What exactly is this Partially Examined Life podcast about?
Philosophy, philosophers and philosophical texts. The format is an informal roundtable discussion, with each episode loosely focused on a short reading that introduces at least one "big" philosophical question, concern or idea.
Is it just one podcast? What are these other "new episodes" I'm seeing on the front page?
The Partially Examined Life is a podcast that's been running since 2009. In 2016, we expanded into a podcast network to offer Nakedly Examined Music (run by PEL host Mark Linsenmayer) and Phi Fic (which grew out of one of PEL's Not School groups). More podcasts will be added in 2017!
What are you guys trying to do here?
The Partially Examined Life podcast is our attempt to recreate the good old days when we'd meet up after a seminar to drink beer and talk shop or get some teaching yas out where students couldn't talk back. We're recording it to share our joy in "doing" philosophy with all who care to listen while ranting bitterly about the profession that we so long ago escaped.
What makes you guys more qualified to talk about this stuff than all those University professors?
Who is this aimed at? Do I have to know anything about philosophy? Will I feel insulted by this if I already know a lot about philosophy?
Whoa, there Mr. or Ms. Insecure and/or Touchy, don't worry yer little and/or enormous head about that. We aim to to assume no knowledge (of anything, even, like, basic facts of arithmetic or... like... hygiene), and we believe that even the most withered old Socrates-clone will find the proceedings very entertaining and thought-provoking, if not actually, well, informative.
Do we have to do the reading before listening to the individual episodes?
Well, if we don't assume you know anything about philosophy, we certainly don't assume you know anything about the text we are discussing (see how I did that...A includes B, so if you don't know A, you don't know B. 😉 ). That being said, we believe that reading the texts before listening will make the podcasts more entertaining and informative. Also, they happen to be interesting, intellectually stimulating, fun and really important parts of the cultural history into which you were born (most of you anyway).
Should people listen to the podcast episodes in order, or does that matter?
Each episode is self-contained, but we invariably make some references to things said in previous episodes, so if you just want to hear about a few particular topics, sure, go listen to those episodes, but if you will likely eventually slog through them all, you're best off starting with the first episode.
Where are the old episodes?
Here. Anything on our site here is on the iTunes podcast listings, too, but note that when you search there, the initial "search result" window will show some but not all of our episodes, with no apparent way to subscribe; you have to actually click on the name of the podcast from there to get to our iTunes store page.
Oh, we've also redacted some of our old episodes so that they only appear to the public as a half-hour "preview," but have no fear, you can acquire all those in full for a simple $5 investment by becoming a PEL Citizen or purchase them a la carte from our Store page or the iTunes store. Read for more information.
OK, I'm intrigued, how do I get and listen to this digital stream of wisdom?
You can click on the "play" button underneath each episode on the main page, download the mp3 files directly to your computer and play them on your PC/Mac (you have to right-click or shift-click on the "download" link and choose "save link as" or "save target as"). You can then transfer them to a portable music player, or if you have iTunes, click here and subscribe. You can also simply open our page on your mobile device and play them from there; we recommend an app like Downcast that lets you store files from a URL on your device and play them at variable speeds/remember your position/etc.
If you use an RSS reader, we have two feeds: one which contains all of our blog material including podcast episode announcements and postings, and one which has only the podcast episodes. (Note that if you're a PEL Citizen, you can also get that bonus content through its own feed; see our "How Do I" page for Citizens.)
How do you choose topics?
There's no simple answer to this, but in general we're trying to cover the full range of material that folks tend to cover in philosophy classes. If there's enough buzz about a non-academic topic, we may look into it, but that's the exception. Really, anything one of us is interested in is fair game. By all means, if you have any (specific) suggestions, leave a comment at the bottom of our Podcast Episodes page. Chances are, anything that gets requested enough will eventually be covered, but it could take a while.
Why don't you cover more philosophers who aren't dead white males?
See above. We specialize in the Western canon, and only spend a fraction of this covering the last 50 years, which is where most of the female philosophers and philosophers of color (within the Western tradition) congregate. We'll get to more of them, for sure, but it'll always be a small portion of what we do. Blame history!
Um, I notice that on iTunes the podcast is labelled "Explicit". I thought this was about Philosophy and great ideas...?
The podcast covers great ideas, thinkers and texts and while the subject matter is for mature and rational minds, it is not "adult." It's just difficult to talk passionately about philosophy (and for at least one of us, drink beer) and not drop an f-bomb once in a while. Hence the label: you are now officially warned.
How am I meant to listen to this podcast?
What? What kind of question is that? Oh, OK... as you may have noticed, the episodes are long... not long compared to a real-life late-night gab session among actual philosophers, and not long compared to the extended cut of The Lord of the Rings, but maybe longer than you may be used to in a podcast.
