Parables as a Guide to Jesus the Philosopher, Part 6: Judgment

06 Judgment (Detail from Christ As Judge by Hans Memler)

The philosopher Don Cupitt highlights that in the parables, “Jesus sharply criticizes and even ridicules ordinary people’s ideas of justice and equity.” Part of this radicalism, the Catholic Church teaches, is that “Jesus identifies with the poor of every kind and makes active love towards them the condition for entering the kingdom.” Another part is the irreverence which he displayed toward the claims over morality made by religious authorities, which has been characterized in the joke on the Good Samaritan parable: “You know why the priest didn’t cross the road to the wounded traveler? He could see that he had already been robbed.”

Descartes’s Horror?


Examining Descartes’s Cogito, one can find that rather than philosophy and reason being a shield from horror and madness, the truth might be the opposite.

What Does Aldous Huxley’s “Island” Tell Us About the Essence of Humanity?


In his final novel, Island, Aldous Huxley created a vision of utopia where the Pacific island of Pala is an “oasis of happiness and freedom,” free from the trappings of capitalism, consumerism, and technology. Some say that the Island is an example of humanity at its sanest and most admirable. Yet it ends, predictably, in sorrow, “the work of a hundred years destroyed in a single night.” So, what was Huxley’s point in creating then destroying a vision of paradise?

Philosophy of History, Part V: Condorcet


“The time will come when the sun will shine only upon free men who know no other master but their reason; when tyrants and slaves, priests and their stupid or hypocritical instruments will exist only in works of history and on the stage; and when we shall think of them only to pity their victims and their dupes.” –Condorcet

Dance Lessons with Nietzsche


What, exactly, is a Nietzsche book? His works defy easy placement. Whatever they are, they’re filled to the brim with dancing—dancing Dionysian revelers, dancing satyrs, dancing ladies and men and children of all stripe and color.

Lucian: the Well of Laughter


Lucian of Samosata (c. 125–180 CE) was a Greek-speaking Assyrian satirist, who falls within the tradition of the laughing philosophers. He was the George Carlin or perhaps the Bill Maher of his day, eloquently mocking both the credulous masses and the charlatans who made a living off of them.

Reading ‘Antigone’ with Hegel

Hegel sitting

Listeners to the PEL Antigone episodes who want to dig deeper into the meaning of the play can benefit from Mark W. Roche’s overview of Hegel’s remarks on tragedy, put forth in his essay “Introduction to Hegel’s Theory of Tragedy.” Roche specifies four Hegelian questions audiences might ask of any tragedy in an attempt to understand its characters and their interactions, and the ultimate outcomes.

‘Identification’ with/in Music


A thesis advanced in our songwriting episode was that we appreciate music by “identifying” with it. There are a few possible meanings of this that I wanted to explore, especially in light of the charge that the ethic outlined in our discussion was too specific to rock ‘n’ roll.

Parables as a Guide to Jesus the Philosopher, Part 2: Prudence


Part 1 of this series ended with my arguments that because Jesus was not a systematic philosopher, it would be helpful to elaborate his moral teachings in the framework of an ethical system, and that virtue ethics is the system best suited to this purpose, as many Christians have traditionally thought. Taking up this approach, […]

Science, Technology & Society I: Francis Bacon


What is science? In general, answers to this question fall between two poles. The first is the traditional view of science–that it is a process of discovery which, performed correctly, faithfully reveals the mysteries of the universe. The second holds that science is a social process which invents, rather than discovers, models of the universe.

How To Survive a Philosopher Attack


“I don’t know how many times we’ve been at a philosophy party when I wander back to my philosopher after making the rounds of conversation with other non-philosophers, I discover that he is in heated and angry-sounding discussion with other philosophers. When it’s all over, though, everyone is happy and joking and full of philosophy intoxication.”

The Montaigne Project


In 2011, Dan Conley started, and completed, My Montaigne Project: a series of 107 essays, one a day for 107 days, each inspired by one of Montaigne’s 107 Essais. This week, he brought it back to the web with a newly designed website.

