Dear BAM blog readers,
Thanks to the hospitality of BAM, I had the great good fortune to launch my new book—The Faith of the Faithless—with a conversation with Cornel West on February 7th. It was a wonderful evening, full of joy in front of an attentive and very large audience.
We’d like to present three short video segments. The audio of the entire event is available here:
The first segment (and these segments were chosen by the people at BAM, so don’t think I am being ridiculously immodest) is Cornel saying some outrageously nice things about me. I thank him profoundly, although I think he has me confused with someone else.
The second segment is about love. For me, faith is fidelity to an infinite demand which has to be underwritten by love. Love is a new concept in my work, for reasons that I go into in the full audio version and in the book, but let’s say that the faith of the faithless is an openness to love, as giving what one does not have and receiving that over which one has no power.
The third segment is from a moment in the discussion where Cornel and I talk about love by way of the difference between the Socratic, philosophical experience of questioning and the religious experience of self-impoverishment and the establishment of communities of love.
I respect and admire Cornel and was deeply honored and flattered that he accepted our invitation to speak at BAM. Now, Cornel is from the US and I’m from a little, muddy island off the Continental European coast, but because of the vagaries of the English class system, where white English working class kids such as myself grew up in the 1960s and 70s listening to Black American music, I grew up listening to the same music as Cornel and—this would be another conversation for another time—we could and should have a serious philosophical rumination at BAM about music, about poetry, about the great Otis Redding, James Brown, Al Green, Bootsy Collins, Parliament and Funkadelic and the sacred and true President Clinton, George not Bill, and greatest of them all, the poet and activist Curtis Mayfield.
Cornel and I have picked a couple of philosophical bones in the past, on my idea of philosophy beginning in disappointment and my implicit romanticism, disappointed romanticism. For Cornel, there is no disappointment, but there was no appointment in the first place. There is no disillusion because there was no illusion in the first place. It’s just been the same old shit since the beginning, piling up ever higher. We can call it civilization and it smells bad. I accept his Chekhovian or Sophoclean critique of my position and have tried to rethink what I say in The Faith of the Faithless in the light of it, which I think becomes clear when I talk about history in terms of a history of violence, of a seemingly unending movement of violence and counter-violence. Also, I was eager to hear what he thinks about my views on religion. I remember in a debate a few years ago at the New School and asking him why he is a Christian. I guess he might well ask me the same question now. Anyhow, you can hear the full debate in details on the audio file.