Examined Life pulls philosophy out of academic journals and classrooms, and puts it back on the streets. In Examined Life, filmmaker Astra Taylor accompanies some of today's most ...
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Examined Life pulls philosophy out of academic journals and classrooms, and puts it back on the streets. In Examined Life, filmmaker Astra Taylor accompanies some of today's most influential thinkers on a series of unique excursions through places and spaces that hold particular resonance for them and their ideas. Peter Singer's thoughts on the ethics of consumption are amplified against the backdrop of Fifth Avenue's posh boutiques. Michael Hardt ponders the nature of revolution while surrounded by symbols of wealth and leisure. Judith Butler and a friend stroll through San Francisco's Mission District questioning our culture's fixation on individualism. And while driving through Manhattan, Cornel West - perhaps America's best-known public intellectual - compares philosophy to jazz and blues, reminding us how intense and invigorating a life of the mind can be. Offering privileged moments with great thinkers from fields ranging from moral philosophy to cultural theory, Examined Life ... Written by
The unexamined life is not worth living, Plato says on line 38A of the Apology. How do you examine yourself; what happens when you interrogate yourself? What happens when you begin to call into question your tacit assumptions and unarticulated presuppositions and begin then to become a different kind of person. See, I put it this way, that for me, philosophy is fundamentally about... our finite situation. We can define that in terms of we're beings toward death, we're featherless, two-legged, ...
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Perhaps my hopes were too high, or perhaps I was mistaken for actually expecting this to be related to philosophy, but this movie was disappointing. I'll start with the bad and end with the good. We have a lot of bad to get through. From a technical stand-point, the movie was poorly planned. There wasn't a clear theme that connected one speaker to the next in most cases. The movie is shot in the style of a moving-talking-head theme, with speakers giving their spiel as they move around environments which are supposed to intensify their themes. The effect of this varies. Appiah's scene was well executed, with his themes directly pertaining to his environment. However, in many of the scenes this indented effect was incredibly unclear and avoided entirely. In most of the speeches, the background only made sense when confronted with an open and sympathetic mind. To anyone else, much of it is simply egg-heads in the local park. However, much of the technical sloppiness with the film didn't particularly bother much. What was truly puzzling was the actual subject matter. With the exception of a few mentions and thoughts, this movie would have been better titled "Contemporary Collectivist Thought". Rather than focusing on the actual philosophical study of ethics, meaning, truth etc. nearly all of the speakers focus on propagating a political agenda, mentioning the philosophy involved merely as a side note. Rather one agrees or disagrees with the politics being propagated, one can't help but feel cheated by the severe lack of true philosophy. There are plenty of political documentaries one could choose to watch which are far better. And let's not forget the proud tradition of philosophers and their politics; Sartre defended Stalin, Heidegger was a Nazi, and Plato was an authoritarian. But alas, I digress. The simple point I want to make is that this should have focused on philosophy and not politics. Perhaps it was poor interviewing or a lack of focus, but the movie generally failed the subject of philosophy. So what was good? While I feel some tracks were clearly stronger than others, the soundtrack was generally good. I thoroughly enjoyed each scene in which Cornel West spoke, and would have preferred to watch an hour and half of him alone compared to the documentary we were given. And, although it's sad to have to stoop to this in listing what was good, the idea of the movie was good. It was simply poorly executed. If one is looking for some interesting speeches on leftist political thought, look to those more involved in political studies. There are far better documentaries on the subject. What's more, if one has political views short of the far left, ignore this completely. If one wants to watch a film with philosophical themes, look elsewhere (namely Waking Life). If one has free time, look elsewhere. There is nothing about this film that I can see as great for anyone. Perhaps one could cut the West bits and present them as a nice little bit on philosophy. But beyond that, I have no reason to recommend this film.
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