Last updated: June 2020
I think that 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 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. I think there are both moral and nonmoral reasons to do so. Accordingly I’ve tried to engage as best I can with my surroundings. I can’t say it has always been pleasant, but I did think it necessary. Below you can see some of my activities in Beirut and elsewhere.
COVID-19: The pandemic affected everyone, and for us in Lebanon it was really just icing on an already difficult situation. Here I offer some thoughts on what the pandemic revealed while connecting it to the local situation.
The 2020 Beirut Explosions: I lived through the Beirut explosions, which our 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 on my facebook post here, or listen to a podcast interview with me here (or using your favorite podcast app). I also gave the below talk, titled ‘Life After the Civil War: Psychological & Existential Factors’ to the protesters in downtown by way of contributing to awareness-raising during the uprising.
I also recorded many stereoscopic 180 and 360 videos documenting the protests. You can find the playlist on my personal youtube channel here. Many of my videos remain private for the time being since they can endanger those who appear in them. Below you can see one video from the playlist, showing some of the wall art that appeared during the uprising (but please note that viewing the video in VR will induce motion sickness in less experienced users).
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. This has had a terrible 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 better distinguish religion from the corrupt discourses that masquerade as religion. The four speaker panel features myself, an atheist philosopher, a sheikh, and a priest. It was hosted by the philosophy and the debate student clubs, and won the Lebanese American University’s award for the best club event of 2019. Below is a video of the event, which is largely in Arabic, though 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 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. I’ve given a number of talks on philosophy in Lebanon, and have held 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 titled ‘Winds of Change’. In it I give one reason for why philosophy is valuable to contemporary society and our future.
Philosophy Beyond Beirut: 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 is one of these talks where I somehow manage to be serious despite being sandwiched between two comedians!