POP CULTURE: Pop and Philosophy

When pop music started in a big way in the 1960s, it seemed at times like an especially silly medium, favoured by hormonal school girls and connected up with delinquent and tedious and bizarre behaviour. “Have you tried to sneak in the hotel?” “Yes.” “Yes, we were in the hotel.” “How far in did you get?” “Twelfth floor.” By contrast, Philosophy had a reputation for being deeply serious and impressive – the natural home of the big ambition to understand ourselves and transform the world through ideas. But since the 1960’s, philosophy has stalled, and pop has conquered the world. It’s now the foremost medium for the articulation of ideas on a mass scale. This explains why, if it’s to survive, philosophy must study pop. Part of its salvation lies in understanding pop’s techniques, so as to be able to become, in crucial ways, a little more like it. There are a host of critical lessons that philosophy can learn from pop. For a start, pop teaches us about charm. The great pop songs are the witchingly, dazzlingly charming in the manner in which they get their messages across. They know exactly how to wear away our defences and enter our imaginations with grace. It’s a reminder that it isn’t enough for ideas to be correct for them to become powerful and deliver on their promises; they need to know how to win over an audience. Pop is the most seductive force the world has ever known. It has more and more devoted adherents than all the religions put together. It’s more deeply loved; more trusted; and a more constant companion in our joys and sorrows than any other artform. Pop has become powerful in part because it’s cleverly understood the division of labour. Those who can sing and hold the crowd may not be the same as those who know how to write music or arrange the instruments. Pop is unashamed about uniting talent wherever it finds it, so that the final result combines in this beautiful face with the finest voice; the best score and the most beguiling Instrumental arrangement. Pop has overcome the romantic hang-up about the unique creator. It knows that the most intimate heartfelt results may be the outcome of large-scale institutional collaboration. [MUSIC: Royals – Lorde] Pop teaches us too about compression. It knows our lives are busy and has an extraordinarily ambitious sense of what could be achieved in under three minutes. Like all other artforms, pop is trying to communicate ideas, but it bypasses the more resistant intellectual parts of the mind. All the usual obstacles to reaching another person are stripped away in the name of visceral intimacy. Pop achieves what Pericles, Lincoln Dickens, and Proust were attempting, and spectacularly exceeds all of them. It provides the ultimate demonstration of the 19th Century theorist Walter Pater’s tantalising assertion that “all art aspires to the condition of music”. Like religion, pop knows that repetition is key. It works its effect through being heard again and again. It would prefer to grab three minutes from you every day, than three hours every few months. Like religious incantation, it’s interested in working upon our souls cumulatively. Pop is intelligent in not being afraid of simplicity. It’s too wise to be held back by pedantry or erudition It knows that our emotional needs are in essence obvious to be encouraged to be held to be jolly to be Reassured when we’re alone to be told something beautiful and uplifting It doesn’t suffer from high arts perverse addiction to subtlety it accepts that the core of our minds may be astonishing basic in Structure does Pop is ultimately the master of collective, Euphoria it possesses What churches and politicians would like but are so rarely able to secure? It’s worked out how to generate shared moments of deep emotion about important things In the stadium the singer functions as a high priest for whom the flock might be ready to make major sacrifices They would in [that] benign Frenzy be willing to go just about anywhere That philosophy needs to learn from Pop doesn’t preclude that pop [leads] of course to learn quite a bit from Philosophy as well Pop currently touches on the big themes, but doesn’t as yet properly take up many of the opportunities that lie its way It’s lacking in ultimate ambitions in the future. We need pop musicians to take up the challenge of investigating the deepest truths of getting behind Transformative concepts and of making these into the things we’ll sing about in front of the bathroom mirror With our hair brushes so that they become a background sounds of our inner lives the world awaits from a redemptive synthesis between philosophy and pop you you


  1. Abhilash S said:

    Pop is pornography with clothes on.

    Philosophy is sexually frustrated old men.

    All the best reconciling the two.

    December 16, 2016
  2. Ham havis said:


    January 6, 2017
  3. MRrandomdude42 said:

    I listened to A Girl ( and I liked it! ) Roar about a dark horse and found my meaning in life, No philosophy required.

    January 9, 2017
  4. Max Wellenstein said:

    This is infuriatingly accurate.

    January 18, 2017
  5. Robert Galletta said:


    January 22, 2017
  6. Z Ross said:

    And its completely disposable. Philosophy has staying power. Pop Philosophers have also been shown to be disposable.

