1992: The demonstration against the High Court injunction forbidding a 14-year-old alleged rape victim from obtaining an abortion in Britain reaches Government Buildings. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Ahead of Saturday’s pro-choice rallies, a look at some of the most influential protests and counter-protests on abortion

Larry David in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’: the ‘cringe comedy’ premiered in 2000

Shared, unspoken knowledge is always the active ingredient in ‘getting the joke’

Prayer for enlightenment? Tom Inglis says few Irish  now look for religious answers. Photograph: iStockphoto/Getty

There are ‘few indications’ that God matters to the Irish, says sociologist Tom Inglis

Users of Twitter tend to follow like-minded souls. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Philosophers should take the broadest possible measure of beliefs, argues philosopher Justin EH Smith

‘Philosophy is a powerful preparation for the journey upon which young people will embark’, Sabina Higgins told the launch of Philosophy Ireland at City Assembly House, South William Street, Dublin.

New organisation set up to support teachers who wish to offer Junior Cycle short course

High school students take the philosophy exam as part of  the 2016 baccalaureate at the Fustel de Coulanges high school in Strasbourg, eastern France. Photograph: Getty Images

Two new books, The Philosopher: A History in Six Types and Philosophy and Practical Engagement, ask if an ancient discipline has l(...)

Social justice campaigner Fr Peter McVerry, ‘probably the most credible social commentator of the Irish left’. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Values, free enterprise and religion can all play a part in winning over the voters

In the 1969 general election, the Labour party under Bredan Corish ampaigned under the slogan “the seventies will be socialist” and it promptly lost four seats.

Irish socialist thinking has moved on very little since the foundation of the State

Jean-Philippe Toussaint: ‘I am pretending to write about football, but I am writing, as always, about the passing of time.’ Photographs: Anna Toussaint

‘There are intellectual football-lovers but those who go to stadiums and bookshops are different’

George Berkeley: attempted to set up a college in Bermuda that would develop into a perfect Christian city

Utopian visions work because they are fictional, says sociologist Deirdre Ní Chuanacháin

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre: giants of 20th-century philosophy. Photograph: STF/AFP/Getty

Irish governments have been slow to draw on philosophers, argues Joseph Mahon

“Ultimately one is not going to attain the beauty ideal.” Photograph: iStock

‘You are not going to be thin, with curves, on your deathbed,’ says philosopher Heather Widdows

“What the hell is water?” Photograph: Thinkstock

Art theorist Francis Halsall explains the enduring appeal of phenomenology

Photograph: Thinkstock

The cosmos’s ever-changing nature is cause for cheer, not despair, says author Niamh Brennan

Donald Trump: the US Republican presidential contest has become uncivil

Greater social inequality stands as a threat to civility, argues sociologist John A Hall

Róisín Shortall TD said the traditional approach of majority rule in the Dáil could be improved upon. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Public voting experiment in Dublin explores feasibility of electing a powersharing government

Political factions have been encouraged to embrace power sharing internationally when facing ‘external threats which would negatively affect all communities in a country’, says political scientist Dr Dawn Walsh. Photograph: Getty Images

Public invited to take part in role play to elect ‘government of national unity’ on Saturday

Patrick Pearse:  as a product of his time he would have “hated” the idea of same-sex marriage.

The difference between the reality of the men of 1916 and the way they are being used is ‘enormous’, says David Rieff

EO Wilson and Richard Dawkins: had a disagreement about evolution

An astrophysicist and a philosopher have teamed up to examine how experts disagree

Migrants and refugees clash with riot police during a protest to call for the reopening of the borders at their makeshift camp in the northern border village of Idomeni, on April 7, 2016.  A plan to send back migrants from Greece to Turkey sparked demonstrations by local residents in both countries days before the deal brokered by the European Union is set to be implemented. / AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

Next time you bleat about your right to something think about what’s being done in your name in the Mediterranean

A banner used by demonstrators in Vienna, Austria last week against Iranian President Hassan Rohani over Iran’s use of the death penalty. Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before, according to Amnesty. Photograph: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Surge in death penalty in Pakistan, Iran and Saudia Arabia but China remains ‘world’s top executioner’

Abul A’la Maududi: one of the  founding fathers of Pakistan

Rigid notions of masculinity continue to cause a crisis in Islamic communities, says Dr Amanullah de Sondy

These books remind us that none of us faces the question of death alone. That in itself is some comfort. “To be oblivious of death is to be only half-awake,” writes Raymond Tallis, and it is impossible to come away from reading his work along with the other titles here without feeling a renewed gratitude for life. Moreover, they collectively show that you don’t have to thank Someone to be thankful

Joe Humphreys reviews books by five authors – a philosopher, a literary legend, a humanist, a former priest and a doctor – tacklin(...)

