The trolley problem, a classic thought experiment in moral philosophy, as featured in the TV show The Good Place. Photograph: NBC

Unthinkable: Should we be worried about the apparent rise of utilitarianism?

Sometimes no one is to blame: Adam Driver, Azhy Robertson and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story. Photograph: Heyday Films/Netflix

Unthinkable: People can cause harm unwittingly through clumsiness or ignorance

Charitable works and fighting for justice are not mutually exclusive, effective altruists argue. File image: Alan Betson

Unthinkable: ‘Effective altruism’ seeks to do the most good with limited resources

Roy Baumeister: ‘Parents and teachers became reluctant to criticise at all – just praise the child all the time. That’s very poor for learning; it gives you no information’

Unthinkable: Roy Baumeister is a long-time critic of the ‘self-esteem movement’

Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel in  Vatican City, Rome. ‘It is reasonable to hope in a particular rational ordering of things,’ says philosopher Patrick Masterson. Photograph: Getty Images/Science Photo Library

Unthinkable: Philosopher Patrick Masterson believes there is a ‘rational order’ to the universe whether or not God exists

The aftermath of the drone strike  ordered by US president Donald Trump  which killed Iranian general Qassem Suleimani.  Photograph: Iraqi Prime Minister’s Press Office via The New York Times

Unthinkable: Autonomous weapons allow us to kill without a conscience. Atrocities are inevitable

By reading the news ‘we train our brain to skim, to surf, to digest very quickly and not go deep’, says Swiss writer Rolf Dobelli.

Unthinkable: Self-help writer Rolf Dobelli is ‘calmer and wiser’ since going ‘news free’

‘It’s very difficult to process all this change all the time without a way of marking it, or taking a moment to reflect on it,’ says Sasha Sagan.

Unthinkable: Sasha Sagan, daughter of cosmologist Carl Sagan, believes feast days are indispensable

‘What Christmas means is that, in our own bizarrely human way, we are caught up in an outbreak of mattering.’ Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire

Unthinkable: Meaning can be found in everything from a loving relationship to playing chess, says philosopher Jonathan Rowson

Friedrich Nietzsche: ‘Unfairly’ characterised as the father of nihilism. Photograph: Culture Club/Getty

Unthinkable: Technology is turning us into ‘passive nihilists’, says philosopher Nolen Gertz

‘On its own, the question of whether or not there is a God is  interesting in the abstract, but not very relevant to daily life,’ says historian of religion Alec Ryrie. Photograph: Getty Images

Unthinkable: Christianity’s tolerance of unbelief may be new atheism’s Achilles’ heel

TCD professor emeritus David Berman: ‘I was about six or seven when I had what is sometimes described as an “I am me” experience.’ Photograph: Dave Meehan

Unthinkable: One of philosophy’s great debates may be down to a misunderstanding

What’s needed to better equip future citizens is not RE per se but education about religious and philosophical thought. Image: iStock/Getty

Unthinkable: Like it or not, our society depends on a Christian moral inheritance

New European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde. Has she just taken on a ‘glass cliff’ job? Photograph: Aris Oikonomou/AFP via Getty Images

Unthinkable: Gender equality is a win-win for all, says economist Vicky Pryce

Simone Weil pictured in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Photograph: Apic/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Simone and André Weil had a profound influence on one another, a new book reveals

Venus and Jupiter  by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. Seneca argued that, since the gods  controlled all human affairs, experiencing a setback was a flattering sign that you’d caught their attention.

Unthinkable: The Roman Stoics might just have the answer to all your problems in a ‘convenient’ heavenly fiction

Elizabeth Anderson in her office at the University of Michigan: ‘There is a profound suspicion of anyone who is poor, and a consequent raising to the highest priority imposing incredibly humiliating, harsh conditions on access to welfare benefits.’ Photograph: © John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation – used with permission

Unthinkable: The US’s Protestant roots and Europe’s Catholic roots may help to explain contrasting attitudes to equality

“It’s only recently that we thought animals should be treated with respect and dignity and not tormented.” Photograph: iStock

Unthinkable: You can do philosophy anywhere. Even while walking your dog

‘If God is set aside, all of Western thinking going back to Plato and Aristotle and the Church fathers who adapted their thinking to Christianity is also eliminated.’ File photograph: Will Burgess/Reuters

Unthinkable: Despite very different religious traditions, the Irish and the Chinese are similar in their thinking, says Jerusha Mc(...)

