Episode 47: Sartre on Consciousness and the Self


Discussing Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Transcendence of the Ego (written in 1934).

What is consciousness, and does it necessarily involve an “I” who is conscious of things? Sartre says no: typical experience is consciousness of some object and doesn’t involve the experience of myself as someone having this consciousness. It’s only when we reflect on our own conscious experiences that we posit this “I.” The ego is our own creation, or more precisely a social creation. This means that far from being some primordial structure of all experience, this transparent thing inside us that we have more immediate knowledge of than anything else, the ego is an object: it has parts we don’t see, and we can be wrong when we make judgments about it. Other people might even know us better than we know ourselves.

The Thought Not the Thinker

I’ve been so overwhelmed by the amount of good will I’ve had coming from listeners that it’s nice to be reminded that we really are still on the Internet. Thanks, Internet! Recently, our supporter Ernie P. scolded us a little for being too timid in voicing our own opinions. (See his post, and my response.) […]

Being Old in a Democracy: Peter Lawler on Plato and Us

Why is oldness found so repulsive in our culture today? Why do old people feel so compelled to make themselves look like worse versions of young people through plastic surgery? The easy answer is ‘it’s natural’, i.e., youth gives a competitive Darwinian advantage, so if we have the bio-technology available to keep ourselves younger we […]

Hannah Arendt on Scientism

The question of the “pernicious influence” of scientism on modern life and philosophy gets raised fairly often here at PEL. I get the sense that Wes and Seth think the influence ‘quite pernicious’ while Mark thinks ‘not so pernicious’. (Correct me if I’m wrong guys). So I thought it would be helpful to clarify what […]

Topic for #48: Merleau-Ponty on the Role of Perception in Knowledge

Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s magnum opus–his equivalent to Being & Nothinginess or Being & Time–is The Phenomenology of Perception. It is reputed (by Seth, at least) to complete Heidegger’s project by paying proper attention to our embodiedness: we have bodies, with specific perceptual limitations and are not only culturally but physically situated in ways that (as Heidegger […]

Tom McDonald on Reason and Intelligent Design

You’ll likely remember Tom from our Hegel podcasts and his several posts on this blog. His blog has switched names now to Owl of Minerva.org, and one of his interests is how the conception of reason by Hegel and the phenomenologists differs from the one prevalent in our culture, i.e. thinking clearly in the context […]

Kenan Malik (via The Browser) on Morality without God (and the Euthyphro)

In this interview with Kenan Malik (a “scientific author,” i.e. a psychology/biology guy who dabbles in philosophical issues) uses the Euthyphro to argue that presenting religion as the guardian of moral values “diminishing the importance of human agency in the creation of a moral framework.” His enemy is “false certainty” in ethics, whether because you […]

Find a Philosophy Event with PhilEvents

Via The Leiter Report, David Chalmers has provide details about PhilEvents.org, where you can browse and search for conferences. I know the intended audience is for people looking to present their work, but even if you’re just a tourist, you can usually get into these things to hear the speakers without a problem, and if […]

Skepoet Responds to PEL on Euthyphro

Here’s a response to our recent episode from C Derick Varn, aka Skepoet: Read his “partially informed review.” So, yes, other blogs that take the time to talk about us coherently will probably get a link-back, if you’ve not noticed that before. You may have to send the link directly to me, though, as my […]

The Problem of Determining Free Will

Free will is always a sticky wicket. On the one hand, we make decisions every day that point to our having a say in what we do. Accountability, in general, relies on this notion. On the other hand, whatever our will is, it is clearly constrained: we can’t will away gravity. Free will is a […]

Episode 46: Plato on Ethics & Religion


Discussing Plato’s Euthyphro.

Does morality have to be based on religion? Are good things good just because God says so, or (if there is a God) does God choose to approve of the things He does because he recognizes those things to be already good? Plato thinks the latter: if morality is to be truly non-arbitrary, then, like the laws of logic, it can’t just be a contingent matter of what the gods happen to approve of (i.e. what some particular religious text happens to say).

