Jazz-soaked philosophy in our catastrophic times: from Socrates to Coltrane

Join American philosopher, theologian, activist, and public intellectual Professor Cornel West for the RSE’s annual Gifford seminar.

“These lectures reflect my passionate conviction that the vocation of philosophy may be, in the language of the great jazz musician, John Coltrane, a force for good in a broken world.”
Cornel West

How do we emerge from the bleakness of our catastrophic times?

At this year’s RSE Gifford Seminar, Professor Cornel West, distinguished American philosopher, theologian, activist, and public intellectual, considers the philosophical and artistic resources at our disposal to help us shape courageous, compassionate responses and find ways of moving forward. The seminar allows audience members to explore with Professor West some of the larger questions and issues raised in his Gifford Lecture Series – ‘A Jazz-soaked Philosophy for our Catastrophic Times: from Socrates to Coltrane.’ It is an opportunity to join in a conversation about the topics of Professor West’s lectures, and hear a variety of voices and perspectives.


This transcript has been automatically generated and may feature errors.


Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, friends and colleagues, welcome to the RSE Gifford seminar.


I’m delighted to welcome our esteemed speaker, who is a gifted lecturer at the University of Edinburgh Professor Cornel West, and his two colleagues and friends Professor Jeffrey stout. And Dr. David Kim.


Before I go on to the format of the evening, today, I just want to give you some housekeeping rules, we’ve been advised that there should be no fire alarm, but if there is a fire alarm, please assemble outside by the dome, and or through this door. And there will be RSE staff to help you out.


This lecture and this evening is being live streamed, and it’s also being filmed. And it’s also being recorded for YouTube. So if you any of you have any concerns, please let me know. Or let one of the RSE staff know.


the format of the evening will be that Professor West who has already delivered five of his lectures will give a brief overview of what he’s been saying. He’s basically got a minute per lecture to summarise. And then these two colleagues will each give five to six minutes of their own reflections deliberations on his lectures and the theme, and then we will engage in a conversation and then I will open it out to the audience. And this is as I said, this is being live streamed as well. So there may be questions from the online audience as well.


Before I introduce Professor West, let me just say something about the Gifford RSE seminar.


So the RSE and the University of Edinburgh unite annually to present the RSE Giffard seminar providing a unique overview of the different lectures series for the year, bearing in mind that this seminar is not just another lecture, but an interactive session where you can engage with the speaker on their series. The Gifford lectures for those of you who have not been able to attend or don’t know, were established in 1885, under the will of Adam Lord Gifford, a judge of the court of session and amount of broad interests and compassion. The Gifford lectures are held at each of the four ancient Scottish universities, and for over a century, the lectures have enabled an eminent field of scholars to advance philosophical, theological and scientific thought.


The Royal Society of Edinburgh where you are seated just now recognises supports and mobilises expertise from across academia, business and public service for the benefit of Scotland and the wider world. Our fellows who are all elected from academia, business and public service, are what we consider the most distinguished in their fields.


Should have also festival introduce myself, which I always forget to do. I’m Mona Siddiqui, and I’m a professor in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. And


for the purpose of this seminar, I’m also VP international at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which is just another very posh way of saying that I try to initiate international collaboration with other academies around the world. It’s a it’s a great role and a very honoured role. So let me say something about Professor West.


In his debut, he said that these lectures, and you can see the title just soak philosophy for a catastrophic times from Socrates to Coltrane, that these lectures reflect my passionate conviction that the vocation of philosophy may be in the language of the great jazz musician John Coltrane, a force for good in a broken world. How do we emerge from the bleakness of our catastrophic times?


At this year’s RSE Gifford seminar Professor West who is a distinguished American philosopher, theologian, activist and public intellectual, considered the philosophical and artistic resources at our disposal to help us shape courageous compassionate responses and find ways of moving forward. The seminar allows audience members to explore with Professor West some of the larger questions some of the challenges that he has provoked from his lectures.


Let me introduce very briefly the two colleagues,


Professor Jeffrey Stout on the far right, professor emeritus of religion, Department of religion at the University of Princeton, he is Professor Emeritus of religion. He’s a member of the department of religion, and it’s associated the department’s of philosophy and politics, the Centre for the Study of Religion, and the Centre for Human Values. His work focuses on the possibility of ethical discourse in a religiously pluralistic society. He has also served as president of the American Academy of Religion in 2007.


On my immediate right, Professor David Kim, who was actually just recently flown over from Hawaii, so he has come a long way. Changed climates but he says everybody dresses the same apparently. He’s a visiting scholar Berkleys Centre for the Study of Religion, University of California.


Professor Kim is founder of radical left productions and media and consultancy company. For nearly 20 years. Dr. Kim was professor of religious studies and American Studies at Connecticut College, where he founded the centre on race and ethnicity. Most recently, he served as Executive Director of the Centre of Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. There’s so much more I can say about my colleagues. But I think you can Google them. I think what we’re really interested is in the conversation that they’re going to have.


I’m going to pass over to Dr. West. But before I do, I just want to put something to him. I’m just taking this liberty as chair. I was reading GK Chesterton, and he said that, I’m going to ask him was he right, when he wrote that the problem with the modern world is not that it is evil, but that is far too good. The real danger facing society that has cast off its religious moorings, he says, is not just that the vices are let loose, but that the virtues cut off from the ultimate principles to which they should be oriented, become distorted and destructive in their own right. The modern world, he said, is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad.


Anyway, I will leave you with that thought before you commence.


Professor West, please take the floor you can stay seated here or you can go to the podium.


But it’s a wonderful thing that has such profound respect for Gilbert keys, Chesterton and still see that he’s wrong about a number of things.


We’ll say more about that even though the challenge is a fascinating one. I want to begin by saluting My dear sister, Mona who’s played such a fundamental role she and J have been the two persons who actually responsible in so many ways of nominating me and pushing me forward and the committee being kind enough to bring me here and embrace me and my beloved wife, Annahita herself, quite a poet and a professor. And I have been treated with unbelievable graciousness. And we deeply, deeply appreciate that to sit here with my dear brother, Jeff Stout, who I met for 51 years ago.


He presented a Gifford lecture seven years how’s it going so far?


But he delivered a Gifford lecture seven years ago and dedicated Gifford lectures to myself and, and and a friend who died and I dedicated my Gifford lectures to him and my beloved wife. That’s the kind of very deep friendship and brotherhood that we have. That’s worth worth acknowledging, because it’s real. My dear brother, David Kim, I’ve met 31 years ago, he was in my head teaching assistant, he’s gone on to have quite an illustrious career. So you can imagine the kind of homecoming that this is. And then when I look and see my roommate, Robert Gerard, this is his birthday, 72 years young.


Happy Birthday


city right next to brother Fred, who was in our class at Harvard in 1974. We both have such deep love and respect for and then, of course, is the one and only Melinda, the wife of Robert Girard. And I’m beginning with this note of piety because piety has been one of the drumbeats in my lecture, what does it really mean to muster the courage to have a virtuous acknowledgment of the sources of good in one’s life from womb to tomb, piety, and all the various uses that it has? I’ll be very, very brief. Because I must be very honest and candid that there’s a sense in which my Gifford lectures were deeply motivated by a golden moment. In the Gifford lectures given by the first American in Edinburgh, Josiah Royce had given Aberdeen but in Edinburgh, it was the inimitable and adorable William James. Nobody like him in the history of American letters.


