Astra Taylor’s Examined Life may just appear to be just another philosophy documentary (not that there are nearly enough of them). What I mean by this is that we may be tempted to consider it as merely a vehicle for philosophers to convey their ideas; ideas that could be just as well conveyed through print (or even radio or podcast). However, there’s more to it than that. Examined Life places contemporary philosophers in contexts that force us to consider the relevance and, sometimes, urgency of the arguments they make.
Cornel West compares philosophy to jazz and blues during a cab ride accross Manhattan; Peter Singer discusses our obligation to the poor and animal rights among the boutiques and fast-food joints of Manhattan; Slavoj Žižek examines our views on ecology whilst rumaging through a rubbish dump in London; Kwame Anthony Appiah considers the pros and cons of cosmopolitanism between flights at an airport terminal; Michael Hardt talks about Revolution from the placid and tranquil surroundings of the lake in Central Park; Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor explore what it means to ‘take a walk’ (Taylor is disabled and uses a wheelchair) in the mission district of San Francisco.
Examined Life is an excellent example of how the medium of film can contribute to philosophy, sometimes in spite of the philosophers interviewed.