Claim Ownership


Subscribed: 0Played: 0


Whether it's theology, philosophy, politics, or science, it is not uncommon for people to believe their particular worldview has greater authority over others. This authoritarian approach to ideas implies that one person's representation of truth more closely and certainly reflects reality—they have the truth and we must submit to it.   Alternatively, pragmatists believe this abstract certitude leads to religious fundamentalism, philosophical dogmatism, political absoluteness, and rigid scientism.   For thinkers like the late-twentieth century philosopher Richard Rorty, language is an instrument for coordinating our efforts in addressing concrete issues we face in our lived environments.   He doesn't believe theology, politics, philosophy, or even science are about acquiring an accurate representation of reality. In fact, he rejects the notion that the nature of truth is one of language mirroring reality. Instead, he views language as a dynamic tool, not something that reproduces truth.   Often credited with rehabilitating pragmatism, Rorty encourages us to abandon these authoritarian approaches for what he calls a literary culture. While he holds that none of these disciplines have an epistemically privileged position from which they can determine which truth claims more closely represent reality, they each still play important roles in society.   In other words, each provides us with particular vocabularies with different uses. Their vitality resides in the way they empower us to describe and redescribe experiences in continually novel and fruitful ways.   Elin Danielsen Huckerby is a research fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, associated with an EU-funded project on Inclusive Science and European Democracies. She recently graduated with a PhD from the University of Cambridge, where she worked on Rorty’s uses of literature in his philosophical work.   She believes Rorty's literary attitude gives us more productive ways to move culture, science, and politics forward.     A few questions to ponder.   What is the role of literature in liberal democracies? What is moral progress for Rorty? How can liberal democracies benefit from embracing a more literary rather than scientistic culture? And, how worried should we be about Rorty's rejection of objective truth?   Show Notes Richard Rorty  The Takeover by Literary Culture: Richard Rorty's Philosophy of Literature by Elin Danielsen Huckerby (2021) "Rortian Liberalism and the Problem of Truth" by Adrian Rutt (2021) S1E20 Can Pragmatism Help Us Live Well? w/ John Stuhr (2021) S1E14 A Tool for a Pluralistic World w/ Justin Marshall (2021) S1E12 Philosophers Need to Care About the Poor w/ Jacob Goodson (2021) S1E07 Charles Peirce and Inquiry as an Act of Love w/ David O’Hara (2021) S1E06 Levinas and James: A Pragmatic Phenomenology w/ Megan Craig (2020) S1E01 Richard Rorty and Achieving Our Country w/ Adrian Rutt (2020) “The Power of One Idea” by Jeffrey Howard (2020) “The Pragmatic Truth of Existentialism” by Donovan Irven (2020) Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher by Neil Gross (2008) "Trotsky and the Wild Orchids" by Richard Rorty (1992) Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty (1989) Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature by Richard Rorty (1979)
Democratic deliberation can be viewed in a few different ways. It can be approached as a means of competing interests coming together to bargain between groups until they come to some kind of political agreement.     From an epistemological sense, deliberation is what we do in the absence of certainty, and where uncertainty exists so does the political. This requires us to practice as the political philosopher Hannah Arendt says, "thinking without banisters." Deliberation takes place as members of a community discuss and determine answers to perennial questions: What is real? What is moral? What do we value? How can we best address our political or economic problems?     There's a third form of democratic deliberation, one often overlooked or under-utilized: deliberation as a way of working through emotional trauma. Rather than debate the significance of certain political events and which legislative actions should be taken, this more therapeutic view considers deliberation a tool for helping communities process emotional cataclysms or psychological maladies, especially past ones left unacknowledged or repressed.     This can happen on a personal level, or collectively, for a community. Think of it like political activism as a massive group therapy session.     This third form is advocated for by Noëlle McAfee, a professor of philosophy at Emory University with a secondary appointment as professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. She is also the director of Emory’s Psychoanalytic Studies Program. In her 2019 book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, which won the American Psychoanalytic Association's 2020 Courage to Dream Book, McAfee applies a psychoanalytic lens to some of the most pressing political issues faced by American democracy today, such as racism, inequality, alienation, and globalism.     In this conversation, we reflect on a few things.     What is the fear of breakdown and how does this anxiety make democracy more difficult to practice? What are some psychoanalytic explanations for the rise of nativism and authoritarianism in the United States? What are some of these political ghosts and wounds that remain submerged or repressed? And what does it look like to use democratic deliberation as a form of collective therapy? Show Notes: Cornelius Castoriadis   Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis by Noëlle McAfee (2017)   "Remembering, Repeating, and Workting Through" by Sigmund Freud (1914)   D.W. Winnicott   Feminist Perspectives on Autonomy   "American Democracy and Its Broken Bargaining Tables"  by Daniel Layman (2021)   "Who Cares About Democracy?" by Walter Horn (2021)   S1E09 Trust in a Polarized Age w/ Kevin Vallier (2021)   "We're Overdoing Democracy. But Why?" by Kevin Vallier (2019)   S1E14 A Tool for a Pluralistic Society w/ Justin Marshall (2021)   S1E05 An Expansive and Democratic View of Physical Education w/ Nate Babcock (2020)
Scientific inquiry is sometimes viewed as a way of getting after literal knowledge, the belief our scientific claims are a one-for-one match with reality—or what is actually happening out there in the world. However, this view requires a certainty in our beliefs or truth claims about nature that may not be justified. Furthermore, this absoluteness may lead us toward a scientism that runs counter to the openness and dynamism that animates so much of what scientists practice in their labs, field work, empirical research, and daily lives.   Alternatively, other scientists and philosophers frame scientific knowledge as metaphorical. Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, for instance. Scientific claims require storytelling components and familiar imagery to help us understand what's happening at any given moment. Scientific metaphors are valid only as much as they are useful in addressing problems in our lived environments, or providing a reliable means for predicting future events.   Jessica Wahman is the author of Narrative Naturalism: An Alternative Framework for Philosophy of Mind and co-editor of Cosmopolitanism and Place. She researches and publishes on topics in American philosophy, particularly the work of George Santayana and philosophical psychology. Her current research focuses on pragmatic conceptions of the self and their implications for debates about free will. She is also a senior lecturer in philosophy at Emory University.   Wahman believes that viewing scientific knowledge as metaphorical creates not only a more fruitful approach to science, but avoids the many missteps and dogmatism that often attend more literalist ways of investigating nature and experience. This metaphorical thinking informs what she calls narrative naturalism, a non-reductive but naturalistic method for studying our world and the way things work, specifically consciousness and questions of the mind.   A few things to consider. If scientific knowledge is metaphorical, why not settle for more mythological explanations rather than material or naturalistic ones? Why should we be careful about reducing feelings or thoughts to mere brain chemistry? And, what concrete impact in our daily lives can a narrative naturalist approach have?   I hope you'll contribute to the conversation.    Show Notes Narrative Naturalism: An Alternative Framework for Philosophy of Mind by Jessica Wahman Baruch Spinoza "So You Think There Are Laws in Nature?" by Eleni Angelou (2021) "A Community of Consciousness: Bridging the Gap Between Mind and Matter" by Derek Parsons (2021) "Humans Are Not Merely Algorithms" by Steve Minett (2021) "Sentience, Not Consciousness, Is Key to the Cosmos" by Michael Jawer (2020) S1E20 Can Pragmatism Help Us Live Well w/John Stuhr (2021) The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes (1976) Scepticism and Animal Faith by George Santayana (1923) "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" by Thomas Nagel (1974) "The Power of One Idea" by Jeffrey Howard (2020)
