Wes and Mark try to figure out whether anyone wants us to have a full episode on identity politics, maybe reading some Francis Fukuyama or some Ta-Nehisi Coates. We’ve already talked about white privilege, Orwellian “nationalism,” free speech, electoral strategy, James Baldwin, etc. What’s left?
On Darren Aronofsky’s philosophical 2017 film about humanity’s relationship to nature. We discuss the philosophical content of the film (Gnosticism, anyone?) and explore the relation between meaning and the sensuous aspects of an artwork. Can a work be both allegorical and yet have fully fleshed out characters and the other elements that make a film feel real? This was a very polarizing film; how do the circumstances of viewing affect reception? With guest Tim Nicholas.
End song: “The Day of Wrath, That Day,” by Sarah McQuaid, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #72.
A bonus discussion between Mark and Wes for supporters! We give some philosophy of language context for the issues of meaning brought up in ep 189. Plus, some discussion of the critic James Wood, and analyzing T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
On four essays about how to interpret artworks: “The Intentional Fallacy” by W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley (1946), “The Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes (1967), “What Is an Author?” by Michel Foucault (1969), and “Against Theory” by Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels (1982). When you’re trying to figure out what, say, a poem means, isn’t the best way to do that to just ask the author? Most of these guys say no, and that’s supposed to reveal something about the nature of meaning.
End song: “The Auteur” by David J (2018). Listen to Mark’s interview with him in Nakedly Examined Music #73.
Also check out the follow-up discussion.
We are rejoined by actresses Lucy Lawless and Emily Perkins to discuss Aristophanes’s bawdy play. Listen to us perform it first.
Supplementary readings included Jeffery Henderson’s introduction to his 1988 translation of the play; “Sexual Humor and Harmony in Lysistrata” by Jay M. Semel (1981); and “The ‘Female Intruder’ Reconsidered: Women in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Ecclesiazusae” by Helene P. Foley (1982).
End song: “Women of Industry (ABWA Charm)” by Jill Sobule, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #18.
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.