More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/summer-reading-list-2021. As some parts of our lives return to some kind of normal, Josh and Ray ask authors and philosophers about what's been on their summer reading lists. • Cory Doctorow on "Making Hay," his short story in "Make Shift: Dispatches from the Post-Pandemic Future" • Helen De Cruz from Saint Louis University, co-editor of "Philosophy Through Science Fiction Stories: Exploring the Boundaries of the Possible" Plus Michaela Bronstein from the Stanford English deparment on Richard Wright's recently-published "The Man Who Lived Underground."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/ethics-awesomeness. The word "awesome" once meant inspiring extreme fear or dread. Nowadays it's mostly used as a general purpose exclamation of approval. So when we describe a person as awesome, are we saying that they exemplify some general form of excellence? Or are awesome people those who break specific social norms to generate moments of creative expression and social connection? Would the world be a better place if we all aimed to be more awesome and less sucky? Josh and Ray stand in awe of Nick Riggle from the University of San Diego, author of "On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/microaggressions. Microaggressions are small comments or questions that may be insulting or hurtful to another person because of their race, gender, sexuality, and so on. Some people consider microaggressions to be a phantom symptom of political correctness and a further sign that society has become "soft," while others see them as a problematic way of normalizing bigotry. So how do microagressions compare to other types of moral harms? Do they add up to structural oppression, and if so, how are we to assign individual culpability? Josh and Ray engage calmly with Lauren Freeman from the University of Louisville, co-editor of "Microaggressions and Philosophy."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/referring-world. On December 2, 2019, Ken Taylor announced that he finally had "an almost complete draft" of a book he had been writing for years. "I think I'll pour a glass of wine to mark the occasion, before plunging back into the work that is still to be done," he wrote. Tragically and unexpectedly, he died later that same day. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of some colleagues, his book, "Referring to the World: An Opinionated Introduction to the Theory of Reference," has just been published. In this special episode, Josh and Ray discuss Ken's ideas about reference with USC philosopher Robin Jeshion, who helped bring the book to fruition.
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/your-brain-literature. Cognitive science has revolutionized our understanding of the brain and how it functions. Researchers have even used fMRI to detect differences in the way people engage with literature. But can contemporary science really teach us anything about how novels, poems, and movies work? Do new understandings of the unconscious help us appreciate the brilliant magic tricks that writers pull off? And could a better picture of mental imagery inspire novelists to write differently? Josh and Ray pick the brain of Stanford neuroscientist David Eagleman, author of "Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/can-reason-save-us. To an optimist, things are constantly getting better: disease and extreme poverty are down; life expectancy, literacy, and equality are up; and it's all thanks to the glory of human reason. But a pessimist would point to the continuing presence of injustice, oppression, and war, and the dangers of global warming and nuclear annihilation. So who's right? Are we really living in an age of progress? And can reason really save us? Josh and Ken try to reason with renowned cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, author of "Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/nonduality-and-oneness-being. Some branches of Hindu philosophy propose that reality is nondual in nature. Such schools of thought—called advaita schools, from a Sanskrit word meaning "not two"—see the material world either as an aspect of ultimate reality ("Brahman") or as a mere illusion. So how do we make sense of the appearance of variety in a metaphysics of oneness? Is there room for individual selves within advaita philosophy? What can be known? And what possible sources of knowledge are there in a nondual epistemology? Josh and Ray become one with Elisa Freschi from the University of Toronto, author of "Duty, Language, and Exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/psychology-cruelty. Throughout history, people have committed all kinds of cruel, degrading, and evil acts toward other people. Many believe that for evil acts like genocide to be even possible, the victims must first be dehumanized by the perpetrators, starting with dehumanizing language or propaganda. But is this lack of empathy always at the heart of human cruelty? When we call others "vermin," "roaches," or "animals" are we thereby denying their humanity? Or can human cruelty and violence sometimes rely on actually recognizing the other's humanity? Josh and guest host Alison Gopnik welcome back Paul Bloom from Yale University, author of "Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/vienna-circle. The Vienna Circle was a group of early twentieth-century philosophers, mathematicians, logicians, and scientists, best known for developing the theory of scientific knowledge called logical positivism. Although positivism as a project has been largely abandoned, the group's ideas continue to have profound influence on contemporary philosophy of science. So what philosophical theories were proposed by the Vienna Circle? How might the socio-political circumstances of their time have shaped their radical ideas? And how did their ideas aim to shape politics? Josh and Ray ask David Edmonds from the University of Oxford, author of "The Murder of Professor Schlick: The Rise and Fall of the Vienna Circle."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/disinformation-and-future-democracy. The 2020 election and startling events that followed show that the US is as polarized as ever. Not only is there fundamental disagreement over values and goals, but people can't seem to agree on the most basic, easily verifiable facts, like who actually won. With so many seemingly living in an alternative reality, how do we continue the business of democracy together? Should we adopt paternalistic policies towards fellow citizens who are so profoundly divorced from truth? And does our current plight suggest that the project of liberal democracy is failing? Ray and guest co-host (emeritus) John Perry stay informed about their guest, attorney and political analyst Dean Johnson, co-host of KALW's Your Legal Rights.
