I wanted to remind you if you're a fan of the podcast to go to the iTunes store and leave us a nice rating or a review.
I noticed that we now for the first time have a 4 1/2 star overall average instead of a 5 star one. I think this is not uncommon when one's exposure gets large enough (you can't please everyone), so I am happy that this is getting to enough "normies" that not everyone gets it, but still, I see that some folks like Joe Rogan and Sam Harris have enough die-hards to still outweigh all the intense criticism, and it'd be nice if we could do the same.
Over the years, we've on occasion gotten some bad reviews, so I thought it would be fun to just bring them all out in the open and see if they hold any water, whether they affected the way we did things over time.
1. March 2013: Danny_Trappedinsidethebeltway says: Awful. If snark and sarcasm is your idea of Philosophy then this is the podcast for you.
Now, I'm not going to bother commenting on bad grammar and suspicious capitalization in these; that's just the Internet.
So, humor is polarizing. In our early episodes, I called Socrates an asshole and was otherwise "irreverent," which was fun, but mostly got old, so I do that much less now. Was I ultimately swayed by the desire to please the academics in our audience, to not alienate people? Clearly this guy is just uptight, possibly elderly, but I won't say I wasn't asking for it. Interestingly, in his review of the Adam and Dr. Drew podcast, he praises Adam but dismisses Drew, with the quote "The mind of a liberal is barely a mind at all." So it may be less the irreverence and more the constant sniping at stupid conservatives; again, now with our larger audience, I tend to paint with a much less broad brush. I also find it puzzling when people are so set off by some aspect of the show (the occasional swear or joke or political jab) that they can't even hear all the effort at actual insight that's been present in what we do from the start.
2. May 2017: NooraComan says: Help. Far too politically correct. A little too much navel gazing.
This went up shortly after our white privilege episode, and I'm taking a wild guess that like many of our less-than-stellar reviews, this person listened to just that one episode and then moved on. Per our more recent bonus Identity Politics Prelim discussion, I'm just not sure that our covering topics like this helps much of anyone, and is a bit off from our typical mission. Speaking of...
3. April 2018: K.L. Philosophy says: Too Sarcastic to be Thoughtful. The speakers began by snickering at Ayn Rand like schoolboys made uncomfortable by a sex-ed lesson. [Some directions for people to go listen to "real" lectures on objectivism.]
Our favorite pseudo-philosophers! The partisans: People who aren't really interested in philosophy per se, but have fallen in love with a particular philosopher and consider his or her work to BE philosophy, and if you dare to point out that they really need to get out more, then you just don't get it. The Randians are the most organized, but the Pirsig fanatics are nearly as loony, and of course we've had Marxists, Stoics, Lacanians, Heideggerians, and others embarrass themselves similarly. In the case of white privilege, we managed to attract mono-philosophers on both sides, making it pretty much a no-win move for us. We get regular calls to cover philosophy that's arguably pretty bad, and while we kind of want to do this out of public service, to explore what the fuss is about and maybe warn people off, I'm not sure that giving (some of) the people what they want is worth inciting the wrath of others. Ultimately, we will continue to make the call on a case-by-case basis.
4. Dec. 2011: Elliot the Creative says: What are they talking about? I hate to drop a negative review among so many positive ones, but these conversations are totally lost on me...philosophy is just a pointer...it is meant to point to something much deeper than the philosophy itself...the closest analogy I can think of... is going to church and having a sermon analyzing what schools of thought Jesus was aligned with, what led him to say what he said or do what he did...rather than looking at the teachings, and seeing what we can learn from them, how they can apply to our lives, and how we can become better people because of them... There is a whole lot of heart behind the great teachings, that seems to be somewhat lost here.
This one is interesting, because it hits at the difference between what you'd learn in a philosophy class and what often counts as philosophy in the iTunes store, i.e., self-help. I can absolutely understand someone being mystified both by why we (or any academic philosophy fans) do what they do, and (as the title seems to indicate) simply having trouble following the conversation. Steven from Philosophize This! addresses both of those issues, which is why his podcast gets many more listeners than ours. I was actually able to figure out this guy's personal web page and reached out to him. There's someone with a similar name who's currently a PEL Citizen, so it might be the same guy, but I see this review remains up there, so probably not.
5. May 2012: tooearly says: 5 stars for this? I confess I only listened to the most recent two podcasts, dealing with Wittgenstein's Investigations. Perhaps I am missing the point of this series: Is it trying to be a Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of Philosophy for novices? If so, I would have to say it fails based on its sophomoric humor. As explication it also fails miserably, mostly because the hosts are A) woefully ignorant of the material and B) too arrogant to even begin to acknowledge that they might be missing the real significance of the work... [more of the same]
As a huge MST3K fan, I really like the characterization of us as doing that to philosophy, though of course, we don't usually have a funny guy like Philosophy Bro on, and also, see #1. I found this one interesting enough that I wrote a blog post on it at the time, which I still stand behind, though, again, I think my softening of tone over the years precludes some of this type of critique nowadays. This guy might have "got it" had he listened to more episodes (maybe he did!), and might have wanted to listen to more had we not been so cheeky. Dylan has certainly served as a moderating influence!
6. Aug. 2013: Steve Allen says: Well... No doubt these guys know their stuff. The podcast is too long and sonically intolerable.