The event(s) of September 11

Two years after 9/11, several New Yorkers packed into a courtroom in order to hear a court case on the semantics of the word occurrence. The question was this: Was the attack on One and Two World Trade Center one event or two?



Human children are quite different from the progeny of closely related animals like chimps. They are much more inclined to cooperate and seem driven to understand what goes on in others’ minds way. What makes humans unique in this way? To address this problem, evolutionary psychologists have borrowed an idea from philosphers: collective intentionality.

Emersonian America

Emerson, philosophical mysticism, and Jamesian pragmatism all make the same basic assertion about the relation between concepts and the immediacy of lived experience.

Emerson on the Over-Soul


A walk through Emerson’s essay “The Over-Soul.” We learn a lot about how the Divine is supposed to affect us if we’re in the proper mood, but get no information about what it actually is.

Against Debate


Why the typical model of public argumentation, where two adversaries square off, is not the best model for philosophy and not good for our podcast.

Free Will Worth Having

What are your thoughts on machines that can predict what you’re going to do in the next five minutes? Do you think that everything that happens now in the universe was causally determined by some event(s) that happened before it? When professional philosophers check people’s intuitions it looks as though sometimes people generally agree that we […]

Convenience, Thought and Technology


No-one could argue that technology does not make our lives easier, or that technology has not been one of the great liberators in the history of humankind; it certainly has been. Our lives would be more solitary, poorer, nastier, more brutish and shorter without technology, to steal a line from Hobbes. We should hope for […]

Not School Study Groups In July

Not School

We’ve got a number of attractive reading groups going this month, a couple of which are entirely new.  It looks like almost every group will be starting fresh with a new text, so this should be a good month for members new and old who’ve never joined a group to try it out.  If you’re […]

A Wealth of Not School Offerings in June

Not School

Summer has arrived, and in case you can’t decide whether to take Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason or Franz Kafka’s The Trial to the beach with you, let me help: take them both and be prepared for Not School in June.  Thinking of taking summer classes?  Think better of it.  That’s expensive, and for a measly […]

Originality, Music and Noise: Some References


I am a regular listener of the show, and my dad, Jonathan White, has even been a guest (episode 72, “Terrorism”). I am a music history professor at Mercer University and became very excited when the discussion on episode 94 focused on music and, in particular, two major issues: 1) music and noise; 2) music […]

Is “Do What You Love” Elitist?


Thanks to JSully for pointing me–in the context of our discussions here of New Work–in the direction of the recent Slate article, “In the Name of Love,” by Miya Tokumitsu. Tokumitsu here describes the Steve-Jobsian commandment to “do what you love” as elitism, in that only the elite can afford such a luxury, and valuing […]

Not School Discussion on Bertolt Brecht Posted

PEL Not School

The philosophy and theater group’s April reading was the essay “Theatre for Pleasure or Theatre for Instruction” by Bertolt Brecht, which Phillip C., Carlos Franke and I recently discussed over Skype. As usual, we recorded the call, which you can listen to in the PEL Citizens section of the site as soon as you join up. In […]

Tales from the Crypt: Transhumanism, wow!


The licence to speculate on the fringes of human progress is immediately issued when that which we hadn’t even imagined transitions to that which we merely know we do not fully understand. This transition point is the playground of the so-called “popular imagination”, the stage on which esteemed careers are built without the effort and determination of […]

Henri Bergson and William James on Vicious Intellectualism

“If I had not read Bergson,” William James wrote in A Pluralistic Universe, “I should probably still be blackening endless pages of paper privately.” James had been engaged in a very long philosophical debate with the leading Idealists of his day, F.H. Bradley and Josiah Royce, when Bergson came to the rescue. James thought that […]

Apoplectic About Outsourcing Apps

When the Partially Examined Life discussion of human enhancement (Episode 91) turned to the topic of digital technology, the philosophical oxygen was sucked out of the room. Sure, folks conceded that philosopher of mind Andy Clark (not mentioned by name, but implicitly referenced) has interesting things to say about how technology upgrades our cognitive abilities […]

