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The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Existentialist

At the end of the second world war, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre launched the “existentialist offensive,” an ambitious campaign to shape a new cultural and political landscape. The word ‘existentialism’ was a popular neologism with no clear meaning. They wanted to profit from its media currency by making their philosophy its definition. Sartre’s talk “Existentialism is a Humanism” was an instant legend.

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Place of the Year 2018 nominee spotlight: North Korea

North Korea dominated the headlines in 2018 with historic meetings and heightened tensions over nuclear threats. This year Kim Jong-Un, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and Supreme Leader of North Korea, has met with multiple world leaders, and has been vocal about his stance on the North Korean nuclear program. This has ignited […]

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The 1950s is a vanished world, but have we made social progress?

Britain has seen huge social changes over the course of my lifetime. The world of the 1950s, when I grew up in a modest suburb of Liverpool, has vanished forever. The material standard of living we enjoyed then would nowadays seem to be distinctly substandard. We didn’t have a family car; I shared a bedroom with my older brother; and there was no television set, though we did have a telephone – a rather unfamiliar contraption which we were all too scared to use. There never seemed to be quite enough to eat and we were all rather skinny. There was no problem of obesity in our family, but we didn’t grow particularly tall. Today’s younger generation tower over us.

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Ypres: the city of ghosts

Today’s Ieper still has thousands of British visitors, with tourism as important to the economy of the city as it was in the twenties. But, in addition to the British, the Australians, Canadians, and New Zealanders are now coming in even greater numbers, as well as people from many other nations fascinated and intrigued by meeting the last great eyewitness left of the Great War: the landscape. Modern Ieper is a world forged and shaped in the furnace of a conflict that ended one hundred years ago this November.

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Attacking a loaf of bread

This post returns to loaf, noun, which, incidentally, has nothing to do with loaf, verb (but see the picture)! Since loaf, from hlaif-, appears to be a more ancient word for “bread” (as noted in the posts for October 17 and October 24), people must have coined bread, to designate the product that was different from the old one.

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Place of the Year 2018 Shortlist: vote for your pick

Oxford’s Place of the Year campaign pulls together the most significant places and events of the year. The 2018 shortlist of nominees brings to light impactful moments in global history, influencing the environment, international relations, humanitarian crises, and space exploration. Explore each of our locations and vote for who think should be recognized as Oxford’s […]

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Facing the challenges of serving the public as an academic

What does it mean to be an academic? To be an academic working in environmental law? One part of our multi-faceted role is what I am calling “public service”—trying to make our small portion of the world a slightly better place. Public service is difficult. Its demands, however, are rather similar to those we face […]

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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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Learning from nature to save the planet

Our planet is out of balance as the result of our technologies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that global temperatures could reach a frightening plus +3° by the end of the century, our ocean ecosystems risk being overwhelmed by non-degrading plastic waste, open rubbish tips scar the landscape and pollute our water supplies […]

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Are we misinformed or disinformed?

“Disinformation” is a common term at present, in the media, in academic and political discourse, along with related concepts like “fake news”. But what does it really mean? Is it different from misinformation, propaganda, deception, “fake news” or just plain lies? Is it always bad, or can it be a useful and necessary tool of statecraft? And how should we deal with it?

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Time to abandon “beyond reasonable doubt”

In England and many other countries around the world, the standard of proof to be met by the prosecution in order for the jury to convict an accused is proof “beyond reasonable doubt” or proof that makes the jury “sure” of guilt. These phrases are supposed to convey a very high standard of proof.

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Etymology gleanings for October 2018

I have received a letter with a query about whether kibosh might be a borrowing from Hebrew. Both the Hebrew and the Yiddish hypotheses on kibosh are discussed in detail in the book by Gerald Cohen, Stephen Goranson, and Matthew Little on this intractable word (Routledge, 2018).

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How digital artists are questioning artificial intelligence

Steve Goodman is best known for his work DJing as Kode9 and running the Hyperdub record label, one of the pioneering forces of UK bass culture and dubstep since 2004. Through releases by Kode9 & The Spaceape, and Burial, Hyperdub captured a sound that embodied the high-pressure claustrophobia and hyper-surveillance of urban environments in the 21st Century.

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