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What have we learned? How has our take on the PEL project changed? What are our future plans? On the eve before our big live-in-front-of-an-audience ep. 100, we four sat down in Dylan's living room together (with recurrent guest Daniel Horne to provide some semi-outisder perspective) to reflect on what we've been doing here.
Folks new to PEL may want to listen to any other PEL episode before listening to this discussion, lest you be overwhelmed with our generally self-congratulatory musings.
End song: "I Wanna Go Back," from Mark Linsenmayer's Spanish Armada: Love and Related Neuroses (1993).
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s. wallerstein says
I must have first listened to you people in around 2011. My first impression was that you were very young (around 25 or so), given the humor, and obviously, very American as well as very very bright. I wrote you from Chile saying that I found your humor provincially American and that it distracted from the content of your discussions. Subsequently, I learned that you were in your 40’s (I’m 68).
I’ve continued listening to most of your podcasts and you’ll probably find what I say paternalistic, but my impression is that you seem to have grown up, all of you. Growing up has to do with committing yourself to something, to a project, to a point of view, to no longer pretending that you are too cool or too hip to take things seriously.
Thanks for the podcasts.
thanks again for all you guys do for public thinking/philosophy, I enjoy the joking, the personalities, and the back and forth but mostly I’m appreciative that you actually wrestle with primary texts and not get into the cut and paste of wiki or secondary sourced quotes, makes it more like being back in the grad student lounge after a good seminar than like grading undergrad papers.
the whole continental vs analytic thing seems to be looming a bit and maybe some Lee Braver would be of use:
Jake Z. says
It was sad to hear Seth admit that the podcast has become just another thing in his schedule but it has shown. He doesn’t seem nearly as engaged as he used to.
I disagree with wallerstein. I may be young and provincial but I think that when you increase professionalism you inevitably sacrifice character. I still love the show and listen to every episode as soon as it comes out, but I do notice a decline in verve. Maybe you’ve determined that the loss is worth the increase in professionalism already, but I just wanted to share my opinion. I always enjoy a good irreverent joke by Mark about the futility of the philosophical exercise at hand.
I still love when Wes voices criticisms early because to me it enlivens the conversation. When the objections are presented it creates an awareness of the ongoing conversation in philosophy about the topic being discussed. I also like it because whenever a philosophical work starts to make too much sense I become suspicious. The best episodes I think have a debate quality. These episodes contain a vigorous discussion about the merit of the ideas and less of a focus on what the author was trying to say.
Thanks so much for the podcast guys! I learn a lot from it and always find it entertaining!
Daniel David says
Thanks for putting together a great podcast, fellas. Man, what a boon it was to find this stuff a few years ago and start going through the episodes. The breadth of ideas and philosophers that you’ve looked at has now far exceeded even the longest iTunes U or Great Courses series, which usually only have the space to cover philosophy’s greatest hits. This is really a fantastic resource for anyone getting interested in philosophy. Try as one might, there’s not a lot of quality discussion to be found online about some of the thinkers you’ve covered, and often times no one has made the effort to try to cut through the jargon or obscurity to offer anything remotely introductory. Other times, when something is available, it’s presented so as to compel a certain judgment rather than to encourage one to explore the material for oneself.
You lay your own affinities and aversions out on the table, but it’s also clear that you try to give the material a fair shake. I think that being independent of not only academia, but also the constraints of other, more established content providing platforms has allowed you some liberties that go a long way toward setting PEL apart. You can (re)organize your show as you like, pick topics and guests of your own choosing, be as casual or as serious as you like with the tone of the conversation, and, not least, make your own decisions about what content to monetize. Of course, these are only privileges for you because you’ve put in the hours of work and brain storming to grow this project from the ground up, so this victory lap episode was well deserved.
It sounds like you guys have some really interesting ideas for expansion. As Seth said, you’re transitioning to a media outlet, and I could see the site growing a lot if some of your ideas about user participation and discussion begin to attract a broader audience with less previous experience in philosophy, so you’ll have more decisions to make about what kind of media outlet you want to be. Since the site is now host to a growing amount of user generated content, and since you’ve had first hand experience this year trying to decide how or whether to charge for certain episodes or compensate contributors, I think there’s an opportunity here to parlay some themes from the Sandel and New Work episodes into a discussion examining the social, individual, and/or economic effects of digital networks. It seems like you’re well positioned to look at this stuff with both philosophical acumen and personal experience. Warm my heart and get Jaron Lanier or Nicolas Carr on to guest. Either could get the ball rolling in the right direction and flesh out a few looming perils for the job system that Bergmann and Sandel left off.
