Wes Alwan will be at STOICON 2016, an annual meeting of people interested in exploring Stoicism as a philosophy of life. You should come too.
It seems that an explanation is one kind of thing, given that all explanations share a name. The popular approach to scientific explanation is to treat all successful explanation as giving information about the relevant cause or causes of the phenomenon to be explained. But if we look to the natural and social sciences, we find explanations that look quite different. What scientists call “explanations” differ with respect to the form and structure of the explanation and with respect to the information given. Given that in many sciences there are explanations that refer explicitly to the function of a phenomenon and not its cause, we should ask: are functional explanations just another way of giving causal information, or are they noncausal?
Is transhumanism just dangerous over-confidence in technology?
On “Ethics as First Philosophy” (1984). More existentialist ethics, with a Jewish twist this time! Seth returns to join Mark and Wes in figuring out how to best leave off all this aggressive “knowing” and other forms of individual self-assertion to grasp the more primordial appearance of the Other in all his or her vulnerability, which Levinas thinks makes us wholly responsible for others right off the bat.
Check out the Nakedly Examined Music Podcast at www.nakedlyexaminedmusic.com.
We are again publicizing our partnership here with Great Discourses, who are offering fall courses that include Ashvaghosha’s Life of the Buddha, Hegel and Dostoyevsky on Freedom and Happiness, Principles of Roman Stoicism, The Trial and Death of Socrates, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and more!
Register at greatdiscourses.com, and use the code PELIFE for 15% off. Or become a PEL Citizen, join the Great Discourses Not School group, and you’ll get a code for 20% off instead. The deadline for early-bird registration (i.e., cheaper) is Monday, August 29.
PEL Citizens can also hear the entirety of this course session.
What causes feelings of alienation? How do we resolve them? Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century discussions of alienation focused on society’s role in alienating the individual. The story goes: Your society delineates the routes of your world; its possibilities and lifestyles. The routes aren’t well-worn paths made from natural behavior, but instead, drawn lines, burdening and concealing the person’s true self. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan understands the root of alienation differently. He finds it in normal psychological development.
Jon has been a key member of art collective The Mekons since 1977, injecting country/folk/reggae/etc. influences into a seminal punk band to create an inimitable melange that has put out 19 albums, plus he puts out solo albums and is involved with many side projects including the country-punk Waco Brothers.
We discuss “Lil’ Ray O’ Light” from his solo album Here Be Monsters (2014) and two Mekons songs: “This Funeral Is for the Wrong Corpose” recorded in 1991 and released on I Have Been to Heaven and Back: Hen’s Teeth and Other Lost Fragments of Un-Popular Culture, Volume 1 in 1999, and “Cockermouth” from Natural (2007).
We conclude by listening to the title track from the 2016 Waco Brothers album Going Down in History. Intro/outro music is from “Mephis Egypt” from The Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll (1989).
Post-interview discussion of more aspects of Martha Nussbaum’s Anger and Forgiveness. Is Nussbaum right in saying that payback should not play any part in our justice apparatus? We try to lay out what changes in policy she’s pushing for and discuss her self-improvement regimen of limited Stoicism. Wes, Dylan, and Mark all have some issue with her fundamental analysis of anger, and we try to hash out our views here.
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When it comes to ethics and human choice, there is “a serious candidate for truth” that we haven’t considered properly.
More interview on Anger and Forgiveness, now covering social justice, the legitimate role (if any) of anger and forgiveness in enacting justice and bringing about social change, and more on when Stoicism is legitimate and when it runs contra to ineliminable and/or authentically valuable human sentiments.
Trey is master of a many-stringed type of guitar that you play by tapping with both hands at the same time. His mentor was Robert Fripp, with whom he played in the seminal progressive rock band King Crimson. He has also released over a dozen exploratory solo albums. Learn more at treygunn.com.
We talked about “Kuma” from his solo album The Third Star (1996), “Level Five” from King Crimson’s The Power to Believe, and “God’s Monkey” from the David Sylvian/Robert Fripp album The First Day (1993).
We conclude by listening to Trey’s current touring group The Security Project, as they play the Peter Gabriel classic “No Self Control” from Live 1 (2016). Beginning and end music is from Trey’s Live and Hugo House EP (2015).
Speak Now is NYU Law Professor Kenji Yoshino’s detailed recounting of Hollingsworth v. Perry—the 2009 California federal district court trial over a ballot initiative banning gay marriage in the state of California. While primarily a scholarly work of legal history, Speak Now is also a literary work of art and rich with important philosophical questions and thoughts regarding constitutional law and legal theory.
How a single Greek word can explain why we don’t like the Sophists, why Socrates was accused of being one of them, and what makes rhetoric successful.
On Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (2016). What role should we allow anger to play in our public life? Should systems of punishment be strictly impartial, or should they be retributive, i.e., expressive of public anger? Nussbaum thinks that anger necessarily involves the desire for payback, which is unhelpful. We should instead use anger to look toward the future and prevent future harm.
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The group discusses the novel Grendel by John Gardner. Nathan Hanks is joined by Cezary Baraniecki, Daniel St. Pierre, Laura Davis, and Mary Claire.
As the heat of summer is causing me to spend as much time trying to stay cool as is humanly possible (and hopefully you as well, dear reader), we want to let you know about some of the upcoming Not School seminars that you can enjoy whilst pondering some of life’s more existential issues (such as: mojito or bud light lime).
The return to the soil, to nature, is a recurring preoccupation of the civilized. Whenever a society reaches a state of high development it seems a repeating pattern that a segment of the population begins to yearn for the good ol’ days of yore. Ironically, even the ancients knew this temptation. Recall Cicero’s lament: “O Continue Reading …
Dave is a consummate craftsman in the acoustic singer-songwriter vein, but with the added bonus that he’s an amazing guitar player, who for 15 years or so has acted as sideman for ’70s Brit-legend Al Stewart, i.e., filling in the entirety of the musical palette apart from Al’s singing and strumming. And Dave has a philosophy Ph.D., and put that to use in crafting his most recent album Spinoza’s Dream (2016), where each song reflects a particular philosopher.
We talk about the title track from that album, plus two songs from Step Up (2011): “Sheila Won’t Be Coming Home” (a duet with Al Stewart) and “Descartes in Amsterdam” (originally written and recorded in 1997). We finish by listening to “All Good” from the new album. The opening music is Dave’s instrumental version of Al’s hit “Year of the Cat” from Wordless Rhymes (2005).
Learn more at davenachmanoff.com.
Guest Wes Alwan joins regulars Nathan Hanks, Mary Claire, Daniel St. Pierre, Laura Davis, and Cezary Baraniecki to discuss Mary Shelley’s classic novel in this special cross-post from the newest member of the Partially Examined Life podcast network. Check out more episodes and be sure to subscribe at phificpodcast.com.
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Were Sophists really the immoral truth-benders that Plato portrayed them to be? Classical scholars don’t seem to think so.