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Tomak

Documentary: Examined Life

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1279083/

 

It's a collection of surprisingly approachable and interesting interviews with all your favorite contemporary thinkers. I could watch hours of this. I can't believe it's never been mentioned before on cross-x. Has anyone else seen it?

 

It's on netflix instant if you have an account. There's a good teaser on the film's homepage:

http://www.zeitgeistfilms.com/examinedlife/

 

Cast of characters: K. Anthony Appiah, Judith Butler, Michael Hardt, Martha Nussbaum, Avital Ronell, Peter Singer, Sunaura Taylor, Cornel West, Slavoj Zizek.

Edited by Tomak
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Loading it now!

 

Edit - does netflix not support Chrome? I try to login via Chrome and I can't. I can with IE, however.

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It just leaves me resenting Hardt. The section where he speaks to the revolutionaries (in Honduras? I don't remember) and he says that an actual revolution just didn't fit in his plan.

 

I'm perfectly fine reading Hardt and Negri, but when I hear him speak I just can't shake the thought that he's the worst of the bullshit academics who only care for theoretical actions.

 

Whether that's true or not, meh, but listening to him speak was grating.

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I enjoyed the film.

 

I can't remember exactly what Hardt said, but I remember liking his part. I don't think he "only cares for theoretical actions," though.

 

The part I believe you're talking about is where Hardt recalls attending a meeting of revolutionaries, along with several other American academics, and asks "what can we do to help" (or something to that effect), to which the revolutionaries reply that they should go home and start a revolution in America.

 

Hardt asks how they should go about doing that, and the revolutionaries counter "Well, you have mountains, don't you? It's simple, you go to the tops of the mountains, occupy them, and work your way outward." Hardt then recalls being perplexed by the suggestion because he couldn't imagine such a thing happening in the United States' political climate.

 

I think Hardt was simply recognizing that "revolution," in our conventional understanding of the term, is not a very poignant political strategy in the United States. That shouldn't be a groundbreaking revelation to anyone, but I found the anecdote amusing nonetheless.

Edited by Danny Tanner

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Avital Ronell:

 

I have a few questions:

 

-Ronell argues (9:56) that we need anxiety constantly so that we'll always want to be more and more ethical. Why does "anxiety" imply a constant state of progress? Most people that are anxious are often confused and unsure how to progress, and thus don't. Why not pursue a worldview where the subject is able to feel comfort, but also a drive to excel? Why not couch the impetus in positive terms rather than negative ones? And - for example, the Bush thing - why would you want "anxiety" instead of "deliberation"? Both imply the same action, except one without the confusion and negative connotation. I'm not understanding.

 

-What is the point of the dogs metaphor at 8:18?

 

-"How do you behave ethically where there is no ultimate meaning?" at 9:37 - she answers, but I feel her answer ducks the question of how to define "ethical" without 'meaning'. If actions have no meaning, how can they be ethical?

 

-"The minute you think you know the other, you're ready to kill them". 11:19. I don't understand how this is true. If I may use a silly metaphor, but one which echoes our history: in the movie Avatar, the main guy doesn't know the natives. They are a blank, faceless mass of savagery which he is happy to assist in exterminating. But as he gets to know the natives more and more, he finds that they are not so evil as he thought. He began to know them, and they became less caricatured, and more of what they actually were. Why, then, is it bad to 'know' the other?

 

-What does she mean by the phrase "the other is so in EXCESS"? (11:15)

 

-"this alterity*, its so other you can't violate it with your own sense of understanding."

*what does this word mean, and what is she saying?

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I think Hardt was simply recognizing that "revolution," in our conventional understanding of the term, is not a very poignant political strategy in the United States. That shouldn't be a groundbreaking revelation to anyone, but I found the anecdote amusing nonetheless.

Sure, but he doesn't give that reason. He's pretty explicit in stating that it didn't fit into his own plan at the time, and the way that he says it is just grating.

 

I enjoyed the movie for the most part, though.

 

Edit: I'm going to watch that bit again. Obviously I'm not making a very coherent point.

Edited by Kunzelman

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Alright, post-revolutionstory, he says this:

 

And I thought, Oh shit, you know. It just didn't correspond to my reality. Those notions of constructing the armed cell, especially the armed cell in the mountains and sabotaging things just didn't make any sense at all. So we didn't know how to do it. Not just we didn't know practically, we didn't know which rifles to take up into the mountains, it's the whole idea of what it involved was lacking. And needed a conceptual rethinking.

 

My problem with this is that it makes the entirety of Hardt's project seem like a response to actual armed revolution. I think he is at least suggesting here that his own body of work is the "conceptual rethinking" of revolution, and that the revolution can take place on a level where he never has to learn about what kind of guns are best for the mountains.

 

I'm just left feeling a little empty when he says it; Hardt and his friends weren't up for a real revolution, so they had to think one up.

 

All that said, I recognize the problems with an armed revolt, and Hardt is making the right decision in the end. It's just his phrasing (or maybe his honesty) that rubs me in the wrong way. I really thought that the documentary was great, though.

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heh, I rather liked the Hardt section. Among some of my friends, when someone asks how to do something basically impossible, we respond with, "Well, you've got mountains, right?"

