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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The Oxford Place of the Year 2019 is…

After a close round of voting, the winner of our Place of the Year 2019 is the atmosphere! While the global conversation around climate change has increased in recent years, 2019 set many records – this past summer tied for the hottest one on record in the northern hemisphere, continuing the trend of extreme weather set […]

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Why there is a moral duty to vote

In recent years, democracies around the world have witnessed the steady rise of anti-liberal, populist movements. In the face of this trend, some may think it apposite to question the power of elections to protect cherished democratic values. Among some (vocal) political scientists and philosophers today, it is common to hear concern about voter incompetence, which allegedly explains why democracy stands on shaky ground in many places. Do we do well in thinking of voting as a likely threat to fair governance? Julia Maskivker propose a case for thinking of voting as a vehicle for justice, not a paradoxical menace to democracy.

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Why we don’t understand what a space race means

Fifty years after the first moon landing, a quantum leap is underway in space as a domain of human activity. Over 70 countries have space programs and 14 have launch capabilities. These developments have involved intense cooperation across borders, both across public and private sectors.

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Etymology gleanings for November 2019

I agree: no voice should be silenced, but it does not follow that every voice deserves equal respect. I called the previous two posts “Etymology and Delusion” and deliberately did not emphasize such words as madness, lunacy, and derangement, for perfectly normal people can also be deluded. In etymology, the line separating amateurs from professionals is in most cases easy to draw.

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How hip hop and diplomacy made an unlikely partnership

Google “hip hop” and “diplomacy” and what images come up? Black men wearing gold chains and baggy clothes, holding microphones. White men in suits shaking hands, flanked by flags. The contrast is stark: informal/formal, loud/quiet, the resistance/the establishment, black/white. These images reflect common perceptions but also misconceptions about diplomacy and hip hop. Both are, in fact, more […]

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How to address the enigmas of everyday life

Here are some hard questions: Is the value of human life absolute? Should we conform to the prevalent values? The questions are hard because each has reasonable but conflicting answers. When circumstances force us to face them, we are ambivalent. We realize that there are compelling reasons for both of the conflicting answers. This is not an abstract problem, but a predicament we encounter when we have to make difficult decisions whose consequences affect how we live, our relationships, and our attitude to the society in which we live.

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Philosopher of the Month – A 2019 Review

As 2019 draws to a close, we look back at the philosophers who have featured in our monthly Philosopher of the Month posts and their significant contribution to philosophy and the history of intellectual thought.

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How to use the existential “there”

When I read something, one of the things I notice right away is overuse of non-referential there as a means of sleepwalking from topic to topic. Also known as the existential there, this grammatical form asserts the existence (or non-existence) of something and is often used to introduce new information, to shift the topic of discussion or to call something to mind.

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Why young people suffer more from pollution

Around the world, young adults are voicing concern that the climate is in crisis and are correctly describing this as an intergenerational inequity. The adults who determine the quality of our air are continuing to burn fossil fuels, which release the pollutants that science shows could negatively and dramatically alter planetary conditions as early as […]

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Rescuing capitalism from itself

In mid-August, 2019, 183 leaders of some of America’s largest companies—AT&T, American Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Chevron, Caterpillar, Citigroup, and John Deere—issued a “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” under sponsorship of the Business Roundtable.

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Thanksgiving: Behind the Pilgrim Myth

The driving force behind making Thanksgiving a national holiday was Sarah Josepha Hale, who was born in 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire. After her husband’s death, Hale turned to writing to generate money. Her novel Northwood: A Tale of New England (1827) included an entire chapter devoted to a Thanksgiving dinner. Its publication brought Hale […]

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Etymology and delusion, part 2

Last week (November 20, 2019), I discussed one aspect of etymological lunacy. Looking for a (or even the) protolanguage is a sound idea, even though specialists’ efforts in this direction have been both successful and disappointing. The existence of Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Semitic can hardly be doubted; yet many crucial details remain unknown.

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The truth about ‘Latinx’ [a revision]

In recent years, the term Latinx has become popular in academic settings in English to designate a group of people without reference to gender, which is designated by -o and -a endings in some Romance languages. While academics and Twitter users have begun to use the term, only 2% of the U.S. population actually identifies with this word. Latinx has become so widely used that Elizabeth Warren has taken to using it on the campaign trail.

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Connecting families through open adoption

The term “open adoption” is unfamiliar to much of the general public, and yet it describes the reality of adoption today. These are adoptions in which there is some contact or exchange of information between birth families and adoptive families, before or after the adoption. With growing awareness of the benefits of openness for children […]

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What is coercive control and why is it so difficult to recognize?

Engaging in controlling and/or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships became a new criminal offence in England and Wales in December 2015. Coercive Control involves a pattern of abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim. Four years on since the legislation was enacted and with no compulsory national level training or support, what has actually changed?

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Eight things you didn’t know about George Eliot

Throughout her life, George Eliot was known by many names – from Mary Anne Evans at birth, to Marian Evans Lewes in her middle age, to George Eliot in her fiction – with the latter name prevailing in the years since her death through the continued popularity of her novels. Eliot has long been recognised as one of the greatest Victorian writers, in life and in death, having published seven acclaimed novels and a number of poems, in addition to her work as a translator and a journalist.

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