Examined Life (2008) - full transcript

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 reveals philosophy's power to transform the way we see the world around us and imagine our place in it.

[Man] "The unexamined life is not
worth living," Plato says in
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,

I mean, philosophy
is fundamentally about...

our finite situation.

We can define that in terms of
we're beings toward death,

and we're featherless, two-legged,
linguistically conscious creatures
born between urine and feces...

whose body will one day
be the culinary delight
of terrestrial worms.

That's us.
We're beings toward death.

At the same time, we have desire
while we are organisms
in space and time,

and so it's desire
in the face of death.

And then of course,
you've got dogmatism,
various attempts to hold on to certainty,

various forms of idolatry,
and you've got dialogue
in the face of dogmatism.

And then of course,
structurally and institutionally
you have domination...

and you have democracy.

You have attempts of people
tying to render accountable...

elites, kings, queens, suzerians,
corporate elites, politicians,

trying to make these elites
accountable to eveyday people.

So philosophy itself becomes...

a critical disposition...

of wrestling with desire
in the face of death,

wrestling with dialogue
in the face of- of dogmatism,

and wrestling with democracy-
trying to keep alive very fragile
democratic experiments-

in the face of structures
of domination;

patriarchy, white supremacy,
imperial power,

um- uh, state power.

All those concentrated forms
of power...

that are not accountable to people
who are affected by them.

So, can you hear me well?

[Astra Taylor]
And you can speak to me, so-
Good. Vey good.

Wonderful. Okay.

So I was trying to figure out
what you were getting me
into here,

and how we're implicated
in this walk.

I was going to interview you
and ask you what you thought
you were doing.

I'm specifically thinking about
the challenge of making a film
about philosophy,

which, um, obviously
has a spoken element,

but is typically written.

And book form allows you
to explore something so in-depth,

you know, 300, 400, 500 pages
exploring a single concept,

whereas in a feature-length film
you have 80 minutes...

in the form of speech
that's been recorded.

And in the case of this film,
each person has 10 minutes.

Yes, that is scandalous.

I can understand that the others
would have 10 minutes,

but to- to bring me down
to 10 minutes...

is an outrage-
there's no doubt about it.

The thing is, we don't know
where this film is going to land,

whom it's going to shake up,
wake up,

or freak out, or bore.

But even boredom,
as an offshoot of melancholy,
would interest me...

as a response
to these dazzling utterances
that we're producing.

But I- I would say that,
even if philosophy-

And don't forget that Heidegger
ditched philosophy for thinking,

'cause he thought philosophy
as such...

was still too institutional,

too bound up in knowledge
and results,

too cognitively inflected.

So he asked the question,
"What is called thinking?"

And he had a lot to say about walks,

about going on paths
that lead nowhere.

One of his important texts
is called Holzwege,

which means a path
that leads nowhere.

In Greek, the word for path
is methodos.

So we're on the path.

[Astra Taylor]
One thing I want to ask you
about is meaning.

Is philosophy a search for meaning?

I'm very suspicious historically...

and intellectually
of the promise of meaning,

because meaning...

has often had very fascistoid,

non-progressivist edges,

if not a core of that sort of thing.

Excuse me. Um-

So that vey often,

also the emergency supplies
of meaning...

that are brought
to a given incident or structure...

or theme in one's life
are cover-ups,

are a way of dressing
the wound of non-meaning.

I think it's very hard
to keep things...

in the tensional structure
of the openness,

whether it's ecstatic or not,
of non-meaning.

That's very, very difficult,
which is why there is then...

the quick grasp for
a transcendental signifier,

for God, for nation, for patriotism.

It's been very devastating,
this, um-

this craving for meaning,

though it's something with which
we are in constant negotiation.

Everyone wants something
like meaning.

But when you see these dogs play,

why reduce it to meaning...

rather than just see
the arbitrary eruption...

of something
that can't be grasped or explicated,

but it's just there...

in this kind of absolute
contingency of being.

To leave things open...

and radically inappropriable
and something-

and admitting
we haven't really understood...

is much less satisfying,
more frustrating,

and more necessary,
I think, you know.

And that's why
I think a lot of people...

have been fed and fueled
by promises...

of immediate gratification
in thought...

and food and junk, and so on-

junk thought, junk food,
and so on.

So the- the-

There's a politics of refusing
that gratification.

And I know that's crazy-making,
but I think that's where
we have to pull the brakes.

[Astra Taylor]
Some people might be troubled,
or might wonder,

how do you behave ethically
if there's no ultimate meaning?

Precisely where there
isn't guaranteed...

or palpable meaning,

you have to do a lot of work
and you have to be mega-ethical,

'cause it's much easier
to live life and know...

that well, that you shouldn't do,
and this you should do,
because someone said so.

If we're not anxious,
if we're okay with things,

we're not trying to explore
or figure anything out.

So anxiety is the mood,
par excellence,

of- of-

of ethicity, I think, you know.

Now, I'm not prescribing
anxiety disorder for anyone.

However, could you imagine Mr. Bush,
who doesn't give a shit...

when he sends everyone
to the gas chamber...

or the, um, electric chair?

He expresses no anxiety.

And they're very proud of this.
They don't lose a wink of sleep.

They express no anxiety.

This is something
that Derrida has taught.

If you feel that you've acquitted
yourself honorably,

then you're not so ethical.

If you have a good conscience,
then you're kind of worthless.

Like, if you think-
"Oh, I gave this homeless person
five bucks.

I'm great"-
then you're irresponsible.

The responsible being
is one who thinks...

they've never been
responsible enough.

They've never taken care enough
of the Other.

The Other is so in excess...

of anything you can understand
or grasp or reduce.

This in itself creates
an ethical relatedness-

a relation without relation,
'cause you don't know-

You can't presume to know
or grasp the Other.

The minute you think you know
the Other, you're ready to kill them.

You think,
"Oh, they're doing this or this.

They're the axis of evil.
Let's drop some bombs."

But if you don't know,
you don't understand this alterity,

it's so Other that you can't violate it
with your sense of understanding,

then, um,

you have to let it live,
in a sense.

This is the center of one of
the world's richest countries...

and one of the most
expensive places there,

and that raises an ethical issue.

I mean, there are people who have
the money to buy at these stores...

and who don't seem to see any kind
of moral problem doing that.

But what I want to ask is,
well, shouldn't they see some
sort of moral problem about that?

