The popular Netflix show is rife with philosophical questions. “Can Aristotle teach Bojack a thing or two about self-love?” is one of them.
Almost fifty years ago there was an influential woman who called pregnancy “barbaric,” described childhood as “hell,” and said giving birth was “like shitting a pumpkin.” Shulamith Firestone was a radical activist and remarkably prescient thinker who helped define feminism as we know it. Yet today she remains largely—and unfairly—unknown.
The abundance of moral concepts at play in the parable of the Vineyard Workers makes it a favorite among moral philosophers.
What good are philosophy books? Can they make us any the wiser? A look at a humorous essay by Robert Wilson Lynd that demonstrates the difficulty of acquiring wisdom from books alone.
The physicist Paul Dirac believed that “it seems to be one of the fundamental features of nature that fundamental physical laws are described in terms of a mathematical theory of great beauty.” Not only that, he even believed that beauty was more reliable a measure than experimental evidence. He claimed “it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations than to have them fit experiment.”
Not only do Jesus’s moral values make sense when applied to socioeconomic issues, but there is reason to believe they were intended to do so as part of a political call to solidarity with the poor.
Nationalism has a bad reputation. Varieties of nationalist thought have been responsible for many of the horrors of the last century. Nonetheless, important philosophers and political theorists have made the cases that more reasoned forms of nationalism can provide credible theoretical justification for determining the boundaries between those within a political community and those outside of it.
People from opposing ends of the political spectrum claim Jesus as their own. But is Jesus’s moral philosophy broad in scope, such that it includes a political morality, or narrower, consisting only of private virtues?
A look at how poverty was valued, in connection to virtue and to justice, within Jesus’s philosophy.
Jesus’s continued critique of the imperial economic system identifies what immoral uses of money look like.
Jesus’s critique of the imperial economic system presents an idea of how money can be used morally.
Paulo Freire’s pedagogical philosophy was premised upon a notion of not just what it means to be human, but also what it means for humans to be incomplete beings, subjects in a dialectical relationship with the objective world, or social order, that shapes and yet can also be consciously transformed by us.
Is transhumanism just dangerous over-confidence in technology?
What causes feelings of alienation? How do we resolve them? Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century discussions of alienation focused on society’s role in alienating the individual. The story goes: Your society delineates the routes of your world; its possibilities and lifestyles. The routes aren’t well-worn paths made from natural behavior, but instead, drawn lines, burdening and concealing the person’s true self. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan understands the root of alienation differently. He finds it in normal psychological development.
The return to the soil, to nature, is a recurring preoccupation of the civilized. Whenever a society reaches a state of high development it seems a repeating pattern that a segment of the population begins to yearn for the good ol’ days of yore. Ironically, even the ancients knew this temptation. Recall Cicero’s lament: “O Continue Reading …
Were Sophists really the immoral truth-benders that Plato portrayed them to be? Classical scholars don’t seem to think so.
One of the points that creationist Ken Ham made in his debate with Bill Nye, and presumably is still making on his site “Answers in Genesis,” is that we have to distinguish between experimental and historical sciences. According to his argument, physics is an experimental science, evolution and geology are historical. Since the first type Continue Reading …
“But one thing this doctrine, so clear, so venerable, does not contain: it does not contain the secret of what the Sublime One himself experienced, he alone among the hundreds of thousands.” –Hermann Hesse
How do you balance intellectual humility, which asks that you resist the urge to insist you’re right, even when you might be wrong; and intellectual courage, which asks that you to stick to your guns, even if your argument receives a setback?
According to Noson S. Yanofsky, the universe does not contain contradictions, but our thinking about it does and must. If this is true, any representation of the universe must be inaccurate, not simply in details, but also in substance.
“The crisis of modernity reveals itself in the fact … that modern western man no longer knows what he wants – that he no longer believes that he can know what is good and bad, right and wrong.” –Leo Strauss
“I am certain that nothing has done so much to destroy the juridical safeguards of individual freedom as the striving after this mirage of social justice.” –Friedrich Hayek
A hotly debated topic in the philosophy of science is whether we should consider our scientific and social scientific theories descriptions of reality, or if we should instead just consider them instruments for influencing the world. One of the main difficulties facing proponents of scientific anti-realism is distinguishing themselves from anti-realists more generally.