In that moment he says that at the core of the religious problem at the centre of the human condition is the call for help.


The call for help. And I think the motto of this institution knowledge made useful


It’s the choice: knowledge made useful. And the second grandest comic novel ever written in the history of American letters was written by a young man who died at 39 years old. His name was Nathaniel West, no relation.


His real name was Nathan Weinstein, but he changed his name in order to get into Brown University,


which was spotted a scandal that haunted him for the rest of his life, but he happened to be also a literary genius, and it was called Miss Lonely Hearts. And he said I’m going to rewrite William James’ Gifford lectures along with Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in a comic strip.


And he wrote 91 pages of some of the most powerful but grimace and demis page’s responding to that question thatWillaim James raised right here in Edinburg in 1900. The call for help. It was nihilistic we talked about nihilism in relation to the Iceman Cometh, Eugene O’Neill’s 1939 play. And the response was, there’s no help. There is no hope. There is no way out. There is no sense of possibility that we somehow just limp by with our hobbsian-like egoistic sensibilities, and with our sense of doom.


And so when I talk about jazz soaked, I’m talking about blues, catastrophically, artistically transfigured, honestly confronted and wrestled with. We’re talking about swaying, trying to find different conceptions of time, that allow us to believe at least some possibility and potentiality given the grimness and the dimness, not just of our present day moment, we can think about Gods and other places, but in the history of the species as a whole, not just in terms of our individual situations, but our collective destinies as a species. And in that sense, our destiny is inextricably interwoven with all of those a great Franz Fanon call the Wretched of the Earth,


moral sensibility, political concern, solidarity. Yes. Gifford, in his grand vision was concerned about bringing voices to wrestle with that. Last but not least, improvisation. Phronice’s practical wisdom, how do we have the right timing to read the right context to make the right kinds of visions, the right kinds of efforts and also most importantly, the right kind of manifestations of A Love Supreme.


And the Love Supreme of Coltrane is rooted in not just love of neighbour.


But the love of truth and love of wisdom, beauty and love of goodness. And for some of us. Still tied deep, rich religious traditions, love of God and for a few of us a love of a Palestinian Jew named Jesus.


That’s in part what I’ve been blessed to talk about here in this beloved city Edinburgh in this institution called University of Edinburgh.


You aren’t my favourite speaker, you stick to time.


Professor Stout please.


What amazing Lee learned and inspiring lectures, these have been.


Professor West reminds us in these lectures that our civilization is as flawed and mortal as the human beings who created and inhabited


flawed in respects that make all of us agents as well as victims of catastrophic harm.


Mortal in the sense of heading toward collapse, like democratic Athens, Republican Rome, and every other hegemon before it.


The word catastrophe comes from Greek.


St. Paul warned Timothy that a community’s verbal wrangling can result in catastrophe. St Peter warned that the ungodly are destined for catastrophe in the humanities Aeschylus had the chorus warn


that the Furies will inflict catastrophe on Athens, if Arrestees goes unpunished, his fall and that play is softened by means of ritual cleansing, and supposedly new invention trial by jury, which is Athinas remedy for revenge. The plays concluding chant


it affirms her pacification of the Furies, and the heroes release. As if civic concord and Athenian glory might last forever.


Half a century later, Euripides did something quite different with the same myth, the envy, rage and credulity that had been signs of past or preventable catastrophe. Were now held responsible for the old orders collapse, its actual demise. Neither Athenian arrangements nor the Homeric Gods prevented the collapse from occurring. Euripides sought to make this transition intelligible with out simply cancelling his predecessors,


or giving either presumption or despair, the last word, it’s a remarkable artistic accomplishment. Now a similar trajectory can be found in Latin poetry.Virgil’s Aeneid celebrated the new Emperor’s divine descent and destiny, while warning him in the poem’s stunning conclusion of the potential for destruction he held in his hands. Now, just a few decades later, Senate goes tragedies depicted rulers gone thoroughly mad and whole realms in collapse.


Whereas his essays and letters taught that true freedom and happiness can be found only by retreating into oneself. Where else could he look if his tragedies were right, about his circumstances?


Erasmus who edited those essays, and Montaigne, who cited them repeatedly admired Seneca’s stoicism in particular his account of good and evil.


He had done his best Seneca had as as Nero’s tutor, and courtier, they thought, but when the tyrant when Nero sentenced Seneca and his entire family to death, stoical detachment was the best response he as a Socratic pagan could muster.


Erasmus and Montaigne felt that the divine gift of Christian faith as interpreted by their own church had transfigured such pagan virtue into loving blessedness.


Not that Cornell accepts either their stoic account of good and evil, which I think he regards as inadequate to catastrophe


or their deference to ecclesial authority. I’d like to hear more about both of those things. But what about Elliot?


He depicted a massive cultural collapse while striving to transfigure it poetically as Euripides had done.


Seneca is tragedies figured heavily in two essays that Eliot wrote in his conversion year of 1927.


After the Hollow Man, in which the world ends with a whimper, but before the dark, dark, dark of the four Cortez is interrupted by the promise, that all shall be well.


And we have O’Neill, the Iceman Cometh


takes us into hell, and leaves us there. No, stoke will escape within no existential leap of faith beyond no divine interruption from above, no achievable tomorrow’s to wish for as a collectivity.


Elliott’s picture would be just as dire as that if monarchy and Anglo Catholicism weren’t given the same sort of paths that O’Neill had already unmasked, as vitiated nostalgia.


But Cornell isn’t recommending those and Elliott’s defensive them makes modernity seems so vacuous as to be unworthy of Transfiguration


are shafts of lightning from above then the only illumination to


Be had moments of interruption in a seemingly endless night?


Euripides, Shakespear e, Checkhov, Wolf and Morrison didn’t think so. Their visions are brighter than Elliot’s, O’Niels and Seneca’s without being less dark.


That sounds impossible.


And yet, here’s an example from beloved with which I’ll conclude


when Paul D tells Sethe, that they need some kind of tomorrow, he is yearning for a life more satisfying and sustainable than a momentary cessation of terror.


A life they might stitch together, share and pass on.


He should yearn for such a life.


Is he entitled to hope for it?


If so, on what grounds and how might such hope be realised? He finds himself gazing at a quilt This is at the end of the book,


a quilt made of brightly hued patches, like the ones the narrator had contrasted with scraps in the full range of dark earlier in the novel, the brighter patches are always there, catastrophe or not, in the very fabric of our world, awaiting transfiguration. That’s what I think the novel tells us. If they weren’t there. Neither the novels horrors, nor its concluding note of hope, would make sense.


Sethe, Paul realises, has recognised his blessedness befriended his mind been tender with his wounds, she has gathered his pieces, put them in right order, like a quilter.


He responds by placing his story next to hers. And taking his fingers, her her fingers in his for that is how communities capable of desirable tomorrow’s and worthy of Transfiguration are made. From remnants by multiple hands, joining. Is it not so?


Thank you.


Thank you.


And well say thank you, and good evening to everyone here, and thank you for the invitation to participate.


You know, when I was thinking about, like, responding to Cornell’s incredible, magnificent lectures, I only had one word, which was Amen.


