As usual, there's quite a bit to choose from this month if you're looking for a philosophy text to engage with a little more closely. We've had a lot of groups recording their discussions lately and the PEL Citizens portion of the site is now host to nearly thirty different discussions on a wide range of philosophical topics with more being added each month. If you've enjoyed the podcast, consider becoming a member for a paltry five dollars a month which will not only give you access to all of these additional discussions (some of which include the podcast fellows) but also the chance to get in on the action yourself.
First up in August, we've got a couple of groups who may be of interest to those pleased by PEL's recent focus on political and economic ideas. One group will be reading " Communitarianism and its Critics" by Daniel Bell which "explores questions regarding the source of the social self, the ontological foundation of liberal justice, the relationship between the social and historically embedded conceptions of the good and ahistorical political rights." They intend to have at least one discussion this month via Skype. Another group starting up, Philosophy and Economics, is still determining its reading, but may be looking into the foundations of general equilibrium theory.
Two more groups are beginning this month, one of which will be studying Information Theory and computation, with a focus on the following questions: "What is Computation? What is Information? How are these concepts connected? What are the philosophical consequences of this connection?" Their readings will be from "The Annotated Turing" and Claude Shannon's "The Mathematical Theory of Communication" They are planning at least one live discussion in August.
Our last new group will be reading John H. McWhorter's "The Language Hoax". Here's the gist from book description - "This short, opinionated book addresses the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which argues that the language we speak shapes the way we perceive the world. Linguist John McWhorter argues that while this idea is mesmerizing, it is plainly wrong. It is language that reflects culture and worldview, not the other way around." I can't speak to this book's argument, but McWhorter certainly seemed to know his stuff in this course on linguistics. This group also plans to have a live discussion toward the end of the month.
The lively group that's been reading Martin Heidegger's "Being and Time" will be continuing to battle through Division 1 of that book, reading on average about 20 pages a week. These folks have been recording weekly video conferences which ought to be a pretty useful resource for anyone looking at Heidegger for the first time.
The Philosophy in Fiction group will be taking on Umberto Eco's mammoth novel "Foucault's Pendulum", while reserving the option to carry the reading into next month if our minds are excessively blown by Eco in August. New members are welcome to join in this, and/or to come suggest future readings for the group.
Finally, the Philosophy and Theater group will be pursuing the theme of ritual studies in the context of theater. Many of our prior readings of have involved elements of ritual studies (Antonin Artaud, Richard Schechner and Peter Schaffer to name a few), so we'll now be addressing them in a more direct way by reading Victor Turner's "From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play", with a live discussion to follow. Our discussion of Antonin Artaud's "The Theater and Its Double" will take place on August 10th, and any interested new members are welcome to join up for that as well.
By the way, if you're a member and have a text you'd like to read with a group, it's not too early to go ahead and put up a proposal for September in the Citizen's Forum to begin attracting interest and negotiating a reading schedule.
- Daniel Cole