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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Surfing Uncertainty

Predictive brains, sentient robots, and the embodied self

Is the human brain just a rag-bag of different tricks and stratagems, slowly accumulated over evolutionary time? For many years, I thought the answer to this question was most probably ‘yes’. The most tantalizing (but least developed) aspect of the emerging framework concerns the origins of conscious experience itself.

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Talk is cheap: diverse dignities at the centre of mental disorder

It may be fairly easy to say that the dignity of a person in the domain of psychiatry should be respected. Justification is easy to find. For example, the South African Constitution proclaims ‘everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.’

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The paradoxes of Christmas

While most of you probably don’t believe in Santa Claus (and some of you of course never did!), you might not be aware that Santa Claus isn’t just imaginary, he is impossible! In order to show that the very concept of Santa Claus is riddled with incoherence, we first need to consult the canonical sources to determine what properties and powers this mystical man in red is supposed to have.

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Public Health Ethics

Most powerful lesson from Ebola: We do not learn our lessons

‘Ebola is a wake-up call.’ This is a common sentiment expressed by those who have reflected on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It is a reaction to the nearly 30,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths that have occurred since the first cases of the outbreak were reported in March 2014.

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What are human rights?

On this anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is worth reflecting on the nature of human rights and what functions they perform in moral, political and legal discourse and practice. For moral theorists, the dominant approach to the normative foundations of international human rights conceives of human rights as moral entitlements that all human beings possess by virtue of our common humanity.

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OUP Philosophy Creast

Philosopher of the Month: Baruch Spinoza

The OUP Philosophy team has selected Baruch Spinoza as their December Philosopher of the Month. Born in Amsterdam, Spinoza has been called the “Prince of Philosophy” due to his revelatory work in ethics, epistemology, and other fields of philosophy. His works include ‘The Principles of Cartesian Philosophy’, ‘Theologico-Political Treatise’, and his magnum opus, ‘Ethics’.

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FM Kamm

APA Eastern 2016: a conference guide

The Oxford Philosophy Team will be starting off the New Year in Washington D.C.! We’re excited to see you at the upcoming 2016 American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Meeting. We have some suggestions on sights to see during your time in Washington as well as our favorite sessions for the conference.

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A world with persons but without guns or the death penalty

In this post, starting again with a few highly-plausible Kantian metaphysical, moral, and political premises, I want to present two new, simple, step-by-step arguments which prove decisively that the ownership and use of firearms (aka guns) and capital punishment (aka the death penalty) are both rationally unjustified and immoral.

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The life of culture

Does culture really have a life of its own? Are cultural trends, fashions, ideas, and norms like organisms, evolving and weaving our minds and bodies into an ecological web? You hear a pop song a few times and suddenly find yourself humming the tune. You unthinkingly adopt the vocabulary and turns of phrase of your circle of friends.

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We must try harder to stop the drug cheats

Reports of a Russian state doping programme are jarring reminders of times when victorious athletes were offered as evidence for the superiority of political ideologies. The allegations have certainly complicated aspirations to keep drugs out of the Olympics. If your state colludes in your doping then you have only to arrange to be clean around the dates of competition.

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9780199895632 - God Is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human

Is there an evolutionary advantage to religion?

Few can deny the sheer significance of religious belief to human society, a topic of study that has provided much insight into how we lived previously, how we live today, and how we will live in the future. However, for what purpose, exactly, did religion originate?

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Does the meat industry harm animals?

Should we eat animals? Vegetarians often say “No, because the meat industry harms animals greatly.” They point to the appalling conditions in which animals are raised in factory farms, and the manner in which they are killed. Meat-eaters often reply that this objection is ill-founded because animals owe their very existence to the meat industry.

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9780195396577 (2)

The phosphene dreams of a young Christian soldier

On a blustery St. Martin’s Eve in 1619, a 23-year-old French gentleman soldier in the service of Maximilian of Bavaria was billeted near Ulm, Germany. Having recently quit his military service under Maurice of Nassau, he was new to the Bavarian army and a stranger to the area.

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An educated fury: faith and doubt

Novelists are used to their characters getting away from them. Tolstoy once complained that Katyusha Maslova was “dictating” her actions to him as he wrestled with the plot of his last novel, Resurrection. There was a story that after reading Mikhail Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don, Stalin praised the work but advised the author to “convince” the main character, Melekhov, to stop loafing about and start serving in the Red Army.

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British Journal of Aesthetics

Perfumes, olfactory art, and philosophy

What could philosophy have to do with odors and perfumes? And what could odors and perfumes have to do with Art? After all, many philosophers have considered smell the lowest and most animal of the senses and have viewed perfume as a trivial luxury.

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OUP Philosophy Creast

The OUP Philosophy Festival 2015

The Oxford Philosophy group teamed up with Blackwell’s Bookshop Oxford to celebrate Philosophy in all its diversity. From a philosophical balloon debate (where David Hume blew the audience away with a song about the problem of induction) to panels dealing with the ethics of everyday life, we explored a huge variety of philosophical problems and had fun in the process.

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