Kudos again on the mile marker.
there is certainly a kind of DIY/maker quality to the PEL project that could be both useful and interesting to foreground so thanks for raising that.
One of the great tensions in forming any community project is in trying to institutionalize reflexivity and it would be something if the philosophical aspects of PEL could be married with the developing mediums/platforms//co-operations of our times. Any philo loving hacktivists out there?
Daniel David says
Yeah, I think it could be really interesting and pertinent. Right now it seems like there’s still a sort of informal partition (weakening I think) between traditional philosophical/cultural/political debate and the enclosed discussions of the data/technology world. When contention does flair up, both communities seem to retreat behind their own language and specializations, so I love to see people try to bridge the gap. Since making a place for humanities centered material in a market dominated environment has been a direct challenge for these guys, it seems like a good opportunity for philosophy to touch the ground, so to speak.
there are a number of philosophers addressing technology/networking in their own way ( see Bernard Stiegler or Jodi Dean for example) but not too many folks from the tech side that I know of delving into philo, one notable exception is http://bogost.com/
anyone know of others?
Daniel David says
Thanks, I’m looking through these. Steigler was on my rader – know of handy jumping on point with him?
lots of pdfs @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Stiegler
Greg Gauthier says
Dudes, I just accidentally discovered you via Soundcloud. Good lord, how I wish I’d known you were around a couple years ago. What a fantastic body of work you have here! Keep it up!
R Marc Phillips says
The navel gazing was a bit annoying (as a recent listener) I can’t say I’ve listened from the beginning as I discovered it in 2014, however I did binge on everything Math/Science/Ethics (the ones I decided where relevant). It wasn’t a lot annoying, but just a bit.
I am very pleased to apply a face and a personality (a bit presumptuous of me) to each of your arguments, however.
LInda OReilly says
Re: Episode 99
I love the show in all its aspects but especially for the respectful conversation the 3 and then 4 of you have together.
The occasional guests are terrific, especially because they’re occasional. They keep the conversation from getting too closed-up/claustrophobic/incestuous – I can’t think of the right word.
Precogs: I can take them or leave them. I do my own research when I know what the next cast will be about because that’s what a philosopher, or any person with a brain does. There’s tons of info out there for listeners and they should look into it and stop whining.
The LongForm of the podcast (90 minute+): Fabulous!!
The 15 or 30 minute variety of show that throws a bunch of no-context facts, opinions and name drops at you are useless, they leave listener wanting everything.
By the time you guys are finished with a discussion we know that we want more but we also know why we want it and where to find it.
Your imperfections, individual and collective, and your owning up to them and examining them are how listeners know that you’re honest.
I haven’t donated lately because I’m too poor to donate right now but I’ve been listening to PEL since your single digit episodes and donating/subscribing when I can.
Long may you podcast, you breaths of fresh air.
I would date Wes if I were anywhere near his age group or his time zone.
Diana Szabo says
Delightful podcast guys, congratulations. I’ve only listened to about 15 episodes but fully intend to make up for that.
What Daniel said about America being anti-intellectual or at least reticent I see pertaining to Australia as well. To begin with, both inside and outside of academia there seems to be an overweening irony and cynicism; an unwillingness to unaffectedly express oneself and converse vis-a-vis a text or idea. (This tendency is probably culture-wide and it would be interesting to explore it; why people privilege their (socially) perceived qualities over their actual qualities.) Generally I find that people are too embarrassed to get ‘too deep’, find the philosophical disposition too aggressive in its rigor and curiosity, aren’t open-minded enough or simply don’t possess the requisite concepts to partake in conversations that I would find satisfying. Dylan’s mention of people being suspicious of earnest engagement with philosophical ideas shocked me – never in my life did I imagine that such a thing could be unwelcome!
It’s exciting contemplating what the future holds for PEL. Outside of philosophy, I’d be interested in contributing artistically or in a graphic design capacity if the opportunity arises.
And I would totally date Wes too.
Congratulations guys. Quite an achievement and commitment from you. I am an old school veteran listener, all the way from episode 0 (where you introduced the podcast and its goals) and it has been wonderful to see you grow throughout the course of the podcast and philosophical discourse. The joining of Dylan to the original 3 was a great addition and his perspectives of, and respect for, the philosophical enterprise has added greatly to the show.
