philosophy

What books should thoughtful people be reading this summer?

Jul 31, 2014

What philosophers, philosophies, or philosophical issues would you like to read up on over the summer? John and Ken discuss one of this year's most talked-about books, Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, with political scientist Shannon Stimson. They also get summer reading suggestions from author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, whose new book is Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away, and Yale University philosopher Jason Stanley, author of the forthcoming Why Propaganda Matters.

Imagine discovering that your grandfather was a serial killer. Would you feel guilty about it? Would you be at all tempted to contact the families of his victims? Philosophers have long thought that we can only be responsible for what is under our voluntary control, but sometimes we feel guilty about events we didn’t bring about, simply because we are connected in some way to those who did. Many Germans, for instance, feel guilty about their ancestors' participation in the Nazi regime. Can we really be responsible for things outside of our control?

Philosophy Talk asks: What are Leaders made of?

Jul 10, 2014

There seems to be a paradox in leadership: the qualities of ruthlessness and opportunism necessary to attain power and become a leader are not necessarily the qualities of morality and a sense of justice that make for a good leader. Do the traits that make it likely that someone will become a leader correlate positively or negatively with the traits that make a good and effective leader? Do our democratic institutions lead to better leaders than, say, a lottery like the Athenians used?

Philosophy Talk asks: What is Love?

Jul 4, 2014

It may seem doubtful that philosophers have much to tell us about love (beyond their love of wisdom). Surely it is the poets who have the market cornered when it comes to deep reflection on the nature of love. John and Ken question the notion that love cannot be captured by the light of reason by turning their attention to the philosophy of love with philosopher-poet Troy Jollimore from CSU Chico.

Philosophy Talk examines the Anatomy of a Terrorist

Jun 26, 2014

Since George W. Bush first declared a "war on terror," the US has been engaged in a global campaign to rid the world of terrorists. But what exactly is a “terrorist,” and how do we distinguish illicit terrorist organizations from legitimate freedom fighters? Do terrorists exhibit particular psychological patterns of behavior, or are there some tactics that only terrorists use? And what is the most effective way to combat terrorism – by waging war, engaging in "de-radicalization" processes, or some other means?

Philosophy Talk asks: Is it Art... or mere Obscenity?

Jun 12, 2014

What do Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, and Andres Serrano have in common? They’ve all created modern works of art that have shocked and outraged the general public, causing many to question whether these works have any artistic value at all. But isn’t it the purpose of art to incite inquiry and question conventional moral wisdom? If so, then a strong public reaction would seem to prove the artistic merit of these works. So, is there a clear line to be drawn between genuine art and mere obscenity? Or has shock value simply replaced cultural value in the world of contemporary art?

Deep Summer Reading on Philosophy Talk

Jun 5, 2014

What philosophers, philosophies, or philosophical issues would you like to read up on over the summer? John and Ken discuss one of this year's most talked-about books, Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, with political scientist Shannon Stimson. They also get summer reading suggestions from author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, whose new book is Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away, and Yale University philosopher Jason Stanley, author of the forthcoming Why Propaganda Matters.

Philosophy Talk asks: Is Democracy a Universal Value?

May 23, 2014

Americans value democracy, and expect others to value it. But is it a universal value? Does God, or rationality, or something very basic about human sensibility, dictate that states should be organized democratically? What if there were empirical evidence that some non-democratic form of government is more likely to produce human happiness, cultural achievement, and sound money?

The Reality of Time on Philosophy Talk

May 15, 2014

St. Augustine suggested that when we try to grasp the idea of time, it seems to evade us: "What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know." So is time real or merely an artificial construct? Is time a fundamental or emergent property of our universe or a part of our cognitive apparatus? Do we live in a continuum with a definite past and present, or do we live in a succession of ‘Nows’, and if the latter is the case, how does it affect our perception of memory or recollection?

Epicurus and the Good Life on Philosophy Talk

May 8, 2014

Though his name is often misleadingly associated with indulgence in sensual pleasures, the Greek philosopher Epicurus developed a far-reaching system of thought that incorporated an empiricist theory of knowledge, a description of nature based on atomistic materialism, and views about the importance of friendship. His notions of what constitutes a good life have preserved the relevance of Epicurean philosophy for contemporary life. A diverse array of thinkers, including Thomas Jefferson, Diderot, and Jeremy Bentham, have considered themselves Epicureans.

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