If you are anything like me, sometimes you can get a little burnt-out when it comes it always reading dense, technical philosophy. Not to say that I dislike it, but when I am looking to take it easy Heidegger is not what I want to read. With that in mind, I decided it might be fun to start a discussion/list of some things to read and watch that are philosophical, engaging, and are totally enjoyable. Please feel free to comment and add some of your favorite ‘weedkend’ philosophy activities. Books:
Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaardner: The sub-title of this book sums it up perfectly; a novel about the history of philosophy. In this book a teenage girl, Sophie, is invited to take an introductory course to philosophy. As the course proceeds, we get a nice survey of the major philosophical movements from Democritus to Descartes to Sartre. Of course these concise chapters can’t include everything, but Gardner does an excellent job of explaining the key points. What really makes this story so great is the way it blends what Sophie learns in her philosophy class seamlessly into the larger narrative. I found this book to be equally great for both people studying philosophy on a higher level and for those who are finding it for the first time.
Cosmocomics, by Italo Calvino: Everything we are was once in the stars. Calvino takes this idea to an extreme in his novel(which reads more like a collection of short stories) by humanizing abstracta that existed before the big bang, mathematical equations, primitive life on earth, and other phenomena in his stories.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera: Kundera considers the inherent meaninglessness of life in this novel. He also focuses on how this effects the relationships of several characters. This novel also closely examines the ruin of Prague intellectualism at the hands of the Soviet take over. This is my favorite of his works, but all of his works are sufficitantly philosophical.
Issaic Newton, By James Glick: Newton is usually thought of strictly in the terms of science, by Glick’s dynamic portrayal of the man blurs the line between philosopher and scientist. As Glick’s account of the man moves into his professional life, Newton is constantly presented contra Descartes, Leibniz, as well as men who were working within England’s Royal Society. This conceptual account of his theories is both enlightening and accessible.
Waking Life: This movie is about a seemingly inescapable dream. Everything about this film is highly stylized to give the viewer the experience of seeming another person’s dream. Additionally, this film explores an array of philosophical topics.
Il Postino: On an island in southern Italy a man takes a job as the personal postman to the exiled poet Pablo Neruda. Although this movie is primarily about the story of the postman, there are a number of political issues brought up.
In Our Time is a BBC production that has quite a large number of radio programs on philosophers and philosophical movements. They also have a lot of other good radio programs on everything from The Royal Society to the History of Indian Mathematics.
Human all to Human: a documentary about Heidegger
The Century of the Self is a four part BBC documentary examining how Freud’s ideas were used by his nephew to create the public relations industry. Although this doesn’t deal with philosophy directly, the documentary address issues that philosophers may find interesting for various reasons.
Last but not least, a philosophy crossword! They are not as good as a New York Times puzzle, but its better than nothing.