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Philosophy Talk Starters
11 minutes | Sep 25, 2022
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/heidegger. Best known for his work "Being and Time," Martin Heidegger has been hailed by many as the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century. He has also been criticized for being both nearly unreadable and a Nazi. Yet there is no disputing his seminal place in the history of Western thought. So what did Heidegger mean when he wrote about world, being, and time? What significance does he still hold as a thinker today, especially as a philosopher of modern technology? Should we even read the works of a Nazi? John and Ken are present and ready with Thomas Sheehan from Stanford University, author of "Making Sense of Heidegger: A Paradigm Shift."
11 minutes | Sep 16, 2022
552: Who Owns Culture?
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/who-owns-culture. Fashion designers, musicians, and Halloween costume wearers have been accused of engaging in cultural appropriation. In some cases, the alleged appropriator is quick to apologize; in others, they defend their actions as a way of appreciating a different culture. So why is cultural appropriation such a morally fraught issue? Is there a clear-cut way to tell whether we’re exploring or exploiting? And can we come up with principles that allow artists to be inspired while also allowing communities to hold on to what is theirs? Josh and Ray mix it up with Dominic Lopes from the University of British Columbia, author of "Aesthetic Injustice: A Cosmopolitan Theory" (forthcoming).
11 minutes | Sep 11, 2022
491: Hobbes and the Ideal Citizen
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/hobbes-and-ideal-citizen. Seventeenth century philosopher Thomas Hobbes believed that without government to control our worst impulses, life would be 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.' Consequently, he thought that absolute monarchy is the best form of government. So is Hobbes’ ideal citizen simply someone who is willing to submit to absolute authority, or are there other features the ideal citizen must have? What flaws would make a subject bad, or worse, a threat to peace in the realm? And are there any lessons modern democracies can learn from Hobbes’ political philosophy? The Philosophers submit to Stanford political scientist Alison McQueen, author of "Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times."
17 minutes | Sep 3, 2022
548: Summer Reading List – Banned Books Edition
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/summer-reading-list-banned-books-edition. The American Library Association reports that last year 1,597 books were challenged or removed from libraries, schools, and universities, a record high number (compared to 273 books in 2020). Most of the challenged or removed books deal with themes relating to race or sexuality and gender, and challenges come from both the right and the left. What are the implications for your thought-provoking summer reading? Josh and Ray talk to Stanford English professor Paula Moya about attempts to remove Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" from schools; activist Chaz Stevens about his crusade to ban the Bible from Florida schools; and Jennifer Ruth & Michael Bérubé about their new book, "It's Not Free Speech: Race, Democracy, and the Future of Academic Freedom."
11 minutes | Aug 26, 2022
551: Effective Altruism
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/effective-altruism. Most people agree that it's good to help others, but philosophers disagree about how much good we need to do, and for whom. Effective altruists claim that you have a moral obligation to do the most good you can—even when that means setting aside the needs of your nearest and dearest in order to help strangers. So what does morality demand of us? Are we justified in caring more about our own communities than faraway strangers? And is it ever okay to pursue a personal project when you could be helping others? Josh and Ray demand much of Theron Pummer from the University of St. Andrews, author of "The Rules of Rescue: Cost, Distance, and Effective Altruism" (forthcoming).
9 minutes | Aug 21, 2022
495: Death of the Sentence
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/death-sentence. A child’s first sentence is a pivotal moment in her development when she is recognized as now capable of communicating complete thoughts. But in the twenty-first century, thoughts have become increasingly mediated by technology, and language more careless and informal as a result. Are texts, emails, tweets, and emojis responsible for the decline of the formal, grammatical sentence? Are our writing standards getting worse, or are they simply changing with the times? And what effect—good or bad—will new communicative styles have on participation in the democratic polity? The philosophers share complete thoughts with Jan Mieszkowski from Reed College, author of "Crises of the Sentence."
10 minutes | Aug 14, 2022
550: What Is Political Inequality?
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/what-political-inequality. We all know our society is economically unequal: some people have more money and resources than others. But equality isn't just a matter of who has which things. Political equality involves respect and participation in the political process—but those aren't resources that can be divided up like pie. So what is political equality in the first place? How do we know when we've achieved it? And can we prevent politics from being an elite activity concentrated among the educated and wealthy? Josh and Ray push for equality with Margaret Levi, Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and co-author of "A Moral Political Economy: Present, Past, and Future."
