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.
We talk about the decision to pull part 2’s behind the paywall, whether we’re “woke” in treating policing, Butler, etc. Wes confesses to anti-wokeness, Mark hypothesizes re. whether we can classify a practice as racist if it’s part of a racist tradition. Seth investigates Femsplainers and Jordan Peterson.
Continuing on Gottfried Leibniz’s Theodicy (1710). What is the metaphysical necessity for evil? It’s a privation (a lack), not a positive, caused thing: the absence of the good that is God. Also God’s antecedent vs. consequent will, eternal verities, monads, God as “conserver” of the world, and more.
On Gottfried Leibniz’s Theodicy (1710).
Why does God allow so many bad things to happen? Leibniz thought that by the definition of God, whatever He created must be the best of all possible worlds, and his theodicy presents numerous arguments to try to make that not so counter-intuitive given how less-than-perfect the world seems to us.
We answer listener emails and/or reflect on what secondary sources we use, anarchism, having on as guests adherents of the philosophy we’re discussing, which reading that we’ve covered that’s pleasantly surprised each of us the most, and how to front-load our episodes so that non-paying listeners are more OK with only hearing part one.
We get into the details on the validity claims built into speech, how this provides the foundation for society, and Habermas’ the multi-layered “life-world.”
On Jürgen Habermas’ “Actions, Speech Acts, Linguistically Mediated Interactions, and the Lifeworld” (1998), with guest John Foster.
What’s the relation between individuals and society? Habermas says that language has ethics built right into it: I’m trying to get you to agree with me, to engage in a cooperative enterprise of mutual understanding.
On “Theoretical Picture of a Free Society” (1934).
What’s the ideal living situation for us all, given the peculiarities of human nature? Weil describes fulfillment as coming from being able to picture goals and plans and knowingly put them into effect, so social groups need to maximize that power by being small and cooperative.
End song: “Libreville” by Bill Bruford, as interviewed for Nakedly Examined Music #25.
The fourth in our series of fun, supporter-only, extra fun off-week discussions. Here we anticipate our Habermas reading, talk about our favorite podcast apps, non-gendered pronouns, the (sub)Text launch, and we discuss listener feedback asking about the history of “rights,” and blasting the approach in our early episodes. What kinds of criticism are worth responding to?
More listener email and postings about things we could potentially cover. Edith Stein? Dietrich von HIldebrand? Fichte? Schelling? F.H. Bradley? Eric Hoffer? What’s everybody’s favorite era of philosophy? One listener suggests we do another political one surrounding the upcoming election. Or maybe redo things we covered many years ago.
But first, more about podcast and lecture listening habits. Hear Wes on vacation without his real microphone!