Community & Government

Democratizing Philosophy

Cornel West

Lesson time 12:16 min

Learn how to apply philosophy to everyday life as Cornel reminds us that the quest to be the best versions of ourselves is a continuous journey.

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Topics include: Philosophy in Everyday Life • The Endless Pursuit of Self


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Philosophy is in no way a center of attention in any culture, because it's usually a marginal activity performed by professionals, professors who have interesting things to say, but who rarely intervene into the larger public life of a people or of a society. And yet, any talk about love of wisdom must embrace and include most, if not all human beings at some moment in their lives. Every human being has to have some relation to forms of wisdom in order to live a life, even if we reject the teaching, even if we call into question the insights, so that philosophy must never ever be viewed as something that elites have a monopoly on. [MUSIC PLAYING] Philosophy in its grandest sense, in its broadest sense is a matter of everyday people, and ordinary people gaining access to a quest for truth, and beauty, and goodness in light of the particular forms of wisdoms they choose to enact and embody. And therefore, this is not just a democratizing of philosophy, but it is a humanizing of philosophy too-- that human beings, no matter who we are, require some quest for meaning, even if the very meaning we gain access to is only in the quest, and the meaning is never acquired. That's still a philosophical activity. Same would be true in terms of our appreciation of beauty. And we talked about beauty primarily in terms of the arts and the relation, we should say, more of beauty to terror and trauma that Rilke made so much of. But nature, the trees, the greenery, the moon that Leopardi made so much of in his poetry-- he'd say, the sun, the birds, the crocodiles, the reptiles, and my favorite, the elephants-- because they bury their dead just like human beings, and they mourn. They have a ritual, a funeral, when they bury their deads. So as a mammal, oh, we much closer to the elephants, in terms of burying our dead to ascribe significance to the bodies that are now extinct. Something fascinating is going on. That is tied to notions of beauty too. See, philosophy is such a variegated phenomena. This is a diverse activity with a variety of different forms of expression. And I hope that's one of the messages of this MasterClass, that philosophy, as a joyous adventure, is something that is available, accessible to each and every one of us. And it's not solely reducible to market-driven conceptions of self-help, so I could be a common, halcyon, and happy person. No, no, no. That's still the self-help section of the bookstore. That's fine. Philosophy means serious contestation, trouble, wrestling with catastrophe, coping with monstrosities. It is about conflict. It is about tension, learning how to live in the midst of the tension. It keeps the negative capability in which you are in the midst sometimes of uncertainty, and doubts. And the irritable reaching for fact and reason do not help you. That is philosophical wrestling with ways of being in the world. And of course, Keats may have been a poet, but ...

About the Instructor

Cornel West is one of the most profound, diverse, and intellectual thinkers of our time. Now he’s inviting you into the depths of his brilliant mind to teach you how thinking like a philosopher can help you navigate your personal relationships, your decision-making, and your everyday life by looking at the world from a completely different point of view.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Cornel West

Distinguished philosopher Cornel West teaches you how to think more deeply, connect more closely, and live a more fruitful and meaningful life.

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