You know, there’s, there’s a kind of comprehensiveness and completeness to him. And sometimes it’s hard to find a fisher that you might have disagreement, because I’ve learned so much from him. He’s my teacher and my mentor. And I’ve learned so much from Jeff Stout as well. You know, the, I guess, the note, I want to start, I guess, I want to make a turn in our conversation to the jazz itself, you know, to the the jazz that is soaking philosophy and the kind of rehabilitation and the reimagining of philosophy that really is the entirety of Cornell’s Gifford lectures. You know, the, and I think the note about James and the note about Nathaniel West, that call for help, is a good reminder about how we should reimagine philosophy to ask the question, is philosophy serving the Wretched of the Earth is philosophy serving those who are issuing that call for help?


And I think you know, the, the retelling you do of philosophy as jazz soaked is saying it hasn’t quite and the kind of choices between say philosophy and poetry or reason and jazz, maybe false choices. Because again, it is this question like who are you know, who are we seeking to serve.


And I think the note about piety, you know, really hits at the heart of it, you know, where does where To whom do To whom do our hearts belong?


You know, as we engage in the modalities of thinking about Idea, and Phronesis, and pahiatua.




you know, the one the move, I guess I would make from,


to jazz away from piety is something like Fidelity,


you know, where you want to kind of a sound and oral sense of where one’s heart is, because fidelity to me, and piety is really about love.


Where are our obligations to? And that where our motivations such that the grounded in love for those who have been unjustifiablythe hurt in catastrophes of the empires, the catastrophes of history.


You know,


I was thinking about the Greek roots of catastrophe as well, you know, catastrophe, which is a downward turning.


And when history and society is turned down, and they crush people.


The question becomes, what do we do to those who survive, maybe not in body but in spirit?


And I think the kind of polyphony that you’ve been talking about the inheritances that we have from those who have not survived, maybe in body but in spirit, you know, is speaks to like how we should be thinking about what are the obligations of philosophy.


you know, fidelity. And I think the idea that fidelity is a kind of trueness a kind of, you know, a trueness of spirit. You know, the I think the we often don’t know, if we’re being true to ourselves. And I think you’re admitting like, you know, are we listening to ourselves where the ourselves is not just our individuality. But it is this massive inheritance of voices and peoples that are often not just our own people. So I think, you know, the philosophical traditions that you’re talking about are not just the Western canon, for example.


And, you know, you and I, you’ve taught me this, that the inheritances of say the black freedom tradition, are not just for black people, but they’re for everybody.


And so if we inherit something like, black freedom and black love, and that becomes the root source of our fidelity,


what does it look? What does philosophy look like? And what does idea look like? Where it is a commitment to the elevation of our humanity,


kind of fortification, for those who was whose humanity has been denied.


And that really is our work.


Right? They, you know, I was struck, in listening to your lectures, how much you presented yourself, as a teacher, you know, and the embodiment of idea, you know, so that, you know, you’re teaching us to invite ourselves to be true. This kind of fidelity to, again, the Wretched of the Earth, those who suffer.


And that again, is, you know, the, the catastrophe that comes down on those folks might insist on a downbeat, that’s the one in the three. But I think the jazz Soit is the two in the four. It’s the two in the four. You know, that the blues and the swing, and the improvisation. It’s like it’s insisting on the backbeat of history, the backbeat of experience, the backbeat of humanity.


And that changes, philosophy that changes the call the service of philosophy. I, that’s what I want you to answer.


I’m so impressed. Everyone is sticking to time. Thank you very much for that very thoughtful words.


I want to ask you, Dr. West. First of all, if you have any reflections on anything you’ve had of your colleagues, friends,


just wanted to thank my dear brothers. They took the assignment very seriously.


There’s no doubt about that provided a substantive response. And we could go on seminar after seminar wrestling with these very rich, rich readings, I would probably want to put in just a very quick defence of Thomas Stearns, Eliot, very quick one, because Jeff’s reading is really compelling in so many ways.


But I’m thinking of the both the Rose Garden and the lotus in the first poem, Bert Norton.


And it’s actually rooted in something very, very concrete that was invoked at the very end of your powerful remarks.


Because remember, that’s a kairos moment, and it’s so quick in the poem. Because this dry pool is empty. All of a sudden, there’s a kairos moment of meaning and it’s gone.


Well, Linda Gordon tells us that there actually was a moment in a pool that was dry, with a magnificent woman named Emily Hale, who provided a way of sustaining Thomas Stearns, Elliot, given his wrestling with the legacy of his divorce of sister Vivian. Emily held herself as a distinguished professor at Smith College. And they wrote letters to each other at least three or four, every week, 95% of those letters have been destroyed. So all we can do is generate hypothesis of how it was that this powerful poet and literary genius, but also as you can imagine, a man, a hue man, with tremendous faults and foibles, and scars, and bruises. And it has these moments of touch, that sustain him.


And it’s that touch with Emily, as a human being and a wonderful woman is a very kind of different affair. Then, carrying around Dante in the back of his pocket, the Italian version, everywhere he goes.


So he’s got an owl, I vow relation with both, but different dynamics taking place. And the dynamics with sister Emily Hale, invisible, hidden, concealed. And we don’t even know that this day died in 65, we don’t even know because the letters have been destroyed. So then, in a way, it’s a confirmation of the powerful reading, in some sense, when we actually get a whole sense of a jazz soaked, TS Eliot, all the way down in time in history, in body, and always already shaped by antecedent fragments, of traditions with an S, that shape him. And of course, I’m suggesting that’s true for all of us, too.


That’s true for each and every one of us in terms of our very, very human stories that allow us to be here, based on the reading that you provide, with that moment at the end of Toni Morrison’s classic. And when we actually look then, at the music itself to my brother, brother Dave is talking about here. He might recall that when Duke Ellington said black people have made dissonance, a way of life. So the blue note itself is a note of not just dignity, you got to be didn’t have dignity in your sound.


That’s one of the big differences between John Coltrane and Kenny G.


I love Kenny G.


For background music.


Coltrane has a gravity toss and a dignity in that sound that he’s owning out out of his own wrestling with the darkness of his soul, and is not a function of his blackness of skin pigmentation. Because there’s a whole lot of black folk blowing the horn, who sound worse than Kenny G.


That’s a human choice that they’re making at the level of wrestling with their own complicated, contradictory, incongruent, humanity in that way. And yet there is this tradition of these great figures, a tradition, ground grounded on genres created by black people who choose moral spiritual, artistic greatness that then are open to the world and you get these magnificent vanilla brothers and sisters and others who become part of that tradition in the same way with Plato, or Aristotle or Euripides, here comes August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry and the others as part of this deeply Western tradition as black participants. It is mutual, it is reciprocal. It’s gazes across time, across cultures, across nations, that tries to keep track of our very complicated, wretched and wonderful humanity.


Do you want to come back today? Jeff, do you?


I am not saying that.


The Kairos moments aren’t there and Elliot’s life. We’re in the text. There they appear in the text. The question is whether the poetry succeeds in in transfiguring what, what goods he finds in the fallen world. And I go to other sources to find that more successfully pulled up


the actually I find the rock


the most promising


Elliott one with regard to this point. So


he says, I will show you the things that are now being done and some of the things that were long ago done, that you may take heart, make perfect your will. Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen, and all that was good, you must fight to keep with hearts as devoted as those of your fathers who fought to gain it.


Our citizenship is in heaven, yes. But that is the model and type for your citizenship upon earth. Now that is a is a promissory note that I find myself yearning to find fulfilled in the rest of the poetry, including in the rock, but it’s in the rock where I think he gets closest because of his the way he’s talking in concrete terms about working people. Yes, yes, yes, that’s what that’s where he comes closest. But much of the time the the


he slips into a nostalgia where the good is always past and the present is so thoroughly fallen, that it’s hard to see how he’s actually transfiguring it poetically. That’s what I find successful It is and not successful. Yeah. And successful in Morrison. Tony Martin.


