End song: “Needle Exchange” by Punchy; listen to singer/songwriter Fritz Beer interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #2.
On Stanley Milgram’s “Behavioral Study of Obedience” (1963), Philip Zimbardo’s “Interpersonal Dynamics in a Simulated Prison” (1973), and John Doris’s “Persons, Situations, and Virtue Ethics” (1998).
Do difficult situations make good people act badly? Are there really “good” and “bad” people, or are we all about the same, but put in different situations?
End song: “Doing the Wrong Thing – Live” by Kaki King; listen to her on Nakedly Examined Music #54.
On Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1967) and the films Blade Runner 2049 (2007) and Blade Runner (1982).
What makes us human? Dick’s story about androids emphasized their lack of empathy, while the movie adaptations portrayed the “replicants” as plenty capable of emotion, but unjustly treated as servants or targets.
End song: “Wounds and Nihilism (Quantum Androids),” written for this episode by Tyler Hislop (feat. Mark Lint). Listen to Tyler on Nakedly Examined Music #24.
On the foundational, 1776 text of modern economics. How does the division of labor and our instinct to exchange lead to the growth of wealth? Is the economy sufficiently machine-like to enable us to manipulate its output, or at least to tell us how not to screw it up?
End song: “With My Looks and Your Brains” by The Mr. T Experience. Hear about the singer/songwriter on Nakedly Examined Music #56.
What is wisdom? We discuss articles by Brian Burkhart, Gregory Cajete, and Anne Waters, plus Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt (1932) and some traditional stories. With guest Jim Marunich; we read his master’s thesis, “Process Metaphysics in the Far West: American Indian Ontologies.”
End song: “Circle’s Gotta Go” by Kim Rancourt, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #52.
Radio legend Dr. Drew Pinsky talks with us about “Attachment and reflective function: their role in self-organization” by Peter Fonagy and two articles by Allan Schore.
The focus is “theory of mind”; how do we develop the ability to impute thoughts and intentions to others? What in our upbringing can interfere with this development? We relate this back to previous episodes (Hegel, Buber, etc.) on recognition by others of the self.
End song: “Anything but Love” by Steve Hackett, as featured on Nakedly Examined Music #45.
Bob joins the PEL four to discuss his new book Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. Bob applies his expertise in evolutionary psychology to corroborate Buddhism’s claims that we are deluded: about our desires, emotions, the unity of our selves, and the “essences” we project on things and people. And he thinks meditation can instill in the diligent the ability to see things more clearly. But does it really?
End song: “Alphalpha Bhang” by Anton Barbeau; see Nakedly Examined Music #50.
What is culture? In modern capitalism, Debord’s 1967 book describes it as all about the economy. It’s not just our jobs that keep us trapped, but our life outside of working hours is also demanded by “the system” via our activity as consumers, and this commoditization infiltrates every corner of our lives. Debord wants us to WAKE UP, break our chains, and live lives of immediacy, vitality, and authenticity.
End song: “Millionaire” by The Mekons (1993), one of whom, Jon Langford, Mark interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #22.
On the 1958 film and articles including Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975) and Robin Wood’s “Vertigo” (1965). What’s the nature of love/lust? Are we really just loving an image we’ve built while remaining fundamentally isolated? And is it just an illusionary social construct that keeps us all from feeling fundamental vertigo? Lacan, existentialism, and more!
End song: “Wrong Pill” by Sacrifice (aka Tyler Hislop). Hear him on Nakedly Examined Music #24.
On Charles Darwin’s 1859 book, ch. 1–4, 6, and 14. What are the philosophical ramifications of Darwin’s theory of evolution? We go through Darwin’s arguments, compare his views to other theories of evolution like Lamarck’s, and talk about how an evolutionary way of looking at things has influenced philosophers.
End song: “I Live” by Jason Falkner, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #47.
On David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779). How would a scientifically minded person argue for the existence of God?
In Hume’s dialogue, a character named Cleanthes argues from this point of view for God’s existence based on the complexity and order apparent in nature: It looks designed. But how good is that argument, and is it enough to prove an infinite God of the traditional sort? With guest Stephen West.
End song: “Here Comes the Flood” by The Security Project. Listen to Mark’s interview with Trey Gunn on Nakedly Examined Music #21.
On Benedict de Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), ch. 12–20 and the Tractatus Politicus (1677).
What’s the relationship between ethics and political power? Given that religious factions tend to create strife, what’s the optimal role of the government in mitigating that damage? Is theocracy in any way a good idea?
End song: “Shittalkers” by Ken Stringfellow, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music ep. 39.
On Benedict de Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), ch. 1–11.
For Spinoza, the Bible was a political issue, and he was interested in a way to read it that didn’t lead to people fighting wars and persecuting each other. Spinoza argues that a respectful reading is one that looks for the central message and doesn’t paper over many places where the text was tailored to its original audience’s prejudices, or where for historical reasons we can’t now really know what it meant to them.
End song: “Spinoza’s Dream” (2016) by Dave Nachmanoff, as discussed on Nakedly Examined Music ep. 20.
On Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s philosophical novel from 1869.
Could a morally perfect person survive in the modern world? Is all this “modernity,” which so efficiently computes our desires and provides mechanisms to fulfill them, actually suited to achieve human flourishing? Dostoyevsky’s Russian existentialism says no!
End song: “Don Quixote” by Nik Kershaw, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #37.
On Natural Kinds and Genesis: The Classification of Material Entities (2016). Are general terms like “water” or “dog” just things that we made up to order the world we experience? Aristotle thought that some universals constitute natural kinds, with an internal structure that explains their behavior. “Kinds” were replaced with “laws,” but Stewart wants us to reconsider, and bring back “natural philosophy” in the process.
End song: “Destroy the Box” by Wertico, Cain and Gray from Organic Architecture (2014), as elucidated on Nakedly Examined Music #30.
On the film I Am Not Your Negro and the essays “Notes of a Native Son” (1955) and The Fire Next Time (1963). With guest Law Ware.
Baldwin diagnoses our racism-related psycho-social maladies, but how can we best translate his observations into generally applicable philosophical theory?
Is the rhetoric of “White Privilege” just the modern way of acknowledging historical and systemic truths of racism, or does it point to a novel way for acknowledging injustice, or does it actually obscure these insights with confused claims about group responsibility?
Readings include articles by Peggy McIntosh, Charles W. Mills, George Yancy, Tim Wise, Lewis R. Gordon, Lawrence Blum, and John McWhorter. With guest Law Ware.
End song: “Power” by Narada Michael Walden, as interviewed for Nakedly Examined Music ep. 16.
On the novel 1984 (1949) and the essays “Politics and the English Language” (1946) and “Notes on Nationalism” (1945).
What’s the relation between language and totalitarianism? Orwell shows us a society where the rulers have mastered the art of retaining power, and one element of this involves “Newspeak,” where vocabulary is limited to prevent subversive speech, and ultimately thoughts. Do our linguistic habits and the Orwellian lies of our leaders point to a slippery slope toward the world of 1984?
End song: “Civil Disobedience” by Camper Van Beethoven from New Roman Times (2004), written by Jonathan Segel as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music ep. 38.
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.
End song: “Please Allow Me to Look at You Again,” from The Edge of Heaven (2013) by Gary Lucas, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music ep. 7.