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Independence Day can take on new meaning this year. While your neighbors are declaring their independence from the British crown, why not declare your independence from tacit assumptions and unexamined presuppositions?

Between BBQ chicken and fireworks, I encourage you to watch Astra Taylor’s documentary film, Examined Life (2008), which was finally released in February 2010. She “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.” Read the synopsis and watch the trailer below.

Contrary to the adage that familiarity breeds contempt, I found that my familiarity with Cornel West and Martha Nussbaum only increased my affection for them as philosophers and public intellectuals. Central casting missed an opportunity to feature some of my other favorite contemporary thinkers, including Camille Paglia, Michael Sandel, and Leon Kass.

The salient line in the film is spoken by the wonderfully idiosyncratic Cornel West. In one sentence he offers a crystalline vision for the tasks of philosophy:

Philosophy is a critical disposition of wrestling with desire in the face of death, wrestling with dialogue in the face of dogmatism, and wrestling with democracy in the face of domination.

Cross posted at Mere Orthodoxy

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