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Episode 114: Sally Haslanger discusses ideology

This month, Emily Dupree and I talk to Sally Haslanger (MIT) about ideology. Click here to listen to our conversation.

We throw the word ‘ideology’ around a lot, but what does it actually mean? Well, unfortunately, different people mean different things by it at different times. One thing we often mean by it is ‘a person’s political outlook or worldview.’ So suppose that’s what it means. What constitutes a person’s political outlook? Is it just a list of all the things they believe?

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Posted in Podcast.


Further Reading: Quantum Mechanics

For people who are interested in delving into the philosophical literature on quantum mechanics and its interpretations, Tom Pashby recommends the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy entry as a starting point.

Happy reading!
-Matt

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 113: Tom Pashby discusses quantum mechanics

Ever wonder what quantum mechanics is? You are not alone. This month, we talk to Tom Pashby (University of Chicago) about what makes quantum mechanics so hard to interpret, despite the fact that it makes incredibly accurate empirical predictions. Click here to listen.

Tom Pashby

Quantum mechanics is hard to interpret for a number of reasons, but very high on the list is the way it uses the notion of probability. In a more commonsense physical theory, we might say things like ‘there’s a 50% chance that the explosion collapsed the cave.’ Arguably, that’s just a way of saying ‘we aren’t more than 50% sure whether the explosion collapsed the cave–to be sure, we have to get up and go check.’ In quantum mechanics, the probabilities don’t describe what we know; they describe the physical system itself. So the ‘50%-ness’ can be part of the actual state of some configuration of tiny particles. What the what?!

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Posted in Podcast.


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 (Universit├Ąt 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.