June 2016

Struggles of Democracy

Like most words for powerful ideas, “democracy,” is a bit ambiguous, a bit blurry around the edges; the word itself is a contested item in our democracy and others.  It would help if we have a preliminary definition.   I like Lincoln’s.  “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  But now we have to ask what that means.  Here’s my take on it.

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The Limits of Self Knowledge

There’s a long tradition in philosophy of thinking that we actually know ourselves quite well. Descartes, who has a reasonable claim to be the founder of this tradition, apparently thought that we had infallible and complete knowledge of everything going on in our minds. And he is certainly not the only philosopher to think that.

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Stagehands in the Theatre of Life

“Live your life as a work of art!” Thus rings the slogan discussed by John, Ken, and Lanier Anderson on the August 8, 2013, episode of Philosophy Talk, recorded live at Stanford. The show re-aired on June 5. On listening again, one big thought struck me.

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The Philanthropy Trap

Is philanthropy an unalloyed good? Or does philanthropy have its downsides too? If you’re wondering what could be wrong with individuals voluntarily giving to charitable causes that serve the public good, let me just narrow the scope of my criticism to giving from the ultra wealthy—fat cats like Bill Gates or John D. Rockerfeller, who set up these huge foundations worth billions of dollars.

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Sleeping, Dreaming, and the Well-Lived Life

This week we're staying up and thinking about Sleep. We spend so much of our lives asleep, but we philosophers have had very little to say about it. Maybe that's becayse Philosophy is mostly about things we’re conscious of -- our experiences, our choices, our beliefs. We’re mostly NOT conscious when we sleep, so you might wonder who cares, really.

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Dream Incubation Instructions

From The Committee of Sleep by Deirdre Barrett Psychologists have developed incubation rituals to encourage problem-solving dreams. These usually target interpersonal and emotional problems, but they are also relevant to objective creative tasks. Incubation instructions usually include: 1) Write down the problem as a brief phrase of sentence and place this by the bed. 2) Review the problem for a few minutes just before going to bed. 3) Once in bed, visualize the problem as concrete image if it lends itself to this.

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Life as a Work of Art

Some philosophers, including the guest on this week's program, Lanier Anderson, his teacher Alexander Nehamas, and their hero Nietzsche, are of the opinion think that we should think of our lives as works of art.  I think Ken is sympathetic to this idea, at least.  I"m a bit skeptical, but ready to learn.  

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