I have donated at various times in the history of the podcast and will continue to do so for as long as you four continue this level of quality coverage of, and respect for, the philosophical enterprise via the wonderful podcast medium.
Thanks again gents, it has been and continues to be a pleasure and more importantly: a thought provoking and insightful experience.
You guys should have Daniel on more often. He’s my favourite guest by a long shot and always has something interesting to contribute.
Langdon Alger says
I’m a huge fan of this podcast, but I just have to say that In this episode, when you were discussing your podcasting style and the fact that you try to take every topic that you discuss and least somewhat seriously, even if you don’t agree with it, I was reminded of the episode where you discuss new atheism. That’s my least favorite episode of the show, and the reason is because I don’t think you even tried to take new atheism seriously. And your biggest objection to the new atheists seemed to be the idea that the new atheists are arguing against a strawman who takes religion literally and that most people don’t take religion literally, but take it metaphorically or as a kind of poetry. I think you’re out of touch with the average person if you believe this. Really only a small minority of people take their religion as a kind of poetry, probably the philosophically sophisticated kinds of people you guys are friends with. But Joe Sixpack? You better believe he takes his religion quite literally. And the new atheists aren’t talking to or about the fringe of people who take it as a kind of poetry, they’re talking to and about the average Joe Sixpack religious person.
Great work guys! I love the look-back episodes as well. You guys definitely deserve the pat-on-the-back, even if it was self-administered through this episode.
@Langdon – if you listen to episode 73 – why do philosophy – I believe they explain their stance on [not] taking a hardline ideological approach to any subject at hand, which is what it seems your proposing they do. If you want them to uncritically denounce Marx, Capitalism, Atheism or Theists etc etc then you’re in the wrong spot.
Ibuki Suika says
Did the cast and listeners actually pan the discussion with Owen Flanagan? I’d be the first to admit that it was rather heady and unfocused but it also dealt with a wide range of interesting topics that Flanagan has a background in. It actually got me interested in pursuing his work further, though admittedly what he’s written on philosophy of mind rather than the Buddhist naturalism that was the ostensible topic.
i liked the show and he was naturalizing buddhism which seems to be a worthwhile venture, no?
Angela McLoughlin says
I have enjoyed these episodes where you guys step out and have a chat about the podcast more generally. It’s really interesting to hear what motivates you all in undertaking the project, discussing what’s worked and not worked, being open to trial and error. You all make important contributions from your unique perspectives and in your own personal styles, Dylan and Daniel included. It’s also great that you actively seek feedback from listeners – makes us feel part of the project’s evolution.
I have to agree with Daniel’s comments on the new production of Cosmos – not so enjoyable when I compared it with Sagan’s series during the 80s ☹. I admit I stopped watching a few episodes in, despite being enrolled in an astronomy course at uni when it was televised. Interestingly, my astronomy course linked back to an old clip of Sagan making calculations with pen and paper in explaining the Fermi Paradox – classic!
I also agree with the primacy of the source text – it is paramount with philosophy and literature studies! Select secondary literature can be useful in complementing or assisting in elucidating the primary text, but should never replace it. I hope that on some occasions after wrestling with the primary text itself (Seth style, ggrrr!) we may come to hug it in the end – not every text, but some.
Wes, my two cents worth is that you should definitely do your literature PhD. Finding a good fit though, with topic, supervisor, and school/college will be crucial. I guess if you see a PhD experience as a worthy undertaking in itself (despite its tortuous moments), and not just for what career opportunities it’s likely to create would make it a good enterprise, otherwise it’s just a means to an end. That’s not to discount the fact that being back in an academic environment would increase opportunities for teaching, etc. Best of luck on the ‘WesDate’ front, by all appearances you are a good sort – being a student myself I am far too financially challenged to be of much assistance there at this time.
Thank you all for keeping up with the podcast; I admire your continued enthusiasm after five years. A special shout out to Mark for initiating and pushing this great project along. Despite modest commercial exploitation opportunities the podcast and associated activities are a much needed and valued addition to the public sphere and the greater public good.
