What does it mean to be me?

2 minutes

Understanding quantum entanglement

20 minutes

Your name here

9 minutes

The swimmer

12 minutes

Agnes Callard on the agency of becoming

31 minutes

Sartre and the existential choice: ‘In fashioning myself, I fashion humanity’

What’s the essence of being human? According to the 20th-century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, existence precedes essence. In other words, ‘I am what I do.’ This, thought Sartre, makes life an anguish-inducing experience as every one of our choices becomes a statement about what we think humanity should be. ‘Condemned to be free,’ each one of us must act as if the whole world is watching.

Video by BBC Radio 4

Script: Nigel Warburton

Animation: Andrew Park

Quantum entanglement is tough to dumb down, but this analogy can help detangle it

The term ‘quantum entanglement’ refers to quantum particles being interdependent even when separated, to put it in exceedingly simple terms. Because this behaviour was so at odds with his understanding of the laws of physics, Albert Einstein called the phenomenon ‘spooky action at a distance’. And because it is so hard to square with our own lived experience, it is often used as one of the foremost examples of ‘quantum weirdness’. In this expansion on a previous Royal Institution presentation, the UK science writer Philip Ball details a metaphor devised in the 1990s by Sandu Popescu, professor of physics at the University of Bristol, and Daniel Rohrlich, a physics researcher and lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, to help bring our current best understanding of quantum entanglement into focus. In doing so, Ball also provides an enlightening window into physicists’ evolving understanding of the quantum world throughout the 20th century.

Video by The Royal Institution

Producer: Anand Jagatia

‘From dream to reality!’ The 1960s spoof that marked the dawn of self-aware advertising

At its height in the 1940s and ’50s, the now-defunct Calvin Company of Kansas City, Missouri was one of the largest and most successful producers of advertising films in the United States. With Your Name Here (1960), Calvin Company offered a wry, tongue-in-cheek satire of its own advertising style. Beginning with a generic retelling of human history before transitioning to a jingoistic story of American exceptionalism, a narrator declares that, for all our collective striving, ingenuity and brilliance, happiness still somehow eludes us. So what’s the solution? A more satisfying tobacco-smoking experience, of course. Or more leisure time. Or whatever it is that your product, service or institution offers. While today the self-aware commercial is a genre unto itself, it’s somewhat jarring to see the form so cleverly executed in this peculiar short, released at the dawn of the Mad Men era – a time when exceeding earnestness in advertising was very much still in fashion.

For this version of the film, Aeon’s video programmer and producer Tamur Qutab provided digital enhancements to the picture and sound.

‘It makes sense of everything I am.’ The transcendence of the long-distance swimmer

but today you swirl and spin
in sea water as if,
creatures of salt and slime
and naked under the sun,
life were a waking dream
and this the only life.
– From ‘A Swim in Co Wicklow’ (2011) by Derek Mahon

In 2012, the Irish long-distance swimmer Stephen Redmond became the first person to complete the Ocean’s Seven challenge, which includes marathon swims in seven channels around the world. In The Swimmer, the Irish filmmaker Thomas Beug takes us along on a brisk Atlantic swim, gracefully weaving lyrical images of Redmond on land and in the water with his musings on the ineffable sense of purpose he finds in the open water. Complementing Redmond’s narration are lines written and performed by the Irish poet Derek Mahon, offering a refreshing glimpse of the sublime and the spiritual within the realm of extreme sports.

Director: Thomas Beug

Producer: Jessica Bermingham

How the philosophical paradox of aspiration is resolved by a new theory of self-creation

Let’s say you’ve decided to enrich yourself by learning to appreciate classical music, even though you didn’t have much previous interest in it. Such a resolution is hardly uncommon, but acting on the aspiration requires you to value an activity that you don’t yet know how to. In this video, Agnes Callard, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago, borrows from her book Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming (2018) to put forth a solution to this paradox centred on understanding our current and future selves as inexorably bound through the act of aspiration. Further, she argues, in resolving this paradox, we can understand ourselves as responsible for the act of self-creation – and, by extension, for our own morals and values. This video is part of the series Into the Coast, which sets out to capture philosophy as a ‘living discipline’ through interviews with leading academic philosophers.

Director: Octavian Busuio

Producer: Katie Howe

Music: Tuomo Tiisala

Sartre and the existential choice: ‘In fashioning myself, I fashion humanity’

What’s the essence of being human? According to the 20th-century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, existence precedes essence. In other words, ‘I am what I do.’ This, thought Sartre, makes life an anguish-inducing experience as every one of our choices becomes a statement about what we think humanity should be. ‘Condemned to be free,’ each one of us must act as if the whole world is watching.

Video by BBC Radio 4

Script: Nigel Warburton

Animation: Andrew Park

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Berlin, Potsdamer Platz (1932) by Carl Grossberg. Photo by AKG-Images

Essay/
Education
The scholar’s vocation

A century ago, Weber both diagnosed the ills of the corporatised, modern university, and pointed out the path beyond it

Chad Wellmon

Why did the woman cross the road? Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
You are the world

Are your decisions made by your brain, or via the experience of the world relative to your body? A dialogue on consciousness

Tim Parks & Riccardo Manzotti