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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- Mar 26, 2:03 pm - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part Two)
I second the recommendation of the excellent Rorty/Conant exchange on Orwell and truth--it is no accident that Rorty got around to 1984 eventually. But Conant is right: Rorty will not read Orwell for anything but his own purposes. Wes's tribute to Orwell at the end of the podcast reminded me of my favorite remark about Orwell, by Stanley Cavell, Conant's teacher: "Orwell's writing, here ["Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool"] and elsewhere, is exemplary of a correct way in which the moral sensibility, distrusting higher ambitions, exercises its right to judge an imperfect world, never exempting itself from that world" (Must We Mean What We Say? 303). A podcast devoted to Cavell, the greatest American philosopher of the 20th century, is long overdue. He is great on movies, as Danto said, but he is great on everything he takes up.
- Mar 26, 8:13 am - Phi Fic #11 The Body Artist by Don DeLillo
both are good
- Mar 25, 7:14 pm - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part Two)
Great Episode! You mentioned Rorty only in passing, but his relation to Orwell is quite interesting in my Opinion. Rorty has a chapter on Orwell and Truth in his Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. The Book "Rorty and His Critics" by Brandom additionally has an exchange between James Conant and Rorty on the latters position. Conant's contribution is a long but in my opinion very interesting read. According to him, Rorty "fails and is unable to read" Orwell. This really goes deeper into the tension between truth, relativism, and Rortyian Pragmatism the Podcast alluded to, so I encourage anyone interested to read into it.
- Mar 24, 9:16 pm - Phi Fic #11 The Body Artist by Don DeLillo
Thanks, and nope. I've tried a couple times to determine a good a jumping on point with him, though. Is that one? I think I have Generosity laying around here somewhere as well...
- Mar 24, 7:31 am - Letter to the Editor: Identity Politics and Effective Action
Well, what a foolish and uncharitable response to Brian's letter... First, to open with criticisms of the language here is not only to focus on irrelevancies, but is incredibly snooty and uncharitable. And I'm not even sure that you're right about the use of commas around the term "like". Just because DFW adopted a particular style does not mean that all writers must forever follow in his footsteps. I notice that when you use the phrase "you know" to "mimic the common speech dysfluency (and as a device for establishing tempo)", you have chosen to separate it by commas. Blah... More importantly, at no point does Brian state that straight white males are automatically precluded from commenting on identity politics. You'll notice that, when he suggests having a discussion on this topic that includes a person from a different background, he does not suggest that the PEL people be excluded from the debate. Nor does he suggest that they sit there silently and agree with everything that guest speaker says. He simply makes the modest point that, in a discussion about issues of race/gender/etc, it may be useful to listen to the perspectives of people from outside the dominant 'straight...
- Mar 23, 7:39 pm - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part One)
I've been researching Operation Barbarossa lately, and it's made me realize that Stalinism actually was exactly like the use of totalitarian power Seth is describing early in the podcast. Shortly after the invasion really took hold and the reality of the situation was believed, Stalin threw a fit and exclaimed that he gave up. He vanished to his vacation home, and went off the grid - didn't answer phone calls or anything. Some senior officials eventually showed up at the house, Stalin apparently wondering if they were there to kill him - but instead they begged him to return and lead the country. He solemnly accepted. At first glance it looks like he had a nervous breakdown, but I've heard it suggested that Beria and the NKVD were closely monitoring everyone's behaviour during his period of absence. During this time Stavka and other top government offices made no important decisions, and nobody stepped out and took action, or attempted to replace Stalin. According to this theory, this was just a continuation of the party purges. Had everyone learned their lesson? Would anyone take this to be a special case, and "betray" Stalin by trying to save the country? The level...
- Mar 22, 11:56 am - Episode 159: Confucius on Virtuous Conduct (Part Two)
- Mar 21, 12:37 pm - Phi Fic #11 The Body Artist by Don DeLillo
good stuff, have you all read Ploughing the Dark by Richard Powers?
- Mar 21, 8:11 am - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part One)
Excellent point. That phrase sure did sound Biblical to me!
- Mar 21, 5:29 am - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part Two)
At the height of Maddison Ave advertising, there were advertisers who said that they really had to believe the particular product they were writing copy for was the best in the world. Until they came to write copy for the next product. This is pretty close to doublethink.
- Mar 21, 4:56 am - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part Two)
Brave New World has five classes from alpha to epsilon.
- Mar 21, 3:30 am - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part One)
- Mar 20, 10:44 am - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part One)
Hi, I thought this was a really Interesting discussion. One thing your closing comments about 'the place where there is no darkness' reminded me of is actually Psalm 139*, in which many have noted the ambivalence of the psalmist to God's omniscience and the human desire to keep some part of themselves 'unknown'. Which led me to wonder whether 1984, as well as all the political allegory could be also an anti-religious tale (given 'roman catholicism' is one of the 'nationalisms' he rails against in his 'notes'), 'Big Brother', who demands dominion over not just human action, but human soul as well, is a tyrannical deity who will be satisfied by nothing less than the 'conversion' (He loved Big Brother) of Smith we see at the end. *"You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,...
- Mar 20, 8:51 am - Episode 153: Richard Rorty: There Is No Mind-Body Problem (Citizen Edition)
Hi Cannon, I felt the ssame way when I heard Rorty speak. He wasn't very friendly in person, but there are some who have suggested that he was a kind person who may have been on the the autism spectrum. Curiously, that's fairly common in Neuroscience, from what I am told. Anyway, Rorty was a Pragmatist. He wanted to explore questions of meaning from the perspective of how they come about in our practice. The further from practice our ideas become, the less useful they tend to be. Rorty beleived that philosophy should be useful in our daily lives and didn't see the allure in obscure cul-de-sacs and the insider status they conferred. In _Truth and Progress _, in the essay "Robert Brandom on Social Practices", Rorty paraphrases Brandom, whose position in this regard he endorses, saying: "Philosophy's job is to make our practices, linguistic and other, explicit, rather than to judge those practices in the light of norms lying outside them..."Pragmatic theories of norms are distinguished from Platonist theories, in treating as fundamental norms _implicit_ in _practices_ rather than norms _explicit_ in _principles_."" P127, quoting Brandom, _Making it Explicit_ p23. I summarize Rorty as saying that philosophers have no...
