Not School Report: Philip Auslander on Postmodern Theater

Class in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture (LCC) in the Skiles building.

Our Philosophy and Theater Group was occupied last month with Philip Auslander’s From Acting to Performance: Essays in Modernism and Postmodernism, and our discussion of the book's first three essays is now available for PEL Citizens to listen to on the Free Stuff page. In this talk, Philip Cherny, Carlos Franke and myself discuss various topics including the therapeutic value … [Read more...]

Not School In May: Levinas, Zizek, Heidegger, Murakami, Auslander


It looks like May will be another active month in Not School. We already have groups set to read Levinas, Heidegger, Murakami, Auslander, and the ever popular Zizek. Remember, PEL Citizens can propose groups on whatever philosophical content they’re interested in, set their own schedules, and choose how to communicate. If you haven't joined up yet, take a look at what you’re … [Read more...]

Schopenhauer’s Idealism: How Time Began with the First Eye Opening


On the Schopenhauer discussion (ep #114), I referred to his view qua idealist that, really, there was no world per se before the first perceiver, but also that science is correct in investigating ancient history, i.e. the world before perceivers. How could both of these claims be true? This is a general problem that idealism must address, summed up adequately by the old … [Read more...]

How Many Virgins Does It Take to Carry a Propane Tank?


Andreas has reminded me of my challenge on the parables episode for folks to give us your most innovative/bizarre interpretations of The Ten Virgins parable. Here it is copied from Wikipedia: Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Those who were foolish, … [Read more...]

Ricoeur on the “Second Naïveté”


If you were curious and confused as I was when Law started talking about the "second naïveté" on our Ricoeur episode, check out this page for a quick explanation. We start out (with the "first naïveté") taking all these religious fairy stories at face value. We then grow up and acquire critical distance, which not only involves applying what we've learned by actually dealing … [Read more...]

What is Satire for?


When we recorded the Jaspers episode with Paul Provenza I had the good fortune to be in his home of Los Angeles. I was able to meet up with him and his assistant for the recording and along with my wife we met for a meal several days later. I had been re-reading his book ¡Satiristas! and he and I got into a spirited discussion of whether comics, specifically the satirist, have … [Read more...]

Not School Report: Grotowski’s ‘Akropolis’


Our Philosophy and Theatre Group spent most of the winter studying the perplexing work of Jerzy Grotowski. As I've mentioned before, Grotowski had many ideas about the nature of theatre, performance, humanity and its essence. At a certain point, we decided that we needed something concrete to get a better grasp on what we'd read, so we turned to Akropolis. Carlos Franke, Philip … [Read more...]

Science, Technology and Society II: J.S. Mill on Scientific Method


This post in the second in a series on Science, Technology, and Society. The first post is here, and the following post is here. All posts in the series have previously appeared on the Partially Examined Life group page on Facebook. "We begin by making any supposition, even a false one, to see what consequences will follow from it; and by observing how these differ from the … [Read more...]

Not School Offerings In March


We have several Not School groups running this month, but before I tell you about them, a word to the unfamiliar: If you've enjoyed the podcast episodes, becoming a PEL Citizen is an easy and inexpensive way to get involved firsthand in similarly stimulating conversations. I can vouch that these study groups are rewarding, relaxed, and very helpful in getting a grip on … [Read more...]

Science, Technology & Society I: Francis Bacon


This post in the first in a new series on Science, Technology, and Society. The next post is here. All posts in the series have previously appeared on the Partially Examined Life group page on Facebook. INTRODUCTION 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 … [Read more...]

How To Survive a Philosopher Attack


The Philosiologist has some useful information that readers of this blog may want to share with their friends and loved ones. She describes the phenomenon: 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 … [Read more...]

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. The project almost, but not quite, landed him a book deal; this week he brought it back to the web with a newly designed website. He's writing some new essays; intends to focus, among other things, on Montaigne's … [Read more...]

Science, Technology and Society IV: Paul Feyerabend

Paul Feyerabend

Editor's note: This post in the fourth in a series on Science, Technology, and Society. The previous post is here, and the following post is here. All posts in the series have previously appeared on the Partially Examined Life group page on Facebook. In republishing them here on the blog, we have omitted posts on three philosophers who have been the subjects of PEL podcasts: … [Read more...]

The event(s) of September 11

Two years after a group of mostly Saudi men flew commercial planes into One and Two World Trade Center, resulting in both buildings' collapsing, several New Yorkers packed into a courtroom, a mile from where the buildings once stood, in order to hear a court case on the semantics of the word occurrence. In July of 2003, Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder of the World Trade … [Read more...]



One of the consistently best sites on the Internet for thoughtful reviews of worthwhile books is Metapsychology Online Reviews, edited by Christian Perring. A standout in the current issue is George Tudorie's review of Michael Tomasello's A Natural History of Human Thinking. Tomasello is co-director of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the author of … [Read more...]

Not School Happenings In February


There is plenty of philosophy afoot in Not School this month. Our members are running a variety of groups, and some of the podcast fellows are running others. We have another post-episode discussion with Stephen West coming up, which is but one of the many perks that PEL Citizens receive. Membership options start at only $5 a month, and you can sign up right here. First up, … [Read more...]