“Of all the patterns that occur at many different scales, the most fundamental is the existence of pattern itself.” –David Christian
Part two of a two-part discussion of Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question in the American Historical Profession.
We recently kicked off a survey to get feedback from you folks about what we are doing well and what you would like to see us improve. We also asked for some demographic and behavioral data to satisfy our corporate sponsor overlords. With typical PEL Citizen and Fan aplomb you responded in numbers to our Continue Reading …
Part one of a two-part discussion of Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession.
“If you drop a hammer on your foot, is it real or is it just your imagination? You can run that test, you know, a couple of times, and I hope you come to agree that it’s probably real.” –Bill Nye
“This mythical drama reminded men that suffering is never final; that death is always followed by resurrection; that every defeat is annulled and transcended by the final victory.” –Mircea Eliade
“Historiography that aspires to get closer and closer to the documents—all the documents and nothing but the documents—is merely moving closer to incoherence, chaos, and meaninglessness.” –William McNeill
An excerpt from Christopher Yeomans’s
“Knowledge is a product of wrestling not only with the ‘facts’ but with ourselves. Where alternative visions of reality are not entertained as genuine possibilities, the product of thought tends toward blandness and unearned self-confidence.” –Hayden White
“Narrative structures penetrate our consciousness of events in ways parallel to those in which … theories penetrate observations in science.” –Arthur Danto
While the world’s attention is focused on religious fundamentalism, there is a new tribalism, and a new revolt against reason, taking shape within liberalism. The name of this movement is New Atheism, but it would be more appropriate to call it Atheist Fundamentalism.
“If you cannot predict, you have not explained.” –Carl Gustav Hempel
“It is the historian who has decided for his own reasons that Caesar’s crossing of that petty stream, the Rubicon, is a fact of history, whereas the crossing of the Rubicon by millions of other people before or since interests nobody at all.” –Edward Hallett Carr
Of all the first-generation Frankfurt School writers, Herbert Marcuse offered the kind of Critical Theory most concerned with revolution. It should come as no surprise, then, that Marcuse generated condemnation from across the political spectrum.
“Civilization is a movement and not a condition; a voyage and not a harbor.” –Arnold Toynbee
Philosophical artists and artistic philosophers, however they diverge respecting doctrinal matters, often bond beneath the surface in striving to render an ideal image of the sage. Plato, Melville, and Nietzsche were like this, each of them expressing his conception of wisdom through the mask of creative philosophy. Nietzsche insisted that “Every profound spirit needs a mask.” His own uncanny literary persona was his mask, as Socrates was Plato’s, and Ishmael Melville’s. Not Ahab, but the narrator Ishmael is the authentically Nietzschean Yes-sayer of Moby-Dick. Ahab is vanquished by the God he hates, but Ishmael survives the catastrophe to become the man who narrates Ahab’s dark fate with such sparkling insight and wit.
“To establish the facts is always in order, and is indeed the first duty of the historian; but to suppose that the facts, once established in all their fullness, will ‘speak for themselves’ is an illusion.” –Carl Becker
The standard story has it that philosophy developed in contrast to, and reaction against, the supernaturalist-religious view of the world. The early Greeks believed in the Olympian gods, sacrificed and prayed to them, and held regular festivals in their honor. Greek philosophy, it is often claimed, appeared as a light of understanding in the midst of this dark ignorance.
“The study of the past with one eye, so to speak, upon the present is the source of all sins and sophistries in history.” –Herbert Butterfield
“One day the last portrait of Rembrandt and the last bar of Mozart will have ceased to be—though possibly a colored canvas and a sheet of notes will remain—because the last eye and the last ear accessible to their message will have gone.” –Oswald Spengler
The Stoics regarded each person as a microcosmos in whom the macrocosmos of the universal Logos is reflected.
Some early Stoics argued for disrespecting private property, fornicating in temples, and eating one’s parents when they died.
With the parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus commends the practice of memento mori as a release from anxiety about one’s life.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever. –George Orwell
There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. –Elie Wiesel
In this part we continue from where we left off with Jesus’s statements on justice, analyzing his approach to anxiety.