- Mar 20, 8:01 am - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part Two)
might be a good followup to Orwell: https://larvalsubjects.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/hacking-the-social-construction-of-what2.pdf
- Mar 20, 4:35 am - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part One)
Great discussion. You misspoke a little bit in the intro, though. This is not a society without privacy. The telescreens do not watch everyone; in fact, they don't watch the vast majority of citizens in their homes. The telescreens are only used to monitor the middle class bureaucrats who actually do the day-to-day work of running the government. Proles are free to do and say what they like in their homes, because the regime is confident they will not cook up plans to topple the government (as one of you noted later in the discussion, they don't care about the proles). The most trouble they could theoretically cause would be to riot in public, and the police will get them if they do that. Winston Smith frequently gazes upon them with frustration that they don't rise up, because he sees that they could have the power to topple the government if they just had the desire. This kind of apathy or even reactionary attitude among the lower classes is something that was definitely observed in the French Revolution. It was intellectuals who brought the franchise to the masses, and the masses shrugged and engaged in some of the most pathetically...
- Mar 18, 1:40 pm - Part 1 of Episode 1: "The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living."
I realize this is a bit old. But I would like to point out that in today's day and age, we do have a place where people gather to examine their lives. That is essentially what the Christian Church is meant to be. I won't claim here that God exists. But one way or another, many churches supply philosophy through theology and help people to examine their lives through a concept of God.
- Mar 17, 6:38 am - Letter to the Editor: Identity Politics and Effective Action
nothing's more interesting than somebody else's business. the French say to cherche la femme when there is inter-human discord. but following Abe Marlow's hierarchy of needs, i think money is at the root of social discord today. has anyone tried to analyze IP in light of Rene Girard's mimetic desire? in particular, there is a world of hurt emanating from $20,000,000,000 debt, and it falls right in the laps of gen-Xers and millennials. $, and not politics, is what is at issue when identity class-A rubs up against class-B. each of us wanting is the problem. (note: $20,000,000,000 is more money than God can scratch up) for liberals, Trump or Fox News is not the best scapegoat and Marx a-la Bernie is no salve. and Trump sure ain't God.
- Mar 16, 7:31 pm - Episode 157: Richard Rorty on Politics for the Left (Part Two)
This is so on point. It is exactly the same problem I see with that cohort on the left in our country that disdains Democrats as corporate stooges, that treats the linguist Noam Chomsky as a political sage, etc. Susan Sarandon is a famous example, but my own son has fallen into this trap.
- Mar 16, 4:55 pm - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Citizen Edition)
I think it was just an accident of misspeaking, but Wes implied the Republicans were Right-wing (around 13:30) or anti-communist, and that people joined to fight the Republicans from the West. In fact the "Republicans" were actually the popular front, or more accurately the civilian government of Spain during the Second Republic which was governed by a big, left-wing coalition, and the civil war began with a military-led coup against it backed by Carlists, conservatives, and Falange radicals. Most Westerners went to fight the Fascists in some capacity, who tried to overthrow the Republic. The civil war is usually simplified as the Republicans (Communists) vs the Nationalists (Fascists), but Homage to Catalonia is actually a great book on the subject that talks factions in NE Spain through the lens of the early 20th century left. Otherwise, great episode! I loved the talk about the prols later on, but felt similarly to Seth in his hesitance at how easy it is keeping a class happy. Wes' comment about the death drive made me wonder how big the scene is for secondary literature on Freud and Orwell (I assume big). Looking forward to the next episode.
- Mar 16, 1:24 pm - Episode 157: Richard Rorty on Politics for the Left (Part Two)
Wanted to share a relevant passage from At the Mind's Limits, a book by Jean Améry who was captured and tortured by German Gestapo. This is from the preface for the reissue: "It is my concern that the youth of Germany... do not slip over unawares to those who are their enemies as well as mine. These young people are all too quick to talk about 'Fascism.' And they don't realize that they are only filtering reality through ill-considered ideologies, that while the reality of the Federal Republic of Germany urgently needs improvement and contains enough shocking injustices... that still does not make it fascist. The FRG is seriously threatened as a liberal polity, just as every democracy is. That is its risk, its danger, its honor. No one knows better than those who were forced to witness the extinction of German freedom that one must be vigilant. But the chroniclers of the epoch know just as well that vigilance must not change into a paranoid state of mind, which in the end only works to the advantage of those who would like to throttle democratic freedoms with their fat butcher's hands. Germany's young leftist democrats, however, have now reached...
- Mar 16, 8:21 am - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part One)
If you guys do another fiction book, I would also love to hear a discussion of Brave New World or Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here.
- Mar 15, 9:53 pm - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part One)
Enjoyed it thoroughly, but wasn't this originally supposed to be a Huxley + Orwell episode, as Seth briefly mentioned? I was sort of looking forward to that, so here's hoping you guys can make it to Brave New World at some point.
- Mar 14, 6:40 pm - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Part One)
- Mar 14, 3:15 pm - Episode 160: Orwell on Totalitarianism and Language (Citizen Edition)
Just wanted to share this source in case anyone is interested. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.19.1598&rep=rep1&type=pdf