Welcome to the Moral Imagination Podcast.
The overarching theme of my podcast is what it means to be a human person and what makes for a meaningful and good life.
We will discuss philosophy of the human person, culture, religion, social philosophy, and many other related topics, like education, learning, economics, food, technology, artificial intelligence, and intellectual history. My goal is to interact with ideas and people whose work I find challenging, and intellectually and socially important.
Ep. 31: Communism and Film: Deceit, Privacy, Art, and the Effects of Tyranny on the Soul, with Titus Techera and Flagg Taylor
In this episode, I speak with Titus Techera and Flagg Taylor about several films that address communism and the effects of tyranny and deceit on the human soul. We discuss themes of courage, freedom, privacy, shame, the purpose and role of art, and how we can become comprised over time by assenting to falsehood. We discuss how these films portray the challenges for regular people and how the experience of living under communism has lessons for us today. We also discuss the question of art and its relation to beauty, truth, and morality.
Films we discuss include Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's "The Lives of Others", about the spying of East German Stasi, and "Never Look Away", about Nazi and Communist totalitarianism, eugenics, truth, and the role of art. We also discuss the brilliant Polish film by Andrzej Wajda, "Katyn", about the Soviet murder of 12,000 Polish army officers, "Mr. Jones", about the Ukrainian Genocide by the Soviet Union, and more.
These films are morally serious and very important for many reasons, not only because they clearly present the evils of communism, but because they powerfully reveal the challenges of living under totalitarianism and make us wrestle with our own weaknesses and corruption. They don't let us off the hook easily or simplify the difficulties. They also challenge us to self-introspection. As a character in "Katyn" says, "What does it matter that you think differently, if you don't act or live differently?"
Warning: these films are not for children. They have some disturbing scenes, and I discuss some of my critiques in the podcast.
Visit https://themoralimagination.com/episodes/titus-techera-amp-flagg-taylor for show notes and resources.
Ep. 30: Fasting, Prayer, and Ketosis: How Modern Science and Ancient Christian Tradition Support a Fasting Lifestyle & Help Us Put Food in its Proper Place, with Jay Richards
In this episode, I speak with Jay Richards about his book "Eat, Fast, Feast: Heal Your Body While Feeding your Soul". We discuss how modern science and ancient Christian tradition support a fasting lifestyle for healthy living and help us put food in its proper place.
We discuss a number of issues including fasting, prayer, the ketogenic diet, and metabolic flexibility. We discuss the benefits of fat, meat, whole foods, and why we need to avoid processed foods, sugar, and how this all relates both our physical and spiritual health.
Jay notes that while fasting is a sacrifice that is supposed to be difficult, it should not be torture. The problem is that most of us eat in a way that makes fasting much more difficult than it needs to be. Jay explains how using a ketogenic diet can help prepare our bodies for fasting and for prayer. We also discuss the important role of feasting and how a proper feast is essential to a human and liturgical life and very different from a "cheat" day on a diet.
We also talk about liturgical, vocal, and mental prayer and the philosophical issues including hylomorphism and what it means to be an embodied person, and how food and eating connect to the theme of the moral imagination and the problem of hyper-rationalism, and an overly technocratic view of the world.
Visit https://www.themoralimagination.com/episodes/jay-richards for show notes and resources.
Ep. 29: Awake Not Woke: A Personalist Alternative to Thinking About Social Justice, with Noelle Mering
In this episode, I speak with Noelle Mering about her new book, Awake Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology.
Noelle analyzes the concept of "woke" and identifies four characteristics of the contemporary social justice movement and how they influence the way we think about justice and society:
1. Group over Person
2. Will over Reason
3. Power over Authority
4. The Crowd and the Victim
We discuss the intellectual history of the social justice movement from Hegel and Marx, Frankfurt School thinkers like Adorno and Marcuse, and contemporary proponents. We discuss how the sexual revolution connects to progressive social justice, which leads to deep incoherence and more injustice against women and children. Noelle has a chapter on victims and contagion and the work of Rene Girard, so we discuss that as well.
Mering does not deny that there exist real injustices in the world that need to be addressed, but she argues that the contemporary social justice movement is the wrong way to address the problems of injustice and has often made them worse. She instead offers a personalist approach that stresses the importance of being known and in relationship with others as an alternative of how to think about and address justice and injustice.
Visit https://www.themoralimagination.com/episodes/noelle-mering for show notes and resources.
Ep. 28: Crypto vs Google: Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Decentralized Computing, and Life After Google and Big Data, with George Gilder
In this episode, I talk with George Gilder about "Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data & The Rise of the Blockchain Economy" and his newest book on Gaming AI. We discuss blockchain technologies, cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and decentralized computing. We also discuss artificial intelligence, information theory, neuroscience, and the problems of materialism and closed systems. Gilder argues that the Google system of the world with its focus on free services, centralized servers, and big data will be replaced by blockchain and decentralized computing that takes security, money, and privacy seriously. We discuss the philosophical underpinnings of the Google System of the world, its materialist presuppositions, and its adherence to the Burning Man principles, and how these ideas influence Google's visions of computing, economics, and artificial intelligence. We also talk about neuroscience and its relationship to computer science and the circular error of envisioning the human mind as a computer and then thinking about computers based on this reductionist vision of the mind.
Visit https://www.themoralimagination.com/episodes/george-gilder for show notes and resources.
Ep. 27: Decentralization, Localism, and Mutual Aid: The Thought of Robert Nisbet
This episode features a lecture of mine from 2011 on the thought of Robert Nisbet. Nisbet is an important figure and his thought is very relevant to our time. I discuss the main themes of his work on community, authority, social change, and more.
Visit https://www.themoralimagination.com/episodes/michael-matheson-miller-2-nisbet for show notes and resources.
Ep. 26: What Happiness are We Pursuing? Solzhenitsyn and American Culture, with David Deavel
A British journalist asked Alexander Solzhenitsyn: can free people desire to be slaves? He answered Yes. The West is "full of such people". In this episode, I speak with David Deavel about the book he co-edited with Jessica Hooten Wilson, "Solzhensityn and American Culture: The Russian soul in the West".
We discuss how some of the key themes of Solzhenitsyn apply to our contemporary life, including a critique of materialism, the attraction to modern stoicism, and how it can become infected with utilitarianism and narcissism. We discuss the affirmation of being and how this relates to suffering and redemption. We discuss Solzhenitsyn's Harvard Address, Templeton Prize Address, and several essays in the book including the role of Russian literature and how the Russian experience relates to contemporary American politics, including the tension between globalism nationalism, consumerism, cultural critiques of capitalism, trade-offs, and costs of globalization. We also discuss the issue of atheism and morality, and the problem Solzhenitsyn identified: that we are often embarrassed to talk about truth or good and evil as somehow archaic concepts, but if we want to take injustice and political and social evil seriously, we have to deal with conscience and good and evil in the human heart.
Visit https://www.themoralimagination.com/episodes/david-deavel for show notes and resources.
What he said
Mind expanding alert!! Great conversations facilitated by a great intellect with exceptional guests. Helping those of us less capable find answers and ask questions about the most important ideas and matters in life that we want to know about but cannot articulate on our own.
Michael does a great job of keeping it relevant and approachable without “dumbing” it down. Thanks for challenging us to think these things through with your guests and you.
Thoughtful penetrating conversations.
MMM and his truly insightful guests take the listener on a journey into the big ideas behind the phenomena we see in today’s culture. These aren’t interviews as much as conversations - and they are eye-opening, intellectually rewarding and often spiritually enriching. Subscribe already!
Interesting podcast, however, the host interrupts his guests often and conversation can be difficult to follow as a result.