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 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.
On “The Needs of the Soul” from The Need for Roots (1943) and “Meditation on Obedience and Liberty” (1937).
What are our needs that should then drive what kind of society would be best for us? Weil says we need liberty yet obedience, equality yet hierarchy, security yet risk… and none of these words mean quite what you’d think. And to start off, why do the many obey the few?
End song: “Even Though the Darkest Clouds” by liar, flower. Mark interviewed singer KatieJane Garside on Nakedly Examined Music #127.
On John Dewey’s How We Think (1910) ch. 1 and Democracy and Education (1916) ch. 1, 2, 4, and 24.
What model of human nature should serve as the basis for education policy? Dewey sees learning as growth, and the point of education as to enable indefinite growth. With guest Jonathan Haber.
End song: “Too Far to Turn Around” by The Ides of March, whose leader Jim Peterik appears on Nakedly Examined Music #126.
On Alia Al-Saji’s “A Phenomenology of Hesitation” (2014) bits of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (1945) and Linda Martín Alcoff’s Visible Identities (2006), plus Alex Vitale’s The End of Policing (2017).
Is there subconscious racism, and how might we root it out and fix our policing problems? Ex-cop Phil Hopkins joins to look at how phenomenology can help.
End song: “Every Man’s Burden” by Dusty Wright, who appears on Nakedly Examined Music #89.
On the Rhetoric (ca. 335 BCE) book 1, ch. 1–6 and book 2, ch. 1–5, 18–24.
What role does persuasion play in philosophy? Aristotle (contra Plato) argues it can and should be used for good: in law courts, political debates, public speeches. He describes the arguments forms used in rhetoric (“enthymemes”) and analyzes the emotions that an audience might have so that speakers know what points are worth dwelling on and how to best argue them.
End song: “Reason with the Beast” by Shriekback, whose leader Barry Andrews was interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #107.
On Sontag’s essays “Against Interpretation” (1964), “On Style” (1965), and “The Death of Tragedy” (1963).
What is it to understand a work of art? Sontag objects to critics’ need to decode or translate literature into it’s “meaning” or “content,” divorcing it in the process from how this content is embodied. She argues that this content vs. form distinction isn’t tenable; that the style of a work is an essential part of experiencing it. Like Nietzsche, Sontag thinks we’re too analytical, too divorced from our instincts, and a direct encounter with art is essential to enliven us.
End song: “Mela” by Julie Slick, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #115.
On Jacques Derrida’s “The Animal That Therefore I Am” (1999), Michel Foucault’s “The Ethics of the Concern of the Self As A Practice of Freedom” (1984), Susan Sontag’s “On Style” (1965), and our guest Shahidha’s book Dressed: A Philosophy of Clothes (2020).
Philosophy devalues appearance in favor of depth and soul, but our changing dominant metaphysics (there is no “underneath” but rather a complex built out of appearance itself) should have changed this. Our guest Shahidha Bari provided us with readings that elaborate this change, arguing for our continuity with animal nature (Derrida), the ethical importance of care of the self including appearance (Foucault), and the illegitimacy of the distinction between style and content (Sontag).
End song: “Clothe Me in Ashes” by K.C. Clifford, interviewed for Nakedly Examined Music #121.
On Albert Camus’s existentialist novel The Plague. How shall we face adversity? Camus gives us colorful characters that embody various approaches. Yes, the plague is an extreme situation, but we’re all dying all the time anyway, right?
End song: “You Will Kill the One You Love” by Jack Hues, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #122.
These notes from 335 BCE are still used in screenwriting classes. Aristotle presents a formula for what will move us, derived from Sophocles’s tragedies.
What is art? A. describes it as memesis (imitation), and tragedy imitates human action in a way that shows us what it is to be human. A. has lots of advice about how to structure a plot optimized to our sensibilities. Join Mark, Wes, Dylan, and Seth to see if you think he’s right.
End song: “Structure of a Tragedy” by Mark Lint (2020).
How should we think politically about the current global crisis? Do extreme circumstances reveal truths of political philosophy or do they reinforce whatever it is we already believe? Mark, Wes, Seth, and Dylan talk about applying philosophical insights to real-life situations rife with unknowns, John Rawls’s veil of ignorance and Adam Smith on our interconnectedness, utilitarianism, libertarianism, and more. A source we used was “How Coronavirus Is Shaking Up the Moral Universe” by John Authers.
End song: “Date of Grace” by Rob Picott, as discussed on Nakedly Examined Music #80.
On Ch. 4 of Lewis’s book Counterfactuals (1973) and the essays “Scorekeeping in a Language Game” (1979) and “Truth in Fiction” (1978).
What makes a sentence about possibility true? Lewis thinks that we need possible worlds that really exist in order to make sense of our modal intuitions. He uses this possible-world talk to make sense of conversations and the worlds created by fiction writers. With guest Matt Teichman from Elucidations.
End song: “Real Life” by Matt Wilson, as interviewed for Nakedly Examined Music #118.
On The Spirit of the Laws (1748) by Charles Louis de Secondat, aka Baron de Montesquieu.
What keeps a society functioning? Montesquieu, though of course not the first political philosopher, was perhaps the first to systematically explore correlations between characteristics of a government, its people, its climate, dominant industries, religion, and other factors. Some of his ideas directly influenced the American Constitution, and some of them are very very weird.
End song: “King of the Hill” by MINUTEMEN. Listen to Mark interview Mike Watt on Nakedly Examined Music #108.
Mark, Wes, Dylan, and Seth summarize thoughts about our recent series on social construction, gender and sex, and Judith Butler’s notion of “grievable lives.” Should we stop covering so much contemporary work and/or political topics?
End song: “The Size of Luv” by Mark Lint from Mark Lint’s Dry Folk (2018).
On “Critique of Violence” (1921). What is violence? Benjamin gives us a taxonomy: law-creating, law-preserving, mythological, and divine. Then he deconstructs his own distinctions to demonstrate that all state power is rotten through its being founded on and continually re-established by violence or the threat of it.
End song: “Jericho” from hackedepiciotto, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #116.
On The Force of Nonviolence: An Ethico-Political Bind (2020).
What is it to be nonviolent in political activity? Most ethics allow for self-defense, but Judith has a problem with defining “self” as well as “violence,” and offers a full critique of the individualism that underlies typical Western approaches to both ethics and politics. Mark, Seth, and Wes interview Judith about these issues and the connection to Gender Trouble.
End song: “Dancing with Death,” discussed on Nakedly Examined Music #111 with Marty Willson-Piper.