As we podcasters think about how to proceed, we welcome as always your feedback. Here are three live questions for us at the moment.
1. Does having guest participants help more than it distracts? There are many smart people out there, and we've tried to rope many of them to come be on the show with us, participating in an area where they may have more experience/interest than we do. Do you like this, or are we better able to focus on what we do best if we're not spending so much time engaging new people? Relatedly, does having five of us on there more confusing or negatively impactful in procuring your desired levels of particSethpation? (As a separate issue, do you like the celebrity philosopher interviews, or again, is that just a distraction from what we do best?)
2. Depth or breadth? Reading a shorter text means we can cover it more thoroughly and have time to go off on our own views. However, doing this consistently means we cover less ground, and there are plenty of important works that just aren't short or such that reading a small chunk of it would really do it justice. (Even the "short" works we choose often run 100+ pages.)
3. Are we getting harder to understand? As we get farther into some topics, we necessarily can't re-explain all the terminology and figures that we've repeatedly brought up. However, if the consensus is that we've gotten too fast and loose in explaining things in our recent episodes (like eps 51 and 52), then we can try spell things out a bit more. (It'll be hard to do this with the celebrity philosopher interviews, as we actually want to get at what they think, but hopefully we can make up for this with subsequent discussion.)
Keep up with the guests – the standard is excellent, allows for covering topics outside of personal specialism (race and gender are the obvious examples) and celbs are always good to hear.
Depth and breadth – the balance thus far is good – using sections of longer works or indicative texts for bodies of thought works well, allowing all concerned to bring their own academic backround and interests to the debate.
Understanding – that’s what the reading lists are for! Requiring the listener to bring their ‘A’ game just enhances the light attitude and whimsy (I appreciate the whimsy). This is the only and the best truly degree level philosophy podcast out there.
Summation: I’m a kiss ass.
Conclution: you should do an additional ‘free flow’ on popular topics/pop culture – songs, comics, films, shows, etc – using them as standpoints to assess the status of philosophy in popular culture. A great title would be ‘so-on-and-so-forth’ 🙂
Daniel McKay says
I think you all are doing a great job and that the celebrities serve as a great asset to the insight they can give to the subject matter. I think that you could go into more detail by breaking some topics/texts down to several different podcasts. I felt the Heidegger podcast left me wanting more… This is not necessarily a bad thing, since it sparked my interest in purchasing secondary sources to provide further explanations. It is a near impossibility to cater to every level and style of learning, so limitations are inevitable. You can take great solice in the fact that your podcasts have pierced one of the thickest skulls known in existence…
David Clark says
1. On the mix of guests & hosts – I think the optimal mix is Mark, Seth & Wes, with a guest when necessary to reach your own comfort level with a topic. I was thinking about why it is that the three of you work so well together, and the best analogy I could come up with was the original Star Trek cast – from listening, I get this strong impression that you’ve stumbled on the Kirk/Spock/McCoy personality-archtype magic that made that show so compelling for nerds like me.
(Obviously, Seth is McCoy – down-to-earth, effortlessly empathetic with a heart of gold. Wes is Spock – affably arrogant, superintelligent and always able to find the perfect word to shut down any unproductive line of dialogue. Mark is Kirk – the everyman, an action-oriented pragmatist, with diction you can’t stop listening to. Try mentally putting them in the uniforms – it works!)
Anyway, I think Dylan works best as a guest on science-related stuff. I love Dylan – I appreciate a great Angry Science Rant as much as anyone, but (and it’s kind of hard to explain) there’s just not enough virtual ‘auditory space’ for four hosts. The show seems ‘crowded’ somehow when there’s five on – it’s ridiculous since I know you’re recording separately, but there’s this uncomfortable ‘too many people around one microphone’ feel. I’d love to see Dylan come on for a Philosophy of Science episode, for example, but I think four interlocutors and one guest is too much.
As for guests, I think it works really well when the guest is either the author of the reading in question, or a subject matter expert (where you guys feel underqualified). I think your choice of guests so far has been fantastic. I ESPECIALLY loved the second half of the Owen Flanagan episode, where you guys hashed out your own feelings about the text after the interview – a perfect way to combine clear examination of the text with casual camaraderie. Plus, ‘Giddy Mark’ was a blast!
