We discuss the novel about what you do when you’re “called” and how you live afterward. You can listen along while Cezary, Daniel, Laura, Mary, and Nathan discuss The Fall by Albert Camus, which Sartre claimed was “perhaps the most beautiful and the least understood” of Camus’s books.
On the Analects, compiled after 479 BCE.
How should we act? What’s the relation between ethics and politics? Can a bunch of aphorisms written in the distant past for an unapologetically hierarchical culture emphasizing traditional rituals actually give us relevant, welcome advice on these matters? Are we even in a position to determine the meaning of these sayings? With guest Tzuchien Tho.
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Continuing on the Consolation, chiefly books 3 and 4, on virtue ethics (we all naturally aim at the good but can be mistaken about it or too weak to follow it), theodicy (even the apparent bad is actually good from God’s perspective), and the weird way in which those interact (fame, pleasure, wealth are really all the same thing, i.e., happiness, i.e., God).
End song: “Last the Evening” by Carrie Akre, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music Ep. 17.
Nik had some huge hits in the ’80s (e.g., “Wouldn’t It Be Good”) and has been described by Elton John as “the best songwriter of a generation.”
We discuss “These Tears” from his most recent album EI8HT (2012), “Lost” from You’ve Got to Laugh (2006), and the acoustic re-recording of 1984’s “The Riddle” for No Frills (2010). Closing song: “Men United” (2016), written for Prostate Cancer UK’s A Gift for Men United.
For more, visit nikkershaw.net.
On the Consolation, written as he awaited execution in 524 CE.
Do bad things really happen to good people? Boethius, surprisingly, says no, for Stoic (anything that can be taken away can’t be of central importance; you can’t lose your virtue in this way), Aristotelian (all things tend toward the good, and the best thing for a person is achieving his or her innate potential, which is to be virtuous), and Christian (God’s unknowable plan means that even the stuff that seems bad really isn’t) reasons.
A listener takes on our politics and Rorty episodes.
In The Birth of Tragedy, Friedrich Nietzsche argues that, through his protégé Euripides, Socrates had injected into Greek tragedy the seed of questioning doubt that brought an end to the religious animus of drama, the fire that fueled its creation and sustained it. Thus, cold reason killed tragedy. Although he would later modify this view, it remains a powerful and influential polemic in the history of aesthetics.
Continuing on Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in 20th Century America (1998). We talk more about Rorty’s description of the conflict between the “reformist left” and the “cultural left.” Do political-comedy shows serve a a positive political purpose? Can an enlightened political viewpoint really be a mass movement at all? Is it better to pursue specific political campaigns or be part of a “movement?” Can Rorty’s diagnosis cure Seth’s malaise?
End song: “Wake Up, Sleepyhead,” by Jill Sobule, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #11.
Robbie has recorded 12 solo albums of crafty-lyric, country-folk music since 1996, including the new, Grammy-nominated Upland Stories. We discuss “America is a Hard Religion” and “Fare Thee Well, Carolina Gals” from that album, then look back to “Where There’s a Road” from Georgia Hard (2005) and conclude with “I Told Her Lies” from South Mouth (1997). Opening/closing music: “Hamilton County Breakdown” a 1989 live recording released on The Very Best of Robbie Fulks. Learn more at robbiefulks.com.
On Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in 20th Century America (1998). What makes for efficacious progressivism? Rorty argues that reformism went out of fashion in the ’60s in favor of a “cultural left” that merely critiques and spectates, leaving a void that a right-wing demagogue could exploit to sweep in, claiming to be a champion of regular working people. Sound familiar?
Stating that the Presidential election and the person now occupying the office are illegitimate is a serious charge, but how accurate is it? The most prominent social theorist to articulate the concept of legitimacy is Max Weber, who outlined three ideal types of legitimate authority that comprise rightful rule. On any reading, Donald Trump comes into office with a severe legitimacy deficit.
Friend of PEL Doug Lain has been trying to score an interview with Slavoj Žižek on his Zero Squared podcast for years. Now, some think that Žižek’s stock is in decline, among other reasons because he said he’d vote for Trump if he could. Could he really have been only pretending to be some sort of radical leftist all along? Doug’s got the full story; find out how it all went down here.
We discuss the poem within The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Continuing our liberal bubble-bursting exercise, the core foursome address more directly the question of how philosophy is supposed to shape one’s political views and actions. On a non-partisan “public good” and rhetorical strategies in the face of an apathetic and/or ignorant public.
End song: “Better Days” from The Getaway Drivers’ Bellatopia; check out Mark’s interview with singer/songwriter Bob Manor on Nakedly Examined Music ep. 11.
The singer/guitarist shifted gears many times through Bauhaus, Tones & Tail, Love & Rockets (which shifted from acoustic to electric to electronica), and has since put out five distinctive solo albums.
We discuss, from the collection Freedom I Love (2017), the title track and “Indie Boys”; and then “Christian Says” from Stripped (2014). End song: “Flame On” from the Hog Fever soundtrack (2016). Intro music: “So Alive” from Love and Rockets. Learn more at www.danielashmusic.com.
A letter from a listener.
In 1996, Samuel Huntington presented a theory of “clashes” occurring between different civilizational blocks. Huntington traced the mindsets of different people to solid religious sources. However, what if the difference between civilizational blocks is that some have read Nietzsche and others haven’t?
Stoicism proposes an ongoing discipline of deliberately withdrawing one’s desires and aversions from external matters and applying them to what lies within one’s own person. Getting this distinction right—what is in our power and what is not—turns out to be integral to understanding and practicing Stoic philosophy as a way of life.
How does studying philosophy help you to make sense of the political landscape? Wes, Mark, Dylan, and Seth play pundit and reflect on political rhetoric, elitism, and much more. There is no text for this episode! Freedom!
This discussion is continued on part 2. You can alternately get the ad-free, unbroken Citizen Edition. There are still PEL Wall Calendars left.
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Todd held down the beat and wrote some songs for Grand Rapids, MI’s Molly in the ’90s through 2003, then wrote more songs and sang a bit for Dutch Henry for about ten years, then pushed forward to sing and write all the songs for his projects The Star Darts and now Cartorson.
Featuring Cartorson’s “The Last Time” and “Hearts on the Highway” from the new Richfield Skyline EP, “Say It” from Shooting Star Darts (2014) and “44 Days” by Dutch Henry from All That Space (2007). Opening music: Molly’s “Another Day of Regrets” from The Finger (2002). Learn more at toddlongmusic.com.