The Sea of Ice (Das Eismeer), by Caspar David Friedrich (1823). Courtesy the Hamburger Kunsthalle/Wikipedia

Essay/
History of ideas
In praise of aphorisms

What if we see the history of philosophy not as a grand system of sustained critique but as a series of brilliant fragments?

Andrew Hui

Roping calves, Paradise Valley, Nevada, in 1979. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer/Library of Congress

Essay/
Animals and humans
American bull

The story of American beef is like the story of the nation as a whole: a mashup of history and myth, bloody and contested

Joshua Specht

Thomas Jefferson’s copy of George Sale’s 1734 translation of the Quran is used in the swearing in ceremony of US Representative Keith Ellison at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, on 4 January 2007. Photo by Getty

Idea/
Thinkers and theories
Muhammad: an anticlerical hero of the European Enlightenment

John Tolan

Photo by Edward Webb/Gallery Stock

Essay/
Mathematics
The chords of the Universe

It’s no surprise that mathematics has influenced music. But did you know that the influence goes both ways?

Eli Maor

Detail from The Departure Herald, unknown artist, Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Image courtesy Wikipedia

Essay/
Politics and government
Everyday politics

Imperial Chinese conscription shows how ordinary people exercise influential political skills, even in a repressive state

Michael Szonyi

A return to equality; an American soldier comes home after the Second World War. Photo by Lambert/Getty

Essay/
Politics and government
The bloodstained leveller

Throughout history, plagues and wars have left greater equality in their wake. Can we get there again without violence?

Walter Scheidel