2. Depth or Breadth – I have no particular preference here. I would prefer that you guys explore YOUR interests – don’t let rules about source choice constrict what you want to talk about. Gettier changed the world in three pages, and any decent treatment of Heidegger will run to hundreds.
3. Are we getting harder to understand? No. A thousand times no. You guys occupy a unique niche – you set the bar high and challenge me to keep up. If I want effortless accessibility, I know where to find it elsewhere – I love PEL because it expects the best from me as a listener, and rewards me with dense insight, brilliant editing and charismatic hosts.
Seth Paskin says
Thank god you went that direction over ‘Mark, like Kirk, will sleep with anything appearing even semi-female; Wes is a humorless robot and Seth is crotchety and out of the loop all the time.’ Since Dylan is here to stay, maybe we can add him as Scotty – passionate and skeptical about the practical application of ideas.
Bruce Adam says
Keep going according to your own whims. Seriously.
That said…I’d love to hear a celebrity podcast with Douglas Hofstadter discussing his easily read recent book ” I Am A Strange Loop.”.
Gary Chapin says
Yes, Hofstadter would be fantastic!
mark farner 3 says
I second that y’all. “I Am Strange Loop” with Douglas Hofstadter would blow minds and rock our collective worlds, probably. Wonder if he’d do it? He’s pretty huge man. Hofstadter is one smart cookie but I’ve seen there’s lots of criticisms of his work so it’d be interesting to get him addressing his critics.
Noah Dunn says
Guests: So far the guests have been great. The ‘Philosophy and Race’ episode is one of the best so far, imo. Law had n infectious energy and it was fun to hear you guys interact with him. Likewise, the ‘Foucalt’ episode was great as well. But, with those things said, I still like when it is just you guys. I listen to the earlier episodes often, and they strike me as more focused. This isn’t the any one guest’s fault. I think it’s easier to stay on topic with only three or four people instead of five. Maybe you guys could alternate between ‘guest-shows’ and non-guest-shows.’
Depth and Breadth: I like the idea of reading a small text and then analyzing it deeply. Plus, I feel more likely to read the text myself when it’s shorter. This might be true for other listeners as well.
Understanding: I haven’t noticed an increase in complexity. But then again, I listened to the earlier episodes where things like phenomenology are explained. In fact, I would say that having more people on the show has actually made things a little more clear. What I mean by this, is that when someone says something a little muddy or weird another person (usually Seth) will call him on it, thus making that person explain himself better. I noticed this happening on the ‘Sarte’ episode quite a bit.
Overall I think the podcast is great and I look forward to seeing what you guys do in the future.
And I second the motion to have more popular culture in the podcast. I think it would be awesome if you guys indulged in something banal yet entertaining like “Philosophy and the Martix” or “Philosophy and Seinfeld.” I would love to hear you guys discuss Kramer with the same intensity that you discuss Wittgenstein. In fact, I think the discussion of ‘Star Wars’ vs ‘Harry Potter’ in the second part of the Buddhism episode was awesomely entertaining.
Anh-vu Doan says
I completely agree, it’d be great if Law could be brought back for another episode someday. I found him to be incredibly charismatic!
David Buchanan says
Guests help to keep things fresh and guest celebrities are also likely to boost the number of downloads – not to mention the popularity of the text under discussion.
If I take the other two live questions and roll them up together, you’re basically asking about how well the material is coming across to the listener. You want to locate the sweet spot where the podcast is intelligible (and entertaining) to as many listeners as possible. You don’t want to talk over too many heads and you don’t want to bore too many ears with constant explanations either. I’m thinking that one little tweak would help would help all around.
My old college professor once told me that in philosophy, 90% of the problem is just understanding the problem. None of the answers will make any sense unless you really appreciate what the question means, she said. And so I’m thinking that some kind of goal or structure could be added to the front of the show so as to ensure that the question or problem is properly introduced before anything else happens. More specifically (and simply), I was thinking you could just ask everyone for an opening summary. Maybe even ask each participant to select a key quote from the text to introduce the central issue or problem. This could, and probably should, some explanation as to the context of the central issue. This is not a new idea, of course, but just a matter of adding some formality or structure to the intro.
