Photo by Martine Franck/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of religion
Reincarnation now

Modern mindfulness strips Buddhism of its spiritual core. We need an ethics of reincarnation for an interconnected world

Avram Alpert

Locals at the Marienfluss Conservancy in Namibia meet to discuss conservation. Photo courtesy of NACSO/WWF Namibia

Essay/
The environment
The miracle of the commons

Far from being profoundly destructive, we humans have deep capacities for sharing resources with generosity and foresight

Michelle Nijhuis

Proud new citizens at a US Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalisation ceremony at the New York Public Library in Manhattan on 3 July 2018. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Essay/
Nations and empires
The patriot paradox

Globalism is out. Nationalism is in. Progressives who think they can jump aboard are dangerously naive

Jeremy Adelman

Miami Beach, 2015. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Magnum

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
Authenticity is a sham

From monks to existentialists and hipsters, the search for a true self has been a centuries-long project. Should we give it up?

Alexander Stern

A copy of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) is believed to be the only book known to have the signatures of two of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Photo by Dai Sugano/Mercury/Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
Milton versus the mob

He spoke truth to power and made heresy a virtue. Lessons on free speech and intellectual combat from John Milton

Nicholas McDowell

Photo by Richard Baker/Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
Shameful

Women who write about their pain suffer a double shaming: once for getting injured, twice for their act of self-exposure

Katherine Angel

Fremont Street, Las Vegas, 1982. Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

Essay/
Mathematics
Mathematics for gamblers

If philosophers and mathematicians struggle with probability, can gamblers really hope to grasp their losing game?

Catalin Barboianu

Photo by Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

Essay/
Information and communication
The misinformation virus

Lies and distortions don’t just afflict the ignorant. The more you know, the more vulnerable you can be to infection

Elitsa Dermendzhiyska

The Course of Empire: Destruction (1836) by Thomas Cole. Courtesy Met Museum, New York/Wikipedia

Essay/
Nations and empires
The road from Rome

The fall of the Roman Empire wasn’t a tragedy for civilisation. It was a lucky break for humanity as a whole

Walter Scheidel

Photo by Elliott Landy / Magnum Photos

Essay/
Beauty and aesthetics
A philosophy of sound

From the Big Bang to a heartbeat in utero, sounds are a scaffold for thought when logic and imagery elude us

Christina Rawls

Photo by Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum

Essay/
Sleep and dreams
Nightmares becalmed

I’m a dream engineer. Through touch, scent and sound, we help people rescript the dramas of their sleeping lives

Michelle Carr

Norman Douglas (right), lounging in Capri in 1949. Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

Essay/
Sex and sexuality
The case of Norman Douglas

He was a literary lion and an infamous pederast: what might we learn from his life about monstrosity and humanity?

Rachel Hope Cleves

Photo by Berenice Abbott/Getty

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Brain wifi

Instead of a code encrypted in the wiring of our neurons, could consciousness reside in the brain’s electromagnetic field?

Johnjoe McFadden

Peanuts, bagged and ready for transport, are stacked in pyramids at Kano, Northern Region, Nigeria, 1955. Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Essay/
Global history
After slavery

Abolition in Africa brought longed-for freedoms, but also political turmoil, economic collapse and rising enslavement

Toby Green

Maxim and Ivy Litvinov in London in 1933. Photo by Hulton/Getty

Essay/
History
Madame comrade

How Ivy Litvinov, the English-born wife of a Soviet ambassador, seduced America with wit, tea and soft diplomacy

Brigid O’Keeffe

Photo by Vaishnav Munda/Unsplash

Essay/
Physics
The cosmic chasm

Physics as we know it is elegant and exquisitely accurate. It tells almost nothing about the deepest riddles of the Universe

Pedro G Ferreira

Paul Giamatti as Hamlet in Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of 2013. Photo by Joan Marcus

Essay/
Dance and theatre
Phantasia

Imagination is a powerful tool, a sixth sense, a weapon. We must be careful how we use it, in life as on stage or screen

Paul Giamatti & Stephen T Asma

Montage by Aeon/Alamy Photos

Essay/
Biography and memoir
Not only the stranger

Growing up in the shadow of a serial killer I came to understand that danger within a locked house might exceed that without

Alicia Foster

A bottlenose dolphin. Photo by Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures

Essay/
Animals and humans
Thanks for all the fish

The search for dolphin intelligence and the quest for alien life have moved in historical lockstep. What does the future hold?

Thomas Moynihan

Photo by Kristian Bell/Getty.

Essay/
Ecology and environmental sciences
Nature’s playbook

From termite queens to the carbon cycle, nature knows how to avoid network collapse. Human designers should pay heed

Ruth DeFries

Photo by Christopher Anderson/Magnum

Essay/
Neuroscience
Myth and the mind

Saturated with rites and symbols, psychology feeds a deep human need once nourished by mythology

Rami Gabriel

Photo by Frederic Courbet / Panos Pictures

Essay/
Anthropology
What pastoralists know

Pastoralists are experts in managing extreme variability. In a volatile world economy, bankers should learn how they do it

Ian Scoones

Participants in the annual Twins Days Festival parade in Twinsburg, Ohio, 4 August 2012. Photo by Lisa Wiltse/Corbis/Getty

Essay/
Genetics
The science of terrible men

The pioneers of social genetics were racists and eugenicists: should we give up on the science they founded altogether?

Kathryn Paige Harden

At the Maison Blanche psychiatric hospital in Paris, 1954. Photo by Jean-Philippe Charbonnier/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Essay/
History of science
Shocked

With evidence for efficacy so thin, and the stakes so high, why is ‘electroshock’ therapy still a mainstay of psychiatry?

John Read

Hexensabbat in Trier (‘witches’ sabbath’, 1593), by Pastor H H Lauen, Germany. Courtesy the Witchcraft Collection, Cornell University.

Essay/
History
Rich witches

How a flawed logic of economic scarcity and social climbing spurred witch hunts in early modern Germany

Johannes Dillinger

Bessie. Holstein cow, aged 20, from the Allowed to Grow Old project and book by the photographer Isa Leshko. All photos © Isa Leshko

Essay/
Ethics
Philosophers and other animals

Christine Korsgaard argues that we can extend a Kantian moral framework to include other animals. But her argument fails

Peter Godfrey-Smith

U Pyinyathee of the All Burma Monks Alliance, a group of exiled monks who fled the protests of the Saffron Revolution of 2007, outside the makeshift monastery he shares in Utica, upstate New York, 27 April 2010. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Essay/
Demography and migration
Exiles on Main Street

To respect exiles as real and important political actors, we should get over casting them as saints, threats or victims

Ashwini Vasanthakumar

A British soldier near the Pimon military camp in Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, 25 March 2010. Photo by Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty

Essay/
War and peace
Reading John Gray in war

As a soldier, I was hard-wired to seek meaning and purpose. Gray’s philosophy helped me unhook from utopia and find peace

Andy Owen

An American soldier with British war orphans adopted by his unit; London, early 1943. Photo by Robert Capa, International Centre for Photography/Magnum

Essay/
Ethics
The right right thing to do

The ethical life means being good to ourselves, to others, and to the world. But how do you choose if these demands compete?

Irene McMullin