8 episodes

A podcast about philosophy that's made in the Department of Philosophy at Queen's University Belfast. Joe Morrison asks colleagues, students and visiting academics a bunch of questions about the ideas that they're exploring.

Generous Questions Joe Morrison

    • Philosophy
    • 5.0 • 4 Ratings

A podcast about philosophy that's made in the Department of Philosophy at Queen's University Belfast. Joe Morrison asks colleagues, students and visiting academics a bunch of questions about the ideas that they're exploring.

    Episode 8: Susan Notess: Listening, silencing, gaslighting and honesty

    Episode 8: Susan Notess: Listening, silencing, gaslighting and honesty

    Susan suggested a bunch of things to read about the philosophy and ethics of listening, for you to follow up:



    Talk: The science of conversation by Elizabeth Stokoe
    Yo! And Lo! The Pragmatic Topography of the Space of Reasons by Mark Lance and Rebecca Kukla
    Dotson, Kristie. "Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing", Hypatia 26.2 (2011): 236-257. [link to .pdf]
    Medina, José. "Varieties of Hermeneutical Injustice 1." The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice. Routledge, 2017. 41-52.


    And here are some other things for you to explore that came up in our conversation:



    I mentioned the following book at one point: Solnit, Rebecca. Hope in the dark: The untold history of people power. Canongate Books, 2010.
    Susan talked a bit about the ethical work done by Elizabeth Edenberg, which emphasises how participants to discussions often have a wide range of commonly held values.
    She also mentioned a Horizon-2020 research project at the University of Manchester that looks into youth radicalisation: it's called the Dialogue about Radicalisation and Equality, or DARE.
    I mentioned the 'deep listening' programme of composer Pauline Oliveros. A great introduction to her work can be found on this episode of WQXR Q2's awesome 'Meet The Composer' series with host Nadia Sirota here. A performance of Oliveros' 'Tuning Mediation' can be seen in 360º video recorded in binaural sound here.
    In this regard, Susan also mentioned the following work: Cavarero, Adriana. For more than one voice: Toward a philosophy of vocal expression. Stanford University Press, 2005.


    You can find Susan online on twitter (@susannotess), and her academic webpage is here, where you can find links to her work, including this excellent article:



    Listening to People: Using Social Psychology to Spotlight an Overlooked Virtue. Philosophy, 94(4), 621-643.


    As ever, please get in touch to send any thoughts, responses, ideas, reactions, feedback or ideas about this episode or any of the others, it's always great to hear from you, particularly if you want to say encouraging things. To drop me a line you can just head over to the contact page, or tweet at me on twitter (@drjoemorrison)


    The theme music is from li_serios05 by TVO on Broken20 records under Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA.

    • 1 hr 17 min
    Episode 7: Clare Moriarty – Berkeley, Mathematics, Trolling and Tarwater

    Episode 7: Clare Moriarty – Berkeley, Mathematics, Trolling and Tarwater

    Here are some links to find out even more:


    Our guest for this episode: Dr Clare Moriarty!



    her personal webpage at KCL is here, and you can find her on twitter @quiteclare.
    Here's Clare's excellent piece for History Ireland which discusses A Masterclass in Trolling from an 18th Century Bishop: 'Berkeley vs. Walton'


    For some introductory things to learn more about Berkeley's views:



    here is the Stanford Encyclopedia to Philosophy's entry about Berkeley by Lisa Downing
    here is David Wilkin's (TCD) page which has links to online texts and other resources, especially about the Analyst controversy


    We talk a bit about what it's like to on a temporary employment contract in univerisities (I think I say that I've held 2 or 3 'permanent' appointments, but I meant to say 'temporary'!), and there's widespread growing concern about the way that universities have decided to keep people on 'precarious' contracts.



    The British Philosophical Assocation issued a report 'Improving Careers: Philosophers in non-permanent employment' in 2010
    and an updated piece in 2018 'Improving Careers in Philosophy: Some Information and Recommendations for Heads of Departments'
    as well as a 'Guide for Philosophers in Non-permanent employment in the UK' (2017)


    We also talk a bit about some of the challenges that go with working on a topic of research that straddles several different disciplines (history, philosophy, mathematics). Jo Wolff mentions the latter in his column for the Guardian here, including a shout-out to Berkeley's ideas about tar water!


    At one point in our talk we touch briefly on some examples of reviews of philosophical books (by other philosophers) which are pointedly blunt (to the point of being amusing). Here are some links:



    Nina Strohminger's review of a book about disgust.
    Kerry Mckenzie's review of a book about metaphysics.
    The now historical UCL tit-for-tat 'hachet job' reviews, summarised by J Andrew Ross.