    January 24, 2017
  7. it might be possible said:

    Good topic, thanks for that School of Life. I have to wonder if pop and philosophy are simply two different things: like an orgy vs. microchip manufacturing. Like football and brain surgery. Like remedial education class vs. a Mensa gathering. Like oil and water. If the more complex, deep, and subtle becomes loud, sweaty, and pulsing to satisfy the masses, it will lose it's inherent nature. The loud, sweaty, and pulsing is generally incapable & uninterested in reaching the complex, deep, and subtle anyway.

    January 24, 2017
  8. Harry said:

    0:52 That picture is really odd

    January 26, 2017
  9. mudpuddlestruck bylightning said:

    NO!!!! We do not need pop stars to get behind – 'transformative ideas' or whatever the phrase was. Philosophy has nothing to learn from pooop. Pop may learn from wisdom and often does. Often this is painfully expressed. We need less Michael Jacksons warbling about ideas they do not understand.
    Incidentally, as you alluded to, religion and politics prefigured pop and its agenda. Too many examples from religion.
    In politics: one of the world's most important songs is " A Nation Once Again". Written in the 1840s, it wants Irish people to know and feel Ireland as an emotion and as repetition and musical recreation. Music was to be used as a weapon for the coming nation. Repeat unto death, know the song, let its melody be heard, let it be referenced… 120 yrs after it was penned, the song featured in a Beatles film. About a decade ago a scam saw a BBC poll for World Service have the song as the world's favorite ditty.

    January 27, 2017
  10. Guratza said:

    Lol these pop culture videos are such a misfire for your channel… There is no logic or coherence in your conclusions and deductions.

    January 28, 2017
  11. Luivdoric Rokushaludin said:

    can you do a video on Marina and the Diamonds?

    February 3, 2017
  12. Big Ray said:

    Why i don't listen to pop.

    February 4, 2017
  13. tj22 said:

    Psssh, Pop is alright, but Prog is a definite 7/4

    February 10, 2017
  14. Niko I Nista said:

    Song at 4:46 ????

    February 14, 2017
  15. Denise Dubois said:


    February 21, 2017
  16. No longer a nihilist said:

    Bullshit video

    February 27, 2017
  17. Sergio 1248 said:

    This is too much. Philosofy is love for knowelge and sharing it with others; pop's about transporting your money from your pocket to theirs, by exploiting your deepest emotions. It's like eating spoons of sugar and trying to feed on it.

    February 28, 2017
  18. Archie Kent said:

    Pop culture is for children and schmucks, grow up people….

    March 5, 2017
  19. muhfuckersfuckfuckers said:

    Death Grips is the best (and the newest) example for this.

    March 14, 2017
  20. Thomas Huffcutt said:

    Pop is awful. It's repetitive, dull, and slothful.

    March 19, 2017
  21. praba mj said:

    Great idea but few reflected in their music like Michael Jackson(earth song….).sure artist can entertain and they can also spread philosophical views like "peace"

    March 21, 2017
  22. miloradvlaovic said:

    I seldom dislike videos. Actually almost never. But a video on the popular music sensu stricto, without mentioning or referencing the founding "fathers" of it, which would be Madonna and Michael Jackson, is simply vapid and misleading. A poorly done job at best.

    This is it with this channel for me. I gave it a chance, various times too, but it's always very biased and heavily tainted with the new-age pseudo philosophy

    March 26, 2017
  23. augusto penas palmeira said:


    April 2, 2017
  24. David's said:

    Amazing video. I wish there were more singers and bands that take into account their power to convey important messages philosophy is so skillful at answering. A silly example I recently came across with is Marilyn Manson's song "The Love Song" where you can tell he is making a statement when asking "do you love your god? guns? the government?" and you can hear a fanatic crowd shouting "YEAH".

    April 8, 2017
  25. Noor Mohammed said:

    I hate pop songs, and still wondering why others like it? they are just stupid and boring

    April 16, 2017
  26. shaikh adil said:

    pop can collect an enormous audience in minimum time…but it can never create the effects(like intense devotion) that ideas, philosophy and religion creates….pops effect is strong but is for very short time…while the latters effect can be lifelong…

    April 27, 2017
  27. Eugene said:

    This video has more musical video Easter Eggs than the amount of Easter Eggs on Easter Day in the White House.

    April 30, 2017
  28. Brian Prince said:

    wow! Beautifup piece.Very well stated!

