We’re used to the idea that a year should be punctuated by
a sequence of special public days: Christmas, Mother’s
Day, Father’s Day, some kind of national day, May Day, the
August Bank holiday etc.
But we’re not – collectively – very ambitious about
Modern societies are deeply invested in the idea of big,
glamorous weddings. We have evolved highly detailed
collective ideas about what a proper wedding is supposed to
be like, down to the specialised floral arrangements, seat
covers, presents for bridesmaids and the correct order...
Cinema is the most prestigious cultural activity in the
modern world. It is for us what theatre was in the age of
Shakespeare or painting was in the days of Leonardo da
Vinci: the art form with the biggest impact, the largest
For the average citizen of a developed nation, the World Cup
generated a deeply unusual emotion. For a few weeks
(depending on the fortunes of one’s team), we were allowed
to feel happy, perhaps very happy, about something other
This is weird, for...
Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was born in Frankfurt in 1903
into a wealthy and cultured family. His father, a wine
merchant, was of Jewish origin but had converted to
Protestantism at university. Teddy (as his closest friends
called him) was an extremely fine pianist from...
Jean-Paul Sartre was born in 1905. His father, a navy
captain, died when he was a baby – and he grew up
extremely close to his mother until she remarried, much to
his regret, when he was twelve. Sartre spent most of his
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born in Stuttgart in 1770.
He had a very middle-class life. He was obsessed by his
career path. He was a newspaper editor and then a headmaster
before becoming an academic professor. He fretted all his
life about his...
Adam Smith is our guide to perhaps the most pressing dilemma
of our time: how to make a capitalist economy more humane
and more meaningful.
He was born in Scotland in Kirkcaldy – a small
manufacturing town – near Edinburgh in 1723. He was...
The challenge begins with how to pronounce his name. The
first bit should sound like ‘Knee’, the second like
‘cher’: Knee – cher.
Friedrich Nietzsche was born in 1844 in a quiet village in
the eastern part of Germany, where – for generations –
The Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was born in 341 BC,
on the island of Samos, a few miles off the coast of modern
Turkey. He had an unusually long beard, wrote over three
hundred books and was one of the most famous philosophers...
‘Stoicism’ was a philosophy that flourished for some 400
years in Ancient Greece and Rome, gaining widespread support
among all classes of society. It had one overwhelming and
highly practical ambition: to teach people how to be calm
and brave in the face of...