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Existentialism

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 28 June 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss existentialism. Imagine being back inside the bustling cafes on the Left Bank of Paris in the 1930s, cigarette smoke, strong coffee and the buzz of continental voices philosophising about human responsibility and freedom.

This kind of talk gave utterance to Existentialism. A twentieth century philosophy of everyday life concerned with the individual, and his or her place within the world. In novels, plays and philosophy, Existentialists try to work out the nature of our existence. As Roquentin says in Sartre’s novel ‘Nausea’, “To exist is simply to be there; what exists appears, lets itself be encountered, but you can never deduce it”.

But where did these ideas come from? What do they really mean? And how have they impacted on our lives?

With Dr A. C. Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Christina Howells, Professor of French at the University of Oxford, fellow of Wadham College; Simon Critchley, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex and author of A Companion to Continental Philosophy.

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