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“Examined Life”, Cornel West – Summary and Analysis

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Updated: Oct 22nd, 2019


“Examined life” is a film that reveals people’s philosophical view of the world. In addition, it tries to apply rationality in lives. This paper will examine three philosophers in the documentary. It will also try to examine interesting, frustrating, agitating, and exciting things about them.

Cornel West

Cornel West is a professor at Princeton College. The film begins with and ends with him. He is particularly interesting in his viewpoints.

He is interviewed on his way to the station by Astra Taylor who is the director of the film. This happens on their way to Penn station. He sits at the back of that car and wonders about the repercussions of becoming a different individual. He draws the director into this conversation.

I consider Dr. Cornel West interesting because his thoughts are extraordinary. According to Socrates, only examined life is worth living. In this regard, Dr. West examines his life in all perspectives of thought. He wonders what would happen if he questioned people’s unarticulated presumptions and tacit assumptions. This makes him quite interesting as well as baffling to ordinary people.

In philosophy, this kind of thinking would be allowed. However, that would not be the case in normal lives. Our lives contain so many assumptions and presumptions that people rarely bother to inquire about them.

Dr. West questions the need for an individual to interrogate his/her beliefs. Dr. West tends to draw most of his arguments from Plato as opposed to other philosophers like Russell, among others. He also says that philosophy is all about living life in the streets. He continues by stating that it involves living compassionately, courageously, and decently, among others.

Dr. West gives people an opportunity to question their lives and to live philosophically through wisdom. He brings to focus issues like love, which are quite debatable in the country. He is intriguing in his thoughts about philosophy and life.

Peter Singer

Peter Singer is both exciting and sensational. He is also emotional and logical in his sentiments. Moreover, he is moral, decent, and honest. I find him exciting because he cares for his environment. The movie brings this out in his thoughts about ethics of consumption, which occurs at fifth avenue boutique. Singer is an ethicist. He is filmed strolling along the avenue where he sees some of the world’s most affluent stores.

This leads him to say that people have the moral responsibility of reducing harm or minimizing the amount of unnecessary pain in the world. In fact, he notes that people should not think that their responsibility is merely to avoid harm or stop harm. Instead, they should try to make life better for others. This is intriguing given that most people rarely care to go beyond what they consider as they boundaries.

Moreover, some people go to an extent of causing harm as well as desisting from helping those offended. For instance, capitalism ensures that some people continue to become very rich while others remain very poor; however, rarely do those who are rich consider their poor counterparts who work hard to make them rich.

In addition, some nations are actively polluting the environment with their industrial wastes while others try to minimize environmental pollution. Singer is friendly and sympathetic to those who suffer. This makes him cordial, loving, and caring. Peter singer rates best among these philosophers because he uses his philosophy to help those in need as well as care for the environment. Moreover, he encourages people to work towards minimizing unnecessary problems in the world. Singer is therefore exceptional.

Judith Butler

Judith butler is a feminist. She strolls through San Francisco with her friend. They pass by the town’s Mission District as they question peoples’ cultural fixation on individualism. Butler is a post-structural theorist. She is also a gender theorist. In the film, Judith and her friend talks about human solidarity and permeability. They also talk about gender and disability.

Butler defends the disable and women’s right in her sentiments. She asks questions about what the body can do. In this regard, she tries to imagine that both males and female should have the right to do what their bodies are capable of doing and not what some people think they can do. She dwells so much in individualism and feminism as well as culture and gender. I am concerned with her emphasis on feminism because it touches on areas I consider irrelevant.

For instance, if she says that people should shun individualism, meaning that they should embrace togetherness or societal ideals, then it is quite ironical that the very ideals clash with feminism. This may bring about conflict of interest. For instance, if everyone (female and male) were given equal rights, then from experience, women would find it difficult to match their male counterparts in some areas especially in technical or involving tasks.

This would lead to fewer females in those areas. This would also cause uproar over discrimination. On the other hand, when women are given a specific percentage of slots in any given field, it will not matter how they perform against their male counterparts; reasonably, they will still be involved. However, I also agree with her on the fact that that individualism should be monitored so as not to distort society.

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IvyPanda. 2019. ""Examined Life", Cornel West - Summary and Analysis." October 22, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/examined-life/.


IvyPanda. (2019) '"Examined Life", Cornel West - Summary and Analysis'. 22 October.

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