The question put to us in the latest issue of Australian quarterly New Philosopher is the unanswerable ‘What is the meaning of life?’ It is a topic that is explored in a variety of ways; dissecting the theories of philosophers, comic essays, interviews, and pieces that invite us to think about the direction that rapid technological advances are taking us. The outcome is a selection of thought-provoking, often-ironic takes on the absurdity of life.
New Philosopher is a quarterly focused on exploring philosophical ideas from past and present thinkers, in the hopes of guiding readers towards a happier and freer mode of existence. The magazine incorporates work from a range of contributors, who are not always philosophers, which makes it both thought-provoking and accessible.
One of the first pieces in the magazine takes a look at our relationship with the Earth, quoting particle physicist Frank Close and naturalist David Attenborough, and forcing us to consider that we are simultaneously ‘made of stuff that is as old as the planet’, and using it as ‘little more than a larder that can be raided with impunity.’
The issue continues to explore the darker sides of our relationship with nature, calling into question the future possibility that we will be able to bring people back from the dead: ’Currently in the US, at least 250 bodies lie frozen in cryonic suspension, in the hope that someday they can be revived’, and that we are arguably on the brink of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. There is a dystopian feel to some of the content, placing the quest to discover the phisolophical meaning of life within a much wider context, which makes it feel rather futile.
Oliver Burkeman comically narrates the existential crisis that comes from trying to understand happiness and attach meaning to everything, and Patrick Stokes’ essay ‘Get a life!’ looks at how we lead our lives, and our deaths, and is a surprisingly uplifting read. Matthew Beard answers questions by and for children and provides insight into an ethical dilemma, and a piece simply entitled ‘Life’, looks at the views of six eminent thinkers on the topic.
Since its launch in 2014, New Philosopher has become incredibly in-demand, quickly launching across the world, and starting women’s magazine Womankind, which runs alongside it.
When we spoke to him in 2015, editor Zan Boag explained that he saw a hole in the market since ‘existing publications seemed to seriously underestimate their readers’ capacity to reason and interact with the world around them.’ New Philosopher combats this with issues that are bursting with in-depth articles and ideas, presented with a bright sense of design, including infographics and comic strips. New Philosopher is in no way a one-trick pony, which is what makes it a lasting and popular publication.
Editor: Zan Boag
Art directors: Carlos Egan and Aida Novoa