Yes, yes, yes. Now, that’s not to say just one brief. That’s not to say that we need every significant artists to do everything for us. Right. Right. So we need Richard Wright. And we need Baldwins and Ellison’s responses to Richard Wright, both of whom said to him, in effect.


You have to you have described a world so fallen, that you the writer Richard Wright, couldn’t exist in it. You haven’t made sense of yourself.


There were right about that.


But we need to be taken into that hell by Richard right. And we need Elison to help us get out.






So I wanted to touch on Vabre just quickly, because you did touch on a few times. And


you talked about the vocation lectures regarding the disenchantment of the world, which, you know, more literally is translated as a descantification of the world.


And I think, you know, one of the responses about like the call, in the wake of the descantification of the world is, can there be enchantment anymore? And I think that ways in which you soak philosophy with jazz is an attempt to find some magic in the midst of despair. In the midst of kind of hopelessness, I was thinking about the analogy to something like Howard Thurman, you know, with Thurman talks about the growing edge, as a kind of sign of hope, in the face of despair. It’s not just despair,


which also


give some glimpses to Gitomer. as well, you know, this kind of fusion of horizons. So, you know, does something like jazz the kind of responsiveness the blues a swing the improvisation give us glimpses of that growing edge, rather than the bleakness that we’re left with Elliot, for example, with the bleakness of O’Neill, that the kind of hopefulness of, of the, of the of the jazz soaked life may be something some part of us, we need to be to be revived.


It is so rich though.


I mean, part of the challenge here is trying to understand first, what we mean by Demagification or disenchantment, and what the object of criticism is, it reminds me at the very end of a dollhouse. You remember


how Jamar it’s already shown himself to fall on his face. And she said I was looking for a miracle when the miracle is looking for is not the kind of miracle David Hume was talking about in his essay on miracles. The miracle was to open himself in such a way that he would be vulnerable such that some genuine love could take place, and he wouldn’t simply be playing the role and function of a bourgeois husband.


So miracle in that sense, is so infused in the mundane. It’s infused into quotidian. It’s infused in everyday life. It’s Emersonian Ella Sonian. Jazz like


you see, jazz is like checkoff, jazz is concerned with the steady ache of misery in one’s everyday life.


And then it’s got the Keatian question. You remember, John Keats says a fundamental question of life is what energy or despair?


What kind of energy? Are you going to mobilise? What kind of vitality and vibrancy Are you going to have access to? Can you swing your life in such a way that you don’t deny the catastrophe, but a catastrophe does not suffocate all of your vibrancy, and vitality. And energy is part of my challenge to Vabre here and of course, we got social studies at Harvard in the 1970s, when he read Vabre, so much to Talcott Parsons was turning flips in his lecture that about the seventh lecture, because it was all about Vabre, and Durkheim, but it was about conceptions of disenchantment, where various structures of religious narratives had been secularised and radically called into question. But if you look for the magic, in everyday life, that’s a shift.


Something else is going on. And it won’t necessarily take the form of what we understood miracles to be in earlier times. But looking for the miraculous and looking for the, the magical, that’s why I am a little suspicious of re-enchantment. You see, I, I’m very suspicious of what Oscar Wilde call that one coin in which one side is sentimentality. And the other side is cynicism.


You gotta push that coin, aside,


you see, and America is a deeply sentimental place too often about itself. And so once your expectations are shattered, often the only option is, Santa says, and it was part of my critique of Eugene O’Neill, as part of my critique, Nathaniel West. If you’re going to be sentimental and cheaply romantic cynicism is waiting for you. If you’re gonna go with the blues, then optimism and pessimism are not part of the categories you use about the world. You’re a prisoner of hope. That’s something else. That’s something very different holding on for dear life. So I hear what you’re saying there about the lectures are still marvellous, that’s why that’s why I used them at the very beginning, because they still speak so deeply in the writing, right in different ways. But for those of us who have deep, deep democratic sensibilities, not just politically but existentially in terms of everyday life of everyday people, they use sly stones language here, the dignity of everyday people, ordinary people in the language of James Cleveland.


There’s something about that quotidian, mundane quality of our lives where we can still tease out certain kinds of nobility, which is spiritual and moral, as opposed to simply monarchical, political, economic, thank you very much. I’m going to put it out to the audience. We do have two roving mics. So if you could raise your hand


The gentleman at the back first.


Thank you so much to all the speakers, particularly Dr. West.


It’s good to see you on this side of the pond.


I must admit, I’m a historical materialist. And I think one of the greatest things that Marx says was that the job of the philosopher’s is not just to analyse the world, but to change it. And I take that and run it through Frederick Douglass who said, without struggle, there will be no progress. And we can see that in the work of John Coltrane. In the work of Charles Mingus, for example, fables of Fobus we can see it in Nina Simone Mississippi Goddam where artists with tapping into the collective are able to motivate people and solidify perspective, which is about realising the miracle, where the miracle is recognising our part in a collective, and the collective struggle for change, the struggle to realise the potential for peace, justice, humanity, and that only comes through action as Stokely Carmichael said, you’re either a part of the problem, or you’re part of the solution. So I have a deep love for philosophy. But my value in philosophy is that is a deep way to mobilise that recognition of the collectivity and put it into action to realise our potential as human beings, rather than letting that go past in the interest of profit, or militarism, or whatever it is that distracts from our potential. So I’d like to hear from each of the speakers if you if you would, how you see the philosophy as an agent for change and collectivity, in the pursuit of peace and justice.


No, beautifully put beautiful put.


Who wants to go first.


I just just I just, I just so deeply resonate with your eloquence brother, but I want to push you on this issue.


Can we go back to Marx’s dissertation a difference between democracy and and epicurean conceptions of materialism? Right. In that dissertation, he wrote , he was concerned about a quest for truth.


It’s not just a tool to be used and mobilised, when he comes to the end of the thesis, and says exactly what he says. He’s not saying what Sorrell will say, which you can lie to two people and use it as a tool and mobilise it for social change. No, that’s not Karl Marx. He’s too alien for that.


He’s to German in the best sense. Every country, every project is got the worst sense right? Now, he really believes that he’s making truth claims, so that we don’t want to reduce it just down to instrumentalism. Because that very instrumentalism is part and parcel of the thoroughly commodified world of a market driven conception of the world, that we use anything in order to generate an unjust end which is short term profits by any means, but no moral considerations. No, that’s not Marx see what I mean. And I’m going back to my dissertation, the ethical dimensions of Marxist thought, as you probably know, I wrote that almost 50 years ago, but I have some remembrance of what was going on in that text. So I agree with you. It’s just that I don’t want to lose the truth, telling, because the truth telling us also being self critical. And Marx is always growing. He’s reading. You haven’t read Vico, you haven’t read Darwin he dedicated capital to a dog you haven’t read? So Frederick Engels, have you read Balzac? I don’t have time that I’m the wrong reading the third volume, have you read Shelley, you know, he has that pidea, that still very much a part of who he what he is. And in some ways, you know, that’s the best of Europe. We can talk about European crimes all night and all day. But the best are those who are involved in a quest for truth and doing precisely what you’re talking about. Using as using it as part and parcel of trying to make sure poor and working people are treated with dignity given the structures of predatory capitalism, structures of white supremacy structures and Imperial tentacles of empires and so forth. And so, patriarchy we can go on and on, but I appreciate that. But you want might want to just jump in.