Isn't there a question about
what we should be spending
our money on?

So we're outside Bergdorf Goodman,
where they've got a display
of Dolce & Gabbana shoes.

And it's kind of amusing to me
because about 30 years ago,

I wrote an article called
"Famine, Affluence, and Morality"...

in which I imagined...

that you're walking
past a shallow pond,

and as you walk past it
you notice there's a small child
who's fallen into the pond...

and seems to be in danger
of drowning,

and you look around to see
where the parents are,
and there's nobody in sight.

You realize that unless you wade
into this pond and pull the child out,

the child is likely to drown.

There's no danger to you
because you know the pond
is just a shallow one,

but you are wearing
a nice pair of shoes...

and they're probably
gonna get ruined if you wade
into that shallow pond.

So, of course, when I ask
people this, they always say,

"Well, of course, forget about
the shoes. You've just got to
save the child. That's clear."

And then I stop and say,
"Okay, you know,
I agree with you about that.

"But for the price
of a pair of shoes,

"if you were to give that
to Oxfam or UNICEF
or one of those organizations,

"they could probably save
the life of a child, maybe more
than one child in a poor county,

"where children are dying because
they can't get basic medical care...

to treat very basic diseases like diarrhea
or whatever else it might be."

And that's really one of the reasons
why I think it's interesting...

to be here on 5th Avenue
talking about ethics,

because ethics is about
the basic choices that we ought
to make in our lives,

and one of those choices
is how do we spend our money.

I started thinking about
these issues back in the 1970s...

when, for one thing,
there was the crisis in Bangladesh...

where there were millions of people
who were in danger of starving...

because of the repression
of the Bangladeshis
by the Pakistani Army at the time.

And that made me think
about our obligations to help people
who are in danger of starvation.

Also around the same time,
I happened to meet someone
who was a vegetarian,

who, uh, got me asking myself about,

am I justified in continuing to eat meat?

What is it that gives us the right,
or that justifies us,

in treating animals
the way they get treated...

before they end up on our lunch
or dinner or whatever it might be?

And I read a little bit about
factory farming,

intensive farms,
and the way they confine animals,

which was something
that was really just getting
going at that stage.

And I thought that
you can't really justify this,

that we've just taken
for granted the idea...

that somehow humans
have the right to use animals
whichever way they want to.

And that isn't defensible.

The boundary of species
is not something that really
is so morally significant...

that it entitles us
to take another sentient being...

who can suffer or feel pain,

and do as we wish
with that sentient being...

just because we happen to like
the taste of its flesh.

So these two issues really got
me thinking about Applied Ethics,

which at this time in the beginning
of the 1970s wasn't really a field.

It wasn't really something
that philosophers thought
was properly philosophy.

But I think it was a good time
to start thinking about these issues...

because of the student movement,

the radical movement
of the '60s and early '70s...

which had created a bit more interest
in these issues and raised the question,

can we make our academic studies
more relevant to the important
questions ofthe day?

When you do apply ethics,

you often find that thinking things
through leads you to challenge
common-sense morality.

And of course, this is
consistent with a very ancient
philosophical tradition.

It's exactly what happened
with Socrates...

when he started asking people about,
"What is justice?"

And they thought
they knew what justice is,

and then they started
thinking about it,

and they realized
they didn't understand it.

And of course,
Socrates ended up having-
being forced to drink the hemlock...

because he was accused
of corrupting the morals
of the youth.

Now, fortunately that doesn't happen
to philosophers today.

But it could well be said
that from a conservative point of view,

Applied Ethics does corrupt morals-

"Corrupt" is the wrong word.
But it certainly challenges morals...

and might lead us to think
differently about some things...

that we have held very dear
for a long time.

A lot of people think that
you can only have ethical standards...

if in some way you're religious,

you believe that there's a god
who handed down some commandments...

or inspired some scriptures
which tell you what to do.

I don't believe in any of that.

I think ethics
has to come from ourselves,

but that doesn't mean
that it's totally subjective,

that doesn't mean that
you can think whatever you like
about what's right or wrong.

When you start to look
at issues ethically,

you have to do more than just think
about your own interests.

You have to ask yourself,
how do I take into account
the interests of others?

What would I choose
if I were to be in their position
rather than in my position?

One of the most obvious things
that emerges...

when you put yourself
in the position of others...

is the priority of reducing
or preventing suffering,

because ethics is not just about...

what I actually do
and the impact of that,

but it's also about what I omit to do,
what I decide not to do.

And that's why, questions about-
given that we all have
a limited amount of money-

questions about what you spend
your money on...

are also questions about
what you don't spend your money on,

or what you don't use
your money to achieve.

They just say,
"Oh, well, I'm not harming anyone...

if I go and spend
a thousand dollars on a new suit."

But, uh, in fact,
given the opportunities
that we have to help...

and given the way the world is,

I think that quite often
you're actually...

are failing to benefit someone,
which you could be doing.

I think we have moral obligations
to help just as we have
moral obligations not to harm.

Over the thousands of years of history
and development of philosophy,

a lot of philosophers have asked,
"Does life have a meaning?
What is it?"

And that's a question for which
I think we can give an answer.

And I think the answer is,
we make our lives most meaningful...

when we connect ourselves
with some really important causes
or issues.

And we contribute to that,
so that we feel that...

because we lived,
something has gone a little better
than it would have otherwise.

We've contributed,
in however small a way,
to making the world a better place.

And I think it's hard to find anything
more meaningful than doing that,

than reducing the amount
of unnecessay pain and suffering
that there's been on this world,

or making the world a little bit
better for all of the beings
who are sharing it with us.

I started thinking about
the difference between...

the context in which
we evolved as a species...

and the present, you know,
in this age of globalization.

And one way to think about that
is to notice that...

if you live a modern life,
if you're traveling
through an airport,

you're gonna be passing
lots and lots of people,

and within a few minutes
you'll have passed more people...

than most of our remote
human ancestors...

would ever have seen
in their entire lives.

As an American, you exist
in this kind of virtual relationship
with 300 million people.

If you're lucky enough to be Chinese,
your virtual relationships
are with, you know,

soon, one and a half billion people
or something like that.

So I think that's-
that's a way of dramatizing,

I think, the challenge
that we face.

We're- We're good at small,
face-to-face stuff.

That's what we were made for.

We know how to be responsible
for children and parents...

and cousins and friends.

