Freud vs. C.S. Lewis: A Roundtable on Religion and Morality

Here we see guys in goofy Lewis and Freud costumes putting forward simplistic alternative views on the origin of moral sentiments to set up a round-table discussion: The discussion interestingly displays no evidence of these folks having read Freud’s discussion of morality in Civilization and its Discontents, specifically his claim that experience in fact […]

Slavoj Zizek on Applying Psychotherapy to Culture

Here is a somewhat startling video of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek talking briefly about trying to apply the insights of psychotherapy (which deals with individuals) to cultures: Watch on youtube. His remarks about being able to relate an “anonymous social field” reflect Heidegger’s conception of “Das Man,” i.e. our tendency to conform to social norms, […]

Mad Men on the Death Drive

A bit of thoughtful pop culture to kick off our Freud blog deliberations: In what I believe was the pilot episode of Mad Men, the 1950s advertising professionals that are the show’s main characters are thinking about how to do a campaign for a cigarette company now that it was becoming common knowledge that smoking […]

Topic for #27: Nagarjuna the Indian Buddhist

Does anything really exist? Sure, we have experiences, which seem confirmed by other experiences, and other people seem to corroborate some of these experiences, so we naively consider the world of our experience as objectively there, but is that all there is to it? Well, if you go into philosophy with the idea that life […]

Art and Artists Enrich Life

Dennis Hollingsworth

Every since we did the episode on Danto I’ve been oddly making contact with actual artists, both directly and indirectly.  I consider this to be good thing, not just because the ones I’ve met or corresponded with seem to be excellent people, but also because – from a visual art perspective – I feel my life […]

Troll 2: Doubly Reflexive Irony and the Best Worst Movie

I recently sat through the Rifftrax of Troll 2 (see my previous post re. Rifftrax) and felt the need to relate my fascination with flavors of irony to the so-bad-it’s-good movie experience. Just to clarify, the Rifftrax guys claim that they don’t actually like bad movies. These movies are simply bad, so the humor in […]

Trainwrecks: Weezer on Irony

Reflections on the poptastic Rivers Cuomo. Watch on youtube. Weezer is one of my favorite bands, and as in the case of most of my favorite bands, I like all of its eras and permutations, whereas most critics and fans latch on to one (the first) era and are frustrated or disappointed by the rest. […]

Philippe Goldin on Emotions

Here’s a talk from 2008 by Phiippe Goldin (now at Stanford) about the neuroscience of emotions, aimed at non-scientists, specifically Google employees: Watch on youtube. We’ve not talked a lot about on the podcast so far about the differences in approach between current psychology and philosophy. In this lecture, we get references to specific studies […]

“Dexter” as Immoral Fantasy

In the realm of superhero comics (and movies), there’s been (since Watchmen at least) a realization that what superheros allegedly do, i.e. beat people up, requires a certain psychosis, and comics like The Punisher make that explicit. With the “Dexter” books by Jeff Lindsay and the TV show based on them, this is approached from […]

MST3K on wishes, physics, and obsession

In anticipation of our episode on Freud, we welcome your Freudian analysis of this extremely weird short about the value of springs, presented in MST3K-vision to make it tolerable. Watch on youtube. This particular video is sort of “It’s a Wonderful Life” made into a commercial about springs, and the fact that it was ever […]

GeeksOn David Brin, Modern Intellectual (Philosopher?)

