What Would an I-Thou Encounter Look Like?

A dialogical relation will show itself also in genuine conversation, but it is not composed of this. …On the other hand, all conversation derives its genuineness only from the consciousness of the element of inclusion—even if this appears only abstractly as an “acknowledgement” of the actual being of the partner in the conversation; but this […]

I and Thou: The Spreadsheet!


Regardless of how or whether you relate to Buber’s vision, I and Thou makes for a frustrating read. Seemingly simple words are used in new and alien contexts. Solutions are announced rather than derived. Worse, while nominally divided into three parts, I and Thou is really more of a loose collection of 61 aphorisms. Following […]

The Upside of Fandom

A recent blog post at New York Magazine’s Vulture blog queries whether fandom is inherently pathological. This seems a fair question to ask after some of the more amusing anecdotes revealed on the Lucy Lawless episode: [Fandom is], by definition, a bit different from hobbies like cooking or learning an instrument in that fandom is in […]

Robert Solomon on Nietzsche on Truth

For another take on Nietzsche’s theory of truth, here’s a lecture from Prof. Robert Solomon, one of the stars of The Great Courses series. Solomon describes Nietzsche’s concept of truth as perspectivist rather than relativist. (Though, unlike Rick Roderick, Solomon is willing to concede that other Nietzsche interpreters have — rightly or wrongly — gone farther.) […]

Bertrand Russell on Aristotle’s Politics

Listen on YouTube. Like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate. Even so, Bertrand Russell’s prose is entertaining enough to make this audio chapter on Aristotle’s Politics a worthwhile supplement to PEL’s Politics episode. -Daniel Horne

Do Phenomenal Concepts Negate Wittgenstein’s Private Language Argument?

Watch on Vimeo In the video above, Prof. David Papineau compares different “naturalist” theories of consciousness to propose that phenomenal concepts pose a problem for Wittgenstein’s private language argument. (A version of this issue was briefly raised during the second episode discussing Philosophical Investigations.) Hint: If you’re not yet familar with the “Mary’s Room” thought experiment, […]

Alan Watts on Buddhist and Christian Mythographies

Watch on YouTube. I liked the meta-discussion that kicked off the second PEL naturalized Buddhism episode, specifically on what knowledge we gain by assessing the supernatural “rules” contained within “religious” Buddhism. Even after rejecting a supernaturalist stance, there’s value in reviewing the form of life revealed within Buddhism’s supernatural tenets. In that spirit, I enjoyed Boddhisatva’s Brain most for its […]

Zen and the Brain

Watch on Vimeo One way to naturalize Buddhism is to discern the moral lessons it might offer after shedding its metaphysics. Another way is to scrutinize the physiological effects of its practices. As Owen Flanagan explained on PEL’s first “naturalized Buddhism” episode, not all Buddhist sects practice meditation. But of course, many do, particularly within the […]

Stokely Carmichael’s Sartrean Influences

One of the names dropped during the Race and Philosophy episode was that of Stokely Carmichael. Below is a famous recording of one Carmichael’s “Black Power” speeches, given after Carmichael was appointed Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC: Watch on YouTube.

Structuralism Summarized in 30 Minutes

Watch on YouTube. Here is a surprisingly edifying and entertaining synopsis of structuralism. I particularly like how Prof. Louis Markos connects Saussure’s work to the “proto-structuralism” of Freud and Marx. Also enjoyable is Markos’ mini-rant, in light of Wes’s recent post: Structures are found in all areas of thought and study, from history to linguistics, psychology […]

Brian Leiter’s New Philosophical Categories

A really good interview with Nietzsche scholar and opinionator Brian Leiter appears in 3:AM Magazine, where he drops pithy quotes on Obama, Nietzsche, Marx, and Foucault. But he also appears to have a new argument to sell. Leiter advocates a new way to divide the philosophical canon, not into “contintentals” or “analytics,” but rather into “naturalists” […]

In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens

Watch on YouTube. Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday after a punishing bout with cancer, and I’d like to take the liberty of inserting a brief memoriam. I do this in a philosophy blog partially because PEL recently discussed one of his books. But mostly I do it because I would hate to think anyone remembers Hitchens as […]

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 […]

The Tree of Life’s Contingent Universe

Watch on YouTube I can write nothing on Heideggerian scholar*/(anti)Hollywood director Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life that hasn’t been better written elsewhere. Even so, the film has just come available on DVD and digital download, so I thought I’d recommend it to anyone who has been interested in PEL’s recent religion episodes. (Suggestion: try […]

Swinburne Contra Dawkins on Complexity and Creation

Watch on YouTube. A name that popped up in Episode 43 and Episode 44 was that of Oxford philosophy professor Richard Swinburne. Swinburne has made his reputation positing analytic arguments in favor of Christian theism. As Robert pointed out toward the end of Episode 43, most Christians, even if sympathetic, would probably not find Swinburne’s arguments […]

Are Men Naturally Predisposed to Excel in Life?