Pragmatists do not hold absolute faith in any particular value, principle, or belief. This applies even to the many concepts affiliated with pragmatists—such as pluralism, fallibilism, democracy, and naturalism.   They focus on experience as the field in which we continually test out and reconstruct our views of the world and determine what works in our particular place and time. Pragmatism is focused on concrete results in experience, judging ideas and beliefs according to their fruits and not their roots.   For a pragmatist, the world is constantly changing—not just our views or understanding of it. The questions that were relevant two millennia ago may no longer be relevant today. This requires new solutions and novel practices.   Pragmatism offers an approach to the human experience that will resonate with some, and not with others. So is pragmatism best understood as a temperament? A method? Is it a theory of truth? Or is it primarily a way of viewing the world?   In the final episode of the season, Jeffrey Howard speaks with John Stuhr. Stuhr is Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and American Studies at Emory University, where he chaired the department of philosophy from 2008-2016. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books, including Pragmatism, Postmodernism, and the Future of Philosophy (2003); Pragmatic Fashions: Pluralism, Democracy, Relativism, and the Absurd (2016); and 100 Years of Pragmatism: The Revolutionary Philosophy of William James (2009).    Stuhr thinks of pragmatism more as a fashion or "season of belief." It's a temporal philosophy. If reality weren't constantly changing, then we could assert a truth and hold onto it for eternity. Instead, by leaning into experience and viewing truth as provisional, we can continue to adapt to changing circumstances. This provides us with a dynamic means through which we can improve our communities and personal lives just a little more each day.   That is if we're willing to do the work, because, for a pragmatist, the future is never guaranteed.   A few questions to consider. How does pragmatism avoid devolving into reckless relativism? How might a pragmatist approach questions of what it means to live well? What is the future of philosophy and what role can pragmatism play in our pursuit of truth?   Show Notes Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle (350BCE)   The Essential Works of Charles S. Peirce by Charles Peirce (2010)   Pragmatism: A New Name for an Old Way of Thinking by William James (1907)   Essays in Radical Empiricism by William James (1906)   A Pluralistic Universe by William James (1909)   “The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy” by John Dewey (1917)   Experience and Nature by John Dewey (1925)   The Public and Its Problems by John Dewey (2012)   Pragmatism, Postmodernism, and the Future of Philosophy by John Stuhr (2003)   Pragmatic Fashions: Pluralism, Democracy, Relativism, and the Absurd by John Stuhr (2016)   100 Years of Pragmatism: The Revolutionary Philosophy of William James edited by John Stuhr (2009)   S1E14 A Tool for a Pluralistic World w/ Justin Marshall (2021)   S1E12 Philosophers Need to Care About the Poor w/ Jacob Goodson (2021)   S1E07 Charles Peirce and Inquiry as an Act of Love w/ David O'Hara (2021)   S1E06 Levinas and James: A Pragmatic Phenomenology w/ Megan Craig (2020)   "The Power of One Idea" by Jeffrey Howard (2020)   "The Pragmatic Truth of Existentialism" by Donovan Irven (2020)
Buddhist practice has been around since the sixth century. As a way of life, Buddhism acknowledges there is suffering in the world, which arises from selfish desire, and that by letting go of this desire and following the Eightfold Path—put forward by the Buddha—we can be liberated from suffering. In tandem, followers of the Buddha are called to reduce the suffering of all sentient beings.   But what does this mean in the context of racism in the United States, in particular, the enormous damage inflicted upon Black Americans throughout the past four centuries? What insight might Buddhism offer us as we continue to pursue racial justice and greater equality?   Jeffrey Howard speaks with Charles Johnson, a University of Washington professor emeritus, novelist, philosopher, short story writer, cartoonist, and essayist. In addition to receiving the 1990 National Book Award for his novel, Middle Passage, he has authored 24 other books, including most recently Grand: A Grandfather's Wisdom for a Happy Life. Throughout his expansive career, he has written extensively on Buddhism, race, creativity, martial arts, and the writer's craft.   Presenting Buddhism as a radical form of liberation, Johnson suggests that to truly let go of race, we must abandon our assumptions and explanatory models of who we think other people are. And by relinquishing our ego, we can achieve what Martin Luther King, Jr. calls "the Beloved Community."   A few questions to consider. How does Buddhism inform political activism? If Buddhism teaches there is nothing we should cling or attach to, what does that mean for our political commitments or philosophical worldviews? And how do we navigate the tension between letting go of race while amplifying awareness of its continuing negative impacts on people of color?   Show Notes Thich Nhat Hahn   "The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism" by Thich Nhat Hahn (2017)   "A Sangha by Another Name" by Charles Johnson (1999)   Dreamer by Charles Johnson (1998)   Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist - One Woman's Spiritual Journey by Jan Willis (2008)   Taming the Ox: Buddhist Stories and Reflections on Politics, Race, Culture, and Spiritual Practice by Charles Johnson (2014)   Grand: A Grandfather's Wisdom for a Happy Life by Charles Johnson (2020)   The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling by Charles Johnson (2016)   "Feeding the Wolf: A Conversation with Charles Johnson" by Jeffrey Howard (2020)   S1E1 Richard Rorty and Achieving Our Country w/ Adrian Rutt (2020)   S1E10 Unschooling and Gentle Parenting w/ Tiersa McQueen (2021)
A philosophy of living, similar to a religion, explains the human condition and provides a moral and spiritual guide for how we can navigate identified challenges. It directs our behavior and helps us understand the significance of what we experience.   Originating in the ancient Greco-Roman world, Stoicism is a life philosophy that places reason at the center of human flourishing. For a Stoic, living well means developing one's moral character through logic and mindfulness. Virtue is the highest good. By focusing on what we can control and accepting what we can't, a Stoic tackles the world with equanimity.   Jeffrey Howard speaks with Derek Parsons, an educator with a bachelor's degree in English and history and a master's in educational administration. He serves as a contributing editor for Erraticus and co-hosts the Open Door Philosophy podcast. In this episode, he introduces us to ancient Stoics such as Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, explains the recent resurgence of Stoicism, and reflects on the benefits this 2300-year-old philosophy of living has for us moderns.   A few questions on Stoic thought. Why are we wrong to view the Stoic as detached and emotionally muted? Does Stoicism allow for a variety of religious views, including a belief in God? What are the potential pitfalls of focusing too much on developing one's moral character? And which philosophies of living couple well with Stoicism? Show Notes How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life by Massimo Pigliucci (2017)   Meditations by Marcus Aurelius   The Discourses by Epictetus   Letters from a Stoic by Seneca   Better Better: Stoicism for a World Worth Living In by Kai Whiting and Leonidas Konstantakos (2021)   "News-fatigued? Read Stoic Philosophy and Poetry" by Rachel Hadas (2018)   "Ecstatic Experience: How the West Can Find Itself by Losing Control" by Jeffrey Howard (2018)   S1E16 Where Do Animals Fit into Human Flourishing w/ Ike Sharpless (2021)