Philosophy Bro on Transhumanism


Our main man Philosophy Bro was way futurist compared to us, and covered transhumanism way back in 2011. Go check it out. I quote: So, broadly transhumanism is a movement that seeks to move past our human limitations by using technology. Think of all the cool shit we can do – we are already giving […]

Technology and Individuality

There is a classic anxiety about technology: that it can lead to a lack of individuality and spiritual emptiness. Why might this be? The place to start is with the lack of control technology can bring about in our lives. This may seem counter-intuitive since it is normally thought that technology is what helps us attain more control in our […]

Discussing Ulysses by James Joyce

"I tried reading that once"

Our Philosophical Fiction Group began reading Ulysses in December, continued through January, then February, and at the beginning of March only a few had made it through James Joyce’s epic. The novel is large, but what’s stunning- to me as a non-finisher- is the richness and depth of Joyce’s expanding story of the phenomena of a single […]

Not School Discussion of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead


Last weekend the Philosophy and Theater Group had our monthly discussion, and this time Phillip Cherny and myself talked about Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a tremendously clever, meta-fictional play which fills offstage moments of Hamlet with absurdist hi-jinks.  For the philosophically inclined, this play has fireworks from beginning to end, and Stoppard […]

On the Identity Politics of Belly Dancing

belly dancing

Novelist Randa Jarrar has been mocked – and accused of racism – for telling the world that she “can’t stand” white belly dancers. As Eugene Volokh notes, if we were to universalize Jarrar’s objections to “cultural appropriation,” then we might object to East Asian cellists or Japanese productions of Shakespeare, rather than treating the arts […]

Topic for #92 (and a Not School Group): Henri Bergson

Listen to Matt Teichman’s introduction to the reading. Henri Bergson is an early 20th century French philosopher that PEL listeners may recall from our philosophy of humor episode, and we’ll be tackling his philosophy proper via the entrance drug “An Introduction to Metaphysics,” a short essay from 1903 (freely available online) that is essentially pheonomenology […]

Not School Group Proposal: Zizek!

PEL Not School

For March I’m proposing a Not School reading group on Zizek. The group will read a 25-page transcript of a talk he gave at the International Journal of Zizek Studies 2012 conference. It is, I think, a very nice summary of some of his key philosophical positions and where his current theoretical interests lie. The […]

March Not School Group on the Semiotics of Mystery and Corruption

A fantastically accomplished writer and philosopher, Umberto Eco tends to write pieces that are layered and accessible. The common thread is epistemological in nature; he has written everything from treatises on the theory of semiotics to an exploration of the patterns of thought of a game show host. Unflinchingly- perhaps even harshly- realistic, Umberto’s works nonetheless retains […]

Judgment without Morality


Both Sartre and Anscombe say that they’re teasing out the logical consequences of atheism for ethics, and of course we saw this back in Nietzsche too. If you ask “are these figures moral realists or moral irrealists?”, I think they’re going to say you’re missing the point. No, a sentence like “X is right” no […]

January Not School Intro Group Reading

PEL Not School

The Intro Reading Group for January is getting started in Not School, and we’re looking for a couple or a few more takers. Hillary Szydlowski, the historical leader and organizer of the Intro group, is taking a much deserved break, and I’m excited to fill in as we’re reading Harry Frankfurt’s essay “On Bullshit” – […]

Strange Bedfellows? Kuhn & Intelligent Design


[From Seth Crownover, Friend of the Podcast] If we got anything from the last episode it’s that Thomas Kuhn is sort of a big deal and for good reason. His picture of scientific progress as a human rather than divine endeavor is, it seems to me, plainly true in a general sense if not in all […]

Public Reason

John Rawls certainly has his fair share of critics, but he’s also widely considered to be the most influential political philosopher of the 20th century. As we heard in the Rawls episode, Rawls’s theory of justice is a kind of contract theory wherein he lays out the basic principles of a democratic society. In the […]

Is Rawls’ Difference Principle Egalitarian?

[From PEL Citizen and friend of the podcast Roy Spence] The publication of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice in the early 1970s led welfare economists to derive various interpretations of the Rawls’ second principle of justice, generally known as the “difference principle.  By way of background, a primary objective of “welfare economics” is to provide […]

Rawls’s Second Principle: Compromise or Clusterf*#$?