Watch on YouTube A 1999 episode of In Our Time was ostensibly about “feminism,” but in fact addressed a narrower and more pressing issue: Are men “by nature more competitive, ambitious, status-conscious, dedicated, single-minded and persevering than women”? And if so, doesn’t that mean men are biologically better disposed than women to achieve material success? And […]

Magnetic Morality Modulation

This September, PBS will re-broadcast an interesting episode of NOVA ScienceNOW, which touches on some points raised in PEL’s interview with Patricia Churchland. The episode demonstrates a procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which can influence a person’s moral judgments as they are being made, simply by messing with the neural activity located within the brain’s Right TemporoParietal […]

More Fun Debating Free Will (and Bashing Dan Dennett)

Pop science journalists / authors Bob Wright and John Horgan have an interesting debate on free will from a, well, pop science point of view. Nothing gets resolved, as always, but I like hearing well-informed middle-aged guys argue the same debate we’ve been hearing since the university dorm room. Highlights include Wright’s assessment of Daniel […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Georg Cantor and Ever Larger Infinities

Watch on youtube. A big name-drop during the middle of the Russell episode was the sad story of Georg Cantor and his insanity-inducing continuum hypothesis. Anyone unaware of Cantor and his contributions might want to look at this clip from the Dangerous Knowledge BBC documentary. I thought it provided a good visual explanation of higher […]

Debating Locke’s View of Slavery as War

Ta-nehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic, recently opened up a discussion on Locke’s Second Treatise, with respect to the discussion of slavery. A fairly intelligent debate thread followed in the comments section. Check it out if you found that section of PEL’s Locke episode interesting. Some of the better comments in the thread debated […]

Žižek on Hegel on Identity

One public intellectual who has made much hay of Hegel’s continued relevance is Slavoj Žižek, who begins one of his jazz-session-like lectures on Hegel’s concept of identity here: Watch on youtube. It’s not clear to me whether Žižek is properly interpreting Hegel, mostly because I find both Žižek and early Hegel incomprehensible. Z’s been accused […]


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 […]

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 […]

Science Proves Heidegger (Partially) Correct?

Irony so overwhelming I want to tweet about it with a #Heidegger hashtag: A scientific study recently found empirical support for Heidegger’s concept of zuhanden, which was discussed in the Being and Time podcast.* Wired Science covered the story last year, but the study itself is short enough that you can get through it during a lunch […]

The Wittgenstein Blues

This one’s self-explanatory. Nothing too weighty, but anyone who can work Wittgenstein into a catchy hook deserves all the exposure he can get: Watch on YouTube. -Daniel Horne

Dworkin on Defining the Good Life

Mark’s posts on Frithjof Bergmann help lay the groundwork for the upcoming episode on Montaigne and what constitutes the “good life.” Coincidentally, there’s a similarly-themed article by Ronald Dworkin in this month’s New York Review of Books. I may disagree with Mark’s conclusions, and maybe even some of his premises. But I better appreciate Mark’s approach […]

When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong

A research physicist friend of mine who works at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a bit of a global warming skeptic. When I brought up all the scientific research on the subject, he said, somewhat dismissively, “Yes, but anyone who gets a PhD in climate science goes into it with an agenda. No one goes […]

Summarizing Schopenhauer in Under 600 Seconds

Here’s another documentary video clip on Schopenhauer, discussing his early disaffection from Christianity, and also some fun facts. For example, he always kept two statues in his study — one of Kant, and the other of Buddha. Watch in YouTube. This clip also paraphrases some amusing quotes from Volume II of Schopenhauer’s World as Will […]

David Foster Wallace on Wittgenstein

Slate Magazine recently posted a great article on the recently-departed author and essayist David Foster Wallace, focusing on how Wallace (correctly?) interpreted Wittgenstein’s early and late philosophy to cope with his allegedly crushing sense of solipsistic dread. I’m not sure I buy this thesis, but Wallace’s suicide implies something was clearly bothering him. Even so, […]

Martial Arts Without the Mysticism

A trivial generalization about modern Western philosophy is that it splits between the more scientific “analytic” and more humanistic “continental” traditions.* A crass — but more true than false — characterization of these two traditions is that the analytic tradition attempts to solve problems, and the continental traditions…um…don’t. Similarly, one might roughly divide East Asian […]

The Sickness Unto Death, the PowerPoint!

I mentioned on the Kierkegaard episode having prepared a PowerPoint on The Sickness Unto Death, so I submit to you, the morbidly curious, TSUD: The PowerPoint! (Warning, it’s over 700KB, and might take a while to download on slower connections.) I believe Seth made some minor corrections and improvements, but any errors in spelling, interpretation, […]

Kierkegaard, Docudramatized

Kierkegaard’s stern Christian vision originated with a strict, almost traumatic, upbringing. His defense of individualism and radical subjectivity would not likely have developed without it. But it’s hard for the modern reader to get past Kierkegaard’s freakish, introverted persona. A more sympathetic view of K. might be found in the 1984 BBC television series Sea of […]

Modern Science Searches for the Self

Below is a clip from David Malone’s recent documentary, Soul Searching, originally broadcast on the UK’s Channel 4. It reviews some of the latest developments in brain science to discover that the self might just be an illusion, a byproduct of the brain’s left hemisphere trying to construct a narrative of reality. It makes for compelling […]

Kierkegaard and Cinema

You don’t have to be a self-absorbed mope to like Kierkegaard, but it can’t hurt.  Below is a stereotypically morose clip from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957), which echoes themes presented in The Sickness Unto Death: Watch on youtube. The protagonist, Antonius Block, is a medieval knight suffering from what Kierkegaard might classify as conscious despair of […]

What is Despair, Anyway?

[Editor’s note: If you’ve listened to the Kierkegaard episode, then you’ve heard plenty of felicitous exposition and argumentation by Mr. Daniel Horne, whom we’ve consequently invited to post some follow-up thoughts and resources over the next weeks: Yes, we know Kierkegaard thought of despair as sin, but is despair “a” sin? Is it “sin” writ large? […]