17 minutes | Aug 7, 2022
542: The 2022 Dionysus Awards
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/2022-dionysus-awards. What movies of the past year challenged our assumptions and made us think about things in new ways? Josh and guest co-host Jeremy Sabol present our annual Dionysus Awards for the most thought-provoking films of 2021, including: • Best Attempt to Redeem 80+ Years of Questionable Ethics • Best Film about Complicated Mothers Telling Uncomfortable Truths • Best Adapted Novel about Trauma, Marginalization, Self-Deception AND the Gap Between Appearance and Reality
11 minutes | Jul 31, 2022
449: James Baldwin and Social Justice
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/james-baldwin. Sometimes, we struggle to tell the truth -- especially when it's the truth about ourselves. Why did James Baldwin, a prominent Civil Rights-era intellectual and novelist, believe that telling the truth about ourselves is not only difficult but can also be dangerous? How can truth deeply unsettle our assumptions about ourselves and our relations to others? And why did Baldwin think that this abstract concept of truth could play a concrete role in social justice? The Philosophers seek their own truth with Christopher Freeburg from the University of Illinois, author of "Black Aesthetics and the Interior Life."
10 minutes | Jul 22, 2022
549: Is Optimism Rational?
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/optimism-rational. When the odds are against you, believing in yourself can be a source of strength—but it seems to require a cavalier disregard for the evidence. So is optimism a rational way to improve your life, or an irrational kind of wishful thinking? Will hope now just lead to disappointment later? Where should we set our expectations, and where should we teach our children to set theirs? Josh and Ray tackle their hopes and fears with Jennifer Morton from the University of Pennsylvania, author of "Moving Up without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility."
9 minutes | Jul 17, 2022
505: Walter Benjamin and the Re-Enchanted World
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/walter-benjamin. Walter Benjamin was a German Jewish critical theorist, essayist, and philosopher who died tragically during the Second World War. His thoughts about modernity, history, art, disenchantment, and re-enchantment are still discussed today. So who was Benjamin, and what is his intellectual legacy? Why did he believe that Enlightenment values, such as rationality and modernization, brought about disenchantment in the world? Did he think there was a way to find re-enchantment without abandoning these values? And what would he have had to say about social media and its power to distract? The hosts have an enchanting time with Margaret Cohen from Stanford University, author of "Profane Illumination: Walter Benjamin and the Paris of Surrealist Revolution."
11 minutes | Jul 3, 2022
494: Comedy and the Culture Wars
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/comedy-and-culture-wars. Comedy can often give offense, especially when it concerns such sensitive topics as race, gender, and sexuality. Should comedy like that be shunned, boycotted, even banned? Can it be enjoyed without danger? Or could it even, at its best, be the road to a better society? Could it somehow help us all to live together, and to come to terms with intractable social issues we’ll never fully put behind us? The Philosophers have a laugh with Jeff Israel from Williams College, author of "Living with Hate in American Politics and Religion: How Popular Culture Can Defuse Intractable Differences."
12 minutes | Jun 19, 2022
547: The Changing Face of Antisemitism
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/changing-face-antisemitism. Antisemitism is an old problem with roots that reach back to medieval Europe. While earlier forms focused more on religious bigotry, antisemitism in the modern period became increasingly racialized and politicized. So what is the connection between older ideas about Jews and Judaism, and contemporary antisemitic tropes and stereotypes? How are conspiratorial fears about Jewish invisibility and global control related to the emergence of finance capitalism? And what can history teach us about how to confront antisemitism today? Josh and Ray ask historian Francesca Trivellato from the Institute for Advanced Study, editor of "Jews in Early Modern Europe" (forthcoming), in a program recorded live at the Stanford Humanities Center.
