Get curated editors’ picks, peeks behind the scenes, film recommendations and more.
The 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that lying – no matter how noble or even life-saving a lie might seem – is always morally wrong. Kant’s view drew a distinct contrast with his utilitarian contemporaries, including the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham, whose outlook could be boiled down to the maxim that ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals’. In this lecture at Harvard University in 2009, the US professor and political philosopher Michael Sandel draws from the highly influential text Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (1785) to explore Kant’s somewhat counterintuitive outlook on morality. In doing so, Sandel, with his talent for elucidating complex ideas, builds a deeper context for Kant’s worldview, including his thoughts on human uniqueness, dignity and agency.
History of ideas
How did ‘personal responsibility’ evolve into its opposite, ‘everyone for themselves’?
Thinkers and theories
Bigger isn’t better – the renegade ‘Buddhist economics’ of E F Schumacher
Dance and theatre
Close-up on kabuki – the colourful ‘pure entertainment’ of Japan’s Edo period
Building ‘bigger and better’ has pushed cosmology forward. Can it take it any further?
How Hokusai’s Great Wave emerged from Japan’s isolation to become a global icon
The ancient world
Not a lost kingdom but a parable – how to read Athens in Plato’s story of Atlantis
Meaning and the good life
Albert Camus built a philosophy of humanity on a foundation of absurdity
Check in to the Hilbert Hotel, and learn why some infinities are bigger than others
History of ideas
The devils you know – how Satan became a versatile stand-in for all manner of evil