Notes on Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell,” Part 1

For our atheism episode (which has, incidentally been pushed back to be recorded in late May or possibly June… sorry, Russ!), I’m trying to read through the most popular of the “new atheist” books, and I’m sure we’ll only end up discussing some select portions of the books in any detail, so as I’m going […]

Frege’s Notion of the True

When we did the Frege episode, we read “The Thought”, which was a new text to me and I found it quite interesting.  Even though we were supposed to be talking about other things, we got caught up on Frege’s notion of ‘The True’.  Specifically, we were asking ourselves what kind of ontological status ‘The […]

Topic for #37: John Locke on Legitimate Powers

What gives a government the right to rule over its citizens? John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government (1689) says that government requires the real (though often implicit) consent of the people, which means it has to be in the people’s interest. Unlike Hobbes, Locke thinks that the state of nature (i.e. the alternative […]

Clare Carlisle’s Spinoza Walk-Through (via The Guardian)

I just stumbled across an 8 part series on Spinoza (discussed by us here), completed today and begun here on 2/7/11, written by U. of Liverpool lecturer Clare Carlisle, who I see has written some books on Kierkegaard,which will give you some idea where she’s coming from. I’ve not read the whole series, but it […]

Yet More on Logic: Quantification

Against both my better judgment and the hue and cry of many, I will continue my semi-informed-by-past-years-of-studying “exposition” of predicate logic which I started here.  If I accomplish nothing else, I will give Burl something to complain about for the next week or so. In the previous installment, we talked about how syllogistic statements about […]

Possible Worlds? Ask Philosophy Bro.

We derisively brought up modal logic, “possible worlds” talk, on our Frege episode, and we’ll likely do an episode on that if we’re still podcasting a couple of years down the road, but if you want to know a bit more now, you could look at Wikipedia here, or better yet, the Stanford Encyclopedia of […]

A.J. Ayer and Bryan Magee on Frege and Russell

Bryan Magee and A.J. Ayer, a famous philosopher in his own right, here give an overview of Frege’s project and Bertrand Russell’s reaction to it. Watch on Youtube. The whole first clip here is just an overview of Frege, with his sense and reference distinction coming in around minute 8. In part two, Ayer and […]


In the recent Frege episode, Mark related the famous anecdote of how Bertrand Russell, the man who “discovered” Frege, later confounded him by pointing out a paradox apparent within his logical system. As Wes recounted, Russell’s own attempt to ground mathematics in logic was also later frustrated by a young Kurt Gödel, whose early incompleteness theorems crippled […]

Some more on logic

So Matt Teichman was kind enough to post a primer on basic logic, showing with syllogisms how informal logical inference was turned into formal notation by Frege and thus predicate calculus was born.  There is a wealth of stuff to learn about the predicate calculus and many serious logicians (as well as frustrated mathematicians) have […]

Information Theory and Metaphysics

Courtesy of listener Matt Gantner, here’s a Scientific American article on “Why Information Can’t Be the Basis of Reality.” The author, John Horgan, criticizes information theorists like James Gleick who posit that information is somehow the basic structure of the universe (which seems to be a modern variation on Anaxagoras’s idea that mind, or Nous, […]

Motherfuckin’ Leibniz

For a philosophy site that’s at the same time bizarre, funny, and genuinely informative, see His “Secret History” video series appears to be baiting crackpots and cranks everywhere only to give them a good dose of … the philosophy of mathematics (to begin with). To see what a (sometimes too loud) soundtrack and visuals can do for […]

Amateur Philosophy at it Worst: How to Write a David Brooks Column

Ironically, the Enlightenment is also a favorite bogeyman of leftist university postmodernists. And oddly, they seem to associate the Enlightenment with the sciences, and do not see the latter as somehow having emancipated us from the former. For them, overcoming this bogeyman requires a much more radical project that includes an epistemological (and sometimes ethical) relativism that swallows up even the hard sciences. Hegel, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Lacan and Derrida are their great post-Enlightenment and post-modern thinkers … not Malcolm Gladwell. For them, the irrational and communal do not lead us back to … family values.

Topic for #35: Hegel on Self-Consciousness

We will at last be breaking open the most notoriously obscure, fantabulous work of philosophy ever: Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.This is the early Hegel: anti-metaphysical and historicist, as opposed to the later Hegel previously discussed in our philosophy of history episode and ripped on by Kierkegaard and Schopenhauer. It’s a frickin’ acid trip, this book […]

Montaigne, Mirror Neurons, and Men with Guns

Here’s an excerpt from a good series on Montaigne the Guardian UK ran last year, written by Sarah Bakewell, who just published a well received book on Montaigne: To take just one example of how we can derive wisdom from Montaigne: his Essays give us a wealth of anecdotes exploring ways of resolving violent confrontations. As a […]

The Duh of Charlie Sheen: getting high off your high horse

Sheen is a Drug

The form of Charlie Sheen’s suffering is a challenge to news junky-ism as usual because it confronts the manic defense behind the fascination with obviously manic subject matter. Those who feel guilty about this fascination can pretend that this guilt has something to do with ethical issues surrounding gawking at the mentally ill, as if there’s some hard and fast line that will allow them to continue to make fun of Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise while leaving Charlie Sheen alone. But that guilt is more likely caused by the fact that in this case the usual manic schadenfreude involved in watching a celebrity self-destruct has been tainted by the inescapable similarity between his state of mind and our own. (Remember, guilt is what’s being defended against, and what we expect to appear when the defense fails). If I’m right, faux-guilt over Sheenenfreude (apologies) is just another especially sophisticated way of avoiding actual guilt (concerning real, personal losses). On the other hand, if you’ve continued — as I have — to guiltlessly enjoy the spectacle, you may have noticed that your fascination seems to have been augmented by your induction with some of Sheen’s manic energy (tiger blood, baby). Which is to say: people are especially fascinated by Sheen because mania is especially fascinating (or rather, fascination-amplifying). It’s a subject matter that resonates with the basic mechanism of being-fascinated.

Borders Raid

Bankruptcy Road Sign from Foreclosure Data Online

So the Borders bookstore chain filed for bankruptcy (it’s a US-based brick & mortar retailer that apparently had small forays into the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore) and recently I went in to stock my shelves with what I was sure would be a bonanza of discounted philosophy books.  I am here to tell […]

Should Philosophy be Accessible?

Here’s a Guardian.UK article questioning Simon Blackburn’s view that philosophy should be understandable by the non-specialist. The author’s article critiques British popularizers of philosophy by saying: In their bland readability, these books defeated their own avowed project of getting everybody interested in the great philosophers, by confessing how unreadable the texts of Kant and Hegel […]