Some background on historicism, an idea first advanced by Giambattista Vico and later taken up by German historians and philosophers.
According to the stoic Seneca, the need for absolute quiet as a prerequisite to serious reflection signals that one’s thoughts and emotions, not environmental conditions, are in turmoil. However, whether you are Seneca, The Who’s sound guy, or merely a modern apartment dweller, noise, as opposed to sound, is defined subjectively.
With this post, PEL introduces a new feature: Extended excerpts from recent and forthcoming books on philosophy and related topics.
Imagine a hypothetical argument between two philosophers—a self-described empiricist and a faithful Augustinian. Let’s grant that they have the same basic conception of how to reason. They start with premises that they deem to be true and important, and they attempt, when drawing implications, to rely as firmly as possible on the truth of the foundational premises. Having them begin with different premises, we can expect that they will end in different places. The empiricist tells you that to be an empiricist you must begin with the premise that all knowledge is based on the senses. The Augustinian tells you that nothing else, like, say, the sensed world, is all that real when compared to God. How will you choose between these paths?
“History, in so far as it serves life, serves an unhistorical power.” –Friedrich Nietzsche
Can too much historical awareness be something that hinders rather than helps us? Nietzsche argued as much. Does his case hold up as our historical memory recedes?
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” –Karl Marx
A misconception holds sway over the way that many people think of the principle that it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of personal characteristics like race and sex. The misconception is that the principle applies only to the lucky winners of a reverse popularity contest: only the unpopular get equal protection.
A look at some of Pope Francis’s ideas about care for the environment, which have been obscured by sensationalist criticism from conservatives.
“I know too much of history to expect anything from the despotism of the masses but a future tyranny, which will be the end of history.” –Jacob Burckhardt
“The nations of our day cannot prevent conditions of equality from spreading in their midst. But it depends upon themselves whether equality is to lead to servitude or freedom, knowledge or barbarism, prosperity or wretchedness.” –Alexis de Tocqueville
“And I, who have sprung from them, I, who have lived, toiled, and suffered with them—who, more than any other have purchased the right to say that I know them—I come to establish against all mankind the personality of the people.” –Jules Michelet
“Only say how it essentially was.” (wie es eigentlich gewesen) –Leopold von Ranke
Advances in technology, such as virtual reality systems and video games, have served to breathe new life into some of the oldest attacks on realism.
“Pure Reason, incapable of any limitation, is the Deity itself.” –Hegel
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.”
“Reason obeys itself, and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” –Thomas Paine
“Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from principle.” –Edmund Burke
“What is the Third Estate? Nothing. What does it want to be? Something.” –Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
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.
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?
“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
Hannah Arendt’s essay “The Jew as Pariah: A Hidden Tradition,” in which she locates exiled Jewish culture in pre-WWII works of film and literature, takes on new dimensions in light of current global conflicts.
“I have recorded the triumph of barbarism and religion.” -Edward Gibbon
“History should be written as philosophy.” –Voltaire
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.
“The true and the made are convertible.” (Verum Factum)
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.
In “What is Enlightenment?” Kant addressed the question of what restrictions on a person’s freedom to act on his own reason are acceptable. What would he make of government employees’ claims of conscience against facilitating same-sex marriages?
” ‘Have the courage to use your own understanding,’ is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.” -Immanuel Kant
The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector illuminates several of the virtues promoted by Jesus, and can be used as a focal point for understanding the interior aspect of his ethics proposed in the Sermon on the Mount.
Comments from Warren Fischer (Fischerspooner) re. the stylistic conservatism expressed on our songwriting episode and Mark’s response: Can we maintain the critical eye needed to create without being dismissive of other styles’ internal logic/aesthetic standards? This is harder than it sounds.
Does doing the most good you can do just mean giving the most money to the world’s poor?
This July, our Not School groups are reading Walker Percy, Slavoj Zizek, Aeschylus and Charles S. Peirce. Come join us, and don’t forget the ep. 118 Aftershow coming up on 7/12!
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.