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/montaigne-and-art-essay. French thinker Michel de Montaigne invented a whole new genre in which to do philosophy: the essay. But in his use of that form, Montaigne repeatedly digresses and contradicts himself. So why did he think the essay was a good medium for philosophy? What impact did Montaigne's invention have on his own philosophical work, and on the centuries of thought that followed? Are there particular forms of writing that help us live a more philosophical life? The philosophers live their best life with Cécile Alduy from Stanford University, author of "The Politics of Love: Poetics and Genesis of the "Amours" in Renaissance France (1549-1560)."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/2021-dionysus-awards. After a year in which "entertainment" took on a whole new meaning, what were the movies that challenged our assumptions and made us think about things in new ways? Josh and guest co-host Jeremy Sabol talk to philosophers and listeners as they present our eighth annual Dionysus Awards for the most thoughtful films of the past year, including: • Best Film Painting a World Without Men • Best Picture That Packs All of American History Into One Room • Trippiest Investigation of Identity (That Probably Should Have Ended Sooner)
458: Repugnant Markets – Should Everything Be For Sale?
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/repugnant-markets. We might ban buying or selling horse meat in the US not for the protection of horses, but because we find it morally repugnant. Yet this moral repugnance is clearly not universal, and on some level may even be arbitrary, given France's attitude toward horse meat. What role, if any, should moral repugnance play in determining the rules of our marketplaces? Even if we want to eliminate the influence of moral repugnance, can we? Debra and Ken hold their noses with Nobel-laureate economist Alvin Roth, author of "Who Gets What ― and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design."
458: Repugnant Markets – Should Everything Be For Sale?
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/what-masculinity. Strong, in control, and stoic—these are traits of the ideal masculine man. Men who fail to conform to this ideal are often penalized, particularly if they are men of color, queer men, working-class men, or men with disabilities. So how do we create different visions of masculinity that make room for all kinds of men? Should we abandon the idea of masculinity altogether, or would that be throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Which models of masculinity will bring us closer to gender justice in the 21st century? The philosophers man their mics with Robin Dembroff from Yale University, author of "Real Men on Top: The Metaphysics of Patriarchy" (in progress).
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/what-has-replaced-freud. Although the concept that we can have thoughts and desires hidden from consciousness can be traced back to antiquity, it was Freud who truly popularized it in the twentieth century. Now Freud's theory of the unconscious mind has mostly been abandoned for being unscientific and lacking in empirical evidence. So what has replaced it? Are newer theories that reference "automatic systems" or "implicit attitudes" any more scientific than Freud's? And why is so much research about the unconscious mind being conducted in business schools? Josh and Ray are quite conscious of their guest, Blakey Vermeule from Stanford University, author of "The New Unconscious: A Literary Guided Tour."
More at http://philosophytalk.org/shows/john-rawls. John Rawls was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century. In his book "A Theory of Justice" he articulated a concept of justice as fairness, which won many fans among liberals, and provoked important responses from thoughtful libertarians such as Robert Nozick. Ken and John explore Rawls' ideas with one of his students, Joshua Cohen from UC Berkeley (formerly of Stanford University).
