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Episode 112: Myisha Cherry discusses the skill of conversation

In this episode, Myisha Cherry (UC Riverside) and I talk about talking. What makes someone good at at, and what makes someone bad at it? Click here to listen to our conversation.

We don’t always think of conversation as a skill. Often, we think of it as something that just happens automatically; I need to talk someone, and I walk over and just tell them what’s on my mind. But there’s a lot of careful work that goes into having a good conversation: you modulate the way you address the person based on your knowledge of how they are and aren’t comfortable talking, you take into account what you know about their experiences, and approach the exchange as an opportunity to learn. In this episode, Myisha Cherry runs through some of what it takes to be a good conversationalist, in the hope that being our best selves while talking to one another can facilitate difficult conversations.

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Posted in Podcast.


Episode 111: Greg Kobele discusses mathematical linguistics

This month, we talk to Greg Kobele (Universität Leipzig) about what linguistics is and how abstract mathematics can be of use to it. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Linguists study the rules that speakers of a given language actually follow when they speak. Not made-up rules like “never end a sentence with a preposition,” which no one ever follows (including the teachers who shame their students for not following them), but the actual rules you need to know in order to understand English. Like how you have to say “My name is Matt” rather than “My name are Matt.” This may seem like a trivial task, but in fact the rules that native speakers of a given language actually follow when they know the language are mind-bogglingly complicated, when you try to sit down and describe them precisely. Lots of incredibly smart people have been trying to sit down and describe the rules of English precisely, and they’re still nowhere near done.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on Du Bois

For those of you who are interested in following up on what Chike Jeffers and I discussed, you can’t go wrong reading Du Bois himself:

The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois

You may also be interested in reading the papers that were given during this event on Elizabeth Anderson’s book:

Fall 2013 Symposium: Anderson on Integration

Happy reading!
-Matt

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 110: Chike Jeffers discusses the social and political philosophy of W.E.B. Du Bois

This month, we sit down with Chike Jeffers (Dalhousie University) to discuss the work of W.E.B. Du Bois. Click here to listen to our conversation.

It’s the end of the American civil war. 4 million slaves have just been freed. Now what do we all do? The question still wasn’t settled by the turn of the century, when an interesting debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois sprung up. Washington thought the best way forward for black Americans was to build up economic power and let political power come later. Du Bois, on the other hand, thought that becoming politically enfranchised (while concurrently building up economic power) was indispensable and a prerequisite for achieving full enfranchisement as citizens.

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Posted in Podcast.


Episode 109: Bonus episode with Matt Teichman and Toby Buckle

This month, Toby Buckle of the Political Philosophy Podcast and I are doing a joint episode. Click here to listen to it!

Instead of the usual format wherein I draw that month’s guest out about a particular topic, Toby Buckle and I have a freeform conversation about why we do podcasts, the universality of fundamental moral principles, and the nature of political disagreement.

On the moral principles question, I take the position that there’s a lot less fundamental moral disagreement than we typically like to think there is. There’s plenty of superficial moral disagreement, of course. But it’s a lot harder to find crisp examples of fundamental moral disagreement, or at least so I claim.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on freedom

Those of you who would like to follow up on our previous episode could hardly do any better than to check out Mariam Thalos’ incredible book on the topic!

A Social Theory of Freedom, Mariam Thalos

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 108: Mariam Thalos discusses freedom

This month, I sit down with Mariam Thalos (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) to discuss freedom. What is it, why do we want it, and how do we attain it? Click here to listen to our conversation.

We all categorize ourselves. You might think of yourself as a student, or as a painter, or as being good with numbers, or as being civic-minded. These labels we use to categorize ourselves have a huge effect on how we make our decisions–when faced with the choice of doing X vs. doing Y, whether I think of myself as someone’s who’s civic-minded and whether someone who’s civic-minded would do X can both play a huge role in influencing whether I decide to do X.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on identity and history

Professor Alcoff recommends the following books to those of you who are interested in working through her views in detail:

Rape and Resistance (2018)
The Future of Whiteness (2016)
Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self (2006)

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 107: Linda Martín Alcoff discusses identity and history

In this episode, Emily Dupree and I had the pleasure of talking to Linda Martín Alcoff (Hunter College & CUNY Graduate Center) about identity. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Let’s start with some terminology. ‘Identity’ means different things in different contexts, but in this episode we use it to mean something like: ‘the social demographic a person belongs to.’ So for example, my race is part of my identity, my disability status is part of my identity, and my sexual orientation is also part of my identity. Our guest wants to understand how the social group a person belongs to can affect the way they experience the world. For instance, if I came from an upper middle class background, my opinion of schools as an institution might turn out to be pretty high, because the only school I ever experienced was the well-run, well-funded one that I went to. On the other hand, if I grew up poor in a neighborhood with struggling public schools, I might associate school with bad experiences, because for me, going to school always came packaged up with bad experiences.

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Posted in Podcast.


Episode 106: R. A. Briggs discusses gender

This month, it is our privilege to have R. A. Briggs (Stanford University) back on a second time to discuss the nature of gender. Click here to listen to our conversation.

What exactly is gender? Simone de Beauvoir drew a distinction between gender and biological sex, and encouraged us to think of the former as the social significance of the latter. There’s the set of social roles that men are expected to play, and the set of social roles that women are expected to play. Whereas in the recent past, it was assumed to be a necessary condition on being a (for instance) a man [woman] that one exhibit the physiological features associated with being biologically male [female], these days, a lot of people either question or fully abandon that assumption. If a person’s biological sex isn’t tied by definition to their gender anymore, you might wonder what the relation between those two things is.

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Posted in Podcast.