    In this episode I try (in the first couple of minutes) to summarise what I understand Berkeley's 'idealism' to involve, and then I try to explan why it might mean that a Berkeleian idealist has some resistance to some bits of mathematics. I don't think I did a great job of summarising it, but here's what I said, if it helps to read it:



    Berkeley’s famous for maintaining a position that we call ‘idealism’, which says that the only things that exist are minds and mental events – that’s all there is, minds and mental events. So, for example, physical things like coconuts or trampolines or jellyfish exist only in so far as they’re being perceived by a mind. It’s as though there aren’t really any coconuts or trampolines independently of us, instead they’re just sort of composed out of bundles of our ideas. But while this is the normal story that we tell about what Berkeley thinks about everyday objects in the external world, I really didn’t know much about Berkeley’s philosophy of mathematics before talking with Clare.


    I suppose one way to think about it is this: that if like Berekely you think that for something to exist it has to be perceived by a mind, then there’ll be some things that mathematicians talk about which Berkelian idealists are going to balk at. For example, mathematical work in calculus deals with infinitesimals, and one of the things that we know about infinitesimals is that they’re really hard for us humans to think about, or to imagine or conceive of. And if Berkelely’s right, and that for something to exist it has to be perceived by a mind, then since we can’t perceive infitinitesimals (even in our imaginations), I guess he’s going to want to say that they don’t exist.


    And the upshot would mean that Berkeley would have to say that the whole of calculus is concerned with something that doesn’t really exist. And as it happens, that’s precisely wh

    • 51 min
    Episode 6: Aoife – Icelandic Sagas and moral philosophy

    Episode 6: Aoife – Icelandic Sagas and moral philosophy

    I didn't know much about Icelandic Sagas before I heard about Aoife's project, I just knew that they were long and complicated and involved feuds and fate. But Aoife, a philosophy student at Queen's University Belfast, knew a lot more and wanted to try to make sense of all the heavyweight moral decisions and decisive actions that go on in them. Her project is partly an investigation of a moral framework, and partly a research project into historical and anthropological reconstruction, but along the way she tries out a number of philosophical different approaches to understanding character traits.


    Here are some things that Aoife's suggested for you to read:



    The saga that Aoife is talking about is called Hrafnkel Saga Freygoda. There's a wikipedia article about it here which has links to several translations, and Aoife was working from Gwyn Jones' edition.
    Óskar Halldórsson (1989) “The Origin and Themes of Hrafnkels Saga”, Sagas of the Icelanders, edited by John Tucker, Garland Publishing: New York.
    Tomasson, Richard F. (1980) Iceland : The First New Society, University of Minnesota Press.
    Kristán Kristánsson (1998), "Liberating Moral Traditions: Saga Morality and Aristotle’s “Megalopsychia”", Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol.1, No.4, pp397-422. (Appears on the publisher's page here, paywalled but consider using twitter and the hashtag #icanhazpdf).
    Vilhjálmur Árnason (1991), "Morality and Social Structure in the Icelandic Sagas", The Journal of English and Germanic Philosophy, Vol. 90, No.2. (Appears on JStor here, paywalled, consider #icanhazpdf).


    As ever, please get in touch to send any thoughts, responses, ideas, reactions, feedback or ideas about this episode or any of the others, it's always great to hear from you, particularly if you want to say encouraging things. To drop me a line you can just head over to the contact page, or tweet at me on twitter (@drjoemorrison)


    The theme music is from li_serios05 by TVO on Broken20 records under Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA.

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Episode 5: Rupert – Ethical Egoism

    Episode 5: Rupert – Ethical Egoism

    We talk about ethical egoism, which Rupert seems to feel is dismissed a little bit too lightly, and we hear about how he's going to try to defend it. While Rupert’s talking about ethics and about what determines or fixes ethical truths – where they come from – at the same time in the background there are lot of other issues about political philosophy and authority and freedom and the state. I cut some of that discussion out just to help keep this episode focused on a particular subject, but Rupert's made some reading suggestions for you to follow-up, and they cover some of these broader topics.


    So, some things for you to explore:



    An introductory / survey article to get started is this one by James Rachels, 'Ethical Egoism', in Shafer-Landau, R (ed.) Ethical Theory: An Anthology.: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 48-53
    This collected volume of papers on the topic comes hotly recommended: David Gauthier (ed.) Morality and Rational Self-Interest. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1970.
    Rupert mentions Sidgwick's 'rational egoism', which is discussed in his 1872 book The Methods of Ethics.
    A slightly more recent piece that comes up in our discussion is by Jesse Kalin (from 1975) "Two Kinds of Moral Reasoning: Ethical Egoism as a Moral Theory". Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 5 (3), pp.323-356. [publisher's link, probably paywalled, consider tweeting it using the hashtag #icanhazpdf and a burner email address on twitter to get hold of a copy]


    As ever, please get in touch to send any thoughts, responses, ideas, reactions, feedback or ideas about this episode or any of the others, it's always great to hear from you, particularly if you want to say encouraging things. To drop me a line you can just head over to the contact page, or tweet at me on twitter (@drjoemorrison)


    The theme music is from li_serios05 by TVO on Broken20 records under Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA.


    A transcript of this conversation is available from the episode website, just go to this episode and click on the button that says 'transcript'. The transcripts for every episode have been beautifully prepared by Becci. Thanks Becci!