Rawls’s principle 2a, to remind you, is (quoting from wikipedia here): Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that (Rawls, 1971, p.302; revised edition, p. 47): (a) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society, consistent with the just savings principle (the difference principle). This has appeal […]

Mark and Frithjof on Community Production at

Watch at Bloggingheads.TV In this follow-up to our first video, Frithjof Bergmann discusses the concept of community production in more depth. To what extent is this actually happening now? Is it actually cheaper to produce goods in this setting than via mass production? Who pays for all of this? Some lingering questions get answered. -Mark […]

Cooperative Society and Natural Rights

Courtesy of

When reading Rawls for the podcast, I took note of a seemingly innocuous distinction between Rawls and the traditional social contractarians that nonetheless struck me as odd given his appeal to social contract theory.  The traditional social contract theorists assume that rational individuals enter into social contracts to secure natural rights.  “Secure” here means ‘protect […]

Is Morality Ethical?

“Morality is neither rational nor absolute nor natural.” (Nietzsche) Nietzsche and Spinoza both challenged the validity of morality based on transcendent or universal values. They both argued that moral restrictions are based on weakness:  Nietzsche via enslavement by harboring vengeance or “resentment” against life ( Genealogy of Morals), Spinoza via enslavement to passive affections. In both, the […]

Why the Divide? A Note on Continental Philosophy

The term Continental philosophy has no singularly accepted formal definition, nor does it even signify a “you know it when you see it” kind of activity, because it is not really a distinguishable activity at all. Indeed, most people who study philosophy on the continent have no idea that it is “continental philosophy” they are studying, but […]

Mark and Frithjof on

In light of our podcast discussions here and here, I’m helping Frithjof Bergmann launch what will hopefully be a series of shorter video discussions on New Work at We made our first recording yesterday, and it has already been posted: Watch at There shouldn’t be much new here for PEL listeners who’ve already […]

Neitzsche does an Encore

It’s that time of the month again, and the Not School Introductory Readings in Philosophy group will be tackling Beyond Good and Evil for December. In Genealogy of Morals, we examined Nietzsche’s explanation of how the term “good” originated with the blonde beasts of the nobility and was stolen and twisted by the creative resentment […]

The Existentialist Self in the World: Doubt, Being and Caring

If from continental philosophy you throw out transcendental phenomenology and older idealist trappings–transcendental subjects and so on–you are left with a system which still has two components: the world and the self.  It was the relationship between these two that took hold as the major problem for 20th C. continental philosophy. The upshot of the first phase […]

Transcription – Nietzsche’s Gay Science Episode


Hey all! Just a quick note to let you know you know that we are making available a transcript from the Gay Science episode.  Special thanks to Jessica T. for her generous donation.  The file was Professionally transcribed by Read the transcript here. Note that while we are releasing this to the hoi polloi we have […]

Feeling Good About Oppression

In the Nietzsche episode, I made a point relating Nietzsche’s “bright side” of slave morality with Hegel’s account of the master-slave encounter. To refresh: Nietzsche’s story in the Genealogy of Morals involves the oppressed turning in on themselves for satisfaction, because they can’t get satisfaction in the usual brutish, masterful way. Nietzsche is often taken […]

Nietzsche the Hydra

[Editor’s Note: Thanks to Randall Miron for this post. Randall’s a long-time audio editor of ours and has been helping edit blog posts here recently as well.] In his short book Nietzsche, subtitled “Nietzsche’s Voices,” Ronald Hayman argues that, “Like Kierkegaard, who made copious use of pseudonyms and personae, Nietzsche was exploring his ambivalence.” This […]

Nick Mount on Samuel Beckett and Existentialist Drama

As our Philosophy in Fiction Not School group has begun to dig into Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot” this month, questions about how to interpret the play have started to crop up. Who or what is Godot, and why are these guys waiting for him? What do we make of the seemingly aimless and repetitive […]

Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kant

[Editor’s Note: Thanks to new blogger David Crohn for this glimpse into one aspect of Nietzsche’s relationship with his idol.] In ep. 84 PEL touches briefly on Nietzsche’s criticism of Schopenhauer—or rather, the ways Schopenhauer’s readers have, according to Nietzsche, accepted the weakest aspects of his philosophy first (aphorism 99). Nietzsche was a great admirer […]

The Mild Disease of Successful Employment

[Editor’s Note: Thanks to new blogger Jacob Wick for this meditation on work. Now go, everyone! Quit your jobs today! -ML] In Episode 83, Frithjof mentioned the large number of successful individuals that are unhappy with their work in the current job system. The feeling this work is creating was described as a “mild disease.” […]

Jessica Berry Responds: Nietzsche’s “Warlike Man”

A while back we received a question via email from Joe R.: “In times of peace, the warlike man attacks himself.” Can you explain the context of this reference and where it comes from, please? A quick web search reveals that this is an often quoted aphorism, especially in the context of martial arts, where […]

The Wisdom of the ‘Ignorant Schoolmaster’


“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” ― Socrates [From Sotiris Triantis] An intellectual adventure Joseph Jacotot (born in 1770) was a French teacher who discovered something remarkable in the education […]

You Can’t Talk About Zen: A Discussion of Zen

[A post from Jason Durso] The popular understanding of Zen philosophy is that it is painfully frustrating, contrived and lies outside the realm of rational discourse. Rather than offering some sort of platform for discussion or some set of assertions which can be systematically analyzed and negotiated into a personal system of meaning the proponents […]

The Subject: A Brief History

[A post from Michael Burgess.  This reiterates some of the first half of our Popper episode.] The Cartesian subject, the “I” of the “I think”, sits apart from the world, receiving it. Descartes’ 17th Century inheritors, the British Empiricists took “the world” to be little more than a series of sense perceptions, perhaps perceptions of something […]

Call for Papers – Toward a Science of Consciousness

  It was 20 years ago today… The Center for Consciousness Studies (CCS) at the University of Arizona is holding its annual Toward a Science of Consciousness (TSC) conference in Tucson, Arizona on April 21 – 26, 2014.  Fans of the discipline and podcast will be aware that CCS was co-founded by previous guest David Chalmers.  This […]

October Not School Group, Communicating with Habermas

PEL Not School

[An update from Hillary on Not School Goings On] We’ve been handling a lot of hard science the past few months and I’d like to move in a different direction for October with Jürgen Habermas’  The Theory of Communicative Action. As Habermas is a strong proponent of argumentation I hope it will encourage all involved […]

The Jung and the Restless

…I cannot outline the spiritual problems of modern man without giving emphasis to the yearning for rest that arises in a period of unrest… It is from need and distress that new forms of life take their rise, and not from mere wishes or from the requirements of our ideals.” When Carl Jung’s Modern Man […]

The Digitization of the Real

“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action comes, stop thinking and go in.” ― Napoleon Bonaparte   [From Sotiris Triantis]   In a previous article here on the PEL blog ‘Don’t Act. Just Think’: A Short Comment on Slavoj Zizek’s Critique of Activism, I argued that thinking is not enough in order to […]

Robert Skidelsky on Work

Robert Skidelsky in How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life (2012) uses a 1930 essay from John Maynard Keynes (which you can read here) as a jumping-off point to argue, like Bergmann, that productivity gains enabled by past technological advances make it totally reasonable that we now should be working fewer hours than […]

Bergmann as Philosopher (Before All that “New Work” Stuff)

We’re barely more than a day away right now from our interview with Frithjof, which he says he’s “thrilled” about, and I’m certainly looking forward to as well, though I can picture any number of things going less than ideally as I introduce these two known elements (Frithjof on the one hand and Seth/Wes/Dylan on […]

Zen and the Art of Martin Heidegger?

The partially examined podcasters raised a series of very difficult questions in their recent discussion of Heidegger, particularly during a ten-minute stretch beginning about one hour and ten minutes into the 80th episode. These questions all seemed to pivot around one central problem: what does it mean to get right with Being? Should we take […]

The Architecture of Compatibilism (Are We REALLY free?)

