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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > March 2016 > What does it feel like to be dead?

What does it feel like to be dead?

Existentialists had good questions and great times, says Andy Martin

At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails

by Sarah Bakewell (Chatto & Windus, £16.99)

The Existentialist Moment: The Rise of Sartre as a Public Intellectual

by Patrick Baert (Polity, £17.99)

“Hold on a second!” says Dr Watson to Sherlock Holmes (or something like that). “How did you work that out?” Holmes has just come up with some astounding observation. He explains his reasoning. “Of course!” Watson responds, much to the annoyance of Holmes, “it’s obvious.” That is how good philosophy works. The reader—or, in the case of Socrates, the listener—should feel that everything that has been said is obvious, so obvious that no one bothered to say it before. Which is why philosophers often come across, in the words of Erasmus, as “foolosophers.” Michel Foucault said everything he wrote was tautological. And the closing line of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus suggests something similar: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent.” Wittgenstein presumably had this line in mind when he claimed to have pulled off two great tricks: one was to have solved the problems of western philosophy; the other was to have demonstrated how little he had achieved in doing so.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s March issue: Peter Pomerantsev describes the situation in Eastern Europe as the governments of Hungary and Poland turn right. Simon Tilford, from the Centre for European Reform, questions the substance of David Cameron’s EU deal and Philip Collins argues that Jeremy Corbyn is not fit for purpose. Also in this issue: Peter Kellner shows us that we are feeling more optimistic than during the last stages of the last Labour government and Jessica Abrahams explores the sexism of Valentine’s Day. Plus Justice Malala on South Africa and the Prospect Duel asks: "Should all immigrants learn English?"
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