What is Stand Up Philosophy

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This blog charts my attempts, in whatever way I can, and whenever I can, and as honestly as possible, to stand up for thinking - real thinking, whether in philosophy or politics, or maths - Because thinking needs standing up for!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Different Thinking

Assumptions and simplification are of course the mainstays of thought. It is so difficult to get thinking for oneself, or to make one's own point, if one has to assume another's argument is ever more subtle... How can one argue with real thought as it is actually thinking? One can only argue, if one can find a neat place to disagree. To hack one's own way into thinking is therefore invariably to clear  space in an actually shifting argument, a space in which one can define and nail down another argument; in order to be able to start thinking or at least arguing, for oneself.
   Now in a sense this simplification does make sense. Actions are, after all, done (or not): They are events, which have ramifications and open out histories, but do happen (in some form). To argue for oneself is therefore to treat other thinkers and their arguments as if they were events, which might cast long shadows, but whose form is knowable, and effects traceable. But of course the effect of such simplification on a discipline such as philosophy, which is all about the argument, is that all great thinkers become, for all but their exponents (and sometimes antagonists) mere caricatures of themselves. Even more than that, their arguments become simplified and distinct. Once you are part of a canon, the byways that led to the argument become very unimportant, as everyone wants to get to the real deal.
    More than that, the philosophical extras, the playful texts, and weird essays that mark the careers of the great writers risk being lost. The problem being, that in these texts, one often as not meets 'another writer', and a very different one, from the one that one thought one knew. And to lose sight altogether of these texts is such a pity. For what makes a great thinker is surely the capacity to think many things, argue differently, and sometimes mischievously or oddly or obscurely or maybe even to change one's mind and change it back again: What is greatness but the capacity to experiment and think many things? So much so, that I might argue that it is in the oddities, and byroads of their thought, and not in their 'royal roads' that you real feel a great thinker at work. More than that, it is often these playful essays that reveal deep things about the way in which a great thinker works, and the way that their arguments are crafted. It is also these texts that are often the easiest to read for the non-philosopher. It is therefore such a pity that in the rage to teach, to learn and to argue, that they can become so obscured.
It is these more playful or sometimes frankly weird works, that my new sequence of performance pieces will aim to explore. I will endeavour to take thinkers who often seem difficult and remote to general audiences, and through performing their minor works, their little essays turn them into playful friends, whose arguments fairly rip off the page, make immediate sense, and are even fun. The aim being to show what for me is such a cardinal truth: That thinking, however difficult the process is so much Fun!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Fun and the Privilege

One of the things I think I love most about performing thought, is how fun it is. I mean, of course it is wacky, and you need to be careful, not to confuse the audience or pastiche the thinkers. But it is fun, taking ideas, turning them into muses with boots on, and introducing those muses to people who have never met them before. It makes the ideas into living entities once again: Thoughts with their own power, their own passion, their own ability to take over or to stimulate minds. What is more, if you are careful the audience will hear and enjoy ideas that are really on the printed page fairly tricky and abstract; but which are, as living word-creatures, vital, real and palpable.
  What | hope the show opens up for people, is another way to think about their own ideas, and ideas in general. I mean we tend to think of ideas as something very page-based, and so potentially abstract and removed form vibrancy. By returning then the ideas to their intense roots, I hope I show that what makes a great idea, and what gives it its simple urgency, and defines it as genius, is its ability to live beyond a page. A great idea in a sense is very like a human. They are easy to grasp and see, and even relate to, and yet they are full of infinite subtlety, and surprise, and it is this human (but also strangely monstrous) element, I feel that the show articulates so well, and which the audience tell me afterwards, moves them and makes them think.

