Discuss!

 

Announcing our first live-with-the-podcasters audience participation discussion!

Here are the most recent comments on our blog posts, i.e. the active discussions at this time. Jump into a thread and say your peace! If you want to start a conversation yourself, join our Facebook Group and go right ahead. For more ongoing, awesome, filtered discussion on readings/topic you can choose, check out our Not School option.

Note that the first time you post (or if you post from a different IP than your usual, I think), it goes into moderation, i.e. we have to approve it, so you won’t see your comment immediately, but we’re pretty quick about approving things. It should go without saying that if you get very nasty and belligerent, we reserve the right to remove any post and ban you (though that’s only happened maybe twice in three years of doing this). Think “with this comment I am elevating the level of the discussion” and you’ll be OK.

  • DonaldApr 24, 5:54 pm - Episode 92: Henri Bergson on How to Do Metaphysics

    Burl, not one person has ever before described anything I've said as "a flourish of prose". Least of all my wife. You, sir, just made my year. I missed your reply because I have since been spending all my free time with PEL's Facebook group. It is much more open and free there for average schmoes like me to say all the things that always just get "that look" from family and friends. Why don't you stop by later and join us?

  • Akiva MattensonApr 24, 5:38 pm - Episode 92: Henri Bergson on How to Do Metaphysics

    As always, I absolutely love the show and the dynamic of the group. Additionally, though (full disclosure) I rarely read the text in advance, utilizing the show as a sort of window into these various philosophical worlds enabling me to then pick out texts and thinkers that I might find interesting, I had read this essay and a number of others by Bergson before in my own philosophical explorations. I have to say, doing so greatly enriched my listening experience, and enabled me to "participate" from the sidelines and evaluate the way you guys were talking about the essay and Bergson's thought in general. One thing I wanted to add: there were a number of times where you guys questioned the practicality of this mode of thought. I do think there may be space for intuitionist, inductive, holistic modes of thought in a phronetic type of ethics (drawing here from the term as used by Aristotle and Hans-Georg Gadamer). There is more to say about that, but I just wanted to throw it out there as food for thought. Also, would love if you did a Gadamer episode... Anyway, keep being awesome!

  • dmfApr 24, 8:37 am - New Work Entrepreneurs (and a Now-Bountiful YouTube Channel)

    very impressive, truly the antithesis to the merely academic world of philosophy, congrats.

  • AlexanderApr 23, 11:23 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    Yes, of course you could do that. But ... you're on this website, right? I find your comment a bit puzzling. Anyway, I think we're done.

  • Geoff EdwardsApr 23, 11:10 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    Or I could just read the paper by Bostrom and draw my own conclusions. Unless the paper is exceedingly long, in which case I'll just skip the lot.

  • AlexanderApr 23, 10:55 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    I'm not disagreeing with you, but even if there's scientific support for a lot of cryo stuff, it's still very disputed whether it's actually feasible. There's companies that have offered services for years, hedging their bets that the future might be able to restore those they have frozen, however as much as it is thinkable that it might be possible, it's still ... magic. I seem to recall a prominent scientist who not that long ago caused some kerfuffle by saying that most of the science in that field is bunk and speculation, and something about the way crystallizing tissue (or some important part of it ... might have been neurons or some other important part of the brain) made it dead on arrival. (SHGI:WTL)

  • AlexanderApr 23, 10:47 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    > No, I don’t think of it as definitive, just a starting point A manifest that doesn't manifest the thing? Who would have known. :) > I didn’t listen to the Brin episode or the follow ups I would encourage you to do that, at least the transhumanism episode where a paper by Bostrom is tackled directly, and I agree with their conclusions there (which I've reiterated here).

  • Geoff EdwardsApr 23, 8:59 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    "The term ‘trans’ in humanism must mean something, right?" I don't think the meaning is terribly specific beyond signifying movement: The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself – not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way – but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature. - Julian Huxley, 1927. People attach names to things, but I think "transhumanism" is about as informative as "liberalism" or "socialism." ie not very. "TH manifest which is to define what TH is all about" No, I don't think of it as definitive, just a starting point. Yes, we can point and laugh at someone pining to have their brain scanned and uploaded. But that doesn't exhaust the scope of what TH advocates discuss. It is a strawman. I pointed it out because it seemed an easy steping off point, not a summary of everything that one needs to know about TH. It is easy to pick it apart because it as a manifesto, not an argument representing the sum...

