Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Unity without objecthood, in art and in natural language

What makes something we see or something we talk about a single thing, or simply a unit that we can identify and that we can distinguish from others and compare to them? For ordinary objects like trees, chairs, mountains, and lakes, the answer seems obvious.

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The conflicts of Classical translation

Any translation is bound to be only partially faithful to the original. Translation is, as the Latin root of the word shows, transference from one language to another. It is not, or should not be, slavish imitation. The Italians have a saying: “Traduttore traditore” – “the translator is a traitor” – and one has to accept from the start that this is bound to be the case.

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Remembering veterans

With Memorial Day in the U.S. right around the corner, we’re bringing you a glimpse into a handful of oral history projects focused on collecting and preserving the memories of military veterans.

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Responsibility and attribution: Criminal law and film

Many of us have been intrigued this year by two powerful films which explore the difficulty of escaping a troubled past. In Oscar-winning Moonlight, we gradually discover why a small African-American boy is picked on as ‘different’ by his classmates, and follow his path from school-yard harassment and violence through drug dealing, a prison term and a painful achievement of liberation which nonetheless leaves the scars of the past deeply etched on his personality.

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Pandemics in the age of Trump

If Donald Trump’s administration maintains its commitments to stoking nationalism, reducing foreign aid, and ignoring or denying science, the United States and the world will be increasingly vulnerable to pandemics. History is not a blueprint for future action—history, after all, never offers perfect analogies. When it comes to pandemic disease focusing on nationalist interests is exactly the wrong approach to take.

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Police violence: a risk factor for psychosis

Police victimization of US civilians has moved from the shadows to the spotlight following the widespread adaptation of smartphone technology and rapid availability of video footage through social media. The American Public Health Association recently issued a policy statement outlining the putative health and mental health costs of police violence, and declared the need to increase efforts towards understanding and preventing the effects of such victimization.

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Emerson’s canonization and the perils of sainthood

Ralph Waldo Emerson — who died 135 years ago in Concord, Massachusetts–was a victim of his own good reputation. Essayist, poet, lecturer, and purported leader of the American transcendental movement, he was known in his lifetime as the “Sage of Concord,” the “wisest American,” or (after one of his most famous early addresses) the “America Scholar.”

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Looking forward to Hay Festival 2017

This year Hay Festival is celebrating its 30 anniversary – cooked up round the kitchen table all those years ago it is now a global phenomenon. As part of their celebrations this year they have scheduled 30 Reformation speakers, one of whom is Sarah Harper who will be focusing on ‘Ageing’. She will also be recording one of BBC Radio 3’s Essays. The festival is very good at celebrating not only new writers but also young writers who ‘inspire and astonish’ and I am thrilled that they have selected Devi Sridhar.

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From the life of words, part 1

From time to time, various organizations invite me to speak about the history of words. The main question I hear is why words change their meaning. Obviously, I have nothing new to say on this subject, for there is a chapter on semantic change in countless books, both popular and special.

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12 Star Wars facts from a galaxy far, far away

On 25 May 1977, a small budget science fiction movie by a promising director premiered on less than 50 screens across the United States and immediately became a cultural phenomenon. Star Wars, George Lucas’ space opera depicting the galactic struggle between an evil Empire and a scrappy group of rebels, became the highest-grossing movie of the year and changed the course of movie history and American pop culture.

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Wilfrid Sellars and the nature of normativity

Wilfrid Sellars would have been 105 this month. He stands out as one of the more ambitiously systematic philosophers of the last century, with contributions to ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language, alongside incisive historical examinations of Kant, and several others. We can read him as a philosopher in a classical mode, always in conversation with figures from the past.

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Asking Gandhi tough questions

Why did Gandhi exclude black South Africans from his movement? Could Gandhi reconcile his service in the Boer War with his later anti-imperialism? Why did Gandhi oppose untouchability, but not caste?

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Agricultural policy after Brexit

A majority of Britain’s farmers voted for Brexit in the referendum. This is perhaps surprising in the context of an industry which receives around £3 billion in subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and yet comprises only about 0.7% GDP. Of all the vested interests, British farmers have more to lose from Brexit than almost any other industry. From the public interest perspective, there is much to gain.

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How well do you know early video game history?

From their genesis in the development of computers after World War II to the ubiquity of mobile phones today, video games have had an extensive rise in a relatively short period of time. What started as the experimental hobbies of MIT students and US government scientists of the 1950s and 60s became a burgeoning industry with the emergence of home consoles and arcades in the 1970s.

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Why are world food problems so hard to solve?

More than 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria are now facing extreme hunger, with the potential for not just widespread death, but also the deepening of long-term political and military crises in East Africa. United Nations humanitarian coordinator Stephen O’Brien has called this food crisis the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

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Why are giant pandas black and white?

Most people in the western world learn that the giant panda has striking black and white colouration at kindergarten; but are never told why! The question is problematic because there are virtually no other mammals with this sort of colouration pattern, making analogies difficult. At UC Davis and CSU Long Beach, we instead decided to break up the external appearance of giant pandas into different regions

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