Well, I would just add, I agree with all of this.


I would add that part of what Cornell’s Gifford lectures and mine seven years ago, both of which are


influenced by each other in each other, but also pragmatist tradition in terms of and




We were both elevating values, the significance of values that resist cost benefit analysis.


So part of the point of starting with catastrophe


is that catastrophe and horrendous evil are conceptually the flipside of sacred value.


sacred value being that which is worthy of reverence, and by virtue of being worthy of reverence, reverence, celebration, protection,


by virtue by virtue of being worthy of reverence,


it must, it is not subject to easy comparisons of the sort that


commodified language




So, the forms of reasoning that are so prominent in our academic culture and in our bureaucratic culture


are forms of instrumentalised reason, on the one instrumental reason on the one hand, and forms of mere




judgments on the other.


And neither of these forms of discourse, both of which Faber is an excellent


theorist on neither of them adequately captures the respects in which ordinary people and freedom movements that keep recurring throughout the modern period, are concerned with sacred value.


With catastrophe as a mark of the destruction or violation of sacred value that must be resisted so that the relevant protections can be put in place, and the relevant celebrations can be held.


Without that the relevant forms of action themselves reinforce the logic of the commodified bureaucratized culture.


And it’s just add a quick footnote, do you want to jump in with Dave on this? Because as important brother Jeff is talking about sacred values as as opposed to talking about sacred beings.


So when we think about freedom, you think about dignity of working people that is a kind of sacred value in the sense that that’s the very thing that one is pursuing.


It think one of the best treatments of this is, is by Sidney Hook. Marxistat the time wrote a dissertation 1927 called the metaphysics of pragmatism and the status of instrumentalism. And he talks about market driven forms of nstrumentalism, in what he understands, as Marx’s, which is tied to some kind of values that are presupposed by Marx that are critical of commodification, gone mad structures of domination, asymmetric relations of power at the workplace, and so forth. And he begins with a close reading of fronts piece in his dissertation of William Blake, with William Blake as poet going back to what I’ve been talking about poetry and philosophy, he was wrestling with these different forms, the status of instruments, given the fog


soaked, market driven London, that’s the deeply deeply upset him, as one who was deeply spiritual without in any way being tied to religious institutions, deeply moral with sacred values.


I’ll just say that I, I’m actually not hesitant to speak of individual human beings as having sacred value, the Grand Canyon as having the Isle of Skye having sacred value, these Why do I say that? Because these are things such that their violation or destruction would be horrendous, not merely bad, horrendous


and they deserve referent protection and celebration. Okay. So it’s not just freedom in the at that alright? It’s not it’s not just related to


historical materialism. Yeah, yeah.


No, you’re absolutely right. That other context. That’s right. That’s right.


I agree with that. But it depends on what you mean by philosophy. Right, and the philosophy that serves so that the sacred beings and sacred values, maybe those, again, the Wretched of the Earth, so that we hold them in reverence as a kind of principle, you know, against which we philosophise the and I agree with Jeff Absolutely. Like, it’s not just an abstract idea of freedom. But what do we learn from philosophy? What do we learn from philosophies that help us learn more deeply about context and complexity? Because I think that’s where we’re not trying to be abstract from the world. But we want to be thoroughly enmeshed in the world thoroughly world did as it were.


Any Yes. So should I be? Do you have a question? Yeah. So the gentleman in the middle, and then, sorry, the as an arm here, I don’t know whether it’s, yeah, you go ahead first.


Professor West, I really enjoyed listening to your lectures, and I’ve been listening to them with a particular ear with the era of liberation theologian from the Islamic tradition. So that’s the grammar with which I’ve listened to your music. And when I hear a jazz soaked philosophy in terms of the grammar of liberation theology, I’m thinking of a preferential option for the oppressed. Would it be fair to translate a jazz soaked philosophy as a philosophy that is committed to the wretched of the earth to the oppressed? Or would you push back against that? Would you find that to be a reductive representation? So for instance, I find that there is a powerful aspect to your descriptor that is lacking in the existing language, which is still Latin in an intellectual lexicon, right? There is something that speaks to the heart when we talk about soaking that isn’t quite there when we speak about preferential options. So I’m just curious if you’d be happy with that translation, or is there something lost in translation?


Wonderful question. Wonderful question. I think it’s very important or both, anytime you use categories that characterise traditions and communities, that you don’t reduce the rich heterogeneity to something homogenous, or you don’t reduce your particular interpretation of the tradition, as somehow, you know, have a monopoly of what the tradition really is. You see, there’s a whole host of different jazz musicians who are reactionary in politics.


Just like you got left wing followers of TS Eliot, like the great Matheson of Harvard, Master Eliot house and committed suicide, we talked about him, but he’s wrote one of the finest books on Elliot remained very much a disciple of Elliot, as a Christian socialist, very, very tied to struggles of working peoples in resistant to cold war, hysteria, had his critique of the Soviet Union but was willing to work with Communists like, or, or hidden communists like Paul Robeson and WB Dubois and others, he wouldn’t he remained tied to their efforts to fight against white supremacy and Jim Crow and what have you. And so it is with jazz. So I have a particular reading of jazz, that always opens up the realities of various other appropriations of jazz, ideologically, politically, artistically, and so on. And that’s true internally for any tradition. When Louis Armstrong says Charlie Parker is playing music he doesn’t understand and like I won’t use the term was it’s not a nice term. And Louis Armstrong is the greatest genius of all geniuses, but he’s wrong as two left shoes about Charlie Parker.


See, to me, he has no monopoly on what jazz is, just because he’s the great revolutionary artists who helped created others. And the same was true when people say, Oh, free jazz is not jazz. Well, if you say you don’t like it, just say you don’t understand.


What makes you think jazz has to have metres. Maybe you can have non metres.


I’m not gonna pay don’t pay somebody else will. Maybe that’s a way for jazz to develop, maybe that’s away from jazz and decay. We don’t know. Jazz like sensibility for me.


allowing all of these voices to be heard, which are the anthem of Black Folk. Anyway, Lift Every Voice and I just my voice and my friend’s voice. Lift them all. Let’s see. Try it out. See who’s tried and true. See which ones speak see which ones endure and so forth. So So in that sense, just like in theology, right


with James Cone or Beverly Harris and so many others, Malcolm X’s liberation theology, theological interpretation of prophetic Islam and what have you, right?


Let it flow, let it flower, let it flourish. Let’s see, can you see then you got an indictment of the Islamic practices in Iran. Whereas the fundamental commitment to woman live freedom sounds like critiques of Christianity when you’re trying to subordinate working people and women and so forth. Absolutely. Then you got these magnificent Muslim freedom fighters?


Yes, indeed, same tradition, one highly prophetic, the other deeply priestly to well adjusted to various structures of domination. I think that’s true for any tradition. Be it jazz, be it Judaism, be a Buddhism, be it Islam, and so forth and so on.


Was the question. Yes, gentleman.


Okay, thank you.


Yeah, I’ve got a question.


Okay, so I’ve heard what you three has said. And amazing that hearing you what you’re saying about the weather, but


forgotten the word now. And the concept, cloth back what you were saying about jazz, and the music and every everything that you come up with, I think I’ve come up with another one, if that’s right, and about life, and life is about being person centred. Life is about meeting people who have different lives.


