What ‘shows itself’ when you consider a cup of coffee, the phenomenologist asks. Photograph: Getty images

Unthinkable: Phenomenology may make your head hurt but it’s trying ‘to teach us to see again’

Fr Sean McDonagh: ‘I am 77 on my next birthday and I ask myself will I end up in some care home where I am being taken up out of bed by a robot each morning?’ Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Unthinkable: Fr Sean McDonagh is increasingly worried about the power of big tech

Suki Finn, philosopher and editor of Women of Ideas: “The metaphysics of pregnancy is of great importance, not only to pregnant metaphysicians, but to all of us, given that we are all the result of a pregnancy.”

Unthinkable: Famous philosophers are being reappraised in light of their prejudices

‘We evolved to signal our moral credentials to other people.’ Photograph: Getty images

Unthinkable: Morality has got humans this far, but do we need to outgrow it?

Clinical psychologist and author Frank Tallis believes there are some practical therapy tools people could learn from a young age

Unthinkable: We can all learn from psychotherapy, perhaps the best place to start is school

Wouter Kusters, author of A Philosophy of Madness: The Experience of Psychotic Thinking

Unthinkable: Psychosis gave Dutch linguist Wouter Kusters an insight into mental illness

Algorithmic selection has created a new and unaccountable type of expert: a piece of code that may not even be understood by its programmers. Photograph: Getty Images/Photo Researchers RM

Unthinkable: Is our faith in algorithms creating the basis for a counter-Enlightenment?

 Lipika Pelham: “A queer person assumed to be straight or a light-skinned bi-racial person assumed to be white  will go along with his mislabelling, to gain social freedom . . . while internalising a deep sense of indignity and self-loathing.”

Unthinkable: Tolü Makay can sing Saw Doctors. A rich playboy should not perform Amanda Gorman

‘Think about our Western lifeworld and how visible people would have been if they wore masks in public two years ago.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Unthinkable: Phenomenologists are trying to make us see the current crisis in a new light

A tourist bus passes the unfinished basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. ‘I think we need to build the ecological cathedrals of the future, not the old-fashioned medieval kind,’ says writer Roman Krznaric. Photograph: Albert Llop/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Unthinkable: Acorn brain worries about pensions. Marshmallow brain thinks short-term

‘I think recognizing the wider role luck plays in society is very important,’ says TCD political scientist Peter Stone. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP Creative/Getty

Unthinkable: We can no longer plead ignorance of the inner workings of our State exams

‘It’s sobering to consider that in a parallel history the world might have looked more like a planet of the apes.’ File image: Sebastian Willnow/AFP/Getty

Unthinkable: Speciesism, which puts humans above nature, may be the last acceptable prejudice

The best way of teaching philosophy is to present children ‘with a stimulus or a question’ rather than a history lesson, says Worley. Photograph: Jens Buettner/AP

Unthinkable: A ‘questioning mindset’ is needed rather than an attitude of ‘anything goes’

Participants at an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin last August. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Unthinkable: Lack of access to democratic processes can fuel distrust, says Dr Katherine Furman

Richard Kearney: ‘I think the problem of touch has been a real issue in Irish culture.’

Unthinkable: Philosopher Richard Kearney argues that sight began displacing other senses even before the pandemic

Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has been railing against state-led ‘health terror’ and ‘techno-medical despotism’. Photograph: European Graduate School

Unthinkable: Philosopher Giorgio Agamben carries the flame for anti-capitalism through the crisis

Wollstonecraft, painted by John Opie, was disgusted at how intelligent “society” women were groomed for submission under marriage. Photograph: The Print Collector/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Mary Wollstonecraft’s time in Ireland seemed to influence her world view

An air guitarist, or is it a philosopher? Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Unthinkable: Philosophers are being lured to ‘a dead end’, says historian of ideas Stephen Gaukroger

‘Why in the world is the president of the United States using Twitter at all  – a platform that depends on quick and mindless impressions?’ asks philosopher Steven Nadler. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Unthinkable: Spinoza tells us that if you want to be free then get your mind in order

Angels walk to a nativity play in Glenties, Co Donegal. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Unthinkable: ‘Infantilising’ nativity story does Jesus no favours, says philosopher Julian Baggini

Reinhold Niebuhr said ‘man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary’. Photograph: Bachrach/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Reinhold Niebuhr, Obama’s favourite philosopher, has an important message for today

Political theorist and author Hannah Arendt pictured in  1949. Photograph: Fred Stein Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Calling something evil is not a licence to shut down debate

People don’t have to be ‘going on the lash’ to celebrate Christmas meaningfully, the Taoiseach says. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire

Unthinkable: Perhaps existentialism can help us navigate the Taoiseach’s suggestion

Abeba Birhane: ‘You do find a lot of people adhering to this illusion of objectivity – this illusion that they are doing science from “the view from nowhere”.’

