Taylor-director of the 2007 documentary Zizek!- takes philosophy out of the academy and restores it to its peripatetic origins by allowing the field's brightest minds to publicly ruminate on such classic themes as truth and ethics. A companion to her 2008 documentary of the same name, the book cannot convey the film's visual surprises-e.g., watching Slavoj Zizek discuss ecology in the middle of a London garbage dump and Peter Singer musing on consumerism in Times Square-but where the film winnowed 90-minute interviews into 10 minutes of conversation, the book contains the complete conversations: Kwame Anthony Appiah expounds on cosmopolitanism in an airport; Martha Nussbaum ponders justice; Cornel West hitches a ride with Taylor through Manhattan and delivers an electrifying discussion on his philosophy of the blues. The subjects are unfailingly erudite, charismatic and surprisingly funny (Zizek, in particular, delights in needling Taylor for her "liberal, vegan, hippie" tendencies). It is regrettable that Taylor does not challenge her subjects more-she is too often the earnest and assenting graduate student-but she shines in her introduction, which is both apologia and agenda for philosophy's future. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Examined Life: Excursions With Contemporary Thinkersby Astra Taylor
A companion to Astra Taylor’s documentary film, the book features interviews with eight iconoclastic and/em>
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Examined Life boldly takes philosophy out of the dark corners of the academy and into the streets, reminding us that great ideas are born through profound engagement with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, not in isolation from it.
A companion to Astra Taylor’s documentary film, the book features interviews with eight iconoclastic and influential philosophers, conducted while on the move through places that hold special 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 the life of the mind can be.
Offering exclusive moments with great thinkers in fields ranging from moral philosophy to cultural theory, Examined Life reveals philosophy’s power to transform the way we see the world around us and imagine our place within it.
This accompaniment to Taylor's documentary film of the same name, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008, is a peripatetic effort to bring philosophy to the streets. Taylor speaks with today's most influential thinkers in settings that give meaning and inspiration to the discussions. Most notable are Peter Singer's thoughts on ethics and consumption in the middle of busy Fifth Avenue, Michael Hardt's talk of revolution in a rowboat in Central Park, and Slavoj A½iA¾ek strolling through a garbage dump while criticizing environmentalism. There are also appearances by Cornel West, Avital Ronell, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, and Judith Butler. Both the book and the film attempt to make philosophy approachable, and the majority of the discussions here do just that. Taylor, for better or worse, refrains from any overarching theme or commentary, although her interactions with these thinkers do go beyond mere interviews to productive philosophical debates. As in life, in the end it is the walks and the fruitful conversations that are important. Recommended for public libraries. [Look for the DVD review in a future issue.-Ed.]
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Meet the Author
Astra Taylor directed Žižek!, which was chosen as one of the top ten documentaries of 2007 by Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian and rated a must see” by the Chicago Reader. She holds an MA in liberal studies from the New School for Social Research and has taught at the University of Georgia and the State University of New York, New Paltz. Her writing has appeared in Adbusters, The Nation, and Salon. She lives in New York.
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