Debates about reversing climate change can be understood as a tension between two groups: wizards and prophets.  According to Charles C. Mann, wizards are tech-optimists, those who believe that technology resolves more problems than it creates, that technology will save us from the climate crisis. It has advanced us this far, and it will continue to do so. Think of the innovations in alternative energy, such as wind or solar power.   On the other hand, prophets are more focused on how culture shapes our choices. They believe we need to live more within our means, exercise more humility about what we're able to control or even manage. For prophets, we face this climate crisis because of human hubris and the reality that we are taking more from the earth than it can give.   This is certainly a clarifying model for understanding the discourse around our perhaps most ubiquitous challenge in the twenty-first century. But what if there's a more productive middle way between these two perspectives?   Jeffrey Howard talks with Ross Kenyon, a cofounder of the Nori carbon removal marketplace where he serves as Creative Editor. He has had a varied career, working in an academic center and taking PhD coursework in political philosophy before switching to screenwriting and producing content. He currently leads Nori's creative media efforts, hosting their Reversing Climate Change podcast and producing the Carbon Removal Newsroom podcast.   Kenyon exemplifies a curiosity-driven approach to reversing climate change. He minimizes polemics or alarmist rhetoric, hoping that doing so will bring more voices to the climate crisis table. While he freely admits his communication style doesn't work for everyone, he believes we need this pluralistic vision to reversing climate change if we're going to have much success in reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.   A few questions to ponder. What role does literature or climate fiction have in convincing us of the urgency around the climate crisis? How bad are things now, and what will our failure to reverse climate change mean for geopolitical issues such as war, immigration, starvation, and drought? How do we get people with conflicting ideologies to work together toward shared problems, and what should we personally be doing to help reverse climate change?   Show Notes S2E48 - Reversing Climate Change Podcast - On Pragmatism and Climate Change w/ Jeffrey Howard (2021)   S1E107 - Reversing Climate Change Podcast - A Dedicated Introduction to Communitarianism w/ Jeffrey Howard (2019)   "Going Home with Wendell Berry" by Amanda Petrusich (2019)   Essays, 1993-2017 by Wendell Berry (2019)   Mary Oliver   Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (2019)   The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann (2019)   Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)   The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson (2020)   On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859)   All Hell Breaking Loose by Michael T. Klare (2019)   "Treating Carbon Emissions Like Trash Collection Could Reverse Climate Change" by Paul Gambill (2018)   S1E16 Where Do Animals Fit Into Human Flourishing w/ Ike Sharpless (2021)   S1E11 A Small Farm Future w/ Chris Smaje (2021)   S1E09 Trust in a Polarized Age w/ Kevin Vallier (2021)   S1E08 Subsistence Agriculture During the Collapse of Industrial Capitalism w/ Ashley Colby (2021)
Answering questions about what it means for humans to flourish is difficult. Attempting any certainty as to what it means for nonhuman animals to flourish is even more confounding. And yet, these questions have significant overlap.   While some cultures have developed relationships that are responsive to the lives and needs of other animals, some communities—many stemming from modern Western traditions—have tended to view nonhuman animals more like resources. Materials to be managed or controlled for the primary benefit of humanity. From this perspective, the natural world is mechanical, passive, and speechless, seen as distinct from the human world.   But how might attending more to nonhuman perspectives and ways of being contribute to human flourishing? What, if any, moral obligations do we have to the nonhuman members of our particular communities and households?   Jeffrey Howard speaks with Ike Sharpless, a political theorist interested in animal ethics and the history of science and philosophy. He holds two master's degrees from Tufts University. One in law and diplomacy, the other in animals and public policy. In addition to earning a master's degree in political science from UC San Diego, he is also studying to receive his doctorate. He advocates for a more inclusive view of human nature that obscures the divisions between humans and nonhuman animals, inviting us to reflect more on the sensorial encounters we have with other living beings. He takes us on a freewheeling exploration into the challenging territories of animal flourishing, interspecies relationships, and how we might better accommodate nonhuman animals into our political and social systems.   Now some things worth considering. How confident can we be in our understanding of the inner lives of other animals? What are some tangible steps we can individually take to make right our relationships with other animals? Do nonhuman animals have moral agency? In what ways do other living creatures contribute to human wellbeing and what can we do to bolster animal flourishing?   Show Notes The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram (1996)   Why Look at Animals by John Berger (2009)   Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership by Martha Nussbaum (2007)   Primates and Philosophers by Frans de Waal (2006)   Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights by Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka (2011)   The Eye of the Crocodile by Val Plumwood (2012)   Animal Minds and Human Minds: The Origins of the Western Debate by Richard Sorabji (1995)   How Forests Think: Toward an Anthology Beyond the Human by Eduardo Kohn (2013)   "Alone in One of Nature's Threshold Places" by Derek Parsons (2020)   S1E08 Embracing Subsistence Agriculture During the Collapse of Industrial Capitalism w/ Ashley Colby (2021)   S1E07 Charles Peirce and Inquiry as an Act of Love w/ David O'Hara (2020)   "Politics and the Signs of Animal Life: Biosemiotics, Aristotle, and Human-Animal Relations" by Ike Sharpless (2016)
When it comes to resource management, there are two dominant forces that exert tremendous influence on who gets what: the market and the state. Sometimes these two entities compete or conflict. Other times they collaborate, and even conspire—to the great detriment of communities. Either can result in environmental exploitation, extreme inequality or poverty, erasure of culture and place, and invite an alienation that is generated by people having limited say in what happens to their communities.   Yet there remains a resource management system whose history runs deeper than either the market or the state—and that is the commons. Distinguished by its clearly demarcated membership, it is fiercely democratic and practices a more locally-oriented governance regime. A given resource is apportioned and stewarded by members according to norms they determine within their community. For the most part, neither the market nor the state are expected or encouraged to intervene. One is either a contributing member of the commons or they are not.   But if commons have such a rich heritage, then why have they become less prevalent in the United States and in what are considered "developed countries"?   Jeffrey Howard speaks with Neal Gorenflo. He is the executive director of Shareable, an award-winning nonprofit news outlet, action network, and consultancy focused on the latest innovations in resource sharing, the commons, and the solidarity economy. He is also the author of Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons (2018). In addition to the state and the market, he proposes the commons as a way to foster small-scale experiments to see what works best in any given community. This pragmatic approach to solutions is geared toward addressing needs more than trying to satisfy any particular ideology. As the saying goes, ideologies divide us, while needs unify us.   Now, looking further into the twenty-first century, what would it take for the commons to become a prevailing paradigm for resource management? What does a Sharing Cities approach to urban development look like? And what prevents a commons from being co-opted or captured by market or state forces?   Show Notes: A Year of Living Locally by Neal Gorenflo (2020) Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons by Neal Gorenflo (2018) Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons by David Bollier (2014) Shareable S1E11 A Small Farm Future w/ Chris Smaje (2021) S1E08 Embracing Subsistence Agriculture During the Collapse of Industrial Capitalism w/ Ashley Colby (2021) S1E03 Placemaking and the Benefits of Local Scale w/ Jaime Izurieta (2020) "Coops in Spain's Basque Region Soften Capitalism's Rough Edges" by Peter S. Goodman (2020) Mondragon Coop "A Land Value Tax Fosters Strong Community" by Matthew Downhour (2020) "The Tragedy of the Commons" by Garrett Hardin (1968) "All the Lonely People: The Atomized Generation" by Willow Liana (2020) Elinor Ostrom "Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action" by Elinor Ostrom (1990) "A General Framework for Analyzing Sustainability of Social-Ecological Systems" by Elinor Ostrom (2009) "Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms" by Elinor Ostrom (2000) "Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems" by Elinor Ostrom (2010) "America Needs to Build Strong Towns, Not More Infrastructure" by Jacqueline M. Kory-Westlund (2020)