1) I like the guests, but I also like it when it’s just the usual 4. The balance it’s at now seems ideal. (also, to counter one of the above comments – I’m super glad that Dylan is now a regular! I always appreciate his perspective and the clarity of his comments)
2) Again, I think the balance you’ve been able to strike thus far works rather well. You guys also seem to have a good sense of which works require two episodes to really get into. I will say though that personally, if the topic is something I’m not already familiar with, it’s usually easier for me to follow along when you’re having a more general discussion than when you’re picking apart tiny details. I guess you could count that as a vote for “breadth.”
3) Yes. It’s odd though that you’d bring up episode 52. That was by far one of the most straightforward discussions in recent memory, I thought. The Wittgenstein episode had me completely losing my footing a number of times throughout though. There were a bunch of parts where I had to rewind and re-listen a few times, and a lot of it still went over my head. That might just come with the territory though? I remember feeling the same way about the Phenomenology of Spirit episodes. (And I can probably blame myself for not reading the texts)
Guests: I enjoy the guests when they add to the discussion. They bring in a new voice and it is usually a lot of fun. I haven’t enjoyed the guests when they are on to talk about their own work. It just feels like the 101 other interview podcasts. What is so enjoyable about PEL is discussions and working through difficult ideas together and the multiple directions that takes the show. That was really lost on the two interviews (not that they were bad they just weren’t PEL).
Breath and Depth: This is really hard because some of the longer works don’t have as much depth whereas a short work may have a lot of depth. That really seems like one that has to be take on an episode by episode basis.
Understanding: I don’t find you any harder to understand. However, since I have read most of the stuff you guys have covered and I am a current grad student I might not be the best judge of that.
Cheers for doing keeping PEL going. You guys are honestly the best podcast on any topic I have found and the interaction with your audience is next to none.
guests seem most helpful when like Churchland and Flanagan they are the authors and less so when they are just interested parties, students of. I would prefer more in the way of careful readings of texts, you could chunk them over time/podcasts doing sections/ideas, and think this might help some of the confusion in the related comment sections, when things get too broad they invite comparisons that often lead farther away from the subject at hand. I think it is important to try and get a grip on an author before launching into a critique or other use of them and would give more of a feel of the good/rich parts of being in a seminar. The question of how much to reference other shows/readings is tough when it comes to new listeners but I think the shows need to reflect how your readings are building over time so shouldn’t start from scratch each time, maybe short working definitions along with names as opposed to just name dropping. thanks for asking
Daniel Horne says
I’m with Bruce. Keep doing the show however you all feel like doing it – it’s got you this far. As long as you’re all still having fun with it, then the audience will as well.
There’s one significant issue here: Time.
Time for you guys who have jobs and work to do as well as create an enjoyable and informing podcast, and time considerations for us who have jobs and work to get to as well as to listen and learn from your podcast.
That said, I think whats important is what you set out to do when you initiated this podcast: keep it simple, entertaining and don’t assume we know anything.
Now–that said–although I haven’t gotten to your later podcasts yet as I’m working through them as fast as I can (between work, job, kids)–I think guests are a good idea, but keep it within reason–you guys are the key here. Yes, explain terminology you are introducing for the first time or write references to them in the podcast synopsis.
Depth? Again, think about Time–shorter or excerpts from longer works is better–for all involved.
Now–that said–you’re doing a wonderful job. Though one thing: Video Podcast!!
Seth Paskin says
Although I am exceptionally handsome, I don’t want to broadcast what I’m doing during the whole three hours of recording (spoiler: not always paying attention) or abode (decidedly bacheloresque).
I think we can look past the distracted seth (I know, you’re just multitasking) and the bacheloresqueness (ok where’s the dictionary) in order to get to the exceptional handsomeness…or at least I would.
