Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Art and human evolution

By Stephen Davies
Young children take to painting, singing, dancing, storytelling, and role-playing with scarcely any explicit training. They delight in these proto-art behaviors. Grown-ups are no less avid in extending such behaviors, either as spectators or participants. Provided we have a generous view of art, we all engage routinely and often passionately with it.

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Is spirituality a passing trend?

Philip Sheldrake
“Spirituality” is a word that defines our era. The fascination with spirituality is a striking aspect of our contemporary times and stands in stark contrast to the decline in traditional religious belonging in the West. Although the word “spirituality” has Christian origins it has now moved well beyond these – indeed beyond religion itself.

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Voltaire, l’esprit, and irony

By John Fletcher
In 1744 Voltaire produced for an edition of Mérope a “Lettre sur l’esprit”, which he later incorporated after corrections in later editions of the Dictionnaire philosophique under the article “Esprit.” In it he attempted to define the nature of wit in the following terms: Ce qu’on appelle esprit est tantôt une comparaison nouvelle, tantôt une allusion fine:

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Geography, chronology, and Israel’s survival

By Louis René Beres
Modern science has spawned revolutionary breakthroughs in the essential meanings of space and time. Still, such major breakthroughs in human consciousness remain distant from the often overlapping worlds of diplomacy and international relations. This disregarded distance is dangerous, and, potentially, catastrophic. In the Middle East, especially, there is ample room for needed reconciliations between science and diplomacy.

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In praise of the podcast

PB. The initials are not exactly as familiar as, say, BBC, or NPR, but we’re not operating in a massively different environment. PB: Philosophy Bites. Time was when to broadcast on the radio (or the ‘wireless’) you’d have to seek a license for permission to use a teeny weeny portion of the radio frequency spectrum. Broadcasting was time-consuming, bureaucratic, and above all expensive. It required staff and costly equipment and it was possible only with the support of highly-trained studio technicians and engineers. No longer

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The “Choice” Bazaar

Daniel Callahan
Some years ago I wrote a book on abortion that espoused women’s legal right to choose abortion, which was later cited in Roe v. Wade. It should have made me popular with feminists, but it did not and for one reason: I also argued that abortion is an ethical choice, and that not all abortions would necessarily be good choices. Trained as a philosopher, I pointed out that a traditional part of morality is deciding how to make good choices in the shaping of one’s life.

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To fix a broken planet

By Louis René Beres
Whatever our faith-based differences concerning immortality, death has an unassailable biological purpose — to make species survival possible. Nonetheless, we humans need not always hasten the indispensable process with utterly enthusiastic explosions of crime, war, terrorism, and genocide.

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Coming out for marriage equality

Polls and election results show Americans are sharply divided on same-sex marriage, and the controversy is unlikely to subside, especially with a presidential election almost upon us. As a result, Debating Same-Sex Marriage co-author John Corvino, chose to speak to some of the questions revolving around the same-sex marriage dilemma and why the rights and responsibilities of marriage are still important.

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Permission-giving: from Cromwell to Kate Middleton

Some of my more radical academic colleagues remain inordinately sceptical of the role of individual leaders set against the tectonic plates of economic systems, social classes, genders, political alliances and ethnic groups. To suggest that individual leaders might make a difference is to place an unwarranted responsibility upon mere actors when the real issue is ‘the system’ – whatever the system is.

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Empathizing toward human unity

By Louis René Beres
According to ancient Jewish tradition traced back to the time of Isaiah, the world rests upon thirty-six just men — the Lamed-Vov. For these men who have been chosen and must remain unknown even to themselves, the spectacle of the world is insufferable beyond description. Eternally inconsolable at the extent of human pain and woe, so goes the Hasidic tale, they can never even expect a single moment of real tranquility.

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Oxford Scholarly Editions Online launches today: but why?

Today sees the launch of a major new publishing initiative from Oxford University Press – Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO). OSEO will provide trustworthy and reliable critical online editions of original works by some of the most important writers in the humanities, such as William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, as well as works from lesser-known writers such as Shackerley Marmion.

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Unfit for the future: The urgent need for moral enhancement

By Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson
For the vast majority of our 150,000 years or so on the planet, we lived in small, close-knit groups, working hard with primitive tools to scratch sufficient food and shelter from the land. Sometimes we competed with other small groups for limited resources. Thanks to evolution, we are supremely well adapted to that world, not only physically, but psychologically, socially and through our moral dispositions. But this is no longer the world in which we live.

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Hegel on an ethical life and the family

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born on this day, 27 August, in 1770. Hegel’s Outlines of the Philosophy of Right is one of the greatest works of moral, social, and political philosophy. It contains significant ideas on justice, moral responsibility, family life, economic activity, and the political structure of the state — all matters of profound interest to us today. Here is an extract from Hegel’s thoughts on the Family.

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Money and politics: A look behind the news

By Louis René Beres
In the final months of a presidential election campaign, the prevailing political talk, amid an ambience of cynicism and indignation, turns unhesitatingly to money. American voters understand that economics and politics remain interpenetrating. Whatever happens in either one of these seemingly discrete realms, especially when money is involved, more or less substantially impacts the other.

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Are crimes morally wrong?

By Hyman Gross
Are crimes morally wrong? Yes and no; it depends. It’s easy to think we know what we’re talking about when we ask this question. But do we? We need to know what we mean by ‘crimes’. And we need to know what we mean by ‘morally wrong’. This turns out to be trickier than we may at first think.

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What Pericles would say about Obamacare

By Paul Woodruff
The mess in and around Obamacare is a good illustration of what’s wrong with democracy in the United States. Notice I do not say “what’s wrong with democracy.” Democracy in a truer form wouldn’t produce such monstrosities. Here we have a law designed to bring much needed benefits to ordinary citizens — which it will do, given a chance — while showering unnecessary riches on the insurance industry. The interests of a few have cruelly distorted a program for the many.

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