Sam Dresser
Senior Editor, Aeon+Psyche

Sam has been with Aeon since its launch in 2012. He’s most interested in how to do philosophy and in the continental/analytic divide. History and politics are also amusing to him. He considers Evelyn Waugh to be a very funny writer and enjoys pubs more than he should.

Written by Sam Dresser

Václav Havel wrote: ‘all at once, I seemed to rise above the coordinates of my momentary existence in the world into a kind of state outside time …’ Photo by Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Peak ellipsis

Does philosophy reside in the unsayable or should it care only for precision? Carnap, Heidegger and the great divergence

Sam Dresser

Margaret Mead photographed at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, 1930. Photo by Irving Browning/The New York Historical Society/Getty

Essay/
Anthropology
The meaning of Margaret Mead

Mead argued that non-Western cultures offered alternative (often better) ways to be human. Why was she so vilified for it?

Sam Dresser

Edited by Sam Dresser

Samuel Beckett on the set of Film in New York during his only visit to the United States in 1964. Photo by I C Rappaport/Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
The wisdom of surrender

Samuel Beckett turned an obscure 17th-century Christian heresy into an artistic vision and an unusual personal philosophy

Andy Wimbush

Districts like the largely Latino Mission District in San Francisco have experienced the effects of gentrification with fast-rising housing costs and the eviction of longtime tenants. 9 May 2015. Photo by Preston Gannaway/New York Times

Essay/
Cities
The harms of gentrification

The exclusion of poorer people from their own neighbourhoods is not just a social problem but a philosophical one

Daniel Putnam

Saturn’s rings were discovered by Christiaan Huygens in 1659. This image was taken by the Cassini-Huygens mission in 2016 and shows the entire north pole bathed in the continuous sunlight of summer. Photo Courtesy NASA/JPL

Essay/
History of science
Huygens, senior and junior

How a father’s mere curiosity about nature evolved during the Dutch Golden Age into the son’s focused scientific enquiry

Hugh Aldersey-Williams

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

Essay/
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

To marry under the broomstick: detail from Netherlandish Proverbs (1559) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (full painting below). Courtesy the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin/Wikipedia

Essay/
Rituals and celebrations
Broomstick weddings

From Kentucky to Wales and all across the Atlantic, the enslaved and downtrodden got married – by leaping over a broom. Why?

Tyler D Parry

Santiago ‘Jimmy’ McKinn (then 11 or 12 years old) pictured with Apache children at their camp at Cañon de los Embudos in 1886. McKinn had been been captured months earlier by Geronimo’s group near Silver City, New Mexico Territory. Photo by C S Fly/Library of Congress

Essay/
Anthropology
Captive culture

Even when enslaved or despised, captives brought novel ideas and technologies to the societies of their captors

Catherine M Cameron

A drunkard is challenged to walk in a straight line. Detail from Walking the Chalk (1838) by Charles Deas. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Essay/
Food and drink
Drunks and democrats

Violent, lively and brash, taverns were everywhere in early colonial America, embodying both its tumult and its promise

Vaughn Scribner

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

Essay/
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

Essay/
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

A woman and her children sit at the entrance of Rua Dois, one of the most violent neighbourhoods in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela. Photo by Lianne Milton/WMF/Panos

Essay/
Political philosophy
Who gets to feel secure?

Security is one thing to a Black mother in a favela, another to a politician keen on law and order. They should be the same

Olúfẹ́mi O Táíwò

Saint John the Evangelist Causes a Pagan Temple to Collapse (c1370) by Francescuccio Ghissi. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Essay/
The ancient world
Fiddling while Rome converts

A generation of pagan bureaucrats amassed wealth and status while Roman emperors Christianised the world around them

Edward Watts

Skinheads in Southend, England, in 1981. Photo by Michael Daines/Mirrorpix/Getty

Essay/
Subcultures
Hate reads

The Western canon has no shortage of fascists. But can the far-Right make ‘literature’ worthy of the name?

Andrew Marzoni

A view of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York showing the Golden Rondelle Theater (upper left), Tower of Light (upper centre) and General Electric’s Pavilion featuring Walt Disney’s Progressland (upper right, blue and yellow lit dome). Photo by George Silk/LIFE/Getty

Essay/
History of ideas
The rise and rise of creativity

Once seen as the work of genius, how did creativity become an engine of economic growth and a corporate imperative?