    May 2, 2017
  29. Dee Girl said:

    Stevie Wonder is a good example of a philosopher and pop musician/artist.

    May 5, 2017
  30. Fida Aifiya said:

    Sometimes I'm just so ashamed that I live in pop culture society because everything seems so shallow, but then I realized that history will not remember a speck of dust like me, so it's nothing to be worried about.

    May 9, 2017
  31. Courtney Kakebeen said:

    Pop music has been built by many collaborators (as opposed to the solo do-it-all artist) for a long time.

    Exhibit A: Motown Records

    Nuff said

    May 12, 2017
  32. Garou said:

    what was the last song?

    May 21, 2017
  33. Zooney L said:

    Is this video a joke? The reason why pop is popular today is because:
    1. Most singers show off their bodies or money, and in the self-worshiping society we live in those 2 things are considered sacred. Btw, i never understood the point of music videos.
    2. Our society is empty inside and people run to the idea of (empty) success, happiness and beauty that music videos promote

    May 25, 2017
  34. Jessica Claire Cooper said:

    Merging of Philosophy and Pop…..and then you get 21 Pilots😂

    May 25, 2017
  35. tinkerchel said:

    It's really scary that this vid thinks it's ok to "seduce" the public with the same cheap tacks and illusions our pop culture uses(which has already caused us a great deal of grief and problems), in order to pass on the philosophical messages to those who probably don't deserve(and are probably too dumb to appreciate) them in the first place.

    I've noticed a constant theme in SOL that really bothers me, that it advocates boarderline brainwashing the public, despite the former's good intentions. It almost seems like SOL doesn't thin we humans can make decent judgement of our own, that we had to be "lured" into what they think is worthwhile. How about instead of taking the low path of further confusing/manipulating the public, try and give them the honest truth? If they chose not to accept your opinions or ideals then be it.

    May 26, 2017
  36. Dave Sarks said:

    I assure you that the modern Christian church has learnt an awful lot from pop culture. If you go into a charismatic church the performance is more of a stage show than your traditional worship service, and they very much target the emotion and needs of the audience. This is why Charismatic churches have transformed themselves into Megachurches.,

    May 28, 2017
  37. Andrew kohl said:

    The less views your videos have, the more I enjoy them 😛

    June 6, 2017
  38. African Messiah said:

    how effin sad

    June 11, 2017
  39. Adam Merrill said:

    soo… justin beiber > abraham lincoln?

    June 14, 2017
  40. Kate Marsh said:

    Very well written script, well done indeed.

    June 27, 2017
  41. KING KEEM• said:

    "Loving can hurt, loving can sometimes times"

    June 27, 2017
  42. KING KEEM• said:

    School of life should start singin the lessons.

    June 27, 2017
  43. Torstein Rizandro Bakketun Best Kyte said:

    Don´t care, it´s still (mostly) shit.

    July 18, 2017
  44. Марат Кунанбаев said:

    music is propoganda driven by evil agenda

    July 30, 2017
  45. Jan Škopek said:

    this is such horseshit!

    August 22, 2017
  46. Rax AndStuff said:

    Music is too loud. So distracting from what you're saying!

    September 17, 2017
  47. Katia said:

    I'm begging for a pop star who's actually "woke" like they all say they are.

    September 27, 2017
  48. Wesley Baker said:

    I feel myself disagreeing with them lumping in some of the most heartfelt and honest pieces from Coldplay and Adele with Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift

    October 8, 2017
  49. Darío Rosillo said:

    I were unsure about the content of this chanel, now I see why

    October 17, 2017
  50. Сергей Aлександрович Данинский said:

    You're talking as if philosophy is just another thing to be "consumed". It is not for ordinary people. Period.

    October 21, 2017
  51. John Martin said:

    What a load of bollocks!

