The worlds of pop music and philosophy, by almost any measure, don’t interact much. (This dates back to 1684, the first year a pop star was able to steal a girl from a philosopher. It was all downhill from there.) Which is why it was so great this morning when the two worlds collided online in a wholly unexpected way.
It all started in the pages of Metro UK, when the religious philosopher Alain de Botton told an amusing anecdote about meeting One Direction’s Harry Styles and decided to expand upon his Unified Theory of Celebrity:
Are you friends with Harry from One Direction?
That would be overegging it. I was introduced to him at a party. Neither of us had heard of each other. We had a nice chat. It was fun.
Did you have much in common?
My plan is to shut the Arts Council and get people such as Harry Styles to go on television and recommend to everyone they read Proust and Hegel, which would achieve more in five minutes than the Arts Council achieves year in, year out. David Beckham could do Aristotle and Plato. The cause of intellectual life in this country would be helped immeasurably. The problem we’ve got is the most famous people in the country tend to believe in things that aren’t particularly ambitious whereas the people who believe in really ambitious things are stuck away in an ivory tower and no one bothers listening to what they think. In an ideal world Harry Styles would be teaching his 10million Twitter followers a little more about Greek philosophy.
Well now, isn’t that mildly interesting. Still, people bring up Harry Styles all the time in interviews, it’s not likely Hazza actually read it or—wait:
Socrates, born in Athens in the 5th century BCE, marks a watershed in Ancient Greek philosophy.
— Harry Styles (@Harry_Styles) February 13, 2013
Amazing. We could complain about Harry’s exact knowledge—marks a watershed what?—but that would be missing the point.
Directioners, though, reacted in ways de Botton may not have expected:
@harry_styles did u watch the lightening thief last night too
— SHAN (@niaIlmakesmecry) February 13, 2013
@harry_styles whut is wrong wif u harry
— george shelley. (@1DBieberGomez) February 13, 2013
@harry_styles thanks for the history lesson bro
— cole ♡ (@ITSCOLEPHILLIPS) February 13, 2013
— lo gann (@asapmalik) February 13, 2013
Your move, Arts Council!