On Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (2016). What role should we allow anger to play in our public life? Should systems of punishment be strictly impartial, or should they be retributive, i.e., expressive of public anger? Nussbaum thinks that anger necessarily involves the desire for payback, and that this is nearly always unhelpful. We should instead use anger to look toward the future and prevent future harm. Mark, Wes, and Dylan interview Martha and then discuss issues raised in the interview and the book.
On the later Platonic dialogue. What is a sophist? These were guys in Ancient Greece who taught young people the tools of philosophy and rhetoric. They claimed to teach virtue. In Sophist, “the Eleatic Stranger” (i.e. not Socrates) tries to figure out what a sophist really is, using a new “method of division.” This leads to a long digression on the nature of “not-being” as a necessary component of false beliefs, which is what the Stranger claims that sophists provide.
Socrates hangs out in the country flirting with his buddy Phaedrus. And what is this “Platonic” love? Using the enticement of desire not to rush toward fulfillment, but to get you all excited about talking philosophy. Socrates critiques a speech by renowned orator Lysias, who claimed that love is bad because it’s a form of madness, where people do things they then regret after love fades. Socrates instead delivers a myth that shows the spiritual benefits of loving and being loved. With guest Adam Rose of Great Discourses.
End song: “Summertime” by New People, from Might Get It Right (2013).
More on The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947), this time on part III. Ep. 140 laid out man’s “ambiguity,” but what does that mean in terms of practical decision making? De B. talks about the practical paradoxes of dealing with oppression and what it might mean to respect the individual given that there’s no ultimate, pre-existent moral rulebook to guide us, nothing we can point to to excuse the sacrifice of someone to a “greater good.”
End song: “Indiscretion (Mess Things Up)” from the 1993 Mark Lint album Spanish Armada: Songs of Love and Related Neuroses.
On The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947), parts I and II. We return to existentialism! Instead of describing our predicament as “absurd,” de Beauvoir prefers “ambiguous”: We are a biological organism in the world, yet we’re also free consciousness transcending the given situation. Truly coming to terms with this freedom means not only understanding that you transcend any label that you or anyone else has put on you, but also recognizing that your freedom requires the freedom of others. The full foursome discuss whether this attempt to argue for an existentialist ethics works.
End song: “Reasonably Lonely,” by Mark Lint.
On Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981) and Black Looks: Race and Representation (1992, Intro, Ch. 3, 11).
How do these pernicious forces interact? hooks describes black women as having been excluded from both mainstream historical feminism (led by white women) and black civil rights struggles (permeated with patriarchy), and this “silencing” creates challenges for self-actualization and social justice. The solution: media critique of stereotyped images and personally connecting to a historical narrative of liberation. With guest Myisha Cherry, host of the UnMute Podcast.
We interview John about Seeing Things As They Are (2015). What is perception? Searle says that it’s not a matter of seeing a representation that is then related to things in the real world. We see the actual objects, with no mediation. But then how can there be illusions? Well, it’s complicated, but not too complicated, just some funny terminology that this episode will teach you.
Searle lays out his theory for us and amusingly dismisses much of the history of philosophy in the first half, and then Mark, Wes, and Dylan continue the discussion to make sure we understood what was just said and chase down some threads of the conversation.
End song: “Flesh and Blood” from The MayTricks’ Happy Songs Will Bring You Down (1994). Download the whole album for free.
On Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1979), introduction, ch 1 through p. 63, conclusion, and postscript.
How do our tastes in music, art, and everything else reflect our social position? This philosophically trained sociologist administered a few detailed questionnaires in 1960s France and used the resulting differences in what people in different classes preferred and how they talked about these preferences to theorize about the role that taste plays in our social games. With guest Tim Quirk, recently featured on Nakedly Examined Music.
End song: “When She Took Off Her Shirt” from Tim’s band Wonderlick’s Topless At The Arco Arena (2005).
On Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” from Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), plus Adorno’s “Culture Industry Reconsidered” (1963).
How does the entertainment industry affect us? Adorno (armed with Marx and Freud) thinks that our “mass culture” is imposed from the top down to brainwash us into being submissive workers.
End song: “All Too Familiar,” from around 1992 with all instruments by Mark Linsenmayer, released on The MayTricks
A whole second discussion on G.W.F. Hegel’s Encylopedia Logic, hitting sections 78–99 on the dialectic, Understanding vs. Reason, and then how the Concept of Being, when analyzed, shows itself to be identical to Nothingness, and how those in turn considered together “logically” lead to Becoming, which is the same as Determinate Being and also Quality. With guest Amogh Sahu.
On G.F.W. Hegel’s The Science of Logic (1812–1816), §1–§129 and The Encyclopaedia Logic (1817) §1–§25. “Logic” for Hegel isn’t about symbolic logic; it’s about how thought interacts with the world. Our thoughts about fundamental metaphysical categories bear the same relations to each other as the the categories themselves do. Just take Hegel’s many, many words for it! This is the first of two discussions on the Logic. With guest Amogh Sahu.