The Creation of a Superintelligence and the End of Inquiry

Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence is a book that imagines how we should go about dealing with a super-AI, should it come about. The thesis of the book seems to be this: if a superintelligence were to be constructed, there would be certain dangers we'd want to apprise ourselves of and prepare ourselves for, and the book is a precis, essentially, for dealing with some of those … [Read more...]

Topic for #110: Whitehead’s “The Concept of Nature”


Listen to Mark's outline of the text. Listen to the full episode now. On 1/18/15, our regular foursome discussed a particularly tough book, The Concept of Nature (1920). We chose this one over his more famous Process and Reality (1929) based on Owen Flanagan's recommendation that this older work was more accessible. And part of it is. The first couple of chapters clearly … [Read more...]

Not School Discussion: Finding Philosophy in Grotowski

Jerzy Grotowski

Our Philosophy and Theater discussion group has just spent two months studying a series of readings on the work of Jerzy Grotowski, the famous Polish director whose productions first stunned audiences in the 1960s with their distinctive physicality. We wrapped up with our usual recorded Skype call, which featured Carlos Franke, Philip Cherny and myself. Members can download it … [Read more...]

Not School in January


Have you resolved to become a PEL Citizen in 2015? What's this, you ask? It's an easy and affordable way to get access to all kinds of bonus content on the site. Plus, you get the chance to do some first hand philosophizing in one of our Not School study groups. We have two groups running this month so far, and you can still propose a new one if you hurry. Come join up! Our … [Read more...]

Not School Groups In December

Jerzy Grotowski

The annual holiday frenzy has begun, but our Not School groups will still be soldiering on through December. Most groups have decided to carry November's readings over, so anyone interested in riveting philosophical conversation has another shot at joining up with them. There are also proposals up in the Citizens' Forum to read on some other juicy philosophical topics. Not … [Read more...]

Conversation on the Novel ‘Distant Star’ by Roberto Bolaño


A novel about Chile, Art, and literally killer poets. Daniel, Philip, Kimberly, Dan, Cezary and I discussed Roberto Bolano's novel Distant Star in the Not School Philosophical Fiction group. We review the plot, then talk about what interests us most in the novel, like the sky-writing poet--and murderer--Carlos Wieder. Citizens can check out the full discussion on the Free … [Read more...]

Justice and the Dialectic of Anger and Guilt


Are those who can do as they wish powerful? For Socrates, acting on your own whim, killing whomever you please or obtaining great wealth does not make you powerful, if you act unjustly you are acting against your own good. It does not matter how extreme or sophisticated your ability to be unjust if this is all you can accomplish. Callicles offered Socrates a different view, … [Read more...]

Some Questions on Aesthetics and Art

I recently finished reading Noel Carroll's remarkable book Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction, and the result was a newfound appreciation for aesthetics and art, and it even caused me to change my mind regarding some of the untested assumptions I had regarding art. For example, I regularly meet with a writing group and we workshop short stories. The other guys in … [Read more...]

Not School In November


This month both the Fiction and the Theater group will be starting new texts, the Heidegger group will be continuing, and a new group exploring conservative political philosophy is just starting up. If you're interested in any of these subjects or in forming a group to read something else, you can read about how PEL Not School works and join up. The Philosophical Fiction … [Read more...]

The Theater Group Discusses Victor Turner’s “From Ritual to Theatre”


During late October, the Philosophy and Theater Group (Carlos Franke, Philip Cherny and Daniel Cole) wrapped up a month and a half long study of Victor Turner's From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. For anyone out there who may have listened to our Schechner or Artaud discussions, this one tops off many of the themes and issues we explored in those. PEL … [Read more...]

Libertarianism Sensibilities and the Tools of Social Change


I'm gratified that from what I can tell, we weren't wildly unfair in our Nozick episode, and in particular that Metcalf's participation apparently didn't irredeemably taint our coverage, what with his being an already established opponent of the text. As is typical when we cover and largely pan a work related to a movement that people are invested in, we get more requests to … [Read more...]

Partially Naked Self-Examination Music Blog: Geoff Esty’s “Samuel”


Listen to "Samuel" by The MayTricks (re-sung version and the Geoff-sung original, released on the 1994 album Happy Songs Will Bring You Down). As I've described before, my band in college featured (from '91-'94) the adventurous jazz guitarist Geoff Esty, who gave us some cred with his fleet fingers. He's also a songwriter (you can hear/watch his current activities here), … [Read more...]

Thoreauly Ponderous

Our present relationship to technology can hardly be compared to the situation Thoreau faced in 1854, when Walden was first published. American attitudes toward nature began to shift in his lifetime, as steamboats and railroads appeared on the scene. The advent of such penetrating technologies meant that the ordering force of civilization had gained a powerful new advantage in … [Read more...]

New Work Conference Summary Report


Per my message last week, I just attended the New Work, New Culture Conference in Detroit this last weekend. Now, this was organized by folks from the Boggs Center, so the overall orientation of the conference was one of activism against the "occupation" of Detroit. I don't know the number of attendees at this point, but it was a gym packed with people, many from Detroit but … [Read more...]

Thoreau on Over-Eating


It's been suggested that my questioning of Thoreau's (lack of) methodology was light on textual analysis. So here's an example for y'all's consideration. Wes quoted a passage from Ch. 11 ripping on over-eaters (section 5 in the annotated version): "The gross feeder is a man in the larva state; and there are whole nations in that condition, nations without fancy or … [Read more...]

