Sam Dresser
Editor, Aeon

I'm an editor at Aeon. For any and all questions you have concerning Aeon, feel free to email me at sam.dresser@aeon.co. Questions about philosophy, politics, history, and the meaning of life also welcome.

Written by 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

Black clothing, a distracted gaze: the height of Elizabethan fashion. Portrait of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland (1590-1595), by Nicholas Hilliard. Photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Essay/
Stories and literature
My mistress Melancholy

In The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton gave his life to charting a Renaissance disease both alluring and dangerous

Mary Ann Lund

A cemetery in Bristol, England, seen from a hot air balloon flight in August 2009. Photo by Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Essay/
Death
This mortal coil

The fear of death drives many evils, from addiction to prejudice and war. Can it also be harnessed as a force for good?

Jeff Greenberg

Bertrand Russell in November 1950, having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
Political philosophy
The politics of logic

Should philosophy express the national character of a people? Bertrand Russell’s ‘scientific’ philosophy was a bulwark against nationalism

Alexander Klein

  Erotic ‘Spring Picture’, Ming Dynasty, 16th century, China, artist unknown. Courtesy Wikimedia

Essay/
Sex and sexuality
Anti-climax

Coitus reservatus is an ancient technique promising bliss and longevity. Does orgasm data back up these tantric ideas?

Peter von Ziegesar

Virginia Woolf pictured at Monk’s House, Sussex, England c1928. Photo courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University

Essay/
Stories and literature
Highbrows and self-helpers

Woolf loathed it but it spurred her on. Hemingway drew ideas of manliness from it. Self-help haunted the modernist imagination

Beth Blum

Moved by fictions: Greta Garbo in Anna Karenina (1935). Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
Philosophy of language
Making up stuff

A novel, by definition, tells a fictional story – but does that make its author a liar? On the space between stories and lies

Emar Maier

The historical Buddha, preaching on Vulture Peak. Japanese, Nara period, 8th century. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Essay/
Religion
Who was the Buddha?

When we strip away the myths, such as his princely youth in a palace, a surprising picture of this enigmatic sage emerges

Alexander Wynne

Visitors take a selfie photograph in front of Girl with Peaches (1887), by Russian artist Valentin Serov at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Photo by Alexander Kurov/TASS/Getty

Essay/
Virtues and vices
Modesty means more, not less

True modesty is not to be timid or meek but a way of being in the world that means you don’t get in the way of your life

Nicolas Bommarito

New York in 1946 from the New Jersey shore, taken with a 40-inch Dallmeyer telephoto lens. Photo by Andreas Feinin/Time Life/Getty

Essay/
Political philosophy
Project and system

There are two ways of seeing order in the world: as a spontaneous system or as an intentional project. Which way lies freedom?

Paul Kahn

The Memorial Hall, Harvard University, c1900. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Essay/
Education
Pluck versus luck

Meritocracy emphasises the power of the individual to overcome obstacles, but the real story is quite a different one

David Labaree

KFC, McDonald’s, tourists and a Trabant car at the site of the former Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. Photo by Kay Nietfeld/dpa/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Politics and government
The horror of sameness

What people most fear is not difference, but a world in which nothing and nowhere is unique, in which everyplace is the same

Holly Case

Detail from Ore into Iron (1953) by Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965). Gift of William H and Saundra B Lane and Henry H and Zoe Oliver Sherman Fund. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Pragmatism endures

Pragmatism was not eclipsed after Dewey: it has been a constant and dominant force in philosophy for nearly 100 years

Cheryl Misak & Robert B Talisse

Photo by Carmen Jiménez/EyeEm/Getty

Essay/
Meaning and the good life
On serendipity

A decades-long conversation between friends about books, photography and life, exploring what it is to know, to look, to see

Sven Birkerts & Christopher Benfey

Speakers corner, London, 1978. Photo by Rudolf Dietrich/ullstein bild/Getty

Essay/
Knowledge
Mistaken

Assuming that another person’s opinions are immune from criticism is not a marker of respect. It is, in fact, dehumanising

Daniel Ward

Photo by Andy McGowan/Getty

Essay/
Social psychology
Houses of horror

A ragged curtain, a creaking attic, a dark cellar – what explains the architecture of creepiness, and its enduring appeal?

Francis McAndrew

Wittgenstein’s restored hut at Skjolden, Norway. All photos courtesy Jon Bolstad and © Wittgenstein Initiative except where noted

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Secular pilgrimage

Visiting Wittgenstein’s home evokes the philosopher’s serious, ascetic mind (no doubt he would disapprove its restoration)

Julian Baggini

In the Mea Shearim section of Jerusalem, Talmudic scholars haggle over various interpretations of Talmudic scholarship, 1957. Photo by Bert Glinn/Magnum

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
The Bible’s first critic

Centuries before Spinoza, there was Ḥiwi al-Balkhi, a Jewish freethinker for whom the Bible was too irrational for faith

Pieter van der Horst

Detail from a US poster for the 1948 film production of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, directed by David Lean. Photo by LMPC/Getty

Essay/
Stories and literature
Orphans and their quests

The sympathetic plot is a type of story, rich in tropes, that is universal to human cultures. With one big twist…

Manvir Singh

A nurse and patient at Lyon’s Croix-Rousse hospital, March 2017. Photo by Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty

Essay/
Wellbeing
A sage on the ward

Good nurses are attuned to the lived experience of patients. Can the theory of phenomenology add more to their practice?

Dan Zahavi

‘Aristotelian education, like its Platonic predecessor, is almost lifelong.’ In the reading room of Widener Library, Harvard University, 1974. Photo by Constantine Manos/Magnum

Essay/
Education
The well-educated person

If we took Aristotle seriously we would revolutionise our educational systems to enable citizens to learn throughout life

C D C Reeve

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