Coming to some semblance of consensus opinion is a paramount challenge in a pluralistic world. We disagree on what constitutes truth and how we ought to obtain it, whether our undertaking be moral, scientific, or political.  It has been a common practice in Western philosophy to focus on uncovering an accurate reflection of reality, in hopes that by showing others these true representations of the world, we can bring our community members into agreement. This view holds that if we can clearly present objective truth, we can create meaningful consensus en route to fostering a more peaceful and thriving existence for humanity. In reality, people disagree—oftentimes vehemently, and even violently—on what counts as evidence and which methods for discovering truth are most convincing. We pit our chosen experts against one another. Your preferred philosopher or politician may persuade you and your circle of friends, but what do we do when others are unmoved by what seems, to us, to be so obviously true?  Jeffrey Howard speaks with Justin Marshall, a pragmatist philosopher with a graduate degree from George Mason University. He argues that better understanding how our beliefs are formed can help us to navigate the ways in which truth and divergent viewpoints continually perplex liberal democracies and pluralistic societies. Drawing inspiration from thinkers like William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and Richard Rorty, he explains the roles personal temperament, experiences, language, and culture play in shaping truth. He challenges us to practice more intellectual humility and to reconsider the idea that we can know whether our ideas actually hook up to reality in any meaningful or certain way. To what degree are our beliefs reflections of our temperaments rather than reflections of objective reality? How might it benefit us to view language as a tool for helping us to better cope with reality rather than as a one-to-one representation of the world? If our notions of truth are contingent upon our particular cultures, personal histories, or demographic backgrounds, how do we avoid the trap of philosophical relativism? And, what social and political solutions can philosophical pragmatism offer us in a pluralistic world? Show Notes “The Fixation of Belief” by Charles Sanders Peirce (1877) Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking by William James (1907) “Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality” by Richard Rorty (1998) “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” by Thomas Nagel (1974) The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant (1781) Overdoing Democracy by Robert Talisse (2019) Pragmatism, Postmodernism, and the Future of Philosophy by John Stuhr (2003) S1E07 Charles Sanders Peirce and Inquiry as an Act of Love w/ David O’Hara (2021) S1E01 Richard Rorty and Achieving Our Country w/ Adrian Rutt (2020)
There has long been a bit of jousting between the human and natural sciences over who is more rigorous or which method is better capable of providing us with facts about the world. For certain types of empiricists, this jockeying for epistemological status and justification has tended to skew in favor of the natural sciences. And given the premium some cultures place on prediction, control, and the power that comes with laying hold of causal laws, the natural sciences have enjoyed abundant prestige over the past two centuries. In hopes of garnering a similar reputation, some in the human sciences have made significant efforts to modify their methods to more closely resemble those used in the natural sciences. But can we study human experience in the same way we tend to examine the natural world? Just as there are reliable causal laws that can be generalized across the globe, are there moral or social laws that dictate the dynamics of human history? In the nineteenth century, the German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey attempted to make a clear distinction between the methods and questions used by the natural sciences and those employed by the human sciences. Whereas the natural sciences are looking for generalizable laws or supposed regularities about the physical world, he proposes that the human sciences ought to focus on understanding and interpreting lived experience.  Lived experience contrasts with abstract or theoretical representations of experience, which are more like idealized forms of what it means to be human, largely divorced from the flesh and blood of history. Lived experience, on the other hand, requires that we interpret and continually reinterpret what it means to be human from a given point in history. This is based on what individuals communicate about what it feels like to be them. This is sometimes also applied to questions pertaining to racial identity, gender dynamics, economic background, and the various ways in which people experience life differently from one another.  Jeffrey Howard speaks with Henriikka Hannula, a doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna, in Austria. Originally from Finland, her research focuses on late-nineteenth-century German philosophy, specifically that of Wilhelm Dilthey. She explains the central role the concepts of historicism, lived experience, and hermeneutics play in Dilthey’s philosophy. In what could also be considered a rallying cry for the human sciences, Hannula argues for a rigorous and systematic approach to studying culture and society that is informed by the work of Wilhelm Dilthey. Now, what reasons do we have to think human experiences and the natural world should be studied differently? Why might it be more productive to study the human condition at the nexus of lived experience rather than through an abstract or detached framework? If gaining a meaningful understanding of culture requires that we continually have to reinterpret human interactions and events, then how can we ever arrive at any certain knowledge in the human sciences? Show Notes Theory and Practice in Wilhelm Dilthey’s Historiography by Henriikka Hannula (2018)  Wilhelm Dilthey as an Introduction by Matthias Jung (1996) Truth and Method by Hans-Georg Gadamer (1960) The Cambridge Companion to Hermeneutics edited by Michael N. Forster and Kristin Gjesdal (2019) Hans-Georg Gadamer Wilhelm Dilthey The German Historicist Tradition by Frederick C. Beiser (2011) Friedrich Schleiermacher Schleiermacher’s Hermeneutical System in Relation to Earlier Protestant Hermeneutics by Wilhelm Dilthey (1860) William James Uncertain Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Thought, 1870-1920 by James T. Kloppenberg (1986) Feminist Standpoint Theory The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902)
While some philosophers view their primary task as one of discovering the nature of reality and then describing it accurately for the rest of us, others have practiced philosophy as an edifying enterprise, asserting that it should be employed to help us better resolve social and political problems—to change the world. Although both of these approaches have been utilized throughout history, the philosopher John McCumber argues that this later movement in philosophy was mostly purged from academia in the United States starting during the Cold War. 1950s McCarthyism and the “Red Scare” made many American politicians and professors wary of becoming blacklisted or punished for expressing viewpoints associated with communism. These views included concerns for the poor and economically-disadvantaged, support for labor unions, and outcries regarding exploitative economic practices. In turn, this meant that many academics were pushed out of their positions at colleges and universities if they engaged in rhetoric or activities that were perceived as being too “red.”  