Recorded on Jan. 14, we give some off-the-cuff updates to our take on the pandemic and our coping strategies. Plus, updates on PEL book, transcripts, and a potential black history month episode (Angela Davis?).
Continuing on Reasons and Persons, ch. 10-13. Start with part one.
We get into more of Parfit’s examples, including his responses to Bernard Williams’ physicalist argument. Plus, split brains, In short, the concept of personal identity breaks down when applied to tricky cases, and and so we should be reductionists about personal identity: We get rid of that concept and just talk about the facts about physical and psychological continuity instead.
On Reasons and Persons (1984), ch. 10-13. What makes a person persist over time?
After using various sci-fi examples to test the Lockean (personhood=psychological continuity), physicalist (same brain=same person), and Cartesian (same soul=same person) theories, Parfit concludes that the whole notion is incoherent and isn’t actually what we care about when wondering “will I die?”
One last take on John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), covering Book II, ch. 21 and 28.
What makes a moral claim true? Do we have free will? What makes us choose the good, or not? In this coda to our long treatment of Locke’s opus, we bring together all he has to say about morality, which is strangely modern yet also just strange.
An extra-long Nightcap looking forward to PEL coverage in 2021, with some political dialogue on the state of the country and what we might want to do about it. Plus, we respond to listener emails: Will doing philosophy put a crimp in your science career (or other prep for your legit day job)?
On Book II (ch. 22-33) of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689).
Simple ideas get complex quickly when you put them into words, and can give rise to various philosophical problems that are either easily cleared up when you figure out how the complex idea is built out of simple ideas, or if they can’t be so broken down, then we really don’t know what we’re talking about and should just shut up. We take on relations, cause and effect, personal identity, and more.
Join the office party, where Mark holds mini conversations on philosophy, art, and life with all PEL and PMP co-hosts, plus Ken Stringfellow, Jenny Hansen, and the members of Mark Lint’s Dry Folk, whose 12 tunes are presented in succession with nary a partridge in sight. Will these 12 spirits turn you (or Mark) from errant ways? BYOB!
We try something new for a Nightcap: a new intro to an old episode, in this case ep. 37 on Locke’s political philosophy. Our hope was to connect this to the current series on epistemology, but we ended up more applying it to modern disputes in political theory, which was also fun. Check it out and then re-listen to the old episode!
On the first half of Book II of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689).
How do we get our ideas? Simple ideas must come in through perception, but this doesn’t just mean the senses; also reflection on our own minds, and this added layer of complexity allows us to bring in memory, concepts, time, and more.
Some post-election hot takes, more on Locke’s project and responding to listeners about Kropotkin, philosophical journaling, and more.
On Book I of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689).
How do we know things? Locke thought all knowledge comes from experience, and this might seem uncontroversial, but what are the alternatives? We consider the idea that there are some ideas we’re just born with and don’t need to learn. But what’s an “idea,” and how is it different from a principle? Clearly we have instincts (“knowhow”) but is that knowledge? We consider occurrent vs. dispositional nativism, the role of reason, and what Locke’s overall project is after.
An extra long Nightcap: Should you go to school for philosophy? Have kids? Plus we launch Verbal Correctness Corner, and we talk about note-taking: what we do and the notes of famous philosophers in the margins of books they read.
Continuing on Peter Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread (1892).
If Kropotkin is right that mutual aid is a natural tendency and so communism is very much feasible, why hasn’t it happened already? We consider K’s version of the “you didn’t build that” argument, plus guaranteed minimum income, identity and criminal justice in a stateless world, religion, and more.
On Peter Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread (1892). If we want an egalitarian society, do we need the state to accomplish this? Kropotkin says no, that in fact the state inevitably serves the interests of the few, and that if we got rid of it, our natural tendencies to cooperate would allow us through voluntary organizations to keep everyone not only fed and clothed, but able to vigorously pursue callings like science and art.
Is this naïve? Can we concretely even “imagine no possessions” and “there’s no countries”? Kropotkin has actuarial tables to show you that sure, we can feed everyone, and he presents examples of group action that he think show that we’re perfectly capable of mass organization without the state.
We talk about interactions with author-guests: How much should we talk, how much should we let them talk? Should we keep them on for part two? Who should our next one be? Who might we get for an ep on trans issues?
Continuing on the Chinese 5th century B.C.E. military classic with guest Brian Wilson, who can apply Sunzi’s strategic advice to real-life tactical situations. How might these strategies apply to business?
On the Chinese military treatise from around the 5th century BCE.
How does a philosopher wage war? The best kind of war can be won without fighting. The general qua Taoist sage never moves until circumstances are optimal. We talk virtue ethics and practical strategy; how well can Sunzi’s advice be applied to non-martial pursuits? With guest Brian Wilson.
We talk about why we left academia and what our current stances are toward it now. Dylan relates his true life Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance adventure. We talk a bit about PEL decision-making, pandemic coping, and back in the day in grad school at U. Texas.
Mark, Wes, Dylan, and Seth continue the discussion on The Tyranny of Merit to talk further about how social values can and do change, and whether these changes can be engineered in the way that Sandel seems to want. Must such “engineering” involve tyrannical methods? Does it require that everyone become philosophers?
On The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? (2020).
Do people get the wealth and status they deserve? And if they did, would that be good? Michael critiques the meritocracy: It’s not actually fair, leaves most people feeling humiliated, and makes those on the top arrogant and disconnected. The commitment to meritocracy is shared by both political parties and helps explain our current dysfunction.