Mike Fox says
First, I would like to echo the comments above that the podcast is educational and entertaining, so the criticisms below are nitpicking and not to be construed as taking the overall grade below an A-/B+, but since you asked…
1. The guest shows can be pretty hit or miss. Mark has admitted to listening to other podcasts at double speed. Sometimes it sounds like he is playing the guest track at double speed. Either that or some of your guests speak distractingly fast. I thought I would enjoy the Race episode, but I really didn’t (even though Law was one of the guests who did not sound like he was on double-speed.) I agree with Noah Dunn above that what you did with guest on/guest off double episodes to cover an author’s topic worked extremely well. I really enjoyed both episodes. The guests have to be given a big chunk of the agenda on one episode to be able to do justice to them. Then the four of you seem a little bit looser and more natural when you can comment without having to worry about whether you are taking up too much of the airtime. I thought that worked particularly well.
2. I agree with the comments above that it really doesn’t matter a lot whether you are going for breadth or depth. The best episodes are the ones where you guys enjoyed the reading and are enjoying the discussion. The worst episodes are the opposite (the one where Seth bailed out half way through the episode for example.) Admittedly, I don’t do the readings for your episodes (with one exception, just to see if it would make the episode more enjoyable for me, but it didn’t) so I rely on you guys to make the subject accessible or not. That said, even when your comments are mostly over my head, I still enjoy the episode if you guys are having fun discussing it (with the only exception being that Race episode where it seemed like the fun was forced to some extent and it made the episode too rambling for me.)
3. I like David Buchanan’s idea above that you guys each do a brief “big picture” intro summarizing why you did the readings, why they are important to philosophy/human thought, and what the author(s) main point(s) are. Seth sometimes tries to force this kind of beginning to some of the episodes, and I always appreciate it when he does. From there, feel free to wander where you will.
Again, thanks for a great series. You are always going to have great episodes and less great episodes. I have never turned one off half-way through, so count me as a satisfied listener.
Keep doin’ what you’re doin’. You’re on the right track!
Personally, I think enjoy the guests, and in fact, kind of like recurring guests. It’s almost exciting when I’m backtracking through these podcasts and someone reappears. “Hey, it’s so in such again!”
I could go either way with the length of text covered. I’ve been trying to follow along in the reading, and whereas, say, I wanted to go back Wittgenstein and did not have the time to do so, I was able to read through everything for the race episode without any problems.
Now, I think I’m probably unable to give a good answer on the becoming harder to understand, as I’ve continued to listen to the back episodes, the newer stuff has been easier. I actually think the recent ones (GE Moore aside) seem less name-drop heavy than the older ones. Since I’ve been listening though, there are certain names I’ve very much more familiar with, but still know very little about their own ideas. This was to the point that one morning I woke up after a night or working the night shift and listening to the podcast. The first thing I said, for no reason at all, was “f’ing Lacan.” I had never even heard his name prior to listening to the podcast, so I only have you all to blame for this amusing experience.
Gary Chapin says
Love the podcast. I don’t think the level of complexity (or accessibility) has gotten worse over time. The “hardest” episode, so far, has been the Husserl one (*I* worked really hard, just listening!) … There have been some episodes where even you guys are saying, “This is really hard!” And you can practically hear you guys doing the heavy thinking … those were great. Having guests in has been working fine for me, and I think it’s okay that one of the reg’lars has a chance to sit on the bench for an episode. Wouldn’t want one of you tearing an ACL.
The Pirsig episode was, by far, the best use of a guest so far. Thanks so much.
Adam Swartz says
I think guests are great but appreciate them sparingly. And I’m biased towards the guests that either are, or at least feel like, friends. Dylan, of course. But also (“the”) Law and Daniel Horne and some of the other great people you’ve pulled out of either your past or through connecting on this website. The spirit of the podcast to me feels more fulfilled when its friends having a great, honest, hopefully irreverent discussion of real ideas.
As for the oxymoronically termed “celebrity-philosopher” guests…every once in a while it’s certainly interesting but I’d hate to see the podcast turn into a purely or largely interview style show.
Hmmm…depth/breadth? I’m gonna say depth…what I love is how this podcast stretches me and forces me to think deeply about these ideas. So going forward that’d be my vote….