If the self is located in the body, Richard Swinburne asks, where exactly can we find it? Photograph: iStock

Unthinkable: Without a ‘soul’ there is no self, says philosopher Richard Swinburne

Awareness that we shall all perish one day is instinctively suppressed, or glossed over with religious belief in the everlasting. Photograph: iStock

Unthinkable: We’ve a limited time on Earth. Accepting that fact can revolutionise society

In seeking esteem, do we pretend we’re something we’re not in order to get other people to admire us?

Unthinkable: Economist and philosopher Adam Smith encourages us to reflect on ‘how much is enough’

‘Judging that a certain course of action is irrational is always relative to a host of other contextual considerations’ Photograph: iStock

Unthinkable: Justin E H Smith discusses technological utopianism, Slavoj Zizek and the role of comedy in philosophy

Richard Dawkins: ‘I think the exceptionalism of humanity needs examining.’ Photograph: Don Arnold/Getty

The atheist biologist has written a new book about God but what really worries him is closer to home

Pointing the finger: Shame is necessary, because it enforces essential social morals. But endless shame is emotional cruelty. Photograph: Getty Images

Unthinkable: Shame has a ‘Newtonian force’ for good or bad, says Prof Sally R Munt

Rob Grant attends a classroom philosophy workshop: ‘We are all philosophers; we are just out of practice.’ Photograph: Future Visions

Kids can handle Plato, not just playdough: So argue two new documentaries on TV and radio

‘Experienced change over clock time is like stepping over stones. If you run, each step crosses more stones.’ Photograph:  Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Unthinkable: There are number of plausible theories of time, says Sean Enda Power

It is possible Donald Trump is engaging in sincere deception when says he is unaware of Russia’s role in helping him to be elected. Possible but not very likely. Photograph: Reuters

Amid growing interest in the ‘science of irrationality’, The Irish Times provides an A-Z of common intellectual traps

Modern mindfulness ‘is complicit with a neoliberal ethos of self-responsibility that reinforces systems of oppression and injustice’.

Unthinkable: Ronald E Purser warns against the rise of ethically neutral and self-absorbed spiritual practises

‘If you go from the Skelligs to the Giant’s Causeway, everything about the land has a mythological surface to it.’ Photograph: David Sleator

Unthinkable: Mark Patrick Hederman makes the case for promoting ‘mythic intelligence’

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines. ‘The prospect of being at the mercy of a future super-intelligence seems entirely realistic,’ says Malcolm Bull. Photograph: Reuters/Warner Bros

Unthinkable: When the robots take over you’d better hope they’re merciful, says author Malcolm Bull

Ac Grayling largely concentrates on male, white and western philosophy

Review: AC Grayling is a superb communicator of complex concepts but there are absent voices: women and Irish philosophers for sta(...)

‘There is a massive patriotic messaging around sports events’: U2 lead singer Bono shows the stars and stripes of the US flag during the 2002 Super Bowl halftime show. Win Mcnamee/Reuters

Unthinkable: There is merit in a virtuous patriotism but it can't be instilled through trickery or threats, says Randall Curren

The late John Moriarty. Andy O’Mahoney  on an RTÉ radio programme in 1985 introduced him with the words: ‘My guest tonight is one of the most remarkable people that I’ve ever met in my entire life.’ Photograph: Don MacMonagle

Unthinkable: The Kerry ‘eco-poet’ John Moriarty illuminates a better way for humanity, says Michael W Higgins

Aesthetic injustice?: Renée Zellweger in What/If, on Netflix

Unthinkable: Lack of cultural access is a serious wrong, says philosopher Rachel Fraser

‘Anger is a kind of madness; it blots out rational thought.’ File image: Lambert/Getty Images

Unthinkable: The Stoic philosopher Seneca debunked the idea of ‘righteous anger’, his translator explains

Unlike both utilitarianism and rights-based theories, virtue theory assumes human beings and the planet Earth have intrinsic purpose, from which moral commandments flow.