11 minutes | Jun 12, 2022
396: Jean-Paul Sartre
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/sartre. Jean-Paul Sartre was one of the first global public intellectuals, famous for his popular existentialist philosophy, his works of fiction, and his rivalry with Albert Camus. His existentialism was also adopted by Simone de Beauvoir, who used it as a foundation for modern theoretical feminism. So what exactly is existentialism? How is man condemned to be free, as Sartre claimed? And what’s so hellish about other people? John and Ken speak in good faith with Thomas Flynn from Emory University, author of "Sartre: A Philosophical Biography."
10 minutes | Jun 5, 2022
490: Conscious Machiness
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/conscious-machines. Computers have already surpassed us in their ability to perform certain cognitive tasks. Perhaps it won’t be long till every household has a super intelligent robot who can outperform us in almost every domain. While future AI might be excellent at appearing conscious, could AI ever actually become conscious? Would forcing conscious robots to work for us be akin to slavery? And could we design AI that specifically lacks consciousness, or is consciousness an emergent property of intelligence? Josh and Ken welcome Susan Schneider, Director of the AI, Mind and Society Group at the University of Connecticut and author of "Artificial You: A.I. and the Future of Your Mind."
11 minutes | May 30, 2022
546: The Scandalous Truth About Memoir
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/scandalous-truth-about-memoir. A memoir is a personal narrative written about a pivotal time in the author’s life. While the story is told from a particular perspective, the events recounted are supposed to be fact, not fiction. But what exactly counts as truth in memoir? Is the distinction between “literal truth” and “emotional truth” just a way of shirking responsibility for fabricating falsehoods? What other ethical responsibilities does the memoirist have—for example, when it comes to exposing other people’s secrets? And why should anyone read—or write—memoirs in the first place? Josh and Ray take a trip down memory lane with Helena de Bres from Wellesley College, author of "Artful Truths: The Philosophy of Memoir."
11 minutes | May 22, 2022
489: The Allure of Authoritarianism
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/allure-authoritarianism. In George Orwell’s 1984, the party’s “final, most essential command” was “to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.” Authoritarian regimes call on us to accept as fact whatever they tell us; or worse, as Hannah Arendt says, they get us to a point where we no longer know—or care about—the difference between fiction and reality. So why are so many so willing to reject the evidence of their senses and deny basic, confirmable truths? Is there something about human psychology that makes us susceptible to totalitarian propaganda? And as the appeal of authoritarian leaders grows around the world, how do we guard against such radical thought manipulation? Josh and Ken lure Michael Lynch from the University of Connecticut, author of "Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture."
12 minutes | May 15, 2022
482: J.S. Mill and the Good Life
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/mill-and-good-life. John Stuart Mill was one of the most important British philosophers of the 19th century. As a liberal, he thought that individuals are generally the best judges of their own welfare. But Mill was also a utilitarian who thought that there were objectively lower and higher pleasures and that the good life was one which maximized higher pleasures. So is there a way to reconcile Mill’s liberal project with his utilitarianism? Is the good life for Mill one in which individuals determine their own paths? Or should those who know better still try to nudge others to live better lives? John and Ken fulfill their potential with David Brink from UC San Diego, author of Mill's Progressive Principles.
11 minutes | May 6, 2022
545: What Is Ideology?
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/what-ideology. Political polarization seems to be deepening, both in the U.S. and around the globe. Some believe that the rise of ideology is to blame for growing polarization. But can increased polarization really be attributed to ideology? What is exactly is ideology, and how is it different from dogma? Is ideology a kind of political or philosophical thinking? And how might our understanding of ideology affect how we practice politics? Josh and Ray ideate with Marius Ostrowski from the European University Institute, author of "Ideology (Key Concepts)."
11 minutes | May 1, 2022
492: Sanctuary Cities
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/sanctuary-cities. In the U.S. there are over 500 sanctuary cities—municipalities that limit their cooperation with the federal government’s immigration law enforcement. Although opponents portray sanctuary cities as besieged by crime, empirical data does not bear out such claims. But what actually justifies sanctuary policies in the first place? Do appeals to public health or safety warrant these measures? Or should lack of cooperation be seen as an act of resistance against unjust federal policies? And how should local municipalities respond to claims that they lack the authority to impede federal immigration enforcement? Josh and Ken find sanctuary with Shelley Wilcox from SF State University, author of “How Can Sanctuary Policies be Justified?”
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