Saturday, March 9, 2013

Blog #59 - Examined Life philosophers

Out of the several philosophers that we saw in The Examined Life, which of them seemed:
1. To have the most appealing outlooks on life;
2. To have the least appealing (or comprehensible) views of life?

In summary, here they are in order of appearance in the film:
1. Cornel West - Harvard and Princeton educated, Dr. West has spent the majority of his studies examining race, gender, and class in American society.  He is considered a "neopragmatist", similar to that of William James' pragmatism (something has value if it works), where language is the primary vehicle for understanding the world and trying to make meaning from it.  He has called himself a "non-Marxist socialist" primarily because he's a religious person and cannot reconcile the fact that Marxism dismisses religion.  He also tends to be suspicious of all forms of authority, because they can lead to tyranny and / or abuse.  One of his latest books is called Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism

2. Avital Ronell - her parents were Israeli diplomats and she was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia.  She is a professor of German language in New York and has translated French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his earliest works introduced into America.  She follows a school of philosophy called Deconstructionism where she tries to discover the underlying meanings of words and language.  She feels that " language is a material that cannot not interrupt, suspend, resist, exceed, and otherwise trip up the very message it is charged to deliver," because "words can go AWOL (absent without leave" or in many instances, be misunderstood or misinterpreted by the listener / reader.  In many respects, this problem with language has led her to believe that there are no guiding Truths.  One of her latest books is called Stupidity.

3. Peter Singer - an Australian philosopher who has become very popular with his most well known for his strong moral beliefs about animals and eating meat.  He is opposed to animal experimentation as well as eating meat.  He follows in the school of Utilitarianism (John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham) which tries to maximize the greatest good for the largest number of people.  He also feels very strongly that the wealthy have an obligation to provide help for those in extreme poverty (remember the $200 pair of shoes ruined to save a drowning child).  On his own website, he claims to give 25% of his income to non-profit groups that are devoted to the poor.  His latest book is The Life You Can Save

4. Kwame Anthony Appiah - as mentioned in the film, he's the product of a Ghanian father and an English mother, he studied at Cambridge and has taught at some of the top universities in the U.S.  His studies have included examining the intellectual history of African Americans and he also deals with language and semantics - the underlying meanings of words.  In the segment we watched, Appiah talked about our notion of identity in a multicultural world.  He doesn't believe that race should form your identity, but that we should look for universalities between us to do that.  Forbes Magazine named him one of the Top Seven Most Powerful Thinkers in the world - Judith Butler is also on this list as well.  Appiah's latest book is called The Honor Code

5. Martha Nussbaum - is a professor at the University of Chicago with an interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy along with concerns over feminism, political philosophy and morality.  From ancient Greek and Roman philosophies, she has explored the idea of neo-Stoicism which acknowledges that things outside of our control have a great influence on us.  She has also tried to draw attention to the political and gender inequality and the lack of opportunities for women.  She's a strong believer in inclusion of other cultures and feels that those who promote Western culture (our culture) at the expense of others is paternalistic.  In the field of moral psychology, she wrote that emotions like shame and disgust are legitimate emotions to use to make legal judgments.  Her latest book is The New Religious Intolerance.

6. Michael Hardt - Hardt is a political philosopher from Duke University who was born in 1960.  As he mentioned in the film, he spent time in Latin America during the 1980s learning from the Marxist political movements in Nicaragua and El Salvador.  He has criticized globalization and sees it as a form of American imperialism.  Nations' power to control their own destiny has declined as American (and European) companies have expanded to control various aspects of developing countries' resources.  His major work, written with Antonio Negri, is called Empire.  Globalization has spawned new forms of racism and cultural change, and that the focus of political power has shifted from governments to corporations.  This shift is less democratic because there's very little if any recourse to stop / control these corporations.

7. Slavoj Zizek - Zizek is a neo-Marxist and has been considered the "hippest philosopher in Europe" by many and also called "the Elvis of philosophy."  He hails from Slovenia and has written many books.  He tends to provoke with his statements, like comparing Julian Assange to Mahatma Gandhi.  He rarely gives straightforward answers to questions: "I like to complicate issues. I hate simple narratives. I suspect them. This is my automatic reaction."  He is also an athiest and has written extensively on movies, violence, and other topics.  He apparently wrote a review of Avatar first w/o having actually seen it first: "I'm a good Hegelian.  If you have a good theory, forget about the reality."  His primary influence is philosopher Jacques Lacan.  One of his latest book is Living in the End Times.  