Unthinkable: Algorithms embed prejudice with ‘no accountability’, says Abeba Birhane

Mind the mind: According to panpsychists, consciousness is not exclusive to humans;  it’s in  rocks, carrots, molecules and anywhere else you can mention. Photograph: Getty Images

Unthinkable: A speculative hypothesis about the nature of consciousness has academics riled up

Ludwig Wittgenstein was the ‘philosophical hero’ of the Vienna Circle and laid the foundations of analytic philosophy, the dominant Anglo-American school of thought of the past century. Photogragh: Hulton Archive

Unthinkable: A short book, the Tractatus has had a big impact, says author David Edmonds

Stoic standard-bearer Marcus Aurelius used to go to a quiet place at daybreak to meditate upon the stars and rising sun. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Unthinkable: Stoicism is primarily about throwing off the chains of irrational thought

James Suzman: ‘My solution is to say, look, recognise we are incredibly adaptable species... We have got to experiment.’

Unthinkable: It was good enough for your ancestors, says anthropologist James Suzman

The US president may have lots followers but ‘you get diminishing returns’ on his tweets, philosopher and author Ian Olasov remarks. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Philosopher Ian Olasov believes we should focus on things of ‘practical significance’

Zena Hitz has particular concerns about the quality of teaching, an issue that goes beyond the coronavirus crisis. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty

Unthinkable: Academia has its priorities backwards, says author Zena Hitz

A view of St Peter’s Square and Basilica at the Vatican. Photograph: AP Photo/Massimo Sambucetti

Unthinkable: Author Charles Freeman believes we shouldn’t forget the sectarian legacy of Christian churches

Anti-racism campaigners taking part in a rally last year outside Google  headquarters on Barrow Street in Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Unthinkable: Rival political philosophers can bring perspective to our current debates

Illustrations from The Philosopher Queens:  Diotima, Simone de Beauvoir, Mary Warnock and Anita L Allen. Images: Emmy Smith/The Philosopher Queens

Unthinkable: The Philosopher Queens originated from ‘a disheartening trip to the local bookshop’

Members of the Khomani San community strike traditional poses in the Southern Kalahari desert in South Africa. Non-western societies put greater emphasis on familial relationships and inherited social roles rather than personal achievement. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Unthinkable: ‘Western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic’ mindset is relatively new to society

US president Donald Trump pictured playing golf this summer. Men ‘feel entitled to far more by way of leisure’, says philosopher and author Kate Manne. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Unthinkable: Kate Manne’s study of gender inequality makes uncomfortable reading but has a hopeful message

Michael Sandel. “I think there is a hopeful possibility that we can use this moment, this glimpse of who really is an essential worker, to revalue work and the rewards of work.” Photograph: Harvard University

Philosopher Michael Sandel wants to eradicate elitism, starting with education

Slavoj Žižek: He’s been called the Elvis of cultural theory and the Borat of philosophy. Photograph: Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images

The Slovenian philosopher divides opinion over his often-contradictory viewpoints

Philosopher Mary Midgley, as illustrated for the Notes from a Biscuit Tin project

Unthinkable: Research project and poetry prize explore overlap between perceived rival disciplines

The word according to Father Ted. ‘Humour is a large part of Irish life  so a truly Irish church should be conversant with such humour and able to laugh at itself,’ says Christian pastor Fraser Hosford.

