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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Arts & Humanities

How emotions affect the stock market

Last year marked the 90th anniversary of Black Thursday, the October day in 1929 when stocks stopped gradually falling, as they had since the start of September, and started wildly crashing. All told, the Dow Jones dropped from 327 at the opening of trading on the morning of Tuesday, 22 October to 230 at the close […]

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What is the place of human beings in the world

Philosophers disagree on what philosophy is supposed to do, but one popular candidate for what is part of the philosophical project is to try to understand the place of human beings in the world. What is our significance in the world as whole? What place do human beings have in the universe and in all of […]

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Let people change their minds

Everyone does it. Some people do it several times a day. Others, weekly, monthly, or even just a few times in their lives. We would be suspicious, and rightly so, of someone who claimed never to have done it. Some have even become famous for doing it. Making a public show of it can make […]

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How fake things can still help us learn

We often appreciate things that have a certain weathered look about them. From clothes to home furnishings, people find aesthetic value in the distressed, the tarnished, the antique. Yet underlying this interest in the appealing look of age is an expectation that vintage things be of their vintage. Knockoffs, fakes, and otherwise inauthentic things are quick to undermine […]

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How women can support each other to strive for gender equality

Hovering over almost all women who stand up and insist on being heard is a putdown only used in for the female of the species; a word that is particular to the attempt to belittle and silence women. That word is “shrill.” It was used more liberally by detractors in the early days of feminism, […]

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Grammar in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll was a mathematically-inclined poet who published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 and Through the Looking-Glass in 1872 as well a number of poems and math and logic texts. Last summer I saw an outdoor production of Alice in Wonderland and it reminded me of all the linguistics in the two books. Carroll touches on questions of […]

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The remarkable life of philosopher Frank Ramsey

Frank Ramsey, the great Cambridge philosopher, economist, and mathematician, was a superstar in all three disciplines, despite dying at the age of 26 in 1930. One way to glimpse the sheer genius of this extraordinary young man is by looking at some of the things that bear his name. My favourite was coined by Donald […]

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The architectural tragedy of the 2019 Notre-Dame fire

Sometimes it takes a catastrophic loss for us to realize how important historic architecture and cityscapes are to our lives. For instance, repairs are still ongoing following a 2011 5.8 magnitude earthquake that caused more than $30 million dollars’ worth of damage to the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.  And on 15 April 2019 a […]

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How Roman skeptics shaped debates about God

More than a third of all millennials now consider themselves atheist, agnostic or “religiously unaffiliated.” But this doesn’t mean that they have all given up on spiritual life.  Some 28% of the unaffiliated attend religious services at least once or twice a month or a few times a year (and 4% go weekly). 20% of them […]

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Five philosophers on the joys of walking

René Descartes argued that each of us is, fundamentally, a thinking thing. Thought is our defining activity, setting us aside from animals, trees, rocks. I suspect this has helped market philosophy as the life of the mind, conjuring up philosophers lost in reverie, snuggled in armchairs. But human beings do not, in fact, live purely […]

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How to teach history better

These days, we often hear of a crisis in the discipline of history.  It’s not a crisis of research.  To be sure, there are debates and disputes over new methodologies, theoretical frames, the price and speed of publication, and even the relative value of publishing in public, digital, and traditional media.  There is also the […]

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How to diversify the classics. For real.

As (I hope) Barnes and Noble and Penguin Random House have just learned, appropriating the concept of diverse books for an opportunistic rebranding insults the idea they claim to honor. If you were off-line last week, here’s a brief recap. The bookseller and publisher announced (and then abandoned) plans to publish “Diverse Editions” – not books by writers of […]

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How old music conservatories turned orphans into composers

If you approached bystanders on a street corner in sixteenth-century Naples and asked them “What do conservatories conserve?” the likely answers would not have been “performing arts” or “rare plants.” No, you would have been told confidently that conservatories conserved orphans and foundlings. These church-sponsored orphanages practiced a kind of alchemy—they took in defenseless little […]

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Celebrating Black History Month with America’s top musicians [playlist]

Black History Month is cause for celebration and remembrance of black excellence throughout American history. This February, we’re celebrating with a playlist highlighting some of the most remarkable musicians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Beginning with ragtime pioneer, Scott Joplin, this playlist navigates through the many different musical movements created and perfected by black artists. Ragtime gave […]

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Using math to understand inequity

What can math tell us about unfairness? Bias, discrimination, and inequity are phenomena that are deeply complex, context sensitive, personal, and intersectional. The mathematical modeling of social scenarios, on the other hand, is a practice that necessitates simplification. Using models to understand what happens in our social realm means representing the complex with something much […]

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Usage issues—How are you doing?

When people talk about grammar problems, they often mean usage issues—departures from the traditional conventions for edited English and the most formal types of speaking. To a linguist, grammar refers to the way that language is used—by speakers of all types—and the way that it works—how it is acquired, how it changes, and so on.

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