Here are the most recent comments on our blog posts, i.e. the active discussions at this time. Jump into a thread and say your peace! If you want to start a conversation yourself, join our Facebook Group and/or our subreddit, and go right ahead. Also, if you're a Partially Examined Life Citizen, you can initiate discussions at the Citizens' Forum; this is especially useful if you'd like to use that to initiate an ongoing reading/discussion group with other members, which can have its own dedicated forum. This is called a Not School group.
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- Nov 20, 8:22 pm - Episode 177: Guest Russ Roberts on Adam Smith and Libertarian Economics (Part One)
I listened to this talk and then went listened to the EconTalk podcast on "emergent order" before listening to this talk a second time. My general impression is that Russ Roberts runs too fast and loose with the concept of emergence, perhaps in pursuit of his own ends. As far as I can tell, Roberts deems any apparent order that lacks an apparent cause as having emerged. So, for instance, he (somewhere) refers to rush hour traffic speed as an emergent phenomenon. The concept of self-organization in the context of this talk is similarly loosely conceived. Let me suggest two criteria of self-organization for your consideration. The first comes from Kant's Critique of Teleological Judgment (and I recommend a Podcast on this text) and the second comes from contemporary self-organizing systems theory. First: Kant says (roughly) that "in general, in order for something to be judged as self-organizing, two conditions must be met. First, each part of the thing must exist in a reciprocal causal relationship with all the other parts, such that the “form” that each part takes is constrained by each of the other parts. Second, the totality of this reciprocal constraint generates a whole, as an effect,...
- Nov 17, 6:19 pm - Episode 150: Peter Singer on Famine, Affluence, and Morality (Part Two: Discussion)
Can you elaborate, Richard?
- Nov 17, 3:02 pm - Episode 162: James Baldwin on Race in America (Citizen Edition)
Interesting conversation for those interested. "Ta-Nehisi Coates— Imagining a New America" from On Being https://onbeing.org/programs/ta-nehisi-coates-imagining-a-new-america-nov2017/
- Nov 17, 6:34 am - Science, Religion, and Secularism Part X: Thomas Paine and the Controversy over Extraterrestrial Life
I think it demonstrates the mess one can get into in taking the mythological bits of the Bible literally. The story of the “Fall” for me is an allegory of humanity ‘coming to self awareness’. The serpent in many cultures is not a symbol of evil, but of transition (because it changes skin).. However, the price of self awareness is seperation. We become isolated egos, trapped in the Cartesian theatre of our heads, subject to delusion, often tormented with guilt, depression or loneliness. So, what is Christ’s death & resurrection signify? Perhaps through his example of love, and willing self sacrifice we become ‘One’ again with the transpersonal and with the Cosmos. Perhaps through faith, we can diminish the entrapping dominance of our egos through agape. So, to answer Paines question... it seems likely that intelligent alien species might face a similar problem, in evolving self awareness (or maybe not if they are like Startrek’s ‘the Borg’). However, we can see just on Earth how different cultures East and West have evolved different solutions to the problem of egotism, and diverse ways to transcendence. There are many ways up the mountain. So, Paines dilemma is a false dichotomy - based...
- Nov 17, 3:53 am - Episode 150: Peter Singer on Famine, Affluence, and Morality (Part Two: Discussion)
The child in the pond is my daughter. I must widen my circle of concern and let her drown.
- Nov 14, 12:56 am - Episode 176: Situationism in Psych: Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments (Part Two)
After having missed the last few months' worth of episodes, this topic had me excited for a refresher. First, Dave was a fantastic and informative guest, and the discussion of character was inspiring. Still, I'd hoped that the conversation would put some of this stuff into context with the rampant social engineering and data-fueled real-time experimentation that's currently on the rise pretty much everywhere. I have to think that at least some other listeners who've been reading the Atlantic or the Guardian over the past couple of years might be scratching their heads at Dylan (you're usually my hero, Dylan) "vigorously" defending gamification and leaving it at that. Yes, incentives can be useful, but when should we have the freedom to construct or discover them organically or for ourselves, and when should larger powers be allowed to compose and arrange them at their discretion? When do incentives actually cheapen or subvert the activities they're embedded in? When should they be organized by communities, when by corporations, and when by governments? As we become ever more connected, in which systems and in what areas is it even possible to extend or withhold such privileges? Should their be incentives or disincentives for...