Steven Shapin

Members of the Ik (Uganda) mime a ritual raid-and-escape dance, an element of which is to teach the importance of tending to the injured and vulnerable. All photos courtesy the author

Essay/
Anthropology
Neither nasty nor brutish

The Ik – among the poorest people on Earth – have been cast as exemplars of human selfishness. The truth is much more startling

Cathryn Townsend

An American advertisement for Royal Crown Cola from 1955. Photo by Alamy

Essay/
Gender
Angels in the market

The heart-tug tactics of 1950s ads steered white American women away from activism into domesticity. They’re still there

Ellen Wayland-Smith

Taylor Hackford and Isabella Rossellini get to the point. Photo by Eve Arnold/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of language
Thoughts into words

Here’s the paradox of articulation: are you excavating existing ideas, or do your thoughts come into being as you speak?

Eli Alshanetsky

On the runway in 1962. Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty

Essay/
Travel
Fly with me

Jet-age glamour was more than just aesthetic: its promise of motionless movement reshaped perception of time and space

Vanessa R Schwartz

The cellar of the Codorníu winery Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Catalonia. Photo by Richard Kalvar/Magnum

Essay/
Archaeology
Accumulation and its discontents

Whether collecting, storing or hoarding, we’ve always had our issues with stuff – not least deciding what’s worth having

Astrid Van Oyen

Photo by Richard Kalvar/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Language and linguistics
The space between our heads

Brain-to-brain interfaces promise to bypass language. But do we really want access to one another’s unmediated thoughts?

Mark Dingemanse

Residents line up for cow beans provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ease an ongoing food crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. Mainok village, Western Borno State, Nigeria, 11 February 2017. Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII/Headpress

Essay/
Poverty and development
The billionaire curse

Philanthropy is vital – but its mechanisms are as intricate and troubling as the baroque structures of high finance

Katharyne Mitchell

Laugharne, Wales, 1959. Photo by Philip Jones Griffiths/Magnum

Essay/
Language and linguistics
Hand to mouth

If language began with gestures around a campfire and secret signals on hunts, why did speech come to dominate communication?

Kensy Cooperrider

Scientists near the Daneborg research station in Greenland, July/August 2014. Photo by Jean Gaumy/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of science
The necessity of awe

In awe we hold fast to nature’s strangeness and open up to the unknown. No wonder it’s central to the scientific imagination

Helen De Cruz

The cleaner wrasse (pictured here accompanying the larger black-and-white snapper) can seemingly recognise itself in a mirror. Photo by Ullstein Bild/Getty

Essay/
Biology
The face of the fish

They’re not cuddly, they don’t behave at all like us – yet they are sentient. Why fish belong in the moral community

Michael Woodruff

Detail from Beethoven Frieze, Hostile Forces (1902) by Gustav Klimt, on display at the Secession Building, Vienna. Courtesy Wikipedia

Essay/
Music
Vienna, city of paradox

How did the city of elegant classicism give birth to an explosive modernism, threatening to destroy its very traditions?

Alexander Carpenter

A view of Singapore’s central business district from a hotel along Beach Road. Much of Singapore’s recent development has been built upon land reclaimed from the sea. Photo by Sim Chi Yin/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Politics and government
The ungoverned globe

The end of the liberal order would unleash chaos; its continuance means unconstrained economic suffering. What to do?

Benjamin Studebaker

Carl Schmitt addresses the German Industry and Trade Day at the Kroll Opera House, Berlin, 8 April 1930. Photo by Ullstein Bild/Getty

Essay/
Political philosophy
Lawyer for the strongman

Demagogues do not rise on popular feeling alone but on the constitutional ideas of Weimar and Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt

David Dyzenhaus

Alt-Berlin, Waisenstraße (1927) by Hans Baluschek. Courtesy of the Märkisches Museum, Berlin/Wikipedia

Essay/
Cities
Money and modern life

Sociologist Georg Simmel diagnosed the character of modern city life: finance, fashion and becoming strangers to one another

Daniel Lopez

American Civil Rights activist Malcolm X (left) pictured in New York in 1963. His radicalism helped shape public discourse. Photo by Robert L Haggins/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

Essay/
Mood and emotion
The fruits of anger

To those who say anger is destructive or pointless: Not so! Getting angry spurs and sustains us to take action for justice

Brian Wong

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