April 27, 2018 | How blank are our slates? Hobbes and Rousseau believed in the existence of human nature, but today’s philosophers are skeptical. Biology suggests an answer... more »


April 26, 2018 | Before the sum total of human knowledge exploded, it was possible to know everything. The last man to do so was Sabine Baring-Gould... more »


April 25, 2018 | At 30, Elizabeth Jennings was a celebrated poet. At 40, she lived in poverty, a shabby eccentric haunting Oxford cafes. What went wrong?... more »


April 24, 2018 | Eros in the academy. Intellectual magnetism often shades into erotic attraction. That's always been true of students and professors... more »


April 23, 2018 | Death and the meaning of life. Have you thought about being composted or cremated? Perhaps donating your body to science? Why we distract ourselves from the fact that we are physical beings... more »


April 21, 2018 | The field of complexity science tackles questions like: Why are there 10,000 species of birds, but only 5,000 species of mammals? A key insight: Scale matters... more »


April 20, 2018 | “Poetry makes nothing happen,” thought Auden. But properly understood, books are a type of magic: “To write is to sell a ticket to escape, not from the truth but into it.”... more »


April 19, 2018 | 43 years ago, Laura Mulvey coined the term “male gaze.” Is it still artistically justifiable for a man to paint a naked woman?... more »


April 18, 2018 | We express our emotions physically, but now we mediate them digitally as well. As Don DeLillo put it, “Nobody knows how to feel and they’re checking around for hints”... more »


April 17, 2018 | "We won. ... But having won, we have no sense of balance or modesty or graciousness," Jaron Lanier says about those who built the internet. "So we kind of turned into assholes"... more »


April 16, 2018 | Did Orwell really did shoot an elephant in Burma? Did Sontag accurately represent a get-together? The vagaries of memory pose a special threat for writers... more »


April 14, 2018 | The true story is always the oppositional story. Or so goes the logic of both literature professors and the right-wing media. What have the radical politics of humanities professors wrought?... more »


April 13, 2018 | How to be an intellectual. Find three uninterrupted hours per day; overcome boredom; mind the distinction between intellectuals and academics... more »


April 12, 2018 | John Gray takes a dim view of reason. Indeed, he takes a dim view of humanity. He is a "card-carrying misanthrope for whom human life has no unique importance"... more »


April 11, 2018 | While science advances, philosophy stays the same, asking the Big Questions again and again. The field is still immature... more »


April 10, 2018 | The cult of Tocqueville: How did a Frenchman who hasn’t been in the United States in over 185 years become the man everyone loves to quote?... more »


April 9, 2018 | The death of Seamus Heaney lets us mourn not only an artist of rare verbal gifts but also the loss of a language that long mapped a way of living... more »


April 7, 2018 | Samuel Beckett's relationship with his mother was long, tempestuous, and, he realized, formative. “I am what her savage loving has made me”... more »


April 6, 2018 | What makes scientific theories true? Falsifiability or observability work in some cases, but the madcap ideas that push the borders of knowledge require a different approach... more »


April 5, 2018 | The writerly imperialism of Dave Eggers. His work is a combination of twee visual details, Muslim characters, and a well-meaning American exceptionalism... more »


April 4, 2018 | Beware the grammar bullies! Morality and language are linked, argued Ursula K. Le Guin. But morality and correctness are not the same thing... more »


April 3, 2018 | James Baldwin in Hollywood. He was there to make a movie about Malcolm X. It didn't go well. “I would rather be horsewhipped ... than repeat the adventure”... more »


April 2, 2018 | "Populism" is a label often used but little understood. It's incoherent an ideology yet not to be dismissed as deranged or imaginary. Populism is a disease in the body politic... more »


March 31, 2018 | The poet Joan Murray died at 24. Her manuscripts, sent to be preserved, apparently fell off the back of a truck. Is it fair, then, to call her a minor poet?... more »


March 30, 2018 | When fiction fuels the future. Sun-powered screens, electric weather, telepathy via battery — by picturing what’s to come, does science fiction help us invent it?... more »


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