To Be Or Not To Be

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From Sarte and Hegel to Watts and Sacks, here are some of the best who'll make you think.
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What is pretentiousness? Why do we despise it? And more controversially: why is it vital to a thriving culture? In this brilliant, passionate essay, Dan Fox argues that it has always been an essential mechanism of the arts, from the most wildly successful pop music and fashion through to the most recondite avenues of literature and the visual arts.
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Women in Dark Times opens with three women: revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg; German–Jewish painter Charlotte Salomon, persecuted by family tragedy and Nazism; film icon and consummate performer Marilyn Monroe. Together these women have a shared story to tell, as they blaze a trail across some of the most dramatic events of the last century – revolution, totalitarianism, the American dream.

But this is no historical fiction or re-telling. Jacqueline Rose shows us how these visionary women offer a new template for feminism. Taking their stand against the iniquities of our times, they tread a path between public and private pain, confronting us with what we need most urgently, but also often, cannot bear to see.
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Meditation is perhaps the only document of its kind ever made. It is the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man giving advice to himself on how to make good on the responsibilities and obligations of his positions.
The Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius
The Meditations
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The Philosophy in an Hour series are a great way to get a quick 101 on your favourite philosophers. We started with Hegel, because even the man himself conceded that ‘only one man understands me, and even he does not.’

So here's a concise, accessible, and easy to understand lowdown of all his concepts. Time for a headache, but a good one.
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There were two seminal events in the 90s: the OJ trial and the Clinton affair. How are we to make sense of a tale that is often wild and bizarre, yet replete with serious political and cultural implications?

Popular culture seems to be of little worth often, but Lauren Berlant will will change the way we think about the Clinton affair, while helping us reimagine culture and politics writ large.
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Considered by many to be Nietzsche’s most influential work, this philosophical novel tells the tale of ancient Persian prophet Zarathustra emerging from his solitude to tell the world that God is dead. The narrative is simple, but filled with metaphors that present readers with the challenge to decipher its deeper meaning. It is not the easiest philosophy book to read, but it is worth reading. It is one of those books that will leave you with ideas to think about for hours after you put it down.
Thus Spake Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche
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In 1980, Michel Foucault began a vast project of research on the relationship between subjectivity and truth, an examination of conscience, confession, and truth-telling that would become a crucial feature of his life-long work on the relationship between knowledge, power, and the self.

These series of lectures here will give an insight to his lifelong work, and - into the idea of self. He argues that it's not about the self that we're discovering, but how to change it.
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This classic series of essays represents Alan Watts's thinking on the astonishing problems caused by our dysfunctional relationship with the material environment.

Watts argues that we confuse symbol with reality, our ways of describing and measuring the world with the world itself, and thus put ourselves into the absurd situation of preferring money to wealth and eating the menu instead of the dinner.

So we're locked onto concepts and numbers and outcomes - but does it matter? Watts might give you a brand new perspective.
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Plato is not easy to read. But it made it on The Guardian's Top 10 Books on Philosophy. And here's why they said it deserved to be on it:

"This is Aristotle's most approachable work - a rigorous theory of ethics rooted in the moral problems and judgments that are important for everyone in their lives. This clear translation provides the explanatory material Aristotle's terse style needs if his ideas are to be understood."
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Richard Rorty died in 2007, and at his death, the NYT called him "one of the world's most influential contemporary thinkers".

In this masterly biography, Neil Gross explores the path of Rorty's thought over the decades in order to trace the intellectual and professional journey that led him to that prominence. What's more, in spite of his death, this biography will provide readers with a fresh understanding of both the man and the course of twentieth-century. thought.
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When an accident on an uninhabited mountain in Norway leaves Dr. Oliver Sacks with a severe leg injury, he becomes the patient.

A Leg to Stand On is a personal recount of the experiences as a patient. And he curiously writes about a disturbing experience of physical awareness, and the absence of feeling despite being completely whole. This is the starting point of a fascinating journey through the mysteries of perception, the physical substance of our identities, and the experience of being a patient.
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Fear and Trembling, Søren Kierkegaard
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French philosophy is really something. "Sartre For Beginners" is an accessible yet sophisticated introduction to the life and works of the famous French philosopher. It examines Sartre’s early philosophical works. Ideas from Sartre’s other fictional and dramatic works are discussed, but the greatest part is the presentation of the main concepts from 1943's Being and Nothingness. All an all, Palmer does a great job of breaking down Sarte's concepts and ideas into something completely accessible.
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