And voila! We started breaking episodes (well, not immediately) into two parts. This ironically gave us license to keep talking longer, so instead of a one-part two-hour experience, we've occasionally veered toward 70 min for part one and 90 min for part two.
We figured out some technical things early on, and replaced all of our mics within the first years, so clearly this guy listened to an early ep. or two and gave up. To that I say: Well...
7. Sep. 2013: awyzguy says: Humorous and conversational, but sadly misguided. After listening to 10 episodes or so I have to unsubscribe as these guys drive me crazy. The uninflected monotone of Mark and his friends is so grating, the cliff note nature of their conversations so unenlightening. I was also amazed listening to an old episode on Nietche at how quickly they dismissed the very notion of a geneology of philosophy, representative I think of their general dislike for actual life and events. But overall it is their enthrallment with contemporary American legal philosophy which is too much for me to handle... [complains specifically about Rawls/Sandel.] One could hardly find a better example of one having their head in the clouds than this discussion... completely devoid of content, as if America is nothing more then an idea, not a place where something happens. No discussions of inequality of justice, or the limits of rule... If they did an episode on the constitution they would argue about what was meant by the words "equal" and "created", rather than the contradictions inherent in "all men are created equal". For all their talk of being down to earth, they philosophize from the point of view of the administrator not the individual. Unless you already know about what they talk about you won't really understand a thing.
I find that one really interesting, though of course sadly misguided. Seriously, I took the whole "disengaged from actual human life" critique from this guy and others seriously, which is why we've had these current politics episodes, gotten into some literature, etc. I mean, that's not going to correct for my "uninflected monotone," but what would?
8. Mar. 2015: Klondike Queen says: Disappointing. I was hoping for a sharing of knowledge; these podcasts are mostly a few guys vying to be entertaining and falling quite flat. A good idea in theory, but in reality an unengaging unfortunate waste of time.
This one makes me laugh. I'm intrigued! What does she think the good idea is that should have been better executed? Is it just a waste of the listeners' time, or is she concerned about it being a waste of our time too? I am honored that we're only one of three things on the iTunes store that she reviewed: She panned one app, but highly approved of one called Drum School. Based on her recommendation, I downloaded this and enjoyed it quite a lot. Thanks, KQ!
9. Oct 2016: Plzdestroyme says: One of you doesn't belong in this podcast. All three of you know who I mean. I would love to be able to listen to the other two, but that guy just says the stupidest stuff. He's a liability to the show.
So, this is one of two things: Either we have yet another humorless person who didn't like that I kept interrupting early episodes with jokes and other questionable bits of performance art. That seems most likely. But what I'd like to think is that this is someone trolling us: Trying to make us each paranoid that we are are the weak link. Of course, boo on this person for claiming in 2016 that there are only three of us when Dylan was a full host by 2011.
That's all of our bad iTunes reviews! I mean, we've gotten other negative feedback, but those folks weren't mean enough to put it on record. Since 9 is not a round number, I want to add one more, received as a comment on the blog, that is recent and especially relevant to me right now:
This is a comment on our ep. 124 on Epictetus:
10. Mark (a different Mark than your host, obviously) says: A awkwardly long rambling conversation with the stoic purpose of some of Epictetus’s instructions missed. Also there was no broader discussion of Stoic principles, no historic context, and nothing about its subsequent influence. Discussing passages from so many different translations of the manual was also a mistake, especially the poor one. If you’re reading about and learning about stocism, this puerile podcast will add little and could be missed without much loss. A guy that also couldn’t be described as a comedian: 1/5
I see I actually deleted this one from the post, it so stuck in my craw, largely because, like #3, it came years after the episode, and is so clearly just a partisan looking around for more on the web about his favorite thing. Plus, we promptly recorded ep. 132 to give Stoicism a second, more charitable look, with a brilliant adherent for a guest.
For my ep. 201 preparations, I read not only Marcus Aurelius (the third and final great Stoic philosopher), but also works by our guest for this episode: Ryan Holiday. I listened to some Stoic podcasts and am actually making some attempt at meditating over the various ideas, to do (at least in miniature) the self-help thing being recommended. I'm interested in this connection between a group of people who avowedly appreciate philosophy, in fact need philosophy, but for the most part seem to think that they already have the main answers figured out in advance. To me, philosophy is inquiry. It's not just reminding yourself of "truth" that you claim to know. That would be religion, and while modern Stoics often take pride in the fact that their view is compatible with science, is perhaps even free of metaphysical claims, I feel very much like Nietzsche looking at Kant: You can take the most scientifically objectionable part out of religion, but if you retain the attitude, have you really escaped from what's objectionable about being religious?
I'm struck, per this review, with the difference between actually exploring a text as we do, considering all its warts and speculating about its motives, vs. Ryan's practice of taking the most modern-seeming elements, interpreting them so they seem more modern and are most useful for life, and laying it all out as Good News that he's sharing with the people. As with any religion, there are more Nietzsche-friendly—creative, open-minded, energetic—versions of it and more uptight, closed-minded, dogmatic versions. Ryan definitely seems among the former, this commenter maybe not so much so.
I hope you've enjoyed this navel-gazing trip down memory lane! If we're going to get through 200 more recordings, I think all four of us will need to become Stoic sages. I guess we'll see...