Ep. 329: Kierkegaard on Irony (Part Four for Supporters/Closereads Part Two)

Continuing from the previous installment, Mark and Wes conclude our read-through of the final section of The Concept of Irony, "Irony as a Controlled Element, the Truth of Irony." How can a controlled level of irony help us gain health and truth? Read along with us, starting at PDF p. 324 in the middle. Closereads supporters (see patreon.com/closereadsphilosophy) can  Continue Reading …

Ep. 330: Kierkegaard’s “Either/Or”: The Aesthetic Life (Part Two for Supporters)

Continuing from part one on "Diapsalmata" and "Rotation of Crops" from the "Either" portion of Kierkegaard's pseudonymous book ("either" being the aesthetic and "or" being the ethical, which we'll cover in ep. 331). We get a bit personal about this; to what extent is Seth criticizing our younger selves? (Here's a song Mark wrote in 1990 in this vein.) We talk through more  Continue Reading …

Ep. 330: Kierkegaard’s “Either/Or”: The Aesthetic Life (Part One for Supporters)

On the aphorisms ("Diapsalmata") that begin Soren Kierkegaard's Either/Or (1843), plus the essay also in the first volume, "Rotation of Crops." What is it to live your life as if it were a work of art? One might think (after having read the Romantics or Nietzsche) that this is the only honest way to live, that anything else (e.g. identifying yourself with a particular religion  Continue Reading …

Ep. 329: Kierkegaard on Irony (Part Three for Supporters/Closereads Part One)

Mark and Wes Closeread the conclusion to Soren Kierkegaard's On the Concept of Irony (1841), "Irony as a Controlled Element, the Truth of Irony." The discussion starts with the role of irony in good art, and then moves on to discuss the proper role of irony as an existential strategy in a well-grounded, thoughtful life. Read along with us, starting at PDF p. 321. You can  Continue Reading …

Ep. 329: Kierkegaard on Irony (Part Two for Supporters)

Continuing from part one on On the Concept of Irony, we finish up with Socrates and say why according to K, his type of irony is better than that of his Romantic peers like Friedrich Schlegel. The definition of irony that K finally gives us here is "infinite absolute negativity." Perhaps "global" would be a better word than "infinite," because the point is that it negates  Continue Reading …

Ep. 329: Kierkegaard on Irony (Part One for Supporters)

Mark, Seth, and Dylan discuss On the Concept of Irony, With Continual Reference to Socrates, Soren Kierkegaard's master's thesis (1841). Rather than simply telling us what irony is, K spends the first half of his book talking about all the ways that Socrates might have been ironic: Not only is he mythologized by Plato (and parodied by Aristophanes and according to K's  Continue Reading …

Ep. 328: Yascha Mounk Against Identity Politics (Part Three for Supporters)

Mark, Wes, Dylan, and now Seth too discuss further Mounk's project in The Identity Trap and what philosophically we can glean from it. Listen to parts one and two of the interview first. How does the ideology that Mounk describes compare to, on the one hand, an ethical theory by an individual philosopher, and on the other hand, a scientific paradigm that provides a  Continue Reading …

Ep. 328: Guest Yascha Mounk Against Identity Politics (Part Two for Supporters)

Continuing from part one on The Identity Trap (2023). In arguing against a "monomaniacal" prism for interpreting the world (whether via class as the Marxists use or via race, gender, and sexual orientation as is the case for identity theorists), Yascha's book seems to be championing common sense: Of course all of these things matter but need to be balanced against each other.  Continue Reading …

Ep. 328: Guest Yascha Mounk Against Identity Politics (Part One for Supporters)

On The Identity Trap (2023), Yascha's intellectual history wokeness (which he calls "the identity synthesis") and defense of philosophical liberalism against this set of ideas. Which is more important, the characteristics that we all share as human beings, or those that make us part of distinct identity groups? According to Yascha's analysis, the ideology that currently  Continue Reading …

Ep. 327: Harry Frankfurt on Bullshit and Authenticity (Part Two for Supporters)

We discuss the essay "The Importance of What We Care About" (1982), in order to give a flavor of the kind of writing Frankfurt did in moral psychology beyond his famous definition of bullshit, discussed in part one. Frankfurt wants to distinguish the question of moral good from the question of what to care about, as there are many things we care about beyond ethical ideals,  Continue Reading …