But see what you think - this playlist takes you through most of my latest show in Bristol:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

keeping the show moving onwards

There is nothing more important, when you are doing stand up thought, than working out the rhythm of the audience. I mean the exact level the audience will work at together, to enjoy the show: That is, how they will react together, and catch each mood, and how this dynamic element is effecting what they are thinking and (hopefully) enjoying about the show.
 This element really matters, and it is this feeling the audience generates which I think makes or mars the show. The problem is of course that the audience are alway rather apprehensive when the performance starts. They are worried, about what the show will involve (what after all is stand up philosophy?), but also they are always worried about whether they will understand the pieces, a fear that is so real, and very understandable. As the performer one has to break into this fear, and make 
Everything ok. But one can never do it alone from the front of the house, so one needs to get everyone on board, together as soon as possible.
 In recent shows I have sought to do this in three ways. Firstly I make sure the most intense pieces are right at the beginning of the show. These pieces are the poetic and multi-layered works of Foucault and Deleuze. These are the pieces, which are for me as a philosopher so critical, and yet which could be fairly challenging for those (the majority) who are encountering these thinkers for the first time. By presenting them at the start, I deliberately worry the audience, while intriguing them with the language of these pieces, which is highly polished and rhythmic. The pieces serve then, I hope to get the audience's ear into the show, but you must be careful, because it scares them too . So the third piece I do is one of my storytelling philosophical classics complete with audience participation, and irreverent humour. The relief is palpable...what is more as it is integral to this story that philosophy often difficult when it is trivial, the audience kind of feel included ( I hope)- their  fear has been reflected back at them, and they have laughed at it....
My second main strategy revolves around powerful one liners, the kind of things one will remember and do so long after the show is over. These one liners, memorable phrases abound in the kind of thinker I deal with, and I design the show to make them shine out. The audience then know they are getting something, will keep something in memory, and that is a lot of the battle.
Finally one does need to crack on with the show. It is a fatal mistake to tarry, the audience must not tire.So I crack on at a pace, keeping the rhythm of explanation and performance tight and carefully measured, so that the show does not feel at all long, which would be fatal to it.

In my last two shows this strategy appears to have paid off, as the audience have been very generous in their remarks afterward, but I will soon post up the shows, so you can judge for yourself.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Enter the hell's kitchen

Have you ever wondered what a philosophers mind sounds like? Tonight the standing up for freedom  edition will be the enter the hell's kitchen special. The noisy place of he philosophers mind, with all its stroppy muses will be recreated  for one night only. So come along to st Nicholas of Tolentino in Easton Bristol,and hear what that book of freedom might sound like !

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Crystalizing the Probelm

There is nothing like philosophy to make one rethink a problem or at least understand it in a different light. Take this piece on Heidegger. It takes the form of an ad-lib lecture, to a mixed audience at the end of night of poetry. The aim of the piece is to pose a problem, or better still shine a different light on a problem we all know so well. It introduces the idea of Being (as opposed to ideas such as identity or the Human Soul) and shows how that idea in itself  creates a modern imbalance in our understand of our own lived time. But also how that imbalance itself creates problems of responsibility to the future. It finally poses a partial solution to that problem, a solution that is at best partial and problematic.
 This second set of problems, are highlight about half way through, where I link arguments from Being and Time back to Fascism (an old argument). The point being then that the 'solution' to the problem of responsibility, like the original Heideggerian version, is at risk from fascism and eventual irrelevancy. This second problem is deliberately left implicit (it was the end of the evening and I did not want to depress anyone), and yet it makes the end this piece more open than perhaps the audience would have expected.
 The experience therefore allows one to understand a problem, poses a solution and then queries that solution, and does so in under  five minutes, and while leaving a lot room of arguments and different reactions. In short it is the kind of high velocity that philosophy does so well.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Standing up for Freedom - the incite remix!

  'Matthew Hammond jumps about the stage making theatre out of all those books you meant to read but never got around to...'

