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Program Website: http://www.philosophytalk.org/
Philosophy Talk is a weekly, one-hour radio series hosted by
Ken Taylor, Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University,
and John Perry, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
at the University of California at Riverside. The program is not a lecture
or college course—it's philosophy in action! Philosophy Talk
is a fun opportunity to explore issues of importance in a thoughtful,
Gay Pride and Prejudice
Gay Rights has become a hot button issue, with opposition taking on the air of a moral panic and support taking on the air of a righteous crusade. John and Ken attempt to dispassionately examine the competing scientific, religious, and philosophical visions of the nature of gayness. They explore the consequences of those competing arguments for and against gay rights with cultural and psychological anthropologist Gilbert Herdt, editor of Moral Panics, Sex Panics: Fear and the Fight over Sexual Rights. This program was recorded live at the Marsh Theater in Berkeley.
Physics, Philosophy, and Theology
The world disclosed by the physical sciences can seem depressing. Modern physics, for example, has undermined the religious idea that the universe has a spiritual dimension. Quantum physics in particular seems to present the world as more paradoxical than rational. Is there room within – or in addition to – the world presented to us by the physical sciences for philosophical and religious ideas such as values, freedom, dignity, justice, and even God? Or should these all be regarded as useful illusions? John and Ken peer into the cosmos with Tim O'Connor from Indiana University, author of Theism and Ultimate Explanation.
Education and the Culture Wars
In contemporary democracies, the state is responsible for providing children with an education. But parents surely have both the right and responsibility for instilling appropriate morals and values in their children. How should we reconcile conflicts between the state’s responsibility to properly educate minors and the parents’ rights to influence their children's values and ideals? Should the government’s approach to education in areas such as history and science always trump that of the child’s most direct guardians? Or should parents hold some veto power when it comes to education about evolution, sex, and other issues that bear on religious and personal values? John and Ken do their homework with Stanford political scientist Rob Reich, co-editor of Education, Justice, and Democracy, for a program recorded live at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco.
Nations and Borders
One’s country of birth has a profound effect on life prospects. It's often best to go elsewhere. But moving is not always so easy. Borders and immigration control restrict people from going where they want to pursue a better life. On the one hand there is the state’s need for security, self-determination, and a functioning economy. But why should arbitrary boundaries, based on past thefts of territory, limit a person's opportunities? Are borders essential to nationhood, or do they form an exclusive club that unfairly keeps certain people from pursuing a better life? John and Ken lift the gate for UC Berkeley Law Professor Sarah Song, author of Justice, Gender, and the Politics of Multiculturalism. This program was recorded live at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco.
Whodunit: The Language of Responsibility
Who is responsible for the broken vase in the foyer? How harshly should criminals be punished for their crimes? Did Justin Timberlake mean to disrobe Janet Jackson during her infamous ‘wardrobe malfunction’? Cognitive scientists have recently discovered some surprising ways in which the language we use influences how we think about responsibility and agency. John and Ken welcome back Stanford psychologist Lera Boroditsky for a probing look at cross cultural variations in the language of responsibility. This program was recorded live at the Marsh Theater in Berkeley.
Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times
If the Ancients found themselves transported to the modern world, they would have much to learn about science, technology and human thinking. But is there something the Ancients can still teach us about how to live a good life? What relevance do the virtues – wisdom, courage, prudence, justice and so on – have for our modern times? Could these ancient values help solve some of the most challenging problems of contemporary life? John and Ken talk old school with Melissa Lane from Princeton University, author of Eco-Republic: What the Ancients Can Teach Us about Ethics, Virtue and Sustainable Living. This program was recorded live on campus as part of the Stanford Continuing Studies series, The Art of Living.
Atheism and the Well-Lived Life
Atheists don't believe in God – does that mean they don't find life meaningful? Are atheists doomed to be grouchy nihilists, finding meaning only in criticizing theists? Or does a world without God offer its own meanings and values to structure a well-lived life? John and Ken search for a meaningful atheism with Louise Antony from UMass Amherst, editor of Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life. This program was recorded live as part of the Engaging Philosophy conference at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
Freedom and Free Enterprise
“Freedom” means the human capacity to choose among options, based on one’s own preferences and reasoning. It also stands for the political status to exercise such freedom on matters of conscience and to express opinions without interference from the state. Enlightenment thinkers also included the right to buy and sell property in an open market with minimal government interference. So is the justification for our free-enterprise system a practical matter – an effective way of organizing resources and the distribution of goods – or does it rest on deeper principles? John and Ken test their entrepreneurial spirit with Shannon Stimson from UC Berkeley, co-author of After Adam Smith: A Century of Transformation in Politics and Political Economy.
