Community & Government

Meet Your Instructor

Cornel West

Lesson time 05:19 min

Cornel West is an acclaimed academic and activist who believes philosophy is about raising questions where there are no clear answers. In this lesson, he establishes the fundamental ideas for the class that will open doors to new ideas and heighten meaning in your everyday life.

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 [DISTANT APPLAUSE] [TONE INTENSIFIES] - In this class, philosophy is about trying to see differently, feel more deeply, act more courageously. The most terrifying, unsettling, unnerving question that sits at the center of what philosophy is, which is, what does it mean to be human? That cuts deeper than skin pigmentation. It cuts deeper than sexual orientation. It cuts deeper than gender. It cuts deeper than national identity. What does it mean to be a featherless, two-legged, linguistically conscious creature born between urine and feces, whose body will soon be the culinary delight of terrestrial worms? That's what philosophy is all about-- the human condition and all of its complexity and all of its depth and scope and breadth. And all of us have to wrestle with these kinds of questions. [JAZZ MUSIC] I teach philosophy at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, right near the chocolate side of Manhattan, right on the edge of beloved Harlem. I write. I lecture. I'm an activist. I've also been in "The Matrix." I've done three spoken word albums with Prince, Gerald Levert, Talib Kweli and Killer Mike and Jill Scott and Andre 3000. I tend to be multicontextual, moving from one context to the next. But I hope people would know me as a cracked vessel who's trying to love his crooked neighbor with his crooked heart. I am Cornel West, and this is MasterClass. [LIVELY JAZZ] Well, I won't say doctor. I'll just say-- just-- yeah, yeah. Because I can't heal nobody. CREW: I feel better after-- - I don't want to mislead people. It's just a PhD in philosophy. That's all. CREW: Take two. - I was always one who was deeply curious and perplexed. I was curious because I had some deep questions. And of course, philosophy's about self-scrutiny. It's about self-interrogation. It's about self-questioning. And it went hand in hand, though, with even deeper perplexity, which is raising questions for which there are no clear answers, those kinds of questions that can drive you crazy and can drive you mad. But it's very much what philosophy is all about. This MasterClass evolves around three fundamental questions-- one, what does it mean to be human? Terrifying query. Two, what are the forms of love that constitute the best of our humanity? And the third query-- how does community, tradition, heritage shape and mold our conceptions of who we are as human beings? [JAZZ MUSIC] One of the things about this MasterClass is we hitting this issue of philosophy and music head-on. Music is so fundamental for what a love of wisdom and a quest for truth and beauty and goodness are all about. Because the music can disclose some truths. And the music can reveal some beauty. And the music can actually promote goodness. We're not here to indoc...

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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