There is really only one piece of philosophy news you need to know about this quarter. I’ll say it slowly so it sinks in. Kanye. West. Is. Writing. A. Philosophy. Book. Kanye West is writing a philosophy book. Kanye West is writing a philosophy book. Rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, awards ceremony protestor and Trump supporter, Kanye West, is writing a philosophy book. Ok, got it now? Good. We can begin.
West announced the project in an interview conducted with his interior designer, Axel Vervoordt, in Hollywood Reporter. Here’s the moment West announced his planned endeavour into our fair discipline:
“I’ve got this new concept that I’ve been diggin’ into. I’m writing a philosophy book right now called Break the Simulation. And I’ve got this philosophy – or let’s say it’s just a concept because sometimes philosophy sounds too heavy-handed. I’ve got a concept about photographs, and I’m on the fence about photographs – about human beings being obsessed with photographs – because it takes you out of the now and transports you into the past or transports you into the future. It can be used to document, but a lot of times it overtakes [people]. People dwell too much in the memories. People always wanna hear the history of something, which is important, but I think it there’s too much of an importance put on history.”
Leaving aside the question of how exactly a photograph “transports you into the future” (maybe you can get print outs from The Mirror of Erised now), one wonders if West’s new pet project arose from an argument with his wife, Kim Kardashian, aka queen of Instagram. One can almost hear how the dispute might have played out:
West: “Kim, KIM! Are you even listening to me?”
Kardashian: “Sure, sure I am. Something about how Bran is one of the Nazgul…” [trails off, continues taking selfies]
West: “What…? That doesn’t even make sense! You’re mixing up Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings AGAIN, woman. We’ve been through this. Please put down your phone and listen to my theory about how Bran is definitely the Night King. Ugh for God’s sake, you’re never in the moment…”
Kardashian: “Oh God Kanye, just give it a rest will you. You’re always complaining about how I’m not ‘in the moment’ because I’m always taking pictures – I’m only in this moment because of all the bloody pictures I have taken!! You just say the same thing over and over again, the amount you go on about me being obsessed with photos you could have written a bleeding book about it by now!”
West: “WELL MAYBE I WILL!” [storms out and slams door]
And not one to renege on a verbal commitment, that’s exactly what he did. West has given us further insights into his philosophical musings through the medium of Twitter. Presumably as a kind of tribute – or perhaps a critique? – of Heidegger’s later views on technology and the revelation of Being.
Much like Heidegger, who reportedly churned out pages of Being and Time giving them directly to those around him for instant feedback and editing, West proclaimed he was using Twitter in order to write his book “in real time”. Of course, as Heidegger himself said, “[p]hilosophy is always best expressed in reactive moments, broadcast to millions, and constrained to a maximum of 140 – nay 280 characters.” (Maybe that’s why he never finished Being and Time, this process just took too bloody long. Especially when you have to respond to all the trolls who are forever demanding to know whether you’re inventing portmanteaus in order to get round your own self-imposed character limit, or whether there’s actually a deeper point being made by rendering “Being-towards-the-end” as a single linguistic concept).
But West’s reasons for live tweeting his book ran beyond his commitment to Heideggerean philosophical practice, as he stated on his Twitter account: “No publisher or publicist will tell me what to put where or how many pages to write. This is not a financial opportunity, this is an innate need to be expressive.” And be expressive he was. Here are some of the expressions of his expressiveness (see, we’re getting more Heideggerean all the time):
“I don’t believe in the concept of an enemy. We have been conditioned to always be in competition. Stop looking for something to beat and just be. You don’t have to do all the work. Once you start moving in love the universe will assist you.”
Here West, once again, clearly marks himself out as a Heideggerean. His directive to just “be” presumably refers to Heidegger’s understanding of Dasein [Heidegger’s term for the human being and the human way of Being] as the entity who understands Being. In existing we can come to understand our Being, but for the most part an understanding of our Being is something we turn away from. A central way in which we turn away is by immersing ourselves in the social world, or what Heidegger calls “das Man”, here we get distracted by our everyday activities, which include busying ourselves with
“a constant care as to the way one differs from them [others], whether that difference is one to be evened out, whether one’s own Dasein has lagged behind the Others and wants to catch up in relation to them, or whether one’s Dasein already has some priority over them and sets out to keep them suppressed.” (Being and Time)
As West says, rather than always concerning yourself with others and how you rate compared to them, forgo such “ontic” distractions and direct yourself towards the “ontological” understanding of your existence, thus bringing us closer the possibility of answering the ultimate question: the question of the meaning of Being. I guess West just puts it a bit more succinctly. (And let’s just ignore the bit about the universe assisting you).
Other profound truth bombs that issued forth from West’s twitter account include:
“Be transparent as possible. Stop setting plays. Stop playing chess with life. Make decisions based on love not fear.”
Ok, I’m on board. You’ve demonstrated your philosophical credentials with your detailed knowledge of Heidegger. I’m buying a see-thru suit as we speak, I’ve thrown away my chess set and plan to cuddle the terrifying rabid dog at the end of the street next time I see it, rather than run away from it. Check, check and check mate (chess jokes, guys? Guys?) He continues:
“Don’t follow crowds. Follow the innate feelings inside of you. Do what you feel not what you think. Thoughts have been placed in our heads to make everyone assimilate. Follow what you feel.”
Right, I’m crafting my tin foil hat to stop the implanted thoughts getting in.
And finally, and perhaps most profoundly:
“Cars have four wheels. Hoodies have hoods. It’s amusing to me when some one says this is an original hoodie. Bro… it’s a hoodie.”
* Kerpow * Mind. Frickin’. Blown.
So as you can see, West has some pretty important messages for us. He not only understands Heidegger, he goes beyond him with comments about hoodies and chess and the love of the universe (I think Noel Edmonds might have had a hand in penning that last one).
But one shouldn’t be surprised, West has a PhD from the University of Chicago. Wait, what? That was only an honorary PhD? So maybe he isn’t demonstrating his nuanced grasp of one of the most notoriously difficult philosophers of the twentieth century and is actually just spouting bollocks that doesn’t even deserve to be uttered in the same sentence as the word “philosophy”. What’s that? Maybe writing a philosophy book is actually harder than it looks and can’t just be done by any old egomaniac with a public platform and an inflated sense of his own self? Oh haha, yes, or rather, shouldn’t be done by such people (you know who you are), lest the public come to think all philosophy is is a set of trite clichés, or poorly thought out greetings card messages about the power of love and the universe, and how we all need to do more “blue sky thinking”.
But maybe I’m being too harsh on West. Perhaps he does have more in common with Heidegger than I’m giving him credit for. As he proclaimed in an interview in May 2018: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years?! That sounds like a choice.” Given what we know about Heidegger’s own abhorrent views on oppressed peoples, that’s probably the kind of harmful and ignorant comment he could get behind.