I just listened to a great conversation with author David Brin on one of the podcasts that inspired me to create ours: GeeksOn. The episode is here. Brin is a sci-fi author and technical consultant with a Ph.D. in astrophysics. For a fun bit of moral analysis of pop culture, see his 1999 article […]

Philosophical Exercises to Steel Against Criticism

We have had a great jump in viewers of late, not least because my bro-in-law Dan Colman finally let us put a self-glorifying post on his fantastic and widely read Open Culture blog, and also because I’ve started bombarding entire philosophy grad school departments with invitations to check us out. So welcome, all you new […]

Antonio Damasio on Emotions and Decision-Making

Wes referred in our Spinoza discussion to Antonio Damasio, a figure in neuroscience influenced by Spinoza. Here he describes the emotions’ role in decision-making: Watch on youtube: Spinoza agrees that decision-making is based on emotion. Even a “rational” decision, i.e. one made in a calm manner by considering the alternatives, requires an emotional component […]

Threat Alert Jesus

I must pass on this important technological breakthrough that I witnessed at When his halo turns red, get under the bed! Interestingly, the religious aspect of this fine piece of craftsmanship makes the resultant terror warnings immune on Kantian grounds from empirical verification or falsification. You are free to believe or disbelieve the claims […]

A Quick Review: Leibniz’s Monadology

In light of our recent Spinoza discussions, it seems an apt time to review Leibniz, whom we talked about way back in Episode 6. This video (and its two sequels; the author’s intended “10 small videos” did not not materialize), with its deadpan German narrator and its low-budget visual aids, provides an introduction to monads […]

Spinoza Roundtable

Haven’t had enough Spinoza? Watch a panel of Spinoza scholars weigh in via a two-hour Philoctetes Center roundtable. The video is configured so that I can’t embed it here; check it out on youtube here: The discussion is rambling and badly needs editing. The panelists all monologuize (worse than we do on the podcast) […]

Thinking Hot Thoughts: “The Secret” as Manic Defense

Psychoanalysts have a name for this sort of thing: it’s called the “manic defense.” This isn’t the full-blown manic depression (now “bipolar disorder”) of DSMV fame. Rather’s its an avoidance of the inevitable mourning (and associated guilt) involved in a realization that we can’t have it all.

Manufacturing Myths: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion


Much has been remarked about Tolkien’s Catholicism and how this plays out in Lord of the Rings. Much less known, or more precisely much less tolerated are his earlier efforts to create the myths of Middle Earth, later packed by his son into The Silmarillion. These stories are for the most part told at a […]

No, It’s Not Just Semantics

It shouldn’t need saying that there’s a difference between linguistic and conceptual definitions, or that every system of knowledge rests on unproven axioms or assumptions — mathematics, logic, and science as much as philosophy. That’s why philosophical “meta discussions” about these fields — and knowledge in general — become genuinely interesting and problematic (rather than merely a matter of linguistic confusion or semantics), even while we know that that these problems don’t bear on their practical application.

Hawking Keeps Hacking: “Philosophy is Dead”

Apparently Stephen Hawking not only thinks that spontaneous creation from nothingness is somehow a scientific concept: he also claims that “philosophy is dead” (and as I point out, this is hardly surprising given the core anti-intellectualism lurking behind his amateur philosophizing).

Atheism in Theory and Praxis

Christopher Hitchens, renowned and reviled Atheist, has cancer.  Needless to say, folks on both sides want to know how he’s going to deal with it.  Enter Vanity Fair. Unanswerable Prayers What’s an atheist to think when thousands of believers (including prominent rabbis and priests) are praying for his survival and salvation—while others believe his cancer […]

Thank your Mentors

Everyone has people in their lives that have a direct and lasting impact on shaping who they are. Do right by them and yourself and take the time to say “thanks”.

The Amazing Mr. Tallis: On Atheism, Free Will, and Everything Else

(Watch on YouTube). I first became familiar with Raymond Tallis a few months ago, when I was exploring my fury at post-Saussurean thinkers such as Lacan and Derrida. I saw a reference somewhere to a book called Not Saussure: A Critique of Post-Saussurean Literary Theory. After finding a copy – hard to find at a […]

“The Universe is in Us:” Science and Religious Awe

To present another perspective on the “we are one with the universe” trope, here’s astrophysicist and science popularizer Neil Tyson, who is not a “reverend” so far as I can tell. Watch on youtube: According to Tyson, because of the Big Bang and the consequent commonalities among all matter, we and the rest of […]