In “The Social Construction of What?” (1999), Ian Hacking argues that constructionist accounts of scientific theories tend to lose sight of a basic question: what, exactly, is it that’s supposed to be constructed?
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.
In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal perpetrated a hoax by submitting a nonsense article to an academic journal of postmodern studies, and subsequently deriding the journal for publishing it. The hoax was, and remains, a significant salvo in the “Science Wars.”
In his 2010 book Ill Fares the Land, the late historian Tony Judt laments the fate of the “millennial” generation, and compares them to the “lost generation” of the 1920s. While there are striking similarities between the two groups, their differences are significant.
In contrast to Jesus’s teachings on the virtue of prudence, there are also his parables that feature strong aspects of imprudence. Whereas prudence is an intellectual virtue that involves reasoning out one’s conscience, what Jesus urges in his imagery of imprudence is that we also act from sensitivity to our emotions.
Clifford Geertz (1926–2006) was probably the best known American anthropologist of his generation, famous for his literary approach to ethnography, culture, and religious studies, and his development of the concept of “thick description.”
According to the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, in the Gospel of Luke, the Kingdom of God is like a man who makes dishonest use of his boss’s money
Come start a new discussion group during June, or explore Epicurean philosophy with the Fiction Group.
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, Continue Reading …
To say that Jesus was a philosopher is not to say that he was a philosopher and nothing else; he was also a religious preacher and healer. But philosophical argument is implicit in much of his teaching, especially when he is in dialogue. Moreover, his parables, as stimuli to deeper thought, are philosophical devices also.
Citizens can now listen to the Philosophy and Theater Group’s discussion of Philip Auslander’s From Acting to Performance.
Tackle a trendy continental figure, read an intriguing novel, or propose something of your own! Isn’t it time to stop just listening and get in there and actively read & discuss?
How does Schopenhauer reconcile nature’s dependence on human minds (his idealism) with the belief that science can study the distant past before any minds existed?
Submit your astute and awesome take on the “Ten Virgins” parable and win eternal peace.
April’s Not School Groups are talking about the historical Jesus, and reading Murakami, Auslander and Heidegger. Join the flock or propose a new group.
How is it that we’re supposed to approach a difficult text in a childlike manner after going through some rigorous process of hermeneutical examination of the text and ourselves?
A majority of comics profess to solely be interested in getting a laugh. Something about that just doesn’t sit well with me.
The Philosophy and Theatre Group’s discussion of Grotowski’s Akropolis is now available to PEL Citizens.
“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 real phenomena, we learn what corrections to make in our assumption.”
This month features groups on Zizek, Gadamer, Charles Taylor, Paolo Friere, Virginia Woolf and Philip Auslander. Join up with them or propose your own group.
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.
“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.”
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 philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend (1924 – 1994) argued that the standard account of science as an orderly, rational, methodical process is a “fairy tale.” In practice, science is a messy business, and this messiness is essential to creativity.
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.
Our Not School groups are reading Karl Jaspers, Charles Taylor, Paolo Friere, and possibly Woolf or Nabokov. Don’t forget the upcoming Aftershow discussion of Whitehead too. Come join up!
To construct a superintelligence, we would have to understand human intelligence at a deep level. It’s doubtful we’ll ever be able to do this.
We read a foundational work in process philosophy, chock full of idiosyncratic four-dimensional geometry! Aw, yeah!
Listen to the Not School Philosophy and Theater Group’s discussion on the work of Jerzy Grotowski.
January’s Not School groups are reading Zizek and Diderot. Come join them, or start your own group.
December’s Not School Groups are reading Houellebecq and Grotowski. Maybe some Rorty, Proudhon, and Heidegger too. Come check them out, or start your own group!
The latest recording from the Not School Philosophical Fiction Group is up for your enjoyment.
What is it to say that a rapist should be treated with compassion?
It was not until I read Carroll’s book that I realized I was operating under a tacit assumption: Art ought to express something of the author’s emotions.
November’s Not School groups are reading from Heidegger, Oakeshott, Houellebecq and Grotowski. Or propose a new one!
Listen to the Philosophy and Theater Group’s discussion on the work of Victor Turner.