Not sure how to address the “getting more difficult” issue…it seems organic to me based on the cumulative conversations.
Anyway, another kiss-ass commentator. Just keep putting these great podcasts out there!
Mark Haag says
I have listened to most of your podcasts, depending on whether I have read the texts you are discussing. So my feedback is based on that:
1) When guest philosophers can add dimension to your discussion, you should continue to use them. They are not a distraction. THey are also not necessary for every podcast. (you shouldn’t hunt a guest down just to have one, like a talk show). Same with celebrity philosophers. There already are good podcasts that use the celebrity philosopher format, like the Philosopher’s Zone and Philosophy Bites-you should stick with your strength, which is in the basic band.
2) Every once in a while I think it would be interesting to do a close reading of a very short piece of text (4-5 paragraphs) to help listeners hone that skill. Announce it ahead of time, let people know that this is a variant of the usual practice.
3) I wonder if every third podcast or so you could free yourself from your original rules with a naming convention of some kind. like a “podcast with prerequisites”. A terrible name, but you get the idea. Then, let readers know what they ought to listen to and/or read and a list of terms they should research from the IEP or SEP or elsewhere before the podcast. A couple of times an episode, remind listeners of the kind of podcast it is, and what the prerequisites are, so they can decide if they want to hang in with you. This would also force you to remain true to your original rules for the other 2/3’s of the podcasts.
As far as guests, I think it works well to have a second discussion episode with the just the usual group when the guest speaks about his/her own work. This allows for a chance to process technical material and also be more critical than you might be with the guest present. (I’m thinking of the Owen Flanagan episodes). When the guest is helping with work by other authors (such as in the Law Ware episode), this doesn’t seem necessary.
I’d like to vote against philosophy of popular culture, unless it’s a spontaneous example in a more academic episode. There are plenty of books for that.
Mark Linsenmayer says
I’m adding a comment here I received via email from Cory:
1. I think 3-4 people seems to be the happy medium for the podcasts. I really enjoy the guests and think you should continue to have them. Owen Flannagan was my favorite guest so far with law being a close second.
2. The length of the text is not an issue for me either way, so whatever works for you guys is probably best since you have to do the reading. The content is more important then the length of the text, so if you can get an great discussion from one page then thats fine or conversely if you can get a great discussion from 500 pages wither is fine with me.
3. I do have a bit of trouble following at some points because of vocabulary or concepts that are hard to grapple. I think the analogies and metaphors help a lot but could also be simplified a little. Maybe if there was a guide or an faq, that would help benefit us with less of a philosophy background. I was thinking the guide could have some definitions ,concepts briefly described, and major movements broken down a little like existentialism for example.
Overall you guys do a great job and I really enjoy the podcast. I bought along sleeve shirt and wear it with pride and also hoping that I will run into someone that is familiar with the podcast. The production is really nice and well done.
Thanks for doing my favorite podcast
Michael Felton says
1. I love the guests, personally, but if your aim to appeal to people without any sort of background in philosophy still holds true, I find that follow-up episodes (like the one following Owen Flanagan) is a must in order to parse out some of the more densely packed philosophical jargon and historically loaded ideas.
2. Do what you are interested in. Enthusiasm trumps everything else in almost any medium of communication. It’d be nice if you could, perhaps, respond quickly to feedback with follow-ups (for example, a lot of people seemed to have felt a little slighted by the Heidegger episode, and so some sort of sincere follow up might be helpful, even if it’s just a documentary blog post or something.) However, such a thing would be more of a gesture than a necessity.
3. As time has progressed, the inevitable buildup of jargon has, possibly, become of a problem. Let me provide an anecdote. I just completed my bachelors in philosophy, and have listened to every episode all in the last few months and have had little or no trouble keeping up with the accumulation. However, when I first began my backlog audio adventure, my girlfriend would frequently listen in with me (she shares a keen interest in philosophy as well). She and I listened to the first ten or so episodes together, and were able to follow and communicate with little or no difficulty. However, she was not able to keep up the pace of consumption as I was, so when we listened to the most recent episode (Wittgenstein) and one other (Foucalt), she said she was completely lost. While this anecdotal reference may or may not be illustrative of the norm, it MIGHT be at least one example of not hewing closely to the first rule of PEL “we don’t assume that our listeners know anything about this stuff.” I’ve found that the more recent episodes are PERHAPS difficult for someone (at least more-so than the earlier episodes) without some philosophical training or familiarity to get fully engaged.
