Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Examined Life

Went to the Northwest Film Forum tonight to see this movie, Examined Life, which is comprised totally—of interviews with pretty well-known academic philosophers, including Cornel West, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Singer, Judith Butler, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Slavoj Zizeck, and a handful of others who aren’t well-known enough to be known by me—which isn’t really saying all that much, since I make no particular claim to being widely-read in all the various sub- and related disciplines in my discipline.

It was way funnier and more engaging than anyone had a right to expect, especially the parts with Dr. West, who pretty much stole the show with his non-stop monologue about everything from how he philosophizes in music rather than words to how the United States, while being a romantic ideal is really more like a dream predicated on the historical oppression of blacks, women, indigenous people and corporate capitalism, all the while interspersing his remarks with references to hip-hop, contemporary culture and moving between a variety of styles of discourse, academic to street and back again.

My favorite part, though, I think was the interview with Zizeck at the New York City garbage dump where he argued the ecological consciousness has become the new dogmatic conservative religion so that anytime any possible advance in technology or human experience is proposed, ecology puts a kibosh on it by noting that such advances separate man from nature—an observation I myself have expounded upon in my environmental ethics class again and again—whereas, Zizeck claims, we ought to emphasize and accelerate human separation from nature in order to see beauty in all things, including piles of trash.

The connecting thread among all the interviews was movement; all the philosophers were either walking or traveling on moving walkways, or in a rowboat, which emphasized the peripatetic nature of the practice, but which also made for deliciously funny moments as people in the background noticed or ignored the ideas passing by.


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