Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

How can we solve the energy crisis and mitigate climate change?

Symptoms of the looming climate crisis abound: 50-year extreme heat events happening every year, melting of polar ice sheets, forest fires that encircle the globe, tropical cyclones of greater size, intensity and, as was very evident in Ida’s recent visit to New York, unprecedented levels of precipitation.

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The power of words [podcast]

We’re all familiar with the phrase “words have power” but in a political and cultural climate where we become more aware of the power that money, influence, and privilege have every day, how do people wield the power of words?

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SHAPE and societal recovery from crises

The SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy) initiative advocates for the value of the social sciences, humanities, and arts subject areas in helping us to understand the world in which we live and find solutions to global issues. As societies around the world respond to the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, research from SHAPE disciplines has the potential to illuminate how societies process and recover from various social crises.

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The Realness of Things Past

Have humans always lived in a “pluriverse” of worlds?

In the modern West, we take it for granted that reality is an objectively knowable material world. From a young age, we are taught to visualize it as a vast abstract space full of free-standing objects that all obey timeless universal laws of science and nature. But a very different picture of reality is now emerging from new currents of thought in fields like history, anthropology, and sociology.

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Passion's Fictions from Shakespeare to Richardson: Literature and the Sciences of Soul and Mind

Shakespeare and the sciences of emotion

What role should literature have in the interdisciplinary study of emotion? The dominant answer today seems to be “not much.” Scholars of literature of course write about emotion; but fundamental questions about what emotion is and how it works belong elsewhere: to psychology, cognitive science, neurophysiology, philosophy of mind. In Shakespeare’s time the picture was different. What the period called “passions” were material for ethics and for that part of natural philosophy dealing with the soul; but it was rhetoric that offered the most extensive accounts of the passions.

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On SHAPE: a Q&A with Lucy Noakes, Eyal Poleg, Laura Wright & Mary Kelly

OUP have recently announced our support for the newly created SHAPE initiative—Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy. To further understand the crucial role these subjects play in our everyday lives, we have put three questions to four British Academy SHAPE authors and editors—social and cultural historian Lucy Noakes, historian of objects and faith Eyal Poleg, historical sociolinguist Laura Wright, and Lecturer in Contemporary Art History Mary Kelly—on what SHAPE means to them, and to their research.

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Becoming Someone New

Transformative choice and “Big Decisions”

Imagine being invited by a trusted friend to a “life-changing” event. Should you go? The event could be a church service, self-help talk, concert, movie, festival, hike, play, dinner party, book club, union organizing meeting, etc. What sorts of considerations do you reach for in making your choice? The philosopher L. A. Paul has put problems like these, termed transformative choices, on the map for philosophical and scientific inquiry.

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Poetry and the Language of Oppression: Essays on Politics and Poetics

Lyricism as activism: Sigurd Olson and The Singing Wilderness

Placing the reader in the poetic and ethical space is the first step toward direct action that affects the larger human community: a step toward activism. Activism formalizes the values that inspire and ultimately direct our will—and action—to preserve and protect. By opening new worlds, other spaces, and creating experiences for the reader—and, crucially, letting the reader explore those worlds for herself or for himself—the lyric writer has an opportunity to create a protected zone for significant communication.

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Spinoza

Was Spinoza a populist? [Long read]

Recent studies of Spinoza’s political theory in a contemporary perspective often place it in one of two categories, depicting him either as a defender of individual free speech and liberal democracy or as a champion of radical democracy and collective popular power. For some, he is something like a liberal supporter of the equal individual rights of all citizens to express whatever is on their mind, an early defender of “free speech.”

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SHAPE today and tomorrow: Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy and Julia Black (part two)

This second part of our Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy, Director of Content Strategy & Acquisitions at OUP, and Professor Julia Black CBE FCA, Strategic Director of Innovation and Professor of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and President-elect of the British Academy, reflects on how SHAPE disciplines can help us to understand the impact of the events of the pandemic and look towards the future of SHAPE.

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Feminist Philosophy

How women have shaped philosophy: nine female philosophers our authors admire

When asked to name a philosopher, it is more than likely that many of the major thinkers that spring to mind will be male. There is a long and rich tradition of female thinkers who have made important contributions to philosophy, and whose works merit further recognition. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we asked some of our authors to tell us about a female philosopher they admire, and why.

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Introducing SHAPE: Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy and Julia Black (part one)

OUP is excited to support the newly created SHAPE initiative—Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy. SHAPE has been coined to enable us to clearly communicate the value that these disciplines bring to not only enriching the world in which we live, but also enhancing our understanding of it. In the first instalment this two-part Q&A, we spoke to Sophie Goldsworthy and Professor Julia Black to find out more about SHAPE and what it means to them.

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Representation in Cognitive Science

What is “representation” in the human brain and AI systems?

Neuroscience is beginning to make sense of what’s going on inside the human brain—a seemingly inscrutable organ of even great complexity. We can now see what some patterns of activity are, and we have an inkling of what they are doing, of how they track the environment, and subserve behaviour.

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Posthuman Bliss? The Failed Promise of Transhumanism

Playing to lose: transhumanism, autonomy, and liberal democracy [long read]

[long read] Transhumanists insist that their vision of the “radical” bioenhancement of human capacities is light-years removed from prior eugenics, which was state managed. This reassuring, empowering picture is undercut by transhumanists’ own arguments, which offer incompatible pictures of personal autonomy in relation to decisions about the use of bioenhancement technologies.

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