All sections →
Out From Behind This Mask Jul 27, 2017 Philosophy & Art & History A Barthesian bristle and the curious power of Walt Whitman’s posthumous eyelids — D. Graham Burnett on meditations conjured by a visit to the death masks of the Laurence Hutton Collection. “Let us Calculate!”: Leibniz, Llull, and the Computational Imagination Nov 10, 2016 Science & Philosophy & History Three hundred years after the death of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and seven hundred years after the death of Ramon Llull, Jonathan Gray looks at how their early visions of computation and the “combinatorial art” speak to our own age of data, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. Francis van Helmont and the Alphabet of Nature Jun 1, 2016 Philosophy & Religion Largely forgotten today in the shadow of his more famous father, the 17th-century Flemish alchemist Francis van Helmont influenced and was friends with the likes of Locke, Boyle, and Leibniz. While imprisoned by the Inquisition, in between torture sessions, he wrote his Alphabet of Nature on the idea of a universal “natural” language. Je Wilson explores. Notes on the Fourth Dimension Oct 28, 2015 Books & Science & Philosophy Hyperspace, ghosts, and colourful cubes — Jon Crabb on the work of Charles Howard Hinton and the cultural history of higher dimensions. Machiavelli, Comedian Aug 5, 2015 Philosophy & Drama Most familiar today as the godfather of Realpolitik and as the eponym for all things cunning and devious, the Renaissance thinker Niccolò Machiavelli also had a lighter side, writing as he did a number of comedies. Christopher S. Celenza looks at perhaps the best known of these plays, Mandragola, and explores what it can teach us about the man and his world. Black on Black Apr 9, 2015 Books & Painting & Science & Philosophy Should we consider black a colour, the absence of colour, or a suspension of vision produced by a deprivation of light? Beginning with Robert Fludd’s attempt to picture nothingness, Eugene Thacker reflects* on some of the ways in which blackness has been used and thought about through the history of art and philosophical thought. Victorian Occultism and the Art of Synesthesia Mar 19, 2014 Books & Painting & Philosophy & Art Grounded in the theory that ideas, emotions, and even events, can manifest as visible auras, Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater’s Thought-Forms (1901) is an odd and intriguing work. Benjamin Breen explores these “synesthetic” abstractions and asks to what extent they, and the Victorian mysticism of which they were born, influenced the Modernist movement that flourished in the following decades. A Dangerous Man in the Pantheon Oct 2, 2013 Literature & Philosophy & History This October marks 300 years since the birth of French Enlightenment thinker Denis Diderot. Although perhaps best known for co-founding the Encylopédie, Philipp Blom argues for the importance of Diderot’s philosophical writings and how they offer a pertinent alternative to the Enlightenment cult of reason spearheaded by his better remembered contemporaries Voltaire and Rousseau. Lucian’s Trips to the Moon Jun 26, 2013 Books & Literature & Philosophy With his Vera Historia, the 2nd century satirist Lucian of Samosata wrote the first detailed account of a trip to the moon in the Western tradition and, some argue, also one of the earliest science fiction narratives. Aaron Parrett explores how Lucian used this lunar vantage point to take a satirical look back at the philosophers of Earth and their ideas of “truth”. As a Lute out of Tune: Robert Burton’s Melancholy May 1, 2013 Books & Science & Philosophy In 1621 Robert Burton first published his masterpiece The Anatomy of Melancholy, a vast feat of scholarship examining in encyclopaedic detail that most enigmatic of maladies. Noga Arikha explores the book, said to be the favorite of both Samuel Johnson and Keats, and places it within the context of the humoural theory so popular at the time. The Erotic Dreams of Emanuel Swedenborg Jan 24, 2013 Philosophy & Religion During the time of his “spiritual awakening” in 1744 the scientist and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg kept a dream diary. Richard Lines looks at how, among the heavenly visions, there were also erotic dreams, the significance of which has been long overlooked. Trüth, Beaüty, and Volapük Oct 17, 2012 Books & Philosophy & History Arika Okrent explores the rise and fall of Volapük – a universal language created in the late 19th century by a German priest called Johann Schleyer. The Last Great Explorer: William F. Warren and the Search for Eden Sep 6, 2012 Books & Science & Philosophy & Religion Of all the attempts throughout history to geographically locate the Garden of Eden one of the most compelling was that set out by minister and president of Boston University, William F. Warren. Brook Wilensky-Lanford looks at the ideas of the man who, in his book Paradise Found, proposed the home of all humanity to be at the North Pole. On Benjamin’s Public (Oeuvre) Oct 31, 2011 Literature & Philosophy & History On the run from the Nazis in 1940, the philosopher, literary critic and essayist Walter Benjamin committed suicide in the Spanish border town of Portbou. In 2011, over 70 years later, his writings enter the public domain in many countries around the world. Anca Pusca, author of Walter Benjamin: The Aesthetics of Change, reflects on the relevance of Benjamin’s oeuvre in a digital age, and the implications of his work becoming freely available online. Aspiring to a Higher Plane Sep 19, 2011 Books & Literature & Science & Philosophy In 1884 Edwin Abbott Abbott published Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, the first ever book that could be described as ‘mathematical fiction’. Ian Stewart, author of Flatterland and The Annotated Flatland, introduces the strange tale of the geometric adventures of A. Square. Robert Fludd and His Images of The Divine Sep 13, 2011 Books & Science & Philosophy & Art & Religion Between 1617 and 1621 the English physician and polymath Robert Fludd published his masterwork Utriusque Cosmi, a book split into two volumes and packed with over 60 intricate engravings. Urszula Szulakowska explores the philosophical and theological ideas behind the extraordinary images found in the second part of the work. American Kaleidoscope: Morton Prince and the Boston Revolution in Psychotherapy Aug 5, 2011 Books & Science & Philosophy In 1906 the American physician and neurologist Morton Henry Prince published his remarkable monograph The Dissociation of a Personality in which he details the condition of ‘Sally Beauchamp’, America’s first famous multiple-personality case. George Prochnik discusses the life and thought of the man Freud called “an unimaginable ass”. The Life and Work of Nehemiah Grew Mar 1, 2011 Books & Science & Philosophy & Art & History In the 82 illustrated plates included in his 1680 book The Anatomy of Plants, the English botanist Nehemiah Grew revealed for the first time the inner structure and function of plants in all their splendorous intricacy. Brian Garret explores how Grew’s pioneering “mechanist” vision in relation to the floral world paved the way for the science of plant anatomy. Ernst Haeckel and the Unity of Culture Jan 24, 2011 Science & Philosophy & Art & Religion In addition to describing and naming thousands of new species the German biologist and philosopher Ernst Haeckel was behind some of history’s most impressive meetings of science and art. Dr Mario A. Di Gregorio explores Haeckel’s unique idea of “monism” which lies behind the mesmerising illustrations of his most famous work, Kunstformen Der Natur. Emma Goldman’s “Anarchism Without Adjectives” Jan 12, 2011 Books & Literature & Philosophy In 2011, over 100 years after the publication of her seminal Anarchism and Other Essays, the writings of Emma Goldman entered the public domain. Kathy E. Ferguson, Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies at the University of Hawai’i, provides an introduction to Goldman’s life and her particular brand of anarchism.