Unthinkable: We must find ‘middle way’, says Ireland’s new young philosopher of the year

Iris Murdoch: ‘It’s been easy to dismiss Murdoch as a philosopher because she was such a brilliant novelist.’ Photograph: Getty

Centenary of author’s birth in Dublin is being used as an occasion to reclaim her moral vision

Mount Sackville Secondary School student Lauren Doyle (16), the  overall winner of the Irish Young Philosopher Awards,   with President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins at UCD’s O’Reilly Hall. Photograph: Conor Healy/Picture It Photography

Lauren Doyle (16) receives this year’s Irish Young Philosopher Award from Michael D Higgins

Siri Hustvedt: Philosopher or novelist? Photograph:  Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Literature allows us capture ‘weirdness’ of life, says Matthew McKeever

Paul Mason: ‘I want us to reclaim the word snowflake. Unique, fragile, beautiful: that describes human beings to me.’ Photograph:

Resist the ‘mass folk religion of fatalism’, says the former Newsnight economics editor

Donald Trump, a winner at the ballot box, but  ‘the Stoics argued one cannot take pride in one’s life unless it is a virtuous life’. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Liars and cheats cannot ultimately fool themselves, says philosopher Vittorio Bufacchi

Ahmadi refugees from Pakistan   at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Centre in Pasyala, Sri Lanka, . Photograph: Reuters/Thomas Peter

More than 1,000 refugees, mainly Ahmadi Muslims from Pakistan, under police protection

‘Whether there is free will is not the sort of thing we can tell by looking,’ says philosopher Michael Rush.

There’s nothing in science that disproves the existence of free will, say Helen Beebee and Michael Rush

‘There is something new in our day – the way we can express invented identities without the requirement to stand by them.’ Photograph: Photothek/Getty Images

Social media ‘invites us to be so many people at once’, says UCC academic Fiachra Long

David Brooks: America needs to resist the growth of tribalism – what he calls ‘a bad attempt to create community’

The New York Times columnist can aggravate diehard liberals but his latest book merits a fair hearing

‘The approach to knowledge in art and science is different but complementary.’ File image: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Prof Tom McLeish identifies eight stages of creation common to disciplines as diverse as painting and biology

‘Nearly all of us have some desire to do what’s right  but a lot of the time our desire doesn’t really translate into motivation.’ Photograph: Getty images

Unthinkable: Most of us have a longing to ‘do the right thing’, says Lizzy Ventham

A pro-Brexit activist holds a placard  outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/ AFP/Getty Images

Unthinkable: People want ‘sovereignty’ over their lives, says philosopher Michele Nicoletti

Remainers showed ‘a lethal combination of arrogance and naivety’ ahead of the 2016 referendum. Photograph: Reuters/Henry Nicholls

Unthinkable: The Leave campaign was unconcerned about truth but Remainers showed ‘naivety and arrogance’, says philosopher Quassim(...)

‘Adventures in Philosophy’ illustrator Paula McGloin with  author Brendan O’Donoghue.  Photograph: Ruth Medjber

Unthinkable: A philosophy book designed for younger readers takes inspiration from Kerry sage John Moriarty

A group of Chinese Shaolin Buddhist monks  on a visit to Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Unthinkable: ‘A love of mystery is deeply embedded in the Irish psyche,’ says the author of a new translation of eastern wisdom st(...)

‘Sometimes we make better choices by taking the long view, and seeing all parts of time as equally real.’ Photograph: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Science suggests the present has ‘no particular significance’ above the past or the future?

“Being able to identify yourself as part of nature without being laughed at... [is] a huge shift.” Photograph: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Unthinkable: Less focus on outcomes can help to counter pessimism

Even when relaxing, people feel an urge to read something ‘improving’ or useful. Photograph: Noel Hendrickson/Thinkstock/Getty

Unthinkable: A new book on dossing and daydreaming seeks to challenge our traditional work ethic

Children prepare for a nativity play: “Religion is filled with fantastical superheroes and stories.” Photograph: Frank Miller

Unthinkable: Secular philosophies ‘lack the melodrama of religion’, says Stephen Asma

