Metaphysics


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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

Illustration by Fumitake Uchida

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Logic and probability
Beyond true and false

Buddhist philosophy is full of contradictions. Now modern logic is learning why that might be a good thing

Graham Priest

Photo by Barry Lewis/Corbis

Essay/
Computing and artificial intelligence
Is this life real?

Philosophers and physicists say we might be living in a computer simulation, but how can we tell? And does it matter?

Matthew Francis

Illustration by Claire Scully
Essay/
Biology
Does life have a purpose?

Nobody expects atoms and molecules to have purposes, so why do we still think of living things in this way?

Michael Ruse

Photo by James Clarke
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Logic and probability
The mathematical world

Some philosophers think maths exists in a mysterious other realm. They’re wrong. Look around: you can see it

James Franklin

Photo by Jon Higgs/Gallery Stock
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Death
Not nothing

The death of a fly is utterly insignificant – or it’s a catastrophe. How much should we worry about what we squash?

Stephen Cave

‘Hume’s philosophy of time shows the fundamental relevance of the relation between an observer and a reference object.’  Photo by Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times/Getty

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History of science
No absolute time

Two centuries before Einstein, Hume recognised that universal time, independent of an observer’s viewpoint, doesn’t exist

Matias Slavov

The last remaining house on Holland Island in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, United States. Photo by Baldeaglebluff/Flickr

Essay/
Physics
In defence of disorder

Humans love laws and seek predictability. But like our Universe, which thrives on entropy, we need disorder to flourish

Alan Lightman

Landscape with Charon Crossing the Styx by Joachim Patinir, c. 1515–1524. Museo del Prado, Madrid. Photo courtesy Wikimedia

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Philosophy of religion
Hell-bent

Younger Christians may be ditching doctrines of fire and brimstone – but will Christianity ever get rid of hell entirely?

Kathryn Gin Lum

The teleologians: Plato (left) and Aristotle in Raphael's The School of Athens.  Photo by Ted Spiegel/Corbis

Essay/
History of ideas
Your point is?

Science can’t stop talking in terms of ‘purposes’, but if the universe cares about us, it has a funny way of showing it

Steven Poole

A seance in Paris, circa 1900. Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty

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Death
Life after death

The idea of life after death lives on in near-death experiences and messages from beyond the grave. What’s the evidence?

Jesse Bering

Illustration by Lee Moyer
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Metaphysics
Everything and Moore

The legendary comics author Alan Moore has written a million-word novel, tribute to every eternal speck in his universe

Tim Martin

Detail from Non-objective 1910, by Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Krasnodar, Museo D'Arte A.W.Lunascharski Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images
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Physics
Must science be testable?

String wars among physicists have highlighted just how much science needs philosophy – and not just the amateur version

Massimo Pigliucci

Life as a process; a cicada larva emerges from its shell, July 2016 in Jinhua, China. Photo by VCG/Getty
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Philosophy of science
Metaphysics of metamorphosis

The swarming, ever-changing character of the living world challenges our deepest assumptions about the nature of reality

John Dupré

Man of Science (1839), artist unknown. American. Courtesy the National Gallery of Art, Washington

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History of science
Natural philosophy redux

The great split between science and philosophy must be repaired. Only then can we answer the urgent, fundamental problems

Nicholas Maxwell

Photo by David Malan/Getty
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Logic and probability
What’s the best option?

It seems only logical: if A is better than B, and B is better than C, then A is better than C. Right? Not necessarily

Larry Temkin

Marina Abramović during ‘The Artist is Present’ exhibition at MOMA, 9 March 2010 in New York. Photo by Andrew H Walker/Getty Images

Essay/
Metaphysics
Unspeakable things

Life’s most meaningful experiences can leave us tongue-tied. What can be said, let alone understood, about the unsayable?

Silvia Jonas