But we now have to be responsible
for fellow citizens,

both of our country
and fellow citizens of the world.

And the question is,
can we figure that out?

which means citizen of the cosmos,
of the world.

And we need a notion
of global citizenship.

The cosmopolitan says,
we have to begin by recognizing
that we're responsible...

collectively, for each other,
as citizens are.

But second,

cosmopolitans think that it's
okay for people to-
to be different.

That they care about everybody,

but not in a way that means
they want everybody to be
the same, or like them.

Whereas, there's a certain kind
of philosophical universalism,

which is often associated
with evangelizing religions, where,

"Yeah, we love everybody,
but we want them to become like us...

in order to love them properly."

There's a great German proverb
which says-

"If you don't want to be my brother,
I'll bash your skull in."

And that's- that's the opposite
of cosmopolitanism.

It's the universalist who says,
"Yeah, I want you to be my brother,
but on my terms."

Now, if you think that everybody's
entitled to be different, right,

it can produce a kind of cultural
relativism, in which you say,

"Whatever they want to do,
that's fine.

"There's no place for me standing
outside to make any moral judgments,

any ethical judgments,
about what they're up to."

So that's kind of one position
that I want to distinguish myself from.

I think that it's very important...

that in the global conversation
of human beings
that cosmopolitans recommend,

one of the things we're doing...

is exchanging ideas about
what's right and wrong,

and that it's perfectly
appropriate to do so.

I have this privilege of having
grown up in a couple of places.

My mother came from England.
My father came from Ghana.

And they would never,
either of them,

tell us exactly how they met
or exactly what it was
that drew them to each other,

though my father always said
that my mother had
a splendidly un-English behind.

That it was-

She actually had a more African behind
and he found that attractive.
So I don't know.

It happens that in the shanty
where I grew up, kinship-
that is, the family-

is organized in a very different way
from the way that
it's organized in England.

We're what anthropologists
call matrilineal.

That means that the most
important adult male
in a child's life...

isn't, um, his mother's husband,
that is, his father.

It's his mother's brother,
his maternal uncle.

There's a word for that; wofa.

So I have, uh- uh,
these eight people in the world,

two- two young women...

and six young men
who are my nephews and nieces.

I'm their wofa.
And by our tradition, I'm-

Since my sisters don't have
any other brothers,

I'm the guy who's responsible
for their education.

If anything bad happens to them,
I'm supposed to look after them
and so on.

Um, now of course, in England,
if you have a father, that's his job.

There's a certain kind
of universalist who will say,

"One of these has to be correct."

But the cosmopolitan says
these are two ways of doing it,

and as long as they do the thing
they're supposed to do,

it seems to me absurd to suggest
that one has to be better
than the other,

or that one should be universalized
for any reason.

One thing that people talk about
all the time these days is conflicts
of values across cultures,

and often people think they're
kind of inevitably irreconcilable...

and that they're the root of
all the difficulties in the world.

And I- The first way, I think,

you need to work to disentangle
all the problems of that way of thinking...

is to recognize the huge diversity
of values by which people are guided.

We're different.
The cosmopolitan thinks
we're entitled to be different,

and that it's permissible that
there should be differences
in certain ways.

But the cosmopolitan also assumes
the fact that there are all
these different kinds of values...

and the fact that
we can recognize so many of them...

is a recollection of the fact
that we're all human beings,

that we share what
you might call a moral nature.

[Appiah] Our responsibilities
aren't just to a hundred people
whom we can interact with and see.

And that's, I think,
the great challenge.

Cosmopolitanism, for me,
is meant to be an answer
to that challenge.

It's meant to say...

you can't retreat to the hundred.

You can't simply be partial
to some tiny group...

and simply live out
your moral life in that.

That's not-
That's not morally permissible.

But you can't abandon
your local group either,

because that would
take you too far away, I think,
from your humanity.

So what we have to do
is to learn how to do both.

Aristotle had the ingredients
of a theory of justice...

that I think is very powerful.

And that is that it's the job of
a good political arrangement...

to provide each
and every person...

with what they need
to become capable...

of living rich
and clourishing human lives.

Now, of course,
he didn't include all the people,

but he at least had that idea
of supporting human capability...

that's the foundation
of my own approach.

Now then, in the 17th
and 18th centuries,

a very powerful new approach
came on the scene,

and that was
the social contract approach-

Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant.

The social contract approach
was inspired...

by the background culture
of feudalism,

where all opportunities
were distributed unequally...

to people according to their class,

their inherited wealth,
and their status.

And so what these theorists said is
try to imagine human beings...

stripped of all those
inherited advantages,

placed in what they called
the "state of nature,"

where they had only their natural body
and their physical advantages,

and try to imagine
what kind of arrangements
the would actually make.

The social contract tradition is,
of course,

an academic,
philosophical tradition,

but it also has tremendous influence
on popular culture...

and our general public life.

Because we-
Every day we hear things like,

"Oh, those people
don't pay their own way."

Or, supporting
some new group of people,

"Well, they'll be a drag
on our economy."

So the idea that the good member
of society is a producer...

who contributes advantage
to everyone, that is very-
a very live idea.

And it lies behind
the decline of welfare programs
in this county.

I think it lies behind many Americans'
skepticism about Europe,

about European social democracy.

You hear terms like
the "Nanny State,"

as though there were something wrong
with the idea of maternal care...

as a conception of what society
actually does.

Um, we also see it in another way
in images of who the real man is.

The real man is sort of like these
people in the state of nature.

He doesn't deeply need anyone.

He isn't bound to anyone
by ties of love and compassion.

He's the loner who can go
his own way...

and then out of advantage,

he'll choose to have certain kinds
of social arrangements.

The theorists of the social contract
made certain assumptions
that aren't always true.

They assumed that the parties
to this contract...

really are roughly equal
in physical and mental power.

Now, that was fine...

when you're thinking about adult men
with no disabilities,

but as some of them already
began to notice,

it doesn't do so well
when you think about women,

because women's oppression
has always been partly occasioned...

by their physical weakness,
compared to men.

And so if you leave out
that physical asymmetry,

you may be leaving out a problem
that a theory of justice
will need to fix.

But it certainly does not do well
when we think about justice...

for people with serious physical
and mental disabilities.

And in fact, some of the theorists
who noticed that said,

"Well, this is a problem,
but we'll just have to solve it later.

