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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

John Duns Scotus – The ‘Subtle Doctor’ – Philosopher of the Month

John Duns Scotus (b. c. 1265/1266–d. 1308) was one of the most significant Christian philosophers and theologians of the medieval period. Scotus made important and influential contributions in metaphysics, ethics, and natural theology. Little was known of his life but he was born in Scotland, became a Franciscan monk, spent his learning and professional life […]

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The problem with Buddhist law in Sri Lanka

Several weeks after the Sri Lanka’s Easter tragedy, in which suicide attackers with links to ISIS killed more than 250 people in a series of coordinated bombings, the country’s president announced that he was releasing a Buddhist monk from prison. The monk, Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, was the country’s most controversial cleric, having risen to prominence […]

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History of clashes in and around Jewish synagogues

One Sabbath day in the late-second century CE, a slave and future pope named Callistus (Calixtus I) entered a synagogue and, hoping to die, picked a fight with the Jews. For the opening salvo, he stood and confessed that he was a Christian. A melee ensued. But the Jews only dragged Callistus before Rome’s city […]

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Boris Artzybasheff, C. S. Lewis, and lost art

In September 1947 the paths of two great minds and almost exact contemporaries crossed when Boris Artzybasheff painted a portrait of C. S. Lewis for the cover of Time magazine. Lewis was by then an established name in Britain and a rising star in America, while the distinctive style (if not name) of Russian-born New Yorker Artzybasheff […]

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The surprising similarities between Game of Thrones and the Hebrew Bible

Note: This post contains spoilers for the series finale of Game of Thrones. From prophecies and their cryptic interpretations to stories of warring kings and their exploits, the narrative world that George R. R. Martin has created in his fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, shares much in common with the narrative world of the Hebrew […]

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Why banishment was “toleration” in Puritan settlements

Typically, sociologists explain the growth of religious toleration as a result of people demanding religious freedom, ideals supporting tolerance becoming more prevalent, or shifting power relations among religious groups. By any of these accounts, Puritan New England was not a society where religious toleration flourished. Yet, when contrasted to a coterminous Puritan venture on Providence Island, it becomes clear that New England’s orthodox elite did […]

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Preaching as teaching in the Medieval church

We have long assumed that medieval sermons were written for the laity, that is, those with no Latin and probably minimal literacy. But most of the sermons that survive in English contain a significant amount of Latin. What did a medieval lay person understand when he or she heard a sermon?

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National Women’s History Month: A Brief History

Every year, I teach a course on U.S. women’s history. Every year, I poll my students to find out how many of them encountered any kind of women’s history in their pre-college educations. They invariably say that they didn’t learn enough about women (this is a self-selecting group after all), but they also easily recite key components of U.S. women’s history: the Salem witch trials, Sojourner Truth, the nineteenth amendment, Rosie the Riveter, second-wave feminism, among others.

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Philosopher of The Month: William James (timeline)

This January the OUP Philosophy team honours William James (1842-1910) as their Philosopher of the Month. James was the founder of pragmatism, an influential Harvard philosopher and scholar on religion and was arguably considered one of the dominant figures in psychology of his day, before Sigmund Freud.

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Desires for power: sex scandals and their proliferation

The unapologetic authoritarianism of guru-disciple relationship makes it a revealing case study through which to analyze power relations, particularly those related to physical touch and sexuality. As I argue in a recent article, “Guru Sex,” in the guru-disciple relationship there are social conventions surrounding touch, what I call haptic logics.

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A surprisingly religious John Stuart Mill

Your most recent book, John Stuart Mill: A Secular Life, is in OUP’s ‘Spiritual Lives’ series and is essentially a religious biography of Mill. Mill decided that strictly in terms of proof the right answer to that question of God’s existence is that it is ‘a very probable hypothesis’.

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Plato’s mistake

It started innocently enough at a lunch-time event with some friends at the Randolph Hotel in the centre of Oxford. ‘The trouble with Islam …’ began some self-opinioned pundit, and I knew where he was going. Simple. Islam lends itself to fanaticism, and that is why Muslims perpetrate so much violence in the name of religion. The pundit saw himself as Christian, and therefore a man of peace, so I had my cue. ‘Look out of the window. Over there in the fork of the road you see the Martyr’s Memorial. In 1555 the Wars of Religion were in full spate, Catholics were burning Protestants at the stake, Protestants were no less fanatical when their turn came, and things got even worse with the Civil War. So why are Muslims any worse?’

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What Matthew Shepard’s interment taught us about religion

On 26 October 2018, twenty years after two men in Wyoming brutally murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard, the Washington National Cathedral hosted a service to inter Shepard’s ashes in a permanent memorial. More than four thousand people attended the service that was co-led by the Reverend Gene Robinson, the first openly-gay elected bishop of […]

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A lesson in allegorical storytelling [podcast]

National Novel Writing Month challenges writers from all over the world to complete a 50,000-word novel within the month of November. To help guide our readers who have taken on the challenge, we reached out to three-time National Jewish Book Award winner Howard Schwartz. Howard offers a deeper reading of “The Lost Princess,” and his analysis demonstrates the power of allegories as literary devices.

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The fiddle and the city

The violin holds special importance to me as part of my upbringing in Detroit, both as part of the musical world of my Jewish community and as an example of the citywide belief in music education. The Detroit that I grew up in had a pulsating inner musical life from the many populations that Detroit attracted to and housed in its vast industrial landscape. For the Jews, the violin literally had a special resonance.

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