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  1. Phil at WWF

    November 7, 2009

    Partially Examined Life guys,

    So, thanks, I guess, for responding to my email “on the air.”

    With regard to Seth’s distinctions between cynicism about academic philosophy, cynicism about graduate school, cynicism about UT’s program, etc., what I had in mind in my first email was cynicism about academic philosophy. I was hoping you guys might say a little about the formalization of philosophy as an academic discipline. I think I remember a bit in one of your earlier podcasts about the difference between Descartes’ first person, stream of consciousness writing style in the Meditations and today’s literature-citing, bureaucratic approach to doing philosophy.

    More directly, do you think that the discipline of philosophy in its contemporary academic form can be useful beyond one’s individual personal fulfillment, or has the academy, through formalization, weakened it’s potential to reach and enlighten people on a mass scale?

    Phil at WWF

  2. Seth

    November 9, 2009

    Hey Phil – good to hear from you. Mark actually touched on this in one of the last two episodes (Kant or the soon to be released Nietzsche episode, can’t remember which). I think philosophy as an academic discipline suffers no more or less than any other subject that is ‘academized’.

    The Academy is a business whose products are ‘knowledge’ and ‘education’ – which is the transmission of knowledge. As a worker, your job is to either produce knowledge, transmit knowledge, or both. The ability to transcend straight knowledge transmission to a dialectical relationship where mutual exploration or wisdom sharing is possible only really starts at the graduate level and truly only happens when one is working directly with an involved mentor/advisor. [Yes, this can happen at the undergraduate level at small colleges, but I’m speaking generally here.]

    Mark’s point in the recent cast was that professors now can’t create free-flowing works on major ‘subjects’ because they must get tenure, which in turns means publishing, which in turn means being accepted by peer review groups, which in turn means adhering to the institutionalized norms, etc. This means writing commentaries and criticisms of other works, usually. Only when what you publish ‘doesn’t matter’, can you actually say what ‘really matters’.

    The consequence of this is that many people in academic philosophy treat it like a job and, I think, aren’t either passionate or frankly that good. Certainly not the types likely to ultimately write anything that will survive their generation.

    So, to answer your point, I think that academic philosophy has, structurally, weakened it’s potential to reach and enlighten people by creating an atmosphere where people who otherwise wouldn’t get a forum for their ideas become tools and where people who deserve to have their unique voices heard get pressured into silencing those voices. [Insert sour grapes comment here]

    What’s more concerning to me is that Philosophy as a discipline has lost (if it ever had) its reputation as a source of meaning, truth, insight and significance for a larger audience. Even assuming the general populace is not aware of the academic factions, specialization, petty politics and other sundry activites in the tower, the discipline as a whole has little cultural relevance.

    It’s “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”, literature, new age metaphysics, self-help books, etc. People are looking for answers, but answers which are given, not those which come from self-reflective insight and a generous curiosity about assumptions. Philosophy doesn’t give answers, it makes the questions harder, but much more interesting. No one really wants that. And fortunately, few academic philosophers are laboring to give that to them.

  3. Esirre

    July 23, 2010

    This is exactly the kind of show that I’ve been looking for for years. Keep up the good work! One of the things I’ve noticed with my professors of humanities and philosophy is the lack of knowledge about the Indian philosopher Nagarjuna. His work is certainly advanced enough to warrant attention. Perhaps you would want to do a show on him?

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      July 24, 2010

      Thanks for the reference, Esirre. We are going to do some Buddhism pretty soon, though we’re looking into Zen as opposed to Indian Buddhism, just because Zen is much more popular in the West. I would predict that we’ll continue to throw in a non-Western episode every 9 months or so, just because there are so many areas we want to cover and we don’t actually know a whole lot about the non-Western stuff. (I hadn’t hard of Nagarjuna either until I just looked him up on Wikipedia, and still don’t have a good idea about what distinguishes his work from other Indian Buddhists.)

  4. Jeff

    August 28, 2010

    Likewise Tibetan philosopher Dharmakirti. Much like Nagarjuna he’s been overlooked here in the West.

  5. Henri

    September 8, 2010


    I tried so hard to find a “casual style” philosophy podcast. Thanks for doing this. I just wish people were more insterested in this, super important subject.

    Also, do you guys have a link for every major philosophy with all their strenghts and flaws? Thank you!

