Jul 302010

So Mark stole my thunder with his post about AC Grayling, as I was preparing my thoughts about Julian Baggini’s regular podcast, Baggini’s Philosophy Monthly.  Nonetheless, even though Mark hates and wants to upstage me, I will proceed with my ramblings.

Julian Baggini of Baggini Philosophy Monthly and the Philosopher's Magazine

Julian Baggini

I found and started listening to Baggini’s podcast towards the end of last year and was able to reel off a series of cached episodes to get a feel for what he was about.  Unlike Philosophy Bites, which consists of coordinated studio interviews, Baggini’s PM typically has more of a ‘Charles Kuralt‘ vibe (look up that reference – old skool!), as he travels around to festivals, conferences, and other assorted gatherings of the philosophically inclined, doing field interviews of philosophers, artists, and others surrounded by the din of beer halls, barking dogs, frolicking children, and the like.  Not always, but a lot.

The episodes are a very short: 1/2 hour, usually consisting of 2-3 segments, which Baggini sets up well with edited-in commentary. Continue reading »

Jul 292010
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Discussing Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse in Inequality and book 1 of The Social Contract.

What’s the relationship between culture and nature? Are savages really slavering beasts of unquenchable appetites, or probably more mellow, hangin’ about, flexin’ their muscles, just chillin’, eh?

Rousseau engages in some wild speculation about the development of humanity from the savage to the modern, miserable wretch. Association with other people corrupts us, especially association with Wes. Is there some form of government that will make things tolerable? Maybe that one where Oprah is our queen.

Read along with us! http://www.constitution.org/jjr/ineq.htm and http://www.constitution.org/jjr/socon.htm.

End song: “Love Is the Problem” by New People from The Easy Thing (2009).

If you enjoy the episode, please donate at least $1:

Jul 262010

As I hit the big 30 here, let me thank you for your indulgence, to the extent that you’ve actually been reading/listening. I’m marking this round number with another whole album, this time the debut full album by The MayTricks from 1992, cleverly entitled The MayTricks. As this was really the first full-length album I worked on, it definitely has a special place with me, as weird and lo-fi and inconsistent as it is.

This was compiled in late 1992 with recordings recorded over the previous year and a half or so, all after the previous spring 1991 demo. Continue reading »

Jul 252010

I can’t embed this video, as whoever posted it deauthorized that feature, probably so you have to go to the site and see the giant Google ads and things (I see a big ad for Estee Lauder myself) hovering next to the video.


Here we see that even though William James gave an extensive defense of religion, apparently naughty pragmatism is a tool of the devil to trick us into disregarding the stark truths of scripture. You see, says this dude John F. MacArthur, who apparently has a podcast and daily radio show and a million books (i.e. this guy represents a constituency and is not just a lone crazy person), the devil likes to trick us into thinking for ourselves instead of mindlessly submitting to revelation, as we’re fundamentally flawed and can’t be trusted to think our way through thorny philosophical issues. Thanks, John, for clearing that up!

You’ll notice, however, that Johnny here is just as afflicted as his pragmatic opponents with a receding hairline, so ha! Gotcha!

I especially like the use of music on this video, and if you can stomach enough of it to see the dopey depiction of the snake and Eve near the end of the video, you’re in for a treat!

Jul 242010

At last, here’s the final tune from the 1991 MayTricks demo (which I’ve made a new page for), “Her Skin Is Only Warm.”

The song was written by Steve and was our most bombastic. It was modeled on The Rolling Stones’s “Steel Wheels” album, meaning it has kind of awkward “Rock! Rock!” lyrics, but it was actually describing a particular situation where Steve’s roommate had a thing for some woman. In some of the verses, Steve and I switch off lyric lines, and we harmonize in a somewhat out of tune manner. There was keyboard playing during this song, but the only thing I can detect is the occasional “ping!” sound on the first beat of a few phrases. This was actually the song that, after the fact, made said keyboardist quit the band, as I think he thought it sounded godawful, but we liked it!

A somewhat more technically correct version, still pretty spastic, was completed for the So Chewy album.

Jul 242010

OK, at this point I’m just going on youtube searches for “pragmatism;” I was not previously familiar with Brandom, though he is apparently well known and studied under Rorty and Princeton and has a beard that looks stunning when backlit.

He has some interesting comments here about the historical point at which pragmatism as we read about it arose and about “analytic pragmatism,” i.e. using analytic philosophy tools for treating language in pursuing the pragmatist project. Some of this is a little technical, but you can probably see what he’s trying to synthesize in broad strokes. And did you know that Wittgenstein was really an avatar, and not really a blue-skinned alien? Brandom says so!

