Utilitarianism is one of the most important and influential secular philosophies of modern times, and has drawn considerable debate and controversy. This Very Short Introduction considers its origins, its relevance to modern moral challenges, and the arguments and discussions around utilitarian approaches.
Rob Boddice considers how perceptions of pain have varied across history, and how the treatment of pain has also changed. Beginning with the classical world, he charts the increasing distinction drawn between physical and emotional pain, and the growing modern focus on empathy and compassion towards pain in others, and in animals.
Politics, economics, ideology, culture, strategy, tactics, and philosophy have all shaped war, but none of these factors has driven the evolution of warfare as much as technology. Expanding on this compelling thesis, this Very Short Introduction traces the co-evolution of technology and war from the Stone Age to the age of cyberwar and nanotechnology.
Molecular Biology lies at the heart of all life sciences. This Very Short Introduction provides an account of the development of this important modern field, and considers its modern day applications such as the development of new drugs, genetically modified crops, and forensic science.
David Norman discusses some of the most fascinating and iconic creatures to walk our Earth. Introducing the different famillies of dinosaurs, he discusses how they were first discovered and interpreted, and looks at how scientific break-throughs have changed our understanding of dinosaurs over the years.
In this Very Short Introduction Geoffrey Nowell-Smith defines the field of cinema, and explores its fascinating history within the cultural and aesthetic sphere. Considering the influences of the other art forms from which it arose, he looks at how technological advances have opened up new horizons for the cinema industry.
North American Indigenous literature reaches back thousands of years to when the continent's original inhabitants first circled fires and shared tales. Sean Teuton tells its story, from when oral narrative first inspired Indigenous writers in English, through their later adaptations of the novel to serve creative and political needs.
Some of our most burning questions surround consciousness: What creates our identity? Do we really have free will? Is consciousness itself an illusion? The rapid rate of developments in brain science continues to open up debate on these issues. This book clarifies the complex arguments and illuminates the major theories on consciousness.
Freemasonry is one of the oldest and most widespread voluntary organizations in the world. Andreas OEnnerfors sorts the facts from the colourful fictions surrounding this organization and outlines how the organization works, its rituals and symbols, its values, and the work it does in modern society.
Graham Priest shows that formal logic is a powerful, exciting part of modern philosophy - a tool for thinking about everything from the existence of God and the reality of time to paradoxes of probability. Explaining formal logic in simple, non-technical terms, this edition includes new sections on mathematical algorithms, axioms, and proofs.
o How do nations escape poverty and achieve economic and social progress? Ian Goldin, a former vice-president of the World Bank, explains what development means in its broadest sense - encompassing education, health, and gender equality as well as economic growth. He discusses the shift from state-led strategies, to ones driven by market forces.
Decadence: A Very Short Introduction provides an elegant overview of the culture of decadence - defined as the artistic expression of a conflicted sense of modernity - by tracing its origin in ancient Rome, development in nineteenth-century Paris and London, manifestation in early twentieth-century Vienna and Berlin, and present resonance in contemporary life.
Fully updated to include the migrant crisis, the UK's decision to leave the Union, and the state of the Euro currency, this accessible Very Short Introduction shows how and why the EU has developed, how its institutions works, and what it does - from the single market to the Euro, and from agriculture to peace-keeping and the environment.
Reading can inform, inspire, emancipate, and motivate us. Down the centuries, it has brought huge educational and social benefits. It can also unleash subversion, and its spread has been accompanied by censorship and control. Belinda Jack explores the global development and impact of reading - from ancient texts to digital texts today.
Martin Heidegger is one of the twentieth century's greatest yet most enigmatic and divisive philosophers. Michael Inwood explores the major themes of Heidegger's seminal work, Being and Time, as well his later thought and association with Nazism.
The study of human evolution is advancing rapidly. New fossil evidence is adding ever more pieces to the puzzle of our past; the new science of ancient DNA is completely reshaping theories of early human populations and migrations. Bernard Wood traces the field of palaeoanthropology from its beginnings in the eighteenth century to the present.
Quentin Skinner introduces Niccolo Machiavelli, Florentine diplomat, politician, and the writer known for that most infamous Early Modern work, The Prince. He explores Machiavelli's theory of princely virtu, tracing its roots in ancient historians and moralists, and considering its influence on contemporary politics.
Eric R. Scerri presents a modern and fresh exploration of this fundamental topic in the physical sciences, considering the deeper implications of the arrangements of the table to atomic physics and quantum mechanics. This new edition celebrates the completion of the 7th period of the table, with the naming of elements 113, 115, 117, and 118
This Very Short Introduction provides a concise overview of federalism, from its origins and evolution to the key events and constitutional decisions that have defined its framework. While primary focus is on the United States, other federal systems, including Brazil, Canada, India, Germany, South Africa, Russia, and the EU, are addressed.
Nazi Germany may have only lasted for 12 years, but it has left a legacy that still echoes with us today. This book discusses the emergence and appeal of the Nazi party, the relationship between consent and terror in securing the regime, the role played by Hitler himself, and the dark stains of war, persecution, and genocide left by Nazi Germany.
Jenny Hartley introduces Charles Dickens's life and works, looking at the vitality of his characters and the energy which surges through his writing. Examining the themes running through his books, she considers the institutions which influenced his work (such as the workhouse) and looks at his critique of nineteenth century society.
Nazi concentration camps are by no means the only examples of these 'extreme institutions'; Dan Stone sets out the fuller story, from the Boer War to Bosnia. He shows how different regimes have used concentration camps at times of crisis to control populations that appeared threatening, and examines their role in consciousness and identity.
The three centuries following the conquests of Alexander were perhaps the most thrilling of all periods of ancient history. Culture, ideas, and individuals travelled freely over vast areas from the Rhone to the Indus, whilst dynasts battled for dominion over Alexander's great empire. Thonemann presents a brief history of this globalized world.
