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 […]

Topic for #85: John Rawls’s Theory of Justice

Listen now to Seth’s Precognition for this episode. On the evening of 11/10, we’re discussing John Rawls. What is justice? Rawls interpreted this question as asking what basic social rules and structures would result in a society that we’d consider fair. Justice is fairness, on a social level. Fairness, of course, is an intuitive notion, […]

Not School Discussion of Zizek Now Available

I and four Citizens took a first crack at discussing The Year of Dreaming Dangerously yesterday (read more about our Not School group here). Since Freud and Jung, psychotherapy has been used to try to make sense of group behavior, and Lacan himself applied his insights to the political realm (among other places). Zizek follows […]

The Moral Uselessness of Moral Outrage

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Andrew Sullivan has accused Glenn Greenwald of “justifying” terrorism for a post that is largely about the inconsistent use of the word “terrorism.” Greenwald’s response is a thorough and decisive debunking of Sullivan’s accusations, but I wanted add something as a follow-up to my discussion of Sullivan’s incoherence on these issues.  In this latest piece, […]

Andrew Sullivan’s Incoherence on Radical Islam

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Since it became known that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects are Muslims, there has been a predictable celebration by a chorus of right-wing commentators for whom the evil of Islam and the collective guilt of Muslims in such cases are tenets of faith. More subtle but equally pernicious are the reactions of blogger Andrew Sullivan […]

Topic for #70: Karl Marx’s “German Ideology”

On 1/13 we recorded a discussion of an early work of Karl Marx, from about 20 years before the publication of his famous Das Capital, The German Ideology. Listen to the episode. We read just part 1 of the work, which was written in 1845-6 but not published until 1932 (with some portions of it […]

What Would You Change?

It’s morning in America, as it is every morning, and despite the glow many of us are feeling due to the outcome of yesterday’s elections, the systemic problems, many of which were recognized by the authors of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, remain. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of focusing solely on trying […]

PEL’s Presidential Endorsement: Naked Political Partisanship

Every once in a while, a listener of The Partially Examined Life complains that that our liberal political proclivities — and occasional outright partisanship — are not consistent with our being philosophical, which should make us more neutral about such matters. I disagree. I do agree – after listening recently to the first few PEL […]

Mary Webster on Paul Revere Radio

As part of the run-up to our Federalist Papers episode, I listened to this interview on the Paul Revere Radio podcast interviewing Mary E. Webster, who published a couple of volumes of The Federalist Papers in “modern English.” I can think of few texts with which this podcast is in contact which is less in […]

Topic for #65: Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers (originally published as just The Federalist) are a collection of essays published in newspapers in 1787-1788 arguing for the ratification of the American Constitution. Each was published under the pseudonym “Publius” though most were written by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. (There are a few written by John Jay.) They were collected […]

Topic for #60: Aristotle’s Politics

Aristotle’s Politics (from around 350 B.C.E.) is presented as a follow-up to his Nichomachean Ethics (which we discussed in a previous episode). Actually, we’re not sure in what order these were composed, and the Politics is internally repetitious enough that it is probably itself mashed together from different original sources; those that are into that […]

Stokely Carmichael’s Sartrean Influences

One of the names dropped during the Race and Philosophy episode was that of Stokely Carmichael. Below is a famous recording of one Carmichael’s “Black Power” speeches, given after Carmichael was appointed Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC: Watch on YouTube.

Topic for #49: Foucault on Power and Punishment

We don’t live in a totalitarian state, we’re not slaves, and most of us are not so desperately poor that our power of choice has been effectively snuffed out, so we’re free, right? Michel Foucault says no. In his book, Discipline and Punish, he tells a story reminiscent in style of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals […]

How Did We Get Here?: Fukuyama on The Origins of Political Order

In his new book The Origins of Political Order,Francis Fukuyama tackles the history of the idea and its reality “from prehuman times to the French Revolution.” Fukuyama works under the contemporary name of political science, but he is really one of the few people we have today intellectually able to go beyond the narrow confines […]

Being Old in a Democracy: Peter Lawler on Plato and Us

Why is oldness found so repulsive in our culture today? Why do old people feel so compelled to make themselves look like worse versions of young people through plastic surgery? The easy answer is ‘it’s natural’, i.e., youth gives a competitive Darwinian advantage, so if we have the bio-technology available to keep ourselves younger we […]

Steven B. Smith Lectures on Plato’s “Republic”

After our Locke episode, I blogged re. this Steven B. Smith introduction to political philosophy course from Yale, but in the case of the Plato episode, I actually used these three lectures as part of my preparation and discussed them on the show: Watch the first Plato lecture on Youtube. Get the audio from iTunes.

Roger Scruton on Religion and Politics

The recent interest here in Roger Scruton (who I’d really only known due to his Kant scholarship)led me to this interview with him from 2002 from The London Times in light of his book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat.His conservative political philosophy is outlined as such: …He rejects the western […]

Roger Scruton on Religion and Politics

The recent interest here in Roger Scruton (who I’d really only known due to his Kant scholarship)led me to this interview with him from 2002 from The London Times in light of his book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat.His conservative political philosophy is outlined as such: …He rejects the western […]

Are The Smurfs Based on Plato’s Republic?

Apparently The Smurfs have been accused of being anti-semitic communists living in a totalitarian utopia. It bears mentioning — since we’re reading Plato’s Republic for the next podcast — that each Smurf is named for what they do best. — Wes

Topic for #40: Plato’s Republic

What is justice? What is the ideal type of government? These are the two questions we’ll be focusing on in our discussion of the most famous book of philosophy ever. Look, we realize that if you’ve ever taken a philosophy class, you’ve likely already been introduced to this work, and there are many many other […]

“The Nation” on Brooks on Cognitive Neuroscience

We’ve bashed NY Times columnist David Brooks before on this blog for his attempts at philosophy, and I absolutely feel for the guy from a logistical perspective: he’s not an academic that can take a sabbatical and hole up to write and revise. He’s more or less a blogger who has to fumble around every […]

Debating Locke’s View of Slavery as War

Ta-nehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic, recently opened up a discussion on Locke’s Second Treatise, with respect to the discussion of slavery. A fairly intelligent debate thread followed in the comments section. Check it out if you found that section of PEL’s Locke episode interesting. Some of the better comments in the thread debated […]

Topic for #37: John Locke on Legitimate Powers

What gives a government the right to rule over its citizens? John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government (1689) says that government requires the real (though often implicit) consent of the people, which means it has to be in the people’s interest. Unlike Hobbes, Locke thinks that the state of nature (i.e. the alternative […]

More on Bergmann’s “New Work”

Here are the main elements of Frithjof’s Bergmann’s idea of “New Work” (introduced in this post) as he taught it back at U. of Michigan. 1. Developing a calling. Work can sap our will to live, but the right kind of work can be invigorating. If it’s an enterprise you can identify with, that’s meaningful […]