In our discussion on Jung, I brought up the issue of free will with respect to the existence of the unconscious, and I wanted to explore this a bit further: Compatibilism is the doctrine that free will and determinism are in some way compatible, but since these terms were designed to contradict each other, any […]

Jeremy Rifkin’s Policy Suggestions for the End of Work

I’ve continued to get jazzed about this “work” topic such that it looks like we’ll be covering some selection of readings in this area for episode #83. My question about this on the Facebook group has gotten a lot of responses, and I’m starting to get clearer on the spectrum of questions and positions here. […]

How Examined is the “Examined” Life? Truly.

Editor’s Note: Thanks for this submission from listener and long-time supporter Laura Davis, covering a story that we likely wouldn’t have gotten around to writing about here ourselves. I expect most have you have seen this article or some other about the renown philosopher Colin McGinn and his recent resignation from the University of Miami. The […]

Chomsky vs. Zizek

Editor’s Note: We feel the need to provide some coverage of one of the few big news stories in philosophy, which is the ongoing hostile exchange between two giants of the philosophical left, Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Žižek. Since none of us podcasters has read much by either fellow or has much patience for following […]

Not School Fiction Group Reading The Pale King this August

For August, the Not-School Fiction Group will read The Pale King, an ‘unfinished’ novel, by David Foster Wallace with a live conversation to follow on Sunday, August 25th 3pm CST. A small group of readers will meet online to discuss the novel’s themes, characters and ideas with passage-readings and spoiler-filled conversation intended for those who want to […]

Interviewing Eva Brann


So Eva was a terrific guest and a great sport on the podcast and while Dylan had talked her up to the rest of us, I didn’t realize what a towering figure she is.  She has been teaching at St. John’s for 57 !?!?! years, which is longer than most of us have been on […]

The Fountainhead (1949) – Movie Review

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Noah Dunn for this submission. Readers with some writing chops who have resources and/or thoughts to share relevant to the current PEL episode (or past ones) are always invited to contribute to this blog. We also welcome submissions covering current events in philosophy (e.g. reviews of recently released books or philosophical […]

Rationality vs. Reasonableness

The terms “reason” and “rationality” are generally used interchangeably, where the latter is perhaps more technical, or sometimes “reason” is used to describe the human faculty while “rationality” the normative standard to which the faculty aspires. “Reasonable” has acquired a more general usage in social discourse as anyone willing to listen to reason, i.e. anyone […]

“Very Bad Wizards” Podcast on Free Will

A point neglected in the moral discussion in our recent episode is free will. She-who-will-not-be-named (read her view here) on the one hand insists on the supremacy of empirical science but on the other hand insists that our freedom and hence moral responsibility is obvious and inescapable. So that should make her a compatibilist, but […]

Wittgenstein’s Tractatus for Not School

Hello Hello! It’s the beginning of the new month already. This is Hillary, continuing leader for the Not School Intro Philosophy Readings group. For those of you who have been following the Tao Te Ching discussion, hold on to your hats, because we’re drifting a one eighty and dropping into Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. For those of […]

Why can’t life always be beautiful?

[A blog post from friend of PEL Phillip C.  It’s a bit longer than our normal posts and is heavy with the name drops but I’m going to let it go because it’s on art, is related to a discussion group and I make the editing decisions around here – Seth] “What strikes me is […]

Is Experimental Philosophy Bad Science?

Wikipedia tells us that Experimental Philosophy (X-Phi) is: an emerging field of philosophical inquiry that makes use of empirical data—often gathered through surveys which probe the intuitions of ordinary people—in order to inform research on philosophical questions. This use of empirical data is widely seen as opposed to a philosophical methodology that relies mainly on […]

Come Join My Heraclitus Not School Group

For Episode #79 (to be recorded in late June and released in July), we’ll be reading Eva Brann’s The Logos of Heraclitus and interviewing her about it. She was a colleague of Dylan’s at St. John’s, and her book exhibits that love of etymology that has come up recently on PEL whenever Heidegger is mentioned, […]

Philosophy as “Literary” (or “Is the Sky So Very Big?”)