    • 24 min
    Episode 4: Aine – Pyrrhonic Scepticism

    Episode 4: Aine – Pyrrhonic Scepticism

    This is a conversation with a final-year student in Philosophy. Aine graduated from Queen's University Belfast in the summer of 2019, and like many students she used her final year of studies to work on an extended independent research project. Dissertation students write about a philosophical topic of their own devising, working alongside individual members of faculty who help to steer their project. Aine worked with my colleage Roger Clarke on an epistemology project to do with ancient skepticism – the philosopher Sextus Empiricus tells us about the Pyhrrohnic skeptics, who thought that there's something desirable about freeing oneself from the tyranny of 'dogmatic' beliefs and making a concerted effort to free oneself of any knowledge.


    Here are some things you might like to look up to find out more about Aine's topic:



    Peter Adamson's excellent podcast 'The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps' has an episode dedicated to Pyrhho and the Skeptics, and another one dedicated to Sextus Empiricus and his approach to belief.
    Katja Maria Vogt has a number of excellent introductions to Hellenistic skepticism on her webpage here.
    She's also the author of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry to Ancient Skepticism, which you can find here.


    Aine's dissertation is exploring the question of whether a Pyrhhonic skeptic is 'practical', whether they can 'act normally' or 'live their skepticism', and for this specific question she recommends the following papers:



    Burnyeat, Myles F (1979) 'Can the Sceptic Live His Scepticism?' From Schofield Malcolm & Burnyeat M.F. & Jonathan Barnes (ed.), Doubt and Dogmatism: Studies in Hellenistic Epistemology. (1979) Oxford: OUP. (Google Books link)
    Vogt, Katja Maria (2010) Scepticism and Action. From Bett, Richard (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Scepticism. (2010) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Wieland, Jan Willem. ‘Can Pyrrhonists act normally?’ Philosophical Explorations 15 (3), pp. 277-289. (Seems to be available online here)


    Please get in touch to send any thoughts, responses, ideas, reactions, feedback or ideas about this episode or any of the others, it's great to hear from you, particularly if you want to say encouraging things. To drop me a line you can just head over to the contact page.


    The theme music is from li_serios05 by TVO on Broken20 records under Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA.


    A transcript of this conversation is available from the episode website, just go to this episode and click on the button that says 'transcript'. The transcripts for each episode have been beautifully prepared by Becci. Thanks Becci!

    • 21 min
    Episode 3: Nancy Jecker – the chronically ill, the newly deceased

    Episode 3: Nancy Jecker – the chronically ill, the newly deceased

    Prof. Nancy Jecker came to Queen's University Belfast to speak at this philosophy conference on the ethics of chronic illness, and I used that opportunity to ask her about her philosophical interests and work.


    We talked about life and death – in particular, lives lived with chronic illneses, and the ways that a person's story doesn't end just at the moment that they die. We talked about intergenerational ethical issues (for example, about caring for the dependent elderly). She introduced me to the concept of an 'itai hoteru', which are Japanese hotels-for-the newly-deceased, and the 421-problem in China.


    Here are some links to help you find out more about Nancy and her work:



    Nancy Jecker's webpage at the philosophy department at the University of Washington
    A list of Nancy Jecker's publications from PhilPapers.org - many with links to the articles. Don't forget that if you need help getting access to paywalled articles, you can try contacting authors and politely asking them whether they'd be happy to send you a .pdf. Using the hashtag #icanhazpdf on twitter can be sometimes be useful as well.
    Here's Nancy's piece on itai hoteru in the journal Bioethics: 'What do we owe the newly dead? An ethical analysis of findings from Japan's corpse hotels workers', co-authored with Eriko Miwa. It's behind a paywall at this link, but you can read a pre-print version on her ResearchGate page here.
    In the episode Nancy talks about using the 'capabilities approach' to justice in her work on intergenerational justice and the ethics to do with ageing. Over on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy you can find this entry on Amartya Sen's 'capabilities approach', which is a good overview. But more recently people are discussing Martha Nussbaum's version of this approach, so you might find it useful to skip down to §7.
    We mention the 4-2-1 problem (or 4:2:1 problem, strictly, since it's about ratios), and here's an accessible article in io9 which talks more generally about China's looming population crisis. 'The Unintended Consequences Of China's One-child Policy' by George Dvorsky.
    We briefly talked about 'Parfit's non-identity problem' without really explaining it. It's a problem that Derrick Parfit proposes in the final section of his book Reasons and Persons (1984, chapter 16). The problem is summarised in this (slightly challenging, not hugely accessible) entry of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You can see Parfit discussing it in person over on this YouTube video, again, not entirely accessible to people who are new to philosophy.


    Please do feel encouraged to get in touch to send any thoughts, responses, ideas, reactions, feedback or ideas about this episode or any of the others, I'd love to hear from you. To do that, you can just head over to the contact page.


    The theme music is from li_serios05 by TVO on Broken20 records under Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA.


    A transcript of this conversation is available, you just need to click on the button that says 'transcript'. The transcripts for each episode have been beautifully prepared by Becci.

    • 28 min

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