More at http://philosophytalk.org/shows/what-love. It may seem doubtful that philosophers have much to tell us about love (beyond their love of wisdom). Surely it is the poets who have the market cornered when it comes to deep reflection on the nature of love. John and Ken question the notion that love cannot be captured by the light of reason by turning their attention to the philosophy of love with philosopher-poet Troy Jollimore from CSU Chico. Troy is the author of "Love's Vision," as well as two collections of poems: "At Lake Scugog" and 2006's "Tom Thomson in Purgatory," which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
More at http://philosophytalk.org/shows/web-du-bois. Sociologist, historian, philosopher, editor, writer, and activist, W.E.B. DuBois was one of the most influential intellectuals of the twentieth century. The first African-American Ph.D. from Harvard University, DuBois died in Ghana after having renounced his American citizenship. In between he co-founded the NAACP and wrote "The Souls of Black Folk" (1903) as well as a number of other influential books that had a decisive impact on the development of African-American culture in the twentieth century. John and Ken discuss DuBois' life and thought with Lucius Outlaw from Vanderbilt University, author of "On Race and Philosophy."
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/rhetoric-big-tech. Big Tech is known for its "disruption" of established industries and changing fundamental aspects of our lives from shopping and delivery to communication and transit. While many welcome these changes, there are also worries about privacy, fairness, and deregulation. So how do tech companies think about what it is they are doing and what justifies it? Who are their philosophical sources, and do they use them responsibly? What role does New Age thinking, Ayn Rand, Martin Heidegger, and even Samuel Beckett play in shaping the rhetoric of big tech? Josh and Ray debug the code with Adrian Daub from Stanford University, author of "What Tech Calls Thinking: An Inquiry into the Intellectual Bedrock of Silicon Valley."
455: Trolling, Bullying, and Flame Wars - Humility and Online Discourse
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/trolling-bullying-and-flame-wars. Open up any online comments section and you'll find them: internet trolls, from the mildly inflammatory to the viciously bullying. It seems that the ease of posting online leads many to abandon any semblance of intellectual humility. So can we have intellectual humility on an anonymous forum with little oversight and accountability? Does current online behavior portend the end of humility in the public domain? How do we encourage greater humility and less arrogance in any public discourse? The Philosophers open up the comments section for Michael Lynch from the University of Connecticut, author of "The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data."
455: Trolling, Bullying, and Flame Wars - Humility and Online Discourse
More at https://www.philosophytalk.org/shows/democracy-numbers. The United States prides itself on being "the world's greatest democracy," which adheres to the principle, "one person, one vote." Despite this, its elections are often highly contentious—presidents can be elected after losing the popular vote, there is widespread gerrymandering and voter purging, and not everyone has equal representation in the Senate. So what can we do to make elections in the US more fair? And how do we decide what counts as fair in the first place? Is there some test or algorithm we can use to determine equal representation? Josh and Ray watch the polls with Moon Duchin from Tufts University, Director of the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Research Group.
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/comforting-conversations-pt2. In troubling, uncertain times, the arts and humanities are more important than ever. Engaging with works of literature can provide both much needed insight into our current struggles and a sense of perspective in a crisis. In what ways do novels or plays help us come to terms with human suffering? Can fictional narratives about past pandemics shed light on our current situation? And how can storytelling or music help bring us together in isolation? Josh and Ray converse with a range of Stanford faculty members about how philosophy, music, drama, and literature can provide comfort, connection, and a sense of community. • Ge Wang on making music across great distances • Laura Wittman on Alessandro Manzoni's "The Betrothed" • Harry Elam on August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" • Antonia Peacocke on the surprising philosophy of meditation
More at www.philosophytalk.org/shows/comforting-conversations-pt1. In troubling, uncertain times, the arts and humanities are more important than ever. Engaging with works of literature can provide both much needed insight into our current struggles and a sense of perspective in a crisis. In what ways do novels or plays help us come to terms with human suffering? Can fictional narratives about past pandemics shed light on our current situation? And how can storytelling or music help bring us together in isolation? Josh and Ray converse with a range of Stanford faculty members about how philosophy, music, drama, and literature can provide comfort, connection, and a sense of community. • Lanier Anderson on Albert Camus' The Plague • Michaela Bronstein on narrative and fiction as imaginative tools • Ato Quayson on the social value of oral storytelling