We'll get the theory first,
then we'll work on this problem
at some other point."

Well, my thought is
that this is not a small problem.

There are a lot of people with serious
physical and mental disabilities.

But not only that,
but it's all of us-

when we're little children
and as we age.

How do you think about justice
when you're dealing with bodies...

that are very, very unequal
in their ability and their power?

And perhaps even harder,

how do you think about it
when you're dealing with...

mental powers that are very, very
unequal in their potential?

And I think that this is
a really serious political problem.

We have only just began
to understand how to educate
children with disabilities,

how to think about
their political representation,

how to design cities
that are open to them.

I mean, this bridge we walked
across, a person in a wheelchair
can go over that bridge.

But, you know, 50 years ago
that would not have been the case.

There would have been steps,
and that person could not get
to see this beautiful lakeshore.

The capabilities approach,
as I've developed it
as a theory of justice,

begins with the idea
that all human beings...

have an inherent dignity...

and require life circumstances...

that are worthy of that dignity.

The areas of life that seem to me
particularly important...

when we think
about the capabilities are;

of course life
is the very most basic one;

bodily health; bodily integrity;

the development of the senses,
imagination and thought;

the development
of practical reasoning;

the development of affiliations,
both more informal,

in the family and friendship
but also in the political community;

the development
of the ability to play...

and have recreational opportunities;

the ability to have relationships...

with other creatures
and the world of nature;

developing emotional capabilities,

because I think a lot of theories
leave out the fact...

that we don't want to have lives
that are filled with fear,
for example.

In my view, people get together
to form a society...

not because they're afraid...

and they want to strike a deal
for mutual advantage,

but it's much more out of love...

that they want to join with others
in creating a world
that's as good as it can be.

[Astra Taylor]
So, do you have to go to school
to be a philosopher?

[ West ]
Oh, God, no. Thank God
you don"t have to go to school.

No. A philosopher is a lover
of wisdom.

It takes tremendous discipline,
it takes tremendous courage...

to think for yourself,
to examine yourself.

The Socratic imperative of
examining yourself requires courage.

William Butler Yeats used to say
it takes more courage...

to examine the dark corners
of your own soul than it does
for a soldier to fight on the battlefield.

Courage to think critically.
You can't talk-

Courage is the enabling virtue
for any philosopher,

for any human being,
I think in the end.

Courage to think,
courage to love,
courage to hope.

Plato says philosophy is a meditation
on and a preparation for death.

And by death,
what he means is not an event,

but a death in life
because there's no rebirth,

there's no change,
there's no transformation
without death.

And therefore, the question becomes,
how do you learn how to die?

And of course, Montaigne talks
about that in his famous essay,

"To Philosophize Is to Learn
How to Die."

You can't talk about truth
without talking about learning
how to die.

I believe that Theodor Adorno
was right when he says...

that the condition of truth
is to allow suffering to speak.

That gives it
an existential emphasis, you see.

So we're really talking
about truth as a way of life...

as opposed to simply truth
as a set of propositions...

that correspond to a set
of things in the world.

Human beings are unable...

to ever gain any monopoly
on Truth, capital "T"

We might have access to truth,
small "t," but they're fallible
claims about truth.

We could be wrong.
We have to be open
to revision and so on.

So there is a certain kind of mystery
that goes hand-in-hand with truth.

This is why so many
of the existential thinkers,
be they religious,

like Meister Eckhart
or Paul Tillich,

or be they secular,
like Camus and Sartre,

that they're accenting our finitude
and our inability to fully grasp...

the ultimate nature of reality,
the truth about things.

And therefore,
there, you talk about truth...

being tied to the way to truth,

because once you give up
on the notion...

of fully grasping
the way the world is,

you're gonna talk about what are
the ways in which I can sustain
my quest for truth.

How do you sustain a journey,
a path toward truth,
the way to truth?

So the truth talk goes hand-in-hand
with talk about the way to truth.

And scientists could talk about this
in terms of, you know,

inducing evidence
and drawing reliable conclusions
and so forth and so on.

Religious folk could talk about this
in terms of...

surrendering one's arrogance
and pride...

in the face of divine revelation
and what have you.

But they're always of acknowledging
our finitude and our fallibility.

I want all of the rich,
historical colorations...

to be manifest
in talking about our finitude.

Being born of a woman...

in stank and stench-
what I call "funk."

Being introduced to the funk
of life in the womb...

and the love-push that gets you out.

Right? And then your body
is not just death-

The way Vico talks about it.
And here Vico was so much better
than Heidegger.

Vico talks about it
in terms of being a corpse.

See, Heidegger didn't talk
about corpses.

He talks about death.
It's still too abstract.

Absolutely. Read the poetry
of John Donne.

He'll tell you about corpses
that decompose.

Well, see, that's history.

That's the raw funky,
stanky stuff of life.

That's what bluesmen do.
See, that's what jazzmen do.

See, I'm a bluesman
in the life of the mind.

I'm a jazzman
in the world of ideas.
Therefore for me, music is central.

So when you're talking about poetry,
for the most part,

Plato was talking primarily
about, uh, words,

whereas I talk about notes,
I talk about tone,
I talk about timbre,

I talk about rhythms.

You see, for me,
music is fundamental.

Philosophy must go to school
not only with the poets.

Philosophy needs to go to school
with the musicians.

Keep in mind, Plato bans
the flute in the republic
but not the lyre.

Because the flute appeals...

to all of these various sides
of who we are...

given his tripartite conception
of the soul;

the rational and the spirited
and the appetitive.

And the flute is- appeals
to all three of those,

where he thinks the lyre
on one string, it only appeals to one
and therefore is permissible.

Now of course, the irony is
when Plato was on his deathbed,
what did he do?

Well, he requested the Thracian girl
to play music on the flute.

I'm a Christian, but I'm not a puritan.
I believe in pleasure.

And orgiasmic pleasure has its place.
Intellectual pleasure has its place.
Social pleasure has its place.

Televisual pleasure has its place.
You know, I like certain TV shows.

My God, when it comes to music- Oh!

You know, Beethoven's
32nd Sonata, Opus 111.

Unbelievable aesthetic pleasure.

The same would be true for
Curtis Mayfield or the Beatles
or what have you.

There's a certain pleasure of the life
of the mind that cannot be denied.

It's true that you might be
socially isolated,

because you're in the library,
at home, and so on,

but you're intensely alive.