Why might someone be a libertarian, if not for the reasons Nozick puts forward? If you believe that we have a duty to make the world better, why pull government action off the table?
A song recorded in 1994 about a lonely cat, resung for the new millennium.
The smoke and noise of 19th century steam engines seem quaint now that we measure annual carbon emissions in billions of tons.
Last weekend’s conference featured a broad range of people and groups trying to put this stuff into practice.
Discussing a chunk of Walden, Ch. 11 on savage/pupal vs. mature/poetic humanity.
On Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854). Should all true philosophers go live in the woods and seek Truth in nature? Probably YOU should.
If we think of the rise of Protestantism as a movement away from institutional authority and toward the authority of individuals, then Emerson’s vision is just one more step in that trend.
If we are not mindful, we become disconnected from the real struggles that humanity faces when confronted by technology.
October’s Not School groups are reading Roberto Bolano, Soren Kierkegaard, Victor Turner and Martin Heidegger, and we have proposals for a few more. Join up and come check them out!
The Redskins should think seriously about looking to Florida State University, whose mascot has the blessing of an actual tribe.
Emerson, philosophical mysticism, and Jamesian pragmatism all make the same basic assertion about the relation between concepts and the immediacy of lived experience.
Emerson’s ideal involves a background assumption about how human nature works.
The dinner guests assume that their alternate selves are somehow very different from their “actual” selves. But why?
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.
Evan Roane, new leader of the Not School Intro Readings group, profiles the recently deceased philosopher who brought together theory and practice.
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.
Natural law turns out to provide some interesting foundations for our constitutional principle of equal protection of law.
A Spinoza scholar clarifies the difference: Your knowledge lives on vs. you share in (and so in part are) divine knowledge now.
Jay Jeffers just can’t shake his first impression of “Her,” a story set against the backdrop of artificial intelligence.
Sign up for Not School this month to join reading groups on the subjects of Greek philosophy, Marxism, ritual, Heidegger, computation, economics, and a novel by Umberto Eco.
Our Philosophy and Theater group’s two discussions on Antonin Artaud’s “The Theater and Its Double” are now available for listening by PEL Citizens. Sign up to get ’em!
Sandel’s attempt to understand America’s modern malaises relies on telling the wrong story of America’s competing visions and the way these visions evolved.
Michael Burgess discusses how moral philosophies often require an ideal or transcendent view from which actions can be judged and how this manifests (or doesn’t) in contemporary individualism.
Everyone (not just Citizens) can watch video of the first discussions of the ongoing Not School Heidegger reading group. Join up!
Sign up to read and talk about justice, economics, computation (Turing), the “language hoax,” Umberto Eco, ritual & theater, or Heidegger.
Lynda Walsh introduces Latour’s notion of modes of existence to the science vs. religion debate
Why do we treat the sins of Feynman and Žižek differently? Is plagiarism worse than sexism?
Which philosophers are most cited according to Google Scholar since 2009?
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
PEL Citizens can now download the Not School Theater group’s discussion (which Mark showed up for most of), well in advance of the PEL episode on this topic. What philosophical insights lurk in Sophocles’s drama?
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
Listener C. M. “Fredbo” Frederick lays down the gauntlet against optimism that there’s any mass solution available to the problem of work.
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
In light of the most recent PEL episode, we folks in PEL’s Not School will be holding a discussion on free will this month through next month. Some of the conversation will be continuous with and complementary to the PEL guys’ discussion as well as perhaps raise other issues. For the remainder of this month, Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
“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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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, Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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” – Continue Reading …
[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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
[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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
“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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 bloggingheads.tv. We made our first recording yesterday, and it has already been posted: Watch at Bloggingheads.tv There shouldn’t be much new here for PEL listeners who’ve already Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
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 Rev.com. Read the transcript here. Note that while we are releasing this to the hoi polloi we have Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
[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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
[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 Continue Reading …
[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.” Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
[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 Continue Reading …
“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 Continue Reading …
[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 Continue Reading …
[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 Continue Reading …
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 Continue Reading …
An introduction to and summary of Frithjof Bergmann’s New Work, New Culture, read by Mark Linsenmayer.
[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 Continue Reading …