V-Day Special! On Fromm’s The Art of Loving (1956). What is love, really? This psychoanalyst of the Frankfurt school thinks that real love is not something one “falls” into, but is an art, an activity, and doing it well requires a disciplined openness and psychological health. Love is the answer to the deep human need to rid ourself of isolation, but a mere sexual union won’t provide real intimacy. To connect the center of your being with the center of another’s being, you need to really know yourself and know the other, and this knowing requires an overall openness that amounts to a love of humanity, a feeling of oneness with nature, and an overall orientation toward the good, which is what he considers a mature take on “love of God.”
End songs: “Kimmy” (1995) and “Kimmy 2002” by Mark Lint.
On selected “moral epistles” (from around 65 CE) by Lucius Annaeus Seneca: 4. On the Terrors of Death, 12. On Old Age, 49. On the Shortness of Life, 59. On Pleasure and Joy, 62. On Good Company, 92. On the Happy Life, 96. On Facing Hardship, and 116. On Self Control. We’re joined by Massimo Pigliucci of the How to Be a Stoic blog, who for a long time was on the Rationally Speaking podcast. How can one most profitably interpret weird-sounding Stoic recommendations about the emotions and about following nature?
End song: “I Lose Control” by The MayTricks from So Chewy! (1993).
Our second discussion of De Anima or On the Soul (350 BCE), this time on book 3.
What is the intellect? In ep. 130, we talked about Aristotle’s idea of the soul as the form of the body, and now we get to it’s highest part/function: nous, which has things in common with pereption (both use images), but which is really a “form of forms,” which is literally nothing until it thinks (just pure potential) and then takes on the forms of all the things it thinks. And it can survive death and is not actually yours or mine, but just the universal mind!
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End song: “Wonderful You” (live 2001) by Mark Lint.
On De Anima or On the Soul (350 BCE), books 1 and 2, after some listener mail. What can this ancient text tell us about biological life? What counts as a scientific explanation? A. describes life as “the first actuality of a natural body which has organs,” so bodies express their nature only when they’re growing and reproducing and all that stuff that bodies do. The body is potential, and life is its actuality. So what the heck kind of explanation is that, and how does it tie into Aristotle’s convoluted metaphysics? Read along in the text or peruse this line-by-line commentary.
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End song: “Intermission Song” by Mark Lint from Spanish Armada: Songs of Love and Related Neuroses (1993).
Nathan Gilmour (Christian Humanist podcast) and Rob Dyer (God Complex Radio) join Mark and Wes for to discuss the reasonableness of religious belief reading Antony Flew’s “The Presumption of Atheism,” Norwood Russell Hanson’s “The Agnostic’s Dilemma,” Steven Cahn’s “The Irrelevance of Proof to Religion,” Alvin Plantinga’s “Is Belief in God Properly Basic?” Merold Westphal’s “Sin and Reason,” Basil Mitchell’s “Faith and Criticism,” Peter van Inwagen’s “Clifford’s Principle,” William Alston’s “Experience in Religious Belief,” Richard Swinburne’s “The Voluntariness of Faith” and “The World and Its Order,” and Paul Helm’s “Faith and Merit.” Learn more.
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End song: “Let Us Meet” by Mark Lint, setting an old poem by Kim Casey Linsenmayer.
On “The Meaning of Meaning” (1975). If meaning is not a matter of having a description in your head, then what is it? Hilary Putnam reformulates Kripke’s insight (from #126) in terms of Twin Earths: Earthers with H20 and Twin Earthers with a substance that seems like water but is different have the same mental contents but are referring to different stuff with “water,” so that word is speaker-relative in a certain way. With guest Matt Teichman. Learn more.
End song: “In the Boatyard” by Mark Lint & the Madison Lint Ensemble (2004, finished now).
On Experience and Nature (1925), through ch. 4. What’s the relationship between our experience and the world that science investigates? Dewey thinks that these are one and the same, and philosophies that call some part of it (like atoms or Platonic forms) the real part while the experienced world is a distortion are unjustified. Learn more.
End song: “Uncontrollable Fear” by The MayTricks So Chewy! (1993).
On Naming and Necessity (1980). What’s the relationship between language and the world? Specifically, what makes a name or a class term (like “tiger”) pick out the person or things that it does? Saul Kripke wanted to correct the dominant view of his time (which involved speakers having some description in mind, and it’s that description that hooks the word to the thing), and used modal language to do it: He talked about other possible worlds (other ways our world could have turned out, not literal other dimensions or something). His account had implications for metaphysics and science, in that he claimed that if we find a scientific truth like “heat is the motion of molecules,” then this would be true in all possible worlds. We might think that we could have discovered that heat was something else, but really, if we imagine a world in which that happened, what those scientists would have been looking at was actually not heat at all. With guest Matt Teichman. Learn more.
End song: “Reason Enough” by Mark Lint.
On The Human Condition (1958), Prologue and Sections 1 and 2. How has our distinction between the private and public evolved over time? Arendt uses this history, and chiefly the differences between our time and ancient Athens, to launch a critique of modern society. The fab four conducted this podcast live at the Pittsburgh Continental Philosophy Conference. Learn more.