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!
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.
Our supporter exposure continues! This time we talk about whether we should do more non-Western philosophy, and if not, does that make us racist? Also, maybe more episodes on communications and rhetoric? Or finally personal identity? Also, outreach to supporters re. PEL Live Remote 2020 and ongoing topic suggestions.
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.
Introducing supporter-only banter, listener mail, behind-the-scenes, and misc. philosophizing. Today: Do PEL hosts listen to episodes that they don’t appear on? Plus, a listener suggests “scalar” utilitarianism.
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.