Summer Reading List
Summer is the perfect time to dig into deep reading. Heidegger's Being and Time may be a bit much to take to the beach, but there are lots of readable classics that could make your summer reading a transformative experience. John and Ken ask a few of their past guests about the book that most transformed their life and thinking. And the hosts also take book recommendations for philosophically-rich summer reading from listeners around the country.
Finding Meaning in a Material World
All there is in the world is physical stuff. That is the fundamental assumption of the materialist standpoint, and the picture given to us by science. But if there is no immaterial soul that survives the death of the body, no other realm to bestow meaning on our lives, how can we avoid despairing in light of this apparent pointlessness? Is there any way we can build meaning from the naturalistic building blocks that science provides? John and Ken talk materially with Owen Flanagan from Duke University, author of The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World. Recorded live on campus as part of the Stanford Continuing Studies series, The Art of Living.
The Psychology of Evil
True evil seems easy to recognize: the killing of innocent children; assigning whole populations to death by gassing, or napalm, or aerial bombing. These acts go beyond the criminal, the mean, the bad. But what is the psychology of evil-doers? Are they monsters among us -- just like the rest of us, with one screw a little loose, or are they radically unlike us? John and Ken probe the evil mind with Simon Baron Cohen from Cambridge University, author of The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty.
Life as a Work of Art
We know what it means for a painting to be beautiful. But what about a life? Like great works of art, great people exhibit style, originality, and creativity. Maybe then, to live well is just to practice an ART of living. But what do the values that are important to a good life – happiness, moral goodness, or friendship, for example – have to do with aesthetic beauty? Aren’t the qualities that make a work of art good, different from the qualities that make a life good? Is there really such thing as a "beautiful" life? John and Ken paint their masterpiece with Lanier Anderson from Stanford University, recorded live as part of the Stanford Continuing Studies series, The Art of Living.
Memes: Viruses of the Mind?
Gangnam style, Lolcats, and Chuck Norris’ superhuman feats are all memes – units of cultural transmission – that spread through the internet. But when the term was originally coined, memes were posited as vehicles of a kind of evolution, similar to genes and biological evolution. So are the memes that colonize our brains simply those that survive natural selection? Don’t we get any say in the viruses that populate our minds? What happens if the fittest memes are also the most detrimental to us? John and Ken spread ideas with Susan Blackmore from the University of West England, author of The Meme Machine.
Tenth Anniversary Special
Philosophy Talk debuted on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco on August 20, 2003, with regular broadcasts beginning a few months later. Over the course of a decade the Philosophers, their guests, and their listeners have discussed and debated everything from the meaning of life to pre-emptive military strikes and baseball. To celebrate ten years on the air, John and Ken listen back to some of their favorite conversations with the writers and thinkers who have joined them on the program, and they look ahead to the ongoing challenges of thinking hard on the radio.
The State of Public Philosophy
In the 18th and 19th century, philosophers and intellectuals were immersed in politics and popular culture. Even in the early 20th century some of the leading academic figures of the time, like Bertrand Russell, also wrote for a broader public. Where have the public philosophers and public intellectuals gone? Can philosophers and intellectuals still speak to a broad public? Or is the public intellectual a thing of the past? John and Ken contemplate go public with Hans Gumbrecht, author of Reading Moods: On Literature's Different Reality. This program was recorded in front of a live audience at the Marsh theatre in San Francisco.
The Moral Lives of Animals
From Aristotle and Kant to Hume and Darwin, philosophers and scientists have long denied the idea that animals are capable of acting for moral reasons. Yet empirical evidence suggests that many animals have rich emotional lives, and some even demonstrate distinctly altruistic or empathetic behavior. So how should we interpret this behavior? Do the moral feelings of animals suggest they are capable of responding to moral reasons? Or do they lack the cognitive capacity necessary for being truly moral? John and Ken with Mark Rowlands from the University of Miami, author of Can Animals Be Moral?
Today, the term ‘cynic’ brings to mind a person who has little or no faith in the goodness of the human race. In ancient Athens, however, it meant something quite different: one who rejects all social conventions in order to live in accordance with nature. The Cynics believed that such a life was necessary for freedom and virtue. Why did they think so? What are the most important tenets of Cynic philosophy? And are there any reasons to live now as the Cynics once did? John and Ken sincerely welcome Luis Navia from the New York Institute of Technology, author of Diogenes the Cynic: The War Against the World.
Latin American Philosophy began centuries before anything of much philosophical consequence happened in North America. Yet in our own time, Latin American Philosophy is undergoing a protracted identity crisis. Is it just transplanted European philosophy? A reaction to analytical philosophy? A reflection of the themes of liberation theology? John and Ken explore Latin America's philosophical traditions with Joseph Orosco from Oregon State University, author of Cesar Chavez and the Common Sense of Nonviolence. This program was recorded live at OSU in Corvallis.