Why has this film done so well? It offers no spectacle, and good doesn’t triumph. It is psychologically true and expertly performed. The audience can enjoy tragedy and identify deeply with a social outcast and villain. The film successfully exploits the relationship between humor and violence, and comedy and tragedy.
Continuing on Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern (1993) with guest Lynda Olman.
Latour rejects the idea of objective truth totally apart from perceivers, so is he an idealist? We lay out the “Constitution” of modernity that keeps science and politics separate, how it makes it difficult for us to address issues like climate change, and what Latour thinks should replace it.
End song: “Mono No Aware” by Guy Sigsworth, as discussed on Nakedly Examined Music #109.
On Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern (1993) with guest Lynda Olman.
What’s the “modern” ideology of science, and is there something we should critique about it? Latour wants us to think about science not abstractly through the eternal truths it supposedly discovers, but through the concrete practices of scientists. He investigates the Modern Constitution by which science and politics are kept conceptually separate, a myth that he claims we’ve never fully bought into.
Concluding René Descartes’s Rules for Direction of the Mind (1628).
We finish rule 12 through the end, talking about simples, the faculties of intuition and judgment, perception and imagination, necessary vs. contingent truths, and how to do Cartesian science, including what constitutes a “perfectly understood problem.”
End song: “Perfect Design” by Ian Moore, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #94.
Boston-area listeners can see Wes live talking Joker on 11/22; see partiallyexaminedlife.com/joker.
Continuing on René Descartes’s Rules for Direction of the Mind (1628), covering rules 7 through the first part of the lengthy rule 12.
We try to figure out what he means by “enumeration”; the faculties of imagination, sense and memory; the virtues of perspicacity and sagacity; his psychology of the senses, the “common sense” where all sense data comes together, and the understanding; how Descartes recommends we do scientific investigation; why syllogisms stink; and whether some people are just better at philosophy than others.
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On René Descartes’s Rules for Direction of the Mind (1628).
Is there a careful way to approach problems that will ensure that you’ll always be right? What if you just never assert anything you can’t be sure of? This is Descartes’s strategy, modeled on mathematics. We likewise carefully move step-by-step through this text.
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Continuing on Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections” (1994), Charles Mills’s “But What Are You Really?, The Metaphysics of Race” (1998), and Neven Sesardic’s “Race: A Social Destruction of a Biological Concept” (2010) with guest Coleman Hughes.
Racial classifications vary geographically, therefore race is socially constructed. Given this, can we retain the positive aspects of group identification without hierarchies and what Appiah calls “imperialism of identity”?
End song: “Tired Skin” by Alejandro Escovedo, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #60.
On Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections” (1994), Charles Mills’s “But What Are You Really?, The Metaphysics of Race” (1998), and Neven Sesardic’s “Race: A Social Destruction of a Biological Concept” (2010). With guest Coleman Hughes.
On Ian Hacking’s The Social Construction of What (1999) and Peter Berger’s “Religion and World Construction” (1967).
Guest Coleman Hughes from Dilemma joins us to survey the types of social construction arguments: the “culture wars” (e.g., race, gender) and the “science wars” (scientific findings are not read off the world but emerge from history). Something can be constructed, yet still be an objective truth we have to deal with.
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Continuing on Sir Francis Bacon’s New Organon (1620).
We cover more of Bacon’s “idols” and how Bacon divides religion from science (and what this means politically). We then move on to book 2, including Bacon’s novel update of the term “form,” and take a look at Bacon’s method of doing science by filling out tables before actually doing experiments.
End song: “Stuck in a Cave” by Chrome Cranks; hear Mark talk to singer/songwriter Peter Aaron on Nakedly Examined Music #93.
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On Sir Francis Bacon’s New Organon (1620).
Bacon claims to have developed a new toolset that will open up nature to inquiry in a way that wasn’t possible for ancient and modern natural philosophy.
