Examined Life

Examined Life

2008, Philosophy  -   75 Comments
Ratings: 7.25/10 from 60 users.

Examined LifeIn 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. Slavoj Zizek questions current beliefs about the environment while sifting through a garbage dump. 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.

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75 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Madam Justice

    Instant Take: "An apple a day..." doesn't work, cure, or boost, but it reminds one to focus on health. Do not admire a canary's song whilst in the coalmine and be grateful you know why it sings on your flight... it may also be a "whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly" (Rev.Dr.MLK,Jr.) effort with suspicions of crying for the dismantling of damaging social profiling to aid in our evolution-extensions as a body people. Wink, peace, compassion, smile and all that jazz, blues, and funknastynasty thoughts; I feel like a priveleged passenger to Pr. West. Laying a cornerstone...

  2. Francesca Ranieri

    Enjoyed this short doc. If you dont have any understanding or interest in philosophy, it is very hard to understand.

  3. bringmeredwine

    I read the comments before I watched this as usual.
    I can see why Avital was off-putting to some posters. I had to listen to her twice before I got what she was saying. I didn't like her, but this isn't a popularity contest.
    I enjoyed listening to the different philosophies, spoken by very diverse individuals.
    I had to really pay attention and listen very hard to understand some of what was being said; but it was worth the effort.
    When I have the time, I'll watch the other doc on Slavoj Zizek, because he struck me as a very interesting man. I liked his outlook the most.

  4. cartwheelcollective

    The power of your arguments vs the power of this film, and all it processes, receptions, publications etc - is practically quite hollow in terms of argumentative weight. Yet wether or not that matters is pretty pointless. I think that purpose of the film is to get people to start thinking critically, and judging by some, definitely not all, comments it does a pretty good job. Anyway, these philosophers are wondrous writers, consider this movie an invitation to READ their philosophies not an exhibition of them....

  5. Faisal Lone

    ben says "Never have I heard people talk so much, but say so little"
    I think he is right and I also guess it may be because
    Total verifiable human knowledge = science
    Total divine knowledge = religion
    Science is still struggling with "how" question of our existence and, not to mention, is far away from answering the "why" question and the meanings of life.
    Religion...... imagine how politically incorrect it would feel if one of these philosopher says that ISLAM has all the answers to this question or CHRISTIANITY has all the answers or BUDDHAISM.
    Now in the absence of both (total verifiable human knowledge + total divine knowledge) no matter how hard you try or no matter how much is your vocabulary you would end up saying something like these philosophers did....as ben said "talk so much, but say so little"

    1. Karl

      I would like you to splain to me better what you mean by talking to much wihtout saying anything, it is interesting to me you saying this because I felt they said alot, as an introduction to much more deeper and spanding arguments. My email is chulovegetariano@hotmail.es

  6. James Taylor

    Hmm... I liked what they had to say. The way it was pieced together was pretty terrible... the cinematography.

    1. Tina


  7. AlphaBethCheth

    @RobbieRowboat, So far your comment has been the most one-sided and banal of all comments made here.

    To me it feels as if it is a throw-back mentality. You advocate a life of thinking which includes a brain-washed red-neckism. One of America's shame and a definite misguided element in your make-up.

    You are like an imaginary everyman philosopher - highly common/crude/lower hanging fruit destined soon to be removed by the natural evolution of progress.

    You do not grasp the concept that Indeed It DOES take courage to think, and be open to change in all aspects of life (not just the ideal). And that one's philosophical muse could indeed be music. Fredich Netiszche, to name just one philosopher, had no problem at all with this.

    You seem to not be much of a deep thinker and so your outlook reflects your beliefs.

    To me You seem to have feet of clay and no wings at all. I think You are neither real enough nor well-rounded enough; and therefore cannot appreciate nor respect those who contribute with their minds and hearts and spirits.

    You do not have enough faith nor a broad enough understanding of the physical world and how it impacts and in turn is impacted by the intangibility of mind, spirit, emotions and yes, even music.

    You do not have knowledge and breadth in the reality of the modern philospher -who in this case- most likely do not look like You.

    In essence I do not like what your words suggest and I think the diatribe offered here, by You masquerading as an understanding of philosphy has little ethical or political or spiritual or even intellectual value.

    1. tskebede05

      He was rather articulate in commenting on the film, whereas you merely launched into a series of not very well-written ad hominem attacks.

    2. AntiTheist666


      Oh Hello, I’m glad to see somebody taking an interest in Philosophy?

      First you say:

      ”Probably dumber things have been written, but reading your comment, it's hard to think of any.” This was all you said at this End Times posting.

      Then one hour later, here, you say:

      ”He was rather articulate in commenting on the film, whereas you merely launched into a series of not very well-written ad hominem attacks.”

      Philosophic words like pot, kettle and black spring to mind?
      Not very consistent and worst of all, not the least bit Venerable.
      Perhaps you need to examine your own life a bit more ;-)

      The Beady One

    3. RobbieRowboat


      This is a surprising response. I take it by your comments at the end that you think because I don't look like some of these people I am somehow against them or something possibly a bit more crash.

