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

‘What is the effect of resisting all gun control?’ the pragmatist would ask. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Unthinkable: People don’t like to compromise because it means admitting one’s fallibility

Karl Kitching says he‘partly wanted to investigate how accusations of religious inauthenticity were laid at the feet of working class and Traveller families deemed to not be doing Catholicism properly’

Unthinkable: Snobbery surrounding First Communion shows up deep divisions in society

Trust me, I’m a celebrity: actress and model Jenny McCarthy. Photograph: AP/Chris Pizzello

Unthinkable: To become an expert you need to embrace a set of scientific values

Should one feel gloomy for being so small within the cosmos?  Photograph: Reuters/Nasa

Unthinkable: Reflecting on our place within the cosmos can be deflating

Some animals raised for food  have better lives and deaths than others.  Photograph: Reuters/Ilya Naymushin

Unthinkable: Eating the odd beef steak may be more ethical than living off eggs and fish

‘Mainstream games are more moral than most other media, partly because of their interactivity.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Unthinkable: Gaming can teach us ‘how to prepare for death’, a new book argues

A Europe-wide basic income ‘would provide our national welfare states with a common floor’. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Unthinkable: Finland has piloted a basic income scheme; could the EU follow suit?

Bad design: metal boxes located on College Green, Dublin to service the new Luas Cross City line. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Unthinkable: Bad environmental design can cause stress, alienation and even depression

Onora O’Neill: “Duty has become almost a dirty word – people prefer to talk about that much more charming notion: rights.”

It’s getting harder to distinguish between truth and lies but ‘people can learn to make better judgements’ about who to trust, say(...)

French president Emmanuel Macron. Photograph: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Macron studied under Ricoeur. What could it mean for his presidency?

A videograb of Thierry Henry’s handball that led to France’s goal against the Republic of Ireland in the 2010 Fifa World Cup play off. Photograph:  Sky Sports

Unthinkable: Each sporting code has its own moral customs but that doesn't necessarily mean all ethics is relative

Facing up or down? It’s the fluid in your ear canals that makes the front of the cabin look higher when you tilt backwards at takeoff. Photograph: EPA

Unthinkable: Philosophers need to grapple with the ‘symphony of senses’ being discovered by science

‘Anxiety cannot be deceived’. Photograph: The Image Bank

Unthinkable: The philosopher may give you a very different answer to the therapist

Dublin’s  March for Science on Earth Day, April 22nd last. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Unthinkable: Cherry-picking facts and nitpicking are common political ploys

‘Trust me’: US president Donald Trump on the campaign trail.  Photograph: Steve Pope/Getty Images

Unthinkable: We should cut experts more slack for telling us what we don’t want to hear, says philosopher Lizzie Fricker

‘To resist work, a person has to overcome society’s moral objections to idleness.’ Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Unthinkable: The problems of modern labour call for a ‘collective and structural solution’, says David Frayne

Richard Dawkins: developed the theory of ‘memes’ in part to explain the durability of religion. Photograph: Alan Betson

Unthinkable: ‘Catholic agnostic’ Gary Gutting criticises pseudoscientific putdowns of religion

In recent experiments, scientists have identified “unconscious determinants” in the brain which can be detected before decisions are made. Photograph: Getty Images

Brain experiments have yet to shed light on the ‘freedom that matters’, says philosopher Markus Schlosser

A pool party: Not to be confused with hedonism. Photograph: Getty Images

Unthinkable: Far from being party people, true hedonists are sensible individuals

“Caring for our fellows and the places in which we live is as much the business of business as earning a profit.” Photograph: RubberBall Productions via Getty

Unthinkable: Companies have a duty to provide ‘meaning’ in society. An anti-evil slogan isn't enough

People have a natural tendency to judge their self-worth against external measurements. Illustration: Hong Li/Getty Creative

Flourishing in life starts with putting trust in yourself, argues philosopher Anna Bortolan

The Department of Education had  discussions with the Edmund Rise Schools Trust over the divestment of a former school at Basin Lane in Dublin.

Entity managing property interests initially refused to surrender vacant school premises

Donald Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway: a champion of ‘alternative facts’. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Relativist thinkers are providing a ‘smokescreen’ for the likes of Donald Trump, warns professor of logic Timothy Williamson

‘Studies  show we often confuse being angry with actually doing something. We think, “I took a stand on Twitter,” and then we move on,’ says Brant Hansen, author of Unoffendable. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Unthinkable: Donald Trump may make your skin crawl but your anger ‘destroys you’ not him, argues Brant Hansen

Shane Hanna: “The space for explicitly exploring values in schools is limited. What about those for whom school and the Leaving Cert don’t fit?” Photograph: Getty images

Students should ask ‘what’s the point?’ rather than ‘how many points?’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he gave details of a meeting with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone which, in fact, never took place. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Research shows faulty recall is more likely to happen when you are stressed or overloaded

It’ll be after your job next: “Many of us may end up scrambling for  low-paid, part-time service jobs that cannot be done by automation.” Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

AI is displacing jobs – we need a ‘union 2.0’ to fight back, says William Myers

“We need to remember that sexual assault is not the only kind of sexual interaction that is ethically problematic,” says author Ann Cahill. Photograph: iStock

Unthinkable: Examples include ‘women being pressured – not quite to the point of outright coercion – to have sex, or to have sex w(...)