 

"How do I get a job teaching philosophy?"

"Well, you've got mountains, right?"

 

Though, I've always liked Hardt in interviews or talks.

 

Anyway, I sometimes feel like buying up dozens of copies of the film and giving it to people who are confused by what I do when I say I do philosophy.

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Avital Ronell:

 

I have a few questions:

 

-Ronell argues (9:56) that we need anxiety constantly so that we'll always want to be more and more ethical. Why does "anxiety" imply a constant state of progress? Most people that are anxious are often confused and unsure how to progress, and thus don't. Why not pursue a worldview where the subject is able to feel comfort, but also a drive to excel? Why not couch the impetus in positive terms rather than negative ones? And - for example, the Bush thing - why would you want "anxiety" instead of "deliberation"? Both imply the same action, except one without the confusion and negative connotation. I'm not understanding.

 

-What is the point of the dogs metaphor at 8:18?

 

-"How do you behave ethically where there is no ultimate meaning?" at 9:37 - she answers, but I feel her answer ducks the question of how to define "ethical" without 'meaning'. If actions have no meaning, how can they be ethical?

 

-"The minute you think you know the other, you're ready to kill them". 11:19. I don't understand how this is true. If I may use a silly metaphor, but one which echoes our history: in the movie Avatar, the main guy doesn't know the natives. They are a blank, faceless mass of savagery which he is happy to assist in exterminating. But as he gets to know the natives more and more, he finds that they are not so evil as he thought. He began to know them, and they became less caricatured, and more of what they actually were. Why, then, is it bad to 'know' the other?

 

-What does she mean by the phrase "the other is so in EXCESS"? (11:15)

 

-"this alterity*, its so other you can't violate it with your own sense of understanding."

*what does this word mean, and what is she saying?

 

Descartes wondered how we could know that we were not a brian in a jar with an evil demon placing ideas, sensations, and memories in our head. Everything we know could be a lie. So, he said before we can know anything with certainty, we must first doubt everything we know. This led him to the knowledge that I think, therefore I am. Which led him to the knowledge that a benevolent creator exists. Which led him to the knowledge that there is no evil demon, and life is not a lie.

 

I know things, I know my address, I know my friends, I know a fair amount about a few other cultures, and I know what ethical actions I would take. But in Descartes's view - a view which was the culmination of 2 millennium of Western philosophical thought - I *know* nothing, because I have not begun from doubt.

 

Well, I do doubt, but it's not the world I doubt, it's myself. The world is true, but I don't have truth.

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I'm just left feeling a little empty when he says it; Hardt and his friends weren't up for a real revolution, so they had to think one up.

 

All that said, I recognize the problems with an armed revolt, and Hardt is making the right decision in the end. It's just his phrasing (or maybe his honesty) that rubs me in the wrong way. I really thought that the documentary was great, though.

It seems to me that it would be flat out stupid not to consider the material realities of a militant revolutionary cell in the US. Such a cell obviously wouldn't survive long. I don't think its absurd or even necessarily disheartening to say that we need to rethink revolutionary activity. Virtually everyone in philosophy that discusses revolution in a positive light and in this era recognizes that its not quite as simple as it was. That being said I don't particularly like Hardt either but this statement in and of itself should not be something that you have THAT big a problem with.

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Well, I guess yall liked it.

 

Let's ask the obvious question for cross-x:

What does everyone here think of showing this film to new K debaters? Useful to get them some familiarity? Maybe it would spark some excitement and motivation? Or is it just terrifyingly overwhelming or mindlessly superficial?

 

Also, can someone recommend a book by Martha Nussbaum if I've never read her before? I was going to just pick one randomly from the "important works" section on her Wikipedia page, but I'll ask here first.

Edited by Tomak

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Descartes wondered how we could know that we were not a brian in a jar with an evil demon placing ideas, sensations, and memories in our head. Everything we know could be a lie. So, he said before we can know anything with certainty, we must first doubt everything we know. This led him to the knowledge that I think, therefore I am. Which led him to the knowledge that a benevolent creator exists. Which led him to the knowledge that there is no evil demon, and life is not a lie.

 

I know things, I know my address, I know my friends, I know a fair amount about a few other cultures, and I know what ethical actions I would take. But in Descartes's view - a view which was the culmination of 2 millennium of Western philosophical thought - I *know* nothing, because I have not begun from doubt.

 

Well, I do doubt, but it's not the world I doubt, it's myself. The world is true, but I don't have truth.

 

I don't see how this answered any of the questions I asked...:sob:

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Also, can someone recommend a book by Martha Nussbaum if I've never read her before? I was going to just pick one randomly from the "important works" section on her Wikipedia page, but I'll ask here first.

 

I've not exactly read a lot by her, and a lot of it depends on what you are interested in. For me, her most interesting work is the Frontiers of Justice. Not to say I agree with it, but it is provocative and lays out her re-working of concepts of justice and capabilities. But of course, it is smack dab in the middle of the work I do. So, consider the source of this suggestion.

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Nussbaum's work concerning feminism is a little dated but she is on top of her game when it comes to ancient Greek philosophy. The Fragility of Goodness is widely considered to be a very hot contemporary piece of work.

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