Where does the idea of freedom come from?
   It is after all, very much the word for our time. We are told, in the West, that we are the 'Free world', we feel ourselves to be free, and more than that, we expect, or demand, that others whatever the culture or nation, desire our kind of freedom. 'Freedom' has become then not only a political  maxim, but also the defining factor of identity for people and nations. So much so, that the history of our times, feels itself to be, at our time, the very history of freedom, and its triumph.
   And yet how did this happen? How did freedom reach this pivotal role in our minds and our world? What great dramas and great minds created this idea for our times? In a unique one man spoken word show,  I aim to take you back through the two thousand year history of the idea of freedom. Recreating with a mixture of intense poetic monologues, humourous tales, and dramatic stories, the minds and the moments that gave us our freedom, that made us the individuals we are today.
   History and thought has seldom felt so fun and engaging; But at the same moment current debates, and modern problems are seen not merely as are they in the here and now, but also as they are part of a  two millennia adventure, right into the heart of being human.

To see more about standup philosophy, see my video at: http://youtu.be/4hGZulSP4Yw

To see more about this show - see this promo at: http://youtu.be/APLah_qlWa8

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ranting for Modernity - A performance

A while ago I used to write many pieces like this one, which is on the recent death of Mrs. Thatcher. These pieces all had the same format. I started on the one hand, with a problem in philosophy, or perhaps a thinker, and on the other, with an event based on the week's news, and bought the two into sharp contrast and relief. The aim was to transform the ideas of philosophy into political commentary, while allowing the events of the week to infuse and explain abstract philosophical ideas. -  Well I wrote such pieces for a number of years (a series that included a history of justice, a number of which turned into my paperback book of essays 'Not What One Was; A Brief History of the Concept of Justice', and the Portraits of the Week series - you can see them all here: http://www.cartwheels-collective.co.uk/Dun_Rantin....html), but in the end felt the pieces to have run their course, and in its place developed my stand up show.
 The Stand Up Philosophy Show has up to this point tended to revolve around the history of philosophy, which is so rich and deep, it has provided (and will continue to provide), an endless source of material. And yet the events of recent times (well the death of Margret Thatcher), has put my mind back to thinking about my Rants, and how one might turn them into performance pieces. This is the first result of that process,  a brief essay, that is at once a study on Foucault, but also a genuine attempt to understand the difficulties which so-called Thatcherism poses to thought (and to politics). As it was performed on the day of her funeral, and to a mixed audience, I tried to be respectful throughout, and yet not to compromise on the point that really matters. Namely, that people live and die, and that is tragic (or happy). But what is really at issue in considering Thatcher's legacy, is something else - namely the apparent undead nature of Thatcherism itself. A nature that means in spite of the banking collapse, and global prolonged recession (which even if Thatcherism - aka deregulation -  did not directly cause, it was certainly caught up in), the 'Ism' is still very much around, still irreplaceable, and potentially as strong as ever...


Thursday, March 21, 2013

The many voices of Thought

I am often asked - why do you perform from the history of philosophy? Why do you not perform more modern stuff? And why do you not use modern philosophy to address the problems of today, as is surely implied by calling what I do 'Stand Up'. A fair question, in many ways, for perhaps the label 'Stand Up' does imply conventional contemporary commentary. Isn't that what stand up is?
 Maybe, but on a deep level, such an argument, misses the point of philosophy itself. For me philosophy, ancient or modern, is really all about using the past of thought to articulate what it is to have a mind, to think and so be free in the present. For it is in the past, that you see the ideas that have given you your mind,  emerge, and then mutate as they become what we are today. It is the past therefore that can teach you how you became what you currently are, and so open you up to becoming different. A move which, rightly or wrongly, I always feel, that an issue based approach, on modern trendy topics, could never quite aspire to. But I am certainly at fault, if this move is not always clear, a fault, that I hope my latest performance piece goes some way to addressing.
Here it is - so judge for yourself!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Standing up for Freedom, the Trailer

'The Stand up Philosopher is Standing up for Freedom
                                                                Join him, because Freedom is worth standing up for'.