Episode 103: Thoreau on Living Deliberately


On Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854). What is the appropriate life for a truly thoughtful person? Thoreau warns against getting ensnared by social bullshit like jobs and charity, and instead living simply, in direct contact with nature, relying as much as possible only on your own effort. His time in the woods on Walden pond was meant to be an experiment to see what life … [Read more...]

Cavell and Pirsig on Emerson’s Revolution

About an hour into their discussion the PEL guys (minus Seth) briefly grappled with the meaning of Emerson's revolution. This revolution will be wrought, Emerson thought, by a "domestication of Culture" with a capital "C." Should we take "domestication" to mean some kind of taming, or does it mean that "Culture" should be brought home in some sense? This revolution, Emerson … [Read more...]

Fate and Enframing: Some Thoughts on Technology

Heidegger by Barry Bruner

What is the fate of humanity as technology advances? This is a difficult question not least because we cannot anticipate the technological advances of the future. It is a very important philosophical question that Marx—as one example—took seriously. What we need to do is face this question with a realism that doesn't succumb to naive optimism about the power of technology. We … [Read more...]

October Not School Happenings


As usual, there's plenty happening with Not School this October, and it's not too late for you to sign up. It looks like two groups are carrying over September's readings, and another two will be starting a new books.  At least a couple groups are still deciding whether to continue, so if you want to read something in their vein you probably still have time to jump in and … [Read more...]

A Solution to the Washington Redskins’ Name Problem

The Coronation of Powhatan via Wikipedia

Overseas fans scroll to the end for context. Last Thursday the Washington football team lost 45-14 to the NY football Giants. The game was nationally televised and, as has so often happened in the last 20 or so years, the Redskins failed to rise to the occasion. After another embarrassing beatdown by a hated rival I, a long suffering fan, am ready yet again to renounce my … [Read more...]

Emersonian America

If you ever sign up for a class on Pragmatism, there's a good chance  you'll find Emerson on the syllabus. In fact, you're likely to find "The American Scholar" and "Self-Reliance" among the earliest reading assignments. Emerson was a poet and a prophet rather than a philosopher but his vision deeply informed American Pragmatism, particularly the Pragmatism of William James. … [Read more...]

Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” and the Ethics of Authenticity

Anyone reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay “Self-Reliance” (1841) for the first time is likely to be taken by his call to us, his Dear Readers, to trust in ourselves, be our own persons, arrive at our own insights. He writes, “To believe your own thought, to believe what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.” And no surprise that the language … [Read more...]

How Not to Make a Movie in the Multiverse


There are many great, mind-bending science fiction films that, for whatever reason, are worth watching over and over, if only to suss out what actually happened. Coherence, the most ironically titled movie to come along in a while, is not one of them. Fans of science fiction, and science fiction films especially, could probably name dozens. The first that come to my mind … [Read more...]

Emerson on the Over-Soul


In our Emerson discussion, Wes and Dylan didn't seem too interested in trying to figure out Emerson's religious/metaphysical views, which were drawn on in the essays we read but which were not their central feature. I think (as does Thoreau, who incidentally we're talking about next) that reading him in a secular vein is ultimately more rewarding, but my complaints about how … [Read more...]

B.K.S. Iyengar: A Model for Living Philosophically


At some point, western philosophy became alienated from its original intention: to help people live well. Pierre Hadot, a historian of philosophy, pointed out the difference between philosophy practiced, on the one hand, as a way of life (as Socrates, Aristotle, the Stoics, and the Epicureans did) and, on the other hand, philosophy practiced as mere discourse. Much … [Read more...]

Against Debate


In our ep. 99, Daniel Horne suggested we have more antagonist-guests, i.e. people with entrenched positions that we know we disagree with: a hard-core Marxist or libertarian or Christian or pro-scientism person. OK, we did already do the last of these, and listeners will know already how that turned out. One can point, as we did on ep. 99, to crap like Crossfire as having … [Read more...]

Aquinas, MLK, and the Philosophical Foundations of Equal Protection

V0033112 Saint Thomas Aquinas. Line engraving by S. Jesi.

Natural law seems like a relic, remembered only by Catholics who use it as thin grounds for odd sexual theories: the evil of condoms, the intrinsic disorder of homosexuals. Undeterred, our Not School Philosophy of Law group decided to take a look at this relic, including selections from Aquinas and Martin Luther King. It turns out to provide some interesting foundations for our … [Read more...]

Nadler on Immortality for Maimonides vs. Spinoza


I'd like to clarify my comment on the podcast about how the emphasis on rationality as it regards the afterlife is common to Maimonides and Spinoza. I'm looking here at a review by Martin Lin of Steven Nadler's book Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind. Now, Nadler is my go-to local Spinoza scholar--you can see him here and here--and he's the guy Seth was … [Read more...]

A Lagging, Nagging Take on Her

Her got a lot of attention during its run in theaters. It even captured the attention of philosophers, no doubt because of the movie’s focus on artificial intelligence, a fixation of philosophy for at least as long as the term has been in our common vernacular. Released on DVD back in the spring, the movie received mostly (but not exclusively) positive reviews. Life in Her … [Read more...]

