Last updated: November 2022
Contemporary philosophy has, for the most part, done a great job of carrying on the Socratic tradition. But I’m always a bit disappointed to see how little philosophers engage socially. I appreciate our technical debates with one another, but philosophy needs to be accessible to culture at large, for both moral and nonmoral reasons. Accordingly I’ve tried to engage as best I can with my surroundings. This hasn’t always been pleasant, but I did think it necessary. Below are some of my activities in Beirut and elsewhere.
COVID-19: The pandemic affected everyone, but for Lebanon it was just icing on an already terrible situation.
The 2020 Beirut Explosions: I lived through the Beirut explosions, which our criminal government is fully responsible for, though they continue to fail to take any responsibility. I experienced the blast from around three kilometers away, but it was still incredibly powerful, and I was unsure whether or not my building would collapse. Luckily I was unharmed, but I can’t say the same for many I know. Some lost their lives, others were badly injured, and others suffered large material losses. Many of us also display, to different extents, symptoms of trauma. The experience was deeply unpleasant, and there are reasons to be both deeply sad and angry. I wrote this post in the explosions’ immediate aftermath, recorded a video of the protest right after, and designed an animation and interactive VR experience using Media Molecule’s Dreams documenting what happened. My uprising playlist contains these videos, and you can play the VR experience in Dreams yourself using the link here. Below is the short animation I prepared to help raise fundraising and awareness, it was made entirely in VR.
The 2019 Lebanese Uprising: The Lebanese uprising, commonly referred to as the ‘thawra’ or revolution, was long overdue. You can read about some of the reasons behind it here, or listen to a podcast interview with me here (or using your favorite podcast app). The below talk, titled ‘Life After the Civil War: Psychological & Existential Factors’, was given to protesters in downtown Beirut to help raise awareness during the uprising.
Partly because of my interest in VR, and partly to preserve a record, I filmed various stereoscopic-180 and 360 videos documenting the protests. You can find the playlist on my personal youtube channel here. Below is one video from the playlist, showing some of the wall art that appeared (and disappeared) during the uprising.
Religion in Lebanon: Lebanon is largely divided along religious sectarian lines. In principle it is a democracy, but political positions are constrained by religious denomination. The prevalence of religious discourses is far from reflecting any genuine religiosity. Religion is largely a front used by a corrupt political elite. This has had a terrible impact on the culture as a whole, and most of all the youths. The below panel is one of various efforts I put into helping students better distinguish religion from Lebanon’s corrupt discourses. The four speaker panel features myself, an atheist philosopher, a sheikh, and a priest. It was hosted by the philosophy and debate student clubs at the Lebanese American University, and won an award for the best club event of 2019. The event is largely in Arabic, but I offer a brief introduction in English, starting at minute 11.
Philosophy for Lebanese and Contemporary Society: Philosophy is not particularly well-understood in culture as a whole. Lebanon is no exception, and the state here is likely worse. The country’s troubled history, an outdated school educational system that conflates philosophy and the history of ideas, and confusions in the translation of the word ‘philosophy’ to Arabic in early Islam have all contributed to misunderstanding philosophy. I’ve given a number of talks on philosophy in Lebanon, and hosted an informal discussion group called ‘Philosophy Cafe’ for the benefit of students and recent graduates. Below is one of the talks, part of a TEDx event. It offers a simple metaphor for philosophy’s place in culture.
Edinburgh stand-up philosophy: 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 in Scotland. Scotland remains my favorite place on earth so far, so I was happy to offer something back. Below is one of these talks where I somehow manage to be serious despite being sandwiched between two comedians!