    November 1, 2017
  52. Rilo Robinson said:

    Dem Backstreet Boys though ayyyeeeeeee

    November 18, 2017
  53. Luny & Milky said:

    well… all things can't be everything at same time; if pop picked more on philosophy as an inspiration it wouldn't be as uplifting as.. well.. pop. I get what you mean, but the thing that makes pop POP is exactly this: "don't think about it and dance!" Not that many people pay attention to the lyrics in a pop song unless they're about something joyful and happy. There might exist pop songs that are more profound in its lyrics meaning but, people aren't paying that much attention to those lyrics; it's more the rythm and the trend. Now if you are talking about the ones that do pay attention to the lyrics, well, there are other music genres that do it more, and have people listening to the words meaning, and a lot of them pick on the most heavy philosophyc themes even, but hey, a video about that wouldn't appeal to that many people, right? ;')

    November 21, 2017
  54. Robin Cannon said:

    "In the stadium the singer functions as a high priest for whom the flock might be ready to make major sacrifices.They would, in their benign frenzy, be willing to go just about anywhere" Not an avid Pop culture fan, but have been a part of many concert performances. I would love to know what examples this is based on? Can't say I've ever honestly seen or heard of it to be the case

    November 22, 2017
  55. Nick D said:

    The sheep who love Pop would never be able to deal with good philosophy no matter how it is packaged. It never has nor never will be about HOW the message is transmitted. It IS the message that one has to deal with.

    November 22, 2017
  56. Britney Beautiful said:

    Music is like peddler is a fix

    November 29, 2017
  57. P A said:

    Hip-hop is the most-consumed music genre in the U.S. Analysts at Forbes magazine believe the increasing popularity of R&B/hip hop is due to its influence on streaming services. The genre is as popular as rock and pop combined on Spotify and Apple Music

    December 1, 2017
  58. coriolanus78 said:

    This video is quintessential well sounding none sense

    December 4, 2017
  59. hilakleiner said:

    There's plenty of deep philosophical music but most of its not pop.

    December 5, 2017
  60. cat.lady said:

    Oh no, the songs in the background distracted me so much

    December 6, 2017
  61. dejected mass said:

    A lot of pop music has dumbed people down.
    Whole entire generations dumbed down.

    December 12, 2017
  62. F D said:


    January 13, 2018
  63. Nebojša Buhać said:

    this must be the dumbest video on the internet

    January 14, 2018
  64. Frode Osen said:

    Integrate helpful Philosophy into Popular Culture?

    A lifelong challenge has been accepted!

    January 27, 2018
  65. Hello There said:

    But instead of communicating things we need to know, like actually think for ourselves, the music industry is using this to appeal to a mainstream audience to make more money. The pop song with the strongest message that a lot of people respect used on this video is Imagine by John Lennon. That song is about imagining something that will never happen because we have been dumbed down to a point where we can longer make it happen. Basically, you cannot communicate philosophical and reasonable thinking through pop music methods because they only apply to simple minded people who will reject philosophy in exchange for happiness and ignorance.

    January 27, 2018
  66. Fearless Paladin said:

    Isn't "pop culture", but "poop culture" lol. What you are saying, is like popcorns, fast food, sodas were good and healthy foods, metaphorically speaking. Quality always beats quantity.

    February 6, 2018
  67. john iffland said:

    The great philosopher's of the world often taught not to love the world, to believe in it's ways as truthful living. Transcendent meaning was the goal. Popular culture is for unthinking people, whose music actually causes brain damage, alters heart & liver functions…& obscures thought, deadening the Mind. Pop is the death of Thought; philosophy is the awakening of Thought, & a truthful Way to transcend the fruits of the flesh, & maximize the Mind's true orientation.

    February 17, 2018
  68. Quantumtales said:

    So what about Theodor Adorno?

    February 23, 2018
  69. Jake Ben said:

    I must disagree, if philosophy followed the ways of pop nothing will come out of it. People listen to pop for the music and not to gain messages, messages are just a sub-product. If philosophy was to replicate that all it would need is to satisfy some need in which people have, e.g. produce songs, movies, art etc.

    March 14, 2018
  70. dipro001 said:

    I think i learn more things I care about here than in Jstore!

    March 15, 2018
  71. Jules Poncelin said:

    What's the name of the last song (in black en white) ?

    April 3, 2018
  72. Fatimah Ma'shumah said:

    I think Lorde's song lyrics' are quite philosophical

    April 6, 2018
  73. shawarmageddonit said:

    Sell people what they want, and then give them what they really need.

    April 7, 2018
  74. M. Murry said:

    What about metal / rock ?

    April 8, 2018
  75. Namikaze Minato said:

    this is my base for my career

    April 10, 2018
  76. ben anar said:

    philosophy pop already existed before this video needed to remind us.
    for instance; bohemian rhapsody by queens, the whole song talks about moral acception of inner self.

    April 29, 2018
  77. 664 TheNeighborOfTheBeast said:

    BOOO!! pop SUCKS!!