Not School Happenings in September


[Editor's Note: Daniel Cole is has been a long-time Not School group leader and is currently helping us out by coordinating other group leaders. Thanks, Daniel!] Nearly everyone I know loves to learn, but no one seems to love school. It's only the second week of classes, and already I'm finding myself tempted to dodge class readings for Not School ones.  It doesn't help that … [Read more...]

Not School Discussion on Antonin Artaud Posted


The long running Philosophy and Theater group held not one but two discussions in August on Antonin Artaud's The Theater and Its Double, which have now been posted for Citizens as a single 3-hr file on the Free Stuff page on the "Not School Discussion Group Audio" tab. Go join up if you'd like to listen. Our subjects within the text ranged wide, since Artaud's writings are … [Read more...]

Inverting the Gaze: Pagan Political Philosophy

Courtesy of University College London Library via

[From Michael Burgess, edited by Seth.]  A traditional means of founding political or moral philosophies in the west has been the construction of a point from which we can be seen and judged. This is an internalization and politicization of the Christian God who surveys and intervenes in his creation: we are always under the gaze of God and must therefore be Good. For Hume this … [Read more...]

Not School Discussion of Being and Time

July saw the incarnation of a Not School Study Group that is dedicated to a close and thorough reading of Martin Heidegger's 1927 classic Being and Time. Due to the slow nature of the group, we are not set to end at any specific time and are therefore ongoing. The group is centered around weekly video or audio chat meetings. Though we aim for a close and thorough reading we … [Read more...]

August Not School Study Groups


As usual, there's quite a bit to choose from this month if you're looking for a philosophy text to engage with a little more closely.  We've had a lot of groups recording their discussions lately and the PEL Citizens portion of the site is now host to nearly thirty different discussions on a wide range of philosophical topics with more being added each month.  If you've enjoyed … [Read more...]

Bruno Latour and the Relationship Between Science and Religion

latour inquiry into modes of existence

[From Lynda Walsh] One of the threads we touched on in the Oppenheimer and the Rhetoric of Science podcast was the relationship between science and religion. It came up because Oppenheimer frequently mused on this relationship and because the main argument of my book is that the political role that science advisers now play is a mutated version of the role originally … [Read more...]

Ecce Zizek! Feynman Homo


In the normal functioning of intellectual discourse we expect interlocutors to obliterate themselves before the alter of the Eternal Progress of Human Wisdom, that is, people should not feature amongst that which we praise, contemplate or idolize. That a particular person has offered us an idea is a purely contingent fact: he is merely at the right place and time to do it and … [Read more...]

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 have free will even if the … [Read more...]

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 continued advances in this liberating sort of technology, … [Read more...]

Discussion of “Antigone” Now Posted


The Not School Theater group got together via Skype last week to discuss Sophocles's play "Antigone", and members can now find our conversation over in the Free Stuff for Citizens section of the site.  The roster on this one consisted of Carlos Franke, Phillip Cherny, Mark Linsenmayer, Michael Rissman and myself. Trying to get a toehold on the play's philosophical aspects, … [Read more...]

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 not familiar with how Not School works, you can find everything you need to know right … [Read more...]

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 $5 a month you can gorge yourself on philosophy right here at The … [Read more...]

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 and the cult of originality (which in turn suggests an exploration of … [Read more...]

Don’t Do What You Hate!


[Editor's Note: Listener Fredbo here, having previously chimed in on New Work given his interesting life choices, here responds to my recent, much reddited essay.] I would like to begin this essay on the subject of Work from my position, not as any sort of expert or academic, but simply as a human being who, you guessed it, works for a living. Like all of us I have done work … [Read more...]

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 only work done through love devalues the work … [Read more...]

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 this essay, Brecht details many aspects of his … [Read more...]

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 achievement. Though, … [Read more...]

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 Bergson supplied him with the concepts he needed … [Read more...]

Theater and Ritual: Discussing Richard Schechner and “Dionysus in ’69” in Not School


Moving away from just reading plays and more toward theory, the Not School Theater group in March had a look at the work of theater director and performance theorist Richard Schechner. Daniel Cole, Philip Cherny and I discussed a video of The Performance Group's Dionysus in '69 (you can buy the text here, a very loose adaptation of Euripides' Euripides's The Bacchae. In … [Read more...]

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 and extends … [Read more...]

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 injured bros robotic limbs. And not shitty arms that just open and close like … [Read more...]

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 lives. Of course it does. However, … [Read more...]

Conversation vs. Crossfire (Philosophy, Arrogance, and the David Brin Episode)


Some of the initial listener reaction to our David Brin episode harkens back to similar comments we got about our Pat Churchland episode, our first attempt at including a celebrity author in the discussion. As Seth commented right after the recording with David, there was little purchase on his edifice in which to plant a foothold in real time. I did my best to engage him in … [Read more...]

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 day. … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

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 as they ought to be treated: as the … [Read more...]

Bonus Discussion of Anscombe’s “Intention” Now Posted for Citizens

As I read the whole of Intention for our Anscombe episode and didn't want to promptly forget the whole thing, I ran a small Not School group last month that just had its discussion this last weekend; you can hear it on the Free Stuff for Citizens page (provided that you go become a Citizen, of course). I was joined by Stanley Martin and Shira Coffee. All of us had some … [Read more...]

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 without the … [Read more...]

