Scruton on Philosophy vs. Neuroscience

The talk is somewhat misleadingly titled “Roger Scruton – Persons and their Brains”, but what he’s really concerned to do is point out the limits of neuroscience and justify a place for philosophy in the study of human behavior.  Not sure if that’s a straw man or not, but he has some critical things to […]

On Religion, the PowerPoint!

Given Schleiermacher’s dense prose, I found it a lot easier to prepare for the podcast by “translating” his first two speeches into a more modern voice. As a result, here’s On Religion, the PowerPoint! (Well, the first two speeches, anyway.) If you want to review Schleiermacher’s basic arguments without having to wade through 18th century German […]

Heidegger on Schleiermacher’s Second Address


Let us think for a while of a farmhouse in the Black Forest, which was built some two hundred years ago by the dwelling of peasants. Here the self-sufficiency of the power to let earth and heaven, divinities and mortals enter in simple oneness into things, ordered the house. – Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking” (1951) Schleiermacher’s […]

New and Improved Comment Tracking

Hey, there, blog readers, I know you’re there; I’ve seen the site stats. Yet many of you likely don’t look at the reader comments on our posts or consider adding one (unless we say something really dumb). You might be surprised that the blog has evolved to be a right spiffy forum, with a dozen […]

Ignoring Metcalf’s Central Point

Julian Sanchez has some criticisms here (hat tip to commenter HPG) of Metcalf on Nozick and libertarianism. They seem fair, although I don’t have time to evaluate them in detail (it’s been a long time since I read Anarchy, State and Utopia): Nozick is here setting up a dilemma: Under these idealized circumstances, from what is stipulated […]

Be Reasonable, Do It My Way

All reasoning is in service of winning arguments? I knew it all along! It’s hard for me to express any skepticism of the study cited in this New York Times article without going all meta, so I’ll just let the article speak for itself: Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different […]

Stephen Metcalf on Nozick and “The Liberty Scam”

The snark-factor is high in this entertaining, well-written indictment of libertarianism by Slate critic Stephen Metcalf: “Libertarianism” places one—so believes the libertarian—not on the political spectrum but slightly above it, and this accounts for its appeal to both the tricorne fringe and owners of premium real estate. Yowza.

“Prima Facie Weirdness?”

During the episode I made a comment about the seeming weirdness of Christianity that I feel it would be helpful for my thinking to try to elaborate. I’ve said in several posts here that I think that the new atheist movement is primarily political: it’s not about advancing new arguments to philosophers, but about shifting […]

Schleiermacher on Miracles and Revelation

We talked a bit on the episode towards the end about S’s take on immortality. His take on miracles and on revelation is similar. In short, miracles are all around us, and all creativity is inspiration. It takes a pious person to recognize our ordinary environment as full of magic and wonder. From his second […]

Schleiermacher as Romantic Vanguard

Watch on YouTube Many of the books discussed on PEL advance their thesis methodically. Not so with Schleiermacher’s On Religion. (Schleiermacher’s approach changed after he became a university professor, whereupon he became more systematic and less interesting.) Schleiermacher’s lack of structured argument may have resulted from his theological, as opposed to philosophical, training. But it’s […]

Naturalism & Philosophical Thinking

[editor’s note: Here’s our guest blogger Tom McDonald with a bit of original philosophizing. You can read more like this on his blog -ML] I want to pose some general questions to all readers, but especially to those scientifically inclined and favorable to a naturalistic worldview. The questions are about the naturalistic worldview that […]

Naturalism & Philosophical Thinking

[editor’s note: Here’s our guest blogger Tom McDonald with a bit of original philosophizing. You can read more like this on his blog -ML] I want to pose some general questions to all readers, but especially to those scientifically inclined and favorable to a naturalistic worldview. The questions are about the naturalistic worldview that […]

Comparing Kant with Schleiermacher on God and the Soul

Listen on YouTube On the Schleiermacher episode, we spent some time comparing On Religion to Kant’s religious arguments, particularly citing Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason. Kant did not try to prove God’s existence or the soul’s immortality. Rather, he postulated those concepts as helpful ways to help realize the summum bonum, the highest good. “Postulate” is […]

Eric Reitan in the Atheism Debates: A Pox on Both Your Houses

On the Schleiermacher episode, we referred tangentially to Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers, by Oklahoma State University’s Eric Reitan (who has his own blog). Thanks to my nicely networked local library system, I now have a copy of this in my possession and thought I’d give you a taste from […]

Capturing Schleiermacher’s Romantic Mood

Watch in YouTube Can modern film depict Schleiermacher’s nature-obsessed 18th century Romantic mood? Probably not, but let’s go. I thought I better understood Husserlian phenomenology after reading Sartre’s Nausea, which even in translation has some gripping prose. The clip above, from Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu (1979) exudes both the German Romantic aesthetic, and a phenomenological approach of sorts. Bonus […]

Spinoza Stock on the Rise!

