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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Mahbub ul Haq: pioneering a development philosophy for people

Mahbub ul Haq was the pioneer in developing the concept of human development. He not only articulated the human development philosophy for making economic development plans but he also provided the world with a statistical measure to quantify the indicators of economic growth with human development. In the field of development economics, Haq was regarded as an original thinker and a major innovator of fresh ideas.

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Mathematical reasoning and the human mind [excerpt]

Mathematics is more than the memorization and application of various rules. Although the language of mathematics can be intimidating, the concepts themselves are built into everyday life. In the following excerpt from A Brief History of Mathematical Thought, Luke Heaton examines the concepts behind mathematics and the language we use to describe them.

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Smile like you mean it

“With a camera you can go into the stomach of a kangaroo,” mused Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. “But to look at the human face, I think, is the most fascinating.” It is hard to contest Bergman’s claim that “the great gift of cinematography is the human face” – or at least that it is one such gift.

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Aesthetics and politics: Donald Trump’s idea of art and beauty

President Donald Trump’s description of Confederate statues as “beautiful” merely mirrors his previously-mentioned objects of aesthetic preference. Before the statues, there was the “beautiful wall,” an oddly-conceived barrier prospectively bedecked with a “beautiful door.” But it’s not just about walls and buildings. Mr. Trump’s most frequent references to beauty have had to do with women.

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Boredom’s push

There are crimes of passion, those of rage and of love. And then, there are crimes of boredom. Arson, animal abuse, and murder have all been committed in the name of boredom.

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Who is the expert on your well-being?

The “science of well-being” (aka positive psychology, quality of life or happiness studies) applies scientific method to what was previously personal, inscrutable, philosophical–happiness and good life.

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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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