Listen to Music Playlists to Help You Study Like Nietzsche, Socrates, Kant & Other Great Thinkers

The great thinkers of the past knew noth­ing of Youtube — which, we might be tempt­ed to say today, enabled them to become great thinkers in the first place. This is, of course, unchar­i­ta­ble: sure­ly the rise of stream­ing media counts among the most impor­tant devel­op­ments in the his­to­ry of edu­ca­tion. Many col­lege stu­dents today may gen­uine­ly won­der how pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions got by with­out Youtube’s back­ground-music mix­es engi­neered, as the New York­er’s Aman­da Petru­sich wrote not long ago, “to facil­i­tate and sus­tain a mood, which in turn might enable a task: study­ing, fold­ing laun­dry, mak­ing spread­sheets, idly brows­ing the Inter­net.”

If Youtube had been avail­able to impor­tant minds of pre­vi­ous cen­turies — indeed, pre­vi­ous mil­len­nia — what sort of study­ing music would it have served to them? This is, in some sense, a philo­soph­i­cal ques­tion, and a phi­los­o­phy chan­nel has been pro­vid­ing answes: a host of answers, in fact, each in the form of a themed Youtube mix.

On Filosofia Acadêmi­ca you’ll find a playlist to study like “a sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry philoso­pher” (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Tar­ti­ni), like “a medieval philoso­pher hav­ing the truth revealed by divine grace” (Gre­go­ri­an chants), and like “Socrates after dis­cov­er­ing from the Ora­cle of Del­phi that he is the wis­est” (lots of harp and boat sounds).

Uploaded over the past year, these playlists have proven to be the biggest hits on Filosofia Acadêmi­ca (a Brazil­ian chan­nel also offer­ing inter­views like “Filosofia da Matemáti­ca com Oswal­do Chateaubriand” and “Filosofia da Religião com Domin­gos Faria,”). Its cre­ator Elan Mar­in­ho has also put effort into craft­ing music mix­es after par­tic­u­lar thinkers in such notable moments as “New­ton stick­ing nee­dles in his eyes to test hypothe­ses about light,” “Tur­ing invent­ing the com­put­er” and “Niet­zsche over the abyss in a tightrope between the ani­mal and the über­men­sch” (open­ing, nat­u­ral­ly, with “Ride of the Valkyries”). Many of these selec­tions dis­pense with peri­od accu­ra­cy, depart­ing wild­ly from the sub­jec­t’s time and place. But then, has­n’t imag­i­na­tive license has always been a key com­po­nent of great thought?

Relat­ed con­tent:

Stream 58 Hours of Free Clas­si­cal Music Select­ed to Help You Study, Work, or Sim­ply Relax

Hear Friedrich Nietzsche’s Clas­si­cal Piano Com­po­si­tions: They’re Apho­ris­tic Like His Phi­los­o­phy

Hear a 19-Hour Playlist of Lud­wig Wittgenstein’s Favorite Music: Schu­bert, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and… Yvette Guil­bert

An Ancient Philo­soph­i­cal Song Recon­struct­ed and Played for the First Time in 1,000 Years

Hear What It Sounds Like When Philoso­pher Daniel Dennett’s Brain Activ­i­ty Gets Turned into Music

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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  • Espinete says:

    More than the music selec­tions, the videos are great for the hilar­i­ous and dis­cern­ing biogra­phies pinned in the com­ments. Cha­peau.

  • James Barlow says:

    Col­in, liked your arti­cle except (1) it’s high­ly unlike­ly Niet­zsche would have lis­tened to Wag­n­er while pen­ning “Zarathus­tra.” He despised the man’s music whole­heat­ed­ly. And (2) even more unlike­ly 17th or 18th cen­tu­ry philoso­phers would have stud­ied to Tchaikovsky, because it’s impos­si­ble. Tchaikovsky lived in the 19th cen­tu­ry. 🙄
    If you are still writ­ing about cities in the Far East, I hope you some­day invlude our beloved Dumaguete in the Philip­pines!

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