Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Is love real?

In honor of Valentine’s Day today, the holiday that celebrates love, we’re sharing an excerpt from Emotion: A Very Short Introduction by Dylan Evans. Evans presents us with the differing opinions on romantic love. Some believe it to be an invention, while others classify it as a universal emotion hardwired into the brain. As we open heart-shaped boxes of candy today, is it possible that the romantic love we feel is something we learned from the romantic stories we read and saw in our life?

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Celebrating Charles Darwin’s birthday

February 12th has been coined Darwin Day because it marks the anniversary of the birthday of Charles Darwin. One could come up with several creative ways to celebrate the life of such an influential and revered scientist—baking a cake with 73 candles in honor of Darwin’s 73 years of life, or taking a walk through a local park or nature reserve in an attempt to make observations about wild animals, to name a few.

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Nations and liberalism?

By Steven Grosby
Nationalism and nations have understandably been associated with the most illiberal treatment of human beings. History is replete with well-known examples of the murder of innocents in the cause of some nation. It continues today, for example, in Syria, Kurdistan, the Kashmir, and other places.

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Ronald Reagan Day

By Gil Troy
When running for president in 2008, Barack Obama infuriated both Bill and Hillary Clinton by saying he dreamed of being a transformational leader like Ronald Reagan – and unlike Bill Clinton. Insulted by this challenge to their legacy, the Clintons accused their opponent of endorsing Reagan’s policies, when Obama was assessing impact not ideology.

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A goddess’s long life

By Amanda Podany
As an undergraduate, long before I chose to become an ancient historian, I took a course on ancient art history. I remember sitting in the darkened auditorium in the first weeks of the term, looking at images of prehistoric art and scribbling down notes as the professor paced the stage and pointed out features of each slide. Then came an image that took my breath away: a white marble face of a woman, almost life-size (though blown up to about six feet tall on the screen).

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A crossroads for antisemitism?

By Steven Beller
In the conclusion to Antisemitism VSI (2007) I saw antisemitism as an almost completely spent force. Events since then give one pause for thought. Israel appears no more accepted as a “good citizen” by much of the international community, and Jews continue to be attacked for their supposed support of the “Jewish state”.

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Fractal shapes and the natural world

By Kenneth Falconer
Fractal shapes, as visualizations of mathematical equations, are astounding to look at. But fractals look even more amazing in their natural element—and that happens to be in more places than you might think.

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The current crisis in American legal education

By G. Edward White
There has been a good deal of recent commentary about a perceived “crisis” in American legal education. A combination of rising tuition rates for law schools and a decline in the number of entry-level jobs in the legal profession has resulted in reduced numbers of applicants to law schools, and a corresponding reduction in entering law school class sizes.

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Globalization: Q&A with Manfred Steger

How has globalization changed in the last ten years? We asked Manfred Steger, author of Globalization: A Very Short Introduction, how he felt it has been affected by world events in the decade since the first edition of his Very Short Introduction was published.

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Let them eat theorems!

By Kenneth Falconer
“This is not maths – maths is about doing calculations, not proving theorems!” So wrote a disaffected student at the end of my recent pure maths lecture course. Theorems, along with their proofs, have gotten a bad name.

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A year in Very Short Introductions: 2013

By Chloe Foster
2013 has been a busy year for the Very Short Introductions (VSIs). Keeping our authors busy with weekly VSI blog posts is not the only thing we’ve been up to. Here’s a reminder of just some of the highlights from our VSI year.

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Logic and Buddhist metaphysics

By Graham Priest
Buddhist metaphysics and modern symbolic logic might seem strange bedfellows. Indeed they are. The thinkers who developed the systems of Buddhist metaphysics knew nothing of modern logic; and the logicians who developed the panoply of techniques which are modern logic knew nothing–for the most part–of Buddhism.

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Mandela, icon

By Elleke Boehmer
The name Nelson Mandela and the word icon are once again on people’s lips, as if spoken in the same breath.

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Putting Syria in its place

By Klaus Dodds
Where exactly is Syria, and how is Syria represented as a place? The first part of the question might appear to be fairly straight forward. Syria is an independent state in Western Asia and borders Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Israel. It occupies an area of approximately 70, 000 square miles, which is similar in size to the state of North Dakota. Before the civil war (March 2011 onwards), the population was estimated to be around 23 million but millions of people have been displaced by the crisis.

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Seven facts of Syria’s displacement crisis

By Khalid Koser
Conflicts and crises regularly force people to flee their homes; and the plight of the displaced is often overlooked. In the case of Syria, however, displacement is not simply an unfortunate side-effect. Its massive volume threatens to render the country unsustainable for generations.

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Plato’s mistake

By Norman Solomon
It started innocently enough at a lunch-time event with some friends at the Randolph Hotel in the centre of Oxford. ‘The trouble with Islam …’ began some self-opinioned pundit, and I knew where he was going.

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