Photo by bintazp

Black Lives Matter only When White People Have An Obligation to Make Them Matter

We are brought up to believe in the primacy of human rights, we like to think of every child born on Earth as endowed, by nature or by God, with inalienable rights which only need to be respected by the collective. Whenever experience awakens us to a world where those rights, to life, to peace, or to education, do in fact get alienated day after day, from Minneapolis to Mumbai, from Jerusalem to Johannesburg, we are outraged. …

A short-lived sex boycott in Spring 1958, promoted by female undergraduates at Oxford University to protest the nuclear arms race led to a wider conversation about gender relations and revealed the deeply entrenched misogyny of their peers.

What to do with women; so began one of the last editorials of the 1958 run of the Cherwell, the Oxford University undergraduate newspaper, in a year rife with social and political debate. Some of the most controversial included the French atrocities during the Algerian independence war, the activities of the cross-university Joint Action Against Racial Intolerance (JACARI), the National Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and finally the suspended position of women in the university, many institutions of which were still closed to them.

The last two issues collided spectacularly in Hilary of 1958. What emerges from the articles of the…

It is not the uncertainties that are too many, but the doubts that are too few

Photo by Julien R on Unsplash

One of the things I love most about the Italian language is the subjunctive form of verbs. For every statement one can make, one has the possibility of uttering a different one that alludes to the same state of the world, but unveils the uncertainties inherent to the processes of being, understanding and communicating.

The subjunctive mood is present in many languages, but has nearly disappeared from everyday English. Subjunctive is not a synonym of subjective and is not the form of opinions, the safe word for a new age of close-mindedness, it is much more than that. …

6 Tips For Healthy and Fruitful Conversations

Ok, you’ve decided to comment on that article or say two words to a friend of yours. You have been silent for a few days now and you think a comment won’t harm anyone; it might even do some good!

First, let me say you are not alone: every day millions of people add their comments to corners of the interweb where they reasonably shouldn’t be. This pulls other millions of comments into hundreds of thousands of lose-lose confrontations.

Moreover, the aspiration to convince others of something right or good is one that is deeply engrained in us, even when…

Who brought a Nzema Boy to Holland in 1703, How He Became a Professor of Philosophy in Germany and Why He Went back to Ghana.

Jan Steen, Fantasy Interior with Jan Steen and the Family of Gerrit Schouten, ca. 1659–1660

In 1753 a Dutch slave ship of the Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie moored at Axim, a costal town in modern day Ghana. The private company was founded in 1720 but the Dutch, through their West Indies Company, had, on and off since 1620, monopoly over the area, which Europeans called Gold Cost or Guinea.

The surgeon on that ship was David Henri Gallandat, a Swiss-Dutch in charge of the health of both slave traders and enslaved Africans. He was an exceptionally experienced surgeon who would, 15 years later, publish a widely circulated guide for slave traders. …

A Little Time And a Little Peace Can Go a Long Way

A friend of mine, a medical doctor who specialises in treating problem of the heart, recently asked me to produce for him a formula for happiness. Initially, I wasn’t inclined to do so, thinking about how disappointed would my doctoral supervisor be if he found out I took time off my research to work on happiness. However, because the cardiologist was so generous in his hospitality the last time I visited him in Italy, I eventually resolved to take some time to figure it out. In the off chance this might be useful to others, I have decided to publish…

Or, Failing That, At Least a Long And Stable Relationship

From the movie Anna Karenina

I am regularly asked about what research in mathematics entails, and the tone of the question is often an incredulous ‘Isn’t mathematics done?’ or an apologetic ‘I’m sorry but I am not going to understand whatever you say next’.

It is true that some aspects of university level maths is difficult to explain to outsiders given the initial cost of learning the complex language in which it is done: it would be like learning Russian on Tolstoy. Luckily, there are a number of problems that speak to our everyday experiences; they do not require a refined language to be understood…

Four diagrams, four ways of being

Image: Evgeny Gromov/iStock/Getty Images Plus

I n the year 2284, the Organization for the Fulfillment of Humankind — instituted by 151 countries and 17 space outposts, and comprising scientists, artists, and philosophers in equal numbers — has completed its investigation of the ultimate meaning of life and everything there is and has delivered a computer with enough power to solve ethics and the fundamental problem of existence.

In fact, the super computer is two separate independent machines, Knowledge and Understanding, widely known with the friendly names ‘K’ and ‘U’. K has the solution to every conceivable human problem, explicit and implicit, and even the solutions…

A Science Fiction

For four billion years, it had no name.

It came out of interstellar dust the sun did not breathe in before breathing out its first reaction, and the planets did not sweep in before clearing their neighbourhoods.

When the gas giants emerged from the mist, Jupiter and its father Saturn, as part of their Promethean task of setting the inner system free from asteroids, flung it away from the sun.

It travelled for a million years and joined a trillion small bodies in the Hills cloud, a disk shaped and densely packed congregation of iced rocks in a slow orbit…

Stop Worrying About the Meaning of Abstract Art and Start Loving the Art

What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more. — Susan Sontag

There are three stages of knowing art.

First comes the experience of art, a constant or sporadic, intentional or casual exposition to artefacts and performances that override our normal mode of sensing by means of appeasement or excitement.

After seeing much art, feeling much of it, hearing much of and about it, one will form a theory of art. The theory guides the translation of the sensorial experience into a mental construct and proposes to understand…

Temitope Ajileye

Research student in computer science with a background in maths and an interest in all things human. Lived in Nigeria, Italy and UK; currently in Oxford.

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