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Episode 76: Barbara Herman discusses gratitude

This month, we discuss gratitude with Barbara Herman, Griffin Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles. Click here to listen to our conversation.

BarbaraHerman_smallIs our subject this week, well, gratuitous? Given the dearth of philosophical attention to it in the last century or two, gratitude might not seem worth studying. But our guest argues that while gratitude might not itself comprise the most weighty moral phenomenon, it can be “telltale” of moral interactions and relationships, and of their complexification in modern moral philosophy.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further Reading on non-monotonic logic

For those of you who are interested in following up on Malte Willer’s recommended solution to the miners paradox, he recommends the following paper:

Dynamic Thoughts on Ifs and Oughts,’ Malte Willer

Happy reading!

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 75: Malte Willer discusses non-monotonic logic

This month, we discuss non-monotonic logic with Malte Willer, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Malte WillerIf you have been so lucky as to take an introductory logic class, then you will learn a conception of logic that is, well, downright logical. That conception of logic is monotonic. Here’s what we mean by “monotonic”: You will learn that if a conclusion follows from certain information, then more information won’t affect your conclusion. Consider this example: Suppose that per your college, if you take six philosophy classes, then you can minor in philosophy. Then if you know you’ve taken six philosophy classes, you should be able to conclude that you can minor in philosophy. Additional information — say, about the many other classes you have taken — should not affect your conclusion. Well and good. (After all, who wouldn’t want to study philosophy?)

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Posted in Podcast.


Episode 74: Christina Van Dyke discusses gender and medieval mysticism

This month, we discuss gender and medieval mysticism with Christina Van Dyke, professor of philosophy, director of gender studies, and executive director of the Society of Christian Philosophers at Calvin College. Click here to listen to our conversation.

vanDykeHow might the notion of God to have meaning to us? God today can increasingly seem to us a mere historical phenomenon–a subject of past peoples’ energy, but presently only a subject of professors’ study. But of course, in the middle ages, God was both a subject of professorial study and popular energy. Scholars reasoned knowledge about God, but God meant more to many more people beyond the academy. To them, God was more than a notion.

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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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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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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.