Tattooing is an ancient practice with profound religious and cultural significance. While western tattooing centers on three main traditions – Polynesian, Japanese and Euro-American – it has been recorded more or less everywhere. Beginning with the birth of the tattoo, John Miller explores this unique expression of personal, cultural and national identity, the tension between tattoo’s status as a fashion item and its roots in subculture, and the relevance of magic – a crucial part of tattooing’s origins – in contemporary society. As the inherent shock factor of tattoos decreases, tattoos are becoming more extensive, public and challenging in response, prompting an upsurge in avant-garde tattoo projects and ‘extreme’ tattooing. ‘The Philosophy of Tattoos’ investigates the innate human desire to mark the skin, and what tattooing might tell us about that obsessively asked question: what does it mean to be human?