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On TikTok, Philosophy Is Getting Edgy … Or At Least Concise
“If philosophers don’t make their stuff accessible, we’re going to die as a discipline.”
Welcome to Source Notes, a Future Tense column about the internet’s information ecosystem.
In his 16th century fresco The School of Athens, Raphael sought to capture the essential spirit of philosophy. The artist depicts Plato as an old, gray, barefoot man beside his most famous student, Aristotle. The two Greek philosophers hold thick bound books as they walk together beneath a magnificent stone archway, discussing their very wise and very serious ideas.
Whether they know it or not, many people continue to hold this Raphaelite view. Philosophy is seen as ancient, slow-moving, formal, and cerebral—not anything that is typically associated with TikTok.
A running theme of press coverage is that TikTok content isn’t very intellectual. Although TikTok recently announced that it was expanding the maximum video length to 10 minutes, popular posts tend to be much shorter, often 30 seconds or less. When a new user joins, the app’s automated “For You” feed tends to serves up the kind of fun, short-form videos that have made it so popular—things like cute couple pranks and videos of dancing twins. The initial dose of TikTok content is short, fun, and smile-inducing. But it’s not exactly nudging users to ponder the deepest questions of the human experience.
Recent tweets and TikTok videos—
Check out this and other videos on TikTok.