In fact, you're much more alive
than these folk...

walking these streets
of New York in crowds...

with just no intellectual interrogation
and questioning going at all.

But if you read, you know, John
Ruskin or you read a Mark Twain,

or, my God, Herman Melville,

you almost have to throw the book
against the wall...

because you're almost
so intensely alive
that you need a break.

[Astra Taylor]
You get electrified.

It's time to take a break and
get a little dullness in your life.

Take Moby Dick, throw it against
the wall the way Goethe threw
von Kleist's work against the wall.

It was just too much.
It made Goethe-

It reminded Goethe of
the darkness that he was escaping...

after he overcame
those suicidal impulses...

with Sorrows of Young Werther
in the 1770s...

that made his move toward
neoclassicism in Weimar.

There are certain things
that make us too alive almost.

It's almost like being too intensely
in love. You can't do anything.

It's hard to get back the Kronos.
It's hard to get back the everyday life,
you know what I mean?

That chirotic dimension of being
in love with another person,

everything is so meaningful,
you want to sustain it.
It's true.

You can't just do it, you know.
You gotta go to the bathroom,
have a drink of water. Shit.

For my generation in the mid-'80s
when I was in my 20s...

just starting to do politics
in a serious way,

it seemed like the only way to-

the only outlet for revolutionay desire
was to go to Central America...

and to somehow participate in,
or at least observe, their revolutions.

I mean, so a lot of people
went to Nicaragua.

I, with my friends, was mostly
interested in El Salvador.

But the, um- the thing I realized
at a certain point...

was that all we could do
is really observe what
their revolutions were.

And the defining moment for me
came in a meeting in El Salvador...

with a group of, uh, students
at the University of El Salvador.

And at a certain point,
a friend there said,

"Look, we're really grateful
for these North American comrades
who come to help us,

"but we really- what would
be really best for us...

"is if you all would go home
and make revolution in the U.S.

That would really be better
than trying to come help us here."

And it was true, of course.
I don't think any of these
North Americans were particularly helpful...

in Nicaragua and El Salvador, et cetera.

Um, and- But I said at that point-

"You know, Reagan's in the White House.

I have no idea what it would mean
to make revolution in the U.S.
I just don't have any-"

And then he said, "Look, don't
you have mountains in the U.S.?"

And I said, "Yeah. We have mountains."
He says, "It's easy.

"You go to the mountains.
You start an armed cell.
You make revolution."

And I thought, "Oh, shit."
You know.

It just didn't correspond
to my reality.

Like those notions of
constructing the armed cell,

especially constructing the armed cell
in the mountains and then sabotaging things.

It didn't- It didn't make any sense at all,
so we really had no idea how to do it.

Um, not just
we didn't know practically-

like we didn't know which rifles
to take up into the mountains.

It's-The whole idea
of what it involved was lacking,

um, and required
a real conceptual rethinking.

We're stuck conceptually, I think,
between two almost cliche ways
of thinking revolution today.

On the one hand, we have...

the notion of revolution
that involves...

the replacement of a ruling elite...

with another...

better, in many ways, ruling elite.

And that's in fact the form
that many of the modern
revolutions have taken...

and have posed great benefits
for the people, et cetera,
but they have not arrived at democracy.

And so that notion of revolution
is really discredited,
and I think rightly so.

But opposed to that
is another notion of revolution,

which I think is equally
discredited from exactly
the opposite point of view,

which is the notion of revolution-
that, in fact hasn't been instituted-

that thinks of revolution
as just the removal...

of all of those forms of authority-

state power, the power of capital-

that stop people from expressing
their natural abilities to rule themselves.

The question of human nature
has long been a thing
of political philosophy.

In fact, I'm sure everyone had
some stupid evening in college
smoking way too much and talking,

where you end up in a discussion
where, like, you decide you
disagree with your friend...

because she thinks
that human nature's evil,

you think human nature's good,
and you can't get any further.

I mean, this is- I think
that kind of stupidity, I think,

has affected a lot of the history
of political philosophy.

And I think the relevant
fact for politics-

Running aground.


The relevant fact for politics is
really that human nature's changeable.

Human nature isn't good or evil.
Human nature is, uh, constituted.

It's constituted
by how we act, how we-

The history- Human nature is, in fact,
the histoy of habits and practices...

that are the result
of- of past struggles,

of past hierarchies,
of past victories and defeats.

And so this is, I think, actually-

The key to rethinking revolution
is to recognize...

that revolution...

is not just about...
a transformation for democracy.

It's really-
Revolution really requires...

a transformation of human nature
so that people are capable of democracy.

Democracy is one of those concepts
that seems to me has been...

almost completely corrupted today.

In some cases,
it's used to mean...

simply periodic elections
with a limited choice of rulers.

In other cases, when one thinks
especially in international affairs,

it often means following the will
of the United States.

But really, democracy means
the rule of all by all.

It means everybody involved
in collective self-rule.

You see those turtles over there?

How do you transform human nature
so that people will be capable
of democracy?

Lenin's solution to this problem
is a properly dialectical one.

He thinks- and this is in large part
what the Soviets enact-

that there has to be
a negation of democracy.

Call it "dictatorship of the proletariat,"

some sort of hegemonic state
that would then operate the transition,

that would transform human nature,

then to eventually arrive at the time
when people are capable of democracy,

the state's no longer necessary,
et cetera.

It's properly the dialectical nature
of this that seems to me mistaken.

How do people learn democracy?
How does human nature change
to become capable of democracy?

Not by its opposite.

It can only be done in a sort
of positive development by-

You can only learn democracy by doing it.

And so that that seems to me-
the conception-

the only way it seems to me today
to be able to rehabilitate...

the conception of revolution.

Revolution then today
refuses that dialectic
between purgatory and paradise.

It's rather instigating
utopia every day.

There's something quite- that feels
immediately quite inappropriate...

about talking
about revolution on such a-

what would be sort of like...
aristocratic almost.

I mean not even bourgeois.
Aristocratic location.

You know, rowing
on a beautiful pond in a park...

with the rich of New York all around it,
it seems like kind of an absurdity.

[Astra Taylor]
Well, where would we pick that
would be the revolutionary spot?

But then that
would be cliche already.

Here, the cliche would be
that you'd choose as a visual site...

either- either a scene of poverty...

or a scene of labor and production.


because then you would show the ones
who would benefit from it,

and even the subjects, you know,
the actors that would- that would conduct it.

