A Jazz-soaked Philosophy for our Catastrophic Times: From Socrates to Coltrane’

Prof. Cornel West delivers the 2024 Gifford Lecture Series at the University of Edinburgh, titled ‘A Jazz-soaked Philosophy for our Catastrophic Times: From Socrates to Coltrane’.

Lecture Two

Lecture Three

Lecture Four

Lecture Five

Lecture Six


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  1. Tam Dean Burn says:

    Wow what a gift- wish I was there for them

  2. SleepingDog says:

    You wait for Bella to publish some philosophy, then six lectures come at once. Well, I’ve only watched the first one so far, so it will be interesting to see if early impressions of strengths and weaknesses are sustained or revised.

    No doubt Cornel West is an impressive philosophical performer. I was especially amused by his cheery name-checking as he wielded the scalpel of criticism (analytical philosophers failing to critique Empire is likely fair comment, for example). As with his commentary on the Matrix, you have to pay attention to the shape of what he doesn’t say, although he was really elliptic (indeed evasive) in answering questions. Still, I can find a lot of common ground with his views.

    However, it remains to be seen if he subjects organised Christianity to the same level of criticism (throwing his call for moral consistency back at him) as he applies to empires, nation states and so forth. I suspect his personal salvation by a Church clouds his judgement. West’s contrast of religiosity with ‘nihilism’ seems not only jarring in context of the Scottish Census reporting a new majority for ‘no religion’, but actually insulting in the context of Israel’s war on Gaza backed by (often anti-Semitic) Christian evangelical Zionists. One could easily argue it is the Christian world (from which emerged NATO, Capitalism, global industrial pollution) that poses the greatest threat to the planet, especially the non-materialist Armageddonists and the materialist Churches of Affluence. West may position himself as anti-patriarchy, but that position is at odds with the traditions he most draws upon (so more criticism of these please).

    Still, it was interesting and informative to hear about the foundation and influence of black American musical traditions on resistance, acknowledgement and catastrophe, which will probably be what I remember most from Lecture 1.

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