38 episodes

Interviewing leading philosophers about their recent work

PhilosophyPodcasts.Org August Baker

    • Society & Culture

Interviewing leading philosophers about their recent work

    Alex Byrne. Trouble with gender

    Alex Byrne. Trouble with gender

    Alex Byrne (MIT) Trouble with gender: Sex facts, gender fictions
    Sex used to rule. Now gender identity is on the throne. Sex survives as a cheap imitation of its former self: assigned at birth, on a spectrum, socially constructed, and definitely not binary. Apparently quite a few of us fall outside the categories ‘male’ and ‘female’. But gender identity is said to be universal – we all have one. Humanity used to be cleaved into two sexes, whereas now the crucial division depends on whether our gender identity aligns with our body. If it does, we are cisgender; if it does not, we are transgender. The dethroning of sex has meant the threat of execution for formerly noble words such as ‘woman’ and ‘man’.
    In this provocative, bold, and humane book, the philosopher Alex Byrne pushes back against the new gender revolution. Drawing on evidence from biology, psychology, anthropology and sexology, Byrne exposes the flaws in the revolutionary manifesto. The book applies the tools of philosophy, accessibly and with flair, to gender, sex, transsexuality, patriarchy, our many identities, and our true or authentic selves. 
    The topics of Trouble with Gender are relevant to us all. This is a book for anyone who has wondered ‘Is sex binary?’, ‘Why are men and women different?’, ‘What is a woman?’ or, simply, ‘Where can I go to know more about these controversies?’
    Revolutions devour their own children, and the gender revolution is no exception. Trouble with Gender joins the forefront of the counter-revolution, restoring sex to its rightful place, at the centre of what it means to be human.

    • 46 min
    Slavoj Žižek. Freedom: A disease without cure

    Slavoj Žižek. Freedom: A disease without cure

    Slavoj Žižek (University of London, New York University, University of Ljubljana)

    Freedom: A Disease Without Cure

    We are all afraid that new dangers pose a threat to our hard-won freedoms, so what deserves attention is precisely the notion of freedom.
    The concept of freedom is deceptively simple. We think we understand it, but the moment we try and define it we encounter contradictions. In this new philosophical exploration, Slavoj Žižek argues that the experience of true, radical freedom is transient and fragile. Countering the idea of libertarian individualism, Žižek draws on philosophers Hegel, Kierkegaard and Heidegger, as well as the work of Kandinsky and Agatha Christie to examine the many facets of freedom and what we can learn from each of them.

    Today, with the latest advances in digital control, our social activity can be controlled and regulated to such a degree that the liberal notion of a free individual becomes obsolete and even meaningless. How will we be obliged to reinvent (or limit) the contours of our freedom?

    Tracing its connection to everything from capitalism and war to the state and environmental breakdown, Žižek takes us on an illuminating and entertaining journey that shows how a deeper understanding of freedom can offer hope in dark times.


    Table of Contents Preface

    Introduction: Move your Buridan's Ass!

    Part I: Freedom As Such

    Chapter 1: Freedom and its Discontents
    i) Freedom versus Liberty
    ii) Regulating Violations
    iii) Freedom, Knowledge, Necessity
    iv) Freedom to say NO

    Chapter 2: Is There Such a Thing as Freedom of the Will?
    i) Determinism and its Ragaries
    ii) Rewriting the Past
    iii) Beyond the Transcendental
    iv) Pascalean Wager

    Chapter 3: Indivisible Remainder and the Death of Death
    i) The Standpoint of the Absolute
    ii) The Death of God
    iii) Suicide as a Political Act
    iv)The Failed Negation of Negation

    Appendices I
    1 Potestas versus Superdeterminism
    2 Sublation as Dislocation
    3 Inventing Anna, Inventing Madeleine
    4 The Political Implications of Non-Representational Art

    Part II: Human Freedom

    Chapter 4: Marx Invented not Only Symptom but Also Drive
    i) Instead of...
    ii) Progress and Apathy
    iii) Dialectical Materialism
    iv) Yes, but...
    v) How Marx Invented Drive

    Chapter 5: The Path to Anarcho-Feudalism
    i) The Blue Pill Called Metaverse
    ii) From Cultural Capitalism to Crypto-Currencies
    iii) Savage Verticality Versus Uncontrollable Horizontality

    Chapter 6: The State and Counter-Revolution
    i) When the Social Link Disintegrates
    ii) The Limit of the Spontaneous Order
    iii) The State is Here to Stay
    iv) Do not give up on your Communist Desire!