But it strikes me in another way
that it might be appropriate to have-

to work against such
a conception of revolution...

as, um-

as loss and as deprivation.

It makes little sense to me
to say revolution can't be made
in the United States...

or revolution can't be made in New York
because everyone is too comfortable,

because they have too much
to lose, et cetera.

They too have
an enormous amount to gain.

When we say a better world
is possible,

we don't just mean a better world
for those who are least off today.

We mean a better world for all of us.

This is where we should start
feeling at home.

Part of our daily perception
of reality...

is that this disappears
from our world.

When you go to the toilet,
shit disappears. You flush it.

Of course rationally you know
it's there in canalization and so on,

but at a certain level of
your most elementay experience,

it disappears from your world.

But the problem is that trash
doesn't disappear.

I think ecology-

The way we approach
ecological problematic...

is maybe the crucial field
of ideology today.

And I use ideology in the
traditional sense of illusory

wrong way of thinking
and perceiving reality.

Why? Ideology is not simply dreaming...

about false ideas and so on.

Ideology addresses very real problems,
but it mystifies them.

One of the elementay
ideological mechanisms, I claim,

is what I call
the temptation of meaning.

When something horrible happens,

our spontaneous tendency
is to search for a meaning.

It must mean something.
You know, like AIDS.
It was a trauma.

Then conservatives came
and said it's punishment...

for our sinful ways of life,
and so on and so on.

Even if we interpret a catastrophe
as a punishment,

it makes it easier in a way...

because we know it's not just
some terrifying blind force.

It has a meaning.

It's better when you are
in the middle of a catastrophe.

It's better to feel that God punished you
than to feel that it just happened.

If God punished you,
it's still a universe of meaning.

And I think that that's where
ecology as ideology enters.

It's really the implicit
premise of ecology...

that the existing world...

is the best possible world,

in the sense of
it's a balanced world...

which is disturbed
through human hubris.

So why do I find this problematic?

Because I think
that this notion of nature-

nature as a harmonious, organic,

balanced, reproducing,
almost living organism,

which is then disturbed, perturbed,

derailed through human hubris,
technological exploitation and so on,

is, I think, a secular version
of the religious story of the Fall.

And the answer should be-
not that there is no fall-
that we are part of nature,

but on the contrary,
that there is no nature.

Nature is not a balanced totality
which then we humans disturb.

Nature is a big series...

of unimaginable catastrophes.

We profit from them.
What's our main source
of energy today? Oil.

What are we aware- What is oil?

Oil reserves beneath the earth
are material remainders...

of an unimaginable catastrophe.

Are we aware-
Because we all know
that oil- oil- oil is-

oil is composed of the
remainders of animal life,

plants and so on and so on.

Can you imagine what kind
of unthinkable catastrophe...

had to occur on Earth?

So that is good to remember.

No. You call this porn? My God.

You can have a half of a hamburger.
There is some cheese sandwich.

Then you can have a muffin
and some juice.

Ecology will slowly turn, maybe,

into a new opium of the masses...

the way, as we all know,
Marx defined religion.

What we expect from religion
is a kind of an unquestionable
highest authority.

It's God's word, so it is.
You don't debate it.

Today, I claim,

ecology is more and more
taking over this role...

of a conservative ideology.

Whenever there is
a new scientific breakthrough-
biogenetic development, whatever-

it is as if the voice...

which warns us not to trespass,

violate a certain invisible limit...

like, "Don't do that.
It would be too much."

That voice is today more
and more the voice of ecology.

Like, "Don't mess with D.N.A.

Don't mess with nature.
Don't do it"-

this basic conservative...

partly ideological mistrust of change.

This is today ecology.

Another myth
which is popular about ecology-

namely a spontaneous ideological myth-

is the idea that we Western people...

in our artificial
technological environment...

are alienated from immediate
natural environments-

that we should not forget...

that we humans
are part of the living Earth.

We should not forget
that we are not abstract engineers,

theorists who just exploit nature-

that we are part of nature,
that nature is our unfathomable,
impenetrable background.

I think that that precisely
is the greatest danger.

Why? Think about
a certain obvious paradox.

We all know in what
danger we all are-

global warming,
possibility of other ecological
catastrophes and so on and so on.

But why don't we do anything about it?

It is, I think, a nice example...

of what in psychoanalysis
we call disavowal.

The logic is that of,
"I know very well,

but I act as if I don't know."

For example, precisely,

in the case of ecology, I know very
well there may be global warming,

everything will explode,
be destroyed.

But after reading a treatise on it,
what do I do?

I step out. I see- not things
that I see now behind me-

that's a nice sight for me-

I see nice trees, birds singing and so on.

And even if I know rationally
this is all in danger,

I simply do not believe
that this can be destroyed.

That's the horror of visiting sites
of a catastrophe like Chernobyl.

You- In a way,
we are not evolutionarily-

We are not wired to even imagine
something like that.

It's in a way unimaginable.

So I think
that what we should do...

to confront properly the threat
of ecological catastrophe...

is not all this New Age stuff...

to break out of this
technological manipulative mold...

and to found our roots in nature,

but, on the contrary, to cut off
even more these roots in nature.

We need more alienation
from our life-world,

from our, as it were,
spontaneous nature.

We should become more artificial.

We should develop, I think,
a much more terrifying
new abstract materialism,

a kind of a mathematical universe
where there is nothing.

There are just formulas,
technical forms and so on.

And the difficult thing
is to find poetry,

in this dimension...

to recreate-if not beauty-
then aesthetic dimension...

in things like this, in trash itself.

That's the true love of the world.

Because what is love?
Love is not idealization.

Every true lover knows
that if you really love a woman or a man,

that you don't idealize him or her.

Love means that you accept a person...

with all its failures,
stupidities, ugly points.

And nonetheless,
the person's absolute for you.

Everything life-
that makes life worth living.

But you see perfection
in imperfection itself.

And that's how we should learn
to love the world.

True ecologist loves all this.

I thought we should take
this walk together.

And, um-

One of the things I wanted
to talk about was what it means
for us to take a walk together.

When I first asked you
about this, um, you told me
you take walks, you take strolls.

I do.

can you say something about,
um, what that is for you?

When do you do it
and how do you do it
and what words do you have for it?

Well I think that I-
I always go for a walk-

Probably every day I go for a walk.
Every day.

