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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Is the mind just an accident of the universe?

The traditional view puts forward the idea that the vast majority of what there is in the universe is mindless. Panpsychism however claims that mental features are ubiquitous in the cosmos. In a recent opinion piece for Scientific American entitled “Is Consciousness Universal?” (2014), neuroscientist Christof Koch explains how his support of panpsychism is greeted by incredulous stares–in particular when asserting that panpsychism might be the perfect match for neurobiology

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Leibniz and Europe

At the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, national states were on the rise. Versailles was constructed as a stage on which the Sun King, Louis XIV, acted out the pageant of absolute sovereignty while his armies annexed neighbouring territories for the greater glory of France. At the death of Charles II of Spain in November 1700, the Spanish throne and its extensive possessions in Italy, the Low Countries and the New World passed to his grandson, Philip, Duke of Anjou.

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OUP Philosophy

Philosopher of the month: Aristotle

Among the world’s most widely studied thinkers, Aristotle established systematic logic and helped to progress scientific investigation in fields as diverse as biology and political theory. His thought became dominant during the medieval period in both the Islamic and the Christian worlds, and has continued to play an important role in fields such as philosophical psychology, aesthetics, and rhetoric.

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The last -ism?

There has lately been something like an arms race in literary studies to name whatever comes after postmodernism. Post-postmodernism, cosmodernism, digimodernism, automodernism, altermodernism, and metamodernism rank among the more popular prospects.

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The origins of political order

What importance do the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean have for us? This question has been answered in different ways over the centuries, but for a long time the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome have been attractive as a baseline and a model, be it in economic, aesthetic, cultural, military, or political terms.

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Against narrowness in philosophy

If you asked many people today, they would say that one of the limitations of analytic philosophy is its narrowness. Whereas in previous centuries philosophers took on projects of broad scope, today’s philosophers typically deal with smaller issues.

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Why Christmas should matter to us whether we are ‘religious’ or not

There are many aspects of Christmas that, on reflection, make little sense. We are supposed to be secular-minded, rational and grown up in the way we apprehend the world around us. Richard Dawkins speaks for many when he draws a distinction between the ‘truth’ of scientific discourse and the ‘falsehoods’ perpetuated by religion which, as he tells us in The God Delusion, “teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding” (Dawkins 2006).

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Paradoxes logical and literary

For many months now this column has been examining logical/mathematical paradoxes. Strictly speaking, a paradox is a kind of argument. In literary theory, some sentences are also called paradoxes, but the meaning of the term is significantly different.

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OUP Philosophy

How much do you know about René Descartes? [quiz]

This August, the OUP Philosophy team honors René Descartes (1596–1650) as their Philosopher of the Month. Called “The Father of Modern Philosophy” by Hegel, Descartes led the seventeenth-century European intellectual revolution which laid down the philosophical foundations for the modern scientific age.

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Let’s tank tanking

“Tanking,” or deliberately trying to lose an athletic contest to gain a future competitive advantage, such as earning higher draft pick of prospective players, became the talk of the town or at least of many fans, in many US cities saddled with losing teams in such sports as hockey, basketball, and baseball. If actually practiced, however, tanking would exploit spectator, players, and coaches alike.

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Should we watch the Olympics?

We used to have to take time off from work –or at least leave work early– to watch the Olympics on TV. Now we can thank the engineering marvels of DVR and web replay for protecting our love affair with the Games from our evil work schedules. We are, rightly, mesmerized by the combination of talent, discipline, skill, and genetics embodied by the world’s greatest athletes.

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How fast can you think?

A call comes through to the triage desk of a large hospital in the New York City metropolitan area: a pregnant woman with multiple abdominal gunshot wounds is due to arrive in three minutes. Activating a trauma alert, the head nurse on duty, Denise, requests intubation, scans, anesthesia, surgery, and, due to the special circumstances, sonography and labor and delivery. How is it possible to think about so much so quickly?

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OUP Philosophy

Philosopher of the month: René Descartes

This August, the OUP Philosophy team honors René Descartes (1596–1650) as their Philosopher of the Month. Called “The Father of Modern Philosophy” by Hegel, Descartes led the seventeenth-century European intellectual revolution which laid down the philosophical foundations for the modern scientific age. His philosophical masterpiece, the Meditations on First Philosophy, appeared in Latin in 1641, and his Principles of Philosophy, a comprehensive statement of his philosophical and scientific theories, also in Latin, in 1644.

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Is it possible to experience time passing?

Suppose you had to explain to someone, who did not already know, what it means to say that time passes. What might you say? Perhaps you would explain that different times are arranged in an ordered series with a direction: Monday precedes Tuesday, Tuesday precedes Wednesday, and so on.

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OUP Philosophy

How much do you know about Hypatia? [quiz]

An astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, and active public figure, Hypatia played a leading role in Alexandrian civic affairs. Her public lectures were popular, and her technical contributions to geometry, astronomy, number theory, and philosophy made Hypatia a highly regarded teacher and scholar.

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