Daniel Little (UnderstandingSociety) on “Marketing Wittgenstein”

A good new-to-me web find today is The UnderstandingSociety blog from U. of Michigan-Dearborn’s Daniel Little, who writes about philsoophy from a sociological perspective. This is very relevant to our recent discussion of fame among philosophers on our Lucy Lawless episode, and in this article, Little reflects on why it might be that Wittgenstein is […]

Robert Pirsig and Montana State University

Robert Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), will be celebrated at Montana State University in Bozeman on the weekend of December 7th and 8th. On December 15th, during their commencement ceremonies, he will receive an honorary Doctorate from MSU. These events offer some sweet redemption for Pirsig both personally […]

Listen to Quine’s “On What There Is”

Joining Mark’s reading of Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empricism” on our member site, I’ve added the other essay we read for Episode 66, “On What There Is” to the lot. Due to copyright issues, I can’t just put this on our public site, nor can I sell it as a one-off item, so the member […]

Some Sour Fruits of Popular Science

A friend of the podcast pointed me to today’s column in the NYTimes Gray Matter by Alisa Quart about a backlash against neuroscience, particularly popular accounts of it throughout mainstream media from Malcom Gladwell on tipping points to Chris Mooney on the “republican brain” to Eben Alexander on the neuroscience of heaven. These all follow […]

Theologians on Quine

In our Quine episode, I mentioned a religious podcast where the participants used Quine’s undermining of verificationism to argue that any secular-based knowledge is groundless, and thus that we need revelation in order to have knowledge at all. The podcast in question was this Philosophy for Theologians episode on “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” (I’ve blogged […]

Logicomix on Not School

As mentioned on the Quine episode, I’m proposing a Not School reading group on Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Christos H. Papadimitriou, Apostolos Doxiadis, and some fine illustrators, which is about Russell and Wittgenstein, with some cameos by Frege, Gödel, and other names dropped during our analytic episodes. It’s a graphic novel, running […]

Episode 66: Quine on Linguistic Meaning and Science

W.V.O. Quine

On W.V.O. Quine’s “On What There Is” (1948) and “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (1951). What kind of metaphysics is compatible with science? Quine sees science and philosophy as one and the same enterprise, and he objects to ontologies that include types of entities that science can’t, even in principle, study. Also, troubles with the concept of synonymy, i.e. “same meaning.” WIth guest Matt Teichman. Learn more.

End song: “Granted” by Mark Lint (2012).

Assessing Irony

I saw this Opinionator article from Christy Wampole in the New York Times: “How to Live Without Irony.” It condemns the ironic lifestyle of Generation Y as terminally inauthentic, avoiding real commitments, making us (them) incapable of dealing with the world at hand and with each other. Central to Wampole’s critique is a standard “I […]

Not School Philosophy of Mind Group: David Chalmers


On The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1997). Featuring Mark Linsenmayer, Alan Cook, Evan Gould, Russ Baker, Steve Lindsay, and Marilyn Lawrence. Recorded 11/17/12.

He argues for a form of property dualism in which consciousness, or more likely something like “proto-consciousness” is best conceived as a fundamental feature of the world.

Film Review: The Nature of Existence (Meaning through Sound Bite)

Roger Nygard’s documentary The Nature of Existence (2010; Netflix link) was the second film selected for our October “Netflix Philosophy Movies” Not School study group, and it was the decisive element in my not proposing that the group continue into November. Here’s the trailer, which very much gives the flavor of the film, in that […]

Michel Foucault and the Birth of Modern Medicine

[This is a post from Kevin Jobe, friend of Law Ware and the podcast.  It is part of a longer paper which PEL Citizens can download here.] i] Introduction. “This book is about space, about language, and about death; it is about the act of seeing, the gaze.” (ix) So begins The Birth of the Clinic: […]

Civics via Schoolhouse Rock

During our recording on the Federalist Papers, we mentioned at some point Schoolhouse Rock, a PBS television series that ran regularly when I was a child. For anyone who doesn’t know, it was a cartoon with skits and songs about grammar, science, civics, American History and some other topics.  In addition to state and federal […]

Topic for #67: Carnap on Logic and Science

On 11/15/12 we recorded a discussion of Rudolph Carnap’s The Logical Structure of the World (1928), often referred to as “the Aufbau,” because it sounds cool, and the German title is Der Logische Aufbau der Welt. Listen to the episode. To get a good sense of Carnap’s project, we read pages 1-136, plus the subsequent […]

Partially Examined Software Design Philosophy

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog from our supporter Michael Rissman. Enjoy!] Philosophy doesn’t make me a better software designer. It does help me reflect on what I do when I am designing. A few podcast episodes are germane here: the ones on Pirsig, Wittgenstien and Goodman. Donald Schön in The Reflective Practitioner: How […]

Citizen Commons Now Includes Live Text Chatting


We’ve put some of your PEL Citizen money into adding text chatting capabilities to the member site. You can schedule Not School gatherings for real-time interaction, initiate new chat rooms (public or invitation-only) on the fly, and see which other members are on for you to ask urgent questions about what the hell Deleuze is […]

What Would You Change?

It’s morning in America, as it is every morning, and despite the glow many of us are feeling due to the outcome of yesterday’s elections, the systemic problems, many of which were recognized by the authors of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, remain. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of focusing solely on trying […]

PEL’s Presidential Endorsement: Naked Political Partisanship

Every once in a while, a listener of The Partially Examined Life complains that that our liberal political proclivities — and occasional outright partisanship — are not consistent with our being philosophical, which should make us more neutral about such matters. I disagree. I do agree – after listening recently to the first few PEL […]

Red State, Blue State, One State, Two States

Lief Parsons graphic from NYT Steven Pinker article

Steven Pinker of Harvard recently posted an article on The Stone at the New York Times called “Why Are States So Red and Blue?” His summary of his thesis: The North and coasts are extensions of Europe and continued the government-driven civilizing process that had been gathering momentum since the Middle Ages. The South and […]

Mary Webster on Paul Revere Radio

As part of the run-up to our Federalist Papers episode, I listened to this interview on the Paul Revere Radio podcast interviewing Mary E. Webster, who published a couple of volumes of The Federalist Papers in “modern English.” I can think of few texts with which this podcast is in contact which is less in […]