Paul Fry (Yale) on Levi-Strauss (and the rest of ’em)

On the podcast both Derick and I made some references to Paul Fry’s literary theory course, which includes lectures on Saussure, Levi-Strauss, and Derrida. It’s a much longer course, of course, so you can get ahead of us to get a handle on the dreaded Lacan, or see what Fry has to say on feminism […]

Episode 51: Semiotics and Structuralism (Saussure, et al)


On Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics (1916) (Part I and Part II, Ch. 4), Claude Levi-Strauss’s “The Structural Study of Myth” (1955), and Jacques Derrida’s “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” (1966). What is language? What is the relation between language and reality? WIth guest C. Derick Varn. Learn more.

End song: “Slipped Into Words” by Mark Linsenmayer (1991), released on The MayTricks,

Topic for #52: Philosophy and Race (DuBois, MLK, Cornel West)

We PELers spent black history month actually reading black history, and on 2/28/12 spoke with Law Ware of Oklahoma State University about philosophy and race. Is there a philosophically viable concept of race at all? What are the potential sources of past and current oppression, and what general strategies seem promising to deal with them? […]

Pirsig as an American Pragmatist

Philosophology is to philosophy as art history is to painting, Pirsig says. He uses that ridiculous-sounding word to draw a distinction between comparative analysis and original thought, between critical examination and creative production. In the tradition of Emerson’s famous 1837 speech, “The American Scholar”, Pirsig is calling for creativity and originality. This is not to […]

Process Philosophy Explained

Thanks to Burl for including this link in a comment on this blog: Watch on YouTube. It’s an interesting take on energy here: energy being just a relationship between entities. So heat is the motion of particles, but what is this “motion” other than the fact that the relations between the particles changes in a […]

Lila Notes, Pt. 5: Pirsig, Philosophology, and Crankism

To wrap up my thoughts on this subject: Probably the most interesting part of this Pirsig immersion experience for me has been thinking about his stance as a lone philosopher, rebelling against academia. Like Ayn Rand’s, much of Pirsig’s attitude towards academia seems to be a direct result of some assholes he had to deal […]

All the Pirsig You Can Eat

There’s enough material floating around on Robert Pirsig to keep you busy for a while no matter what your level of interest might be. If you’re in a seriously philosophical mood, there are two at least two Doctoral dissertations, a gidebook,a textbook and a Master’s thesis. There are also options if you want to discuss […]

The Digested Read on ZAMM (and Other Works)

In looking for other podcasts on Pirsig, I ran across The Digested Read podcast by John Crace, which is sort of a literary humor thing, where Crace retells the gist of famous books using snarky oversimplifications. In his episode on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he’s none too sympathetic towards Pirsig’s philosophy, which […]

Pure Experience and Dynamic Quality

William James’ pure experience, the central idea in his radical empiricism,has been subject to misunderstanding and misinterpretation for 100 years. As I take Pirsig’s pre-intellectual experience (a.k.a. Quality or Dynamic Quality) to be more or less equivalent to James’s pure experience, any confusion would extend to Pirsig’s work. Objections that cut against James will make […]

David Ray Griffin on Whitehead on Concsiousness


By crankular demand, I’m putting aside by irritation at hearing the name “Whitehead” to read this article on Whitehead’s theory of consciousness–Consciousness as a Subjective Form: Whitehead’s Nonreductionist Naturalism by David Ray Griffin–and see if it helps fill in the gaps in Pirsig’s account of experience. Griffin’s CV describes him as a “Professor of Philosophy […]

Pirsig Talks About Storms at Sea

Pirsig’s second book, Lila, if you hadn’t gathered, is about a boat trip, though it seems more a matter of drifting around than a purposeful excursion (though he stops off to do some business in New York, or rather not do some business, as he decides to not allow Hollywood to make a ZAMM movie […]

Peter Kail’s Hume Overview on the Elucidations Podcast

Folks looking for a clear, concise Hume review with some nice additional details after our epistemology and ethics episodes on him would benefit from this Elucidations episode featuring Oxford Lecturer Peter Kail. Kail gives a more comprehensive biography than we did, covers induction (note that we also discussed this issue a bit on our Nelson […]

There’s a Madness in Pirsig’s Method

[Editor’s Note: Here’s the first full-on blog post by our Pirsig guest Dave Buchanan, though he’s been a long-time, productive commenter to our posts here. Oh, and this image is by Allison Moore, snatched from here.] L’esprit de l’escalier or “staircase wit” is a name for the clever reply that comes too late, for the […]

Lila Notes, Pt. 3: Pirsig’s Teleological Hierarchy

In Pt. 2, I described Pirsig’s notion of dynamic vs. static quality, which should sound a lot like naturalistic moral intuitionism as discussed in our Hume/Smith episode. All there is is people (or, more widely for Pirsig, any being that is capable of reacting affirmatively or negatively to anything: judging agents, we might want to […]

Lila Notes, Pt. 2: Dynamic vs. Static Quality

The big distinction made in Lila is between dynamic quality and static quality. Dynamic quality is Quality in ZAMM, i.e. the immediate, moment-to-moment recognition of something’s awesomeness level, but also in ZAMM, he wants us to recognize quality in classical (as opposed to romantic) forms, for example, the quality of the structure of a motorcycle. […]

Episode 50: Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

Robert M. Pirsig

On Robert M. Pirsig’s philosophical, autobiographical novel from 1974. What’s the relationship between science and values? Pirsig thinks that modern rationality, by insisting on the fundamental distinction between objects (matter) and subjects (people), labels value judgments as irrational. Society therefore largely ignores aesthetic considerations in the buildings and machines that litter our landscape. With guest David Buchanan. Learn more.

End song: “Freeway,” by Mark Lint and Stevie P. (2011)

Žižek on Foucault, Descartes and Madness

OK, so this isn’t the easiest thing to read (after seeing numerous Žižek videos, it looks to me that he writes like he talks like he thinks, which is pretty fluid, making connections between things and not necessarily driving through focused theses…) but a little time spent on it yields some interesting points.  For some […]

Historyish Podcast Profile of Foucault


In looking for Foucault supplementary audio, I ran across a fairly new podcast, “Historyish,” which appears to be run by people involved with the University of Warwick and the Postgraduate Forum for the History of Medicine. Their October 2011 episode on Foucault can be found here; the page itself includes some of the biographical information […]