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Episode 73: Greg Salmieri discusses Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy

This month, we discuss Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy with Greg Salmieri, who teaches at Rutgers University and Stevens Institute of Technology and is co-secretary of the American Philosophical Association’s Ayn Rand Society. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Greg SalmieriBut wait: Ayn Rand is most famous for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Where does she fit into mainstream, professional philosophy? Does she fit in at all? Salmieri encourages us to consider Rand with the perspective we afford others who have proven pivotal in philosophy: say, Descartes and Locke. In their own day, Descartes and Locke both did much else besides philosophy; but their larger critiques involved philosophy, and were deepened all the more so because they did not restrict themselves to their day’s philosophy. Those critiques have gone on to shape philosophy profoundly, so much so that today we can take their once-unique approaches for granted – and so we can take their being philosophers for granted. Perhaps we do not yet appreciate the impact Ayn Rand can ultimately have on philosophy?

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Posted in Podcast.


Further Reading on pejoratives

Those of you who would like to follow up on the topic of this month’s episode can look at:

Moral and Semantic Innocence,’ Christopher Hom and Robert May

In that paper, the semantic theory we discussed is presented in a bit more detail.

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 72: Robert May discusses pejorative expressions

This month, we discuss pejorative expressions with Robert May, distinguished professor of philosophy and linguistics at University of California, Davis. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Robert MaySo pejorative expressions are politically incorrect. We should not, say, call Jews kikes. How should we understand why we should not?

May says we should not for the simple reason his mother taught him as a child: “There are no such things as kikes.”

Lest May’s mother sound trivial, note what May specifies his mother was not saying. Of course, May does not take his mother to have said that people do not get called kikes; that would obviously be false. But May also did not take his mother to have only said that people should not be called kikes. She certainly thought this, but had she said nothing more, she would have left open the possibility that there are such things as kikes. Were kikes actually to exist, one still might discourage use of the word for social reasons such as courtesy or safety; but those reasons would be less powerful philosophically.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further Reading on Carnap

For those of you who are interested in following up on the topic of this month’s episode, Kent Schmor recommends the following overview article:

Carnap’s Logical Structure of the World,” Christopher Pincock

For more background on the Vienna Circle, the philosophical group with whom Carnap was affiliated early in his career, see:

The Vienna Circle,” Thomas Uebel

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Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 71: Kent Schmor discusses Rudolf Carnap’s Logische Aufbau

This month, we discuss Rudolf Carnap’s Aufbau with Kent Schmor, visiting philosophy instructor at the University of Pittsburgh. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Kent SchmorWhy, Carnap would ask, did independent philosophers keep attempting to rehash huge domains? Scientists, Carnap noticed, each work on a focused problem, broadening knowledge collaboratively. In 1917, Carnap began a thesis relating to both science and philosophy. He brought it to his physics department, but they said it was too philosophical. So he brought it to his philosophy department, but they said it was pure physics. Eventually, he got his philosophy department to accept a new thesis on how philosophy, physics, and math could together understand the advancements of the new century.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on Spinoza’s ethics

Would you like to follow up on our previous episode? Susan James recommends looking at the following sections from Spinoza’s classic work:

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, Chapter 2
Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, Chapter 3
Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, Chapter 4

If you really want to do a deep dive, she also recommends the following secondary material:

Collective Imaginings: Spinoza, Past and Present, eds. Moira Gatens and Genevieve Lloyd
Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics: The Theologico-Political Treatise, Susan James

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 70: Susan James discusses Spinoza on the good embodied life

This month, we discuss Benedict de Spinoza’s work on the good embodied life with Susan James, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London. Click here to listen to our conversation.

susanJamesSpinoza (1632-1677) was born in what was then one of Europe’s most free Jewish communities, in Holland. Perhaps thanks to that, he developed ideas centuries ahead of his time. But even for his free community, his ideas were far too forward. In fact, his ideas so impassioned his Jewish congregation that it did “excommunicate, expel, curse and damn” him for “evil opinions and acts”: “no one should communicate with him orally or in writing, or show him any favour, or stay with him under the same roof, or within four ells of him, or read anything composed or written by him.” At the time, Spinoza was 23. He did not submit. Instead, he went on to produce much of today’s most studied early-modern ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology.

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Posted in Podcast.


New Blogger: Dominic Surya

Please join me in welcoming Dominic Surya, our new blogger! We are excited to have him with us.

Matt Teichman

Posted in Announcements.


Background Reading on Adam Smith

If you’d like to do more reading on the topic of our last epsiode, check out Christel Fricke’s paper, Adam Smith: The Sympathetic Process and The Origin and Function Of Conscience, in the Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith.

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 69: Christel Fricke discusses Adam Smith’s theory of moral sentiment

This month, we discuss the moral philosophy of Adam Smith with Christel Fricke, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oslo, and Research Director at the Center for the Study of Mind in Nature in the Department of Philosophy, Classics, and History of Art and Ideas at the University of Oslo. Click here to listen to our conversation.

frickeDifferent moral theories have placed an emphasis on different things. Some philosophers have thought that being a good person means doing whatever will contribute to the optimal level of happiness in the greatest number of people. Some philosophers have thought that being a good person means obeying some basic set of principles, such as the golden rule. Adam Smith tried to define being a good person in terms of an ideal: you’re a good person just in case you do behave as though the ideal person would behave. More specifically, you’re a good person just in case you emotionally respond to thing the way this theoretical person would emotionally respond to things. This theoretical person was named ‘the impartial spectator.’

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Posted in Podcast.