Following up on my recent post skeptical of a strong formulation of the difference between philosophy and science, I’ve been thinking about the character of many philosophical claims, particularly in light of my current reading of Rand. In addition to the readings for the podcast proper (which I’ll post about within the next week, but […]

Philosophy Doesn’t Make Propositions?

There’s a claim I laid out from Deleuze in the episode that I wanted to bring up for explicit discussion. I think it’s provocative and deserves some thought but is almost certainly wrong. It’s about the picture of science as producing concepts and not propositions. I gave the example of Descartes’s Cogito, and laid out […]

Virtual Insanity: Social Media with Jacques Lacan


[A post from Peter Hardy, longtime fan and contributor] For a couple of years I have been lurking on PEL’s Facebook group, biding my time for the perfect moment to pounce on this blog.  Recently I got to thinking about the philosophical ramifications of social media. Especially as we’ve just been looking at Jacques Lacan, […]

On Daniel Coffeen, Rhetoric, Deleuze and Such


[editors note:  Daniel was our guest on the Deleuze episode recently and will be posting a bit in our blog over the next couple of weeks] Since I discovered Deleuze in grad school, he has pervaded in various ways my teaching, writing and thinking. My dissertation proffered a model of rhetoric and specifically the trope; […]

Education’s Blunt-Object Epistemology


I’ve often thought of education – my chosen field – as applied epistemology. This was a conceit. Education does not explore or enact the subtle, rich, body of epistemological thought. Education has an epistemology, a vulgar blunt-object affair that is, essentially, the product of the limitations of the structures of traditional schooling. The problem can be […]

Go Hire Genevieve, Resident PEL Artist

As mentioned at the end of one of the recent episodes, Genevieve Arnold, who’s been good enough to do art for us both in last year’s PEL site redesign (like this and this) and for all of our recent episodes, is available if you’d like to hire her to do some art. For instance, she […]

Zizek! – The Elvis of Cultural Theory [Review]

zizek poster

Zizek! is one of those documentaries centered around one really, really interesting person. For that reason it’s more like Crumb or Bukowski – Born Into This than more famously philosophical movies like Waking Life. Zizek!’s structure is simple: The director and a small crew simply follow Slavoj Zizek as he goes about his daily business, which pretty […]

Topic for #76: Deleuze/Guattari on What Philosophy Is

On Sunday, 4/21/13, we recorded our discussion on chapters 1-3 of What Is Philosophy? (1991). Go listen to the episode. Gilles Deleuze was a recent French philosopher (he died in 1995) who has probably been requested as much or more than any other figure by our listeners. His style is highly idiosyncratic: difficult somewhat in […]

Lacan’s “Four Discourses”

We briefly referred on the episode to the fact that, as for Marx, for Lacan, all ostensibly theoretical talk is really tainted in some way. Whereas for Marx, we’re really just repeating, or perhaps reacting to in some more complicated way, the ideology of those in power. Lacan, following Freud, looks for a psychological explanation, […]

Lacan’s Ontology

[Editor’s Note: Wayne here is currently leading one of our Not School groups on Deleuze. Being well-versed in this area and having made some helpful comments on this blog, we asked him to clarify what he took to be Lacan’s ontology. Thanks, Wayne!] Jacques-Alain Miller once asked asked Lacan, “What is your ontology?” Lacan replied […]

Another Reason to Philosophize


Has science destroyed the dream of philosophy? Was Stephen Hawking correct in claiming,“Philosophy is Dead?” These and a few more questions were raised, or more so alluded to in a recent debate by Paul Horwich and Michael P. Lynch in the Stone in March. The two philosophy professors debated the current state of philosophy using […]

Beginning in Wonder

WonderCat courtesy of

In episode 73 the question was of ‘why do philosophy’ was posed. There are many ways to come at this question and in the episode the PEL guys kept coming back to two things: Curiosity and Wonder.  How are these two words linked, if they are, and what is their relation to philosophy? The essay […]