    Appendices II
    5 “Generalized Foreclosure”? No, Thanks!
    6 Shamelessly Ashamed
    7 A Muddle Instead of a Movie
    8 How to Love a Homeland in our Global Era

    Finale: The Four Riders of the Apocalypse
    i) De-Nazifying… Ukraine, Kosovo, Europe
    ii) The End of Nature
    iii) DON'T Be True to Yourself!
    iv) Whose Servant Is a Master?

    • 48 min
    Bence Nanay. Mental imagery: Philosophy, psychology, neuroscience

    Bence Nanay. Mental imagery: Philosophy, psychology, neuroscience

    Bence Nanay (Antwerp) 

    Mental Imagery: Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience

    Mental Imagery: Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience is about mental imagery and the important work it does in our mental life. It plays a crucial role in the vast majority of our perceptual episodes. It also helps us understand many of the most puzzling features of perception (like the way it is influenced in a top-down manner and the way different sense-modalities interact). But mental imagery also plays a very important role in emotions, action execution, and even in our desires. In sum, there are very few mental phenomena that mental imagery doesn't show up in--in some way or other. The hope is that if we understand what mental imagery is, how it works and how it is related to other mental phenomena, we can make real progress on a number of important questions about the mind.
    This book is written for an interdisciplinary audience. As it aims to combine philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to understand mental imagery, the author has not presupposed any prior knowledge in any of these disciplines, so any reader can follow the arguments.

    • 51 min
    Clancy Martin. How not to kill yourself

    Clancy Martin. How not to kill yourself

    Clancy Martin (University of Missouri in Kansas City; Ashoka University in Delhi, India) 
    How not to kill yourself: A portrait of the suicidal mind.
    FINALIST FOR THE KIRKUS PRIZE FOR NONFICTION • A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK • An intimate, insightful, at times even humorous blend of memoir and philosophy that examines why the thought of death is so compulsive for some while demonstrating that there’s always another solution—from the acclaimed writer and philosophy professor, based on his viral essay, “I’m Still Here.”

    “A deep meditation that searches through Martin’s past looking for answers about why he is the way he is, while also examining the role suicide has played in our culture for centuries, how it has evolved, and how philosophers have examined it.” —Esquire

    “A rock for people who’ve been troubled by suicidal ideation, or have someone in their lives who is.” —The New York Times

    “If you’re going to write a book about suicide, you have to be willing to say the true things, the scary things, the humiliating things. Because everybody who is being honest with themselves knows at least a little bit about the subject. If you lie or if you fudge, the reader will know.”

    The last time Clancy Martin tried to kill himself was in his basement with a dog leash. It was one of over ten attempts throughout the course of his life. But he didn’t die, and like many who consider taking their own lives, he hid the attempt from his wife, family, coworkers, and students, slipping back into his daily life with a hoarse voice, a raw neck, and series of vague explanations.

    In How Not to Kill Yourself, Martin chronicles his multiple suicide attempts in an intimate depiction of the mindset of someone obsessed with self-destruction. He argues that, for the vast majority of suicides, an attempt does not just come out of the blue, nor is it merely a violent reaction to a particular crisis or failure, but is the culmination of a host of long-standing issues. He also looks at the thinking of a number of great writers who have attempted suicide and detailed their experiences (such as David Foster Wallace, Yiyun Li, Akutagawa, Nelly Arcan, and others), at what the history of philosophy has to say both for and against suicide, and at the experiences of those who have reached out to him across the years to share their own struggles.