  • Mark PlusApr 23, 8:26 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    Transhumanism certainly has its silly and illogical aspects. I’ve written about the nonsense which the precursors to today’s transhumanists published back in the 1970’s in this book review of Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger: http://www.scribd.com/doc/160354250/That-70-s-Transhumanism-A-Review-of-Cosmic-Trigger-Final-Secret-of-the-Illuminati I continue to laugh at transhumanists’ predictions that we’ll “become immortal” by arbitrary dates in this century which fall within current life expectancies. “Living forever” doesn’t mean “living to 2045,” despite the fact that transhumanist conferences have advertised 2045 as the immortality date. Besides, I thought immortality would last longer than 31 years. What a gyp! Despite transhumanists’ cargo cultism, however, parts of transhumanism have empirical foundations. The idea of using cryopreservation to turn death from a permanent off-state into a temporary and reversible off-state has scientific support if you approach it as a problem in applied neuroscience: Some neuroscientists and cryobiologists have established the Brain Preservation Foundation to raise money for incentive prizes towards that goal to encourage scientists to push hard on the envelope of current and reachable brain preservation techniques: http://www.brainpreservation.org/ Michael Shermer, the American critic of pseudoscience and editor of Skeptic magazine, serves as one of this foundation’s advisers, so he apparently considers its goal scientifically defensible: http://www.brainpreservation.org/content/advisors

  • AlexanderApr 23, 8:20 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    Hang on, Geoff, I thought we were talking about TH, right? The term 'trans' in humanism must mean something, right? Now, you pointed to the TH manifest which is to define what TH is all about, and even then I could pick it apart quite easily. In philosophy the goal is rigor, I think we all agree to that? Nobody wants the proliferation of ideas more than me, but I'm interested in philosophy because it takes ideas seriously and tests them with rigor. That rigor is what I find lacking in TH. So ... could we agree that TH is interesting, but not necessarily philosophy? (Again, would love we some TH rigor)

  • Geoff EdwardsApr 23, 8:05 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    "Should we buy an excavator if we find gold dust sprinkled on the surface?" Probably not an excavator, but it might still be worth kicking the dirt around a bit. The baldness was meant to be amusing. i.e we may have the technology to do these things, and the cosmetic examples mentioned are all pretty harmless. I couldn't see anyone raising any objections beyond, well if you want to look like a dick, go ahead. If we don't object to that, an otherwise healthy indvidual doing this stuff, can we still object to other healthy indviduals doing stuff which might not be as harmless. What do we feel about the priveleged elite, in any already priveleged society, making changes or employing therapies not available to the hoi polloi that further entrench their dominance? We already see how income inequality effects health outcomes for various groups. The rich tend to live longer, healthier lives. What happens if technology starts to exacerbate such trends to even greater degrees. These are questions of a moral nature which as you say are philosophical questions and as such not unique to TH. And I don't believe that those in the TH movement are somehow uniquely...

  • AlexanderApr 23, 7:21 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    Hey, mate, sorry for using the word "ammo", it seems to have caused a bit of defense. I meant it in the friendliest way possible, because I found the example of baldness so amusing. Also, I know you're not the TH spokesperson, I'm just going by the fact that you said there's more to TH than the original article lampooned. Now, I've read Bostrom and others before, and I especially revisited Bostrom when the PEL guys did their recent post-Brin transhumanism episode, and I'm more or less reiterating what those guys also found in his papers; there's a shallowness to it, probably driven by fetishising the technological aspect of the issues at hand. There *might* be gold on those hills, but I think the article we're all commenting on here at least points to some problem that, well, I think still stand; all that glimmer ain't philosophy. Should we buy an excavator if we find gold dust sprinkled on the surface?