Academics believe there will be massive job losses as automation takes over more and more human roles. Photograph: Getty Images

Job insecurity and technology have created a crisis in today’s workplace

‘There are a lot of questions about how empowerment can operate for someone with advanced dementia.’  File image: John Stillwell/PA Wire

‘Empowerment is crucial for people with impaired capacity’ but it isn’t the only thing of value, says Prof Mary Donnelly

A new work by Dublin-based painter and NCAD graduate Shane Berkery of Donald Trump, whose rhetoric has the hallmarks of ‘gapped knowledge’. Photograph: Shane Berkery

The US president’s rhetoric has the hallmarks of a cognitive ‘stuttering’ that’s creeping into schools, argues Fiachra Long

Avicenna developed ‘probably the most influential and interesting medieval attempt to show that God exists’, says Prof Peter Adamson. Photograph: Detlev van Ravenswaay/ Getty images

Medieval philosophers don’t get much attention these days but Avicenna deserves it, says Prof Peter Adamson

The lies we tell: “Nietzsche claimed we lie to ourselves about 100 times more than we lie to others.”

Self-deception is rife, says Colm Fitzgerald, and our education system is to blame

“Yes, disability often involves some losses and hardships, but it involves many other things as well,” says Elizabeth Barnes, author of ‘The Minority Body: A Theory of Disability’

‘Being disabled is a way of being a minority,’ says philosopher Elizabeth Barnes

‘The democratic movement is the heir to Christianity,’ said German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Photograph: Getty Images

Unthinkable: The German philosopher foresaw the rise of ‘petty politics’ in Europe, says author Hugo Drochon

The citizens’ assembly underlines Ireland’s status as ‘the most innovative democracy in Europe’. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Unthinkable: Deliberative democracy experiment shows Ireland ‘trusts its citizens, instead of fearing them’

Denominational schools in Berlin can teach religious education through their own faith, as well as an ethics course, but they cannot skip the latter. Photograph: Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty

Irish schools introducing the new ‘religions and ethics’ course can learn from the Berlin experience

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina hosted a reception in Aras an Uachtarain for Philosophy Ireland on Saturday. Photograph: Julien Behal/Maxwells

President highlights need for citizens to identify ‘illusory rhetoric’ after recent events

Against Elections: The Case for Democracy proposes sortition – governing by the drawing of lots – instead of  election. Illustration: Oivind Hovland/Ikon/Getty

Brexit and the Trump presidency are making people ask whether the current form of democracy is the best we can do

Prof Harry G Frankfurt, moral philosopher at Princeton University. In his treatise On Bullshit he directs his fire at members of his own profession.

If the world stops making sense, call the philosopher

The secret of happiness is practising compassion, says the Dalai Lama, pictured on a visit to Ireland in 2011. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

‘To be truly benevolent we should solicit the kindness of others,’ argues lecturer Seán Moran

“The policy consensus on climate change in Ireland is very shallow.” Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

Unthinkable: Democratic politics have not been good to the environment, but it needn’t be so, says Diarmuid Torney

The cast of ‘Friends’: Aristotle says older people often pursue the friendship of usefulness, young people most frequently the friendship of pleasure. Photograph: Reuters

Something you won’t hear on Facebook: only the virtuous can be true friends

‘You can’t understand the mind simply by looking at the individual brain. There is a role played by culture which you miss.’ Photograph: Science Photo Library

No, says Susan Haack, but scientists are generally better at producing answers than philosophers

“The idea that people are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at mathematics is deeply ingrained in popular culture,” says Eabhnat Ní Fhloinn. Photograph: Thinkstock

You can change your ability by first of all changing your mindset

An Occupy Toronto protester in 2011. Photograph: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Don’t underestimate your power to make a difference, says ‘effective altruism’ advocate William Mac Askill

People “have had enough of experts”, Leave campaigner and Conservative MP Michael Gove proclaimed during the EU referendum campaign. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Philosopher Julian Baggini says rationality needs to be rethought to counter the forces of unreason

“The animals are typically killed at a young age. Is this animal-friendly? I don’t think so.” Photograph: iStock

Unthinkable: The rights of animals cannot be dismissed, argues philosopher Tatjana Višak

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

More articles