An interview with Simone de Beauvoir

40 minutes

Lee Smolin: space and time

9 minutes

Another Hayride

18 minutes

Why do we, like, hesitate when we, um, speak?

6 minutes

Phrenology: the weirdest pseudoscience of them all?

4 minutes

‘I’m against all forms of oppression’: Simone de Beauvoir, in her own words from 1959

The French philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) was at the height of her influence after she published her landmark feminist treatise The Second Sex (1949) and her acclaimed novel The Mandarins (1954). In the wake of the the Second World War, alongside Albert Camus and her lover Jean-Paul Sartre, she had set out to usher in a new society built around ideals of freedom and justice. In doing so, the trio had also helped to ignite movements in the US and France whose adherents sought to spread Existentialist philosophy through writing and art – or, at very least, have a raucous good time. By the time this interview with de Beauvoir aired on Canadian television in 1959, Camus and Sartre had already fallen out over Communism and abandoned the Existentialist label. Still, de Beauvoir is able to make a compelling point for the value of ideology even as she distances the values of the Existentialists’ cause from, in the interviewer’s words, the ‘noisy, rowdy jazz-loving young people’ they inspired. In this wide-ranging interview, de Beauvoir also discusses her views on the intersection of philosophy and political activism, and the condition of women worldwide, offering insights into the cultural moment as well as her deeply help beliefs on philosophy and the human condition.

For more on de Beauvoir, read this Aeon Idea.

Time is fundamental, space is emergent – why physicists are rethinking reality

From Isaac Newton’s ‘absolute space’ and ‘absolute time’, which envisioned the two phenomena as fundamental and separate, to Albert Einstein’s ‘spacetime’, which condensed them into a single concept, the relationship between space and time has been the mystery driving fundamental physics for more than four centuries. And over the past several decades, some physicists, including Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada, have come to believe that the fabric of reality is perhaps due to be torn into yet again. In this interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn for the series Closer to Truth, Smolin discusses how developments in quantum mechanics have left physicists with questions that special relativity can’t seem to accommodate, and why the solution might be a conception of reality in which time is fundamental, and space emergent.

Video by Closer to Truth

The controversial New Age guru who believed self-love healed all – even AIDS

For gay men living with HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, their diagnosis was often accompanied by both fear for their lives and shame for having contracted a highly stigmatised disease. In Another Hayride, the US filmmaker Matt Wolf explores how the US self-help guru Louise Hay (1926-2017) gained an ardent following among HIV-positive gay men in Los Angeles, and then among people experiencing trauma throughout the country, by teaching that they could heal themselves through self-love. The short documentary is built from archival footage – the US talk show hosts Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue make cameos – and narration from the US writer and minister David Ault, who attended Hay’s weekly ‘Hayride’ support groups. Through his portrait, Wolf offers a nuanced recollection of Hay and her gospel of New Age healing, in which extraordinary compassion and magical thinking both played central roles.

Director: Matt Wolf

Producer: Sam Bisbee

Ums, likes and y’knows get no respect – but they’re vital to conversation

If you’ve ever listened to a recording of yourself speaking, the frequency with which you used fillers such as ‘um’, ‘uh’, ‘like’ and ‘y’know’ might have grabbed your attention – and perhaps your scorn. Indeed, these verbal hesitations have been viewed as undesirable since the days of ancient Greece and, more recently, the American linguist Noam Chomsky characterised them as ‘errors’ irrelevant to language. But could there be more to these utterances than initially meets the ear? In this short animation from TED-Ed, Lorenzo García-Amaya, assistant professor of Spanish at the University of Michigan, reveals how ‘filled pauses’ can give conversation partners important context clues, communicate emphasis, help tether related thoughts together, and so much more.

Video by TED-Ed

Writer: Lorenzo García-Amaya

Animator: Yael Reisfeld

The ‘dangerous nonsense’ of phrenology shows how pseudoscience takes hold

In the 19th century, the Viennese physiologist Franz Joseph Gall placed a formidable thumb on the scales of the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate when he proposed a simple – and, as we now know, false – solution to the age-old conundrum. Everything you need to know about someone’s character, he argued, could be predicted by the shape of different brain regions – and by extension, the contours of their head. That phrenology, as it became known, was built on conjecture rather than empiricism was clear to a great many scientists of the era. Still, it caught on in the public consciousness, and often with sinister consequences. This animation from BBC Reel provides a brief history of phrenology, shedding light on why facile solutions often gain traction over rigorous empiricism, and how pseudoscience can sometimes open gateways for the real thing.

Video by BBC Reel

‘I’m against all forms of oppression’: Simone de Beauvoir, in her own words from 1959

The French philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) was at the height of her influence after she published her landmark feminist treatise The Second Sex (1949) and her acclaimed novel The Mandarins (1954). In the wake of the the Second World War, alongside Albert Camus and her lover Jean-Paul Sartre, she had set out to usher in a new society built around ideals of freedom and justice. In doing so, the trio had also helped to ignite movements in the US and France whose adherents sought to spread Existentialist philosophy through writing and art – or, at very least, have a raucous good time. By the time this interview with de Beauvoir aired on Canadian television in 1959, Camus and Sartre had already fallen out over Communism and abandoned the Existentialist label. Still, de Beauvoir is able to make a compelling point for the value of ideology even as she distances the values of the Existentialists’ cause from, in the interviewer’s words, the ‘noisy, rowdy jazz-loving young people’ they inspired. In this wide-ranging interview, de Beauvoir also discusses her views on the intersection of philosophy and political activism, and the condition of women worldwide, offering insights into the cultural moment as well as her deeply help beliefs on philosophy and the human condition.

For more on de Beauvoir, read this Aeon Idea.

Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter

The Tarkhan Dress is the world’s oldest woven garment with radiocarbon testing dating the garment to the late fourth-millennium BC. Image courtesy the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL

Essay/
Archaeology
The clothing revolution

What if the need for fabric, not food, in the face of a changing climate is what first tipped humanity towards agriculture?

Ian Gilligan

Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty

Essay/
Knowledge
Philosophy with children

Kids don’t just say ‘the darndest things’. Playful and probing, they can be closer to the grain of life’s deepest questions

Jana Mohr Lone