Community & Government

Fostering the Best of Your Communal Roots

Cornel West

Lesson time 08:51 min

Cornel discusses the importance of communal practices, customs, and mores in providing us with the resources to understand and shape ourselves as distinct individuals.

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Topics include: The Role of Tradition in the Community


[MUSIC PLAYING] - This MasterClass has been about wrestling with the terrifying question of, what does it mean to be human and connecting that query with the various forms of love that help us wrestle with what it means to be human? And now, we come to the role of community, tradition of heritage, of legacy that provides us some resources of keeping track of the forms of love as we come to terms with what it means to be human in your life and my life. See, I think every serious philosophical quest for truth, and goodness, and beauty, and the holy must come to terms with the notion of Sankofa. And the Sankofa signifies an attempt to be in contact with the best of one's roots in order to move forward in the present to create a better and different future than the world in which we are living. So Sankofa, again, intertwines past present and future. So that, when you think about R-O-O-T-S, your roots, it is a critical reading and interpretation of the best of the R-O-O-T-S that enable the wise and courageous R-O-U-T-E-S, routes, to be pursued. And without the best of our roots, we cannot even think about wise, courageous, visionary R-O-U-T-E-S. And by routes, I mean our individual lives, our individual journeys and pilgrimages, but also, our collective lives and society, our collective lives as a species on the planet, a planet, which, at the moment, is in very deep trouble in terms of impending ecological catastrophe. How do we understand the best of our roots as a species to avoid self-destruction of not just ourselves, but the planet as a whole? These are some of the most pressing life and death questions, and that's what philosophy is about, the formation of attention, the attention to the most important issues that matter, and then the inspiring and empowering ways in which we can creatively respond and mobilize all of our intellectual, and moral, and spiritual, and political resources that we learn from the best of the past to be brought to bear on the present. But always be open to newness and novelty, but knowing that all newness and novelty is in the end, still, building on what came before, the best we hope of what came before. We are who we are, because communities help shape and mold us. One cannot talk about forms of love without talking about relationships, without talking about encounters, without talking about affiliations, without talking about community and the various kinds of traditions that communities are always already grounded in. One of the great works of the 20th century in philosophy was written by one of my teachers, Hans-Georg Gadamer called "Truth and Method" of 1960, and his claim was traditions are inescapable. Traditions are unavoidable. The question is not whether we are connected and shaped by traditions. The question is which one's, which traditions inform us, and how do we critically appropriate elements, aspects, and dimensions of various traditions. So that, if, in fact, trad...

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.

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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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