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“Once upon a time there was a world full of meaning, focused by exemplary figures in the form of gods and heroes, saints and sinners. How did we lose them, or, might they still be around, in the form of modern day masters, in fields like sports, music, craft and cooking. Are these masters able to inspire us and bring back a sense of wonder?”

Being in the World is a documentary film by young filmmaker Tao Ruspoll exploring human beings ability, through the mastery of physical, intellectual and creative skills, to find meaning in the world. Some of the most renowned philosophers take viewers on a gripping journey to meet modern day masters – people who not only have learned to respond in a sensitive way to the requirements of their craft, but have also gathered their communities in ways that our technological age threatens to make obsolete.

The film includes interviews with Hubert Dreyfus, Charles Taylor, Albert Borgmann, Mark Wrathall, Taylor Carman, John Haugeland, Iain Thomson, and Sean Kelly.

Tao Ruspoli graduated with a degree in philosophy from UC Berkeley in 1998. The first philosophy course he took was called “Existentialism in Literature and Filme” taught by professor Hubert Dreyfus. This course inspired Tao to become a filmmaker and he went on to take all of Dreyfus’ courses, all of which had tremendous influence on him and his outlook on the world.

Ten years after graduating, Tao returned to Berkeley to revisit Dreyfus and was inspired to make Being in the World, as an attempt to bring these profound philisophical ideas to a non-academic audience. Dreyfus introduced Tao to all of his students who had now become well-known professors in their own right—from Sean Kelly at Harvard to Mark Wrathall at UC Riverside, as well as Taylor Carman, Iain Thomson, John Haugeland, and several others. Tao and his team traveled to meet and interview each of these professors and then researched and found masters in different fields who best illustrated their ideas.


The Possibility of Hope is a short 2007 documentary that accompanied the home release of the brilliant film Children of Men (a film that only becomes more pertinent) focussing on the rising fascism of everyday life, immigration, global warming and its attendant migratory flows, and the absent futures of both capitalism and (potentially) civilisation. The documentary consists of talking heads from Fabrizio Eva (human geographer), John Gray (passive nihilist/pessimist), Naomi Klein (globalisation writer), James Lovelock (Gaia theorist), Saskia Sassen (sociologist), Tzvetan Todorov (philosopher and historian), and Slavoj Zizek (spider killing monster).

While the voices of these academics intone their by turns despairing, messianic or more sober analyses, the eye is subjected to images of ruin and decay, to climatological shifts and their consequences, the flows and faces of refugees, and the armoured, disciplined bodies of armed police. Running throughout the film is an emphasis on movement and its regulation through check-points and walls, nations and ideological “spooks”, as well as the urgency and inevitability of a fundamental shift in the distribution of the species and its life ways.

The film is also available on youtube in three unsubtitled segments, for those who find them a distraction.

…hope must be informed by a realistic understanding of human beings as they are. There is a type of hope now that is a kind of blocking out reality: now I think that is a much more hopeless view.– John Gray.

rabbit

AUDIO:  Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines/Look at the Bunny: Totem, Taboo, Technology

“The humans are dead.” Whether or not you recognize the epigram from Flight of the Conchords (and if not, there are worse ways to spend a few minutes than by looking here, and I recommend sticking around for the “binary solo”), Dominic Pettman’s Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) will likely change the way you think about humanity, animals, machines, and the relationships among them. Pettman uses a series of fascinating case studies, from television programs to films to Sufi fables to pop songs, to explore the notion of Agamben’s “anthropological machines” and the human being as a “technospecies without qualities” in a modern mediascape that includes Thomas Edison’s film Electrocuting an Elephant, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, and the interplanetary soundscape created by NASA (among many, many others).

We recently gathered over Skype to talk about some of the major thematic and argumentative threads snaking through this book and Pettman’s recent exploration of totems in Look at the Bunny: Totem, Taboo, Technology (Zero Books, 2013). Both books take on the varied ways that love, technology, identity (both human and not), and economies have been transformed in a world that includes pacifist Orcs, voices without bodies, ecologies without nature, reptile-doctors, and pixelated lovers.

During our conversation, Pettman mentions a film about the zigzag totem that can be found here. Cabinet Magazine, which also comes up in the course of our conversation, can be found here.

http://www.academia.edu/245013/After_the_Orgy_Toward_a_Politics_of_Exhaustion