Unthinkable: Some ridicule may help the Irish church to recover, says pastor Fraser Hosford

Philosopher Édouard Glissant defended one’s right ‘to be opaque’, or to lack transparency and avoid  categorisation by oppressors. Photograph: Jean-Marc Zaorski/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Unthinkable: Racist views must be confronted honestly, says philosopher Aislinn O’Donnell

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald. Voters for her party  are ‘entitled to a fair hearing. But no one is entitled to fractional legislative victories’, says political scientist Arthur Isak Applbaum. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Unthinkable: A government’s character is more important than its composition, author Arthur Applbaum says

Volunteer Greg Kelly loads food parcels for delivery within the community back in April. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Acts of neighbourliness, solidarity and self-sacrifice portray people to be mainly good

Now in their third year, the Irish Young Philosopher Awards took place online due to the pandemic, focusing specifically on moral themes relating to Covid-19

Unthinkable: Philosophy's future is in safe hands judging by the Young Philosopher Awards

George Berkeley. Aside from supporting slavery, ‘in his later political work, he is pretty grim on the Irish peasantry too’, says TCD researcher Clare Moriarty. Image: Hulton Archive

Unthinkable: Ireland’s most celebrated philosopher was ‘also extremely morally fallible’

A grounding in mathematics was necessary to join Plato’s Academy.

Unthinkable: Plato need not intimidate – if you’ve got a good philosophical facilitator

The notion of Gaia, or ‘Mother Earth’, taking steps  to preserve nature’s  equilibrium,  is not so fanciful, says Greek scholar  John Dillon. Photograph: Getty Images

Unthinkable: Is nature’s mother god sending us a message with Covid-19?

‘There’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult,’ US Democratic Party politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said.

Unthinkable: Conceivable Future is fostering a personal but ‘deeply political’ debate

 Rutger Bregman: ‘Most people, deep down, are pretty decent’. Photograph: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty

Human beings’ friendliness and humility help us survive – but also make us dangerous

Anti-child propaganda: the film adaptation of William Golding's Lord of the Flies

On one island the shipwrecked behaved well. On the other they ate their shipmate

Existentialist philosophers Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre enjoy the freedom of the beach in Rio in 1960. Photograph: STF/AFP/Getty

Unthinkable: Sartre and Schopenhauer make the list but Peig Sayers deserves inclusion too

‘The wonder even of small, local and daily life – a blackbird’s song, a friend’s greeting, a hot meal – these things can be an antidote to despair,’ says environmentalist and author Patrick Curry. Photograph: Getty Images

Unthinkable: Tech companies feed us glamour that ‘provokes false enchantment’, says environmentalist Patrick Curry

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and party TD David Cullinane. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Unthinkable: The ‘masculine’ character of Irish republicanism still influences today, says philosopher Dianna Taylor

A man walking past graffiti in London. There has been a spate of attacks on the 5G network linked to erroneous claims that it is responsible for the spread of coronavirus.  Photograph: EPA/Neill Hall

Unthinkable: A study suggests social exclusion or loss of power may be a factor

The late John Rawls, who was influenced by Kant in designing a philosophy of justice based on fairness. Photograph: Reuters/Jane Reed/Harvard University News Office

Unthinkable: The pandemic is exposing long-tolerated inequalities

Albert Camus in Paris, 1957. Photograph: Loomis Dean/Time & Life Pictures/Getty

Unthinkable: People – even atheists – tend to think things happen ‘for a reason’

Cognitive scientist Bruce Hood: “Non-essential goals seem increasingly hollow” against the backdrop of Covid-19. Photograph: United Agents

Unthinkable: The crisis may make us less consumerist, says psychologist Bruce Hood

Prof Emily Thomas: ‘There’s a long history of arguing that armchair travel is better than real-world travel.’

Unthinkable: The coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for armchair tourism, says philosopher Emily Thomas

Socrates found that his philosophical way of life ‘gave him courage’, says Prof Paul O’Grady. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Unthinkable: Philosophers might not be on the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic but they have a role to play

The soul: If it’s not in here then where is it? Photograph: Getty Images

Unthinkable: The idea of a soul helps us to understand ‘what it is to be human’, says philosopher John Cottingham

Prof José Van Dijck of Utrecht University: ‘There is hardly any public space, or ‘public good’ sense, in the internet system’.

Mimicking online ethos is self-defeating for mainstream media, says ‘trust expert’ José Van Dijck

Wolfe Tone is the recognised father of Irish republicanism.

Unthinkable: Ireland’s conception of republicanism is outside of the European norm

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon following in the footsteps of Socrates and Aristophanes on the set of The Trip to Greece. Photograph: Sky Atlantic

Unthinkable: The original ‘sage-wannabes’ of Athens were considered slightly weird, a new book reveals

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

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