What does it mean to be

Let's find out
My name is Stefani Ruper, and I’m an Oxford PhD candidate in philosophy, religion, and science. I began having panic attacks about dying—and also about meaninglessness, who are we as a species, and why our lives are the way they are—when I was four years old. I’ve been looking for answers ever since. In some cases, I think I’ve found them.
Stefani Ruper


We all know that the “East” and “West” are different–but just how deep do these differences reach? This week Stefani chats with fellow Oxford PhD candidate Mari Ovsepan about her personal experiences growing up in an “Eastern culture”–which has a more extended, collective sense of self, and now living in a more individualistic Western culture. They discuss Mari’s experiences of coping with the West, the ecstasy of encountering others, why the medievals were right about imagination, and what each culture can spiritually and emotionally learn from the other.
Episode 3
Episode 4


We often talk about the brain like a computer, but is that really how it works? Philosopher Nat Barrett comes on today and tells us all the ways we’ve completed misunderstood the role the brain plays in our thoughts and feelings, and what this means for our lives and our spiritual experiences.


Bias is arguably the biggest problem facing the modern West. As the world globalizes and political divisions intensify, it becomes easier and easier for us to become entrenched in our biases. In this episode, Stefani chats with organizer and founder of The Plenary Steph Sasse about human biases and what can be done about them in the modern world, from using state-of-the-art neuroscience to throwing themed parties.

Episode 2
The Age of Ambiguity
We live in an age of abundant knowledge. More than 50 million scientific articles have been published since 1665, and today, on average, over 6,800 scientific articles are published every dayWe know vastly more about the universe than our ancestors could have ever imagined, from the quantum properties of quarks to the crystalline structure of moon rocks. But this knowledge comes at a great price. The more our culture advances philosophically and scientifically—so, the more we know about stuff—the less knowledge we have about the kinds of things that matter most—about right and wrong, about the meaning of life, about who we are and how to make sense of existence. The result is a culture plagued by subconscious feelings of insecurity, stress, despair, and anxiety, which often manifest as defensiveness, shallowness, egotism, and fundamentalism—some of the most pressing problems of the modern world. As it turns out, the age old adage “the more we know, the more we know we don’t know” is absolutely true, and it may be silently killing us.
The book is currently being written alongside several articles, podcast episodes, and the final chapters of a dissertation. It will likely be published in 2020. Many excerpts and related philosophical ramblings will be published on this website as they are completed. You can find those under the tag “Age of Ambiguity.”
Have you ever wondered why people today are always so angry, so afraid, so anxious?  While there are various answers to these questions—and many of them very important—in this book I argue that a key component to these problems is the amount of what I call existential ambiguity we are forced to live with every day. Modern humans in the West have to live with the greatest amount of uncertainty—and specifically uncertainty about life’s biggest, most pressing questions, such as what is a good life? How do we be moral? Is there a soul? Does God exist? What happens when we die?—that has ever existed in the history of the human race. This has enormous consequences for the ways in which we feel, live, and relate to one another. This book shows us exactly why and how we ended up in this situation, and what needs to be done about it.
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A Poem about Autumn: You Think the Reason

Most people I know tell me that fall is their favourite season. This year I became curious about why. Is it the air? The colour? The smell? It's all of it, of course--but I think deep down the real reason so many of us love fall is that it is when everything begins to...

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When Science is a Wrecking Ball

Just before his death in 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus argued that the Earth revolves around the Sun in a book called On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. This moment is often heralded as the birth of modern science. Now, theories and experiments that we would...

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Even in today’s world it is possible to live freely, deeply, joyfully, peacefully, exaltingly.
The first step is digging deep into who and what we are.