Should the Robin Williams test  replace the Turing test for AI?

Computers will never have human consciousness unless they have our foibles too, argues author Andrew Smart

A protest in Athens: people have become more nationalistic in countries that were worst hit economically. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

The rise of nationalism in Europe and the US is a response to failures of internationalism, suggests sociologist Neil Fligstein (...)

Photograph: Thinkstock

The mindfulness industry tells us to ‘be in the present’ but is that meaningful or desirable, asks philosopher Seán Enda Power

“One of the most eloquent quiet stares in human history”: Denial of Peter (detail) by Carl Heinrich Bloch

A person’s silence can send a powerful challenge to interpret it, says author Hugo Slim

Ballot box: election reformers want to see more of the people involved in more of the decisions more of the time. Illustration: Kevin Smart/Getty

As the parties pick over the results of Ireland’s general election, critics say that our blunt majority-rule system is an outdated(...)

Friedrich Nietzsche: what would he have thought of academics on Twitter?

Nietzsche believed expanding college access peddled the lie that all students were equally capable

The freedom to self-harm in the western, liberal tradition would have been anathema to Kant’s philosophy

Neglecting your health is immoral, said Kant: Trinity philosopher Alice Pinheiro Walla explains why

The state funds Catholic faith formation in the primary sector to the tune of € 90 million per year. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Penny slow to drop among Catholic Church in Ireland on issue of school patronage

“Vaccines aren’t perfect, nor can we expect them to be”

A combination of fear and distrust fuels the anti-vaccine movement, suggests American academic Eula Biss

“Reformers argue that the Koran is a living text and can be reinterpreted”

A Trinity scholar warns against generalising about a population of 1.6 billion

A visitor appraises Caravaggio’s The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew. Photograph: Getty Images

‘The best art affects you as an individual,’ says art theorist Hugh Moss

Characters from the movie Inside Out

Poets rather than scientists are best-placed to explain our feelings, says ‘emotional archivist’ Tiffany Watt Smith

Photograph: Thinkstock

Food ethics has more to do with property rights than what we eat, says American philosopher Paul B Thompson

The dialogues the author creates between Plato and various contemporary characters, including a marketing agent, a Google employee, a Tiger Mum, a radio host and a neuroscientist, convincingly demonstrate the value of continuing the job that Socrates started in ancient Greece. But they also show just why Plato would struggle to be heard today. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Carefully researched and written with delightful verve and imagination, it captures the full scope and spirit of Plato’s dialogue(...)

‘I think cognitive enhancers should be allowed for academics’

‘Smart drugs’ pose dilemmas for students and academics, says an NUI Galway academic

Junior Cycle course seeks to promote the benefits of ‘changing one’s mind’

In general, university courses tend to have the highest retention rates. Photograph: The Irish Times

Irish Times figures show numbers failing to progress beyond first-year in each course

Academics have warned that students at third level are increasingly unable to cope with courses that require maths  competence and require support to pass exams. Photograph: The Irish Times

Up to 80% of students in some courses are failing to progress to second year

Whats not to like?: Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica, formally starting the Jubilee of Mercy, at the Vatican City, 08 December 2015.  EPA/MAURIZIO BRAMBATTI

The church in Ireland promotes fundamental values and provides the basic unit of community

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at the opening of St James’s Catholic primary school in Basin Lane, Dublin, in April 2014, whose creation – out of two merging Catholic schools – allowed Educate Together move into a former Christian Brothers school next door. Photograph: John Mc Elroy.

