Angst. Nausea. Selbstüberwindung. All, surely, words we've used before, but have we paid attention to their proper philosophical contexts? The well-known and widely-read philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Friedrich Nietzsche used those words and others in very specific ways to express concepts essential to their certainly eccentric but even more certainly important philosophical writings. These brief, Alain de Botton-narrated video primers from The School of Life's series on philosophy will get you started on coming to grips with just what these 19th- and 20th-century thinkers had to tell us about our own lives.
The new video on Wittgenstein concentrates on its subject's lifelong grappling with the problems of linguistic communication, from his first conclusion that "language works by triggering within us pictures of how things are in the world" to his second that "language is like a kind of tool that we use to play different 'games.'" The video on Sartre deals with the existentialist's contentions that "things are weirder than we think," that "we are free," that "we shouldn't live in bad faith," and that "we are free to dismantle capitalism." The video on Nietzsche explains just what it means to become an Übermensch — a goal achievable, for example, by using your capacity for selbstüberwindung to overcome your sklavenmoral.
Though watching these philosophic primers might well make you ever so slightly conversant in Wittgenstein, Sartre, and Nietzsche, The School of Life has clearly crafted them (using goofy cut-up visuals and a healthy rate of quips per minute) primarily as an entertaining means of whetting your intellectual appetite. If you'd like to know more about these modern philosophers, have a look at our links to other related posts below. And if you'd like to go broader before you go deeper, do watch the rest of the series, which will get you started on everyone from Aristotle and the Stoics to La Rochefoucauld and Heidegger.
Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.