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Episode 78: Stephen Engstrom discusses the categorical imperative

This month, we discuss the categorical imperative with Stephen Engstrom, professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Stephen EngstromTrue to the Chicago tradition, we philosophers spend a lot of time asking — but perhaps not so much time answering — an everyday question: What’s the right thing to do?

What’s the right thing to do? we have asked many episodes. You’re in need; a stranger helps you and leaves. Should you find them and pay it back? But what if you can’t? Should you find someone else and pay them forward? But what did they do for it? Should you act like nothing happened? And so on. Alternatively: You must decide whether or not to believe in God. Should you believe? If you have no evidence? Should you not? And risk eternal damnation? Or should you reject these formulations?

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on reasons

Those of you who are interested in following up on the topic of our previous episode can take a look at the following two papers:

Mark Schroeder, “Stakes, Withholding, and Pragmatic Encroachment
Mark Schroeder, “The Unity of Reasons

Happy reading!

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 77: Mark Schroeder discusses reasons for action and belief

This month, we discuss reasons for action and belief with Mark Schroeder, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Mark SchroderConsider one question from this episode. Can we decide what to believe, the way we decide how to act? We can, for instance, decide to worship at a church or temple. But if we do so in January in Chicago, can we decide to believe that the weather on our way to worship is warm? Or, more significantly, can we decide to believe in God? Pascal (in)famously suggested that we should in fact decide to believe in God. He suggested that if we believe in God when we needn’t, we waste a bit of time; but that if we don’t believe and good when we need to, we condemn ourselves eternally. That reasoning may seem right, but many have noted that it does not much help one actually believe in God. Then again, if one finds oneself in a crisis, one may indeed find one’s self believing in God, if only for lack of other hope. In such circumstances, has one decided to believe in God? Does one have reason to? (Perhaps this helps explain why religion often looks beyond reason, to such “unreasonable” traditions as readings, rites, and roles.)

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Posted in Podcast.


Further Reading on Gratitude

Those of you who are interested in picking up some of the threads from our last episode can take a look at the following article:

Being Helped and Being Grateful,’ Barbara Herman

Happy reading!

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


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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Posted in Podcast.


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.