      The fact that I disagree with some of these people does not mean I would not like to have a talk with them. The world is a richer place because of people like this. The point is about thinking not about everyone thinking the same thing. Everyone thinking the same thing leads to cruelty.

      I watched it again and the opening section is powerful. A reminder of the institutes of power and the fragility of individuals. I still, however, find Cornel West's main section very troubling. He is a very religious philosopher. It is a difficult position in the modern cultural environment. You mentioned Netiszche, you may also remember his famous quote "God is Dead."

      "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"
      —Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125, tr. Walter Kaufmann

      I do not mean to offend your religion or political persuasions but the above rings true for an increasing number of people. The science that Cornell West is so reluctantly accepting of is damning and plain for ALL man to see. The 'secular' existential philosophers he mentions Camus and Satre painted a very familiar picture to modern thinkers. Both accept the death of God and try to deal with it in different ways. Satre looks at the emptiness left behind and Camus sees the absurdity of still wishing for salvation.

      I think philosophical world view has moved on since then. There is a general and increasing acceptance that there is no God. There is acceptance that there is no salvation in God. There is an acceptance that there is only us. There is also a realization that there are presently 7 billion people on the planet and rising. There is a realization that climate change is happening and we are, in fact, living through a great extinction event. The extinction might not yet be ours but the biosphere is changing rapidly.

      I did not share his outlook. I didn't like his near dismissal of science. I did not respect his attempt to lessen the importance of Satre and Camus. I did not agree with his idea about the path to truth being truth itself. Truth with a capital T. But you see I don't think there is a truth with a capital T. I think the path to truth is through knowledge, through facts, through the ability to solve problems and find answers and ultimately to find NEW questions. I think the path to Truth (capital T) is not the truth is any meaningful way. I think truth as he uses the word is poetical but has no real meaning - it belongs to what Wittgenstein would call a metalanguage. There being no Divine Truth is the existential pain that Camus and Satre were talking about. Unfortunately given the state of the world it seems a luxury, a contentment as Nietzsche would say, to spend an inordinate amount of time on it.

      I read a study once of a group of students that thought themselves how to scan a human brain and reveal through analysis what was last spoken to the person being scanned. They could scan a brain and then use a voice synthesizer to vocalize whatever was being said to the person being scanned. I found this fascinating. I found it also humorous that science was the first to be actually be able read minds. That what centuries of mysticism had promised and never delivered, science had delivered in about 200 years. If there was anything of Cornell West I found distasteful I assure you it was his Christian Platonism nothing else.

    4. Tom Carberry

      "Truth with a capital T. But you see I don't think there is a truth with a capital T. I think the path to truth is through knowledge, through facts"

      The journey means more than the goal. On a journey through infinity, no one can know "The Truth," other than perhaps 42.

  8. RobbieRowboat

    Avital Ronell

    She starts by questioning the value of meaning. Meaning is imposed on reality and if we only look at reality and not impose meaning then we can do little more than observe it as we move through it. She uses that to question authority - religion - social structures as they offer imposed meaning and to her deny the simple fact that reality just is . She advocates for a political stance against those that offer simple meaning or fast found for the soul. She sees the active acceptance of the lack of meaning in life as an impetuous for a proper ethical anxiety/vigilance when it comes to trying to make the right decision in a moral situation. To me this seems like an interesting extension of the existential argument but like her clothes perhaps a bit too much in the matrix. I think meaning is imposed, a narrative is constructed, we are built of language and this is our reality and to try to question this leads to an abstraction that can only end up in the matrix. In essence she argues for personal abstraction from the reality of meaning (and with that authority and power and whatever else) but to what she does not say.

    Peter Singer

    The basis of this argument was essentially a christian philosophy - do unto others as you would have them do unto you - which I always found to be a troubling and weak position. It does not take into account the subjective and variable nature of individuals experiences of reality. It presumes that you can know the mind of others.

    He goes on to suggest a moral confluence between engaging in consumerism and the suffering of others. His suggestion is that if we are moral we should give to charity rather than satisfy consumer whimsy. There are two problems here firstly we know money cannot fix all problems, on the contrary it can exaggerate or brings its own set of problems, and secondly we cannot always know how to act in the best interests of others. Even at face value I find the argument flawed. The only reason a citizen in a western economy is in a position to give money to struggling people is because they live in a western capitalist economy. Those struggling are not successfully engaging in this economy.

    For this to be a cogent argument I think it has to be based on a stronger form of love and commitment. It has to be based on the near total self sacrifice of individual will to lessen the burden of others. That is considerably more complicated that simply not eating a chicken burger and giving some money to Oxfam. The argument seems to display weak willed love or love without power. If it has no power it cannot not do good or bad - it can only add to the situation.