    • Profile photo of Wes Alwan

      Wes Alwan

      September 9, 2010

      Thanks very much Henri, much appreciated! We don’t have those links right now, but that’s something we can work on putting here.

  6. Gary Chapin

    October 14, 2010

    Okay, the best podcast ever. Just sayin’, your Pragmatism diptych just improved my quality of life for four days of commuting. Thanks for doing this. If you take requests, I’d love to see you tackle phenomenology — especially Husserl — full on. It gets mentioned so often as foundational in your other discussions, I’d love to see you take a whack at it.

    Thank you again, Gary Chapin

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      October 15, 2010

      Thanks, Gary. Yes, phenomenology is slowly drawing nearer: Heidegger is scheduled for ep. 30. Husserl will happen by spring 2011 at the latest.


  7. Dave

    November 4, 2010


    I just listened to your podcast on kant (episode 19), which I thoroughly enjoyed. And a discussion arose about the problem with kants connection to the ‘things in themselves’ or the objective world and without them he would be an idealist.

    So the point is for us to have ‘the effects’ or sensation or what ever you wish to call it, they must be caused by something or be self generated, granted. And whether it is one or the other is in a way unknowable, since we cannot know the think in it’s self for we can only know it through the effects of it. And if those effects are self generated then there is no thing in itself. But what we do with those effects whether they have a cause or not is what kants theory covers.

    I believe he asserted the causal link almost because he feared people would incorrectly conclude that his theory implied idealism. which it doesn’t. Infact, that would be a question of metaphysics which is unanswerable according to kant.

    Also, i think many of the misunderstandings with kant is his distinction from practical trues, concepts, ideas and his transcendental trues, concepts, etc.

    loved the podcast,

  8. Profile photo of Wes Alwan

    Wes Alwan

    November 5, 2010

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks very much — I think we’re in agreement, and I’m glad you’re enjoying it!


  9. Stefan Reisner, Ubud

    January 22, 2011

    get your facts right befor you start to make jokes: Albert Camus didn’t die on a motorbike. His car crashed due to a broken tyre and was driven by the nephew of his publisher Gallimard.
    he definetly did’nt have a secret suicide wish.

  10. Profile photo of Wes Alwan

    Wes Alwan

    January 23, 2011

    @Stefan — too soon?

    On the other hand, I can’t tell if you’re upset because you’re defending Camus’ honor, are a stickler for accuracy, or just very passionate about jokes having factual premises.

    For what it’s worth, I think I correct this error later in the podcast (unless it didn’t make the edit or I dreamed it — I just don’t care about the fact of the matter enough to verify).

  11. nick beer

    March 2, 2011

    Hi. Thanks for the podcasts. Hope you guys enjoy making it happen as much as i’ve enjoyed listening. Nick (Melbourne, Australia)

  12. Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

    Mark Linsenmayer

    March 2, 2011

    Thanks, Nick! We’ve mostly been enjoying them a great deal, though wading through Hegel at the moment I’m forgetting that a bit. :)

  13. Samuel Shady

    March 4, 2011

    Hello , I enjoy your Podcast a lot , and i learn a lot , But can you try not to be offensive speaking about other`s Beliefs , you will even by this way get others to listen to you more , I am Egyptian and I am Christian , I am Eastern in other Words , and we here in the east apreciate so much the respect of the “Things” among others , Take care , Thrive

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      March 5, 2011

      Hi, Samuel,

      I’m extremely surprised that we haven’t gotten this comment/request earlier, but I can confidently say that I doubt our tone is going to change much. If something sounds like a dumb idea to one of us, we’re going to say that. The best I can say is that it should all be taken in the context of what philosophy is to me, which is a free-wheeling play of ideas where nothing is above criticism, and that this is done in a spirit of good humor, not maliciousness.

      As is hopefully clear to long-time listeners, the hostility towards Christianity in particular is just because in America, the mass of people who are virulently anti-philosophical are Christian (if they even think enough to have religious beliefs at all). My problem in particular is not with honest seekers after truth who end up with Christian beliefs, but those who uncritically accept the doctrines fed to them, don’t think about them very much, and consequently are usually hypocritical in applying them ethically. The fact that you are listening to a philosophy podcast at all means you most likely do not fit this description.

      We’ve been long planning to have an actual philosophy of religion episode (covering the “new atheists” and such) which might clarify our various positions on this. Thanks for writing.


    • Profile photo of Seth Paskin

      Seth Paskin

      March 5, 2011

      Not sure I understand your concern, but I’m going to blame Mark.