  • Geoff EdwardsApr 23, 5:48 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    "If the ethical dilemma ... is the ammo you’ve got " I am not her trying to gun you down. I am not interested in an adversarial point scoring waste of time. Really, I don't care enough about TH or your opinion of it to spend time trying to convince you that there are people talking about things that you may or not have an interest in. I am not suggesting that these people are discussing things that philosphers are not and that we MUST know, or doing research or making the advances that are actually being done by science. I am suggesting that some, not all, people in the movement who identify as TH have some intersting things to say. If you think it is important, Bostrom is an Oxford prof in the Philosophy faculty. TH is not a discrete easily identified set of ideas. It doesn't fail just beacuse of some issue with one particular technology. Besides the tech fetishists, there are some genuinely smart people thinking about human futures in light of current technological developments and who are generally optimistic about human prospects. If that is some kind of intellectual sin, than so be it.

  • FredboApr 23, 2:47 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    I've glazed... I mean glossed over much of what has been written here. Just a few questions for clarification: 1. What does Transhumanism even mean? Trans as in "across" or "beyond" or perhaps a state of flux ultimately ending somewhere but, for now, temporary. Does it have some kind of agenda, teleology? Is it "a philosophy" or Philosophy? 2. If it is "across" humans then it would seem to be heading toward a Star Trek Borg-type end. Even if an illusion, I prefer to be a Free Agent and not a single cell in a multi-cell organism. Isn't this a techno form of Nationalism not based on geography or social identity as we have known it but the binding of ourselves to one another with electro-digital sinews? What does this do to the idea of Democracy? 3. What do we do about the inevitable "progress" of technology and with the Ray Kurzweil's and David Brinn's out there? Every once in a while I think it good to just stop. Stop and look around at our World the way it is. Talk to people from the "wrong side of the tracks," to people that are not politically active or college educated...

  • philApr 23, 11:36 am - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    Very well written and insightful. I agree with your sentiment Michael. I do still believe though that there is very fertile ground in the transhumanism context for philosophical discussion, especially since it ultimately relates to the relationship of man to technology (since I find that there is too little philosophy of technology) and of course to himself (which for me has always held close relation between transhumanist themes and existentialism). So whilst I agree that the 'movement' itself is mostly vapid (and usually an expression of an underlying angst), the underlying themes definitely are philosophically worthwhile. Thanks again for a well written and insightful post.

  • YosarianApr 23, 7:51 am - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    The transhumanistic philosophy is very simple: 1. It will be possible to use technology for human beings to improve ourselves in terms of health, intelligent, longevity, or some other useful trait 2. It is desirable to do so. That's really the only two assumptions made. Everything else comes from starting from that point and considering what the logical consequences of that might be, and of course different people come to different conclusions. He gave a number of good examples that seem to strongly indicate the likelihood of point #1, and you haven't even commented on 2 yet, except in bizzare apocalyptic terms (random comments about "fascism" or "communism" that don't seem to have anything to do with anything else).

  • AlexanderApr 23, 6:58 am - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    Geoff, I think you missed my point. It wasn't about where the choice is made, it's about the fact that there are choices being made, and that there's a tradition following that, so where is the new aspect of genetics to be talked about? If the ethical dilemma of whether you should be allowed to cure your baldness is the ammo you've got ...) I'm still not sure why your asking these particular questions, though. What you do to yourself and your looks are not ethical conundrums, are they? Extreme body piercing and alterations and tattooing is not a hot ethical potato in our society, so what does this talk of genetics change? I'm not looking for someone to disagree with just for the hell of it. I've raised big questions about TH which you have ignored, and I'm still trying to figure out if there's more to TH than the shallowness I've asserted. I'm still not convinced otherwise, but I am a patient guy who takes these things really seriously, and like I've said, I'm someone who's been more TH than I'd like to admit and who's worked in commercial AI for many years who'd love to find that...