Um, and I always tell people
that I'm going for walks.

I use that word.

And most of the disabled people
who I know use that term also.

And which environments make it
possible for you to take a walk?

I moved to San Francisco
largely because it's the most
accessible place in the world.

And part of what's so amazing
to me about it...

is that the- the physical access-

the fact that the public transportation
is accessible,

there's curb cuts most places.

Almost most places I'll go,
there's curb cuts.
Buildings are accessible.

And what this does is
that it also leads
to a social acceptability,

that somehow because-
because there's physical access,

there're simply more disabled people
out and about in the world.

And so people have learned
how to interact with them...

and are used to them
in this certain way.

And so the physical access
actually leads to, um,

a social access, an acceptance.

It must be nice not to always
have to be the pioneer.

Yes, definitely. Definitely.
The very first one they meet...

The first disabled person
they've ever seen.
and having to explain.

And yes I do, you know, speak...

and think and talk
and move and enjoy life...

and suffer many of the same
heartaches that you do.

Anyway, um,

but what I'm wondering about
is, um, moving in social space, right?

Moving- all the movements
you can do...

and which help you live
and which express you
in various ways.

Um, do you feel free to move
in all the ways you want to move?

I can go into a coffee shop
and actually pick up the cup
with my mouth...

and carry it to my table.

But then that-
that becomes almost more difficult...

because of the-

just the normalizing standards
of our movements...

and the discomfort
that that causes...

when I do things with body parts...

that aren't necessarily
what we assume that they're for.

That seems to be even more, um,

hard for people to deal with.

Is that somebody's shoe?
Someone's shoe.

I wonder
if they can walk without it.

I'm just thinking that nobody
takes a walk without there being
a technique of walking.

Nobody goes for a walk...

without there being something
that supports that walk,
uh, outside of ourselves.

Um, and that maybe
we have a false idea,

um, that the able-bodied person
is somehow radically

[Sunaura Taylor]

It wasn't until I was
in my early 20s, about 20 or 21,

that I became aware
of disability...

as a political issue.

Um, and that happened
largely through discovering
the social model of disability...

which is basically-

In disability studies,
they have a distinction...

between disability
and impairment.

So impairment would be
my- my body, my embodiment
right now.

The fact that I was born
with arthrogyposis,

which affects- what
the medical world has labeled
as arthrogyposis-

Um, but basically that my joints
are-are-are-are fused.

My muscles are weaker.
I can't move in certain ways.

And this does affect my life
in all sorts of situations.
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

For instance, you know,
there's a plum tree in my backyard.

I can't pick the plums
off the plum tree.

I have to wait for them
to drop or whatever.

Um, but then-
And so there's that-
there's that embodiment,

um, our own unique embodiments.

And then there's disability
which is basically the-

the... social repression
of disabled people.

The fact that disabled people
have limited housing options.

We don't have career opportunities.

Um, we're socially isolated.

We're, um-

You know, in many ways,
there's a cultural aversion
to disabled people.

So would disability
be the social organization
of impairment?

The disabling effects,
basically, of society.

What happened?
Did you come in contact
with disability activists?

Or did you read certain things?
I read a book review actually.

Oh, really?
Yeah, I just read a book review.

And when that happened,
I lived in Brooklyn.

And I would- I would really try
to make myself go out...

and just order a coffee
by myself.

And I would sit for hours
beforehand in the park...

just trying to get up the nerve
to do that.

In a way, it's a political protest
for me to go in...

and order a coffee
and demand help...

simply because in my opinion,
help is something that we all need.

And it's something that is-
is, you know, looked down upon...

and... not really taken care of
in this society...

when we all-
when we all need help...

and we're all interdependent
in all sorts of ways.

Should we stop
and get me something warm?

I don't know, honey.
That's pretty fancy.

Let's go find something good.

Yeah, I think that would
probably fall off my shoulders.

Although I guess we can try it on.

Basically, that's the back, yeah.
That would be-



Other arm.
Other arm?

And I like it.
It's stylish.
It's very stylish.

It's kind of, you know,

sporty and fancy.

It's gonna be a new show,
Shopping With Judith Butler.

For the Queer Eye.

Maybe I can just get it
while wearing it.

Hi. We put the sweater on.

Yeah, so I'm actually buying
the one that I'm wearing.
We just wanna buy it.

Okay. Um, so it's by weight.

Oh, it's by weight?
Can we guess?

I can probably just do it
for four bucks plus tax.
That sounds good.

Here you go.

Can you give me the- the bills first
and then give me the change?

Oh. Oh, I just meant the-
Oh, you just want-

Yeah, I just can't hold both
at the same time.
There you go.

- There you go.
- Thanks. Thanks so much.

I think gender and disability
converge in a whole lot
of different ways.

But one thing I think
both movements do...

is get us to rethink, um,
what the body can do.

There's an essay by the philosopher
Gilles Deleuze called
"What Can a Body Do?"

Uh, and the question
is supposed to challenge,
um, the traditional ways...

in which we think
about bodies.

We usually ask, you know,
what is a body...

or what is the ideal form
of a body...

or, you know,
what's the difference
between the body and the soul...

and that kind of thing.

Uh, but "what can a body do?"
is, um- is a different question.

It's- It- It isolates
a set of capacities...

and a set of instrumentalities
or actions,

and we are kind
of assemblages of those things.

Um, and I like this idea.

It's- It's not like
there's an essence,

and it's not like
there's an ideal morphology-

you know, what a body
should look like.

It's exactly not that question.
Yeah. Yeah.

[Laughs] Or what a body
should move like.

Um, and one of the things
that I found...

in thinking about gender
and even violence...

against, uh, sexual minorities
or gender minorities-

people whose gender presentation
doesn't conform with standard ideals...

of femininity or masculinity-

is that very often, um,

it comes down to, uh,

you know, how people walk,
how they use their hips,
what they do with their body parts,

uh, what they use
their mouth for,

what they use their anus for
or what they allow
their anus to be used for.

There's a guy in Maine who-
I guess he was around 18 years old.

And, uh, he walked
with a very, um,

distinct swish.

You know, the hips going one way
or another- and very feminine walk.

But one day
he was walking to school,

and he was attacked
by three of his classmates,

and he was thrown over a bridge
and he was killed.