   For me, some of the  the joy of performing philosophy, lies in making tangible all the shifts in tempo and mood, that animate the great works of philosophy. If these works were really as they are sometimes seen to be, merely abstract arguments, which are as dry on the page, as they are difficult in the mind, I doubt philosophy would matter at all, or ever be studied. On the the contrary, it is the urgency of the writing, and fascination of thought as it changes its rhythm, sometimes mid-sentence, or runs across a gamut of emotions, which makes philosophy powerful and signficant. It is these then, the complex harmonies and melodies of thought, which the stand up show, by word and expression,  aims to bring to the fore.
   This is all the more the case when one is tracing a theme such as 'freedom' back across the ages. For in this case, the same idea has had many different aspects, moods, and even concepts attached to it. To follow such an idea is therefore to be caught in a wonderful theatre of the mind, where at one level, all is contrary ideas, and powerful passions; and yet, beyond all that tumult, lies always one great gathering theme, which is slowly becoming what it is, across the shifting arguments and passions.
   It is then this passionate and complex development which I hope is caught both in the show itself, but also in the recent trailer-come-short-film we have made of the show. This trailer ought, I thought,  to stand up itself, to ask its own questions, and tell its own story, and yet it must do so in the context of the show from which it was taken. But what it shares directly with the show is the same attempt to develop one great theme, across many changes in tempo and cadence, a theme that might remain, ethereal throughout, and yet all the same is clearly gathering its own relevance and force.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Being Mary, (or George, or Immanuel, or Baruch...)

With my philosopher's head on, the really interesting part of performance is to explore the gamut of emotions (well really 'Affects', if I am being technical) that underpin, overarch or perhaps infuse thought in general and certain thinkers in particular.
   And yet that statement gets it wrong (slightly). We are all so used to the emotion/thought dichtomy, that we tend to assume that the emotions are either explaining thought or else clouding it (and so somehow ought to be absent). This Dichotomy would have us believe that either emotions help us therefore 'know the thinker' and 'explain his thought', or else have no place in any rational thought - and if this was the case then performance philosophy would, I think, be as pointless as it was impossible.
   Luckily (for me) the real relationship between emotion and thought is so much richer than this, and performance offers an opportunity to explore this richness. In making this argument I understand myself to be drawing on Deleuze (but also Foucault) who argue that great thinkers are great stylists. More than that, they are writers and explorers of the human soul for their method involves catching up their affects in their thought - sometimes using them as topics, at others dismissing them (and so arguing openly against them or pitching them against logic), while at other times riding them like a breaking wave. A work such as Wollstonecraft's 'The Vindication of the Rights of Women' or Spinoza's 'Ethics' is therefore a witch ride like nothing else in literature, for one never really knows where the affects which it conjures up or shares, and the argument of the book is taking one. That is, to read such works is to be taken on an emotional journey, where one is infused with feelings, but those feelings are then the topic of discussion, and reforged in the light of the very fiery words that inspired them.
   Or to put it slightly differently, a truly great philsopher is one that reaches into our mind, and makes it jangle, but then from the discord of rational thought and feeling, plays some kind of new tune, a new melody, in our minds: This tune is like no other for its effect is that in singing it, our natures themselves become re-thinkable. It is this facet of reaching out, and allowing a chink of thought, that makes both philosophy and performance great. It is why then they can be so easily combined. - That is, it is why philosophy makes great drama.
   But more than that, it is this emotional lexicon that makes performing thought easy and fun: It you get the thinker right, then the argument and the actions follow. When people ask then, as they do, 'how do you remember all that', I always feel like saying, for me it is like simply remembering who one is: For the philosopher I perform (and their arguments) are stalwarts in my mind (and in a sense, as they are part of the tradition of thought that gave us so many of the ideas we all live by, of  all our minds). All I do is find then the affects that infuse those individuals, and the thoughts, and their arguments follow.

   It is therefore this idea of combining passion with argument (a method which she pioneered), that 'makes' my recent performance of Mary Wollenscraft. I had not had much time to work on the exact words, but I got the affects right, and everything else followed when I was in front of the audience, and the fiery power of the Vindication coursed though me: Next time I perform this piece (and there will be a next time), it will be more polished -  but I hope I will keep that level of emotional intensity....

