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Philosophy

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

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video

Political philosophy

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

6 minutes

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

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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 still life painting featuring a white jug, an orange sphere, and two books against a deep blue background. The objects are arranged on a yellow-wooden and dark surface, with the orange resting on the book. The geometric composition is bathed in shadow and light.
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Thinkers and theories

Philosophy is an art

For Margaret Macdonald, philosophical theories are akin to stories, meant to enlarge certain aspects of human life

Peter West

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video

Metaphysics

Simple entities in universal harmony – Leibniz’s evocative perspective on reality

4 minutes

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Thinkers and theories

Our tools shape our selves

For Bernard Stiegler, a visionary philosopher of our digital age, technics is the defining feature of human experience

Bryan Norton

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Stories and literature

Terrifying vistas of reality

H P Lovecraft, the master of cosmic horror stories, was a philosopher who believed in the total insignificance of humanity

Sam Woodward

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Thinkers and theories

A man beyond categories

Paul Tillich was a religious socialist and a profoundly subtle theologian who placed doubt at the centre of his thought

Ted Farris

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Social psychology

The magic of the mundane

Pioneering sociologist Erving Goffman realised that every action is deeply revealing of the social norms by which we live

Lucy McDonald

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Ethics

For Iris Murdoch, selfishness is a fault that can be solved by reframing the world

6 minutes

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Thinkers and theories

Against power

As a republican, Sophie de Grouchy argued that sympathy, not domination, must be the glue that holds society together

Sandrine Bergès & Eric Schliesser

A puppet king in a red robe, holding a sceptre, stands in front of a decorative doorway, with one arm raised as if speaking or greeting.
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Thinkers and theories

‘My art is oratory, Socrates.’ An ancient warning on the power and peril of rhetoric

4 minutes

A couple lying on grass on a hill nearby an American listening station in Berlin
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Metaphysics

What awaits us?

Humanity’s future remains as unthinkable as the still-uncolonised galaxy or the enduring mystery of our own births and deaths

Jennifer Banks

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Thinkers and theories

On knowing who he was

Alan Watts, for all his faults, was a wildly imaginative and provocative thinker who reimagined religion in a secular age

Christopher Harding

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Thinkers and theories

We’ll meet again

The intrepid logician Kurt Gödel believed in the afterlife. In four heartfelt letters to his mother he explained why

Alexander T Englert

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Thinkers and theories

Dancing and time

For Rachel Bespaloff, philosophy was a sensual activity shaped by the rhythm of history, embodied in an instant of freedom

Isabel Jacobs

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War and peace

The two Chomskys

The US military’s greatest enemy worked in an institution saturated with military funding. How did it shape his thought?

Chris Knight

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Comparative philosophy

Forging philosophy

A 17th-century classic of Ethiopian philosophy might be a fake. Does it matter, or is that just how philosophy works?

Jonathan Egid

Visualisation of a double spiral pattern representing Lorenz attractor with a smaller graph inset on the right showing a mathematical plot labelled Z_n-1.
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Thinkers and theories

Henri Bergson on why the existence of things precedes their possibility

3 minutes

Handwritten text on squared paper, discussing the relationships between “laughs” and “cries” with overlapping oval diagrams illustrating various logical conditions.
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Logic and probability

The patterns of reality

Some have thought that logic will one day be completed and all its problems solved. Now we know it is an endless task

Timothy Williamson

A graffitti sign in an underpass reads ‘Life is too short to be wasted on the pursuit of happiness’; it is reflected in pooling water underneath
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History of ideas

Whither philosophy?

The discipline today finds itself precariously balanced between incomprehensible specialisation and cheap self-help

Siobhan Lyons

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Ethics

Wrestling with relativism

Bernard Williams argued that one’s ethics is shaped by culture and history. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is right

Daniel Callcut

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Thinkers and theories

The great, forgotten Wolff

Written for laymen, read by women and kings, Christian Wolff’s mathematical method made him a key Enlightenment philosopher

Michael Walschots