    The result combines memoir with critical inquiry to powerfully give voice to what for many has long been incomprehensible, while showing those presently grappling with suicidal thoughts that they are not alone, and that the desire to kill oneself—like other self-destructive desires—is almost always temporary and avoidable.
    Clancy Martin, a Canadian, is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and at Ashoka University in Delhi, India. He divides his time between Kansas City and India. He is married to the writer Amie Barrodale, and has five children: Zelly, Margaret, Portia Ratna and Kali, and an unruly labradoodle, Simha. A Guggenheim Fellow, his work has been translated into more than thirty languages. He writes fiction, nonfiction and philosophy. He is a contributing editor for Harper's magazine and Vice magazine, and has published academic and popular articles, essays and Op-Ed pieces in such diverse places as New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper's, New Republic, 1843/The Economist, Lapham's Quarterly, The Atlantic, Ethics, The Wall Street Journal, The Journal of the History of Philosophy, Elle, Details, Men's Journal, The London Times, The London Review of Books, De Repubblicca, and many others. He is a contributor to the Teaching Company's "Great Courses" series. His work has been optioned for television/film development by Sony, HBO, Anonymous Content and other production companies. His most recent work is on suicide, failed suicide and suicidal ideation. He is a recovering alcoholic, and has written and been interviewed e

    • 51 min
    Lorraine Daston. Rules

    Lorraine Daston. Rules

    Lorraine Daston (Committee on Social Thought U. Chicago, Max Planck Institute, Berlin Institute for Advanced Study)
    Rules: A Short History of What We Live By (The Lawrence Stone Lectures) 
    A panoramic history of rules in the Western world
    Rules order almost every aspect of our lives. They set our work hours, dictate how we drive and set the table, tell us whether to offer an extended hand or cheek in greeting, and organize the rites of life, from birth through death. We may chafe under the rules we have, and yearn for ones we don’t, yet no culture could do without them. In Rules, historian Lorraine Daston traces their development in the Western tradition and shows how rules have evolved from ancient to modern times. Drawing on a rich trove of examples, including legal treatises, cookbooks, military manuals, traffic regulations, and game handbooks, Daston demonstrates that while the content of rules is dazzlingly diverse, the forms that they take are surprisingly few and long-lived.
    Daston uncovers three enduring kinds of rules: the algorithms that calculate and measure, the laws that govern, and the models that teach. She vividly illustrates how rules can change―how supple rules stiffen, or vice versa, and how once bothersome regulations become everyday norms. Rules have been devised for almost every imaginable activity and range from meticulous regulations to the laws of nature. Daston probes beneath this variety to investigate when rules work and when they don’t, and why some philosophical problems about rules are as ancient as philosophy itself while others are as modern as calculating machines.
    Rules offers a wide-angle view on the history of the constraints that guide us―whether we know it or not.

    • 58 sec
    Wendy Brown. Nihilistic times

    Wendy Brown. Nihilistic times

    Wendy Brown (Princeton)
    Nihilistic Times: Thinking with Max Weber (The Tanner Lectures on Human Values)
    One of America’s leading political theorists analyzes the nihilism degrading―and confounding―political and academic life today. Through readings of Max Weber’s Vocation Lectures, she proposes ways to counter nihilism’s devaluations of both knowledge and political responsibility.
    How has politics become a playpen for vain demagogues? Why has the university become an ideological war zone? What has happened to Truth? Wendy Brown places nihilism at the center of these predicaments. Emerging from European modernity’s replacement of God and tradition with science and reason, nihilism removes the foundation on which values, including that of truth itself, stand. It hyperpoliticizes knowledge and reduces the political sphere to displays of narcissism and irresponsible power plays. It renders the profound trivial, the future unimportant, and corruption banal.
    To consider remedies for this condition, Brown turns to Weber’s famous Vocation Lectures, delivered at the end of World War I. There, Weber himself decries the effects of nihilism on both scholarly and political life. He also spells out requirements for re-securing truth in the academy and integrity in politics. Famously opposing the two spheres to each other, he sought to restrict academic life to the pursuit of facts and reserve for the political realm the pursuit and legislation of values.
    Without accepting Weber’s arch oppositions, Brown acknowledges the distinctions they aim to mark as she charts reparative strategies for our own times. She calls for retrieving knowledge from hyperpoliticization without expunging values from research or teaching, and reflects on ways to embed responsibility in radical political action. Above all, she challenges the left to make good on its commitment to critical thinking by submitting all values to scrutiny in the classroom and to make good on its ambition for political transformation by twinning a radical democratic vision with charismatic leadership.

    • 46 min

Top Podcasts In Society & Culture

Crystal Renee Hayslett
This American Life

You Might Also Like

New York Times Opinion
Sam Harris
Financial Times
BBC World Service
The Economist
Jorge González-Gallarza & François Valentin