Cornel West Teaches You How to Think Like a Philosopher

Cor­nel West has nev­er shied away from dis­agree­ment, which is one of the qual­i­ties that has kept him promi­nent as a pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al for decades. Anoth­er is his intense, even lyri­cal style of express­ing those dis­agree­ments — and every­thing else he has to say besides. In his aca­d­e­m­ic career he’s built a rep­u­ta­tion as not exact­ly the aver­age pro­fes­sor, as his for­mer stu­dents at Har­vard, Yale, Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Paris, and oth­er schools have expe­ri­enced first-hand. Now, online edu­ca­tion plat­form Mas­ter­class has made his dis­tinc­tive ped­a­gogy avail­able to any­one will­ing to pay USD $20-per-month mem­ber­ship price with its brand new course “Cor­nel West Teach­es Phi­los­o­phy.”

“This class revolves around three fun­da­men­tal ques­tions,” West says in the trail­er above. First, “What does it mean to be human?” Sec­ond, “What are the forms of love that con­sti­tute the best of our human­i­ty: love of truth, love of good­ness, love of beau­ty?” Third, “How does com­mu­ni­ty, tra­di­tion, her­itage shape and mold our con­cep­tions of who we are as human beings?”

This mate­r­i­al, one sens­es, will be less straight­for­ward­ly prac­ti­cal than in some oth­er Mas­ter­class­es; but then, is there any view­er to whom it could be irrel­e­vant? What­ev­er our par­tic­u­lar field of endeav­or, each of us is, as West puts it, “a feath­er­less, two-legged, lin­guis­ti­cal­ly con­scious crea­ture, born between urine and feces, whose body will soon be the culi­nary delight of ter­res­tri­al worms.”

Yet in West­’s view, we can also reach toward high­er things. This requires the prop­er atti­tude toward wis­dom, the love of which is at the root of the very term phi­los­o­phy: hence the lessons in West­’s Mas­ter­class ded­i­cat­ed to “How to Think Like a Philoso­pher” and “How Phi­los­o­phy Serves Human­i­ty.” Lat­er he goes deep­er, and at one point even “unset­tles the mind and empow­ers the soul by illu­mi­nat­ing the del­i­cate inter­play between hope, opti­mism, and despair.” Car­ry­ing on the expan­sive tra­di­tion of W. E. B. Du Bois, West has cre­at­ed a role for him­self that encom­pass­es the work of aca­d­e­m­ic, activist, pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al, and even music-lover. For his ded­i­cat­ed lis­ten­ers and read­ers, his les­son on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and the “jazz-like con­cep­tion of phi­los­o­phy” it encour­ages will sure­ly be worth Mas­ter­class’ price of admis­sion alone. Explore the course here.

Note: If you sign up for a Mas­ter­Class course by click­ing on the affil­i­ate links in this post, Open Cul­ture will receive a small fee that helps sup­port our oper­a­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Cor­nel West’s Free Online Course on W.E.B. Du Bois, the Great 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub­lic Intel­lec­tu­al

Daniel Den­nett and Cor­nel West Decode the Phi­los­o­phy of The Matrix

Neil deGrasse Tyson Teach­es Sci­en­tif­ic Think­ing and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion in a New Online Course

Phi­los­o­phy for Begin­ners: A Free Intro­duc­to­ry Course from Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty

How to Teach and Learn Phi­los­o­phy Dur­ing the Pan­dem­ic: A Col­lec­tion of 450+ Phi­los­o­phy Videos Free Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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