    Kwame Anthony Appiah

    A more rounded approach. This argument recognizes some fundamental problems with Global Ethics. We are well developed to be moral in small groupings but this does not successfully extend out to larger groups and we cannot all abandon our small groups or engage in relativistic morality. So he leaves us with a question. How does a person be ethical in a global virtual village?

    Martha Nussbaum

    She begins by describing the social contract as one where providers to the whole group, or those that pull their weight, are afforded the greatest roles and opportunities. She criticizes this on feminist and humanitarian grounds arguing that not all humans are equal and so the idea that only equal providers are given equal rights necessarily disadvantages the young, old, the weaker sex and the physically or mentally challenged.

    She then goes on to list a number of what sound like natural rights such as the right to life and health but she extends it to include the right to certain opportunities such as the opportunity to have a fulfilled rounded life. I did like that she focused on a right to have a varied emotional life. She seems to be arguing for equal opportunities.

    Cornel West

    So far this is the most abstract and to me feels as if it comes from a glass tower. He advocates a life of thinking which includes a ghetto element. It's like an imaginary beat poet philosopher - highly romanticized and removed. His says is that it takes courage to think, we have to be open to change, all aspects of life (not just the ideal) need to be thought about, philosophy should include music and but you can become obsessed. He is a Christian thinker and so I think his outlook reflects his belief in an afterlife. To me he seems to have no feet and only wings. I think he has not enough grounding, not enough respect for the builders and makers, not enough faith in/understanding of the physical world, not enough belief in the reality of the modern material existence. In essence while I like his words I think the philosophy offered here has little ethical or political value.

    Michael Hardt

    How to have revolution in the US. He believes a revolution of guns is not feasible and even when applied elsewhere it often results in just another power structure emerging. What is needed is a revolution of minds. He argues that for democracies to work people need to be capable of democracy. Democracy can only be learned through practice and that just because a state is formally labelled democratic does not mean that the people or even the government have any real say. He goes on saying that revolution is difficult in affluent societies, due to the perception of possible loss, but it must be learned that revolution towards a better world means better for all, not just those in poverty or servitude. I think he is simply advocating political awareness and the practice of democracy - while it may not seem revolutionary I think it has been so forgotten or sublimated in capitalist societies that if acted upon it may be revolutionary.

    Slavoj Zizek

    I love this guy. He is very difficult but has some great arguments. His basic argument is that the modern eco movement is a conservative ideology. It says don't do X from an authoritarian high ground and it idolizes and mystifies ecology. Basically he says the eco movement has it's head in the clouds. If it loved the environment it would recognize the rubbish we create and the chaotic nature of ecological change and try to further divorce itself from that process(nature) and try to turn the whole thing into art. I mean it is audacious! He argues for an enforced automated mechanistic socially good society - almost like Brave New World is a road map for him. Of all the philosophies on show his is the most radical but also possibly the most juvenile.

    Judith Butler + Sunaura Taylor

    The ethics of disability and gender. This one asks what is it to be human and why do people fear the different. Sunaura argues that Human is a collection of differing attributes and there is no set form. Judith argues that disabilitiy is something imposed by society on the differently functional. Judith asked if the fear in people is an expression of pack hostility to those perceived as being not quite human or on the border of being part of the pack. It ends with a statement that when a person asks for assistance they are in effect asking what kind of world we live in? Of all the philosophies on show this is possibly the most personal but also the most reflective of real daily societal and political issues in cultures worldwide.

  9. oddsrhuge

    philosophers mis-quoted and points missed....lame attempt, at.....hmmm

    What was the point here?

  10. Brian Lang

    well examine this. it was Plato who wrote it. There is some concern over whether or not Socrates was an historical or literary figure.

  11. Brad

    "The unexamined life is not worth living" is a quote by Socrates., not Plato.

    This film didn't even get that right.

    1. kartik walia

      "The unexamined life is not worth living"
      This quote is found in the text(The Apology of Socrates) by plato.

  12. austin

    Oh Americans. The average person (even if he is cool enough to watch documentaries online) in this fast food culture of ours has little if no capacity to consider much beyond vague capitalistic drives, repressed sexuality, and "unexplained depression" that permeates all aspects of their rat-race existence. They think, "My life looks like an Ethan Alan commercial so everything must be a-ok with the universe." Even to begin to approach some of the ideas here you would at a minimum have to be honest about how your western lifestyle has corrupted your ability to think. Freedom is in the truth about existence, not in the truth of living in America.

  13. Shane Henderson

    I watched this video again and summarized the painful amounts of fluff for each person minus the intro and exit by Cornel West who seemed to get 30 minutes while everyone else got 10minutes.

    Avital Ronell
    - Don't try to find meaning in everything, just let it exist.
    - Be obsessive about being ethical. You can never be ethical enough because people are different from you.

