What is Love? BBC Philosophy Animations Feature Sartre, Freud, Aristophanes, Dawkins & More

The BBC’s recent series of Nigel War­bur­ton-script­ed, celebri­ty-nar­rat­ed ani­ma­tions in phi­los­o­phy haven’t shied away from the hard ques­tions the dis­ci­pline touch­es. How did every­thing begin? What makes us human? What is the self? How do I live a good life? In all those videos, Gillian Ander­son, Stephen Fry, and Har­ry Shear­er told us what his­to­ry’s most thought-about thinkers have had to say on those sub­jects. But for the lat­est round, War­bur­ton and The Hob­bit’s Aidan Turn­er have tak­en on what some would con­sid­er, at least for our prac­ti­cal pur­pos­es, the trick­i­est one of all: what is love?

You might not turn to Jean-Paul Sartre, life part­ner of Simone de Beau­voir, as a first love con­sul­tant of choice, but the series devotes an entire video to the Being and Noth­ing­ness author’s the­o­ries on emo­tion. The free­dom-mind­ed Sartre sees the con­di­tion of love as a “haz­ardous, painful strug­gle,” one of either masochism or sadism: “masochism when a lover tries to become what he thinks his lover wants him to be, and in the process denies his own free­dom; sadism when the lover treats the loved one as an object and ties her down. Either way, free­dom is com­pro­mised.”

Have we any lighter philo­soph­i­cal per­spec­tives on love here? Well, we have a vari­ety of philo­soph­i­cal per­spec­tives on love, any­way: Aristo­phanes’ cre­ation myth of the “miss­ing half,” Sig­mund Freud and Edvard West­er­mar­ck­’s dis­agree­ment over the Oedi­pus com­plex, and the con­vic­tion of “psy­cho­log­i­cal ego­ists” from Thomas Hobbes to Richard Dawkins that no such thing as strict­ly self­less love exists. The phi­los­o­phy of love, like love itself, can get com­pli­cat­ed, but the clear and wit­ty draw­ings accom­pa­ny­ing the ideas dis­cussed in these videos can help us envi­sion the dif­fer­ent ideas they encom­pass. Should you need even clear­er (or less wit­ty) illus­tra­tions on the sub­ject, you could always turn to Love Isthough I have a feel­ing you’d find that solu­tion a bit too sim­ple.

Watch all of the ani­mat­ed videos in the What is Love? playlist here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What is the Self? Watch Phi­los­o­phy Ani­ma­tions Nar­rat­ed by Stephen Fry on Sartre, Descartes & More

How Did Every­thing Begin?: Ani­ma­tions on the Ori­gins of the Uni­verse Nar­rat­ed by X‑Files Star Gillian Ander­son

What Makes Us Human?: Chom­sky, Locke & Marx Intro­duced by New Ani­mat­ed Videos from the BBC

How to Live a Good Life? Watch Phi­los­o­phy Ani­ma­tions Nar­rat­ed by Stephen Fry on Aris­to­tle, Ayn Rand, Max Weber & More

How Can I Know Right From Wrong? Watch Phi­los­o­phy Ani­ma­tions on Ethics Nar­rat­ed by Har­ry Shear­er

Down­load 130 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es: Tools for Think­ing About Life, Death & Every­thing Between

Lovers and Philoso­phers — Jean-Paul Sartre & Simone de Beau­voir Togeth­er in 1967

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.

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