Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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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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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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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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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Henry David Thoreau and the nature of civil disobedience – Philosopher of the Month

Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, environmentalist, poet, and essayist. He is best known for Walden, an account of a simpler life lived in natural surroundings, first published in 1854, and his 1849 essay Civil Disobedience which presents a rebuttal of unjust government influence over the individual. An avid, and widely-read, student of philosophy from the classical to the contemporary, Thoreau pursued philosophy as a way of life and not solely a lens for thought and discourse.

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The problem of consciousness

Many people find consciousness deeply puzzling. It is often described as one of the few remaining problems for science to address that is genuinely deep—perhaps even unsolvable. Indeed, consciousness is thought to present a challenge to the prevailing scientific image of the universe as physical through-and-through. In part this puzzlement arises because people are (at […]

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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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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 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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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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Why people disagree

People disagree. Human beings often express conflicting views about a variety of different issues, from food and music to science and politics. With the development of advanced communication technologies, this fact has become more visible than ever. (Think of Twitter wars.) The extent and depth of our disagreements can lead many to despair of making […]

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