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Standing up for - Freedom - thoughts after the first Show

Performer's Notes on the 'Standing Up for Freedom' Show.

   Hegel is certainly right (not a sentence I have much use for normally). Ideas are strange slippery things, and in thinking them we are transformed beyond any one time, and somehow caught up in the drama, in the struggles and in the language of the past. What is more, Hegel is surely quite correct when he suggests that there is a difference between those ideas that we are silently thinking without realising it, and which infuse both our assumptions, and feelings, and those ideas which we are enacting consciously and deliberately. I mean, both are silently thinking their history in us, but in a different ways, and at a different rhythm.
   To follow an idea, which is so central to our modern self, such as freedom, across time, is to watch that idea (and so the modern mind) emerge, through many stages and epochs: Ideas that are at one time just silent and implicit becoming explicit, but then are lost again, or found in a different context and in different places. The very ideas one lives by are thereby opened out, and become, in a sense, characters in their own drama, with their own story to tell. The aim of this show is therefore to catch the audience up in this drama, which is after all, also their drama, for it speaks a lot to and with, the ideas that fill and reverberate around all our minds.
   In addition there is a real fascination in going backwards through history, one akin surely to following a river back to the source. Now I am not an essentialist, and do not believe that the past is 'purer', or that freedom was more 'free' there, but as a performer I know the gathering power of going backwards in time. The audience feels the urgency build, as we come closer and closer to the finale of the show - in this case the Trial of Socrates, a moment when the main threads of Western thought were first clearly enunciated, and the adventure really got going. To ride piggy back on that energy, that power of flowing the wrong way in time, is a delight. For it gives a pattern and power to the ideas. More than that, it provides a strong framework for the pieces, that by themselves might be hard to place, however good the ideas (and their performance) are. In short to run backwards in time, is to already have caught up the audience on the journey.

But if you want to judge for yourself whether it works: A playlist from my first performance of my new 'Standing Up for Freedom' show is here:


Monday, January 14, 2013

Standing up for Freedom

Where does an idea as strange as Freedom come from? And how can one praise it, when we are as caught up in it as we are? How indeed? Perhaps the only way is to watch that idea decompose before us - to hear and see where many of its aspects come from, and to think then for ourselves how the ideas are then used: In short a backwards history of thought, where ideas fall apart, and are reworked - a history that we can then in our own minds, run forwards for ourselves, as we decide how we might also be free. A history must start with the very modern paradox of how one lives in a society where if one is not necessarily free to do something, the thing is either illegal or the topic of anxiety; and then work backwards to re-find the potency of freedom itself. The first piece tonight looks at Foucault's argument, which seeks to understand how society captures you without you being aware of it, and how that makes freedom so hard. The second piece is Deleuze's counter argument, and is a poetic conjuration of how the moment might set you free. Full playlist The Four Minute Foucault Or the History of Sexuality, in an Introduction, three Arguments, and a Conclusion. In his scintillatingly intense study, 'The History of Sexuality Volume 1: The Will to Know', Foucault not only attempts to persuade you that your sexuality is really not what you have been told it is, but also that even as you desire, you are plugged into a wider complex web of power, that defines our society. Foucault thereby turns our inmost feelings into a battleground of regulation and resistance. Freedom becomes then, if not about setting your mind free, then a matter of managing the exact way that the Power-Desire locus, defines what one is, and what one can think. In this short piece the critical argument here, is turned into an intense performance, which summarises both the complexity, and includes the good humour of the original work. Deleuze, - Becoming Heaccity: This vivid piece is an adaptation of one short essay from Deleuze and Guattari's great ragbag of a book 'A Thousand Plateaus'. The study, uses art and imagery to try to show you how you might set yourself free in each and every moment, if only you have the courage to see it, and the commitment to live it. This brief, and beautiful piece of writing needs to be understood as as much an invocation to freedom, as it is an argument. Deleuze is trying to show you how you are free, and not merely to tell that you are, a move which I attempt to capture in the performance. Having set out the modern problem, we start to go back in time. First a hundered years (or so) ago, but this basic duality of freedom remains the same - but understood now in relation to the demise of god, and what it means to be 'from hope and fear set free'. Neitzche: Kant, and how to 'think the thought that has Ne'ar been Thunk before'. This piece was inspired by Nietzsche's hilarious deconstruction of Kant in 'Beyond Good and Evil'. Here he dismisses Kantian philosophy as mere word play, and theological smoke and mirrors. I have taken it as my inspiration, and blended it with famous details from Kant's life, to make this rumbustious story. So is it time to Think the thought that ne'ar been Thunk?' or even 'Plunder that ponder thats ne'ar been plumbed?' On a different and far darker tack, is Marx's version of a similar problem. What does it really mean, he asks, to live beyond God in a world of science? The Three Minute Marx: Or The dream of Marx in 3 thesis and a panic attack This short piece attempts the impossible! Not only is it a short succinct summary of Marx's great work 'Das Capital', but also it attempts to make Marx radical and powerful again. We then move back only a generation, and yet so much changes. God is still in heaven (just), and there is the argument that not only can one reconcile personal and political freedom, but it is necessary for both that one does so. An argument that will infuse the work of the next three philosophers. Hegel: Or how Culture will Set you Free. Hegel presents, albeit it a slightly idiosyncratic way, the clearest, and perhaps most persuasive argument, that only society can set you free. This argument is perhaps best made in the philosophy of Right, whose introduction is presented here. The performance attempts to recapture something of Hegel's unique lecture style, part introverted thinker, part messianic prophet. Kant: What is Enlightment? This is Kant at his critical and yet belligerent best. In the cause of freedom he argues, one must both question everything, but ultimately to conform the norms of one's day. To fail in either of these, Kant claims, is to risk that very freedom that we should cherish. Kant is therefore both the greatest of revolutionaries but also the most extreme of reactionaries: As modern audiences can find this position uncomfortable, please feel free to heckle - Kant will love it! Rousseau, and the dark symphony for Freedom: The first two books of the Social Contract. This is one of those books, whose first opening, like certain pieces of music, we all know so well. And yet like a big symphony, the introduction, the first lines, are actually at odds with a lot of the rest of the argument in the work; an argument that takes one on a very strange journey, through freedom, to oppression. It is therefore a book that writes the history of so many revolutions, and yet does so before the revolutions have happened... It is a study which, like good music, is at once dark and light, and has gathered new power and new meaning across the two and half centuries since it was written. Why Must One Worthy of Living in the Best of all Possible Worlds? The next piece, is one of my favourites. It is from my second favourite philosopher, Leibniz, and amounts to a thesis defence of an idea which Voltaire hooted out of history, namely that this is the Best of all Possible Worlds. And yet, this mockery is so unjust - for the argument behind this doctrine is very subtle and carefully nuanced. In this piece I update Leibniz for modern ears, and give him a chance to answer Voltaire, and to try to invigorate an idea he held very dear. We now jump back past the Reformation, to a world of fixed theologically sanctioned monarchy, and a somewhat surprising argument which appears to critique that world. Thomas Moore and the pathway to Utopia. The first book of 'Utopia' In this very witty and radical text Moore, appears to question not just the assumptions of his day, but also of the ages that have followed it, as he sends up not only monarchs, and their desire for land, but also the Novo Homo, desire for wealth. He can do this by presenting the critique as traveller's tales, and putting it into the mind of a speaker whose position in society is unclear and complex. I attempt to capture that complexity, and the very modern alternative style comedy that infuses it, by performing this piece in two voices, that of Moore and the traveller Raphael, through whose interactions so much can still be said. Now we jump a millennia and a half, over so much that could be said by Aquinas, Augustine and Ibn Sina. But for reasons of time, we will next pick up the story of freedom in a lament, written in Ancient Rome to the passing of its Republic, a lament that then formed the backdrop for so much that was then thought about freedom and the state. The Valediction to Freedom Or Cicero's 'Republic' as a speech This piece seeks to present Cicero's central argument, in his book 'The Republic', as he might have best understood it, a speech made by his ghost. In his address Cicero will, not only present a summary of his book, but will also relate it to his own tragic end, and seeing both as precedents, make a direct appeal to us today. For he argues that we too, stand upon the fork of Fate, and on one side lies fear, and on the other only hope. The final two pieces go right back to the origin of philosophy in Plato, and looks from a different perspective at the idea of personal freedom, and its consequences. That is all very well for you Scocrates Or Alcibiades' lament for love This intense performance attempt to recapture something of one of the great moments in philosophy, but also in the history of freedom. Its inspiration lies in Plato's 'Symposium', the book that invented the word Philosophy. The highlight of that book might have been Socrates' great speech, where he attempts to show how love can set the lovers free. But just at the moment of Socrates' great appeal, his erstwhile friend Alcibiades, enters and is persuaded to give this very different account of their relationship. An account that is at once sobering and powerful, for reminds us that the freedom of one, is so easily another's dark prison. The final piece for tonight is where one always needs to start and end in Philosophy. It is from Plato's Apology - and starts with the moment that Socrates stands up to make an appeal for his life, against trumped up charges. It is a moment of high drama, for no-one really knows whether, like so any others, Socrates will plea bargain, or whether he will fight, and if so how. A drama that caught the spirit of Plato, and which infuses so much of his writing and all the philosophical debates that have followed it. It is therefore one of the great Events, in whose light the Western Philosophical tradition of freedom was forged. There is also a major role for the audience in this piece, so feel free to bury yourself in the part of the People of Athens.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hegel - to Mock or to Think?

