Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Examined Life Is Not Worth Watching

Last Sunday, some friends and I watched Astra Taylor's Examined Life, a film which consists of interviews with well-known contemporary philosophers such as Cornell West, Judith Butler, and Martha Nussbaum. Astra Taylor deserves credit for trying to bring philosophy to a broader audience, and for all of the thought and sheer hard work that clearly went into her film. Nevertheless, Examined Life suffers from a couple of problems. There is not enough time devoted to each philosopher, so the interviews are fairly superficial. The film would have been more focused if the philosophers had at least all been speaking on the same topic. Dialogues between two or more philosophers would probably also have been more stimulating than one-on-one interviews (in particular, an encounter between rivals Martha Nussbaum and Judith Butler would probably have been electrifying). Taylor's previous film, Zizek, was a superior effort, if only because focusing on one (albeit controversial) philosopher enabled his ideas to be explored more deeply.

On the other hand, it is gratifying to see any professionally made film about philosophers, so perhaps one should simply focus on encouraging Taylor to make more films, improving her craft in the process.
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