      • Samuel Shady

        March 6, 2011

        Hello Mark
        First , I am so thankful for your reply , It shows how much you a great human indeed , I am so thankful for that , and i agree with you about those Hypocritcal Christians , if just we can seperate God from His people will be at peace , “However God took the risk” , I am a great fan of yours and i like your style a lot , i like the combination of you all You Seth and Wes .
        I like to introduce to you some of the contemprory Christian Philosophers “if you don`t know them” Like Rc Sproul and Ravi Zacharaias , I think those who truley present the Sober Christian Philosophy.

        My comment is late , because I have started lately this Podcast I have just Finished the Nichomachean Ethics.

        I am not a Schollar in Philosophy , but I consider myself of a Philosophical Mindset.

        Thanks for your time and energy,say Hi to them all, and tell me wether my comments had come on a podcast or not :D.

        Samuel Shady

  14. Samuel Shady

    March 6, 2011

    Sorry for my bad english , I hope you can go beyond that

  15. Russ

    March 8, 2011

    Mark, I’m glad to hear you’re considering having a show devoted to philosophy of religion. While I am a Christian, I am not offended by your podcasts. Just the opposite: I find them refreshing in their honesty, transparency and humor. I agree that many Christians are not very thoughtful or reflective about their beliefs (i.e. acceptance of doctrine and platitudes). One of the things that can happen in a Christian setting is the loss of transparency and the danger of succumbing to the “I’ve found the answer and I can’t stop asking questions” mentality. However, there is a subset of Christians that embrace a life of “faith seeking understanding”. I’ve been a Christian for some 25 years and have spent a good part of those years seeking to understand and clarify my faith. I’ve found philosophy to be one of those ways. It’s not always easy, especially when I see the way it’s portrayed rather simplistically by both its opponents and its adherents. I very much enjoy the frankness, playfulness, and penetrating analysis you, Seth and Wes provide of these lofty philosophical ideas. I’ve ready many of the philosophers you discuss and I find that I learn more listening to your podcasts than many of the banal commentaries that fill the libraries. My only hope is that other Christians would be more willing to listen to your insightful discussions and positions with which they well might disagree. Then, quite possibly, we all might benefit in this wonderfully scary yet healthy exchange of ideas. Plus, they might just have some fun in the process (as do I)!

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      March 9, 2011

      Thanks, Russ! I very much appreciate your feedback! (Is there anyone, from a Christian perspective, that you think we should try to read eventually?)

      Also, I’m curious: are you familiar enough with the “new atheism” texts to say whether there are any of them that you give any credence to… as being at least well argued from your perspective, if not something you actually agree with.

  16. Russ

    March 9, 2011

    Mark, the writer with whom I most identify is Kierkegaard. I think he best captures the dilemma of modern human condition with its dizzying array of choices and freedoms. I know you already did one podcast on Kierkegaard and discussed Sickness unto Death. Maybe you could do a program on Fear and Trembling and discuss the Knight of Faith. Most Christians I know didn’t accept Christianity because of philosophical arguments, but because of an experience or a life crisis. This is one of the things that K dealt with in his writings: a reasoned faith but a faith beyond reason. My perspective has been that applying reason quickly leads to realizing its limitations. “The heart has its own reasons that reason can’t understand” from K’s existentialist precursor Pascal.
    I’ve read Dawkins, Dennett, and others over the years, but haven’t read their latest books dealing with religion. I could be wrong, but I suspect it’s still pushing a rather naïve scientism. The problem, as I see it, is in the metaphysical presuppositions that are adopted by these guys which I don’t accept. The main difference between them and religious fundamentalists is where they place their faith. Modern science has been hugely successful in controlling and manipulating nature. As a Satellite Engineer with a Masters in Engineering, I can attest to this firsthand. But I don’t accept that science gives me all the answers. Science sheds much light, but ultimately life, existence, and the universe is mysterious and paradoxical. That’s when I think religion and faith offer better answers.
    Maybe you should do a show where you read some of the “new atheist” books and decide whether they have any merit from a philosophical point of view. What are their metaphysical presuppositions and are their arguments logical and coherent? How do they stack up with philosophers from the past? Etc.