Here’s part II, where he goes into the relation between philosophy of language and cognitive science, which will give you a clue about how weird philosophy of language is, which will be confirmed when we do our Frege and Heidegger episodes (eventually). Continue reading »

Jul 232010

We’ve gotten into a little discussion of the new atheist movement, an area well covered by other podcasts (meaning we likely won’t devote substantial time to it on our podcast, though we’ll certainly discuss religious philosophy).

To get clear on one of its key arguments, that it’s religious moderates that create a climate where extremism can exist, I’ll point to a short interview with A.C. Grayling on the excellent Julian Baggini podcast: http://julianbaggini.blogspot.com/2009/07/july-podcast.html. Continue reading »

Jul 232010

This was news to me, that pragmatism was eclipsed by the 1940s until Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam, though note that the video says they were eclipsed by positivism, i.e. the idea that philosophical statements need to be cashed out in terms of sense verifications, which is a species of a view we attributed on the podcast to William James, though certainly James’s view was more permissive, i.e. there are more ways that a theory can be of value to us than being confirmable by sensations.

Jul 202010

In our discussions on William James, we alluded to later pragmatists and the relationship of pragmatism to verificationism (logical positivism). Does being a pragmatist, who tries to reduce philosophical problems to problems of how we should most intelligently act in the face of world, mean that you have to discount claims that can’t be verified by empirical science?

Here’s W.V.O. Quine (who is typically considered a pragmatist) being interviewed about our philosophy of mind topic, where he comes down as reductive materialist with sympathies to behaviorism:

Note his diagnosis of the problem of free will as being a result of philosophical confusion. Continue reading »

Jul 192010

Typically, we decide what to talk about on the podcast by saying “we should do some Spinoza,” and then ask “what’s his most famous work?” or “which work did we already have to read in some class?” which is typically the same work.

When dealing with newer, non-canonical writers, though, and sometimes even with other episodes, one of us will write up some kind of episode pitch to formulate what we should talk about. In this case, I’m just going to make the formal pitch publicly here, and maybe gauge how interested you listeners would be in this subject.

The Pitch: Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God, introduction and chapters 2 and 4.

While the Bible is of course plays an enormously important part in the history of Western philosophy, it would be problematic for us to, e.g. read the Sermon on the Mount and discuss the ethics presented. There’s way too much Biblical commentary out there already, and any ethical content in there is likely more systematically presented in a more straightforwardly philosophical work. Continue reading »

Jul 182010

Discussing William James’s “The Will to Believe” and continuing our discussion from Episode 20 on James’s conception of truth as described in his books Pragmatism and The Meaning of Truth, again featuring guest podcaster Dylan Casey.

Does pragmatism give ground for religious belief, like if I say it feels good for me to believe in God, is that in any sense a legitimate grounds for that belief? Is belief in science or rationality itself a form of faith? Is religious belief a “forced choice,” or does it just not matter what you believe?

Also, we sort further through James on truth: truth is created by us, but what does that mean? That only statements actually verified or otherwise useful are true, or can have a truth value (true of false) at all? In saying that we create truth, does that make James a relativist, and if so, is that bad?

Read “The Will to Believe,” Pragmatism, and The Meaning of Truth (the most useful chapters for our purposes are 3, 5, 8, 9, 12, and 15).

End song: “Who Cares What You Believe?” by Madison Lint (2001).

Jul 092010

Three songs today: cover tunes by The MayTricks from 1992 or so. Specifically, the Police’s “Can’t Stand Losin’ You” (which I sing) and Talking Heads’ “And She Was” and The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” (both of which Steve sings).

These are actual, multi-track studio recordings done with probably as much care as many of our actual album tracks, recorded as part of a demo to impress frats and fratty clubs and other places we should probably not have been playing as a sort of underground, Beatles White album-inspired somewhat psychedelic band. Continue reading »

Jul 042010

Correcting my previous post, apparently this is my first recorded original composition: “The Funny Train.”

While I had always assumed this to be a traditional melody, a quick web search reveals no previous versions, so I hereby claim it. However, I note that “There was a little man, and he had a little can” appeared previously in a prohibition-era song called “No More Booze.”

How does the little man relate to the train? Is he driving the train? No, qua prohibition-era hobo, he is likely getting a free ride, violating not only the law but his own dignity. And what are his possessions? A can. Perhaps he realizes that “man” and “can” rhyme, and possesses the can just for that reason, making himself an art for the ages’ display. The next line gives us a stronger clue: the can was full of worms, which he then puts in a soup. How extreme is man’s degradation, to be forced to subsist on worms! Or is this a life choice? Is he living his life as an art, not only through living a rhyme, but in choosing worms, the replenishers of all life, which by eating corpses and transforming them to arable land themselves symbolize nature’s triumph over death. Is the man, in fact, dining upon his own death? Continue reading »