This academic McCarthyism, according to McCumber, further enabled the ascent of analytic philosophy, a method that attempts to describe the world in the most linguistically precise way possible, leaning heavily toward a mathematical-like language to capture an accurate picture of reality. As a result, philosophy departments throughout the United States became less interested in engaging in edifying philosophy. Consequently, academic McCarthyism helped elevate subjects like mathematics, philosophy of science, and logic at the expense of political and social philosophy. In the later part of the twentieth century, Richard Rorty ushered in a new era of philosophy. Turning their own methods against them, Rorty argued that we ought to jettison analytic philosophy, instead focusing on the practical consequences of our ideas as they manifest in politics and society. Rejecting a representationalist approach, Rorty spent much of his career rallying philosophers around a more edifying position, suggesting that we’re better served by focusing on how ideas can advance society and improve social conditions for people—especially the poor and marginalized. In fact, Rorty went so far as to make several political predictions regarding the practical uses of philosophy and literature in the twenty-first century. On numerous occasions, he outlined how they would be applied throughout society to transform politics following what he imagines will be the darkest years in American history—from 2014 to 2044. Jeffrey Howard speaks with Jacob Goodson, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. Goodson believes that, despite some of Rorty’s philosophical shortcomings, we ought to embrace a more edifying orientation toward ideas. In his recent book, The Dark Years?: Philosophy, Politics, and the Problem of Predictions (2020), he considers Rorty’s political predictions and how they might help guide us toward a better future. Goodson examines which predictions have already been realized—including the election of a “strongman” in 2016—which ones might be coming to fruition now, and whether Rorty’s conception of an idealized future will unfold in the way the neopragmatist philosopher hopes it will.  A few questions to ponder. In what ways might analytic philosophy be inadequate for addressing social and political problems? Should philosophers focus on changing society or is their primary role to help us better understand the nature of reality? What does philosophy stand to lose by following Richard Rorty into his neopragmatist vision for the discipline? And where should we place our hope for the future? Show Notes The Dark Years?: Philosophy, Politics, and The Problem of Predictions by Jacob Goodson (2020) Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America by Richard Rorty (1997) Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty (1989) Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature by Richard Rorty (1979) Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in Its Place by Robert Talisse (2019) “Suspending Politics to Save Democracy” by Lawrence Torcello (2020) “We’re Overdoing Democracy. But Why?” by Kevin Vallier (2019) The Philosophy Scare: The Politics of Reason in the Early Cold War by John McCumber (2016) Time in a Ditch: American Philosophy and the McCarthy Era by John McCumber (2001) Philosophy and Social Hope by Richard Rorty (2000) Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher by Neil Gross (2008) Analytic Philosophy “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841) S1E01 Richard Rorty and Achieving Our Country with Adrian Rutt (2020) The Future of Religion by Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo (2007) Walter Rauschenbusch Jeffrey Stout
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that we are always in an age of crisis. Whether this entails more apocalyptic tendencies or more tempered framings, crisis seems to be a constant companion throughout human history. At present, crises abound regarding climate change, exploitation of land, and soil degradation. We’re seeing major cracks in political economies, many of which stem from misguided cultural paradigms. With an industrialized global economy based on fossil fuels and an ethos that disregards limits, we find ourselves in an unsustainable present, with what is becoming an increasingly likely catastrophic future. Most people agree that we can’t continue along the same trajectory we're currently on. Yet, many attempts to forestall the further collapse of prevailing systems appear insufficient for the tasks at hand. What will it take to shift toward more egalitarian and low-carbon societies? Is it possible for global supply chains to be ecologically sustainable and ethically justifiable? What negative impacts do global and industrialized political economies have regarding personal autonomy, spiritual fulfillment, community connectedness, and ecological conviviality? When should we practice skepticism toward centralized and tech-optimist solutions to our many crises? Jeffrey Howard speaks with Chris Smaje, a farmer and social scientist that has coworked a small farm in southwest England for more than 15 years. In his new book, A Small Farm Future (2020), he argues that societies built around local economies, self-provisioning, agricultural diversity, and commoning of certain ecological resources are our best shot for creating a sustainable future—in terms of the ecological, nutritional, and psychosocial.  In this small farm future, Smaje doesn’t imply that there will be no place for large farms or industrialization. Similarly, he doesn’t propose this vision as a panacea for all our problems nor as a utopia looking backward toward a romanticized past. There will be trade-offs. Difficult ones. He offers a melioristic way forward, believing that ecological and moral limits are going to force our hand, compelling us to consider more radical alternatives than the status quo allows. A Small Farm Future advances a surprising amount of optimism despite how much dominant systems are not only showing signs of significant breakdown—made more pronounced by the COVID pandemic—but suggesting their likely collapse. Whether or not the types of collapse Smaje discusses actually happen in the ways he anticipates, he believes that the earth’s population will be better off if we shift toward small-holding property ownership, oriented around place-based communities and local economies.  Several questions worth contemplating. In what ways does scaling up systems make us less able to deal with crises effectively? What advantages do permaculture and regenerative agriculture have over large-scale, monocultural approaches? What are some politically feasible ways to make land access more egalitarian? And what trade-offs might we have to make in moving toward a small farm future? Show Notes A Small Farm Future: Making the Case for a Society Built Around Local Economies, Self-Provisioning, Agricultural Diversity, and a Shared Earth by Chris Smaje (2021) Degrowth by Giorgos Kallis (2018) Limits: Why Malthus Was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care by Giorgos Kallis (2019) Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World by Jason Hickel (2021) Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm's Practical Guide to Liberation on Land by Leah Penniman (2018) Smallholders, Householders: Farm Families and the Ecology of Intensive, Sustainable Agriculture by Robert McC. Netting (1993) Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power, and the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System by Raj Patel (2007) Peasants and the Art of Farming by Jan Douwe van der Ploeg (2013) Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James Scott (2017) Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia by Steven Stoll (2017) A Small Farm Future blog by Chris Smaje S1E08 Subsistence Agriculture During the Collapse of Industria Capitalism w/ Ashley Colby (2021)
Mass schooling is a relatively recent phenomenon, an experiment in education that gained steam following the industrial revolution, becoming increasingly widespread in the nineteenth century, in part, due to advocates like Horace Mann. Mann was a social reformer skeptical of parents’ abilities to properly educate their children to become future employees and democratic citizens. He believed these common schools, as they were called, could remedy the lack of proper discipline found in some homes. Notably, Mann homeschooled his own children outside the dictates of these common schools he advanced for other people’s children. Further, he and his fellow reformers worried about the flood of diverse immigrant families that were challenging contemporary cultural and social hegemony. Mann went so far as to argue that these marginalized groups were “wholly of another kind in morals and intellect.”    Mass schooling champions asserted that compulsory education was necessary for preventing the corruption of young children in the hands of those they deemed ill-suited to properly foster their moral and intellectual development—namely, their families and respective communities. Traditional schools were to be the means of instilling a particular sense of shared American identity that would allow American democracy to function well. This is not to color all mass schooling advocates as cultural chauvinists but to highlight that what we consider traditional schooling today is, in many ways, informed by the notion that parents and children lack the skills required to learn outside the schooling system. Traditional schooling embraces a view that learning best occurs when a uniform curriculum is imposed upon young minds, children being segregated according to age within rigid classroom structures. It is commonly held that becoming a successful and contributing member of a democratic society requires going through the mass schooling system. Conventional schooling’s primary goal is knowledge acquisition—with everything else being secondary. Students tend to be treated as passive subjects, receptacles for the knowledge considered necessary by their teachers, school system administrators, and other centralized educational authorities.    