And the world of what they say, in America, and the UK,


life in all different ways, in different countries. Life is about everything that I just think life can be peaceful, can be absolutely brilliant in what they do. Life is about being the person being centred of every single theory that everybody has in have.


And by superb work at reset, got authentic. He’s absolutely dead dry as well, by saying that


life is about the singer, if I can add into that mix. And one, basically, one life from Bob Marley.


I think the general speak of what he’s trying to portray, as one life as the song of one life I sent that life of


under love. Yes. And about you have a question


about everything. Sorry, about everything. Sure. So based on that theory, I’ve just come up with my question is, what do you think of the life thing that artists come up with? As well as what you’ve said, all three of you about the life? And what you’ve been saying this evening?


No, indeed, appreciate that question, my brother. Because, you know, in so many ways when we talk about philosophy going to school with


geometry, right? Descartes, the discourse on method was a preface to three of the books on geometry, you can go to school with poetry, it can go to school with biology, life, when I hear what you’re saying, My dear brother, my life, I’m thinking much more of the ways in which biologists talk about life, and then wedded to humanistic studies. Now, Aristotle was a biologist, Plato know, very different temperaments, sensibilities.


Aristotle never goes mad. The way some figures in the symposium do.


And he’s got a soberness to him. I don’t want stereotype biologist, Im sure there’s mad ones too. But, but it’s a different way of looking at things. And so when you get to the 20th century, there’s there’s Zemo, you’ve got folks who use precisely your language of life. When you read Nietzsche’s uses the abuses of history, major criteria


Yeah, life enhancing and life undermining or life negating? What does he mean by that fascinating, we have to look very closely so that you are in good company. And talking about this life in this regard, is desert. You can imagine I started with Plato, I didn’t talk too much about Aristotle a little bit on the rhetorics in the poetics. But But I was, in a way, swerving away from that rich tradition that you did, you’re calling us back to. And again, as somebody with a jazz sensibility, I’m, I’m crucial. And it’s crucial for me to learn a lesson from a variety of different voices that have different perspectives, that are very different from mine that are alien to mine, that unsettled me that unnerved me, that’s the only way in which I can be a better jazz man in the life of the mind, a better force for good fighting for poor and working people. And then in the end, a better Christian, because it’s all about the humility. It’s all about the love of neighbour, going back to Hebrew scripture of the hesed, being spread to orphan and widow and fatherless and motherless. And that’s a particular tradition, with all of its faults and all of its flaws. Still speaks so deeply to me,


the lady at the front and then


Good evening.


I’m not quite sure how to phrase my question. And I want to just start with the fact that I’ve been aware of your work all my life, probably, but this is the first time I’ve seen you in person speaking. And I’ve been profoundly moved and excited by the message of your presence, so to speak. However, I have to ask a question. It’s a question that’s really begging in the room.


In this space, and in what you’re evoking, I don’t hear the female voice, I don’t hear the women. I don’t hear where you place the women in the catastrophe.


And I’m really open to hearing, you know, response from you. My own experience at this moment, I’m a, I call myself a political entrepreneur. And I’ve been that all my life, my curiosity is always around human agency. And so all the questions around the magic, where does the power come from, in the catastrophe are always present. However, I find myself most of the time in the public space, looking at the catastrophe of men, of the creators of the public space of the breaking down of the public space, and I don’t hear that much reference to the private space, and how the private space, which has been historically governed, if you like, by women, might be an answer. In the same way that relationship may be an answer for men, the relationship between the man and his wife or within communities rather than in business. So I’m really open to your response to what I’m saying, my own partner is a jazz musician. And I’ve watched for 30 years, his struggles with not being able to think about the future caught in the catastrophe, leaning on jazz to give him these sparks of hope and possibility, however, not able to escape.


He’s a prisoner like you of hope, but not a person who can generate a future. So that’s my question for you.


Yeah, no, I appreciate that. Appreciate. I mean, it’s fascinating, because I mean, this last lecture that I’m giving, I finally get a chance to delve into the blues and jazz tradition.


And it’s quite fascinating that the black literary tradition is probably the only modern tradition where the initial figures like Phyllis Wheatley, there’s black poet in the new world.


Or we’re talking about we’re talking about an Plato’s first black woman essay is


when you think of the first wave of blues vocalist at the highest level of excellence, the Marine is in the Bessie Smith. They were hegemonic. It took a while for Muddy Waters and other geniuses to catch up with the women. And of course when it comes to jazz vocalists, I can’t think of a black male singer to come to anywhere near Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Dinah Washington. And we haven’t got to Sarah Vaughn yet. Right? Now, I’m not putting Johnny Hartman down in that King Cole’s is fine. But we’re talking about traditions in the modern world, given the thickness of patriarchy in the history of the world, especially the West, where you have to dig very, very deep to get the woman’s voices because the structures of domination tried to silence them so chronically and institutionally over time. Well, what was it about his traditional black folk, that when in fact, artistically it emerges? You got all these women swinging? You know, in the physical sense, spiritual sense, artistic sense. Now, when it comes to the instrument, ooh, Mary Lou Williams, Jay Allen on the pianos and so on. Hard to get the women on the saxophone and the trumpets patriarchy still operating. Yes, indeed. And I don’t know what what gentleman does your loved one play?


Oh, he sing?


Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Are you serious brother? I doubt remember.


I do remember that. But he’d be the first to say that to women are at the highest levels of excellent, artistically as well as otherwise. But that doesn’t speak to your direct question, which is how do we go about ensuring that when we invoke these figures of authority, they tend to be male, when you’re looking at the history, especially of the West, and the kinds of research that various feminist scholars are more and more producing, where you get a number of these voices that have been suppressed, that have been silenced? I mean, the George Eliot’s and, and the Bronte sisters and so forth, have been able to squeak through in many ways. But it’s still predominantly men, that we do want to say something about this show. Absolutely.


So I think it’s important to distinguish between two extremely important intellectual projects that have emerged in the last 50 years. They are, they serve the same ends, I think, but they are distinct and compatible projects.


One of which, which is actually more dominant than the one Cornell has been executing in this lecture series, is the project of bringing the silenced to the attention of the world.


Okay. And Rachel, who asked the similar question on Monday, is one of the people one of the most prominent people who is engaging in that project. Also, in addition to studying silenced women studying practices of silence, and the mechanisms by which the silencing the negative forms of silencing have occurred, all of that is extremely important.


Now Cornell tell me if this interpretation of what you’ve done is correct as a distinct project from that compatible with it but distinct for this particular series.


You said at the beginning that you were giving genealogy.


So what is a genealogy?


Genealogy is historical inquiry into the forces that have shaped our taken for granted value categories.


The genealogist in this sense is trying to be honest about the degree to which non rational and low motives


non rational forces and low motives have actually shaped our categories.


So, by engaging in an honest inquiry into that,


beginning with an inherited category, the catastrophic


and then trying to determine the extent to which


our intuitive view of this is shaped by forces that are non rational and disturbing.


Then So hence, the repeated references in the lectures to


what can’t be accepted in what so and so says and that’s that’s Cornell distinguishing between


those non rational forces that have shaped our world and our categories and our world through our categories from Rational sources of dissatisfaction with the world.


If someone, if a policeman has his boot on my neck, I have good reason to want it off.


And when I’m investigating history, Geaneologically, and I see someone’s boot on someone’s neck, I can attribute rational dissatisfaction with that social system to the person who’s suffering.


