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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

What are the moral implications of intelligent AGI? [excerpt]

The possibility of human-level Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) remains controversial. While its timeline remain uncertain, the question remains: if engineers are able to develop truly intelligent AGI, how would human-computer interactions change? In the following excerpt from AI: Its Nature and Future, artificial intelligence expert Margaret A. Boden discusses the philosophical consequences behind truly intelligent AGI.

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Moses Mendelssohn’s Hebrew politics

How tolerant and diverse should a society be? Are there limits to the views that a society should accept? Can individuals from diverse backgrounds join together to contribute to the common good, and what happens when tensions arise between different groups? Given the events of 2016-2017, such questions stand at the forefront of American civic life. Questions relating to diversity and tolerance loomed large in Mendelssohn’s life.

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Two paradoxes of belief

The Liar paradox arises via considering the Liar sentence: L: L is not true. and then reasoning in accordance with the: T-schema: Φ is true if and only if what Φ says is the case. Along similar lines, we obtain the Montague paradox (or the paradox of the knower) by considering the following sentence: M: M is not knowable. and then reasoning in accordance with the following two claims: Factivity: If Φ is knowable then what Φ says is the case.

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Gunk as you never knew it

‘Is everything entirely made up of atoms? … Or is everything made up of atomless “gunk”—as Lewis (1991: 20) calls it—that divides forever into smaller and smaller parts?’ (Varzi 2014) The thought that matter is divisible has both intuitive appeal and empirical justification, and is a widespread position amongst ancient and modern philosophers. The thought […]

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How well do you know Sir Karl Raimund Popper? [quiz]

This  August, the OUP Philosophy team honours Sir Karl Raimund Popper (1902–1994) as their Philosopher of the Month. A British (Austrian-born) philosopher, Popper’s considerable reputation comes from his work on the philosophy of science and his political philosophy. Popper is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century. Think you know […]

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What can the Zombie Apocalypse teach us about ourselves? [Video]

Like war stories, like disaster films, like any kind of narrative that revolts and scares yet also delights us, the Zombie Apocalypse offers a laboratory for observing human emotion and experience. Its excess opens up a multitude of responses that don’t get explored in the course of our everyday lives, although these same choices lurk underneath the surface of all our lives.

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George Berkeley and the power of words

According to a picture of language that has enjoyed wide popularity throughout the history of Western philosophy, language is a tool for making our thoughts known to others: the speaker translates private thoughts into public words, and the hearer translates the words back into thoughts. It follows from such a picture that before we can […]

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Are you a philosophical parent? [quiz]

Some people are both parents and philosophers, but aren’t philosophical parents. Conversely, some people aren’t philosophers, or at least aren’t academic philosophers, but are nevertheless philosophical parents. So who are the philosophical parents? Are you one? Take the quiz below and find out! (Pretend, for purposes of the quiz, that you’ve experienced every stage of […]

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Eubulides and his paradoxes

Who was the greatest paradoxer in Ancient Western Philosophy? If one were to ask this question of a person who knows something of the history of logic and philosophy, they would probably say Zeno of Elea (c. 490-460 BCE). However, for my money, the answer would be wrong. The greatest paradoxer is not Zeno, but the Megarian philosopher Eubulides of Miletus (fl . 4c BCE).

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Are electrons conscious?

For most of the twentieth century a “brain-first” approach dominated the philosophy of consciousness. The idea was that the brain is the thing we really understand, through neuroscience, and the task of the philosopher is try to understand how that thing “gives rise” to subjective experience: to the inner world of colours, smells and sounds that each of us knows in our own case.

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Philosopher of the month: Sir Karl Raimund Popper [timeline]

This August, the OUP Philosophy team honours Sir Karl Raimund Popper (1902–1994) as their Philosopher of the Month. A British (Austrian-born) philosopher, Popper’s considerable reputation comes from his work on the philosophy of science and his political philosophy. Popper is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century.

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What sorts of things are the things we believe, hope, or predict?

It is part of our everyday life that we ascribe beliefs, desires, hopes, claims, predictions and so on to other people and ourselves, and the ascription of such propositional attitudes, as they are called, generally takes a canonical form, of the sort John believes that Macron is president of France, Mary hopes that Macron is president of France, and Joe predicted that Macron would become president of France.

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I Don’t Recommend Parenthood

Recently a friend of mine expressed an aversion to the screaming kids who were attending a summer camp in classrooms close to her campus office. With a laugh, she said she was happy to have further support for her choice not to have children.

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On the value of intellectuals

In times of populism, soundbites, and policy-by-twitter such as we live in today, the first victims to suffer the slings and arrows of the demagogues are intellectuals. These people have been demonised for prioritising the very thing that defines them: the intellect, or finely reasoned and sound argument. As we celebrate the 161st birthday of Bernard Shaw, one of the most gifted, influential, and well-known intellectuals to have lived, we might use the occasion to reassess the value of intellectuals to a healthy society and why those in power see them as such threats.

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How well do you know Hegel [quiz]

This July, the OUP Philosophy team honors Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) as their Philosopher of the Month. Although Hegel was a hugely successful philosopher in his own right–described as “the most famous modern philosopher” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe–his legacy remains the influence he had on later philosophers.

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Attention, or how to organize the mind

Sometimes our mind is a mess. Thoughts and experiences pile up, and our mind flips from one thing to another: I need to buy milk, I have an important meeting tomorrow, and, no, the bills have still not been paid; it’s my friends birthday, the face of that person reminds me of someone I met in college, and the advertisement blaring from the loudspeakers tells me that a new shampoo will change my life.

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