What might a more student-centered learning environment look like? What if instead of imposing a universal curriculum onto children, they were provided with the resources needed to help them achieve their own self-selected goals? What if becoming a socially and emotionally intelligent human being was the primary goal of an educational approach, rather than being supplemental to knowledge acquisition?    Jeffrey Howard speaks with Tiersa McQueen, an unschooling parent of four children. Following her own experiences as a teacher and her children’s encounters with mass schooling, her family has embraced unschooling and gentle parenting. According to McQueen, these two philosophies go hand-in-hand, holding central the idea that children deserve full respect, greater autonomy, and tailored support as they learn how to thrive as young people—and eventually, as adults.    Despite her advocacy for self-directed learning, she acknowledges that she isn’t completely opposed to schooling. It’s still an option for her kids should they choose it. However, as a Black parent, she is well aware of the school-to-prison pipeline and the reality that Black children are punished far more frequently and severely than other children in schooling environments. She expresses that she can’t wait for traditional schools to change in order for them to become safe and nurturing places for her children.   McQueen considers the criticisms lobbed at unschoolers and self-directed education advocates, suggesting that many of them are stereotypes pertaining to a type of homeschooler that doesn’t really exist anymore. Unschooling and gentle parenting are difficult for some people to imagine, and have their own share of difficulties, but she observes that her relationships with her own children have never been better. She also notes that the depth of her children’s learning has increased dramatically as they’ve been able to direct time and attention toward their own goals and interests.    Some things to further consider. A century ago, the philosopher and social activist John Dewey proposed a notion of education as “learning by doing,” emphasizing the need for practicality in meaningful learning. What might happen if more young minds were afforded this approach, supported by family and community members as they experimented with overcoming the challenges they face in their particular social environments? In what ways might an unschooling approach to learning better prepare people to navigate the demands and problems unique to their local contexts? And how might unschooling better prepare children to participate in democratic living? Show Notes “When You Get Into Unschooling, It’s Almost Like a Religion” by Molly Worthen (2020)   Raising Free People: Unschooling as Liberation and Healing Work by Akilah S. Richards (2020)    Untigering: Peaceful Parenting for the Deconstructing Tiger Parent by Iris Chen (2020)   Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray (2013)   John Holt   “First Impressions of an Unschooling School” by Jeffrey Howard (2018)   Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom by Kerry McDonald (2019)   Horace Mann’s Troubling Legacy: The Education of Democratic Citizens by Bob Pepperman Taylor (2010)   “My Pedagogic Creed” by John Dewey (1897)   Democracy and Education by John Dewey (1916)   S1E19 Buddhist Reflections on Race and Liberation w/ Charles Johnson (2021)
Trust plays a central role in democratic societies. If we can’t rely upon fellow community members to act in accordance with generally accepted norms, then we’re going to be in a really bad way. Social trust in the US has fallen dramatically. In the early 1970s, around half of Americans said that most people can be trusted. Today, less than a third of Americans feel that way. Similarly, political trust—our faith in political institutions and processes to function properly—has declined as well. In the 1960s, more than 70 percent of Americans said that they trusted the federal government always or most of the time. Today, that figure hovers around 17 percent. In an idealized liberal democracy, a healthy dose of skepticism toward politicians and government officials is vital for assuring fruitful outcomes. However, we must be careful so that that accountability mechanism doesn’t turn into a cynicism that corrodes democratic norms. Rampant distrust prevents us from solving problems with our neighbors and broader communities. Alternatively, trust helps to grease the wheels of democracy. This enables us to better overcome inherited differences and to arrive at more pluralistic perspectives on the problems we face. Instead, we find ourselves in an increasingly polarized age, where we seem less and less to share common realities or notions of truth. Distrust breeds polarization, and polarization begets more distrust. When we no longer hold the same media or news sources in common or we maintain a thoroughgoing distrust of media institutions, what will prevent us from further polarization? Jeffrey Howard speaks with Kevin Vallier, a political philosopher and associate professor of philosophy at Bowling Green State University, where he directs their program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law. In his new book Trust in a Polarized Age (2020), Vallier advocates for public reason liberalism as a way of revitalizing social and political trust. He draws on empirical trust literature to argue a way forward for reducing polarization. He proposes that we reinvest in liberal democratic political and economic institutions: high-quality governance, procedural fairness, markets, social welfare programs, and freedom of association. Vallier believes that if we can educate ourselves on how elections and political parties take advantage of mistrust and polarization, we can protect American democracy against new authoritarian threats.  This raises some questions. What relationship is there between the scope of government and the degree of political trust in the broader society? Rather than view our political opponents as essentially evil, what might happen instead if we primarily acted as if they were misguided or ill-informed? How much more trust would be fostered if we focused locally rather than turning our eyes toward Washington DC or to the headquarters of multinational firms? What can we do to restore trust in the media? And what hope do we have of breaking the distrust-divergence feedback loop? Show Notes Trust in a Polarized Age by Kevin Vallier (2020) “Trust in a Age of Reactionaries and Revolutionaries” by Matthew Downhour (2021) “We’re Overdoing Democracy. But Why?” by Kevin Vallier (2019) “Suspending Politics to Save Democracy” by Lawrence Torcello (2020) The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard (1996) The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (1998) Free to Choose: A Personal Statement by Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman (1990) Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman (2002) The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith (1759) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776) A Theory of Justice by John Rawls (1971) Political Liberalism by John Rawls (1993) The Constitution of Liberty by F.A. Hayek (1960) Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Vol I.: Rules and Order by F. A. Hayek (1973) The Order of Public Reason by Gerald Gaus (2010) S1E01 Richard Rorty and Achieving Our Country w/ Adrian Rutt (2020) S1E02 Toward a Politics of Uncertainty w/ Daniel Wortel-London (2020)