It is one of the oddities of philosophy - how an idea can really grab you, and do so in spite of yourself. I am currently working on a piece on Hegel, who is never a philosopher I feel happy with - he is too verbose and too much the archetypical clever fool - the one people mean when they laugh at philosophy or think it pointless. All of which is true - and to read Hegel is to be perplexed and slightly annoyed - one wishes he says things more clearly (the really annoying thing is that he can - the start of the phenomenology of mind is wonderful, it is just a pity about how it then carries on though). And yet, and yet there is something also wonderful about Hegel. Even as one dismisses his ideas, and laughs at his made up universal histories, and bizarre pompous formulas, something in him grabs you. He has a power to make you step out beyond yourself, and your normal experience, and challenges you to re-examine yourself and your life. You laugh at him at your peril therefore, for you might very well become the object of fun.... The game therefore of performance I think ought to be to capture something of this movement. The audience ought to start laughing at him, and then wonder if it is he that is laughing at them... To see if I manage to pull it off come along to Taking the Mike on wednesday - or, alternatively there will be a video coming soon!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why Going Backwards is the way Forwards!

Why are the Stand up Shows a backwards read through time? In a sense because for me philosophy is at its best at its cutting edge. What the show does is to attempt to get the moment of elation that is a good idea. More than that seeing that moment makes even very well known ideas feel exciting again, and vibrant. It also opens up strange links between ideas. Foucault might be habitually seen as opposed to the modern liberal consensus, but that does mean he is fundamentally opposed to Kant, upon whom that consensus bases its foundation, and with whom Foucault shares so very very much. It is this loop of Foucault-kant that presenting them in their moment of thought capture, and which is so much clearer if heard Foucault before Kant. To go back in time, is to know where the ideas lead to, even as you are presented with them in their power and passion. It is therefore to be and feel the bitter sweetness of the history of philosophy - where ideas that promise so much, lead to odd places, and never were the thinker hoped. And yet it is the power of thought that these odd journeys do not matter. Indeed they is the point, ideas should open out to who knows what, for it is it that opening the world replies to them, and they are made what they then become. and it is reply to the immediate power of the idea, the structure of the show, the running backwards though time, tries to get at.