- Nov 14, 12:53 am - Episode 175: Blade Runner: Androids and Humanity (Citizen Edition)
- Nov 13, 1:28 pm - Episode 10: Kantian Ethics: What Should We Do?
Your first problem is the way you conceptualize positing a maxim. As Kant includes in his Groundwork examples, as well as how contemporary Kantians like Korsgaard and Wood agree, a maxim must be posited with (1) an end, (2) the means to achieve the end, (3) the circumstances in which the end and means are chosen. A better formulation is (3) when Nazis come to the door asking for a jew, (2) I will lie to them (1) for the purposes of abiding by my duty to not assist in an evil end. Since killing jews is an "evil" end in the Kantian sense, assisting in helping them achieve that end is the opposite of your duty, especially from the perspective of if you take the maxim to demote achieving the Kingdom of Ends. For a better understanding of a Kantian response to this problem, read: Chapter 5 of Christine Korsgaard's "Creating the Kingdom of Ends." My understanding is probably not correct, but you definitely need to at least get the idea of positing a maxim correctly before you subsequently critique Kant's whole philosophy on your misinterpretation.
- Nov 13, 1:17 pm - Episode 10: Kantian Ethics: What Should We Do?
Voluntary slavery is not permissible because the act of slavery analytically fails to treat the slave as an end in himself/herself. The formula of humanity is posited as a more strict version of the formula of universal law and its counterpart the formula of the law of nature. The formula of humanity accounts for explaining the impermissibility of slavery, but so does the formula of autonomy and its counterpart. There are truly 3-5 variations of the categorical imperative, and its important to recognize they increase in their strictness as well as explanatory capacity for helping to give account to the moral impermissibility of intuitively impermissible actions. Joining the army could be conceived of as a meritorious duty if your country was under attack, but is in no way the logical equivalent to consenting to slavery.
- Nov 13, 9:21 am - Episode 176: Situationism in Psych: Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments (Citizen Edition)
Really enjoyed this episode. Great combination of empirical psychology and philosophy. Look forward to more like it in the future. And also, your guest was great and I'll definitely be checking out his podcast as well.
- Nov 12, 4:12 pm - Episode 47: Sartre on Consciousness and the Self (Citizens Only)
I remember asking a teacher about how to pronounce his name and he said, “Does it matter?”. I replied, “How do you pronounce Chopin?”. I suppose you can try to pronounce it the French way with the gargled R or perhaps the British English pronunciation where -tre becomes -ter as in their use of “centre” in the UK.
- Nov 10, 6:10 pm - Episode 175: Blade Runner: Androids and Humanity (Citizen Edition)
Seth is dead wrong about Voight-Kampf in the first movie. It's clearly laid out that it's an empathy test immediately before he gives it to Rachael.
- Nov 10, 11:45 am - Science, Religion, and Secularism Part VI: Jonathan Hedley Brooke, Complexity Thesis
Correction: I meant to say, “happiness would max out with virtue alone,” not that “virtue would max out.”
- Nov 10, 11:30 am - Science, Religion, and Secularism Part VI: Jonathan Hedley Brooke, Complexity Thesis
Useful thesis. I watched a documentary titled Happy recently. I wonder how interesting Its conclusions are philosophically. For example: your happiness depends on 50% genetics, 10% external factors, and 40% things in your control. Could any enlightenment be draw from looking at this through the lens of the complexity thesis? Does western philosophical tradition fail because it only focuses on the 40% and it’s conflict with the 10%? Or are there good examples that take into account the 50%? Some PEL episodes on psychoanalysis maybe? Another conclusion the documentary made is that money does affect happiness...up to $50k/yr. After that it does not. It’s more complex than yes/no or if you have virtue or not. If the historical evidence shows that we really can only control 40%, then virtue would max out, right? And a complexity theory might help chip away at that ceiling. Do any of these questions have any relevance to your post? FYI: I’m an Audio/Video Design Engineer by trade, so please know I hold no weight here. I just really like the PEL.... probably in large part because Mark does such a good job in post production. And the voices sound great... well after they fixed...