    Peter Singer
    - Wading into a pond to save a drowning child and in the process ruining your shoes is the same as giving the value of the shoes to a charity to save children.
    - Humans shouldn't have the right to farm animals for meat because they are so similar to us.
    - Examining ethics causes you to question common sense morality.
    - Ethics doesn't require religion, but it isn't subjective to your desires.
    - What you decide to not do is an important ethical decision.
    - Life has meaning when we connect to important causes like making the world a better by reducing suffering.

    Kwame Anthony Appiah
    - We evolved to be responsible to our small family groups, but now we need to be responsible to everyone on earth.
    - This doesn’t mean love everyone as long as they are like you.
    - There are different ways to raise a family and no one way should be universal.
    - You can’t withdrawl your morals to your local group, but at the same time can’t abandon them to the global group.

    Martha Nussbaum
    - Give humans opportunity
    - Imagine the world without inherited opportunity
    - A good member of society provides advantage to everyone.
    - A theory of justice needs to include physical and mental disabilities including the young and old.
    - All humans have an inherit dignity and require the circumstances to develop including: life, health, integrity, sensation, imagination, thinking, reasoning, pleasure, relationships, emotions.

    Cornel West
    - Thinking critically requires courage.
    - Philosophy includes learning how to die.
    - Truth is a way of life.
    - Humans don’t know absolute truth and we can’t fully grasp the ultimate nature of the world.
    - There are attempts to correct our limited knowledge by scientific pursuits or divine revelation.
    - Philosophy doesn’t often go into the dirty nature of reality.
    - You are not really alive unless you are using your intellectual capacity, but you can become obsessed with it.

    Michael Hardt
    - Revolution is commonly seen as either: Replace the ruling elite with a “better” ruling elite or the removal of authority. The first removes the possibility of democracy. The second removes the capability to rule.
    - Human nature isn’t good or evil; it is a combination of our history.
    - Lenin’s possibility to achieve democracy is to use the state to transform human nature first, then transform into a democracy, but in reality you can only learn democracy by doing it.

    Slavoj Zizek
    - Our relation to our filth follows an “out of sight, out of mind” principle, but trash doesn’t disappear.
    - Ideology addresses real problems but mystifies them.
    - We search for meaning when a horrible event happens to make it easier to accept.
    - The ideology of ecology is that world is in the best possible state and that humans disturb nature.
    - Nature is not an organism in balance that humans exploit, but rather a series of great catastrophes.
    - Ecology is becoming more like religion with dogmas.
    - Even if we learn the potential catastrophes of nature, we ignore them as long as they don’t manifest near us.
    - The solution is not to worry about saving nature, but to figure out how to survive without it by becoming more artificial.
    - Learn to love our trash as a part of ecology.

    Judith Butler + Sunaura Taylor
    - Disabled people are socially isolated and further disabled by the expectations of “normal” people.
    - A body has a set of capabilities, but it doesn’t have a perfect form.

  14. Katie Land

    I thought alot of it was really pretentious. Everything was wrapped up in huge words to distract from the fact that maybe some of them didn't have much to say. I also didn't like when she made the remark about Bush. Not because of Bush, but because she can't and shouldn't try to say what someone she doesn't know is feeling. And the way she said it was very bitchy and biased. Which makes me think she's not looking at things from different angles so how can I trust or listen to her philosophy?

  15. Yen

    Thx Paul very true what you stated. I am by no means a philospher yet it is an intriguing subject to me. They only had a few minutes to express themselves and if you are truly interested you simply go into their personal work for more.

    I enjoy documentaries therefore they are always a plus and I will decide what I take away from them.

  16. alex

    What was with all the fedex trucks throughout

  17. Amy

    I don't understand why anyone was looking for its message when it was clearly the title of the documentary.

  18. Charles Justice

    This was a beautiful and inspiring documentary. Thankyou so much for creating this. Aristotle's school of philosophy was known as the peripatetic school, because he walked around while he was teaching.

    What a wonderful idea to film each one of these modern philosophers moving around in various appropriate environments. It made me really appreciate the power of the human intellect, and savour the pleasures of intelligent conversation.

    Some of the people writing the critical comments should go back and watch Martha Nussbaum's conversation. What she was saying is directly relevant to your comments.

    1. Tom Carberry

      Socrates via Plato said the unexamined life is not worth living. Aristotle opposed most of Plato's teachings, in particular his idea of forms and his third wave, or equality of women.

      Two completely different philosophical traditions. Aristotle leads to Catholic philosophy and the denigration of women, while Plato's eventually led to higher mathematics, the liberation of women, and diverse modern philosophies.

  19. IslamRose

    Interesting Documentary. I liked it. Interesting Comments too, The thoughts and ideas that whirl around your heads! Better come up with my own and with ways to articulate them!


  20. bb

    Philosopy is not for the Americans - they talk too much and say too little :) I did not like this documentary...

  21. deb

    I stopped when she pretended to know about what 'Bush" gave a s@#$ about. This was a remark that told me she assumes too much.

