Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Examined Life

Then it occurred to her that her talking heads should walk and talk. She had just read “Wanderlust,” a discursive study of the history of walking by Rebecca Solnit, and was reminded of the figure of the peripatetic philosopher, from Aristotle (who paced the Lyceum while teaching) to Kierkegaard (a proponent of thinking while walking, which he frequently did in the Copenhagen streets) to Walter Benjamin (the embodiment of the Paris flâneur). She realized that putting her subjects in motion would elicit a different kind of interview than if they were seated behind their desks in offices. This conceit became a guiding principle for a film that would attempt to take philosophy out of the ivory tower and affirm its place in the flux of everyday life.

“My intention was to show the material conditions out of which ideas emerge,” Ms. Taylor said. “People often think of philosophy as cold, analytic, abstract, disconnected from the real world, and I really want to say that’s not the case.”...

With “Examined Life” Ms. Taylor set out to make a pedagogical documentary that is less a lecture than a call to cerebral action — a film that, as she put it, “creates a space for thought.” Still, the end result differs from her initial conception in one significant respect. “I thought it was going to be this sort of slow-paced philosophical ramble, but it actually really moves along,” she said. “It’s because they’re philosophers. These are intense people with intense ideas.

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