Well, first off, don't just sit there at your computer listening to the whole thing, unless you're at work and want to burn time, in which case, we're your men. Go get an mp3 player of some sort, load the episodes on to it, and listen while driving cross country, while exercising or while on a stake-out. I personally like to listen while lying in bed, so that I then fall asleep somewhere in the middle and it gives me awfully strange dreams (like maybe dreaming that I'm in fact dreaming and not really perceiving this keyboard!). Better yet, listen to this instead of your loved ones.
What's with this blog?
The blog is intended to provide supplemental information to the podcast and provide a forum for us podcasters (and guests) to share interesting philosophy resources and things we're thinking about that for whatever reason don't make it on the show. On occasion, we also use it to show off our other projects (e.g. Mark's music). It's also a prime way for you to participate, by replying to these blog entries. You can initiate new discussions and share resources with our readers yourself through the Facebook group. If you've got some philosophy writing chops and want to contribute to the blog, contact us, particularly if you'd like to help present more information on our current episode topic or cover current events in philosophy, e.g. new books or philosophical movie reviews. Here are some blogging guidelines to read for more information.
What is a PEL Citizen?
This is anyone who sets up a recurring donation of $5 or more to us (or $50 for a year) here. Citizens get access to all the vintage, redacted episodes and a lot of other bonus audio. Sign up and use the "Members" menu at partiallyexaminedlife.com to log into the member portion of the site, and bonus audio is on the Free Stuff page. Signing up will also give you the ability to propose and participate in Not School groups, which you can read about here. We will soon be posting ad-free versions of all new episode for Citizens as well, if advertising bugs you.
Who does all the art on this site?
Much of the rest of the art on the site, including the pictures of philosophers from ep 58 through 100 and a few after that, is by Genevieve Arnold; we made the 2015 wall calendar out of this, and have subsequently featured Sterling Bartlett for 2016, Existential Comics' Corey Mohler for 2017, Solomon Grundy for 2018, and Charles Valsechi for 2019. Olle Halvars and Shane Wood have also done several. If you're an artist who'd like to draw some philosophers, contact us!
And the music?
Host Mark is a long-time musician with more than a dozen albums (listen at marklint.com), and most of the first 149 episodes feature one of his songs. Since ep. 150, PEL episodes have largely featured songs by the artists Mark features on the Nakedly Examined Music podcast.
The theme song ("Cheerio!") and alternate theme song (untitled, used for non-standard episodes) were repurposed from clips created (very quickly) as part of Mark's day job producing communication products for state transportation research departments.
How do you guys do this and make it sound like you are sitting together when you live all over the US?
We do a Skype conference call and each one of us records our audio on our local computer, using either Audacity (freeware), Sound Forge, or (when using macs) Garageband. After we are done, Wes and Seth send their files to Mark using dropbox and he combines them together (using Cubase), adds music, spends WAY too long removing some of the verbal ticks and pauses and particularly dumb comments (Seth and Wes have been helping more with the editing lately, but Mark almost always does a final listen and removes additional material), adds a bunch of metadata to make it look right in mp3 players and posts the finished file.
Is that expensive or something?
Sort of. Housing our files and maintaining this website isn't free, for sure, and we also hire people to help with our editing and some other things. We're trying to do more live shows as well. Mostly, this takes A LOT of time that we're not giving to, e.g., doing our jobs, and so do accept donations, sign up Citizens, and use advertising to make this worth our while. There's nothing we'd like more than to spend even more time on this, and your contributions help make that possible.
Can I hang out with you?
Uh, sure. Go join the Facebook group or post comments on these here blog posts (you can see which postings have the most recent active discussions on the "Forum" tab here), and we'll likely respond. Respond to comments by your fellow listeners! Better yet, become a PEL Citizen to join us in Not School online discussion groups. Follow us on Twitter and retweet our blog posts! Have our blog e-mails sent to you on a near-daily basis and forward them around! Start a community! Have PEL listening parties! Oh, and go on the iTunes store and give us a nice review, OK? Thanks.
Wait... Can I be on the show itself?
Well, maybe. If you're particularly knowledgeable in some area of philosophy that you think we could use help with (e.g. non-Western), or are an academic in some field related to philosophy (e.g. science, art) with some background in philosophy, and if you have experience with graduate-level education and/or public speaking (teaching, podcasting, philosophy meet-up groups, lawyering), then drop us a line and give us some detail re. what topics you'd be interested in talking with us about. Failing that, I advise you to participate in the discussions on this blog and demonstrate to us how clear and insightful you can be, and what resources you'd bring to the table in participating on an episode.
Note, though, that we schedule these things pretty far out, and perpetually have a long list of topics that we'd like to cover, so if we end up leaving you in limbo for months and months, or don't get around to including you at all, please don't feel bad.