History of ideas


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Beauty and aesthetics Bioethics Comparative philosophy Cosmopolitanism Death Ethics History of ideas Knowledge Logic and probability Meaning and the good life Metaphysics Philosophy of language Philosophy of mind Philosophy of religion Philosophy of science Political philosophy Thinkers and theories Values and beliefs Virtues and vices

Michel Foucault at home in Paris, 1978. Photo by Martine Franck/Magnum

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Political philosophy
The power thinker

Original, painstaking, sometimes frustrating and often dazzling. Foucault’s work on power matters now more than ever

Colin Koopman

Illustration detail of Zu Luo, one of China’s 24 paragons of filial piety and a disciple of Confucius. Private collection. Photo by Corbis/Getty

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History of ideas
Western philosophy is racist

Academic philosophy in ‘the West’ ignores and disdains the thought traditions of China, India and Africa. This must change

Bryan W Van Norden

Illustration by Stephen Collins

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History of ideas
I still love Kierkegaard

He is the dramatic thunderstorm at the heart of philosophy and his provocation is more valuable than ever

Julian Baggini

Illustration by Claire Scully

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History of ideas
Physics’s pangolin

Trying to resolve the stubborn paradoxes of their field, physicists craft ever more mind-boggling visions of reality

Margaret Wertheim

Children play on Omaha beach in Normandy, France, 1947. Photo by David Seymour/Magnum Photos

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Meaning and the good life
Natural-born existentialists

Ethics cannot be based on human nature because, as evolutionary biology tells us, there is no such thing

Ronnie de Sousa

A family gathering near Tehran in 2017. Photo by Thomas Dworzak/Magnum Photos

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Values and beliefs
Human nature matters

The only way to construct a robust philosophy for life is to have a clear and realistic picture of what makes humans tick

Skye C Cleary & Massimo Pigliucci

Serpent Labret with Articulated Tongue, 1300–1521 CE. Labrets were the visual markers of the eloquent, truthful speech expected of royalty and the nobility in Aztec culture. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Ethics
Life on the slippery Earth

Aztec moral philosophy has profound differences from the Greek tradition, not least its acceptance that nobody is perfect

Sebastian Purcell

Samuel Hirszenberg, Spinoza (1907) . Courtesy A. A. Deineka Picture Gallery, Kursk, Russia.

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History of ideas
Why Spinoza still matters

At a time of religious zealotry, Spinoza’s fearless defence of intellectual freedom is more timely than ever

Steven Nadler

Photo by B Anthony Stewart/National Geographic/Getty

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Mood and emotion
Against cheerfulness

Practising the Greek virtues of wisdom and courage is one thing. But being cheerful the American way borders on psychosis

Mariana Alessandri

From beginning to end; The Great Day of His Wrath (1851-3), by John Martin. Works of end-time prediction did not appear until the Seleucid era. Courtesy Tate Britain, London

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History of ideas
A revolution in time

Once local and irregular, time-keeping became universal and linear in 311 BCE. History would never be the same again

Paul J Kosmin

Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty

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Values and beliefs
Slow Thought: a manifesto

We need a philosophy of Slow Thought to ease thinking into a more playful and porous dialogue about what it means to live

Vincenzo Di Nicola

Moai at Ahu Tongariki on Easter Island, believed to have been carved by the island’s Rapa Nui Polynesian inhabitants between 1600 and 1730. Photo by Stefan Boness/Panos

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The ancient world
Do civilisations collapse?

The idea that the Maya or Easter Islanders experienced an apocalyptic end makes for good television but bad archaeology

Guy D Middleton

The teaching of Logic or Dialetics from a collection of scientific, philosophical and poetic writings, French, 13th century; Bibliothèque Sainte-Genevieve, Paris, France. Photo by Bridgeman

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Logic and probability
What is logic?

Is logical thinking a way to discover or to debate? The answers from philosophy and mathematics define human knowledge

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

‘Scenes from the Life of St Matthew’ 1390-1399, by Niccolo’ di Pietro Gerini, Church of San Francesco, Prato, Italy. St Matthew is the patron saint of bankers. Photo by Getty Images

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Economic history
Of money and morals

Moneylending has been taboo for most of human history. So how did usury stop being a sin and become respectable finance?

Alex Mayyasi

Wassily Kandinsky Composition VIII. July 1923. Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012

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Philosophy of science
Who knows what

For decades the sciences and the humanities have fought for knowledge supremacy. Both sides are wrong-headed

Massimo Pigliucci

Photo by Andia/UIG via Getty Images

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Philosophy of science
The blind spot

It’s tempting to think science gives a God’s-eye view of reality. But we forget the place of human experience at our peril

Adam Frank, Marcelo Gleiser & Evan Thompson