Reflection

Thoughts from Cornel West

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” Plato says in line 38a of The Apology. How do you examine yourself? What happens when you interrogate yourself? What happens when you begin calling into question your tacit assumptions and unarticulated presuppositions and begin then to become a different kind of person? You know, Plato says philosophy’s a meditation on and a preparation for death. By death what he means is not an event, but a death in life because there’s no rebirth, there’s no change, there’s no transformation without death, and therefore the question becomes: How do you learn how to die? Of course Montaigne talks about that in his famous essay “To Philosophize Is to Learn How to Die.” You can’t talk about truth without talking about learning how to die because it’s precisely by learning how to die, examining yourself and transforming your old self into a better self, that you actually live more intensely and critically and abundantly. So that the connection between learning how to die and changing, being transformed, turning your world upside down, inverting your world the way in which that famous play by Ludwig Tieck** highlights so that you actually are in a different kind of zone, you have a new self. That’s why love is so inseparable from any talk about truth and death, because we know that love is fundamentally a death of an old self that was isolated and the emergence of a new self now entangled with another self, the self that you fall in love with.

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