The dangerous philosophy of Ursula Le Guin
The “canon” of philosophy really is an old boys club. Literally.
There are reasons of course. Millenia of oppressive patriarchy among them.
But I like the reasoning of Clarissa Pinkola Estes that women pass wisdom forward, not as a bunch of dry propositions, but as stories.
You can take every philosopher from Socrates to Schopenhauer, add every word written by Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Habermas. Less than 1% of people have a clue what any of them are on about.
Philosophy is futile. But a good story, well told, can reach the hearts and minds of millions.
So when wise people really want to influence the world, they tell stories.
Ursula Le Guin was, I think, a person of that kind of wisdom. One in a long line of wise storytellers, of philosopher poets, many of whose names are now forgotten, but whose stories live on.
This is one of the most intellectually challenging essays I’ve ever written, and one of the most complex videos I’ve produced. I wanted to explore Le Guin’s ideas and the philosophy encoded in the symbols and metaphors of her stories. That’s taken two years of reading and a month of intense labour.
What I see in Le Guin’s storytelling is a powerful philosophy conceived to achieve revolutionary social change, by challenging the very root ideas of what we believe to be “real” or “fantasy”.
With that power is also a danger, which I think Le Guin was aware of and fought with as she grew intellectually and creatively.
The video essay focusses on Le Guin’s most productive period from 1968–74 and touches on her Hainish and Earthsea novels. There will also be a long form commentary on the podcast feed to follow.