Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Tetralogue

Trains of thought: Sarah

Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Sarah’s perspective.

Read More
Kalderon - Form Without Matter

The philosophy of perception

Parmenides, in the Way of Mortal Opinion, envisions the sensible world to be governed by Fire and Night, understood as cosmic principles. As a consequence, Parmenides conceives of the colors as themselves mixtures of light and dark. Parmenides’ view, here, is in line with an ancient tradition dating back at least to Homeric times.

Read More
9780199540884

Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything, and cosmology

Renowned English cosmologist Stephen Hawking has made his name through his work in theoretical physics as a bestselling author. His life – his pioneering research, his troubled relationship with his wife, and the challenges imposed by his disability – is the subject of a poignant biopic, The Theory of Everything. Directed by James Marsh, the film stars Eddie Redmayne, who has garnered widespread critical acclaim for his moving portrayal.

Read More
Tetralogue

Trains of thought: Roxana

Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Roxana’s perspective.

Read More
Cassam - Self-knowledge for Humans

Self-knowledge: what is it good for?

Marvin is a delusional dater. He somehow talked the gorgeous Maria into going on a date with him, and today is the day. Maria is way out of Marvin’s league but he lacks self-knowledge. He thinks he is better looking, better dressed, and more interesting than he really is. Yet his illusions about himself serve a purpose. They give him self-belief and as a result the date goes better than it would have done otherwise. Maria is still out of Marvin’s league, but is at least impressed by his nerve and self-confidence, if not by his conversation.

Read More
Aha!

A toast to your unconscious mind

We like to think that we can control the contents of our mind, but if we watch ourselves think, we will quickly realize that this isn’t so.If you don’t believe me, try this experiment. Sit in a quiet room for five minutes, during which time you stare at a blank wall and try to empty your mind of thoughts.

Read More
Tetralogue

Trains of thought: Zac

Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Zac’s perspective.

Read More
Cook_Yablo Paradox

The impossibility of perfect forgeries?

Imagine that Banksy, (or J.S.G. Boggs, or some other artist whose name starts with “B”, and who is known for making fake money) creates a perfectly accurate counterfeit dollar bill – that is, he creates a piece of paper that is indistinguishable from actual dollar bills visually, chemically, and in every other relevant physical way. Imagine, further, that our artist looks at his creation and realizes that he has succeeded in creating a perfect forgery. There doesn’t seem to be anything mysterious about such a scenario at first glance – creating a perfect forgery.

Read More
9780199569694_140

Conscience in the contemporary world

Debates about conscience arise constantly in national and international news. Appropriately so, because these debates provide a vital continuing forum about issues of ethical conduct in our time. A recent and heated debate in the United States concerns the killing of an unarmed African American youth named Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.

Read More
OHB European Islam

Freedom of the press and global jihad

Since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo on January 7, the saying (wrongly attributed to Voltaire), “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” has become the motto against radicalism. Unfortunately, this virtuous defense of freedom of speech is not only inefficient but is backfiring.

Read More
Tetralogue

Trains of thought: Bob

Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Bob’s perspective.

Read More
9780190224806

Thomas Aquinas and God

One of the benefits of contemporary atheism is that it has brought to the forefront of modern consciousness the demand that believers offer some reason for the belief that they have. Of course, this demand is nothing new, and it even has scriptural support behind it, with St. Peter insisting that Christians ought always be prepared to give a reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15).

Read More
9780199860081

Free will, libertarianism, and luck

Do we have free will? Free will is one of the central topics in philosophy, both historically and in the present. The basic puzzles of this topic are easily felt. For instance, it’s easy to wonder whether factors beyond our control — our genetic constitution, the environment in which we were brought up, and so on — might be among the causes of our behavior. In the light of this, we might wonder whether it’s really possible for us to act freely or, instead, whether everything we do is ultimately shaped by these factors in such a way that undermines our free will.

Read More
Pattison - Eternal God Saving Time

Thoughts in the necropolis

Christian and pagan symbols, obelisks, urns, broken columns and overgrown mortuary chapels in classical, Gothic and Byzantine styles record the determination that those who are buried there—the great and the good of 19th century Glasgow—will not be forgotten.

Read More
Woollard - Doing and Allowing Harm

Immoral philosophy

I call myself a moral philosopher. However, I sometimes worry that I might actually be an immoral philosopher. I worry that there might be something morally wrong with making the arguments I make. Let me explain. When it comes to preventing poverty related deaths, it is almost universally agreed that Peter Singer is one of the good guys. His landmark 1971 article, “Famine, Affluence and Morality”, not only launched a rich new area of philosophical discussion, but also led to millions in donations to famine relief.

Read More
9780199385157

Seeing things the way they are

A few really disastrous mistakes have dominated Western philosophy for the past several centuries. The worst mistake of all is the idea that the universe divides into two kinds of entities, the mental and the physical (mind and body, soul and matter). A related mistake, almost as bad, is in our philosophy of perception. All of the great philosophers of the present era, beginning with Descartes, made the same mistake, and it colored their account of knowledge and indeed their account of pretty much everything.

Read More