Friday, July 24, 2009

Examined Life

In Examined Life Astra Taylor asks eight philosophers to talk for 10 minutes each. One complains that 10 minutes is OK for other philosophers but not for her. They cover a diverse range of subjects from the abstract "Why do we search for meaning? And is this bad?" to the practical (well, as close to practical as philosophers get) "What is ethics?" to the controversial "Ecology and concern for the environment is the new opiate of the people" to the spiritual and vague "Life is a preparation for death". Some of these 10 minute segments are interviews and others are monologues and one is a conversation. I doubt if anyone will find them all equally interesting as the subjects and approaches are very different.

Peter Singer (talking about ethics), Martha Nussbaum (talking about the social contract) and Kwame Anthony Appiah (talking about cosmopolitanism) are like seasoned lecturers giving a condensed Stage one university lecture. Avital Ronell is interviewed about the search for meaning and its pitfalls (personally I think she misses the point that meaning is so integral for human thought and communication that she is necessarily using mean in her criticism of the human desire to impose meaning on everything). Michael Hardt talks about types of political revolution and why it is generally unsuccessful in bringing about democracy. Judith Butler has a conversation on disability. Slavoj Žižek gives the most controversial and thought provoking rant on the idea that Ecology and concern for the environment will become a new "opiate of the people". While Cornel West's rant hops from one subject to another like a humming bird. He sounds deep and mystical but never dwells long enough on any subject for one to be sure.

Astra Taylor has cooked up a pot luck meal of philosophy which could be useful starting point for anyone wanting to know what philosophers do.

Ian's rating 2.5/5

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