Christian Brothers trust clashed with department officials, documents show

“Your first kiss will be forever located in some region of space-time.” Photograph: Thinkstock

Einstein suggests life events are an eternal part of the universe, says Daniel Deasy

Jimmy Rabbitte: “Irish are the blacks of Europe” had a ring of truth in late 1980s

Whiteness is as much frame of mind as skin colouring, says Linda Martín Alcoff

Astrology: a tool for interpreting the world? Illustration: Thinkstock

Philosopher (and Capricorn) Martin Cohen says star signs deserve a serious look

“Many people were so impressed by Mary Somerville it made a difference.” Above, portrait by Thomas Phillips

The status of women in science is distorting not just academia but knowledge itself, says Helen de Cruz

It seems a real shame that three things of significance have to share the one “feast day”: men, toilets and philosophy. File photograph: Getty Images

Thursday is ‘feast day’ for three good causes - but only philosophers are really persecuted

WB Yeats: unashamedly elevated imagination over rational calculation

Yeats engaged in ‘cultural mutiny’ against the encroachment of science

Parents who can’t afford fee-charging schools are effectively paying for those who are already privileged to go to private schools. Photograph: Thinkstock

Students and parents have duty to challenge unfairness in education system, argues Dr Audrey Bryan

Trinity College  Dublin paid external consultants €2.8 million to assist in “change management”.

Seven universities spent more than €24.6m on external consultants in three-year period

Towards light: imagine your life from the standpoint of darkness beyond it. Photograph: Thinkstock

Author Raymond Tallis imagines himself as a corpse and discovers new wonder for life

‘There is something about what we are which incarnates unconditional worth.’ Photograph: Thinkstock

You can’t escape religious or metaphysical thinking, argues William Desmond

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Third-level proposals include postgraduate grants and a four-week limit on internships

The National Parents Council Post Primary has expressed concern over  a threat of school closures and strikes by teachers over the Lansdowne Road  deal. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Teachers in dispute over Lansdowne Road pay deal and Junior Cycle reform

Long-awaited ‘fitness to teach’ hearings can’t be introduced until new legislation on garda vetting is in place, the Department of Education and Skills has said. Image: Thinkstock.

Teaching Council says it is ready to start investigations of poor performance

Asti general secretary Pat King warned individual teachers could forfeit up to €6,700 in lost increments, while others could face redundancy or reduced entitlement to permanency, because of the union’s stance on the Lansdowne Road pay deal. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Union chief Pat King warns teachers could forfeit up to €6,700 in increments over stance

Union shows no signs of backing down but it’s unclear if teachers have stomach for fight

Trinity College Dublin (left) and UCD (right)  have secured top 100 rankings in a  table of best academic faculties globally. File photographs: The Irish Times

TCD 74th in Arts and Humanities, UCD 99th in Clinical, Pre-Clinical and Health sciences

The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon has called for fitness to teach hearings. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Inquiries would improve accountability in education, Oireachtas committee hears

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister approves application for technological university for Connacht and Ulster

DCU’s plans include the development of the recently purchased All Hallows College, Drumcondra site for student accommodation. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

University seeks to double student numbers by 2029

Minister for Education and Skills  Jan O’Sullivan published the report into student accommodation last month.  Photograph: Frank Miller

Proposals for student accommodation report withdrawn after departmental objections

Homer Simpson: is there a bit of him in everyone?

The man behind Obama’s ‘nudge unit’ says people need to be protected from their biases

Trinity College Dublin has said it planned to commence an international recruitment campaign next month to fill assistant professorships in Children’s Literature, Medieval History, Global Politics, Midwifery and other areas. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Forty assistant professors to be employed under five-year ‘tenure-track’ contracts

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals said existing employment terms should be renegotiated to make them “more fit-for-purpose, setting out the rights and obligations of teachers and their employers”. Photograph: David Sleator

Continuous training should be integral not added ‘chore’, says school principals’ body

ASTI president Máire G Ní Chiarba who said young teachers have been disproportionately affected by a series of austerity measures over recent years. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Uncertainty over whether ASTI to be bound by decision of Ictu to accept agreement

Sociologists have highlighted the merits of the religious studies approach in primary schools. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Academics argue nature of religious education not sufficiently debated in Ireland

One of the education goodwill gestures in Budget 2016 is an allocation of 300 teaching posts to guidance counselling, which effectively restores half of the provision withdrawn in Budget 2012.

Analysis: Guidance counselling allocation to be ringfenced in schools under circular

A further 600 resource teaching posts will be created next year.

Budget 2016: Pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools being reduced from 28:1 to 27:1

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan was among those who raised concerns about the Leaving Certificate  maths exam. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Commission says aspects of ordinary-level maths marking must ‘remain confidential’

The Long Room Library, Trinity College Dublin.