  22. Jo McKay

    Great film. Bravo to the National Film Board of Canada. I enjoyed, on some level 'all' of the interviews, and felt the philosophers interviewed tried their best to speak a 'relatable' language and in fact several spoke to their own experience that the discussion of philosophical questions often becomes too academic - when academia winds up a subject, so to speak the 'topic or subject' disappears and the egos take over. Those interviewed in this doc convinced me that they care about making sense, and if I am not stretching too much, hoped to encourage (maybe even inspire) those watching to consider the possibility that THINKING through and about complex questions might be exciting/interesting, dare I say, even FUN, maybe useful, potentially important? I fell in 'like' with the philosopher who brought us to the dump site - honest, authentic, intelligent, and kind. Nicely done, please make MORE!

  23. Prof.D

    Pretty decent cinematography, but as far as the philosophers interviewed, they stated the obvious which I thought was rather disappointing, for I was hoping to come across new thoughts I could ponder myself, but left with nothing new.

  24. Ginka

    Stoner Philosophy this one. Best left to the projection room of a museum...darting around staid and abstract ideas using long, unnessecary and liminal adjectives...should have know from the slow, movie like opening credits.

  25. redspiel

    While I do think that the people who say the people in this doc were just talking non-sense are being deliberately obstinate, the question then arises: how do you explain it to them so that they understand? actually, should you explain it to them?

    It's an interesting doc nonetheless because it's great to see if people who, on paper, seem to have such a good grasp of different notions can also be intelligent verbally when it comes to it.

  26. BJ

    Philosophers, who spent most of their lives refining their thought, lacking thinking power? Yeah. Of course you have the authority as a single human being to pass judgement on a group of thinkers so diverse. Btw. Peter Singer contributes most of his income to different humanitarian projects. Oh, and what would happen if the child whose life was saved by your donation grew up to save the lives of hundreds of other individuals, or maybe 'just' you and your family? Or what if your own children or children close to you grew up to become dictators or mass-murderers? What would happen then? I deeply question the validity of those kinds of 'what-if?'-arguments, they have been commonly used to justify many a horrendous act of the human race. That being said, there is nothing wrong with thinking about saving your own a** first (and the a**** of those close to you), most people, I think, live out their lives with this as a basic principle. The other position demands a more or less financially and socially privileged outlook.

  27. Matt

    I am amazed at the lack of substance in the thought of these so-called philosophers. I am suspicious of some professor living in NYC paying 3k+ a month in rent suggesting that I should spend my money in a more ethical manner. What happens if I contribute economically to saving a child's life and he/she grows up to murder hundreds of other individuals? I admit to the subjunctive nature of my thought, however most critical thought is of a subjunctive nature. I admit that suffering is terrible but that does not mean that the responsibility of saving the world is cast upon the shoulders of the man in the street. All of these philosophers lack thinking power.

    1. dorna moss

      What you're basically saying is, "I'm not going to help anyone because, hypothetically, something negative might come out of it...so no...I won't do it!" Common. If you live in the first world and have the means to help, that's a pathetic way to justify why you choose not to. At least be honest with yourself and others, and say you just don't feel like it, instead of alluding to the fact that the child you help may grow up to be a "mass murderer." What a load of crap.

      And I disagree with you about "the responsibility of the world being cast on the shoulders of the man on the street." First of all, it's cast on ALL our shoulders. At least all the people who are privileged enough to live in the first world and who aren't dirt poor. $40 for me is a few month's salary for a person in the third world. And secondly, saving the lives of just a few people is enough...don't worry about saving the whole world. The problem is that most people in the first world think like you...the "I can't save everyone so I'm not even going to bother" mentality. If everyone cared about helping just ONE or TWO people who were less fortunate than they are, the world would be a much better place.

      Oh and don't forget to see BJ's comment above yours: "Philosophers, who spent most of their lives refining their thought, lacking thinking power? Yeah. Of course you have the authority as a single human being to pass judgement on a group of thinkers so diverse. Btw. Peter Singer contributes most of his income to different humanitarian projects. Oh, and what would happen if the child whose life was saved by your donation grew up to save the lives of hundreds of other individuals, or maybe 'just' you and your family? Or what if your own children or children close to you grew up to become dictators or mass-murderers? What would happen then? I deeply question the validity of those kinds of 'what-if?'-arguments, they have been commonly used to justify many a horrendous act of the human race."

    2. anthony ratay

      I think you are assigning way too much of your own perspective in your rationale here. Your view of saving a child's life only then for that child to become some kind of malevolent force in the world is absurd. I appreciate your point of view regarding the movie but the notion of with-holding help for such an outside possibility just opens the door for that rationale to be assigned to anything.

      why pay your taxes if the money is going to go to help kill innocent people half a world a way? I bet you still pay your taxes.

      This movie to me highlights the fact that there are many different layers working here that are in conflict with each other and ultimately the choice is the person experiencing the moment.

      You get stabbed or shot, it's still your choice to scream.