8. Judith Butler - is currently a professor of rhetoric and literature at the University of Berkeley, California.  One of her primary philosophical keys is gender studies and how sex and gender roles are flexible or shouldn't be as confining as we tend to see them in our society.  Gender identity does not necessarily reflect who are in our "inner core" - meaning, that just because we are men or women does NOT mean that we should be bound by those male and female roles.  Gender is supposed to be a secondary characteristic to who are, not a primary one.  Also, her political philosophy has been influenced by her religion, Judaism, and she believes in a "Judaism that is not associated with state violence," and has said that Israel does not represent all Jews.  As mentioned in the segment on Appiah, Forbes named her one of the top seven thinkers in the world and she has been called "a big-deal academic, ... and oft-cited academic superstar...the most famous feminist philosopher in the United States," "the queer theorist par excellence," and "the most brilliantly eclectic theorist of sexuality in recent years."  Her most popular book has been Gender Trouble.  

This blog will be due by Monday night (March 11) by 11:59 p.m.  


  1. One of the most appealing philosophies out of the modern philosophers shown in The Examined Life is Slavoj Zizek. He connects humans back to the environment as a part of the natural world, as opposed to others seeing people as above nature. We are animals and the only way to live sustainable and harmoniously is to reconnect with the earth. People today are used to living disconnected to their ecological background. I think this can give people a sense of discontent. It is more fulfilling in life to be connected to your natural roots and understand how the world and the environment works with the human population. The most appealing and logical way to live is the green way. The way the new industrial and technological age pollutes and kills thousands of lives and populations every single day the earth turns is not appealing, and it gets worse the more we fool people by hiding the problems. I try to live a similar life that Zizek does, because it is very appealing and rational.
    None of the outlooks on life from the philosophers in the movie seem unappealing, but the one I connected with the least is that of Michael Hardt. I think in America we stand for freedom, and to let people within the country live the way they want which isn’t equal. People will exploit others to no end, and that is America. It is sad in my eyes and I don’t think corporations and big businesses should be able to do that, but that is why I should move out of America. I don’t belong in a place of zero humanity, but some people want to and that is their choice to live in America. If somebody doesn’t like that way of life, it is up to them to move to a place where they like a different type of government and not change the one set in place here.

    Kristina Elkins

  2. I would say the most appealing philosopher in the movie would be Slavoj Zizek because of his views on ecology and taht we wont just explode or die off. Althogh he made it seem like humanity wil have to change he also said that people need to go back to nature but not to forget how to live which was very interesting. My favourite thing is that he said to love the imperfections in the world and to learn to love everyone for who they are. It was extremely interesting. His life style is very good and I strive to live like that, although I agrre with him that people should stop trying to act like there isnt a problem because there is.
    The philosopher that is the most negative in my eyes would be Cornell West, because he says we shouldn't try to be perfect or reach complete harmony. Although I agree that it is not possible to reach perfection I believe that you should always try to be perfect becasue you are your best when you try to over achieve and COrnell just shuts that idea down. His beliefs remind me of socialism because he is trying to demotivate peopel by saying not to strive for the better and that is extremly negvative and makes the outlook on life depressing whihc I would like to avoid.

    Kevin Simpson

  3. I thought Slavoj Zizek has the most appealing view of life. He looks in ecology and how our society wastes and throws out so much. In the movie, we saw him walking around and finding rotten food, video cassettes, and porn. I think it is an important topic to look into because global warming is something we all need to worry about. Not only is there global warming but we are also killing so many species off like penguins choking on coke plastic wrappings. Zizek looks into the amount of waste that we have. He confuses me though because he mentioned ecology as being a new religion. If that were the case, people would be making a huge deal out of it. Sadly, I don't see people working too hard on it. We just throw and throw and throw. As much as Zizek confused me, I still think he had the most interesting and important view of life.
    I thought Avital Ronell had the least appealing view of life. She went in depth about interpreting language. She tried to underly the meaning of words and language and it frustrated me. I thought she was absolutely ridiculous. I think language and words are fascinating because there are so many and they are our primary source of communication but to make a philosophy about it is a stretch for me. I think there are way more important things out there to analyze and that Avital was just going in circles with her 'points'.