We occupy human environments that are overlapped by numerous social, moral, and political systems. Some of these interlock while it’s unclear how exactly others relate to one another. The more theoretically-minded among us—and the more ideology-craving parts within us—tend to reach for rather all-encompassing frameworks to help us make sense of what creates social and environmental ills. We look around ourselves and see nutritious food shortages, ecological exploitation, social injustices, atomization, political radicalization, and tyranny. And depending on our ideological proclivities, we use divergent language as tools for identifying their sources, in hopes of then addressing these identified problems—using terms like socialism, capitalism, fascism, or liberalism, to name a few.  Abstractions or idealized conceptions like these have important roles to play, but how helpful are they in bringing about social change? What if instead of leading out with political ideology or philosophical theorizing, we focused our efforts on meeting needs as they present themselves? What would happen if instead of organizing with an eye toward finding like-minded individuals that share our same dogmas and creeds, we targeted concrete problems that we face within particular places or communities?  Jeffrey Howard speaks with Ashley Colby, a sociologist and author of Subsistence Agriculture in the United States: Reconnecting to Work, Nature, and Community (2020). She earned her PhD focusing on environmental sociology from Washington State University in 2018. She is currently pursuing research projects based in Uruguay, where she has recently founded Rizoma Field School for experiential learning in the area of sustainability and agroecology. Ashley is a new member of the Executive Board of the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI) based in North America. Colby spotlights subsistence food producers in the United States, uncovering how “practitioner networks” empower community members with different ideological and political commitments to come together and solve local problems. She believes that our current mass agricultural system—a central element of what she frequently refers to as “industrial capitalism”—is not only in crisis but moving toward gradual collapse. Drawing from original ethnographic studies and her own experience as a subsistence food producer, she explores some of the more promising alternatives to the current system, or “shadow structures,” as she calls them. She takes on the misconception that subsistence farming only happens in rural areas and in the Global South, highlighting food producers and chicken keepers in the Chicago area. She further expresses optimism that as industrial farming, consumerism, and global supply chains continue to push beyond their ecological and moral limits, that permaculture and subsistence agriculture will serve as the fruitful nexus for what is becoming the next collection of social and political systems that will enable communities to thrive beyond the twenty-first century.  Despite Colby’s optimism, how feasible or desirable are these movements away from mass-scale agriculture? How much meaningful change can happen when political activists take this more practical approach to problems rather than leading out with theoretical frameworks? What role does polemical theorizing have in bringing about social change? Show Notes: Subsistence Agriculture in the United States: Reconnecting to Work, Nature, and Community by Ashley Colby (2020) Wandering God by Morris Berman (2000) Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West by Morris Berman (1989) The Reenchantment of the World by Morris Berman (1981) The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm (1956) On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957) “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841) Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854) My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir (1911) Straw Dogs BY John Gray (2002) Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (1968) S1E16 Where Do Animals Fit Into Human Flourishing? w/ Ike Sharpless (2021) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig (1974) Critical Theory (The Frankfurt School) S1E11 A Small Farm Future w/ Chris Smaje (2021) S1E15 Making the Commons More Common w/ Neal Gorenflo (2021)
Many Western philosophers have approached questions of knowledge conceiving of truth as something that is “out there,” unchangeable, abstract, and universal. There is an inherent structure in the universe and we must discover what exactly it is. One merely needs to uncover a segment of the structure of the universe and the rest of truth will reveal itself. In this tradition, truth is viewed as foundational and essential. Truth can be reasoned to from the solitude of one’s desk. Experience doesn’t change truth, doesn’t touch it. Truths just need to be gathered in. In other words, obtaining truth means getting the concepts in our minds to mirror or correspond to that which exists “out there” in reality. According to this view, an individual’s reason can carry them to the whole of noble, perfect truth.  By contrast, pragmatist philosophers like Charles Sanders Peirce argue that the pursuit of truth is a collective endeavor manifesting in what he calls “the community of inquirers.” No single individual has a totalized view of reality. In a world that is constantly changing and malleable, we must turn toward experience, pushing against the ease of abstractions moving into the messy realities of existence. Inquiry is not just experiential but experimental. We test out the truth qualities and meaning of our ideas according to their practical consequences, and not what is supposed a priori. By expanding our community of fellow inquirers, we expose ourselves to a wider range of experiences that can tell us a bit more about the practical consequences of ideas in the lives of many people, across many times, and within particular places. Lived experiences matter. Jeffrey Howard speaks with David O'Hara, Professor of Philosophy, Classics, and Environmental Studies at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He is also Chair of the Department of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics, and directs programs in Environmental Studies and Sustainability. A scholar of Charles Sanders Peirce, Plato, and C.S. Lewis, his current research focuses on the relationships between fish and forests.  He introduces us to pragmatism, or pragmaticism, as Peirce eventually came to call his philosophy in an effort to differentiate his views from those of fellow pragmatist William James. In addition to elaborating on what the pragmatic maxim offers us, O’Hara emphasizes the communitarian ethos necessary for satisfactory inquiry. Central to Peirce’s notion of inquiry are the values of inclusion, humility, and love, which are for both Peirce and O’Hara informed by their pragmatist views on scripture.  Complete truth is an infinite horizon we’ll encounter at “the end of inquiry,” to borrow Peirce’s term, a future that we’ll likely never arrive at. But who is included in the community of inquirers? How are we to make sense of a plurality of communities? How do we preserve the integrity of the community without becoming exclusionary of other much-needed perspectives? What does it mean to be an expert in a community of divergent viewpoints? And do experts’ views receive greater weight within the community of inquirers?    Show Notes American Philosophers Read Scripture edited by Jacob L. Goodson (2020)  "How to Make Our Ideas Clear" by Charles Sanders Peirce (1878) The Future of Religion by Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo (2007) “The Will to Believe” by William James (1896) The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902) “A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God” by Charles Sanders Peirce (1908) “Dmesis” by Charles Sanders Pierce (1892) S1E16 Where Do Animals Fit Into Human Flourishing w/ Ike Sharpless (2021) S1E14 A Tool for a Pluralistic World w/ Justin Marshall (2021)
Early in life we learn rules for moral conduct. We are taught which actions are right and which ones are wrong. Eventually we’re able to grasp principles and closed systems that allege to hold in place the reasons for why any particular action has moral value. In philosophical terms, this might look like John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian happiness principle: an action is right insofar as it maximizes utility or pleasure for the greatest number of people. It might resemble Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative: to act only according to a maxim whereby you can will at the same time that it should become a universal law.  There is an assurance and comfort in having this sort of written in stone approach to morality. A moral reality that is unchanged, universal, enclosed in the structure of the universe. We just have to discover it, reason our way to it, and once we pen it to paper, we have moral laws we can always fall back on. This reliability and simplicity has its appeal, but what if closed moral systems are incomplete, wrongheaded? What if ethical living arises from a more ambiguous and ineffable place? What if we were instead to understand that the moral life is embedded in face-to-face interactions, that ethics is derived from a place of radical subjectivity and infinite responsibility to “the Other”? Emmanuel Levinas is a twentieth-century French philosopher who rejected rules-based notions of morality. Informed by phenomenologists like Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, Levinas champions a subjective approach to the ethical life that demands a constant vigilance and moral responsiveness from us. The “face” is interruptive and constantly calling after us for attention. Levinas suggests an immense obligation to others that seems inexhaustible, a moral demand we’ll never be able to satisfy. Jeffrey Howard speaks with Megan Craig, a multi-media artist and associate professor of philosophy at Stony Brook University. In her book, Levinas and James: Toward a Pragmatic Phenomenology (2010), she offers us an overview of Levinas’ ethics by positioning him alongside the pragmatist philosopher William James. She does this not only to introduce Americans to an otherwise opaque and challenging continental philosopher but as a way of revealing the more practical or pragmatic elements of his ethics.   