  28. CuriosityKilledTheCat

    Intro my eyes glossed over. First woman interviewed has a "word vomit" going on. Lot of of big words in a stream of thoughts, but has no point.
    I didn't watch the rest of it because if the rest of it was like that it would have been a waste of time trying to follow it.

  29. Boberela

    The first woman was pretentious, we should all agree on that, however I think one of the main aims of the film was to make people observe the method as well. It was a beautifully made film and it was important that each person who spoke, seemed normal and realistic and someone you can imagine having a conversation with (the first woman being an exception). Apart from the summary at the top, you dont really know that these people are 'professional thinkers'(whatever that means).
    You don't always agree with what your friends might say or the way they say it, but you respect their words and that then adds to building your view of them, your relationship and objectively, the world and society you live in.
    Nothing was said? What did you want them to say? The nature of philosophy has always been, the exploration of things, and this was an example of people doing that; those who spoke, the viewers of the film and the film makers themselves. Look at it all as a whole...it would have been simply written down if not all aspects were important.
    And just to say, we are all 'professional thinkers', we should not attach meaning to such terms, which can later result in intellectual segregation. This will only result in limiting our thoughts.

  30. Roopy

    The first woman was talking sh*%e. The emperor has no clothes.

  31. M

    My impressions after watching the first 30 minutes of the movie. I think that philosophy is a quite unattractive subject by itself to many people. The goal of a movie about philosophy should be to make these ideas more accessible and understandable, inspire to learn more, find something relevant to a real everyday life etc., instead of showing all these perhaps great, but extremely abstract ideas. Those who really want to learn something about philosophy should take books instead of 90-minute movie, while a movie must target only novices in this field.

  32. Rita

    Thoroughly enjoyed this video. I liked that you took philosophical considerations to real life issues, it's not just in the hallowed halls of Academia.I like that you didn't try to tie everything up in a neat little bow. There are recurring themes commonalities but it's not forced into a box. I liked that with many of the big questions there aren't pat answers, just well considered discussion.
    I don't agree with some of the previous comments regarding being too complex in explanation. I think that the points are simply and elegantly stated to be accessible.
    Thank you for making this film. Rita

  33. Reader

    I'm familiar with a wide variety of ideas and I've seen a very large amount of documentaries and while I don't fully think they were talking nonsense, most of them (up until 40 minutes, when I turned it off) seemed to share the same 'philosophy' behind the green agenda (which 'magically' works oh-so-well with the economic downturn), that we must stop being haves in order to help the have-nots and thereby lower our own standard of living. The optimistic person would say such a thing could help everyone become a have but it's my guess that the goal is to lower the standard of living for everyone.

    We should not just question the idea, no matter where it comes from, but also the idea-maker because we are all being led down a dark path while kept to our 'bread and circuses', Hegelian dialectics and Plato's cave. We're told to let the stars guide us because we've fallen under the spell of the holy wood (hollywood) and we listen in awe when those on altars speak (via religion, politics and theater).

  34. Zarathustra

    'you have served the people and the people's superstitions, all you famous philosophers! - you have not served truth! And it is precisely for that reason that they paid you reverence...you have always been obstinate and cunning, like the ass, as the people's advocate...in the towns dwell the well-fed famous philosophers...they always, as asses, pull - the people's cart!'

  35. Drawdet Terv

    Honestly wanted some one to run up and shoot the first Lady in the face.

    Zizek seemed to be the only one with anything novel to say, though his obsession with all things Faecal is starting to bother me.

    Samuel L Jackson philosopher weren't bad either, didn't have much to say but he said it damn well.

  36. Alfred

    If you think this documentary is "pretentious", or, worse, if you think that there is "nothing being said", to put it bluntly most of this went over your head. This documentary almost barrages you with interesting concepts and ideas in every other sentence.

    It's a very difficult documentary, though: you must be familiar with a wide range of ideas in order to fully grasp the concepts they refer to. Very few in this documentary hold back their vocabularies. If you don't have the necessary familiarity with the ideas referred to in this video, I can understand how you'd want to dismiss the enormous wall you must overcome by saying something like "they talk a lot and say so little."

  37. Al

    The second woman interviewed made up at least five words. I started counting after a while.

  38. Centurion

    I stopped watching the documentary when the guy said we have "moral obligations", actually if i don't give a sh*t, its because i want to take care of only myself and/or want others less fortunate to die. My moral obligation is to myself. Is it ethical that i have to save money and think about another person? How stupid, thinks he can walk on 5th avenue in a cheap ass t-shirt, speaking his bullcr*p theories.

  39. oxman

    Hve we come to an age where people expressing intelligence and critical thinking skills is pretentious? I'm far from the sharpest knife in the drawer so I really enjoy listening to smart people speak there mind. If you go about labeling people pretentious are you really allowing yourself to really absorb the wisdom they are sharing. I thought they all had interesting things to say and I quite enjoyed the film.