  • Geoff EdwardsApr 23, 1:02 am - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    "It wasn’t *your* choice, granted" And that is the choice that is relevant in the context. People seem to be pretty okay with the whole mummy daddy thing. Should I be allowed to alter my DNA, locally or globally whatever the technology dictates, so that I grow back lost hair - i.e. cure baldness? Should I be able to at the same time make that hair flouresce as a matter of course? Could I also have that hair grow in a ridge down my kneck and back, sort of like a Girrafe? And maybe a swishy tail? Where do we have to get of the slippery slide? But that’s just … philosophy, no? It is a philosophical question. Transhumanists say yes we should. I am happy to stop engaging if you are just looking for something to disagree with.

  • Wayne SchroederApr 23, 12:40 am - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    If I look at what transhumanists are looking for, it seems to be very ideological along the lines of faith in technology and science as giving hope and thereby meaning/hope to living a life everlasting from a technological, scientific, rational position. Hawking has made the leap from having a quantum physics explanation of the universe to state that there fore "Philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge." (Grand Design, p. 5) Clearly Hawking's is not a clearly held philsophical position, but the common error of scientism: a presumed realism of science alone, replete with scientific theories and equivalent dismissal of philosophical perspectives. This seems to be the same falsely ideological and dogmatic position of those whose passions posit the value of transhumanism, not a new science, but a belief in science to yield ideological hope in realism, rationality and everlasting life and thus endangering the possibility of having those very values by clinging to belief rather than to either reason or reality. There appears to be no additional gain with the entity of TH over normal scientific...

  • AlexanderApr 23, 12:23 am - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    > We are not mutants by choice. Sure we are; your mum and dad made some choices (in most cases) about merging DNA to create a mutant mix. Sure, they weren't thinking this at the time of conception, but hey. It wasn't *your* choice, granted, but the idea of genetic choice isn't new. What is the difference between choose the sex of your child, and killing every child until you get your boy, apart from murder? Is there some discussion worth having that hasn't been covered, or isn't being covered by non-TH? So, let's pick a subject that's probably closer to what you're referring to; altering some genetic markers of your potential child to, for example, remove a fatal disease. Where will the debate on this subject enter the realm of TH? > It is not primarily about can we, it is about should we? Sure. But that's just ... philosophy, no? TH. What the heck is it again?

  • Geoff EdwardsApr 23, 12:02 am - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    “We’re all mutants already, so what does transhumanism bring to that discussion?” We are not mutants by choice. Transhumanism proposes that people be permitted to choose their changes, to go beyond unguided mutation and to purposfully direct augmentation that confers various advantages. Should we stop them? We permit people with serious illnesses to find treatments and enhance there life. Should we permit people to take treatments that enhance capacities beyond the normal? And not just one treament but a suite of such that confers a range of advantages. Or even treatments that permanently alter their genes in ways beyond the temporal constraints of evolution. If such technologies are available, Transhumanists say yes. What do you say? “I fear that most transhumanism is based in some wrong idea that all humans are somehow equal, that we’re all the same.“ It’s not. “But when we get down to details and the microcosmic, the “human” element have a tendency to disappear.“ Yes, and transhumanists would probably agree. But most people adhere to ideas about what it is to be human, and what we should and shouldn’t do. Transhumanists would suggest we shouldn’t be beholden to such notions – they call there intellectual foes...

  • Michael BurgessApr 22, 11:39 pm - 5,000,000 Downloads

    Have you ever thought of a "mystery science theatre" episode? That is, audio (-visual?) commentary on some other visual material? Maybe even a film... One of the difficulties I have listening is finding a 2hr space where I can be occupied visually/etc. too. It's difficult to "just listen". For most of them I'd just take a long bath and listen, but in my latest apartment there's only a shower.. :( Something I could *watch* however might be something that could "take off independently". I did something a bit similar with american beauty (and Kierkegaard) a few years ago. NB. the red letter review series (on star wars, etc.) is amazing..

  • Geoff EdwardsApr 22, 11:25 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    "Granted, it’s hard to philosophize about the future, but surely some use of our imaginations is called for here, merely for the sake of caution, no?" I think this is a point that the members of the episcopalian synod as, Michael eloquently describes them, would like to bring to the forefront. There are certainly those in the broader TH church that warrant criticism such as Michael has delivered. And as for how the TH population breaks down - wild eyed fronteirs men v reasonable adults - I don't know. But I think it is appropriate to acknowledge that it is not just freaks and there are some people in their with interesting ideas which differ somewhat from standard philosophical discussions on the technology.