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 added advantage of this reading is that a recording of Zizek … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

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 longer becomes simply true or false, and this is because of some sort … [Read more...]

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" -  and Gerald Cohen's response "Deeper Into Bullshit." -  Aside … [Read more...]

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 the specifics (the world itself changes when there's a paradigm shift? Really?)  That … [Read more...]

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 same sort of way that his thought experiment asks us to assess … [Read more...]

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 a guide for … [Read more...]

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 to modern liberals … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

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 simply see it as philosophy proper. … [Read more...]

Dec. Not School: Sartre, Joyce, Nietzsche, Theater, Natural Law

For this post, I give you some theme music by a very talented musician named Sumner McKane. I chose this nice little tune not for the music itself (deserving though it may be), but for its title: "The Winter I Got Louder than Bombs and Standing on a Beach." I'm going to assume this title reveals that Sumner has memories (and possible nostalgia) for a time in his youth when he … [Read more...]

Partially Naked Self-Examination Music Blog: “Yours to Keep”

Listen to "Yours to Keep" by Mark Lint & the Madison Lint Ensemble, featuring Bob Linsenmayer, as well of the original demo of the song with Steve Petrinko. Pop music has at least the pretense that it's fundamentally disposable, and this is part of what makes it fun. (I say pretense because in my case--as should be obvious if you read back into the history of my music blog … [Read more...]

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 sat through our two … [Read more...]

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 of the lower classes and put in service of … [Read more...]

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 of the … [Read more...]

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 others available for PEL Citizens so join!  … [Read more...]

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 in telling … [Read more...]

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 theme is … [Read more...]

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 dialogue, the bare stage, and these abstruse characters? Unless you happen to … [Read more...]

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 of … [Read more...]

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." This resonated so strongly with me that I … [Read more...]

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 it's meant to be inspirational for one's training. This struck me as … [Read more...]

DeLanda’s Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy Not School Group

[Editor's Note: Thanks to Wayne for this plug for a new Not School group for November that's it's not too late for YOU to go join. Sign up for Not School and get in it.] Manuel De Landa is one of the most prominent and clear interpreters of Giles Deleuze, and we're exploring DeLanda's book Intensive Science & Virtual Philosophy. Deleuze, according to DeLanda, provides us … [Read more...]

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 process. His intellectual adventure begun … [Read more...]

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 of this view will often … [Read more...]

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 – but we would never know. … [Read more...]

Aristotle v. Nietzsche on Human Nature (And What This Means for New Work)

I want to briefly call attention to the transition between virtue ethics as conceived by Aristotle and the jump to Nietzsche in the context of our New Work discussion. I'm not looking up quotes for this post; I'm less interested in their particular views then in a divergence of ways of thinking about virtue. For Aristotle, man has a Telos, a built-in goal, a type of … [Read more...]

Zizek’s Year of Dreaming Dangerously – Not School Discussion Group

[From Wayne Schroeder] On the front cover of YODD, Zizek stands disturbed in thought in front of a burning car, set afire by a disaffected youth during the UK riots of August 2011--protests with no program and no message. What do we make of this seemingly senseless violence? The liberal left sought to explain away this phenomenon as failed social programs that “diminished … [Read more...]

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 year PEL is proud to help promote … [Read more...]

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 to chime in with thoughts, feelings or comments on the … [Read more...]

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 in Search of a Soul was first published in 1933 he had already treated … [Read more...]

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 effect radical change in collective problems such … [Read more...]

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 we are. However, Skidelsky's range of suggested … [Read more...]

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 the other) to each other. For me, this period of preparation has … [Read more...]

Precognition of Ep. 83: New Work


An introduction to and summary of Frithjof Bergmann's New Work, New Culture, read by Mark Linsenmayer. The full episode on this topic can be found here. Read more about the topic at A transcript is available on our Citizen site's Free Stuff page. … [Read more...]

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 this as a kind of negative … [Read more...]

‘Don’t Act. Just Think’: A short comment on Slavoj Zizek’s critique of Activism

[From Sotiris Triantis]   Slavoj Zizek - in a video titled ‘Don’t Act. Just Think’ - suggests that in the social and political realm we should not act but think. It's an odd, somewhat counter-revolutionary thesis.  Historical change has always been brought about by collective action. A more useful model might be: ‘First Think, Then Act’.  When Noam Chomsky was asked by … [Read more...]

Fillet of Flesh. Extra Cheesy. (Not School Discussion on Embodied Cognition Now Available)

Citizens can go now and listen to the Not School discussion of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's book Philosophy In The Flesh. The rest of you can listen to an excerpt as part of our PEL Not School Digest #3 Quasisode. The following is brought to you by the group leader and now-PEL-Not-School Guardian Evan Gould: I want you to think about Time for a "moment." How do you … [Read more...]

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 claim to be a compatibilist requires an account of how this is … [Read more...]

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. Here's some information on one of the sources I had in my possession … [Read more...]

Bertrand Russell’s “In Praise of Idleness” and Gary Gutting’s Modern Response

One of the resources raised in our Not School Bergmann discussion was Bertrand Russell's 1932 article "In Praise of Idleness," which you can read here. Here's his snarky definition of work: Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is … [Read more...]

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 story has been covered and … [Read more...]