Ep. 327: Harry Frankfurt on Bullshit and Authenticity (Part One for Supporters)

Mark, Wes, Dylan, and Seth discuss the celebrated 1986 essay "On Bullshit." (In part two, we'll cover by contrast his 1982 essay "The Importance of What We Care About.") What is bullshit, or "humbug" as a previous essay by Max Black calls it? Frankfurt starts with Black's definition ("deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of  Continue Reading …

Ep. 326: Michael Tomasello on the Evolution of Agency (Part Two for Supporters)

Wes, Dylan, and guest Chris Heath continue to discuss The Evolution of Agency (2022) in light of our interview with the author in part one. We relate examples from the book of animals of various levels of complexity making deliberative decisions, exhibiting rationality, experiencing causality, or otherwise engaging in agentive or proto-agentive behaviors. One particularly  Continue Reading …

Ep. 326: Guest Michael Tomasello on the Evolution of Agency (Part One for Supporters)

The psycho-linguist prof. from Duke University joins Wes, Dylan, Seth, and Chris Heath to discuss his 2022 book, The Evolution of Agency: Behavioral Organization from Lizards to Humans. What is human agency? How would we determine whether an animal is a legitimate agent, as opposed to just acting automatically? Tomasello investigates this by thinking about what capabilities  Continue Reading …

Ep. 325: Paul Grice on Meaning and Conversation (Part Three for Supporters/Closereads Part One)

Mark and Wes Closeread through the 1975 ordinary language philosophy paper. What are the assumptions behind everyday conversation? When someone violates a conversational norm by, e.g., giving too much information or stating something literally untrue, what are the strategies by which we try to make sense of what they're saying as still a sensible contribution to the  Continue Reading …

Ep. 325: Paul Grice on Meaning and Conversation (Part Two for Supporters)

Continuing from part one on "Meaning" (1957), "Utterer’s Meaning and Intentions" (1969), and "Logic and Conversation" (1975) with guest Steve Gimbell. We tie Grice's initial project about meaning into this apparently new project in "Logic and Conversation": What are the rules that people tend to follow in conversation to actually be engaged in the cooperative enterprise of  Continue Reading …

Ep. 325: Paul Grice on Meaning and Conversation (Part One for Supporters)

On "Meaning" (1957), "Utterer’s Meaning and Intentions" (1969), and "Logic and Conversation" (1975), featuring Mark, Seth, Dylan, and guest prof. Steve Gimbell of Gettysburg College. Someone who utters something typically means something in particular, but is that meaning determined just by the definitions of the words uttered? Clearly not, as words can be used in  Continue Reading …

Ep. 324: Plato’s “Cratylus” on Language (Part Two for Supporters)

Continuing from part one on Plato's mid-period dialogue about language. Is attaching a word to a thing, i.e. naming it, like other activities such as carpentry or sewing that can go wrong? Can we put the "form" of a thing into letters and syllabus of its name? Socrates argues (at least through most of the dialogue) that we can, that some names can be more appropriate than  Continue Reading …

Ep. 324: Plato’s “Cratylus” on Language (Part One for Supporters)

On Plato's mid-period dialogue from around 388 BCE. How do words relate to the things they represent? Featuring Mark, Wes, and Dylan. We're all familiar with the feeling when we see someone really hot but with a very dweeby name that something seems to have gone wrong. We also know Native names like "Running Eagle" that may or may not seem to really fit the person with that  Continue Reading …

Ep. 323: Acquiring Language: Tomasello vs. Chomsky (Part Two for Supporters)

Continuing from part one on Michael Tomasello's "Language Is Not an Instinct" (1995) and Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition (2003), as contrasted with Chomsky universal grammar (the flag that Steven Pinker continues to carry). With guest Christopher Heath. We get into more of the insights and studies that drove Chomsky and Pinker to argue  Continue Reading …

Ep. 323: Acquiring Language: Tomasello vs. Chomsky (Part One for Supporters)

On Michael Tomasello's "Language Is Not an Instinct" (1995) and ch. 1, 2, 8 and 9 of Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition (2003), plus the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article Innateness and Language by Fiona Cowie (posted 2008, updated 2017). Featuring Mark, Wes, Seth, Dylan, and guest Christopher Heath. Clearly we are not born  Continue Reading …