Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Practical wisdom and why we need to value it

By David Blockley
Aristotle saw five ways of arriving at the truth – he called them art (ars, techne), science (episteme), intuition (nous), wisdom (sophia) and practical wisdom – sometimes translated as prudence (phronesis). Ars or techne (from which we get the words art and technical, technique and technology) was concerned with production but not action. Art had a productive state, truly reasoned, with an end (i.e. a product) other than itself (e.g. a building).

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John Calvin’s prophetic calling and the memory

By Jon Balserak
What is the self, and how is it formed? In the case of Calvin, we might be given a glimpse at an answer if we consider the context from which he came. Calvin was part of a society that was still profoundly memorial in character; he lived with the vestiges of that medieval culture that’s discussed so brilliantly by Frances Yates and Mary Carruthers — a society which committed classical and Christian corpora to remembrance and whose self-identity was, in a large part, shaped and informed by memory.

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Theodicy in dialogue

By Mark S. M. Scott
Imagine for a moment that through a special act of divine providence God assembled the greatest theologians throughout time to sit around a theological round table to solve the problem of evil. You would have many of the usual suspects: Athanasius, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Karl Barth. You would have the mystics: Gregory of Nyssa, Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Ávila, and Thomas Merton.

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Torture: what’s race got to do with it?

By Rebecca Gordon
June is Torture Awareness Month, so this seems like a good time to consider some difficult aspects of torture people in the United States might need to be aware of. Sadly, this country has a long history of involvement with torture, both in its military adventures abroad and within its borders.

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Derrida on the madness of our time

By Simon Glendinning
In 1994 Jacques Derrida participated in a seminar in Capri under the title “Religion”. Derrida himself thought “religion” might be a good word, perhaps the best word for thinking about our time, our “today”. It belongs, Derrida suggested, to the “absolute anachrony” of our time. Religion? Isn’t it that old thing that we moderns had thought had gone away, the thing that really does not belong in our time? And yet, so it seems, it is still alive and well.

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The point of view of the universe

By Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer
We are constantly making decisions about what we ought to do. We have to make up our own minds, but does that mean that whatever we choose is right? Often we make decisions from a limited or biased perspective.

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Morality, science, and Belgium’s child euthanasia law

By Tony Hope
Science and morality are often seen as poles apart. Doesn’t science deal with facts, and morality with, well, opinions? Isn’t science about empirical evidence, and morality about philosophy? In my view this is wrong. Science and morality are neighbours. Both are rational enterprises. Both require a combination of conceptual analysis, and empirical evidence. Many, perhaps most moral disagreements hinge on disagreements over evidence and facts, rather than disagreements over moral principle.

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The viability of Transcendence: the science behind the film

In the trailer of Transcendence, an authoritative professor embodied by Johnny Depp says that “the path to building superintelligence requires us to unlock the most fundamental secrets of the universe.” It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the possibility of artificial intelligence and how it will affect society. 

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Inferring the unconfirmed: the no alternatives argument

By Richard Dawid
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. Thus Arthur Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes describe a crucial part of his method of solving detective cases. Sherlock Holmes often takes pride in adhering to principles of scientific reasoning.

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Does torture really (still) matter?

By Rebecca Gordon
The US military involvement in Iraq has more or less ended, and the war in Afghanistan is limping to a conclusion. Don’t the problems of torture really belong to the bad old days of an earlier administration? Why bring it up again? Why keep harping on something that is over and done with? Because it’s not over, and it’s not done with.

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Disposable captives

By Lori Gruen
The decision by the administrators of the Copenhagen Zoo to kill a 2-year-old giraffe named Marius by shooting him in the head on February 2014, then autopsy his body in public and feed Marius’ body parts to the lions held captive at the zoo created quite an uproar. When the same zoo then killed the lions (an adult pair and their two cubs) a month later to make room for a more genetically worthy captive, the uproar become more ferocious.

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Philosophy and its history

By Graham Priest
If you go into a mathematics class of any university, it’s unlikely that you will find students reading Euclid. If you go into any physics class, it’s unlikely you’ll find students reading Newton. If you go into any economics class, you will probably not find students reading Keynes. But if you go a philosophy class, it is not unusual to find students reading Plato, Kant, or Wittgenstein. Why?

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A question of consciousness

By Susan Blackmore
The problem of consciousness is real, deep and confronts us any time we care to look. Ask yourself this question ‘Am I conscious now?’ and you will reply ‘Yes’. Then, I suggest, you are lured into delusion – the delusion that you are conscious all the time, even when you are not asking about it.

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When science stopped being literature

By Jim Secord
We tend to think of ‘science’ and ‘literature’ in radically different ways.  The distinction isn’t just about genre – since ancient times writing has had a variety of aims and styles, expressed in different generic forms: epics, textbooks, lyrics, recipes, epigraphs, and so forth.

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