I think that analytic philosophy has, for the most part, done a great job of carrying on the Socratic tradition. But I’m always a a bit disappointed to see how little engagement there is with culture at large. I appreciate the technical debates we have with one another but I think we also need to engage with those outside philosophy in a more accessible way. To me it seems clear that there are both moral and nonmoral reasons to do so. Accordingly I have tried to engage as best I can. Below are some of my activities:
The Lebanese Uprising 2019: The Lebanese uprising, commonly referred to as the ‘thawra’ or revolution, was long overdue. You can read about some of the reasons behind it on my facebook post here, or listen to an interview with me here (or using a podcast app). I also gave the below talk, my first in Arabic, to the protesters in downtown by way of contributing to the uprising. In addition to these, I recorded many VR-ready videos of the protests. Unfortunately I cannot share most of these because they could endanger those who appear in them. Below I have only included some VR-ready videos of the wall art that appeared during this time. Hopefully I will be able to upload more videos soon.
Religion in Lebanon Lebanon is largely divided along religious sectarian lines. In principle it is a democracy but one where political positions are constrained by religious denomination. Unfortunately the prevalence of religious discourses is far from reflecting any genuine religiosity. Religion largely operates as a front for a corrupt political elite. I think this has had a harmful impact on the culture as a whole and most of all the youths. The below panel is part of various efforts I have put into helping students to better distinguish religion from the corrupt discourses that masquerade as religion. The four speaker panel features myself, another philosopher, a sheikh, and a priest. It was hosted by the philosophy and the debate student clubs, and won an award for the best club event of 2019. The event is largely in Arabic but my brief part is in English.
Philosophy in the current world and in Lebanon: Philosophy is not particularly well-understood in culture as a whole. Lebanon is no exception and the state here is likely worse. The troubled history of the country, an outdated school educational system that conflates philosophy with the history of ideas, and confusions in the translation of the word ‘philosophy’ to Arabic in early Islam have all contributed to misunderstanding philosophy. The below talk is one of various efforts aimed at better clarifying what philosophy is and why it matters for everyone, particularly for those of us in Lebanon and the region.
Virtual Reality: To me it seems that virtual reality and associated technologies have received less recent attention than AI and Big Data. I think the more marginal attention is a mistake. Virtual reality is likely to change our world radically and in the very near future. In this article for the Heinrich Böll foundation in Beirut I discuss some of the reasons for this and some of the more local uses for virtual reality. You can also watch my informal introduction to virtual reality technology and education, filmed for virtual reality headsets, and in preparation for launching the VR labs at the Lebanese American University.
Stand-up Philosophy: In a recent visit to Scotland, my favorite place on earth so far, I was invited to give two casual philosophy talks as part of an event called Stand-Up Philosophy taking place at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I was happy to offer Scotland something back. Below are my talks where I somehow manage to be serious despite being sandwiched between two comedians!