  40. guy

    PS. for a definition of pretentious see Shane's post: "I have spent the majority of my life thinking and coming up with my own philosophy. At each stage of an idea I attempt to tear it apart from it’s assumptions to all possible counter arguments. I also provide justification and if possible evidence and logical arguments." good for you, try opening your mind to philosophy outside of your own. you might just learn something that you haven't already taught yourself.

    "If goal is to turn a lump of carbon into a flawless cut diamond, you can’t get there unless you discard something." what?

    "they have a lot of ideas bouncing around but haven’t refined them to the point that they can explain them in detail and without hesitation." just because you've never heard of these people because you were to busy developing your own impenetrable, flawless, rationally justified philosophy doesn't mean they don't know how to explain them it means that not all ideas can be boiled down. when it takes hundreds of pages to communicate an idea sometimes its not possible to just "get to the point." just because they don't spoon feed it to you doesn't mean their ideas are not worth while. I dare you to try read Zizek you pompous, self-styled armchair philosopher.

  41. guy

    he doesn't "work at the dump" dummy. Zizek is a well known contemporary philosopher.

  42. rink-a-fink

    I really enjoyed this documentary, thanks! Although, I am not (yet) very widely read in philosophy and I didn't understand what some of them were saying, especially Zizek and the first lady. Zizek may be well read, but I do sometimes doubt if what he's saying really makes sense (I've tried to read his books and always get the same feeling). Anyway, great doc. Judith Butler I'd not really heard of, and what she said was probably the most interesting.

  43. mr. jones

    it means so much to realize it's okay to think about life with such passion and in such depth!! i suppose this means i'm a philosopher :)wow! i shed tears of relief when i first heard cornel west going off in the beginning.

    very inspiring. i wish they taught philosophy when i was in high school. critical thought is not encouraged in the christian youth group scene, where it's not hip to think, it's hip to speak in tongues...haha oh boy

  44. Shane

    This video isn't that good.

    I have spent the majority of my life thinking and coming up with my own philosophy. At each stage of an idea I attempt to tear it apart from it's assumptions to all possible counter arguments. I also provide justification and if possible evidence and logical arguments.

    If goal is to turn a lump of carbon into a flawless cut diamond, you can't get there unless you discard something.
    These people seem like they have a lot of ideas bouncing around but haven't refined them to the point that they can explain them in detail and without hesitation.

    I would say that these people are just rambling about some unrefined ideas, but it may just be me that prefers people to get to the point. It may also be a by product of the lack of focus the film makers chose by just having a general discussion of philosophy.

  45. Paul

    None of these philosophers are "pretentious", most of them are very well read philosophers in academic circles (Peter Singer and Zizek, for example, are very well read philosophers) and I think Epicurean is correct in point out that this film is about critical think and major issues rather than overly sentimental, dramatic, and sensationalized documentary that distorts truth with rhetoric and sophistry. You guys don't have to like the documentary, but if you criticize it for being "pretentious" or being a "linguistic gymnasium", think about who your talking to. Your talking to people who studied philosophy thoroughly , and people who study philosophy learn to express themselves thoughtfully and emphasize on how they carefully choose words. Maybe most of you probably don't like it, but I like listening to them because how they choose to speak is well thought out. I know it can be very dry, and if that it is the core of the problem then maybe the documentary isn't for everyone. Also I don't think it was "ill-structured", the documentary was clearly about opinions and thoughts of different but influential philosophers. It wasn't meant to be "structured", it was merely a mini-survey of different school of thoughts.

    I think they say a lot and give critical insights, and perhaps they tried to dumb it down as much as possible; I know this because if you actually read their books its very different from what they say in this documentary, and its much more complex and dry than the documentary itself put together. They don't simply "talk", they say things critically and thoughtfully; they're not being pretentious because they're not using sheer metaphors just to sound like the New-Age gurus who tell you to feel good about yourselves because your actually an immortal.

    Some of the words they use may not be understood by most people because they're either using words that specific and unique to their own school of thought. I listen to them and I had no difficulty understanding them, and this is because I read enough philosophy books to know what they are talking about. I'm not saying that you all should read philosophy, I am making the case that the documentary shouldn't be criticized for jargon; For me these people weren't just using Jargons, I think they were sticking to their profession, academic rigor, and their true selves; for them not using the words they were using would not clearly reflect their own philosophy from their own perspective. I think they express themselves more clearly and professionally than all professional thinkers of most documentary who tried to talk like layman.

    I think the documentary is for philosophy students or people who are familiar philosophy; If most people dislike it because its all "talk" maybe you haven't listened enough or maybe you should read a little bit more philosophy before you ever listen to them again. I'm not blaming people for not learning philosophy, I'm blaming people for blaming philosopher who were simply being themselves.

  46. meg

    amusing... we all have different opinions... food for thought..it isn't a good documentary or a bad documentary, it's simply a documentary:)

  47. borgenstormes

    Very Very nice pleasure to watch this docu.True some of the people in could have been left-out and given more time to ex Zivek - whoe have some very nice controversial ideas . . .and what up with the lack of european or even asian philosophers.