Muslim  praying in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Islam has  ‘given rise to remarkably free societies as well as depressingly intolerant ones’. Photograph: AP/Muhammed Muheisen

Unthinkable: Borrowing foreign ideas can expand our thinking, says Julian Baggini

‘My position is to recommend that people consider parenting a child with Down syndrome, if given the opportunity’. Photograph: iStock

Unthinkable: Pro-choice author Chris Kaposy warns of ‘elimination of people with Down syndrome’

Angry bird: social media incentivises conflict over constructive dialogue. Photograph: Reuters

Unthinkable: An ‘arms race’ of critique is hindering social progress, argues sociologist Tom Boland

America’s failure to repent the use of the atomic bomb contributed to “the ending of the western Christian civilisation”, says Desmond Fennell. Photograph: US Defense Department/Reuters

Unthinkable: We’re at a point in history ‘between two civilisations’, argues Desmond Fennell

Pilgrims waiting in  Phoenix Park, Dublin for the visit of Pope Francis. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Unthinkable: Two dead philosophers could provide the key to a more mature debate on faith

Tim Parks: “I am not my farts”

Tim Parks grapples with one of life’s big questions: what is consciousness?

Former president Mary McAleese at the a centenary celebration for the Columban Missionaries at Dalgan Park, Navan, Co Meath. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

Former president to march with son and husband in Dublin Pride event on Saturday

Irish Yong Philosopher Award winner Luke Rickard (16) with President Michael D. Higgins. Photograph: UCD Colleges of Social Sciences and Law

Unthinkable: The Irish Young Philosopher Awards hopes to become as big as the Young Scientist exhibition

‘There is  a paradox in war: Why do individuals sacrifice themselves for their groups?’ Photgraph: Reuters/Joe Raedle

Unthinkable: ‘Humans fight to achieve status and belonging,’ says former soldier Mike Martin

Rhetorical rivals Edmund Burke and Mary Wollstonecraft. Photographs: Getty Images

Unthinkable: The Irish statesman Edmund Burke was a victim of reverse sexism

Facebook  chief  Mark Zuckerberg at a US Senate hearing in April. The  distribution of fake news could be combated by sanctioning social media platforms. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Knowledge is an ‘epistemic good’ to which everyone should have access

“Children who commit crimes should be treated more leniently because they are denied the vote.” Photograph: E+/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Children who commit crimes deserve leniency only because they can’t vote, US academic argues

A Karl Marx figure with a “zero euro” bank note which has been produced in his home city of Trier, Germany, as part of bicentenary celebrations. Photograph: Harald Tittel/AFP/Getty Images

Unthinkable: ‘Freedom was Marx’s central concern,’ says philosopher Peter Singer

John Gray believes that human exceptionalism  is at the root of modern warfare and oppression.  Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images

Gray highlights the rich potential within atheism for good or evil – though he also attacks many forms of it

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: All rights depend upon the existence of an assembly of people to affirm them. Photograph: Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP/Getty Images

Unthinkable: There’s ‘a systematic ambiguity’ at the heart of human rights, TCD professor John Dillon says

Jordan Peterson: “Beware of single cause interpretations . . . and beware the people who purvey them” Photograph: Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

While no new pearls of wisdom emerge from this controversial book, it is a useful endeavour

A screen grab from the website of consent app Legal Fling which proclaims to create a ‘live contract’ for sexual activity.

Unthinkable: Technological ‘solutions’ to sexual assault could create new problems

Germany’s Joyce: The Goethe monument in Frankfurt. Photograph: AP Photo/Heribert Proepper

Unthinkable: Germany’s giant of literature had a view of science that still appeals to many

Part of an illustration by Prof Tom Koch mapping the presence of long-lived smokers across the US to give the impression of a correlation between long-life and tobacco use. Illustration: Tom Koch

Unthinkable: The way we collect data and present it is tied up with our values

Why do ‘gap couples’, like Donald and Melania Trump, attract negative commentary? Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Unthinkable: A philosopher and a lawyer have teamed up to try to answer older people’s deepest questions

Muslim women in Paris hold a banner which says ‘a choice’ as they demonstrate against a headscarves ban in state schools in France. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Ireland needs to design its own model of separating religions from state

