One day, at the Bec-de-Gaz cafe in Paris around the turn of 1933, three young friends sat drinking apricot cocktails and discussing a new philosophical method from Germany called phenomenology. “You see,” said one, “if you’re a phenomenologist you can even make philosophy out of this cocktail!”
The three friends were Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Raymond Aron; out of their conversation that day would come a new style of thinking about human existence, and a philosophy that would sweep Paris and the world. This was Existentialism: a philosophy of freedom and individual experience that changed people’s lives and captured the spirit of the time.
Sarah Bakewell will trace some of the story of modern Existentialism, and ask what it might still have to offer us today. Her previous works include How to Live or a Life of Montaigne in One QuestionandTwenty Attempts at an Answer.