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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.


Further reading on epistemic decision theory

For those of you who would like to read up on formal epistemology as it relates to decision theory, our esteemed guest recommends:

Epistemic Utility Arguments for Probabilism, Richard Pettigrew

Happy reading!
Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 105: R. A. Briggs discusses epistemic decision theory

This month, we are joined by R.A. Briggs (Stanford University), who is here to discuss an interdisciplinary area of study called epistemic decision theory. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Epistemic decision theory is an area of study that brings together two sub-disciplines. The first is decision theory, which tries to mathematically study the best principles for deciding what to do: what are the costs and benefits of each option you’re considering, and how can you optimize the decision process so as to at least the worst options? The second is formal epistemology, which tries to mathematically study how much credence to place in some hypothesis once you’ve uncovered new evidence for it. It might seem straightforward when you’re looking at just one hypothesis and one piece of evidence, but it quickly gets complicated once you start juggling multiple competing hypotheses and multiple kinds of evidence.

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Posted in Podcast.


Episode 104: Seth Yalcin discusses the question-sensitivity of belief

This month, we learn that there’s more to a person’s beliefs than just one big blob of information!  Seth Yalcin (University of California, Berkeley) sits down with us to talk about how a person’s beliefs are sorted into answers to various questions. Click here to listen to our conversation.

According to an influential picture of what a person’s belief state is–one that comes from philosophers like Jaakko Hintikka, David Lewis, and Robert Stalnaker–everything you believe can be encoded as a set of possible situations.  Which set of possible situations?  The ones that you’re still choosing between, based on the limited information you have.  Things could either be this way, or this way, or that way…  Then, when you learn something new, you rule some of those possible situations out.  Believing more means shortening the list of possible situations you could (according to you) be in right now.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on Marx

For those of you who would like to follow up on our conversation with Brian Leiter, his paper ‘Why Marxism Does Not Need Normative Theory‘ goes through some of the questions we discussed in more detail.

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 103: Brian Leiter explains why we should think about Marx

This month, Brian Leiter (University of Chicago) makes his third (!) appearance on the program to talk about how Karl Marx can help us understand our current political moment. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Karl Marx thought that industrial capitalism had an in-built self-destructive tendency. Capitalism would lead to great technological progress, which would in turn lead to more menial and repetitive careers being replaced by automation processes. Remember how in Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin develops a twitch in his wrists from doing nothing but tightening pairs of bolts for months on end? Why not have a robot do that? The idea was that after the technological boom, we’d be able to get robots to do this type of stuff for us. But then what? It seems we’ll get a big vacuum in the job market for people without elite educational degrees. And if we don’t do anything about that, presumably, we’ll get mass unemployment. And if there’s mass unemployment, no one will be able to buy anything, which will tank the entire economy, including the fortunes of the one percenters, who rely on people purchasing things to continue turning a profit.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on the true self

If you want to follow up on the research Josh Knobe has been doing with his colleagues on the true self, you can check out the following piece for the New York Times:

In Search of the True Self,’ Josh Knobe

Or, for a more detailed presentation, you can read:

Beliefs About the True Self Explain Asymmetries Based on Moral Judgment,” George E. Newman, Julian De Freitas, and Joshua Knobe

Happy reading!
-Matt

Posted in Further Reading.