Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

A pandemic of boredom

It was just the two of them: on a raft, lost, floating off the coast of Africa—the lone survivors of a shipwreck. Years before, struck with stupendous boredom, Hymie Basteshaw decided to become boredom’s master. He read what others wrote about boredom, studied its physiology, and discovered its secrets in the wavering folds of human […]

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Intermittent fasting can help people in high-stress jobs

During times of crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak, citizens often rely on first responders to ensure their daily living remains largely unaffected. However, behind the scenes, people serving in high-stress occupations (i.e. soldiers, police officers, nurses, firefighters, etc.) are often plagued with lack of sleep, shift work, poor eating habits and lack of access […]

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A.J. Ayer and Logical Positivism

Alfred Jules Ayer (1910-89) was a philosopher and a leading English representative of Logical Positivism. He was responsible for introducing the doctrines of the movement as developed in the 1920s and 1930s by the Vienna Circle group of philosophers and scientists into British philosophy. Ayer’s philosophy was also influenced by empiricism of David Hume and the […]

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How childhood trauma resurfaces during COVID-19

Children who are victims of bullying often suffer a sense of helplessness. They don’t know what to do during bullying episodes and they don’t really believe anything will change or anyone can intervene effectively. Children subjected to bullying say it makes them feel sick, afraid, and helpless. It can also lead to feelings of anxiety, […]

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The ethics of defeating COVID-19

Isolation, quarantine, cordon sanitaire, shelter in place, physical distancing.  These were unfamiliar words just a few weeks ago. Now, your life and the lives of many others may depend on them. Isolation is the separation of someone who has been identified as ill so that she cannot spread the disease to others. Isolation requires careful management to […]

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Word Origins

Spelling reform: not a “lafing” matter

I keep receiving letters explaining to me the futility of all efforts to reform English spelling and even extolling the virtues of the present system. I will spend minimal time while rehashing what has been said many times and come to the point as soon as possible. The seemingly weighty but not serious objections are three. 1) If we reform spelling, we’ll lose a lot of historical information. Quite true, but spelling is not a springboard to an advanced course on etymology.

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G.E.M. Anscombe on the evil of demanding unconditional surrender in war

During military conflict, what are the constraints on the things that a warring nation may do to achieve their objectives? And what constraints are there on the objectives that such a nation should have in the first place? A traditional answer to the first of these questions draws a sharp line at the deliberate killing […]

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Denying climate change is hurting our health

In recent years, global environmental climate change has become a third rail in American culture, dividing us along political lines. The Republican party espouses a range of positions, from the denial of climate change (the earth is not getting warmer) to denial of our role in causing the problem (even if climate change exists, humans […]

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How austerity measures hurt the COVID-19 response

The 2008 global financial crash brought with it a series of aftereffects that are shaping how different nations face the current pandemic. Austerity politics took a firm hold across Europe and other countries whose economies were hard hit, with governments and financial institutions arguing that they were an unavoidable consequence of the crash. While many […]

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Six tips for teachers who see emotional abuse

The scars of emotional abuse are invisible, deep, and diverse; and unfortunately, emotional abuse likely impacts more students than we think. Emotionally abusive behavior broadly consists of criticism, degradation, rejection, or threat. Emotional abuse (also known as psychological maltreatment or verbal assault) can happen anywhere, both within and outside of families, and can refer to […]

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The process of dying during a pandemic

The process of dying – what happens during those days, months, even years before we die – has changed a great deal in recent decades. We live longer than our parents and grandparents, we die for different reasons, we are less likely to die at home, we receive astonishing treatments, and our dying costs more. […]

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Word Origins

Who is Dr. Doddipol? Or, idioms in your back yard

Would you like to be as learned as Dr. Doddipol? Those heroes of our intensifying similes! Cooter Brown (a drunk), Laurence’s dog (extremely lazy), Potter’s pig (bow-legged), Throp’s wife (a very busy person, but so was also Beck’s wife)—who were they? I have at least once written about them, though in passing (see the post for October 28, 2015). They show up in sayings like as drunk as…, as lazy as…, as busy as…, and so forth. Many people have tried to discover the identity of those mysterious characters.

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Space for concern: Trump’s executive order on space resources

Among the bevy of executive actions undertaken by President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 crisis is, of all things, an executive order (issued on 6 April 2020) promoting the development of space resources, which states in part that: Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer […]

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COVID-19 and employment law in the UK

The last couple of weeks have seen a raft of new legislation in the United Kingdom, hurriedly passed to deal urgently with the coronavirus situation. It has clearly been drafted quickly, with guidance that goes well beyond the legislation, and so this has led to some confusion as to what exactly the law now says. […]

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How we can equip ourselves against climate change

Earth Day highlights the need for climate action, but what role does human-caused climate change play in creating disasters? Science paints a nuanced picture, instructing us to focus on reducing vulnerabilities to weather and climate, irrespective of how the environment is changing. Starting with the basics, a disaster is a situation requiring outside help for […]

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