  17. Brian

    March 13, 2011

    I don’t have the mindset right now to make this request any more formally than just straight out asking it, but, especially considering Mark’s request of Russ two posts ago, I think it would behoove just about everyone–me especially–if you were to do an episode sometime in the future on the works of G.K. Chesteron… specifically Orthodoxy, though you could certainly draw from The Everlasting Man, Eugenics and Other Evils or any number of his countless essays. Every bit of his writing is pithy and expressive, densely packed with a strange intellectual dichotomy between an uncommon level of common sense and his devout Catholicism and anti-Darwinism… not to mention concise.

    Goes without saying, but I love the show.

  18. Tim

    March 13, 2011

    So…have you guys thought about doing a Jean Baudrillard episode? Doubtful he’s in the ‘canon’ but I’ve always been interested in what I’ve read about his work – never read his stuff myself but when the Borders around the corner closed I went and grabbed all of his books they had. Do an episode on him and I’ll actually do the reading beforehand.

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      March 16, 2011

      What specifically by Baudrillard?

      Our steady progress through Continental philosophy of late is all about being able to do this kind of stuff, so we’ll be able to do some of it after Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, both of which are planned for some time before the end of the summer, as is Foucault. That should provide us enough groundwork to do Gadamer, Derrida, Lacan, Levinas, etc., but we’ll definitely sprinkle those guys around topics from other geographies/time periods so we don’t get burned out or turn into an all-Euro-goofiness podcast. :)

      • jackson

        April 11, 2011

        I’m stoked at the potential for gadamer and levinas. If you’d be interested in suggestions for manageable reading material for levinas, let me know. Otherwise than being and totalite et infini are unmanageable even not taking into accounts their size.

        • Profile photo of Seth Paskin

          Seth Paskin

          April 12, 2011

          Agree with you on OtB and TeI – I’d be interested in your suggestions. I have ‘La Mort et le Temps’ and ‘De L’Existence a L’Existant’ in French. I’m not sure either would be a good candidate, even if we could all get the English versions.
          My thought was that we’d take something from Sean Hand’s anthology “The Levinas Reader”, which has manageable sized essays covering a range of topics. The problem with Levinas is that he’s one of those always referring to his own and other’s work – explicitly or implicitly. Nonetheless, I think I could find something in the collection that we could read.

          • Jackson

            May 2, 2011

            Sorry about the slow response. I didn’t realize that there’s no email-notification when one receives a reply, so I didn’t think to check back.

            Offhand, I do see a problem with primary works of Lévinas. It’s further complicated by the fact that his later works are more jargon-laden and subtle than his earlier works, yet the obviate those early works. There might also be some issues finding essays that are widely available. That said, I’m too sympathetic to culture of Continental philosophy to recommend much for secondary sources. I have the Lévinas reader, too, and I think it’s usefulness is limited. “Ethics as First Philosophy” might be a decent choice, or perhaps “Substitution” (if I remember right, though, it is the 1972 version of that article… the 1968 version is clearer).

            Off-the-cuff, I would be comfortable dividing his philosophical insights into four basic aspects of the same phenomenological investigation. 1) the adaptation of the Cartesian notion of infinity, 2) the reversal of the foundational nature of ontology, 3) the metaphysics/phenomonological structure of the relationship to the Other, and 4) the ethical and practical human consequences of the first three points

            The best succinct example of (1) is an essay called “philosophy and the idea of infinity”, but it might be hard to get. “Is Ontology Fundamental?” covers (2). Both are relatively short and understandable, and I think they remain significant modes of thought even in Lévinas’s later work. Those essays mentioned from the Hand book (handbook) probably get at (4) pretty well, but I think it’s really tough to get into the guts of (3) without reading Otherwise Than Being or picking up a secondary source.

            When I get a chance, I’ll try to sift through some old notes to see if there is anything that helps with that. How concerned are you guys with general availability of the material? Perhaps you know of a good source for finding works that are beyond the scope of copyright? Nearly all my sources are physical books, so I don’t typically mess with online sources.

  19. Oldak

    March 16, 2011

    I was intending to suggest an episode on late 20th century continental philosophy, but I see Tim has beaten me to it. Would love to hear about Foucault, Derrida, or Baudrillard from you. I second an episode on symbols and hyperreality.

  20. Jay Byrd

    March 23, 2011

    Howdy yous guys; I’m one of those anti Christian Christians that seem to be listening to you guys. I’ve been reading some dead dudes stuff that have been interesting in my quest and seeing yall are headed for your “religious” episode Nicolas Berdyaev; vladamer Solovyov; and Urs Von Balthasar not to mention Marten Buber have been helpful as have your relentlessly consistent scrutinization of other dead folk that pepper our existential landscape. Thank you, your grobbling servant The Byrd

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      March 23, 2011

      Thanks, The Byrd (or may I call you “The”?)

