julie Reshe

The Miracles of Saint Francis Xavier (1619-22) by André Reinoso. Saint Francis Xavier was a missionary and co-founder of the Jesuit order. Courtesy Museu de São Roque, Lisbon/AKG

Essay/
Nations and empires
Architects of empire

Jesuits knew the miserable truth of European empire in India and Brazil, yet their writings rendered it grandiose and sacred

Ananya Chakravarti

At the World Chess Championships in London, 2013. Photo by Andrew Testa/Panos

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
Concentrate!

The challenge of chess – learning how to hold complexity in mind and still make good decisions – is also the challenge of life

Jonathan Rowson

Photo by Cavan Images/Getty

Essay/
Psychiatry and psychotherapy
Cradled by therapy

Why therapy works is still up for debate. But, when it does, its methods mimic the attachment dynamics of good parenting

Elitsa Dermendzhiyska

At the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, 9 October 2019. Photo by Crispin Hughes/Panos Pictures

Essay/
The environment
Habermas and climate action

Jürgen Habermas offers a framework for action on climate change – justice and deliberation are as important as the science

Emilie Prattico

Detail from Self Portrait (1500) by Albrecht Dürer. The text to the right broadly translates as ‘Thus I, Albrecht Dürer from Nuremberg, created myself with characteristic colours at the age of 28 years.’ Courtesy Wikipedia/Alte Pinakothek München

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Consciousness is real

Consciousness is neither a spooky mystery nor an illusory belief. It’s a valid and causally efficacious biological reality

Massimo Pigliucci

Visitors take a selfie photograph in front of Girl with Peaches (1887), by Russian artist Valentin Serov at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Photo by Alexander Kurov/TASS/Getty

Essay/
Virtues and vices
Modesty means more, not less

True modesty is not to be timid or meek but a way of being in the world that means you don’t get in the way of your life

Nicolas Bommarito

The Memorial Hall, Harvard University, c1900. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Essay/
Education
Pluck versus luck

Meritocracy emphasises the power of the individual to overcome obstacles, but the real story is quite a different one

David Labaree