- Nov 09, 9:32 pm - Does Atheism Entail Nihilism? (Or, is God Necessary for Morality?)
Lack of religion does not indicate a lack in morals. It simply means that one chooses to entrust themselves with the responsibility of their existence rather than a system of beliefs or some imaginary divinity. The thing about religion is that death doesn't actually mean that you cease to live; It means you move on to another world. This way of thinking is problematic, because it causes people to look away from life toward something to come afterwards.
- Nov 09, 5:18 pm - Irony and Political Rhetoric (Philosophical Issues Related to the #thatasshole Campaign, Part 3)
For me the problem with satire or the like in this administration is that it's really hard to tell it's satire. It's like watching House of Cards after Trump became president. Fiction couldn't beat reality. It just doesn't land all that well because your crudity, which is designed to shake the reader into seeing some essential truths that weren't easy to see before, gets lost in the quagmire of general crudity that IS his presidency. Hearing people call him "Mr. President" and talk about him like he's not a total buffoon is much more jarring than hearing a #thatasshole comment. It's like the low hanging fruit for me. It's not that I didn't like or appreciate it and certainly we should all keep on keeping on with our sarcasm and wit, but as Presidents go, he should really make it harder for us. I keep waiting for someone to REALLY push the envelope and cast Trump as some kind of non human primate and have reporters try to interact with him as though he is actually a human. Because that's what it feels like to me. Like - ARE WE ALL TUNED INTO THE SAME CHANNEL?? BECAUSE THIS GUY IS...
- Nov 09, 1:32 pm - Irony and Political Rhetoric (Philosophical Issues Related to the #thatasshole Campaign, Part 3)
"The essence of my view is that irony is not just disavowal of any stance, and thus inherently anti-political, but that it allows one to play with ideas without wholly committing to them, to present them for public consideration as hypothesis or just a fun thing to think about." I feel as though I encounter this issue frequently when I spot one of the iconic "Make America Great Again" hats, only to discover once I get closer that the hat actually bears a slogan which is entirely different and thus is being worn in a fashion more akin to irony than sincerity. It's as if the wearer thinks they can achieve any sort of political force in wearing a comedic version, but really they are just taking advantage of the symbolic quality of the red hat. Often the spotting of this red hat causes me to form a judgement and begin shaking my head in dissapointment that yet another person has fallen under the spell of a ridiculous statement such as "Make America Great Again". Upon futher inspection it seems to be just what you're talking about, PLAYING with an idea. They gain access to the anti-Trump camp by sporting...
- Nov 09, 7:37 am - Episode 170 Second Opinions: Leftists on "Society of the Spectacle"
So for example at 28:50 or so there is the statement that Marx says that relationships of dominance (not paying people what they're worth) are exploitation that is hidden through mediating the relationship with something symbolic. That's an interesting reading but it's an ahistorical one. Marx isn't talking about how the people are decieved, he's making the argument that labour is fundamentally subordinate to capital. Again, one needs to look back to Smith and Ricardo re: iron law of wages and the Industrial Revolutionary context. The point about labour being exploited isn't that workers are tricked - it is that they have no choice. The exploitation of labour (extraction of suprlus value) occurs because if someone has no other choice but to sell their labour in order to make a living, you can drive them down to the bare minimum required to survive and have them work as long as possible. The labourer doesn't have any other option but to take the "deal." Marx's issue with "money" isn't the more recent notion of "money is a fake thing" but rather that someone with Capital can exploit labour as described in the paragraph above. You have M dollars and want to...
- Nov 09, 7:25 am - Episode 170 Second Opinions: Leftists on "Society of the Spectacle"
Leftist here just wanting to point out that there's a huge difference between the writings of Marx (effectively just Das Capital) and the critical theory analysis used in History and Literature called "Marxism". Capital is predeominantly a classical economic text. The explicit parts you can pull out are surplus value, the notion of class structure in society (at all, this is the foundational work), and the inevitable crises of capitalism. All of those things are extensions Marx makes on classical economic writers like Smith and Ricardo - there's no existential or cultural criticism in that text. Marxism is a highly variable cluster of analytic "tools" that are presumably based on the idea that class drives everything. There are reasons to disparage both - but conflating them isn't good philosophy.