      Buber’s planned, not yet scheduled. I’m not familiar with the other guys you mentioned but will surely take a look… not in time for the new atheists episode coming up, but that certainly won’t be our last word on the topic.

  21. Jay Byrd

    March 24, 2011

    I listened recently to yall’s favorite dude Kierkegaard and have a notion to imply; I don’t think reason is in conflict with faith, faith too is “ideally” based on Truth as is freedom yet the paradox lies in its ineffable transcendent nature, therefore its transmission is limited by the reduced nature of the symbols in which objectivity isolates them, not to mention the added contingencies of delusion therefore the pain and suffering comes from ones reaction to the lies and bullshit which should, through this tension reveal the beauty and goodness that Truth provides. Now in this light one should not be beat down by the Truth but stoked to have found its existence, its underlying nature “ideally” should bring happiness by means of ones progressive participation, thus “being”. does this pertain? not gloomy enough, huh! I do think Kierkegaard a tad bent in the psyche, but hey! Rock on dude!

  22. John Hessler

    April 19, 2011

    The first Hegel episode was spectacular, especially at the end. I would love to hear more from you guys on political philosophy. Currently, I am teaching a course on Rawls’ Theory of Justice’ at our local philosophy/activist bookstore, Red Emmas. He would be a great choice, a true analytically based political philosopher….

  23. David Abensur

    May 11, 2011

    Hi, just discovered this podcast and I loved it!!! I am starting since the beginning from Episode 1 so it will take me a while to catch up, but so far I LOVED IT!!!!

  24. Fred

    May 16, 2011


    I recently discovered this podcast and it is great. I appreciate you doing it. Will donate some cash as soon as I get some(shortly).

    I listened to the Heidegger podcast numerous times. Another Heidegger podcast would be awesume.

    Also, I would like to hear your thoughts on Baudrillard, Foucault, Marcuse, Derrida, Merleau-Ponty and post Modern stuff.

    Also, what happened to your earlier shows? I don’t see them.

    Thanks again.

    • Profile photo of Mark Linsenmayer

      Mark Linsenmayer

      May 16, 2011

      Thanks, Fred! Older eps are here: The “Older” button at the bottom of any given page is pretty small.

      We’ve gotten many requests for more contemporary continental stuff and are definitely getting to it, but we’re trying to balance it with other things as well, so it looks at this point like Sartre has been pushed back until a September release, with Foucault and Merleau-Ponty at least scheduled to come not too far after that. I think it still may take us a while before we feel ready for Derrida (I was looking at Saussure as possible preliminary for him to set up some of the weird language). We also need to get to Marx before the end of 2011 before we can do lots of the continental guys like Marcuse.

  25. Fred

    May 16, 2011

    Great. Looking forward to the Continental shows. I am also curious why you all decided not to get the PHD. Personally, I did not care for school, however love to learn.

  26. Aaron Abernathy

    March 28, 2012

    PEL crew-
    Thanks to all of you for putting out a consistently excellent product. I came across the podcast a few weeks ago, and I’m already almost “caught up.” What I enjoy most is the quality of the editing. There are few if any tangents that don’t lead anywhere…and that’s just not how any significant conversatoin I’ve ever participated in goes. I’m sure those hours editing are rather thankless… so this is my attempt to remedy that.

    One quick question…Seth has mentioned his well developed, multi-colored digital note-taking system. As a recent adopter of a digitial book platform, I’m genuinely intrigued but cannot find it on the site. If anyone can offer some direction, that’d be swell.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

    -Aaron ABernathy

    • Profile photo of Seth Paskin

      Seth Paskin

      May 13, 2012

      I started to write a blog post and zipped up all my notes to share. I’ve kind of fallen off and was a bit embarrassed to share, but I’m happy to send them to you if you like.

  27. Tom Nelson

    May 13, 2012

    You guys are doing a great job. I’ve always loved philosophy, but have been intimidated by much of it – the writing can be impenetrable. But you make it fun and alot easier going. Just remember you’re only mere mortals like the rest of us (or ARE you?) I’m just up to Heidegger now, so I have a lot to look forward to. Thanks!

    Best Regards, Tom

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