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Archive for the 'Philosophy Society' Category

Animated Introductions to Heidegger, The Stoics & Epicurus

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Why is Western philosophy so difficult, so abstruse, and so damned wordy? Perhaps it’s simply a matter of job security. It’s generally well-known, after all, that some of the most taciturn philosophers were also some of the poorest—Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was independently wealthy, notwithstanding. But if you follow the format Alain de Botton lays out in the philosophy department of his video series, “The Big Ideas,” you can pick up some Heidegger, a little Stoic thought, and the ideas of Epicurus each in under ten minutes of lighthearted commentary, accompanied by quirky animation

Here you go…

Social Animal: How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life.

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness. Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others have made great strides in understanding the inner working of the human mind. Far from being dryly materialistic, their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows. They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has least to say. Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.

Emserson: Self-Reliance

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Self-Reliance is an essay written by American Transcendentalist philosopher and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson. It contains the most thorough statement of one of Emerson’s recurrent themes, the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency, and follow his or her own instincts and ideas.

On Robert Nozick

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Slate’s Steven Metcalf offers insight into the evolution of Nozick’s thoughts on libertarianism.

Free Will?

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the problem of free will – the extent to which we are able to choose our actions.

A Physicist Explains Why Parallel Universes May Exist

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Our universe might be really, really big — but finite. Or it might be infinitely big.

Both cases, says physicist Brian Greene, are possibilities, but if the latter is true, so is another posit: There are only so many ways matter can arrange itself within that infinite universe. Eventually, matter has to repeat itself and arrange itself in similar ways. So if the universe is infinitely large, it is also home to infinite parallel universes.

Fun with Kant

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The Kant Song:

Immanuel Kant Song

Kant Attack Ad:

Kant Attack Ad

Stephen Hawking: The Grand Design

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

If nature is governed by laws, three questions arise:
1. What is the origin of the laws?
2. Are there any exceptions to the laws, i.e., miracles?
3. Is there only one set of possible laws?

Print and read The Grand Design demandingly (highlight and take notes). Come to our next session prepared to unpack it.

The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Errol Morris is a filmmaker whose movie “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara” won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2004. He has also directed “Gates of Heaven,” “The Thin Blue Line,” “Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control,” “A Brief History of Time” and “Standard Operating Procedure.” He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and lives with his wife and two French bulldogs (Boris and Ivan) in Cambridge, Mass.

Read this five-part piece that Morris contributed in the New York Times. I read it in installments as it was published and have wanted to discuss it ever since.

Unlike many of the readings that I “assign” you, I do not have a list of questions or prompts to guide you. Just read and enjoy this piece and come to our next session prepared to contribute to a discussion about it. Oh, and bring a printed copy to our next session.

Consider the Lobster

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Read Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace and consider the following questions before our next session:

  • What are the ethical dimensions of Wallace’s piece?
  • What connections, if any, are there between ethics and morality?
  • Would the “knife in the head” or the slow boil method strike you as more ethical?
  • “Why is a primitive, inarticulate form of suffering less urgent or uncomfortable for the person who’s helping to inflict it by paying for the food it results in?”
  • Interpret and apply this rich line from the text, “[s]ince pain is a totally subjective mental experience, we do not have direct access to anyone or anything’s pain but our own; and even just the principles by which we can infer that others experience pain and have a legitimate interest in not feeling pain involve hard-core philosophy—metaphysics, epistemology, value theory, ethics. The fact that even the most highly evolved nonhuman mammals can’t use language to communicate with us about their subjective mental experience is only the first layer of additional complication in trying to extend our reasoning about pain and morality to animals. And everything gets progressively more abstract and convolved as we move farther and farther out from the higher-type mammals into cattle and swine and dogs and cats and rodents, and then birds and fish, and finally invertebrates like lobsters.”

If you are interested, here is an interview with Wallace recorded two years before his suicide.