  • Michael BurgessApr 22, 11:24 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    > No, it is further evidence that you are misrepresenting transhumanism, its thoughts and its agenda. Well I asked for transhumanist ideas, you gave me research programmes in biology. Either you thought these were ideas of the TH movement in which case my reply stands, or you didnt think that, in which case my original question remains open. > , but these ideas are the subject matter from which their theorizing begins. Well to an extent. The problem is theyre not just writing ethical commentaries, theyre making predictive claims. Once you get into that business you have to be able to do more than "theorize" in this loose, speculative sense. In a comment elsewhere on this artlce I was "acused" of being a philosopher criticizing transhumanism for being a proto-typical, speculative science without a sound basis. The implication being that philosophy is exactly this kind of discipline. Projection and confusion abound! Its interesting to wonder if all these New Atheist/Transhumanist/Neo-enlightenment types going around accusing philosophy of bunk proto-science are doing so because they believe their naive neo-enlightenment ideas fully exhaust the space. The irony here is of course, philosophy is nothing of the kind and their proto-science is bunk.

  • Michael BurgessApr 22, 11:14 pm - Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!

    To elaborate on a small point further, in the process of editing " is the satisfaction derived from purely psychological phenomena " was used in place of: " is the satisfaction of purely psychological phenomena " To clarify the difference, I do not think that people derive satisfaction (as commonly understood) from their behaviour. In the large part I think people, in general, increase their anxiety - or at least "manage it". Therefore on a standard reading the second phrase is closer to what I intended to say. Where I use the word "satisfy" in its non-psychological sense (confusingly, perhaps) to mean "fulfil", as in to satisfy a requirement. There are various psychological forces which function as requirements that our behaviour satisfy and in satisfying them we will very often be very dissatisfied. For example visiting the priest will (perhaps) satisfy our guilt - "deal with it" - but we will likely still feel sorry in some way, just not guilty. To complicate things further, however, there is a reading of "satisfaction" which i'd be sympathetic with, and would make the original phrase equally accurate: namely, lacan's jouissance. That is a kind of pleasure that "feeds off" pain (, anxiety,...

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  197 Responses to “Discuss!”

Comments (197)
  1. I am a new listener who has recently found the podcasts and plan to go through all of the chronologically. I have liked the discussions so far but there is a niggling feeling that the way we do philosophy today is in error. Often philosophers (and those explaining philosophy to the common folk) seem not at all clear about the examples they give. Several examples noted made me uncomfortable, but in the second Wittgenstein this became painfully obvious (force equals mass times VELOCITY? Really?) Maybe philosophy should be something one pursues once they have become master of many subjects. Then we can be confident that their synthesis of their experience is valid.

  2. Sharing something I created with stuff on the web to spark some reflection. Intended for Non-profit use.

    Title: Discussions on Oligarchy and Citizenship by Socrates

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZL10TR2NqQ4&feature=youtu.be

  3. I’m a huge fan and you guys to a terrific job! I encourage you all to review some philosophical or naturalist philosophical work of Roberto Unger. Is this guy for real? What is he saying? Does it mean anything of value? No one seems to have heard of him and very few critiques are available. Maybe The Self Awakened: Pragmatism Unbound or one of his essays. Thanks!

    • Oh yeah and maybe you guys can explore why Unger thinks humanism is bad. How could this be possible?

    • Interesting character. Would fit in with our political/social theory theme. I’ll put him on the list and you can suggest a good reading we could do for an episode.

      • Maybe Passion: An Essay On Personality, Knowledge and Politics, or False Necessity: Anti-Necessitarian Social Theory in the Service of Radical Democracy. Passion is the shortest. False Necessity is the most political kinda. Pick your poison.

  4. Hi, I am planning on wrinting an essay on assessment in the universities. Not empiristic though, but in philosophy of education, and I was wondering if anyone here would know which places to look for such philosophical inqury already being discussed?

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