Partially Naked Self-Examination Music Blog: “Into the World”

Some comments on the song featured on our Heidegger episode. You can hear "Into the World" and the rest of the second and most poppin' MayTricks album, "So Chewy" here. The MayTricks was my college band, and our first album was released as soon as we had enough songs recorded in whatever form to make a good collection, but it's not a particularly coherent collection (which … [Read more...]

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 this story, I've asked PEL Citizen Michael Burgess to fill in … [Read more...]

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 hear about the … [Read more...]

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 this planet.  She's the author of 15 books, not including translations, on subjects as diverse as Time, Plato and … [Read more...]

Speaking Across History (And Other Expanses): Two Models of Reading

My concern here, as is often the case, is with our methodology at PEL. As we go through these various readings and figure out what we want to say about them, I periodically figure out some articulable point about how I'm reading and why I feel the need to express what I do as opposed to something else. On three different recent occasions, I've had someone (one of these was … [Read more...]

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 reviews of films or other … [Read more...]

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 whose … [Read more...]

Putting Philosophy into Practice: The Existential Challenge


I sometimes feel like our default position on the various figures we cover on the podcast is "well, there are some interesting ideas there, but the project as a whole is weird and misguided." Now, I'm sure that we all don't feel that way about every figure we cover, but per my statement of default skepticism to the clergy, there's some truth to that in my case, at least. I'm … [Read more...]

“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 as usual, she doesn't really know what … [Read more...]

Frithjof Bergmann on the Post-Work Culture for Not School

Might as well get this crush of Not School-related posts up in one wash so we can get on to other things... In our Marx episode we talked at the end about what happens after technology makes all of our jobs obsolete. I purposefully cut that line of discussion short because we're planning a whole episode on it, which will involve either reading works by or (if I can make it … [Read more...]

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 you who haven't, you missed something … [Read more...]

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 the fact that in our society, art has become something which is related only to objects and not to … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

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, for which St. John's is notorious. This is pretty much what you have to … [Read more...]

The Self and Selfishness (and Aesthetics and “The Fountainhead”)

I'm continuing to try to get some Rand thoughts related to The Fountainhead out of my system so that I won't feel the need to bring them up while on the episode devoted to her more straightforwardly philosophical works. I also feel the periodic need for synthesis, to try to recap some ongoing themes in our episodes in a way that would require an overly long monologue if I tried … [Read more...]

Not School Fiction Group Reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

This May, PEL's Not School Fiction Group read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, the author of No Country for Old Men (which PEL covered) and The Road. Blood Meridian is a dark masterpiece set in 1849 where a runaway kid joins a gang of scalp-hunters led by the Judge, a philosophizing warmonger. The Judge's views on existence come out in several stories and fire-side … [Read more...]

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 a few of the apparent claims involved in that (the … [Read more...]

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, for whom a central concern was to highlight negative … [Read more...]

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; its final chapter focused on Deleuze. And so when I … [Read more...]

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 seen if one looks … [Read more...]

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 did my most recent album cover, was able (and more importantly, willing) to work with existing … [Read more...]

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 much amounts to him walking … [Read more...]

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 the manner of the other recent French figures … [Read more...]

More on Terrorism from Jonathan R. White (Huffington Post)

Jon was the guest on our terrorism episode, which has unfortunately become timely again. In light of the events in Boston he was asked to write about the nature of modern terrorism in the Huffington post; read the article here. As he did in our episode, he stresses in the article the need to rationally understand the nature of modern terrorism in order to respond to it … [Read more...]

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, for an underlying meaning or meaning … [Read more...]

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 saying that we should read both Badiou and … [Read more...]

The Not School discussion of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death

Courtesy of

In the first week of the “Not School” group devoted to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, it’s clear that a tension runs through the book that – with only a little bit of investigation – can be seen running through Postman’s entire career. It's a function of what he called the "thermostatic view." "In the thermostatic view ...  you do not ‘hold' philosophies. You … [Read more...]

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 Wittgenstein as a platform. Horwich went first, … [Read more...]

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 "Beginning in Wonder: Placing the Origin of Thinking" (in Nikolas Kompridis's … [Read more...]

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 philosophy of mind, due perhaps largely to Derek Parfit, though … [Read more...]

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 of Unconscious Thought," he concludes (on p. 22) by saying, "Now this way of conceptualizing the … [Read more...]

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 own or we can go see what school has to offer us. We can seek wisdom by reading or … [Read more...]

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, here and here.  I'm interested in the constituent parts of empathy … [Read more...]

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 favorite intellectuals or ideas:  you can get qualified … [Read more...]

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" … [Read more...]

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 clergy-folk; I was interviewed on God Complex Radio. Listen to the … [Read more...]

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 a animal rationale, language as techne and understands … [Read more...]

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, Judith Butler, and Luce … [Read more...]

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, the systematic moronization of … [Read more...]

Carl von Clausewitz’s Non-Existent “War in the Abstract” vs. Donald Black’s “Pure Terrorism”

As is usual, I think, when we do a topic-oriented podcast as opposed to one that really focuses on a text (see also the ones on humor and fame), our episode on terrorism didn't really do justice to all the readings we as a group all read. In particular, I feel like I need to elaborate on Jonathan's comment about "pure terrorism" from Black and how this related, as a … [Read more...]

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 violent acts with the intention to intimidate or … [Read more...]

