Episode 109: Jaspers’s Existentialism with Paul Provenza (Citizen Edition)


On Karl Jaspers’s “On My Philosophy” (1941), featuring comedian/actor/director/author Paul Provenza. What’s the relationship between science and philosophy? What about religion? Jaspers thinks that science gives you facts, but for an overarching world-view, you need philosophy. Living such a world-view requires Existenz, or a leap towards transcendence, which is of course religion’s stock and trade, though Jaspers is not a fan of dogmatism.

End song: “Another Way to Fall,” by New People, from The Easy Thing (2009)

Not School Discussion of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead


Last weekend the Philosophy and Theater Group had our monthly discussion, and this time Phillip Cherny and myself talked about Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a tremendously clever, meta-fictional play which fills offstage moments of Hamlet with absurdist hi-jinks.  For the philosophically inclined, this play has fireworks from beginning to end, and Stoppard […]

Not School: Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Nausea”


Featuring Mark Linsenmayer, Sean Webb, Stan Martin, and Yannick Kilberger. Recorded January 26, 2014.

One of the seminal texts of existentialism, but very slow and hard to get through as an actual book. While ordinarily we see objects as meaningful as things with history and often purpose, we can set that aside and see them instead as brute and meaningless. We can’t handle that, aren’t meant to handle that, and so instead of this being a machine-like, unemotional way of experiencing things, it is (for Roquentin) intolerably icky.

The Existentialist Self in the World: Doubt, Being and Caring

If from continental philosophy you throw out transcendental phenomenology and older idealist trappings–transcendental subjects and so on–you are left with a system which still has two components: the world and the self.  It was the relationship between these two that took hold as the major problem for 20th C. continental philosophy. The upshot of the first phase […]

Nick Mount on Samuel Beckett and Existentialist Drama

As our Philosophy in Fiction Not School group has begun to dig into Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot” this month, questions about how to interpret the play have started to crop up. Who or what is Godot, and why are these guys waiting for him? What do we make of the seemingly aimless and repetitive […]

Topic for #80: Heidegger on our Existential Situation

Listen right now to Seth giving a 10-min summary of Heidegger’s essay via a new “Precognition” mini-sode. Back in episode 32 (over two years ago!) we covered the project of Martin Heidegger’s most famous work, Being and Time, composed early in his career. (Incidentally, I see a new and exciting looking translation of this on […]

Topic for #71: Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”

On Feb. 1 we up again with previous guest and PEL blogger (and Twitter/YouTube master) Daniel Horne to discuss Martin Buber. Listen to the episode. Buber is known as a religious existentialist, much like Kierkegaard, which means he’s concerned with our fundamental relation to reality, and thinks that our individual attitude has some impact on […]

The Existential Weirdness of Fandom

In one of Woody Allen’s films (Annie Hall?), one of the characters remarks that existentialism is a matter of projecting one’s neuroses onto the world. Instead of me being depressed, I am in an ontological state of despair. Instead of being a person who is considering what to do with my evening, it is the […]

The Invisible Man and Existentialism

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is a great American novel. Ellison’s ability to make the reader feel the racism of the time is unsettling. The painful experience of living in a country that views you with disdain—that sees you as a problem—permeates the text. It is also a deeply philosophical novel. Consider the following outline of the novel written by […]

Episode 63: Existentialist Heroes in Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men”

Cormac McCarthy

On philosophical issues in McCarthy’s 2005 novel about guys running around with drug money and shooting each other, and about fiction as a form for exploring philosophical ideas. What can morality mean for people who have witnessed the “death of God,” i.e. a loss in faith in light of the horrors of war? Who knows what McCarthy himself thinks? With guest Eric Petrie. Learn more.

End song: “My Grandfather” by Dylan Casey (2001).

Deeply Funny?

(Image: Tom Motley when he’s all spiffed up.) It is a little known fact, even among our philosophically sophisticated readers, that Heidegger argued for the supremacy of German humor. Because German jokes have the most precise underlying structure, he argued, German humor would rule the earth for a thousand years. (Sorry if you’ve already heard […]

Stokely Carmichael’s Sartrean Influences

One of the names dropped during the Race and Philosophy episode was that of Stokely Carmichael. Below is a famous recording of one Carmichael’s “Black Power” speeches, given after Carmichael was appointed Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC: Watch on YouTube.

Bob Solomon on Existentialism and Being and Nothingness


We’ve often name-dropped our former U. of Texas professor Bob Solomon, perhaps best known for his great original work The Passions or his appearance in the Richard Linklater film, Waking Life. For our Hegel episode, I was clutching tightly to his work explaining it: In the Spirit of Hegel. One of his central philosophical concerns […]

The Tree of Life’s Contingent Universe

Watch on YouTube I can write nothing on Heideggerian scholar*/(anti)Hollywood director Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life that hasn’t been better written elsewhere. Even so, the film has just come available on DVD and digital download, so I thought I’d recommend it to anyone who has been interested in PEL’s recent religion episodes. (Suggestion: try […]