She wants us to consider what might be a more creative and vitalizing approach to ethical living, a perspective that prioritizes lived experience over moral abstractions and detached laws. Show Notes Levinas and James: Toward a Pragmatic Phenomenology by Megan Craig (2010) Existence and Existents by Emmanuel Levinas (1978) Ethics and Infinity by Emmanuel Levinas (1985) Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence by Emmanuel Levinas (1974) Totality and Infinity by Emmanuel Levinas (1969) Essays in Radical Empiricism by William James (1906) The Meaning of Truth by William James (1909) Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking by William James (1907) A Pluralistic Universe by William James (1908) Being and Time by Martin Heidegger (1927) Creative Evolution by Henri Bergson (1911) Time and Free Will by Henri Bergson (1889) The Writing of the Disaster by Maurice Blanchot (1980) Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (1985) Altered Reading: Levinas and Literature by Jill Robbins (1999) The Principles of Psychology by William James (1890) “Being with Others: Levinas and Ethics of Autism” by Megan Craig (2017)  “Learning to Live with Derrida and Levinas” by Megan Craig (2018) S1E14 A Tool for a Pluralistic World w/ Justin Marshall (2021) S1E16 Where Do Animals Fit into Human Flourishing w/ Ike Sharpless (2021)
Theorists and activists argue that education is the bedrock of a democratic society. Having a well-educated citizenry is necessary for people to meet the demands required for democracies to thrive. In the United States, schooling is conceived of as one of the primary vehicles for educating these democratic citizens. For many who have gone through traditional schooling, physical education seems like an interruption in the school day, for better or for worse, a distraction from the rest of our formal learning. Physical education conjures up a flurry of competitive sports, dodgeball, and fitness tests. Perhaps it brings to mind anxieties around your own body composition and getting in shape, being physically fit or failing to become properly athletic. In part, this is the consequence of designing physical education with a narrow focus on physical literacy, control, efficiency, and a commitment to a contextless ideal. It could also be the byproduct of larger cultural forces obsessed with profit margins, results, and the bottom line. Contrary to this viewpoint, some educators and scholars are pushing to make physical education a more prominent contributor to democratic living.  Nate Babcock is an educator in Southern California. With 18 years experience, he is centered on broadening our views of physical education, approaching it as a way of encouraging mobility, physical and social, and democratic practices like cooperation, inclusion, dialogue, and collective exploration.  How might concepts such as bodyfulness, corporeality, and phenomenology inform a more democratic approach to physical education? What might a more expansive and democratic view of physical education look like? And how do we enlarge conceptions of physical fitness to include how we interact with one another beyond the gym and the classroom, and into our communities? Show Notes “Toward Better Whys and Whats of P.E.” by Nate Babcock (2020) Alfred North Whitehead Henri Bergson Gilles Deleuze Mae-Wan Ho John Dewey Maurice Merleau-Ponty Martin Buber Carl Rogers “Somaesthetics: A Disciplinary Proposal” by Richard Shusterman (1999) “Life and Value: A Whiteheadian Perspective” by Nathaniel Barrett "Enkinaesthesia: Proto-moral Value in Action-Enquiry and Interaction” by Susan A. J.  Stuart (2017)  "How to be an Anti-Capitalist Today" by Erik Olin-Wright (2015) “Who or What is the Self?” by Adam Robbert (2018) ”From Final Knowledge to Infinite Learning, with Chaudhuri, Whitehead, and Deleuze” by Matt Segall (2018) ”Process-Relational Philosophy as a Way of Life” by Adrian Ivakhiv (2018) I and Thou by Martin Buber (1923) Unflattening by Nick Sousanis (2015)  Bodies in Revolt: A Primer in Somatic Thinking by Thomas Hanna (1985) The Play Ethic: A Manifesto for a Different Way of Living by Pat Kane (2004) Lucretius II: An Ethics of Motion by Thomas Nail (2020) Noumenautics: Metaphysics - Meta-Ethics - Psychedelics by Peter Sjöstedt-H (2015) Ethics in John Cobb's Process Theology by Paul Custodio Bube (1989) Attunement Through the Body by Shigenori Nagatomo (1992) The Body, Self Cultivation, and Ki Energy by Yasuo Yuasa (1993) Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach by Martha C. Nussbaum (2013) Meaning of Life and the Universe by Mae-Wan Ho (2017) S1E02 Toward a Politics of Uncertainty w/ Daniel Wortel-London (2020)
We want to be in proper relationship with the world. In other words, we want to have as many true beliefs as possible, or, at least, fewer false beliefs. We hope the ideas we hold will suit us well for adapting to the demands of our social, moral, and physical environments. This is also true when it comes to religious beliefs, but how do we discern which ones are justified true beliefs and which ones are wrongheaded? The numberless instances of religious disagreements should cause us to seriously doubt our religious truth claims and to exercise caution when interpreting our personal religious experiences. When it comes to settling religious disagreements, how do we determine who qualifies as an epistemic peer? How seriously ought we to take the religious views of other people? In this episode, Jeffrey Howard talks with Helen De Cruz, the Danforth Chair in the Humanities at Saint Louis University. Her research is concerned with the questions of why and how humans can deal with abstract, difficult to grapple concepts such as God or mathematical objects, and how we can engage in creative endeavors such as art and philosophy. She is also working on the question of how philosophy can help in discussions in the public sphere, including her recent monograph Religious Disagreement. She has received grants from the British Academy, the American Philosophical Association, and most recently, the John Templeton Foundation for a study on the origins of human-specific morality. Her work has been published in journals such as Philosophical Studies, the American Philosophical Quarterly, and the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.  Religious experts are supposed to have privileged knowledge about religion. Yet, philosophers, including philosophers of religion, tend to hold a variety of views that mirror those of the general public. If that’s the case, are they really that expert? Furthermore, what do we do about religious disagreement among laypeople? What are we to make of the knowledge gap between novices and experts? And how can we benefit by taking the conveyed religious experiences and beliefs of other people seriously? Show Notes: Religious Disagreement by Helen De Cruz (2019) Why We Need Religion by Stephen Asma (2018) The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902) The Joy of Religion: Exploring the Nature of Pleasure in Spiritual Life by Ariel Glucklich (2020) ”What Should We Do When We Disagree?” by Jennifer Lackey  (2008) “Experts and Peer Disagreement” by Jennifer Lackey (2018) Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief by Linda Zagzebski (2012) “Numerical Cognition and Mathematical Realism” by Helen De Cruz (2016) Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James by Ann Taves (2000) S1E14 A Tool for a Pluralistic World w/ Justin Marshall (2021) S1E07 Charles Peirce and Inquiry as an Act of Love w/ David O'Hara (2021)
Comments (5)

Chris Smaje

Great show! Really appreciate Jeffrey's interviewing skills.

Mar 4th

Jeremy Tethers

Thanks! I still haven't read much from Rorty. Loved AOC though.

Oct 29th

Jeremy Tethers

Good stuff, Daniel. Left me lots to think about. I've never thought to try building out a political worldview that starts with uncertainty.

Oct 29th

Jeremy Tethers

Big fan of what the team at Erraticus has done to produce this podcast. And to build such a wonderful community around open, non-dogmatic exploration of ideas. The first couple of guests have been really knock out so far. Intelligent and challenging but not too difficult for us non-philosophers. Keep it up!

Oct 29th

Daniel Wortel-London

A wonderful and inspiring podcast. If you are interested in big ideas, philosophy, and how to apply them in the "real world", this show is for you!

Oct 16th
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store