Partially Naked Self-Examination Music Blog: “1000 Points of Light”

Just a bit about the song featured on our terrorism episode. You can hear "1000 Points of Light" and the rest of the MayTricks' self-titled album here. This was off of my first full album, released when I was a senior in college, and this song was recorded the previous summer as a sort of going-away present to Matt Diaz, our rhythm guitarist for the previous year, who had … [Read more...]

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 attempt never ends because … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

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 Buber's reasoning by comparing his different uses of … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

Engaging with Buber

In looking for web resources on Buber to blog about, I've come across an interesting phenomenon:  there are very few and they are mostly introductory.  Every time we do a podcast, I cast the Google net to see if there are interesting, useful or funny things out there on the net I can share with our audience about the subject of the episode.  When I did this for I and Thou, the … [Read more...]

John Gray Against Progress

The idea of Progress has a rich philosophical history, but few in recent decades have addressed it as focally as English philosopher John Gray. Careful to clarify that he grants scientific and technological progress, Gray emphasizes that it's political and ethical progress that are not assured. Gains in these domains occur cyclically, existing under the threat of reversal at … [Read more...]

The New Breed of Philosophy


Tired of the overwhelming focus on mind/body problems in philosophy? There also is a debate between scientists and philosophers about who is more important and if philosophy really has any use in today's science research. Thankfully, a recent interview in The Atlantic with Tim Maudlin , philosophical cosmologist, brings the two fields back to the basics of philosophy … [Read more...]

Other Podcasts on Buber

Here's my report on what I listened to in preparation for our episode. -Rabbi Joshua Haberman held a retreat in 2008, seemingly for a bunch of other Rabbis, but I'm not clear on this, and so gave four interactive lectures on Buber that provided a lot of the background I was drawing on. (Itunes link; scroll down to the oldest four episodes listed, currenctly items 89-92). In … [Read more...]

Martin Buber and Stephen Darwall

There was some discussion in the recent podcast about how an ethics can be derived from Martin Buber 's I and Thou. Recently one philosopher has pointed to Buber's work as at least an historical antecedent to his theory. The third chapter of Stephen Darwall's 2006 book, The Second-Person Standpoint, opens with the following quote from Buber: When one says You, the I of the... … [Read more...]

Simon Crichtley Raises the Dead

On Tuesday, February 12, Simon Crichtley will be giving a free lecture in Troy, NY at the EMPAC at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Crichtley is widely regarded for his work in continental philosophy, ranging from religion to politics. His philosophy tends towards existential ethics, a topic covered in Episode 4 and Episode 63, also a possible topic in the upcoming Buber … [Read more...]

Marxist Thought Today

marxist thought

The fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) seemed to herald the victory of capitalism over socialism, what Francis Fukuyama declared the "End of History;" the failure and death of both Marxist thought and political movements. Fukuyama, an eloquent Hegelian political philosopher and one-time neoconservative (and continued anti-Marxist) asserts uncompromisingly in his "End of History" … [Read more...]

Cornel West on the Hijacking of Political Consciousness

President Obama's recent inauguration has incited the mind of one of philosophy's recent stars, Cornel West. If listeners remember, PEL covered West in the Philosophy and Race episode. Cornel West has been one of the most outspoken of all political philosophers in the category of race and with prior writings on MLK Jr.s legacy, he didn't back down when he found out Obama would … [Read more...]

Iván Szelényi Lectures on Marx & Alienation

I referred in the episode to a number of lectures on Marx that helped me to put the German Ideology into perspective with Marx's other texts and filled me in on few of the Young Hegelians that he criticized. These were from Yale's Foundations of Modern Social Theory course by Iván Szelényi. (Get them from iTunes U.) Lectures 9-13 are all on Marx, and the series starts off with … [Read more...]

Rick Roderick and The Self Under Siege

A complaint I often hear from people averse to the subject of philosophy is that, as interesting as it can often be,  it's really sort of irrelevant to our daily lives.  In such conversations Rick Roderick is always the guy who comes to my mind.  It's a criticism he himself made of certain philosophers from time to time, but not one likely to find much ground against his own … [Read more...]

Zizek and Pop Culture in Philosophy Today


PEL's last episode focused on Karl Marx via The German Ideology. Possibly one of the most famous/infamous Marxists of our time is Slavoj Zizek. Some have called him too extreme to be taken seriously, while others have praised him for his brilliance.  A recent article in U.K. based paper The Guardian sheds some light on this interesting character and also discusses an upcoming … [Read more...]

Jeffrie G. Murphy (Cruel & Unusual Podcast) on Rationales for Punishment

Our Gorgias episode, included Plato's claim that the purpose of punishment is reformative, i.e. to build character, either in the punished (reformation) or in observers (deterrence). That someone who does injustice should not then be rewarded for it is on Plato's account the natural order of things, true by definition, as it were, and is in itself a reason (much like Kant's … [Read more...]

The Great Divide: Concerning the Battle Between Analytic and Continental Philosophy

[Editor's Note: We're happy here to present a first blog post for us by Rian Mitch (submitted in response to our recent call for more bloggers). Rian was one of the voices on our Deleuze Not School discussion, whom we met when he took us to task via email for our slipshod treatment of Derrida on ep. 51. He consequently has been leading a Derrida Not School group.] A … [Read more...]

