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Page last updated at 07:26 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008
Today: Monday 29 December 2008

PLEASE NOTE: We are unable to offer transcripts for our programme interviews. Today is broadcast live and the running order is subject to change.

Neuroscience is uncovering some insights into why human beings like art. Professor VS Ramachandran, director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, discusses what neuroaesthetics is.

The School of Life aims at using philosophy, psychoanalysis, literature and art in everyday living. Alain de Botton, a lecturer at the school, sets out what it does and makes the case for why it might be needed.

Israel has begun a third day of bombing of Gaza. Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, Dr Khamis El Essi, a doctor at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, and Leah Malul, spokeswoman for the Barzilai hospital in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, discuss the 300 casualties that have been reported so far.

The American writer David Foster Wallace died - in an apparent suicide - in September of this year. He was a friend of Zadie Smith's, this morning's guest editor. Novelist Jonathan Franzen and short story writer George Saunders remember the man widely seen as one of America's greatest contemporary literary talents.

Business news with Adam Shaw.

Saint Alexander Nevsky, a key figure of Medieval Russia, has won a poll to decide the greatest Russian who has ever lived. Marc Almond, historian of Oriel College, Oxford, discusses the list, which also includes Joseph Stalin and Lenin.

Sports news with Jon Myers.

The UN Security Council has called for an end to Israel attacks on Gaza. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, part of the Fatah faction - the authority in the West Bank ousted from power in Gaza by Hamas, discusses how "the realities on the ground" will change.

Today's papers.

Need advice on how to live and love better; on politics, work, family or play? Maybe you need to take a course at the School of Life - an institution which claims to put philosophy, psychoanalysis, literature and art to good use at the heart of everyday living. Taken from a lecture at the school, writer Geoff Dyer discusses time-keeping and punctuality.

Thought for the day with the writer and broadcaster Rhidian Brook.

Is there still an avant-garde in British fiction? Stewart Home, a stalwart of underground writing and publishing, Tom McCarthy, author of bestselling novel Remainder, and Hari Kunzru, a commercial fiction writer who dabbles in the underground, discuss what avant-garde really means.

Israeli air force jets have bombed the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip, a significant cultural symbol for Hamas. Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Deputy Israeli Ambassador in London Talya Lador-Fresher, discuss the origins of this current upsurge in fighting.

Is social class still the animating force behind contemporary British comedy? Class-conscious comedian Russell Kane considers the heritage of the class struggle in comedy, from Steptoe and Son to the present day.

Sports news with Jon Myers.

How can you help a country that has little running water, no electricity outside the capital and a system of governance that barely functions? Guest editor Zadie Smith visits Liberia, often described as a "failed-state", to consider what the term means.

Business update with Adam Shaw.

Writer Zadie Smith reflects on the choices she made as guest editor of the Today programme.



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