- Nov 08, 6:44 pm - Episode 176: Situationism in Psych: Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments (Part One)
One of the main factors in Nazi Germany was anti-semitism: Hitler channeled a pre-existing anti-semitism in the German population. People generally seem willing to be act cruelly towards members of groups which they consider to be "not their peers" or inferior or their enemy. "Normal" white people in the U.S. did nothing about Jim Crow legislation against black people and were complicit in its functioning. "Normal" U.S. military personnel torture "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo. I put "normal" between quotation marks because first of all, I'm not sure that being normal means being virtuous at all. Hannah Arendt says that "normal" people in Nazi Germany did not help to save Jews: those who did help to save them tended to have been outsiders of sorts, for example, Schindler, who was a "corrupt" businessman and a bit of a con artist. "Normal" people everywhere tend to follow the herd and if the herd hates Jews or blacks or gays, they go along willingly.
- Nov 07, 7:45 pm - Episode 44: New Atheist Critiques of Religion (Citizens Only)
After thirty minutes I gave up. I can’t listen to four bitter old people being catty for over an hour. Wes being the cattiest queen of them all. Next time guys, don’t cover subject matters that you have little to no interest in at all, it shows.
- Nov 07, 10:02 am - Episode 176: Situationism in Psych: Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments (Citizen Edition)
Since we are comparing podcasts - I have two and only two I listen to. I’ve tried others but nothing sticks. Here is the only other podcast I’d leave you for. Though you guys couldn’t be more different in your approach, you often touch on the same themes. To compare with Robert Wright and his many appearances: https://onbeing.org/programs/robert-wright-the-evolution-of-god/ This guy has done some work with Zimbardo and this podcast is similar in theme to this one(176). The Stanford Prison Experiment is even mentioned. https://onbeing.org/programs/james-doty-the-magic-shop-of-the-brain/
- Nov 06, 6:39 pm - Episode 176: Situationism in Psych: Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments (Part One)
*bare/*there (really wish you guys had an edit function that lasted longer than a couple minutes!)
- Nov 06, 5:15 pm - Episode 176: Situationism in Psych: Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments (Part One)
When you guys were discussing character over time versus just one instance, I thought this was the best part of the conversation. I don't think these experiments can really determine character so much as capacity. As I read these (and I read them a long while ago) I thought the take away point was that we have the capacity to do things that we might believe we would never. It made me think about people who are labeled as sex offenders - who bear this Scarlet Letter their whole lives, and while I can never imagine doing what any one of them did, it is in essence pegging their character based on one action - which seems unjustified. Somewhere I read about Zimbardo saying that their were three types of guards: one that followed all the rules, one that did special favors for the prisoners, and the mean ones (I'm summarizing). I don't know the break down was of those three categories, but that sounded pretty true to life to me and a whole lot different than what I originally thought which was that everyone was a mean guard and the whole experiment had to be ended because of that....
- Nov 06, 11:35 am - Episode 176: Situationism in Psych: Milgram & Stanford Prison Experiments (Part One)
You guys mention that people weren't allowed to leave, but in other places I've read they said that two people left mid study. I didn't get the same sense that Zimbardo was someone with an ulterior motive. In his paper he writes, "We were horrified because we saw some boys treat others as if they were despicable animals, taking pleasure in cruelty, while other boys became servile, dehumanized robots who though only of escape, of their own individual survival and of their mounting hatred of the guards." He also says, "I terminated the experiment not only because of the escalating level of violence and degradation by the "guards" against the "prisoners"...but also because I was made aware of the personal transformation that I was undergoing personally...I had become a Prison Superintendent, the second role I played in addition to that of Principal Investigator. I began to talk, walk, and act like a rigid institutional authority figure more concerned about the security of "my prison" than the needs of the young men entrusted to my care as a psychological researcher." (Zimbardo 2005 A situationist perspective on the psychology of evil: Understanding how good people are transformed into perpetrators.) also (Zimbardo, P.G.,...