  4. The philosopher that had the most appealing outlooks on life to me was Cornel West. His suspicion of all authority is very reasonable. It makes sense because people who have power and authority could make themselves even stronger leading to a tyranny. I also liked the ideas of Judith Butler. Her view of how sex is supposed to be a secondary characteristic and not a primary one is impressive. I feel the same way because we shouldn't put down anyone's ideas just because of their gender. that gender doesn't reflect the person's inner core.

    The philosopher whose ideas i did not agree with is Peter Singer. I don't believe in his ideas of animals and wealth. I don't agree with his ideas on animals because humans have eaten animals for thousands of years for survival and because some of the meat from animals is good for our bodies. his view on wealth isn't like mine because he thinks that the wealth has to provide for those in poverty. my view is that if people acquire their wealth by years of hard work, why should they have to share with the people who maybe just rely and the government.

    Hunter O

  5. I actually thought that Kwame Anthony Appiah was one of the most interesting philosophers. Something that I truly believe is that race should not be your identity. The color of your skin should basically be meaningless. We are all humans and the color of your skin means nothing more than your hair color does. It is just a physical characteristic you have and means nothing. It cannot tell you what that person is like or who they truly are so I don’t know why some people make such a big deal over race. Also I agreed that we have to have a more cosmopolitan attitude. Things vary in place to place. What is customary or accepted in one place might not be somewhere else. We have to learn to accept our differences and celebrate them because that’s what makes this world so great. No two people are the same and we each have different qualities and belief sets. We shouldn’t try and change this. Instead, we should be tolerant of other people and not condemn someone because of who they are. I think he has the most appealing outlook on life because if we were accepting of other people, cultures, and religions the world would have less war/conflict and overall be a better place where people could be who they are. One of the philosophers who had the least appealing outlook on life was Peter Singer. I LOVE MEAT! I realize this sounds a bit silly, but I don’t think I would be able to live in a word where I had to be a vegetarian. That is the main reason I don’t like his philosophy because meat is just SO GOOD. That probably isn’t the best of reasons but I feel very strongly about being able to have a nice steak instead of eating leaves.

    Louis Robinson

  6. Kwame Anthony Appiah seemed to have gained my interest the most. I love his beliefs and his outlook on life. His father is Ghanian and his mother is English. Appiah believes that race shouldn't form our identities, which is true. Race has nothing to do with what type of person we are and it doesn't define who we are. Some people think that their race makes them who they are and that's fine; however, I do not believe that me being African-American makes me who I am and defines me. Your personality and you presence around others makes you. Your attitude and your beliefs makes you who you are. Not the color of your skin or your ancestors and ethnicity.

    The least appealing to me was Peter Singer, the Australian philosopher. He has strong believes on animals rights and not eating meat. I do like that he his an advocate for animals rights, but that is kind of like the average vegan. When it comes to philosophy it should be about people, the history of people, free will, how people should act, etc. However, I do like his thought that the wealthy should give back to the poor and 25 percent of his income goes to non-profit groups that are for the poor. Wealthy shouldn't feel necessary obligated to help the poor, but they should want to help our economy become better. Singer should get more deep into animals if he really wants to be a philosopher on it.

  7. 1. In my opinion, the Philosopher with the most appealing outlook on life was Peter Singer. Partly, because he was the only one that I at least understood a little bit, but I also agreed with a lot of the things that he said. I’m not a fan of the whole hippie vegetarian thing because I like red meat way too much for that. What I do agree with, though, is how he wants the greatest good for the largest number of people. I feel like I’m a bit of a socialist, so, I think that Peter Singer’s philosophy sounds socially good to me. Also, I agree with him, when he says that the wealthy have an obligation to help the poor, because I was totally in for Obama’s plan for the rich to be taxed more. I think that I believe something similar to what Rockefeller thought, that the first part of your life should be spent getting rich and the second part should be spent giving it away. I also like that Singer gives away a lot of his money to charity.
    2. The person who I think has the least appealing outlook on life is Judith Butler because honestly she just sounds like an annoying feminist. She was always talking about gender roles and things, but in my opinion the playing field is pretty level right now and I don’t think that the whole gender discrimination thing isn’t really that big of a deal in our modern society.