 Luck egalitarianism provides a non-judgemental way of looking at disadvantage. Photograph: Reuters/Steve Marcus

Unthinkable: ‘Luck egalitarianism’ reminds us that citizens don’t operate on a level playing field

Pope Francis at the canonisation of John Paul II who was credited with curing Floribeth Mora (right) of a serious brain condition by virtue of a miracle. Photograph:  Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Unthinkable: It’s hard to envisage ever being able to prove a miracle took place

Steven Pinker steals a line from Swedish academic Hans Rosling to declare: ‘I am not an optimist. I’m a very serious possibilist’. Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images

On economic matters, and especially the question of inequality, he comes perilously close to defending the status quo

‘Living a philosophical life is seen by some to be necessary to live a good life.’ Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Unthinkable: Anyone can be a philosopher – if you’re open-minded enough

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said his thinking ‘evolved’ on abortion. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Unthinkable: A political system that trades in certainties carries dangers

Losing sleep over infinity? Try reading Bertrand Russell. Photograph: Getty Images/Ikon Images

Unthinkable: The nature of reality may depend on whether the infinite is comprehensible

Eleanor Roosevelt holds up a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Photograph: Fotosearch/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Concern about ‘rights inflation’ has led to a renewed focus on moral duties

 Potted thinking, Donald Trump-style. File photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Unthinkable: We all use ‘potted thinking’ but it carries added risks in this social media age

Pope Francis meeting President Michael D Higgins at the Vatican last May: The Catholic Church came late to the awareness of the value of Church-State separation and the autonomy of the secular. Photograph: PA Wire

No, says Fr Gerry O’Hanlon, but we would all benefit from a more civil debate

 Michael Ignatieff:  his latest book finds that ordinary people are largely unmoved by the “elite discourse” of human rights and international law. Photograph:   Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

Liberals will take umbrage at this book – all the more reason why they should read it

 Peter Sutherland foretold in 1983 of unintended legal consequences, medical uncertainty and unpredictable Supreme Court rulings arising from the Eighth Amendment. Photograph: Jack McManus

Sutherland’s alternative referendum wording may have resulted in a more restrictive abortion regime in the long run

‘Wisdom is applied, personal and not hypothetical and hence cannot be stored in a library.’  Photograpyh:  Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The primary location of wisdom is ‘in a person, not a book’, says Prof Paul O’Grady

 Lily Thorup, Sarah Norris, Isabel McLoughlin and Jenny Lynch, students from Our Lady’s, Terenure at Áras an Uachtaráin to mark World Philosophy Day and launch the the Irish Young Philosopher Awards. Photo: Maxwells

Young Philosopher Awards seeks to recognise critical thinking and communication skills

The relatively charitable and sincere ambience surrounding Mass can be a tonic – even for non-believers.

Apologising, thinking, shaking a stranger’s hand. Good things happen in church

‘A culture of shaming imperils public debate as people will be driven to self-censor.’ Photograph: Getty images

Unthinkable: On social media, people can be cruel while sounding moral

‘Rights talk does not seem to motivate in the way that love does.’ Photograph:  Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Ethical debate is at risk of becoming ‘cold and impersonal’, Tony Milligan warns

A prototype of Harmony, which offers an “alternative form of relationship”, according to its manufacturers RealDoll. Image: RealDoll/YouTube

Unthinkable: Sexbots are under development. Don't ban them, an academic team advises

President Michael D Higgins speaking at a  reception to mark World Philosophy Day at Áras an Uachtaráin. Photograph: Maxwell Photography

President says that Emmanuel Macron’s ‘rhetoric’ won’t be enough to save Europe

Amy Chua, author of the best-selling ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’

Unthinkable: Parents have no rule book but they can make better or worse arguments for exercising power

The scene of the  Enniskillen bombing in 1987.  Photograph: Chris Bacon/PA

The 30th anniversary of the Enniskillen bombing raises questions over the ethics of forgiveness

Confucius: Master of self-cultivation. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Unthinkable: Chinese philosophy advocates virtue and social harmony – two things badly needed in public life

What’s the point of an essay? Photograph: Thinkstock

Unthinkable: Despite today’s fashion for talking in tweets, there’s life in the old art form

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