And, um, the question that community
had to deal with-

and, indeed, the entire media
that covered this event-

was, you know, how could it be
that somebody's gait,

that somebody's style of walking...

could engender the desire
to kill that person?

And that, you know-
that makes me think
about the walk in a different way.

I mean, a walk
can be a dangerous thing.

I'm just remembering
when I was little- when I did walk-

I would be told
that I walked Iike a monkey.

And I think that for a lot of,
you know, disabled people,

the violence and the-

the- the sort of-
the hatred exists a lot...

in- in- in this, um,

reminding of people...

that our bodies are... going to age...

and are, um, going to die.


You know, in some ways,
I wonder also just, you know-
just thinking about the monkey comment...

if it is also a level of, um-

and this is just a thought
off the top of my head right now-

but just, um,

the- the sort of...

where- where our boundaries lie
as a human...

and what becomes non-human, you know.

It makes me wonder
whether the person
was anti-evolutionary.

Maybe they were a creationist.

It's like, "Well, why shouldn't
we have some resemblance
to the monkey?" I mean-

Well, the monkey's actually
always been my favorite animal too.

So actually quite a lot
of the time I was flattered.


But that- that-

When- When- When
in those in-between moments...

of, you know- in between male
and-and female...

or in between, um- uh,
death and-and health-

when- when do you still
count as a human?

My sense is that
what's at stake here...

is really rethinking the human
as a site of interdependency.

And I think, you know,
when you walk
into the coffee shop. Right?

If I can go back
to that moment for a moment.

And you- you ask for the coffee,

or you, indeed,
even ask for some assistance
with the coffee,

um, you're basically
posing the question-

Do we or do we not live in a world
in which we assist each other?
[Laughs] Yeah.

Do we or do we not help
each other with- with basic needs?

And are basic needs there
to be decided on
as a social issue...

and not just my personal,
individual issue...

or your personal, individual issue?

So, I mean, there's a challenge
to individualism...

that happens at the moment
in which you ask for some assistance
with the coffee cup.

Yeah. Yeah.
And hopefully,
people will take it up...

and say, "Yes, I too
live in that world...

in which I understand
that we need each other
in order to address our basic needs."

You know.

And- And I wanna organize
a social, political world
on the basis of that recognition.

Romanticism thoroughly saturated
the discourse of modern thinkers.

Can you totalize?
Can you make things whole?
[Astra Taylor] Right.

Can you create harmony?
And if you can't, disappointment.

always at the center.
Failure's always at the center.

But where'd the Romanticism come from?
Why begin with Romanticism?
See, I don't begin with Romanticism.

You remember what Beethoven
said on his deathbed, you know.

He said,
"I've learned to look at the world...

in all of its darkness and evil
and still love it."

And that's not Romantic Beethoven.
This is the Beethoven of the String
Quartet 131,"

the greatest string quartet ever written-
not just in classical music.

But of course it's a European form,
so Beethoven is the grand master.

But the string quartet-
you go back to those movements,

it's no Romantic wholeness
to be shattered,
as in the early Beethoven.

He's given up on that, you see.

This is where Chekhov begins.
This is where the blues starts.
This is where jazz starts.

You think Charlie Parker's upset
'cause he can't sustain a harmony?

He didn't care about the harmony.
He was trying to completely ride
on the dissonance, ride on the blue notes.

Of course he's got harmony
in terms of its interventions
here and there.

But why start with this
obsession with wholeness?

And if you can't have it,
then you're disappointed
and wanna have a drink...

and melancholia
and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

No. You see, the blues-
my kind of blues-

begins with catastrophe,
begins with the Angel of History
in Benjamin's Theses.

You see. It begins with the pillage,
the wreckage-

one pile on another.

That's the starting point.
The blues is personal catastrophe
lyrically expressed.

And black people in America
and in the modern world-

given these vicious legacies
of white supremacy-

it is how do you generate...

an elegance
of earned self-togetherness...

so that you have
a stick-to-it-ness...

in the face of the catastrophic
and the calamitous...

and the horrendous
and the scandalous and the monstrous.

See, part of the problem, though,
is that, see, when you have
a Romantic project,

you're so obsessed with time as loss
and time as a taker.

Whereas, as a Chekhovian Christian,
I wanna stress, as well,

time as a gift and time as a giver.

So that, yes, it's failure,
but how good is a failure?
You done some wonderful things.

Now, Beckett could say, you know,
"Try again, fail again, fail better."

But why call it failure?
I mean, why not say
you have a sense of gratitude...

that you're able to do
as much as you did?

You're able to love as much
and think as much...

and play as much.

Why think you needed
the whole thing?

You see what I mean?
This is even disturbing about America.

And, of course, America
is a Romantic project.

It's paradisal, "City on a Hill"
and all this other mess
and lies and so on.

I say no, no. America is
a very fragile democratic experiment,

predicated on the dispossession
of the lands of indigenous peoples...

and the enslavement of African peoples
and the subjugation of women...

and the marginalization
of gays and lesbians.

And it has great potential.

But this notion that somehow,
you know, we had it all...

or ever will have it all,
it's got to go.

You got to push it to the side.

And once you push
all that to the side, then it tends
to evacuate the language of disappointment...

and the language of failure.

And you say-
Okay, well, how much have we done?

How have we been able to do it?

Can we do more?
Well, in certain situations,
you can't do more.

It's like trying to break-dance at 75.
You can't do it anymore.

You were a master at 16. It's over.

You can't make love at 80
the way you did at 20.
So what?

Time is real.

So the one question that keeps
coming up- or a phrase-

is this idea
of the meaningful life.

Do you think it is
philosophy's duty
to speak on this?

A meaningful life?
How to live
a meaningful life.

Is that even a relevant-
Is that even an appropriate question
for a philosopher?

No, I think it is.
No, I think the problem with meaning
is vey important.

Nihilism is a serious challenge.

is a serious challenge.

Even making sense of meaninglessness
is itself a kind of discipline
and achievement.

The problem is, of course,
you never reach it, you know.

It's not a static,
stationary telos or end or aim.

It's a process that one never reaches.
It's Sisyphean.

You're going up the hill
looking for better meanings...

or grander, more enabling meanings.

But you never reach it.

Uh, you know, in that sense,

you die without being able
to "have" the whole,

in the language
of the Romantic discourse.

Let me just jump out here
on the corner.

Okay, you'll. Thank you so much.
[Man] Thank you very much.

Take good care now.
You too.