Thanks a lot guys, I absolutely love what you do and think the world is a better place for it.
William Denton says
I’ve just started listening, and in fact began with the Owen Flanagan episode, which was wonderful. Then I went back to the discussion about Arthur Danto and the philosophy of art, which was talk without a guest, and was also wonderful. You can’t have guests all the time, but if you can get a philosopher on every now and then for a deep and interesting and widely understandable two-hour talk about their work, it’d be great listening.
As to depth or breadth, whatever works for you.
As for (in)comprehensibility, I haven’t listened enough to notice a change or run into problems, but I’m reminded of what I once heard a host say to a guest on an astronomy podcast who before answering a question asked how much the audience could be expected to know: “Imagine they have a PhD, but not in your subject.”
Billie Pritchett says
1. Regarding guest participants, I prefer when the PEL team does the show with the occasional celebrity guest. Of course the celebrity guest is good only insofar as the guest is supposed to be expert in the subject you’re discussing. One reason I don’t prefer the other guest participants is often they are not as expert in the subject as perhaps some listeners, at least this listener, would like them to be, and I’m sure you can recall yourself, although I will not name names, when some guest participants have been disastrous, probably primarily for the reason that maybe they think they know more than they do and so are presumptuous, either about the topic at hand or other things that come up in the discussion that are really beyond their purview. Often these guest participants lack a sense of humility regarding their subject.
2. Text length is not a major concern.
3. The podcast, I think, is quite intelligible.
Of course, whatever you folks want to do with your podcast is fine. I will continue to listen to it, and once I work out some financial problems, especially with paying back large sums in loans, I hope to in the near future donate.
Brian Carless says
I think that the guest participants tend to work very well. I think that it is remarkable that you can have a celebrity guest on one podcast and then have another where you can also discuss their work and the interview without them present. Some guests work better than others. Keep trying it. I’m by no means hung up on listening only to the four of you. I like the dynamic of you guys together but its not like its a formula that can’t be flexible. BTW when your listeners refer to you as “avuncular” it is yet another indication that you have become men of a certain age.
Breadth vs. Depth yes just not a the same time. I have really enjoyed your more topical podcasts. When I was in Anthropology grad school, at exactly the same time you guys were at UT, I was subsequenbtly paroled, my favorite type of ethnographic writing took the rabbit hole approach to its subject. It presented something, some practice or behavior that was so entirely foreign and other as to defy explanation and then went on to draw the reader into an understanding of all the things you needed to know to make it sensible. For you guys comedy and laughter could be one way that would work for philosophy. I’m currently reading the Bergson in that spirit. I have also been intrigued by something that Gillian Rose wrote: “death is not nothing”. That could be an opening into a topic too. As for pop culture, other than the way it comes up in conversation I would stay a million miles away from it. I like the approach that suggests works of a reasonable length, like the essays in pragmtism, I had actgually just read the William James, for those of us who only have so much time. Those pesky kids can be so demanding. As far as breadth is concerned make more than one level of suggested reading: a kind of we are starting here and if you have the inclination follow up with this. How many listeners actually read the work beforehand. Also referring to your own podcasts isn’t name dropping and really inevitable.
The podcast is really intelligible and I like the fact that it doesn’t try to fit into a certain box, some episodes can be an hour and a half and others over two as needed. It seems to work well.
Keep up the good work.
As a Christian (A Born Again one at that) i want to commend you all for your honesty, integrity, and tenacity to dig deep, and carfully pull apart “the meaning of life”. I am usually confronted with religious dogma or bitter aitheists and i find your podcasts engaging, refreshing, and informative. Although i may not agree with viewpoints or the authors on many occasion, that’s beside the point. I like it all, the #5, the occasional guests, and the speed. Yes, there are times my mind feels like it may split while trying to digest everything at once, but you guys are really doing a great job at keeping a good pace.
