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Freedom: From Kierkegaard to Black Lives Matter

Amol Rajan discusses the freedom to act and the philosophy of Kierkegaard with DeRay Mckesson, Clare Carlisle, Inua Ellams and Elizabeth Day.

'Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced', wrote the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. His new biographer, Clare Carlisle, explores the life experiences that moulded Kierkegaard's ideas as he struggled to understand how to be a human being in this world. She tells Amol Rajan that Kierkegaard was very much a philosopher of the heart.

DeRay Mckesson’s reality became one of struggle and action after he quit his job as a school teacher and became a key figure in the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. He spent 400 days on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, often walking day and night after a new law was introduced making it illegal to stand still. In his memoir, On the Other Side of Freedom, he explores the intellectual and political framework of the liberation movement that has dominated American life in the 21st century.

The award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams’s latest work also explores freedom and power, but in a world where fate and vengeful gods hold sway. His epic poem The Half-God of Rainfall begins with a game of basketball in Nigeria with the Yoruba gods looking on, and ends with a demonstration of female revenge – both human and mythological.

While Kierkegaard was focused on the subjective experience of being a human, and how we create ourselves through our action, the writer Elizabeth Day is interested in what happens when those actions go awry. ‘How To Fail’ is a painfully honest exploration of things going wrong, and what we can learn from our mistakes.

Producer: Katy Hickman

Available now

42 minutes

Claire Carlisle

Clare Carlisle is Reader in Philosophy and Theology at King's College, London. 
Philosopher of the Heart: The Restless Life of Søren Kierkegaard is published by Allen Lane

DeRay McKesson

DeRay Mckesson is a civil rights activist, community organiser, and the host of Crooked Media's award-winning podcast, Pod Save the People. 
On the Other Side of Freedom: Race and Justice in a Divided America is published by Oneworld

Inua Ellams

Inua Ellams is an internationally poet, playwright, performer, graphic artist & designer.

The Half-God of Rainfall is published by Fourth Estate

Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth Day is an author, journalist and broadcaster. 
 How To Fail: Everything I’ve Learned From Things Going Wrong is published by Fourth Estate