That means that going through the historical story,


really taking seriously the differences that ends up with a non reductive form of genealogy, which grants that some something’s worth saving, in these inherited ideals and these inherited concepts, but we have to do real historical work to sort it out. But where are you going to look when you do that work?


The texts and practices that are most strongly associated with power, that are most strongly associated with elite curricula.


Because that’s where the most significant conceptual power is exercised.


If you don’t do both of these things, you’re gonna be in trouble. But I don’t take you to be in any way trying to


trying to dis the other, although I mean, so do Hartman’s work and host of others very important in this regard to wherever it lies, tax affects us, student in mind, and when she was a graduate student at Yale, and there’s a whole wave of, of young scholars who have been doing this kind of thing, of course, Farah, Jasmine Gryphon, who would love to be sent a bit more about her tomorrow, who is probably the finest reader of Toni Morrison. And then part of it is, well, where does Toni Morrison come from? She’s not just as a black woman and a woman’s voice and a genius and a giant and so forth, right? But those silencing places and mechanisms in domesticated patriarchal lives spaces, even as she then ends up writing him a thesis on Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, teaches classes on Dante. And I was blessed to teach with her for 10 years at Princeton, on a whole host of different figures, the male veal that she talks about playing in dark, and the Harvard lectures that you get, so that she has that kind of capaciousness. Like any of the figures that I’ve talked about, where she’s still wrestling with deeply white supremacy, the male supremacist structures of domination, that she has to be resilient against.


To connect what you just, you’re asking about,


to Cornell’s lectures, which is, you asked about relationality and the private.


And, you know, I think the the connection to what Cornell was talking about, and has been lecturing about is is love.


Right, so that it’s not to a centralised, you know, who are the purveyors of the and virtuosos of love, or just just say women? Right, but that they the kind of possible in the productive possibilities generated possibilities of what may be found in the private sphere, as it were, but finds its expression, powerfully publicly.


So like to recenter love,


I think actually will get us away from, you know, is a patriarchal, isn’t feminist and so on. But that there are more expensive ways of understanding that.


One more question. Oh,


can I just take the last three questions very quickly, and men just Yeah. So the gentleman in the middle, and the one behind him. There’s a woman here on the left, and then the lady on the


hi. So


listen to that last lady’s question. And it made me think and Nina Simone, that song ain’t got no, I’ve got life and who this is keen to. It’s an atheist anthem from a period when it would have been very difficult to


do it would have been a grapple with mainstream


but I feel that that then allows that to belong to say the working class or any disenfranchised people.


And then I think


I think about Billie Holiday’s, strange fruit, which I think is one of


The most hauntingly beautiful songs there is on a very, very grotesque subject.


And I just I wonder what the panel would think about.


If that song would perform today by a popular artist and one of these huge stadiums, whether that would really affect all the catastrophic things, the grotesque things that are happening in our contemporary world, or my personal feeling is that that might be a little bit perverse.


So just that’s, that’s my question is,


I think it was, yeah, the gentleman behind and then the lady on the left, and then we’ll finish up to that.




thank you very much. I should, I suppose begin by saying that on Sunday, I didn’t know what philosophy was. And I’m very thankful. In fact, I know a little bit more about it. Now. Obviously, this attributed from the uttermost ignorance, but with the utmost graduate gratitude, to our wonderful Gifford lecturer.




notice a number of quotations from Karl Marx. And he could sometimes put things very well. But I’d like to first think of a common phrase in Ghana some years ago.


He threw big English at me,


which of the we are going to be talking, shall we say about a colonial revision, but it’s extremely applicable today, there is an enormous amount of big English being thrown around, usually by administrators.


And that kind of big English takes the place


of studying the text.


One of the unusually beautiful things in the music, with which we heard the Gifford lectures, was because there was, as far as I was concerned, never a writer alluded to, but some illumination was not given about him new understanding, new way of looking in, not a plea to agree or disagree but but think and think and think. And this was marvellous. And he did it in a way, which made us the wiser, enabled us to understand a little more philosophy. But we have to be careful about these things. I mean, we began this evening, didn’t we, about a very interesting and thoughtful citation of Escalus


would have been mostly from the humanities, but a touch with the libation porters.


But then we moved on to remedies. And I couldn’t work out whether the speaker was talking about.


And if whichever one you take, it gives an entirely different meaning to what the distinguished speaker was talking about. arrestees, for example, has everything to tell you about why the era the IRA became like they did. And other freedom movements would become appallingly inhuman.


So I think, though, that we have, therefore, to make the most of this wonderful example we’ve been given about making our history, constantly conscious of literature, culture, jazz. But we also have to remember, history is starting very, very much with the ordinary people. And I’m thinking here of people like Carter G. Woodson, who founded the Journal of Negro history and founded it from scraps of folklore, reminiscences, from people who had been born slaves, and this was in the early 20th century, he was starting to work contending with the fact that young white graduate students are told not to publish in the Journal of Negro history, if they wanted to have careers. He was one of the people start thinking of Frederick Douglass. Oh, yes, we’ve mentioned him. And he was the man who wrote his book to make people realise he was a human being. Now that was his message. First of all, no, I’m not just an object. You’re talking about a stud Case Study of Slavery. I’m a human being. And this applies so much to some of the greatest possible work, that history is first, in articulacy, for whatever reason, having to express itself and trying to thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. And the lady on the left. Thank you.


Thank you, to the panel and chair.


When I was listening, I was making notes on the things you were saying and I wrote down a few things that I would invite you to reflect on.


This different. So yeah, this kind of idea of a momentary pause from terror, dignity and dissonance.


On the quotidian miracle, and then the idea of truth telling, and then, for me I keep thinking about and I feel like everything that’s happening, cannot escape the moments of bleakness and catastrophe of of the world, as it is right now. And by that I mean Palestine. And specifically, I mean, it has that but I wanted initially to ask, then, who are the philosophers in this really


bleak moment in this darkness when you talked about the darkness of blues and grappling with that, who is grappling with that I honestly, most of the time, don’t know what I should be doing with myself. I feel like there are people that do, I do look to try and understand because it seems like there’s some sense. So I wanted to shift the question to ask for your reflections rather than who the philosophers are, and where these notes and words are coming from that we should like be keeping our ears to words. And then to ask maybe if you could reflect on Palestine, by which I mean, in this moment, right now, that’s as a source. I would love to hear your thoughts on.


Thank you, everyone, for your questions. We have very little time before I close, so I’m gonna give everybody about a minute.


Okay, so you can collect your thoughts?


