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Philosophy

Essays and videos on philosophy, the history of ideas, ethics and life’s big questions
Black and white photograph depicts a flood with rising water levels in a residential area. Strong currents and waves are visible, and houses in the background are partially submerged. Floodwater covers much of the landscape, with a lone tree and partial wooden structure in the foreground.
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essay

The future

The disruption nexus

Moments of crisis, such as our own, are great opportunities for historic change, but only under highly specific conditions

Roman Krznaric

A close-up of an orange and black butterfly perched on a leaf with a soft, pastel-coloured background.
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essay

History of ideas

Chaos and cause

Can a butterfly’s wings trigger a distant hurricane? The answer depends on the perspective you take: physics or human agency

Erik Van Aken

X-ray image of a single flower with visible petals, stem, and internal structures on a black background.
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Philosophy of mind

Do plants have minds?

In the 1840s, the iconoclastic scientist Gustav Fechner made an inspired case for taking seriously the interior lives of plants

Rachael Petersen

Intricate artwork of robed women with long, flowing hair in a forest, surrounding a glowing, veiled woman adorned with flowers.
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Beauty and aesthetics

All aquiver

The Decadent movement taught that you should live your life with the greatest intensity – a dangerous and thrilling challenge

Kate Hext

Abstract geometric pattern featuring overlapping rectangular and house-like shapes in various colours, including orange, yellow, green, pink, blue, red, and black, with circular details. The shapes create a visually intriguing mosaic-like composition.
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video

Political philosophy

Beyond the veil – what rules would govern John Rawls’s ‘realistic Utopia’?

6 minutes

Cyclists in a professional race riding in rainy conditions. The leading cyclist in a blue jersey raises his arms in victory, with other cyclists closely following behind on the wet road. Everyone is wearing helmets and sunglasses for protection.
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Sports and games

Performance-enhancing vices

Selfishness channels ambition, envy drives competition, pride aids the win. Does it take a bad person to be a good athlete?

Sabrina Little

A colourful, abstract image featuring a large, black and white bird in flight. The background is a swirling mix of purple, orange, and yellow hues. A small figure of a child walks in the distance, casting a long shadow.
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Ageing and death

Peregrinations of grief

A friend and a falcon went missing. In pain, I turned to ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ – and found a new vision of sorrow and time

Emily Polk

Black and white image of Japanese soldiers in battle gear marching with a Rising Sun Flag, superimposed with large Japanese calligraphy characters on a plain background.
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Nations and empires

Chastising little brother

Why did Japanese Confucians enthusiastically support Imperial Japan’s murderous conquest of China, the homeland of Confucius?

Shaun O’Dwyer

Abstract artwork featuring geometric shapes, primarily red and black triangles, against a white background. Russian text is interspersed, with a red triangle pointing rightward and a large white circle on the right. Various smaller shapes and text elements are scattered around.
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Quantum theory

Quantum dialectics

When quantum mechanics posed a threat to the Marxist doctrine of materialism, communist physicists sought to reconcile the two

Jim Baggott

A historical map of Southern Europe, including parts of Austria, Hungary, Italy, Turkey, and the Balkans. Features cities such as Milan, Vienna, Rome, and Constantinople, with regions distinguished by different colours. Sea names such as the Adriatic and Mediterranean are also visible.
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Nations and empires

A United States of Europe

A free and unified Europe was first imagined by Italian radicals in the 19th century. Could we yet see their dream made real?

Fernanda Gallo

Illustration of soldiers in action, with one leading the charge and another crawling forward. Both wear military uniforms with helmets and carry rifles. The background is a vibrant red, enhancing the sense of urgency and movement.
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Stories and literature

On Jewish revenge

What might a people, subjected to unspeakable historical suffering, think about the ethics of vengeance once in power?

Shachar Pinsker

Two embryos, colourised in shades of pink, orange, and purple, against a black background. The embryos have distinguishable head, body, and tail regions.
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Biology

Building embryos

For 3,000 years, humans have struggled to understand the embryo. Now there is a revolution underway

John Wallingford

Two wooden chairs with a unique, organic design stand in a lush garden surrounded by green plants and yellow flowers. A small tree in the background appears to be pruned in an artistic manner, enhancing the natural aesthetic.
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Design and fashion

Sitting on the art

Given its intimacy with the body and deep play on form and function, furniture is a ripely ambiguous artform of its own

Emma Crichton Miller

A vibrant parade with people dressed in colourful, clown-like costumes riding decorated bicycles. They are smiling and laughing as they ride through a crowd of onlookers. Various decorations such as flowers, balloons, and banners add to the festive atmosphere. Trees line the background of the street.
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Wellbeing

Learning to be happier

In order to help improve my students’ mental health, I offered a course on the science of happiness. It worked – but why?

Bruce Hood

A team of surgeons in blue scrubs and surgical caps operate under bright surgical lights in an operating theatre. Medical instruments and equipment are arranged on tables around them, while one team member adjusts another’s mask. Shelves in the background hold medical supplies.
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Medicine

Last hours of an organ donor

In the liminal time when the brain is dead but organs are kept alive, there is an urgent tenderness to medical care

Ronald W Dworkin

Illustration of a classroom in ancient Rome with a female teacher in a toga addressing students who are listening intently. She holds a scroll and stands in front of busts on pedestals.
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video

Thinkers and theories

A rare female scholar of the Roman Empire, Hypatia lived and died as a secular voice

5 minutes

A person is sitting on the edge of a traditional Japanese building, looking out at a lush garden. Sunlight illuminates the foliage, creating a serene atmosphere.
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video

Architecture

The celebrated architect who took inspiration from sitting, waiting and contemplating

29 minutes

Two men sit talking on a wooden beam by a dock. One is in jeans, the other wears a coat and holds a small item. A cargo ship, a bridge and a warehouse are in the background.
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Stories and literature

Do liberal arts liberate?

In Jack London’s novel, Martin Eden personifies debates still raging over the role and purpose of education in American life

Nick Romeo

A medieval painting shows three figures: one holds a balance scale, weighing objects; two robed figures stand nearby. There are coins on the table and intricate border details.
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History of ideas

Reimagining balance

In the Middle Ages, a new sense of balance fundamentally altered our understanding of nature and society

Joel Kaye

A marble bust of Thucydides is shown on a page from an old book. The opposite page is blank.
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History

What would Thucydides say?

In constantly reaching for past parallels to explain our peculiar times we miss the real lessons of the master historian

Mark Fisher

A man and a woman in formal evening dress but with giant fish heads covering their faces are pictured beneath a bridge on the foreshore of a river
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The environment

Emergency action

Could civil disobedience be morally obligatory in a society on a collision course with climate catastrophe?

Rupert Read

Painting of five women working in a field at sunset. Four are bent over tending to the soil, and one stands to the left looking at the sky with a bag on the ground beside her. The sky is a gradient of blue and orange with a visible crescent moon.
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Metaphysics

The enchanted vision

Love is much more than a mere emotion or moral ideal. It imbues the world itself and we should learn to move with its power

Mark Vernon

A group of people, some on horseback, gather in a desert area under a motorway bridge. Some have flags and banners. Police cars can be seen in the background.
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Knowledge

What is ‘lived experience’?

The term is ubiquitous and double-edged. It is both a key source of authentic knowledge and a danger to true solidarity

Patrick J Casey

A smiling family group stands in a living room posing for a photo. The table is adorned with red candles, a mirror, apples, and a green plant.
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video

Rituals and celebrations

A beginner’s guide to a joyful Persian tradition of spring renewal and rebirth

3 minutes