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Codes and Ciphers

My book group recently read a 2017 mystery called The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett. In the novel, an English bibliophile and an American digitizer track down a mysterious book thought to lead to the Holy Grail. The chief clue: a secret message hidden in the rare books collection of the fictional Barchester Cathedral Library.

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Exploring the seven principles of Kwanzaa: a playlist

Beginning the 26th of December, a globe-spanning group of millions of people of African descent will celebrate Kwanzaa, the seven-day festival of communitarian values created by scholar Maulana Karenga in 1966. The name of the festival is adapted from a Swahili phrase that refers to “the first fruits,” and is meant to recall ancient African harvest celebrations.

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How pictures can lie

On 9 August 1997, The Mirror printed an edited photo of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed on its front page. The edited photo shows Diana and Fayed facing each other and about to kiss, although the unedited photo reveals that at that point Fayed was facing an entirely different direction. Did The Mirror lie to its readers?

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Why recognizing the Anthropocene Age doesn’t matter

You’ve probably heard that we’re living in the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch in which human activity is the dominant geological process. If you’ve been attentive to discussion surrounding the Anthropocene, you probably also know that the Anthropocene Working Group, a panel of scientists tasked to make a recommendation as to whether geologists should formally recognize the Anthropocene, voted just a few months ago to recommend recognizing the new epoch.

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Aunt Lydia could be the voice of conservative women

Fans of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 The Handmaid’s Tale proliferated as the novel’s scenarios came to resemble the realities of American women who were subject to more regulation and surveillance. In its 2019 sequel, The Testaments, Atwood gives us a different voice and a different tale, told largely from the perspective of someone who perpetuated the authoritarian regime instead of […]

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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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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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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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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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George Eliot 200th anniversary timeline

George Eliot (born Mary Anne Evans) was born 22 November 1819, 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of her birth. Eliot is considered one of the most important and influential writers in the history of English literature and her novels are often praised as being the prototypes for the modern novel, full of rich detail of English country life and complete with characters whose motivations are laid bare by the author’s probing psychological dissections.

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To-Day and To-Morrow; the rediscovered series that shows how to imagine the future

Almost a century ago a young geneticist, J. B. S. Haldane, made a series of startling predictions in a little book called Daedalus; or, Science and the Future. Genetic modification. Wind power. The gestation of children in artificial wombs, which he called “ectogenesis.” Haldane’s ingenious book did so well that the publishers, Kegan Paul, based a whole series on the idea.

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Thomas Kuhn and the paradigm shift – Philosopher of the Month

Thomas S. Kuhn (b. 1922–d. 1996) was an American historian and philosopher of science best-known for his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) which influenced social sciences and theories of knowledge. He is widely considered one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century.

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