Douglas Hofstadter’s “I Am a Strange Loop” on the Self

From our Lacan episode and my comparison of Lacan with Sartre, you might think that this “no self” deal was just a Continental idea. If you remember back to our Owen Flanagan interview, however, you’ll know that (besides this being a doctrine in Buddhsim) this is also one of the main positions within the analytic […]

Fink on the Split Subject (Lacan vs. Sartre)

I ended our episode bemoaning that I feel like I still don’t understand this talk of “subject” as opposed to “self.” A few of you have made some good comments on this, but I’m still not satisfied. Let me pull a few things out of the Fink book: 1. In chapter 2 about “The Nature […]

Social Dynamics in Philosophizing (vs. Rock n’ Roll)

One of the recurring themes of PEL is the power dynamics in philosophizing. This is not so much the case in what we read but in how we deal with guests, with the authors, with each other. The situation seems pretty simple: We’re each on our own independent, spiritual quest. We can study on our […]

Cognitive and Affective Empathy in Moral Sentiment


[DISCLAIMER:  Although I am using a conceptual distinction I got from the embedded Simon Baron-Cohen TEDx talk (where ever he got it from), I am not taking a position on his stance on Autism or Psychopathy.  I have no point of view about Autism and have reflected on empathy and psychopathy in this blog before, […]

Paul Fry on Lacan


One of the groovy things about our new “open” society is how venerated institutions of higher learning like Yale are being strong-armed into sharing their course content online with the unwashed masses (aka you and me).  This means you don’t have to go to The Interwebs or TedX to get quasi scholarly ramblings about your […]

Education Philosophy Becomes Practice


Over the past hundred years Constructivists and Traditionalists have enjoyed an uneasy truce in the world of education practitioners.  Constructivism “says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.” []  Traditionalists were more influenced by the “scientific management” of Taylorism, seeing schools on the industry model. […]

Mark Pitches Philosophy to Clergy


In our “Why Do Philosophy?” episode, we give a sales pitch for philosophy: for being interested in reading this stuff (and what makes it appeal to us more than popular science or history or literature, though those are all great too). I recently got the chance to make this pitch to an audience of liberal […]

The Not School Discussion of Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism

Last week Being spoke through me in the saying of Martin Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism as part of a PEL Not School study group.  Joining me were Marilynn, Daniel, Rian and Alyson. We worked through Heidegger’s idea that Humanism as a concept was inextricably tied to the history of western metaphysics that sees man as […]

Sally Haslanger on Social Construction

There are movements in philosophy to focus on the social domain vs. the personal one:  groups rather than individuals. This is very well developed in the fields of Feminist and Gender Theory which look at the female/male social constructions and much broader issues including race and justice theory. Taking from philosophers such as Julia Kristeva, […]

Tolerance, Repression and Terrorism


In 1965 Herbert Marcuse published an article entitled “Repressive Tolerance” in the collection A Critique of Pure Tolerance. The critique of modern society he presents in this paper will not be new to anyone familiar with his work or with the work of others from the first generation of the so-called Frankfurt School: the administered society, […]

Dena Hurst on the Ethics of Terrorism

I expect YouTube will have some good sources for us about terrorism and philosophy. Here’s my first bit unearthed, a 4min lecture from Dena Hurst that appears to be part of a longer ethics class. Watch on YouTube. The video gives a definition that, like Corlett’s, tries not to decide the moral issue beforehand: “Using […]

Philosophy as Conceptual Border Patrol


Peter Hacker does not abide nonsense. In his January article “Why Philosophy” Hacker puts in his cross-hairs ideas taken seriously by politicians, scientists, and the intelligentsia in general. Let’s get to the specifics in a minute – the general outline is relevant to anyone hoping to grok the never-ending attempt to define philosophy. Perhaps this […]

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 […]

Walter Mignolo On Postcolonial Philosophy

Walter Mignolo, semiotician and literary theorist, weighs in on the relative strengths of Eurocentric and non-Eurocentric (colonial, not occidental) philosophy in this article on Aljeezera. In literary theory, most new studies are centered around Eurocentrism and its effect on natives via Postcolonial theory. Heavy minds in Postcolonial Theory include Gayatri Spivak,  Homi Bhabha, and Edward Said. These […]