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Philosophy

Essays and videos on philosophy, the history of ideas, ethics and life’s big questions
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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essay

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

Medieval illustration of two figures walking with staffs, dressed in blue and red robes, standing within a circle, with decorative blue and red corners.
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essay

History of science

The missing conversation

To the detriment of the public, scientists and historians don’t engage with one another. They must begin a new dialogue

Lorraine Daston & Peter Harrison

Artwork depicting a silhouette of a person wearing a floral headband, with a natural background of plants and blurred scenery.
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video

Ecology and environmental sciences

The ancient Hawaiian myth that sparked a modern ecological breakthrough

10 minutes

A sunlit old stone corridor with Gothic arches and shadows cast on the walls, featuring arched windows and a lantern.
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essay

Knowledge

The ends of knowledge

Academics need to think harder about the purpose of their disciplines and whether some of those should come to an end

Rachael Scarborough King & Seth Rudy

Children stand in a line facing a teacher in a classroom, with “Transcription” written on the blackboard behind her.
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Thinkers and theories

Wittgenstein in the classroom

The philosopher understood that learning – of a concept, of ourselves, of each other – is the undertaking of a whole life

Calum Jacobs

Ancient ruins with arches and columns, tourists exploring, and palm trees in the background, in a bright, sunny setting.
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essay

The ancient world

The great libraries of Rome

Passersby could wander at will into grand public libraries in imperial Rome. Could they trust what they found inside?

Fabio Fernandes

Scientists in cleanroom suits conversing in a brightly lit laboratory with a yellow hue, featuring reflective surfaces and specialised equipment.
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essay

Philosophy of science

Why not scientism?

Science is not the only form of knowledge but it is the best, being the most successful epistemic enterprise in history

Moti Mizrahi

A serene woodland pond with lily pads and yellow flowers, surrounded by lush greenery and tall trees with sunlight filtering through.
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essay

Knowledge

Meaning beyond definition

In science our concepts have neat, hard edges. In poetry our concepts stretch and expand. Both are necessary for knowledge

James Camien McGuiggan

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essay

Knowledge

Known unknowables

The ancient Sceptics used doubt as a way of investigating the world. Later thinkers undermined even that possibility

Mahdi Ranaee

A man sits alone while a long queue of people waits near the Louvre’s glass pyramid entrance in Paris. The photo is black and white.
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essay

History of ideas

The herd in the head

It is enormously empowering – even intoxicating – to lose yourself to a crowd. That is why we need contrarians

Costica Bradatan

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essay

Metaphysics

This essay isn’t true

Alethic nihilism is the theory that nothing is true. There is much to gain by taking this radical idea seriously

David Liggins

Two people in winter clothing walk through a snowy landscape, with buildings and power lines in the background under heavy snowstorm conditions.
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video

Knowledge

Yes, the Inuit have dozens of words for snow – but what does each one mean exactly?

6 minutes

Priests in white robes stand in a dimly lit church, with beams of light shining through smoke from a window above.
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essay

Economic history

Jesuits in the boardroom

As corporations struggle to survive in a more uncertain world, they should look to the success of the Society of Jesus

Paolo Quattrone

Long-necked and long-tailed dinosaur, Diplodocus, shown in profile view with a faded green and grey coloration.
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essay

Palaeontology

A dinosaur is a story

As Brontosaurus tells us, in science as in fiction, the stories we tell to understand the world are always being revised

Nathaniel Goldberg & Chris Gavaler

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essay

Knowledge

A sliver of reality

Science and mathematics may never fully capture the physical universe. Are there hard limits to human intelligence?

David H Wolpert

Cartoon character in a pink hat stares at a flower with an eye at its centre, inside an ornate oval frame, against a dark purple background.
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video

Metaphysics

Knowing if you’re awake seems simple. Why has it vexed philosophers for centuries?

5 minutes

A person in a thick, shaggy costume standing on bales of hay outdoors, chained at one foot. Rural landscape with trees and houses in the background.
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essay

Knowledge

Imaginology

We need a new kind of approach to learning that shifts imagination from the periphery to the foundation of all knowledge

Stephen T Asma

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essay

Knowledge

Truth is real

For a century, the idea of truth has been deflated, becoming terrain from which philosophers fled. They must return – urgently

Crispin Sartwell

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Thinkers and theories

Scepticism as a way of life

The desire for certainty is often foolish and sometimes dangerous. Scepticism undermines it, both in oneself and in others

Nicholas Tampio

A painting of a girl standing beside a seated man, gazing into a blurry, luminous background with shades of blue and white light.
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video

Knowledge

A poet’s ode to the Hubble Telescope – and to her father, who helped to build it

2 minutes

Person in diving suit stands in the middle of calm lake with misty hills in the background and reflection in the water.
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essay

History of science

Fringe theories stack

Believe in the Loch Ness monster and you’re more likely to believe the Apollo missions were fake. How do weird beliefs work?

Michael D Gordin

Two smiling monks in orange robes kneel and pray on a hilltop with mountains and clouds in the background.
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video

Philosophy of religion

What Zen Buddhist riddles reveal about knowledge and the unknowable

5 minutes

Two people enjoying a picnic on a blanket with assorted food and drinks, viewed from above with a 1-metre scale overlay.
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video

Cosmology

Revisiting ‘Powers of Ten’ – what we’ve learned about the Universe since 1977

7 minutes

A man leans on a yellow truck, while another man speaks to him. A sign with “PROGRESO” and a first aid box are visible in the background.
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essay

Knowledge

How do you know?

Correct information doesn’t always come with its own bright halo of truth. What makes something worth believing?

Nate Sheff