Thinkers and theories


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Detail of Moonlight Landscape (1785) by Joseph Wright of Derby. Courtesy the Ringling Museum of Art, Florida State University

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Coleridge the philosopher

Though far more often remembered as a poet, Coleridge’s theory of ideas was spectacular in its originality and bold reach

Peter Cheyne

From The History of Madame Roland (1850) by John S C Abbott. Photo courtesy Internet Archive/Public Domain

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Thinkers and theories
Vive Madame Roland!

She was a French revolutionary and a politician’s wife. But Manon Roland should be remembered for her philosophical writings

Sandrine Bergès

The Madness of Joanna of Castile (1866) by Lorenzo Vallés. Courtesy of the Museo del Prado, Madrid

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
Final thoughts

Do deathbed regrets give us a special insight into what really matters in life? There are good reasons to be sceptical

Neil Levy

Bessie. Holstein cow, aged 20, from the Allowed to Grow Old project and book by the photographer Isa Leshko. All photos © Isa Leshko

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Ethics
Philosophers and other animals

Christine Korsgaard argues that we can extend a Kantian moral framework to include other animals. But her argument fails

Peter Godfrey-Smith

A British soldier near the Pimon military camp in Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, 25 March 2010. Photo by Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty

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War and peace
Reading John Gray in war

As a soldier, I was hard-wired to seek meaning and purpose. Gray’s philosophy helped me unhook from utopia and find peace

Andy Owen

Kirsten Thompson, the lead scientist on the Arctic Sunrise, takes water samples for eDNA sampling near Paulet Island at the entrance to the Weddell Sea. Photo by A Trayler-Smith/Greenpeace/Panos

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Thinkers and theories
The abuses of Popper

A powerful cadre of scientists and economists sold Karl Popper’s ‘falsification’ idea to the world. They have much to answer for

Charlotte Sleigh

Reading on a park bench, London, July 1941. Photo by William Vandivert/Life/Getty

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Thinkers and theories
Pause. Reflect. Think

Susan Stebbing’s little Pelican book on philosophy had a big aim: giving everybody tools to think clearly for themselves

Peter West

A young family listening to a radio broadcast in Spandau, Germany in 1927. The writer and theorist Walter Benjamin hoped that the radio would be as much a medium for the production of knowledge among listeners as for its dissemination. Photo by AKG

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History of science
Scientists for the people

Why the finest minds in 1930s Europe believed that scientists must engage with citizens or risk losing their moral compass

Deborah R Coen

Inside the United Nations Human Rights Council building in Geneva. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty

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Political philosophy
The inflation of concepts

Human rights, health, the rule of law – why are these concepts inflated to the status of totalising, secular religions?

John Tasioulas

Photo by Alex Webb/Magnum

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Thinkers and theories
The necessity of Kripke

No one with an interest in philosophy or debates about identity can afford to be ignorant of the work of Saul Kripke

Stephen Law

Hedonism at the court of kings. The Roses of Heliogabalus (1888) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. From the Perez-Simon Collection/Wikipedia

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Thinkers and theories
Plato in Sicily

Plato travelled to the decadent strife-torn court of Syracuse three times, risking his life to create a philosopher-king

Nick Romeo & Ian Tewksbury

Detail from The Vision of Saint John (1608-14) by El Greco. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Thinkers and theories
The body as mediator

The phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty entwines us, via our own beating, pulsing, living bodies, in the lives of others

Dan Nixon

Franz Brentano c1910, possibly in the garden of his summer house in Schönbühel bei Melk, Austria. Photo courtesy the Brentano Archive at the University of Graz

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Thinkers and theories
With charisma to spare

Franz Brentano, philosopher and psychologist, was an iconic teacher eclipsed by his students, Freud and Husserl among them

John A Goldsmith

Trivulzio Portrait/Portrait of a Man (1476) by Antonello da Messina (1430-1479). Courtesy Turin City Museum of Ancient Art/Wikipedia

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History of ideas
The subjective turn

For Hegel, human nature strives through history to unchain itself from tradition. But is such inner freedom worth the cost?

Jon Stewart

Self-Portrait in the Camp (1940), by Felix Nussbaum. Nussbaum was a prominent and admired artist prior to the Nazis seizing power in 1933. He subsequently worked in exile and hiding before being murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. Neue Galerie New York/Getty Images

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Thinkers and theories
Where loneliness can lead

Hannah Arendt enjoyed her solitude, but she believed that loneliness could make people susceptible to totalitarianism

Samantha Rose Hill

Detail of a miniature of Boethius lying in bed, with Philosophy standing beside him, from the beginning of Book I of The Consolation of Philosophy. Harley 4355 f.27. Courtesy the Trustees of the British Library

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Thinkers and theories
Why read Boethius today?

Written while awaiting execution, the Consolation of Philosophy poses questions about human reason that remain urgent today

John Marenbon

Photo by Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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Ethics
When to break a rule

A virtuous person respects the rules. So when should the same person make a judgment call and break or bend them instead?

Steven Nadler

Wyoming, United States, 1954. Photo by Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos

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History of ideas
On tact in dark times

Far from a social luxury, tact becomes imperative when life is cheapened. We exercise it to show gentle respect for another

Corina Stan

Cologne Cathedral stands out from the rubble of a city destroyed during the Second World War. Photographed from a US spotter plane in September 1945. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

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History
Repetition and rupture

Reinhart Koselleck, the last great theorist of history, sought in the apparent chaos of events a science of experience

Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann

Photo by Richard Kalvar/Magnum

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
The semi-satisfied life

Renowned for his pessimism, Arthur Schopenhauer was nonetheless a conoisseur of very distinctive kinds of happiness

David Bather Woods