Can We Be Philosophical Realists?

The analytic philosophy of logical positivism or logical empiricism, which dominated 20th-century Anglo-American scientific thinking, leaves philosophy with a complex and problematic legacy that must be addressed and overcome if we are to have any hope of a renewed, meaningful, philosophically rational realism. On the one hand, the positivist view of philosophy is deflationary, diminishing […]

David Hume and Adam Smith in the Context of Eighteenth-Century Moral Philosophy, Part 2

As mentioned in my previous entry, moral philosophy in the eighteenth century was principally concerned with three issues: “the selfish hypothesis,” the nature of moral judgment, and the character of moral virtue. This entry regards the second component: the debate between the rationalists and sentimentalists over the nature and justification of moral judgment. Moral rationalism—exemplified […]

I’m declaring a moratorium on Nazi examples in moral philosophy

Anti Nazi spraylogo

OK, I was listening to the latest episode of Philosophy Bites, where Nigel “Daddy Warbucks” Warburton is interviewing Sean Kelly about Homer and Philosophy.  I have documented elsewhere my love and admiration of Warburton and the podcast, so this is not in any way to be construed as a criticism.  But a couple of things […]

Dawkins’ “The Magic of Reality”

To the extent that we talked about Richard Dawkins at all in the new-athiesm podcast this summer, we never got around to properly discussing science as wonder. Dawkins makes this argument in a really beautiful new book “The Magic of Reality”. Illustrated by Dave McKean, it’s ostensibly a children’s book, structured around a series of […]

Amartya Sen on Hume on Ethics

Watch on YouTube. This video records Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s somewhat rambling lecture, wherein he discusses a few themes in Hume’s ethical work which he deems relevant today. Specifically, Sen wants to advocate for Hume’s argument that society’s globalization tends to expand its moral sensitivities. We hear that Hume was among the first to argue that […]

Topic for #47: Sartre on the Self

Jean-Paul Sartre is best known for his 1960’s existentialism and Marxist activism, but before he was a big celebrity, he was a phenomenologist who spent a lot of time grappling with Heidegger (his book Being and Nothingnessis an homage in part to Heidegger’s Being and Time),but more importantly (to this topic) with Edmund Husserl. Part […]

Paul Boghossian (via Philosophy Bites) on Moral Relativism

We’ve discussed Paul Boghossian and his book against relativism a bit in our Nelson Goodman episode. See my blog post on this from last year. In this interview on the Philosophy Bites podcast, Boghossian talks about moral relativism, giving some shades of the view: e.g. you could be a relativist about manners but not really […]

Buddhism Naturalized?

Owen Flanagan

Given our recent exploration of moral theory, the excitement around our announcement of a Euthyphro episode and my own current interest in Buddhist thought, I guess it was inevitable that I would stumble across and then buy this book.  Or perhaps it was that Mark mentioned it in an email which I had overlooked.  In […]

David Hume and Adam Smith in the Context of Eighteenth-Century Moral Philosophy, Part 1

Moral philosophy in the eighteenth century was principally concerned with three issues. First, was “the selfish hypothesis,” which maintained that all declarations of public interest were ultimately expressions of private interest. Second, was the explanation and justification of moral judgment. And third, was the character of moral virtue. The selfish hypothesis, though largely a minority […]

Poetry Fights Back

Allen Tate

If you’ve listened to our Danto episode, our Republic episode or read any Plato yourself you know that the Big P didn’t have a high regard for poetry.  If you’ve listened to anything we’ve done over the last year, you know Mark doesn’t have a high regard for my blog posting efforts.  I do start […]

Rationally Deferring to Bob Price on Empirical Christianity

I’d promised myself I was going to move on to ethics and stop posting about religious issues, but due diligence requires me to relay this follow-up to my discussion of Mike Licona claiming empirical support for the Resurrection. As I alluded to in my exchange with Ernie P. about empirically grounding Christianity, arguing about historical […]