Secularism, the belief that religion should not be part of the affairs of the state or part of public education, is an increasingly hot topic in global public, political, and religious debates. Andrew Copson tells the story of secularism, discussing secular republics and the challenges they can face from resurgent religious identity politics.
Adam Sharr tells the story of how modern architecture developed and produced its powerful cultural images. Considering the new building materials and techniques which shaped the movement, such as innovations in steel and concrete and the advent of air conditioning, he concludes by asking whether contemporary architecture remains modern at heart.
Albert Camus is one of the best known philosophers of the twentieth century, as well as a widely read novelist. This book contextualises Camus in his troubled and conflicted times, and analyses the enduring popularity of his major philosophical and literary works in connection with contemporary political, social, and cultural issues.
Despite the fascination with psychopaths in film, TV, and novels, psychopathy remains widely misunderstood. Most psychopaths are not murderers; most violent criminals are not psychopaths. Separating myth from fact, Essi Viding explores how we identify psychopaths, why they behave and develop the way they do, and whether treatment is possible.
This book is about the central role of evolution in shaping the nature and diversity of the living world. It describes the processes of natural selection, how adaptations arise, and how new species form, as well as summarizing the evidence for evolution.
Covering some of science's most divisive topics, such as philosophical issues in genetics and evolution, the philosophy of biology also encompasses more traditional philosophical questions, such as free will, essentialism, and nature vs nurture. Here, Samir Okasha outlines the core issues with which contemporary philosophy of biology is engaged.
Extinction has occurred throughout the history of life, and nearly all the species that have ever existed have now disappeared. In this Very Short Introduction, Paul B. Wignall looks at the causes and nature of extinction events, what makes a species vulnerable, and the debates in modern science of the role of climate and humans.
From modern pandemics such as HIV, Ebola, and Zika, to stories of vaccination and antiviral drugs, this Very Short Introduction charts our struggle against viruses. Outlining their origins, structure, and method of infection, Dorothy Crawford explores the vast variety of viruses, and asks if we can live in harmony with them in the future.
Energy supply is foundational to modern society, but damaging to the environment. This book takes a 'systems view', from extraction of primary fuel, through conversion to usable energy, and transportation to point of use. It explores initiatives to generate electricity in an environmentally benign manner, and decarbonise the supply of energy.
Leo Tolstoy is one of the greatest novelists ever to have lived, whose books have stood the test of time to remain widely recognised as literary masterpieces today. This Very Short Introduction explores his celebrated novels and nonfiction writings to reveal the core themes and thought at the heart of Tolstoy's work.
Dealing with some of the thorniest problems in medicine, from euthanasia to the distribution of health care resources, this book introduces the reasoning we can use to approach medical ethics. Exploring how medical ethics supports health professionals' work, it also considers the impact of the media, pressure groups, and legal judgments.
Dyslexia is gaining increasing recognition as a relatively common learning disorder. Margaret Snowling introduces the exciting research surrounding dyslexia, considering potential causes, the neuroscience behind it and attempts to understand how it works, and the various strategies and interventions which can help people with dyslexia today.
'Identity' as a concept has many faces, and its very versatility in different contexts can make it hard to define. Florian Coulmas discusses the many meanings of this slippery concept, considering why individual and collective identities are important to us, and discussing the problems asserting individual identities can create.
In this Very Short Introduction Bernard O'Donoghue explores the many different forms of writing which have been called 'poetry', from the Greeks to the present day. He considers the varying status and uses of poetry, and engages with contemporary debates as to what value poetry holds today.
The Iliad and the Odyssey are the cornerstones of Western literature, inspiring artists, writers, philosophers, musicians, playwrights, and film-makers throughout history. Barbara Graziosi introduces Homer's key works and discusses the main literary, historical, and archaeological issues at the heart of Homeric studies.
This concise guide explains the history, theory, potential, application, and limitations of Artificial Intelligence. Boden shows how research into AI has shed light on the working of human and animal minds, and she considers the philosophical challenges AI raises: could programs ever be really intelligent, creative or even conscious?
From murder to theft to drug gangs, crime and criminal justice affect the lives of millions of people worldwide. Tim Newburn considers how we can study trends in crime, and use them to inform preventative policy and criminal justice. Analysing the history of crime, he discusses the role of criminology in crime control and politics.
In The History of Childhood: A Very Short Introduction, Marten provides a sweeping narrative of the key features of childhood through time and around the world, focusing on conflict and change, war and reform, and the issues and conditions that have shaped childhood throughout history and continue to shape it in the twenty-first century.
This book offers a thorough and lively introduction to the Hebrew Bible's two primary literary modes, narrative and poetry, foregrounding the nuances of plot, character, metaphor, structure and design, and intertextual allusions.
This Very Short Introduction considers who the poor are, where they live, what their lives are like, and what obstacles or barriers they face. Looking at the complex issues that cause the prevalence, depth, and severity of poverty to vary across countries and over time, it considers possible future solutions.
Covering Geoffrey Chaucer's life and work, David Wallace considers the influence and enduring appeal of his body of writing, explores the wide ranging geography and iconic characters in his stories, and discusses how Chaucer's own experiences contributed to his literature.
This book explores the nature of scepticism, asking when it is legitimate, for example as the driver of new ideas, and when it is problematic. It also tackles how scepticism is related to contemporary social and political phenomena, such as fake news, and examines a radical form of scepticism which maintains that knowledge is impossible.
How does the physics we know today - a highly professionalised enterprise, inextricably linked to government and industry - link back to its origins as a liberal art in Ancient Greece? John Heilbron's crisp and witty book tells the 2500-year story and highlights the implications for humankind's self-understanding.