    Its like the western society have taken the absolute ground to talk about meaning of life etc. and we are living in the most distinguished and superficial part of the world.

    BlaaBla - give yourself a thought take a walk.

    Other than very nice camera work and dynamic, plus different scenarios which kept the film a a good pace.

    Good recommend ! power to the thinkers, power to you

  48. galacticmonk

    excellent film! question life (and everything for that matter) and you will see clearly the wisdom & understanding this film brings out. you don't have to agree with all of the thoughts & conclusions. by thinking critically about the things of life we assume we understand and allowing for the possibility of being wrong, we open up levels of new understanding and awareness.

    if you don't "get" this film, start thinking & questioning.

  49. Axmed

    I found this very interesting. The title weighs down on this documentary in my view and is probably the reason why most people are posting negative comments.

    There is just too much to be said on the topic and it could only be so long.

    btw, what kind of structure di you all expect? There was enough mentioned to prompt any one to carry out their own reading in my opinion.

  50. c

    Dammit, you need an edit function.

  51. c

    I was actually listening very intently. What I heard from a number of these philosophers was a series of unnecessarily complicated sentences.

    In fact, I suspect that on a number of occasions, they just strung together a series of impressive sounding words together and hoped that no one would notice that their "sentences" lacked any coherent thoughts.

    Maybe I'm just too demanding, but I expect professional thinkers to be able to clearly express their ideas. And some of the thinkers featured in the doc were able to do just that.

    However, others failed miserably. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the doc because it was very different.

    with a bunch of big random words that they were rendered completely meaningless. But, I guess everybody has their own interpretation of what some of these people said.

    They were just words next to each other

  52. Steve JC

    I guess this doc would be dammed by some parties for either excessively dumbing down topics or being overly pretentious. Hard to see how it can simultaneously do both though.

    Personally I'm always working on my listening skills to try to draw as much from others as I can, maybe that's why I consider this to be so good, and I'm only a casual philosophy reader.

    Really cant see how the criticism can made that "nothing was said", to what are you comparing this documentary? A through reading of ancient Greek philosophy perhaps?

    I agree that Cornell West was both entertaining and confusing though.

  53. c

    Man, do these people lack communication skills. I enjoyed the doc, but I have to agree that for the most part nothing was being said. Loved Cornell West, but he wasn't making any sense.

  54. epicurean

    i mentioned high school because in lots of places they dont offer it at that age and that begins a life of not being interested in critical thought.

    if what you are saying is true and thats why you dont like the film fine, but because you have heard it before doesnt make it a bad documentary.

    I didnt see anyone other than the first lady being too pretentious. and i failed to see shallow linguistic gymnastics as you put it. they were using a language appropriate for the topic they were discussing, unlike you trying to use it right now to show that you are intelligent on purpose to show that its not because you are dumb that you didnt like it, which is fine.

  55. john

    That's an interesting opinion, epicurean (i mean that literally; it interests me). what makes you say that? Couldn't it be that we have already heard what these people have said and find such repeating of old ideas, rewording of simple thoughts, and blatant pretentiousness annoying? Couldn't it be that its BECAUSE we have questioned many things extensively that the shallow linguistic gymnastics performed by these individuals to display intellectual superiority while avoiding at all costs saying anything at all is frustrating for us to see praised and ogled over? Couldn't it be something else entirely? And why say something about high school philosophy? haha that just seems odd.

  56. epicurean

    I think those of you who are saying you didn't enjoy this video are perfect examples of what happens when we don't have philosophy in high school. There is no reason for you to have not liked this unless you don't like to actually question and think about life and your place in it.

  57. ugh

    woohoo, the search for meaning is 'fascisoid'

    that first woman was hilariously pretentious

  58. Mind

    I agree with ben too. I think this film is ill-structured and confusing.

  59. LifeQuest

    @ Sven: There are ways to bypass it. I use the add-on for Firefox. Works like a charm! :-)

  60. lol@comments

    sven, did you read FAQ no. 10 above the video link?
    im pretty sure theres a way to bypass the time limit there.

  61. john

    I agree with ben.

  62. ben

    Never have I heard people talk so much, but say so little. I did not enjoy this documentary.

  63. Steve JC

    Paul V, interesting comment care to back it up with some insights into philosophy yourself? Did you really watch this?

    I though this was excellent and will certainly watch it several times in the coming months, its excellent to see a documentary maker tackle a crucially important yet often inaccessible subject like this. In the modern world wisdom seems to be scorned upon in a bizzare and faux display of machismo and bravado that seems to stem from an egotistical refusal to learn or even consider alternative points of view.
    All too often the media and social norms determine our ethical standards and this is where we need to improve our listening skills to both our inner voices and to intellectuals, rather than labelling them 'douche bags'.

  64. Paul V

    good video, despite some douche bags...it seemed as though the most intelligent one of all works in a garbage dump

  65. Shawn McPherson

    This was really great!!!!

    Interesting views. It's good to see.