On Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (1882, with book 5 added 1887). What is wisdom? Nietzsche gives us an updated take on the Socratic project of challenging your most deeply held beliefs. Challenge not just your belief in God (who’s “dead”), but uncover all your habits of thinking in terms of the divine. Realize how little of your life is actually a matter of conscious reflection, and the consequent limits on self-knowledge. The very act of systematization in philosophy overestimates what we can know; instead, we need a “gay” (in the sense of cheerful, carefree, and subversive) science (in the sense of organized knowledge) that chases after fleeting insights and is able to question, i.e. laugh at, the pretensions of its own activity.
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In light of our ep. 83, many listeners had questions on Frithjof’s social/political/economic proposals for creating a post-job, pro-meaningful-work world.
Talking with Frithjof Bergmann, Prof. Emeritus from U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor about his book New Work, New Culture (2004, English release coming soon).
An introduction to and summary of Frithjof Bergmann’s New Work, New Culture, read by Mark Linsenmayer.
On Popper’s Conjectures and Refutations (1963), the first three essays.
What is science, and how is it different than pseudo-science? From philosophy? Is philosophy just pseudo-science, or proto-science, or what? Popper thinks that all legitimate inquiry is about solving real problems, and scientific theories are those that are potentially falsifiable: they make definitely predictions about the world that, if these fail to be true, would show that the theory is false.
A summary of the first three essays in Karl Popper’s collection Conjectures and Refutations, read by Dylan Casey.
On Carl Jung’s “Approaching the Unconscious” from Man and His Symbols, written in 1961. What’s the structure of the mind? Jung followed Freud in positing an unconscious distinct from the conscious ego, but Jung’s picture has the unconscious much more stuffed full of all sorts of stuff from who knows where, including instincts (the archetypes) that tend to give rise to behavior and dream imagery that we’d have to call religious. We neglect this part of ourselves at our psychological peril!
An introduction to Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols, read by Wes Alwan.
Excerpts of discussions about Frithjof Bergmann’s New Work, New Culture, Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, and Martin Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism.”
On Martin Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism” (1949). What’s our place in the world? What is it, really, to be human? Heidegger thought that being human hinges on having a proper relationship to Being, which is more basic than particular beings like people and tables and such, yet it being so close, Heidegger thinks it’s hardest to see, and easy to be distracted from.
A short summary of Heidegger’s “Essay on Humanism,” read by Seth Paskin.
Eva Brann discusses her book The Logos of Heraclitus (2011). What is the world like, and how can we understand it? Heraclitus thinks that the answer to both questions is found in “the logos.”
On Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1967) and “The Objectivist Ethics” (1961). First Rand grounds everyday human knowledge, largely by dismissing the concerns of other philosophers (even those whom she unknowingly parrots) as absurd. Then she uses this certainty to argue for her semi-Nietzschean vision of Great Men who master their emotions and rely only on themselves. Learn more.
On George Santayana’s The Sense of Beauty (1896). What are we saying when we call something “beautiful?” Are we pointing out an objective quality that other people (anyone?) can ferret out, or just essentially saying “yay!” without any logic necessarily behind our exclamation? The poet and philosopher Santayana thought that while aesthetic appreciation is an immediate experience–we don’t “infer” the beauty of something by recognizing some natural qualities that it has–we can nonetheless analyze the experience after the fact to uncover a number of grounds on which we might appreciate something.
On Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s What Is Philosophy? (1991). How is philosophy different from science and art? What’s the relationship between different philosophies? Is better pursued solo, or in a group? Deleuze described philosophy as the creation of new concepts, whereas science is about functions that map observed regularities and art is about creating percepts and affects. With guest Daniel Coffeen.
On Jacques Lacan’s “Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter'” (1956), Jacques Derrida’s “The Purveyor of Truth” (1975), and other essays in the collection The Purloined Poe: Lacan, Derrida, and Psychoanalytic Reading. How should philosophers approach literature? Lacan read Edgar Allen Poe’s story about a sleuth who outthinks a devious Minister as an illustration of his model of the psyche, and why we persist in self-destructive patterns. Derrida thought this reading not only imposed a bunch of psychobabble onto the story, but demonstrated that Lacan just didn’t know how to read a text.
On Bruce Fink’s The Lacanian Subject (1996) and Lacan’s “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience” (1949). What is the self? Is that the same as the experiencing subject? Lacan says no: while the self (the ego) is an imaginative creation, cemented by language, the subject is something else, something split (at least initially) between consciousness and the unconscious. Lacan mixes this Freudian picture with semiotics–an emphasis on systems of linguistic symbols–using this to both create his picture of the psyche and explain how psychological disorders arise.
Mark, Seth, Wes, and Dylan share what drove them into philosophy and keeps them there. How is philosophy different than (or similar to) science? Than religion? Art? The consensus seems that philosophy, to us, is inevitable for the curious. It’s just inquiry, unbounded (in principle at least) by any fixed assumptions. We did no formal reading for this discussion, but did tell each other to keep in mind Plato’s “Apology.”
We’re joined by an international terrorism expert to discuss how to define terrorism and whether it can ever be ethical. With readings by Donald Black, J. Angelo Corlett, Igor Primoratz, Karl Heinzen, Bhagat Singh, and Carl von Clausewitz.
On Buber’s 1923 book about the fundamental human position: As children, and historically, we start fully absorbed in relation with another person (like mom). Before that, we have no self-consciousness, no “self” at all. It’s only by having these consuming “encounters” that we gradually distinguish ourselves from other people, and can then engage in what we’d normally consider “experience,” which Buber calls “the I-It relation.” Buber thinks that unless we can keep connected to this “I-Thou” phenomenon, through mature relationships, art, and nature. With guest Daniel Horne.