    William Schwartz

  8. Jessica Mooney
    1st Wickersham

    Blog #59 Examined Life Philosophers
    After watching The Examined Life and hearing all of the philosopher’s outlooks on life, I would agree most with Peter Singer. Peter Singer believes in the school of utilitarianism in that the most important thing is benefitting as many people as possible. An example could be if a palace was burning down and there were 50 people in the palace, including the king, Singer would rather save 49 people instead of just the king. The “importance” of the person has no meaning; its quantity over quality. The one belief of Singer that I do not agree with would be his reluctance to eat meat. My Dad is a hunter and in my house, we eat meat every night. I do not see anything wrong with eating meat; to me it is part of the cycle of life.
    A philosopher from the movie that I would have to disagree with would be Slavoj Zizek. I do not understand Zizek’s mentality. He doesn’t like to give straightforward answers because he likes to complicate issues. I see no need from this way of thinking. I do not understand why someone would like to make things harder than they need to be. Also, Zizek is an atheist. As a Catholic, I obviously do not agree with way of thinking. To me, Zizek seems like a big know-it-all. He critiques movies before they even come out as if everyone in the world is predicable and he knows all.

  9. I think that Slavoj Zizek is basically like a foreign superstar who just could talk forever. I think I agree with a lot of what he was saying because I think that in our community we don't necessarily acknowledge the fact that things just don't disappear. Yeah, things decompose and what not, but where do our things really go? We don't acknowledge the environment and what's going on around us because it's basically like an illusion. We aren't witnesses to where our trash goes so we can just think to ourselves that it disappeared. I think the environment is such an important aspect of society. Zizek is a really straight forward kind of guy, and I definitely respect that. Sometimes you don't have to evaluate all the little pieces in something when you can predict the end result just as easily. I think sometimes he can jump to rash assumptions, but overall most of the things we witness are as we seem and it's no use analyzing them any further.

    Emily Elconin

  10. I thought Kwame Anthony Appiah had the most appealing ideas. I liked how he talked about a cosmopolitan attitude and how with a world full of different kinds of people we should learn from them without trying to make them like us. He also talked about the importance of the two groups everyone belongs to, your local group, which I assume means your ethnic group or religious group or whatever, and the larger community as a whole.

    The person with the least appeal I thought was Avital Ronell. I don't agree wit her views that anxiety is a good thing and that if you're not anxious you must not be a completely good person. I hardly think whether or not someone's anxious is indicative of how well they've lived their lives. Aside from that, something about her annoyed me but I'm not exactly sure what it was.

  11. My favorite of these philosophers would be Peter Singer. This is more than likely because of when he mentioned vegetarianism in the video. I have been a vegetarian and I practice it for the reasons he explains in the video. So I connected with his beliefs and I understood them. However, I like lots of topics and ideas mentioned throughout the whole video as different philosophers were interviewed. This includes Zizek’s outlooks, which were entirely new, and Cornel West’s many concepts.
    None of the ideas in the video were unappealing but the least appealing was probably Michael Hardt’s views. Realistically, I don’t believe humans will ever be able to come to a revolution that transforms us permanently. Sure, he mentioned how it takes some work but it sounded like he believed it could happen and I disagree.


  12. I think that Zizek was clearly the weirdest out of everyone, his ideas were not bad but I did not find them appealing in any way. When he talked about a toilet and how you flush something away and you think it’s gone, but it really isn’t. Yes that is a true statement but the way he explained it was a little weird to me. Overall I didn’t find anything that he had to say appealing I think that he seemed a little crazy overall, almost like a Dennis Rodman of philosophers except not wacky, just very weird. I’m a big fan of people being different but this guy is just so weird that I can’t take his words seriously. To me it seemed like cornel west had the most appealing ideas, I say this partly because of his education. He seems like a really smart guy and clearly he is, considering he graduated from Harvard and Princeton, it doesn’t get much better than that. What I like about him is that he says he is religious, so clearly reglion plays part in his theories and the way he thinks which I like because I can identify with that state of mind. I also like how he is suspicious about authority, I can totally agree with that because I am the same way, not every day authority but people like the president, I always feel like he has some master plan to take over the United States. Overall I really enjoyed hearing these philosophers talk about their beliefs, even though some were more appealing than others it was nice to see all the different out looks people have on society. It kind of gives you some variation of what you normally are told because you get to see many different outlooks you might not see at home.



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