“Investors take note: this Dutch rationalist is a hot stock.” Thanks for Michael Benedikt for informing me of this article, which says a few words about how Spinoza (a favorite of Schleiermacher, don’t you know) fits into today’s landscape of ideas. -Mark Linsenmayer

Episode 40: Plato’s Republic: What Is Justice?


Discussing The Republic by Plato, primarily books 1 and 2.

What is justice? What is the ideal type of government? In the dialogue, Socrates argues that justice is real (not just a fiction the strong make up) and that it’s not relative to who you are (in the sense that it would always be just to help your friends and hurt your enemies). Justice ends up being a matter of balancing your soul so the rational part is in control over the rest of you.

Episode 39: Schleiermacher Defends Religion

Friedrich Schleiermacher

Discussing Friedrich Schleiermacher’s “On Religion; Speeches to its Cultured Despisers” (1799, with notes added 1821), first and second speeches.

Does religion necessarily conflict with science? Schleiermacher says no: the essence of religion is an emotional response to life; it doesn’t give knowledge or even tell us what to do exactly. Moreover, this attitude is a necessary to fully enter into life, to be a whole and fulfilled person. Yes, he’s of the “romantic” school, but his approach can still be seen today in liberal Protestant churches.

Featuring guest podcaster and blog contributor Daniel Horne.

Partially Naked Self-Examination Music Blog: Remembrance

Listen to “Rembrance.” When reading Schleiermacher, I was reminded of my friend Steve Petrinko, who was my main cohort in my college band The MayTricks (previously covered in a number of music blog posts). Working in close proximity like that at that time of life (we were also apartment-mates for a couple of years) meant […]

Russell’s Atomistic Metaphysics

Some information about Russell’s atomism was discussed in in our Wittgenstein’s Tractatus podcast. For a bit more information, here’s his essay “The Ultimate Constituents of Matter,” pointed out to us (dismissively) by frequent blog discussion contributor Burl and mentioned on our recent episode. I leave it to you all to explore this essay as you […]

McGinn vs. Ramachandran on The Tell-Tale Brain

We’ve talked quite a bit recently about neuroscience, not to mention scientism — which again, I take to be: the idea that science is applicable to any domain of inquiry that is meaningful, and will inevitably provide a solution to all meaningful questions Mark calls it “the dreaded scientism,” I think because he doubts it’s […]

Are The Smurfs Based on Plato’s Republic?

Apparently The Smurfs have been accused of being anti-semitic communists living in a totalitarian utopia. It bears mentioning — since we’re reading Plato’s Republic for the next podcast — that each Smurf is named for what they do best. — Wes

Russell’s Epistemology: “The Problems of Philosophy”

I wanted to follow up on a reference I made on the episode for folks who want to know more about Russell’s epistemology: His book The Problems of Philosophyis an easy-reader intro to his take on traditional epistemological problems. Some of it will be familiar if you’ve listened to our episodes (from p. 42). For […]

David Eagleman and Daniel Dennett on Free Will and Neuroscience

Wes’s recent post on David Eagleman led to my listening to the Philosophy Bites episode interviewing him. Eagleman’s point here is that the criminal justice system assumes a model of free will that is unsustainable given what we know about neurology, and he gives examples like a normal guy with no apparent deviant impulses suddenly […]

Topic for #40: Plato’s Republic

What is justice? What is the ideal type of government? These are the two questions we’ll be focusing on in our discussion of the most famous book of philosophy ever. Look, we realize that if you’ve ever taken a philosophy class, you’ve likely already been introduced to this work, and there are many many other […]

Math Mutation Podcast on “New Math” and Russell

In the Russell episode, I brought up “new math,” whereby young people were taught set theory. The podcast I was referring to was Math Mutation Podcast #145: “Why Johnny Couldn’t Add.” Given how short the episodes are, it appears as if the author (Eric Seligman) has actually posted transcripts. Here’s the one on new math […]

Bertrand Russell’s Very Short Introduction to His Ontology

Watch in YouTube For those who can’t get enough Bertrand Russell, here’s an introduction to logical analysis from his History of Western Philosophy. In this concluding chapter, Russell explains his own philosophy, as inspired by Frege, so even critics of Russell-as-historian shouldn’t object. I was particularly taken with Russell’s ontology, via Einstein. Russell succinctly and […]

Josh Pelton’s Amazing Calculations

At the beginning of the Russell episode, we mentioned our guest Josh’s strange calculations. (See here for lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” whose quantitative questions he answered for us.) Here’s a forum thread from that features Josh answering such questions as “how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck […]