The PEL Players return to perform a “cold read” of Aristophanes’s play about using a sex strike to end war, first performed in 411 BCE. Jeffrey Henderson’s translation makes this very accessible, and it’s still really damn funny. Your hosts are joined by five real actors from TV, film, and Broadway.
Mark and Wes continue the discussion from ep. 187. We watched some Jordan Peterson, so we talk about his position a bit, and about the appropriateness of organizations encouraging certain kinds of speech, the offense principle, the difference (and overlap!) between good-faith arguments and insults, conspiracy theories, “incoherence arguments” like Fish’s (also used by Kant, Rand, and others), and “fundamental moral principles”: Does that concept even make sense given that any principle requires judgement and probably sub-principles to apply it to real situations?
End song: “Combine Man” by RHEMA, as discussed on Nakedly Examined Music #67.
A free-form discussion drawing on Stanley Fish’s “There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech, and It’s a Good Thing, Too” (1994), Joel Feinberg’s “Limits to the Free Expression of Opinion” (1975), and other sources.
What are the legitimate limits on free speech? Feinberg delves into the harm and offense principles. Fish argues that every claim to free speech has ideological assumptions actually favoring some types of speech baked into it. A lively back and forth ensues, which Mark and Wes then continued in a supporter-only, 90-minute follow-up.
End song: “We Don’t Talk about It” by Steve Wynn, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #43.
On How to Do Things with Words (lectures from 1955).
What’s the relationship between language and the world? Austin says it’s not all about descriptive true-or-false statements, but also includes “performatives” like “I promise…” and “I do” (spoken in a wedding) that are actions unto themselves. They can’t be true or false, but they can be “unhappy” if social conventions aren’t fulfilled (e.g., you try to marry a pig). Austin thinks performatives will change your whole view of language and of linguistically expressed philosophical problems!
End song: “The Promise” by When In Rome. Listen to Mark interview singer/songwriter Clive Farrington on Nakedly Examined Music #40.
On the classic Greek epic poem, written ca. 750 BC and translated by our guest Emily Wilson in 2018.
Does this story of “heroes” have anything to teach us about ethics? Wilson wrote an 80-page introduction to her new translation laying out the issues, including “hospitality” as a political tool, the value for status and identity of one’s home (including your family and slaves), and the tension between strangeness and familiarity. Can time and change really be undone?
End song: “Tiny Broken Boats” by Arrica Rose, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #66.
On Blaise Pascal’s Pensées (1670).
Is it rational to have religious faith? You’re likely familiar with “Pascal’s Wager,” but our wretchedness is such that we can’t simply choose to believe and won’t be argued into it. Pascal thinks Christianity is the only religion to accurately describe the human condition.
End song: “44 Days” by Dutch Henry, written and sung by Todd Long, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #34.
Discussing John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859).
If we disapprove of certain behaviors, when is it okay to prohibit them legally? What about just shaming people? Mill’s “harm principle” says that we should permit anything (legally and socially) unless it harms other people. But what constitutes “harm”? And how can we discourage someone from, e.g., just being drunk all the time?
Mark, Wes, and Dylan bring this debate to current issues and explore some of the weirder aspects of Mill’s view.
End song: “Flavor” by Tori Amos with strings by John Philip Shenale, interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #12.
To what extent has our podcast changed in reaction to current politics? Mark, Seth, Wes, and Dylan reflect back on our year, discuss how we select texts and guests, and give some thumbnail sketches of potential topics. Also, does authorial intent matter, and how to talk philosophically about works that aren’t philosophical texts.
End song: “The Evening Standard” (from 1992 or so) from Mark Lint’s Black Jelly Beans & Smokes.
On Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963).
Are we still morally culpable if our entire society is corrupt? Arendt definitely thinks so, but has a number of criticisms of the handling of the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. The Israelis were committed to the view that Eichmann was a monster, when the reality, says Arendt, is more frightening.
End song: “Hiding from the Face of God” from Judybats 2000; listen to me interview singer/songwriter Jeff Heiskell on Nakedly Examined Music eps. 5 and 63.
On Psychology, the Briefer Course (1892), chapters on “The Self,” “Will,” and “Emotions.”
Continuing from ep. 179, we talk about the “Me” (the part of me that I know) vs. the “I” (the part of me that knows), including personal identity. James thinks that emotions are just our experience of our own physiology. Finally, we tackle will, veering into ethics, free will, and more.
End song: “Join the Zoo/Live Again” by Craig Wedren, heard on Nakedly Examined Music #15.
On The Principles of Psychology (1890) chapters 1 & 7, and Psychology, the Briefer Course (1892), the chapters on “The Stream of Thought,” “Habit,” and some of “The Self.”
Can we talk about the mind in a way that is both scientific and also does justice to our everyday experiences? James thought his method, which involved both introspection and physiology, yielded more accurate descriptions of the mind than associationism (the mind is made up of ideas) or spiritualism (the mind is a faculty of the soul). Consciousness is a stream, not a concatenation of ideas!
End song: “Drowning Mind (feedback overload)” by AMP, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #57.
On Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1888 book summarizing his thought and critiquing the founding myths of his society. He defends “spiritualized” instinct and frenzied creativity, but also Napoleon and war. We try to figure out what kind of social critic he’d be today. Would we actually like him?
End song: “Oblivion” by Tyler Hislop, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #24.
End song: “Needle Exchange” by Punchy; listen to singer/songwriter Fritz Beer interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #2.
On Stanley Milgram’s “Behavioral Study of Obedience” (1963), Philip Zimbardo’s “Interpersonal Dynamics in a Simulated Prison” (1973), and John Doris’s “Persons, Situations, and Virtue Ethics” (1998).
Do difficult situations make good people act badly? Are there really “good” and “bad” people, or are we all about the same, but put in different situations?
End song: “Doing the Wrong Thing – Live” by Kaki King; listen to her on Nakedly Examined Music #54.
On Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1967) and the films Blade Runner 2049 (2007) and Blade Runner (1982).
What makes us human? Dick’s story about androids emphasized their lack of empathy, while the movie adaptations portrayed the “replicants” as plenty capable of emotion, but unjustly treated as servants or targets.
End song: “Wounds and Nihilism (Quantum Androids),” written for this episode by Tyler Hislop (feat. Mark Lint). Listen to Tyler on Nakedly Examined Music #24.
On the foundational, 1776 text of modern economics. How does the division of labor and our instinct to exchange lead to the growth of wealth? Is the economy sufficiently machine-like to enable us to manipulate its output, or at least to tell us how not to screw it up?
End song: “With My Looks and Your Brains” by The Mr. T Experience. Hear about the singer/songwriter on Nakedly Examined Music #56.
What is wisdom? We discuss articles by Brian Burkhart, Gregory Cajete, and Anne Waters, plus Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt (1932) and some traditional stories. With guest Jim Marunich; we read his master’s thesis, “Process Metaphysics in the Far West: American Indian Ontologies.”
End song: “Circle’s Gotta Go” by Kim Rancourt, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #52.
Radio legend Dr. Drew Pinsky talks with us about “Attachment and reflective function: their role in self-organization” by Peter Fonagy and two articles by Allan Schore.
The focus is “theory of mind”; how do we develop the ability to impute thoughts and intentions to others? What in our upbringing can interfere with this development? We relate this back to previous episodes (Hegel, Buber, etc.) on recognition by others of the self.
End song: “Anything but Love” by Steve Hackett, as featured on Nakedly Examined Music #45.
Bob joins the PEL four to discuss his new book Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. Bob applies his expertise in evolutionary psychology to corroborate Buddhism’s claims that we are deluded: about our desires, emotions, the unity of our selves, and the “essences” we project on things and people. And he thinks meditation can instill in the diligent the ability to see things more clearly. But does it really?
End song: “Alphalpha Bhang” by Anton Barbeau; see Nakedly Examined Music #50.