It was my birthday on Thursday and my roommates guessed (fairly accurately) that the thing I would most love would be to see a movie on philosophy. Admittedly, it’s in keeping with my Friday-nights-are-for-Bergman opinion of fun. We went to see Astra Taylor‘s latest, Examined Life, which was fantastic. Both Astra as well as the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah were there in person for a Q&A, which was awesome.
I really admire her project, which I believe is basically to bring a populist approach to philosophy. It’s of course a very simple though earnest way to unseat the ever-standing tension between the ivory towers and “reality” or “practicality” et cetera. I won’t go into detail on each of the eight philosophers, all heavyweights in the academe, but I’ll just mention a few things…
I particularly enjoyed seeing Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor interact. Butler, who is of course known for her dense, exacting words, was actually casual and funny, my guess is because their portion was about the politics of the body in part as it pertained to Taylor’s experience as a disability activist, herself born with arthrogryposis. For an academic discussion, the dialogue was fantastically vulnerable. Other stand-outs for me were Avital Ronell, Cornel West, Michael Hardt, and, predictably, Slavoj Žižek. Ronell touches on some actually frightening, disturbing points on the problem meaning. West intercuts the entire film with various snippets, each with this total vitality in his manner and speech (I’m a blues man in the life of the mind; I’m a jazz man in the world of ideas.) and while I take issue with some of his positions, I absolutely agree with his discussion on death and, specifically, making tangible the corporal, visceral conditions of death and finitude. Hardt is actually kind of forgettable save for a brief, though very interesting discussion on rethinking revolution and that we might posit revolution as transforming human nature so as to become capable of democracy. Lastly, Žižek addresses ecology as ideology, a political and social field that I think right now demands a huge amount of critical attention.
So yeah, go see it.