Socrates’ Attack on Rhetoric in the “Gorgias”

Aristotle's rhetorical triangle from

  I have never shared the vitriol in Plato's dialogues for rhetoric.  I understand why he goes after people for holding what he considers to be untenable positions, particularly if they are teachers or otherwise influencers of others.  But only insofar as they hold beliefs which don't accord with his own or if they appear to have a methodology or agenda that is … [Read more...]

Not School’s Fiction Group Reads Cosmicomics

[Editor's Note: OK, here's the last writeup on the current batch of Not School group discussions. In this case, you actually get to hear (and see!) the full discussion without being a member, but of course, we're still trying to seduce you to join up so that you can join into these fun discussions, so we get more of them, with more people, filling in more of the gaps and … [Read more...]

The Structure of Everything (Not School Discussion of Deleuze Now Posted)

On of our most frequent requests for coverage on the podcast is Deleuze, a name I don't even recall hearing in my grad school days. PEL proper will cover him in 2013, but our listeners were impatient and formed a Not School study group to get a jump on the effort. More concrete and flavorful than either Derrida or Heidegger, yet with all the fun (or painful effort, if you like) … [Read more...]

How Brief is Too Brief? (Not School Discussion of Searle Now Posted)

[Editor's Note: Here's a guest post from Evan Gould, who was good enough to record the second discussion of the Not School Philosophy of Mind group for your pleasure. Go sign up to be a PEL Citizen so you can listen to the discussion now.] Within roughly the first half of his 2004 book Mind: A Brief Introduction, John Searle provides a sweeping overview of the progression of … [Read more...]

Scrutability: The PPT


  If you don't know what the acronym "PPT" means, consider yourself lucky that you have avoided a work or social context where doing presentations is required.  If you are like me, the power of those three letters to inspire dread is almost unparalleled.  The phrase 'Can you put together some slides...' evokes panic, fear and nausea made worse only when accompanied … [Read more...]

Is Quine “Literature” Because He Reads All Smooth and Silky?

After our posts about philosophical literature it seemed appropriate to refer to this post from the NY Times on philosophy itself as literature by Jim Holt. An excerpt: Now let me narrow my query: Does anybody read analytic philosophy for pleasure? Is this kind of philosophy literature? Here you might say, “Certainly not!” Or you might say, “What the heck is analytic … [Read more...]

Not School Group Report: Paul Auster’s Novella, “City of Glass”

Editor's Note: PEL listener Paul Harris has written up this report on a great Not School discussion available for member download. Whether or not you want to join, it's still a fricking great book, recommended for anyone with an interest in modern and/or philosophical literature. Last Sunday, the Not School group ‘Worlds of Wordcraft’ – a group created to read and discuss … [Read more...]

On Values and the Razor: How Clarifying is Ockham’s Shave?

[Editor's Note: Here's a submission from Derick, guest from our Saussure episode.] "Plurality should not be posited without necessity." -Duns Scotus "Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity." -William of Ockham Here's a philosophical thesis that should be obvious but apparently isn't: Ockham's Razor is not an ontological rule nor even a necessary rule of … [Read more...]

Daniel Little (UnderstandingSociety) on “Marketing Wittgenstein”

A good new-to-me web find today is The UnderstandingSociety blog from U. of Michigan-Dearborn's Daniel Little, who writes about philsoophy from a sociological perspective. This is very relevant to our recent discussion of fame among philosophers on our Lucy Lawless episode, and in this article, Little reflects on why it might be that Wittgenstein is so famous, given, as I've … [Read more...]

Theologians on Quine

In our Quine episode, I mentioned a religious podcast where the participants used Quine's undermining of verificationism to argue that any secular-based knowledge is groundless, and thus that we need revelation in order to have knowledge at all. The podcast in question was this Philosophy for Theologians episode on "Two Dogmas of Empiricism." (I've blogged on this podcast … [Read more...]

Logicomix on Not School

As mentioned on the Quine episode, I'm proposing a Not School reading group on Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Christos H. Papadimitriou, Apostolos Doxiadis, and some fine illustrators, which is about Russell and Wittgenstein, with some cameos by Frege, Gödel, and other names dropped during our analytic episodes. It's a graphic novel, running 300+ pages, and seems … [Read more...]

New Thing for Sale (and Free for Members): A Reading of Russell’s “On Denoting”

I've released a new recording: me reading Bertrand Russell's essay, "On Denoting". It's available free to members, or (since it's public domain), anyone can purchase it here, for a suggested price of $2.99, but you can choose during checkout to pay as little as 99 cents or as much as you want if you're feeling generous. A key point of transition between our Frege episode … [Read more...]

Assessing Irony

I saw this Opinionator article from Christy Wampole in the New York Times: "How to Live Without Irony." It condemns the ironic lifestyle of Generation Y as terminally inauthentic, avoiding real commitments, making us (them) incapable of dealing with the world at hand and with each other. Central to Wampole's critique is a standard "I don't understand the younger generation" … [Read more...]

Michel Foucault and the Birth of Modern Medicine

[This is a post from Kevin Jobe, friend of Law Ware and the podcast.  It is part of a longer paper which we will make available in our Community forum.] i] Introduction. "This book is about space, about language, and about death; it is about the act of seeing, the gaze." (ix) So begins The Birth of the Clinic: an Archaeology of Medical Perception by Michel Foucault. As he … [Read more...]