As the (attempted) organizer of a Salon-type group in continental Europe, your comments at the beginning of the episode certainly resonated with me. However, I would say that the problem is not exactly that at university there are all kind of interesting discussions and once you leave it’s dead. You may experience it like that, but in fact the problem starts at university/in academia itself, which has generally (as far as the humanities are concerned at least) zero interest in engaging with the community and even little real concern to stimulate the discussions amongst the student community which happen nevertheless. It mystifies me why this is, because I am sure there would be a lot of demand, and even demand which could be profitably served in those cases where the institution does not have a public service mandate or subsidies. My best stab at an answer would be on the lines one might infer from Foucault and Bourdieu: they are institutions of social reproduction in which knowledge serves essentially as a tool of domination. They are smart enough to allow a certain latitude to questioning teens, but in the end whilst a little quirkiness may be coopted, major resistance will be defined out of existence. If you are in your late 20’s, 30’s or beyond and still curious and asking questions, you only fit the profile of a client of academia in appearance; in reality you are beyond the pale. Someone tell me I’m at least a little bit wrong…
I don’t think that curiosity is as important to doing philosophy as is a willingness to do the work even when it is hard/boring/confounding/etc and I haven’t found that there is much public demand for this kind of rigor.
A “willingness to do the work”, as you put it, is hardly likely to arise in the absence of curiosity, that is of a spirit of enquiry and an interest in the matters being investigated.
people are interested in pursuing things for a whole variety of reasons, no?
that aside my point was more that doing philo is difficult and often quite technical so requires a fairly rare degree of interest, capabilities&commitment. Consuming philo is obviously less demanding but there remains a gap that a philosophically minded person might want to mine/mind…
Wes Alwan says
Thanks everyone. And to everyone who would date me, double thanks. (Did I really discuss dating in this episode? Wow).
I think the distinction you were looking for re education is to say that your style is not didactic. It can still be educational – and it certainly is.
On reading the original texts. I grew up in a church and so read so old theologians; what impressed me was that what they were writing about mattered to them and they were talking about something, not just spinning words. That seems to me something like what you guys were saying.
Jennifer Tejada says
I loved this episode. I also loved reading all these comments. The fans seem like people I would really like to hang out with. I recently commented on The Purloined Letter episode and now I feel terrible. I think I did that thing that upsets Seth. I said you were uncharitable toward Lacan. I still feel that way a little bit, but only because I was really intrigued by the previous Lacan episode but couldn’t quite understand this importance between the signifiers and the signified and it really seems like it would be helpful to get clarity on that. I shouldn’t have put that on you guys though. I’ll read it on my own. I actually listened to Boethius right after and was a little frustrated there also but the big difference was that your dislike for the text in this case did not prevent the content from coming through. I’ve avoided Ayn Rand because I thought it would be fruitless to get your opinions on something that is so clearly not something you like, but after listening to this episode, I can’t wait! I actually DO want you to point out the problems with the text. I will not have time to go and read most of these people, but when I come across them in other texts, I would like to have that feel for what people like about them – what they contributed, and also what were some major arguments with their work.
But I so appreciated Daniel’s comments about the listener who really just wants to engage in a meaningful dialogue about these kinds of things. There is no one around who will ever want to discuss things in this way without it devolving into some kind of dorm room “it’s all an illusion, man” kind of conversation. This is so gratifying in that way. So when I (and maybe others) criticize, it’s because we have this weird illusion that you know us as well as we think we know you. Because if you knew how much we LOVE this podcast, you would read the criticism with the knowledge that it goes without saying that we would take “bad” podcast over most every other podcast any day! I’m also so glad to see that Wes is getting offers to be dated because all his psychoanalytic talk is every woman I know’s DREAM!
As far as people reading the text, it is a night and day difference to read the text, but some texts, there is just no way. What has been helpful to me is to listen first, then read, then listen again. Obviously I only do that with people I am really interested in, but I don’t usually know if I’m even somewhat interested until I have listened to the podcast. I have zero interest in Leibniz’s Monadology. I enjoyed that conversation so much because of other things that were discussed about him as a person, but I’m not going down that road. I also love h0w you come back to the greats and discuss different parts.
You know – I think we just like you guys. I’m kind of embarrassed at how life changing you guys have been for me. It is so incredibly alienating and isolating to want to have these kinds of conversations with people and realize no one else wants to. After reading so much of this stuff, I go back to Dostoevsky he seems SO much easier to read. You guys have helped me grow in a way that I didn’t think was possible post school. I just finished reading “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman and you guys give me hope for the future of public discourse.
I can only contribute my money. Seriously – I’m a microbiologist -I barely grasp around the edges – I can’t help with the podcast I’m sure, but I would if I could.
But really – do something so that the citizens can update their donation from $5/month to some other higher amount!!