    May 8, 2018
  78. Kata said:

    People are getting very angry just of a thought of philosophy becoming more like pop. I completely agree and also think that this video is kind of satirical. I feel like they pointed out all the terrible things pop is on a very nice way, by saying philosophy should learn from it. When in reality we all know philosophy can never be anything like pop and that's what makes it so good.
    I'm also gonna be optimistic and say pop just can not last on a long run, because it actually has no real value. On the other side philosophy will still be there to see what our society will come up with next, whether it is religion, politics or pop.

    May 27, 2018
  79. Lone Star said:

    This Seems pretty pretentious to me. Im not taking life advice from fucking Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. On top that. Pop Music hasn't been about anything meaningful for the over 20 years. Now its just soulless business to sell shitty songs to teenagers. The days of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Marvin Gaye are over.

    July 5, 2018
  80. ArchAic tAle said:

    Fortunately there will always be a field the dumb is just uncapable to fill, the field of truth. What philosophy at its highest provides only rare bands will be able to reach, and those reside in the underground, and all have in common to have studied hard philosophy. There is no such thing as a free meal, favor to say the Americans, and none will ever get elevated with a sound intentionally designed to diminish self-awareness and to robotise mass-behavior, something mass pop-culture does daily and prominently. Do not confuse self-gratification with something close to a study of what matters.

    September 6, 2018
  81. chel c said:

    I wish there were a version of this film where they left out all the annoying AF top 10 music. I just wanted to hear this channels perspective on the psychosocial effects of the music industry.

    November 15, 2018
  82. Keith Makan said:

    Memes are the answer.

    November 17, 2018
  83. Keith Makan said:

    Yup I like pop because I'm basic, but I don't only like pop – the problem is the gross over-abstraction-ism and influence pop can have and its threat to the individual's unique development as well. "Works its magic through repetition", and what if i repeat it before words like… propaganda? Is there a reason pop's aggressive over repetition in visual arts, societal life and simplicity of form approaches many works like propaganda and often includes propaganda itself?

    November 17, 2018
  84. Ishaq Nabi said:

    Wow what a video. Mr Alain de botton you're the man 👏👏👏

    November 29, 2018
  85. Crystal Taylor said:

    Pop is temporary. Reducing philosophy to a trend would be catastrophic.

    December 31, 2018
  86. Anonymus Account said:

    Sir Raymond Verana brought me here 😃 YOWW LASALLIANS!!!

    January 7, 2019
  87. David Harris said:

    Pop is the lowest form of entertainment.

    January 19, 2019
  88. Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett said:

    John lennon wasn't pop.

    February 27, 2019
  89. I'm an idiot said:

    Damn, this video was full of logical fallacies

    April 24, 2019
  90. Stephen Beres said:

    Gosh, umm…I don't know, but the pop music of the past few decades is Awful and getting worse. Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, Warren Zevon and others were far more thought provoking and musically superior.

    May 21, 2019
  91. The Thinking Being said:

    I always mute the advert and look at something else unless:
    It answers the questions
    1) Who are you and what are you selling?
    2) Why should I care?
    3) Why shouldn't I change the channel right now?
    4) Is this physically and mentally going to benefit me in the long term?
    5) Am I being manipulated?

    Otherwise I set a timer and switch it off until the show resumes
    You have way too much faith in humanity, man. But if it makes you happy then keep it. I listen to your arguments, but in he end I have to consider whether it's actually realistic

    May 26, 2019
  92. Ismael Enciso said:


    June 29, 2019
  93. Abhay Dhotrekar said:

    Dude, what the POP?

    August 19, 2019
  94. Matt Horsley said:

    The majority of people who like modern pop probably don't even know what philosophy is.

    September 21, 2019
  95. Ibraheem M. said:

    Interesting subject. Would you go and make a video about Drama (e.g. soaps) and its effects on people psychologically and philosophically?

    September 23, 2019
  96. Khing Bassey said:

    I love the conclusion… So true

    October 6, 2019
  97. Andrew Fender said:

    Just like there is good philosophy and bad philosophy, there is good pop and bad pop. There have been and will continue to be plenty of good pop artists who are genuine and not self-centered, who use their music to promote simple, positive messages and create meaningful experiences for a mass audience.

    October 10, 2019
  98. Richard said:

    Can you make one of Indie Music and Philosophy?

    October 20, 2019
  99. Deirdre Stewart said:


    November 6, 2019
  100. Hepo Slis said:

    Pop is the new religion of 20th and 21st century

    November 18, 2019

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