Who wants to go first? You should go. Should I go for it? Doesn’t take whichever question, whichever. Oh, no. But all three of them are just so rich, though. Oh, my God, my God. I mean, genocide. We know it has various cycles. It’s not new in the history of the species. We see it now before our very eyes. It’s the degree to which we have so many fellow human beings who are in denial about it, who come up with rationalisations of it, the thickness of the mendacity that hide the criminality. It reminds me of what was going on in the 1930s. And when FDR sent out Henry Wallace, to speak to the the rabbis who had their own demonstrations, because he thought somehow it was not important enough, and he didn’t have to worry about the votes. Well, it is not about voting. It’s about truth. It’s about justice. We’ve seen it over and over again, balls, and we go on and on and on. So we have to wait and see who the philosophic and poetic voices will emerge. But I think our task right now is to shatter all lies, shattered the silence, and try to ensure that the global awakening around it is such that it brings it to a stop, you’ve got to be able to stop it. And then you come to terms of you can imagine, with the end of occupation, and trying to make sure that it’s really brothers and sisters and Jewish brothers and sisters can live lives, with Palestinian brothers, sisters, with equality, with decency, with the kind of dignity across the board, people Oh, that’s impossible and never be able to live together. Well, if we got a lot of historical examples of people who’ve been at each other’s throats for a long time, who come up with ways of living together, especially the younger generation where you have the Palestinian, the Jewish, young people going to jail together, being crushed by police together in the name of something bigger than them. But our job right now is to stop the killing. Stop the lies, stop the mendacity that generates the criminality and reveals US policy, all the talk about human rights and international law. As a lie in terms of practice, you’re not serious about the execution. But what does that mean? That means that you bring power and pressure to bear to try to defund


debt has a chance to stop into killing and then not falling into any of the tribalistic, xenophobic traps, of viewing this somehow was anti Jewish, anti Arab, anti Muslim, anti whatever. No, this is pro humanity across the board. That’s the moral and spiritual dimension. It seems to me at the moment, but we’re in such a moment of emergency and overwhelming catastrophe. It’s a matter of just making sure that our voices are heard. That’s why I was blessed to spend the time that I did with the two rallies here in Edinburgh tied to the encampments. How do we just keep our voices going? Now when it comes it is in a national treasure right here brother Owen does. Ed was good God a mighty we can go on and on and on. He’s just been kind enough to give me his many wonderful books that I can’t wait to read. One of the great joys I’ve had coming to Edinburgh is just meeting his brother. Really it is that he brings a joy. He’s got an intensity of energy. He’s got a wonderful creativity and humanity that hit you.


Guess in your hug before you even say a word. And then once he starts talking, of course, you got a whole lot to say because he’s been reading for


70 some years, maybe more than the 85. Now brother


85 years young. That’s unbelievable. That’s unbelievable. And so in that regard


Art is just part of the coming together of folk who have been shaped by so many similar traditions and legacies, and then being able to revel in each other’s humanity in that regard. And the first question had to do with


all Yes, yes, yes, the Billie Holiday, the Baltimore City, the Jewish brother wrote that, you know, miracle.


So it was a fascinating coming together at Cafe Society. 1939 when you got the genius of a Billie Holiday using the lyrics, he had been a member of the Communist Party. Well, the Communist Party actually,


in history, United States, integrated between black and white people before the churches did.


And that fascinating before the churches did, let alone the universities, you see, so whatever you think they were all in a different issues when it came to that issue. Mariupol and Billie Holiday and she’s not a member, the Communist Party, she’s is open to creative lyrics with courage, Kamala catastrophe.


But you have to use the genres of the day that speak to especially the younger generation. Now. Macklemore just came out with his hip hop song, right? How many in one day? What does it be? 30,000,030 5 million folk have heard that song about Gaza. He is his vanilla brother in in the hip hop genre. And he’s got a critique of the blacklist. Hey, y’all tell him he’s so big and bad. How come you didn’t step forward? Me and Eminem, we know we’re in a genre created by black creative geniuses. But as the way to step forward when it comes to these issues, there will be more Jay Cole and the others are coming. Erykah Badu is coming. Rhapsody’s going to be doing Yes, black, we’re gonna do it. But at this particular moment, that’s not at the level of strain fruit artistically. Now, I know the music been dumbed down in the last few years. But


it still has something to say. And it takes courage of a Macklemore to do that.


Very much. So he’s kind enough to have me and then jumping, jumping over the fence at Columbia University. I said he had to do that. And I don’t even know him. But it’s nice to be in there. How come? I want to be a small part of the wave that puts the focus on our precious Palestinian brothers and sisters who will not be crushed, even given genocidal attack, the resilience is still there, the fight back is still there, right. So that’s one example of a strange fruit like response to the barbarism of that day, which is the lynching of black people. And US Congress couldn’t even pass the bill. Even under FDR leadership, because of the ties of the Southern elites in the Democratic Party, brother, Fred Martin has written about Magisterium only given his own training at Harvard, as a historian as well as a political writer for various politicians in a progressive manner, you see, so in that sense, and I hope that we don’t leave discouraged. That’s the crucial thing. We need all the courage, Vision resilience, we can get at the weather to grim as moments in the history of species that went and talk about ecological catastrophe yet, which could end the whole thing.


I’ll try to be brief. The,


I’ll just pick up on the phrase moments of interruption from the question. The last question. Part of what I was trying to do in my opening remarks was to draw you out on the object of hope and the grounds for hope. So, if the only source of illumination is an interruption from above,


then the possibility of transfiguring ordinary reality and seeing enough good in it to be transfigured, gets eliminated. The other question has to do with whether


whether more than a moment of interruption can be hoped for and must be hoped for, in order to respect the actual yearning. We all feel, to have our relationships set and right not merely for the terror to be interrupted momentarily. But for us to find a way to live with one another that we can


deal with cope with survive in the hope that Paul D was




Yes, yes, yes, yes.


to that last question.


I mean, the,


the candour in which you spoke of


not knowing what to do.


You know, and I think this is really one of these moments where we have to honour that confusion.


And we have to honour that sense of impotence, even if we have examples, that things have been rendered differently.


Because, you know, in the midst of it in the thick of it,


it heartbreak doesn’t even begin to capture


what’s happening


not just for the people in Gaza,


but just to witness that.


And, you know, the genocides or, you know, we haven’t talked about Sudan and all these places where the, the impossible inhumanity that we’re witnessing, and it is very difficult not to revert to cynicism, it is very difficult to say, well, if not this, then what is going to turn our hearts to this suffering.


Sorry, I just, I just want to take this moment to say like, yeah, honour, your confusion, honour, the sense that you know, it is it can feel hopeless.


And then try to invest best we can, in those glimpses of hope, you know, that growing edge, knowing that it’s may not be permanent.


But maybe the best we can do for the moment, for the moment.


Thank you, gentlemen.


Ladies and gentlemen, this evening is going to draw to an end very soon. And before I say thank you to Dr. West, and Jeffrey stout and Dr. David Kim, I’d like to first of all remind you that the final lecture, different lecture is tomorrow in the informatics forum. I think it started about 530.


I just want to thank them for taking time out of their schedule, treating us to this wonderful conversation, and ending on a note of hope.


I’m just going to say very briefly a few words that I was thinking of when I was thinking reflecting on the lectures.


I did not know much about John Coltrane till I started thinking about these lectures. And I realised that for him, a musician was a message giver, making music was an endeavour tied to a larger, greater good. And he said, I humbly asked to be given the means and privileges to make others happy through music. And he wrote in a letter in 1966, less than a year before his death, I know that there are bad forces, forces that bring suffering to others, and misery to the world. I want to be the opposite force. I want to be the force, which is truly for good.


And I thought about a poem by a British Nigerian poet Benno Cree.


And I just want to end on that because I think in a way, what has been running through the lectures and through the conversation today is not that hope is easy. But actually, whether it’s at times of catastrophe, or times in are the banality of ordinary life, that we need to keep hope alive, is also a struggle.


And he writes, but we live in times that have lost this tough art of dreaming. Can we still seek the Lost angels of our better natures? Can we still wish and will for poverties death and a newer way to undo war, and find peace in the labyrinth of the Middle East, and prosperity in Africa as a true way to end the fear tide of immigration. We dream of a new politics that will renew the world under their weary suspicious gaze. There’s always a new way, a better way. That’s not been tried before.


Thank you, gentleman for showing us glimmers of a new way.

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