Keep the guests, so long as you don’t have a random guest every episode, I see no problem in having them, especially if it’s a topic for which you definitely feel that someone else’s perspective will be vital in understanding the text being discussed. You know, like, go with the Tao maaaan…
1. I am only through episode 15 and a few random others, but I have enjoyed the guests who are truly experts. Sometimes it is good to have a mediator or someone who can offer additional background, depth and insight.
2. Both are good! The group seems to do well balancing the two.
3. I am only through episode 15, but I think the sophistication and complexity are what give your show a distinct identity and make it meaningful. Like others have said, I could look anywhere for a cartoonish view on these philosophers, what makes the show meaningful is that is stretches us to comprehend. If I didn’t fully understand something, I know I still have something to learn, and I can always look it up if I really want to. This is a more satisfactory feeling than feeling like, “I already knew that stuff; why did I spend 2 hours listening to it?” The Simpsons is good because it stretches you mentally, even if a few jokes are lost. Family guy is so boring because it is predictable, and I feel like I could have written the show myself.
Many thanks for the show. It is great to review the classics and get exposed to new stuff. I appreciate that the depth means I will always learn something new, even from things I may have read long ago.
Daniel McKay says
To comment on the Star Trek analogy:
Dylan as Scotty would be great if he incorporated a scottish accent.
Seth needs to say something like, “I’m a philosopher not a (fill in the blank)” and then proceed to ask if we could please get back to the text (see Wes suggestion).
Mark needs to punch the microphone in a fit of rage, and then rip his shirt off.
Wes needs to say, “Fascinating…” and then vulcan neck pinch Seth whenever he says “Can we please get back to the text?”
Mark Linsenmayer says
I want to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments here. Your divergences reflect several of our divergences, and it’s good to get more opinions in the mix.
Our tentative plan is to more or less alternate between guest and non-guest shows, and after #57 we’ll have at least two in a row without guests. I can’t see us resisting the lure to do some more Churchland/Flanagan kind of interviews (Chalmers had agreed as of last winter to talk with us when his new book came out, for one), and we have several guests of various sorts on the line for eventual probable inclusion.
I will in general defend our use of non-experts: that’s sort of the whole point of the show, in that we the regulars are students and not professionals in these areas… not that professionals aren’t valuable, but we provide a chain from them to ordinary readers/listeners that apparently provides some value. I also just like to bring in listeners/bloggers/other podcasters/friends/former colleagues to mix things up and add new perspectives, and though I don’t always end an episode thinking that things were altogether smooth and well-balanced, by the time we get done with the edit I’m usually pretty satisfied with the result… a guest that talks too much or gets off topic or whatever just requires more stringent editing, though we of course apply that same scrutiny to ourselves (else we would not feel so free to spout off at the time). I blame Bro’s crummy mic setup for someone just posting an iTunes review admonishing us to improve our audio quality, so that is a risk…
I can say that lessening Dylan’s involvement is not an option. He is an integral part of the show and has added some pretty important facets to our recent episodes (despite the fact that we’ve pulled him considerably out of his comfort zone of science and classics). Four people was my ambition for this since before we started the thing, and we only started with three because I couldn’t get any of our Austin alums to sign up. I didn’t at the time really know what Dylan did at St. John’s, and I don’t think he would have had time for it anyway. Wes proposed that we invite him as a full-time participant after he first appeared with us on the physics episode, and that idea was vetoed only because we were concerned about the whole having-too-many-people-when-we-have-a-guest thing. By last year at this time, as Seth or Wes started missing out on this episode or that, the need for a stable fourth seemed to increase, and a change in Dylan’s schedule and his excellent jump-in performance on our Churchland interview sealed the deal.
The depth and breadth thing is an internal dispute, in that I kind of want us to read everything and the other guys don’t want to have to prep so much. I would instantly lose this debate, except that I’m usually the one to read the work in advance and try to pick out a manageable slice of it, and if I read it, like, on my phone gradually over 12 weeks while walking my dog, I really don’t have any conception how time-consuming the work really is, so I make the call largely based on “if we stop here, we won’t get the whole point as expressed later over here…” kinds of considerations.