Mark, Wes, and Dylan consider how much what Bacon describes resembles modern scientific method, talk through Bacon’s “four idols” that interfere with impartial inquiry, and consider how Bacon’s method fits in with his larger political-ethical-religious views.
Continuing on Simone Weil’s essays “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force” (1939) and “Analysis of Oppression” (1934) with guest Corey Mohler.
We talk about the self-contradictions of power, why oppression and war are so intractable, and her positive solution (what there is of it here). Weil cuts through our left-right political dichotomy in a way that might interest you. Plus, why the Iliad is so great.
End song: “Throw Down the Sword” from Wishbone Ash; hear Andy Powell on Nakedly Examined Music #51.
On Simone Weil’s essays “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force” (1939) and “Analysis of Oppression” (1934).
How do circumstances oppress and dehumanize us? Weil describes the mechanisms that keep people at war and maintain oppression even through revolutions as inherent to the logic of power. With guest Corey Mohler.
On Soren Kierkegaard’s essay “The Present Age” (1846) and Hubert Dreyfus’s “Nihilism on the Information Highway: Anonymity vs. Commitment in the Present Age” (2004).
What’s wrong with our society? Kierkegaard saw the advent of the press and gossip culture as engendering a systematic passivity and shallowness in his fellows, and Dreyfus thinks this is an even more apt description of the Internet Age. With guest John Ganz.
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We talk with Ned about a second Blockheads (2019) article, Michael Tyle’s “Homunculi Heads and Silicon Chips: The Importance of History to Phenomenology,” which provides a variation off of the David Chalmers fading qualia argument, and then Mark, Seth, Dylan, and Wes continue exploring the details uncovered by our interview after Ned leaves.
End song: “Your So Dark Sleep/Goodbye” by The Black Watch, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #102.
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The climax and denouement of our summer philosophy of mind series: Ned Block visits to fill in the gaps about functionalism and attributing consciousness to machines and discuss essays from Blockheads (2019), focusing here on Brian McLaughlin’s “Could an Android be Sentient?”
Continuing on Ned Block’s “Troubles with Functionalism” (1978) and David Chalmers’s “Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia” (1995).
What would it be like to be halfway between person and machine? If you think the machine can’t have consciousness, then Chalmers thinks that there’s no sensible way to describe such an experience, ergo the machine (if functionally equivalent to the person) must have consciousness after all.
End song: “Machine” by Helen Money as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #101.
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On Ned Block’s “Troubles with Functionalism” (1978) and David Chalmers’s “Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia” (1995).
If mental states are functional states, there couldn’t be zombies. Yet Block claims that there could be zombies: for example, a functional duplicate of you whose components are actually citizens of China obeying algorithmic rules. Even if the resulting system acts like you, it obviously isn’t conscious. Chalmers argues that you’d then need to explain the experiences of a creature half way between you and the zombie, but you can’t, so Block’s argument doesn’t work and functionalism is left standing. What do you think? Do you hate weird thought experiments like these?
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Continuing on functionalism with David M. Armstrong’s “The Causal Theory of the Mind” (1981).
We delve into this version of functionalism that is supposed to clear the way for the scientific identification of mental states with brain states. Mental states are defined by their causal relations with other states and with behavior, and the content of a mental state is exhausted by its intentional object, e.g., the content of a perception is the thing you’re perceiving that (normally) causes the perception. So what about things like colors and sounds that aren’t really out in the world? Can functionalism explain how these seem to us?
End song: “Pain Makes You Beautiful” by Jeff Heiskell’s JudyBats, as featured on Nakedly Examined Music #5.
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On Hilary Putnam’s “The Nature of Mental States” (1973).
What is the mind? Functionalist theories identify the mental not with the brain exactly, but with something the brain does. So some other creature without a brain (maybe a computer) might be able to do that same thing if it could duplicate the structure of what our brains do. Is this a satisfying account of the mind?
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