Proposal to declutter Long Room and create ‘Genius Bar’ for aspiring Mark Zuckerbergs

From left, Joe Humphreys chairing the Unthinkable debate, with Cathy Barry, Kevin Mitchell, Siobhán Garrigan and William Reville. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Irish Times Unthinkable debate seeks resolution to the ‘God versus science’ row

NCAD: The college has been criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Prof Declan McGonagle to exit, full audit of college’s 2013 accounts to begin in November

The University of Limerick (above) has  strongly denied the allegations regarding expenses claims and  said it welcomed the announcement of an  investigator being appointed. File photograph: Press 22

HEA to appoint external investigator after its chief executive met whistleblower

There was a 25% reduction in overall funding for the Schools Completion Programme – from €32.9 million in 2008 to €24.7 million for 2015. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

ESRI warns of loss of homework clubs, after-school programmes and counselling

 Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan and Emirjeta Doda, a student attending Westland Row Secondary School, Dublin launching collegeaware.ie

Initiative aims to highlight options for school leavers in further and higher education

Almost a quarter of Leaving Cert candidates who appealed their result in higher level Mathematics received an upgrade, figures published by the State Examinations Commission on Wednesday show. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

Results of appeals being sent to schools by courier because of uncertain postal situation

The report notes “there is a need to invest in digital devices in schools”. Photograph: Getty Images

New Leaving Cert subject proposed as €210 million allocated for digital strategy

William James: pragmatism is a way to tackle ordinary and intellectual issues

Moral truths can’t be spoon-fed to people by priests or sages, says Sarin Marchetti, invoking the wisdom of William James

Kieran Christie: incoming ASTI general secretary

Kieran Christie takes over a divided union that has dodged hard decisions

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan has introduced new election procedures for the boards of primary schools. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Catholic management body issues advice on running of school board elections

The University of Limerick issued High Court proceedings against the Limerick Leader after it published details of allegations of financial mismanagement.

UL will ‘cooperate fully’ with any inquiry into claims of financial mismanagement

TCD drops to 160th in expanded world ranking - down from 43rd six years ago

The Government’s working group on third-level funding is due to report before the end of the year.

Irish policy makers told funding model ‘comes out on top’ for equity and impact

A separate settlement of €12.25 million was made this year by the State Examinations Commission  for its failure to treat properly for taxation purposes payments to examiners and other contract staff. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

State Examinations Commission settles €12.25m tax liability with the Revenue

A number of serious irregularities have been discovered in payments to schools under the free meals scheme. File photo: Thinkstock

Five schools referred to Garda over payment irregularities

Lotteries: could be used to keep ‘bad reasons’ out of decision-making

Using a lottery is preferable to distributing goods based on ‘bad reasons’, argues political scientist Peter Stone

Helena Wood, far left, of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra; Tanya Massey; Ronan Timmins; and leader of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra Mia Cooper at the launch of this year’s Fr Frank Maher Classical Music Awards

Plus: this year’s Fr Frank Maher Classical Music Awards

The whistleblower has been involved in the provision of learning support in a number of schools. Photograph: Getty Images

Investigation urged over claims time held for special needs is going to management duties

ASTI general secretary Pat King is to retire at the end of this year.

Long-time activist named to replace Pat King amid debate over recruitment procedure

ASTI president Máire Ní Chiarba: “Teachers, the practitioners in the classroom, understand how best to improve teaching and learning.” File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Union narrowly rejects latest reform plan and decides to resume industrial action

In the latest QS rankings University of Limerick went up from the 501-550 bracket to 471-480. File photograph: Press 22

Limerick college aims for 60% increase in foreign students in attempt to raise profile

Fr Michael Drumm, chair of the Catholic Schools Partnership. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Partnership would give Catholic Church and State joint control over school management

TUI president Gerry Quinn (centre left) protesting in Dublin. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Plans to overhaul curriculum have been cause of contention for years

ASTI and TUI members were presented with two ballot papers one on whether to accept or reject the amended reform plan  and the other to mandate further industrial action if the proposals are rejected. Photograph: Eric Luke

Only 38 per cent of ASTI members opt to vote, rejecting plan by narrow margin

The ‘Fightback’ faction publicly questioned the motives of senior union officials. Photograph:  Don MacMonagle

Teachers’ union accuses ‘Fightback’ group undermining elected leadership

Minister for Education Jan O Sullivan: Seen as more supportive of the community national school model than her predecessor. Photograph: The Irish Times

Education and Training Boards planning 22 schools along community model by 2020

The conference heard that funding “cuts were having most impact on those who are least equipped to deal with the fallout”. Photograph: Getty Images

Bigger input required from employers to plug sector funding gap, conference told

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