A potential compromise, and a way to keep up our episode frequency, appears to be this two-part episode maneuver that we just used for both Buddhism and Wittgenstein, such that our topic (ethics) for #58 has been planned with a likely 2-parter in mind, such that I assigned too much reading, and we do our best with it in #58, and if we find that we could use another week or two to read the rest and talk more, then #59 will be that. Mitigating the need to schedule guests helps increase our freedom to do that kind of thing.
Micah Linz says
The fact that you even started this thread worries me.
mark farner 3 says
(yet another book/possible guest request)
“The Atheist’s Guide to Reality” by Alex Rosenberg.
The book got slammed, it is written for a mass audience and it champions scientism. I’ve skimmed through a copy and it is disturbing crap. Written so straightforwardly anybody can follow along, it is a good book to use to address this belief that science alone gets us the truth and the truth is life and the universe and just about everything we tend to believe as humans is bullshit.
I like the limited use of guests. Good to hear another perspective occasionally if the topic is aided by having a subject matter expert. Still love the show. Still want to hear primary thoughts from the group focused on a topic instead of a philosopher, but will not push it lest I incur the wrath of Mark (again). Keep going!
Depth, depth, a thousand times, depth. The podcast as a medium is probably our best source for deep or long form discussion. We can get a breadth of coverage anywhere on the Internet–what’s really valuable and rare is hearing an idea probed, picked apart, and approached from all angles.
Also, and not sure if this is the right space for this, but I would very much enjoy an episode about the Frankfurt School–Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, and to a lesser extent, Ernst Bloch. That seems to be one of the few major philosophical movements that hasn’t been covered.
As a selfish, personal note: I remember hearing an offhand mention on a podcast from way back that there are embarassing, crunchy jobs as ‘philosophers’ available to people with a philosophy MA, which I now have. I’ve tried the other available job for a phil MA (teaching at a community college), but I need something for the summer. If anyone a) knows what I’m even talking about and b) could point me in the right direction, it would be much appreciated.
1. Something about the vibe of the podcasts without guests is appealing to me. I think that when there’s a stranger on board, the conversation is pushed closer towards politeness, and further from the nitty gritty work of arguing out understandings of the philosophy, and the depth suffers. I think a guest on every third or fourth episode would be a nice balance.
2. I think certain ultra-interesting topics like philosophy of mind or ontological metaphysics could stand a bit deeper examination. On these topics, it might be very interesting for each podcaster to put forward a work representing their favorite treatment of the issue, and have them explain the merits of that method. Something light like the philosophy of humor could be a good candidate for breadth.
3. I’ve not noticed any significant ramping up of complexity.
On a side note, it would be nice if not every episode dealt strictly with canonized academic philosophy. Some of the casual philosophizing you do in reference to pop culture (like the brief discussion of star wars a few eps back) is more interesting and covers more ground than some of the tedious dissection of tedious writers. It would be interesting to hear each podcaster’s personal affinities on the deeper topics- for instance, do you believe we possess free will, and to what degree? What do you suspect is the reason, for instance, that physics exists? What about mathematics? What is consciousness- do you have any favored approach to imagining what it is to imagine? Do you have any theories which are not bolstered by academic pre-approval? Is there any non-academic, new philosophy that engages you (a poster above mentioned Hofstadter’s “I Am a Strange Loop”)?
Damn, I was going to write something, but Michael’s post above pretty much says everything I was gonna say, especially point 1 and the bit about *tedious* writers. Some texts are just freakin’ mind numbing and just make me want to do violence to their authors.
Here’s a suggestion for Mark: Ginger Campbell who produces the Brain Science Podcast has just published an ebook that summarises one of the texts she dealt with a while back. It’s approximately 50 pages long and is largely an extract from two ‘casts she did on Robert Burton’s book, On Being Certain. Personally, I found it a super-convenient way to get some funds from my pocket to hers.
Just a thought… 😉