January 2017

Confessions of a Cassandra

This essay is a lot more personal than any of my previous postings on this blog—or, indeed, any my writing anywhere else. It’s personal because it concerns a topic that is so important to me that I cannot bear to shroud it in a pretense of academic detachment and so overwhelmingly significant that the thought of writing about anything else seems grotesque.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Authenticity at Sundance

Francis Lee’s "God’s Own Country" is one of this year's gems at Sundance. It's power lies in its utter authenticity. But what makes a film authentic?

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[AUDIO] Do the Privileged Have Special Obligations?

Most of us recognize that, due to the circumstances we were born into, we are given certain advantages or disadvantages in life that others do not have. However, the further question of whether those with privilege have special obligations to the disadvantaged remains controversial.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Art Manifestos at Sundance

Manifesto, starring Cate Blanchett and directed by German filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt, transforms a visual installation into film. Blanchett plays roles from an elderly vagrant in an abandoned factory in Berlin reflecting situationist artists such as Lucio Fontana to a new anchor and reporter question and answer about minimalism.

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#FrancisOnFilm: What is a Documentary?

Is it a film that records (i.e. “documents”) events? Re-tells them? Or shapes them? Sundance is a film festival renowned for its documentaries and this year is no exception.

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Stanley Cavell and Public Philosophy

In this article, Mark Greif, the essayist and founding editor of n+1, an intellecutal publication, wrote a tribute to his former mentor, the philosopher Stanley Cavell. Using Cavell as a model, and Cavell's own intellectual inspirations, Emerson and Thoreau, Greif asks, what makes a good public philosopher?

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#FrancisOnFilm: Al Gore at Sundance - Truth to Power

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power brings Al Gore’s message of the urgency of addressing climate change to film audiences. People interested in philosophy should see this film not only for what it says about the environment and politics but also for what it says about truth and how to present it.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates Reflects on Obama

What role did race play in his presidency and his path to it? Was Obama a black president, or a president who happened to be black?

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Hail to the Chief of Philosophy

Today is Barack Obama's last full day in office as the 44th President of the United States. As Producer I'll leave the philosophical implications of that to John an Ken, and instead offer a sample of one of my favorites parts of working on Philosophy Talk, the one-minute billboard that opens each program.

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Outrage or Pity?

In between honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and inaugurating Donald Trump, we remember one of our greatest civil rights leaders and anticipate the presidency of an unabashed exploiter of racism, arguably a racist himself. But what is the right emotional reaction to racism? Empathy? Outrage? Or pity?

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The Value of a College Education

When most people think of the value of college, these days, they tend to think in terms of dollars and cents. How much will it cost me? How much will I have to take out in loans to pay for it? Will my future earnings make college worth the cost? But is this the right way to think about it?

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Time To Take Off The Tinfoil Hat!

One person says the medical establishment pushes autism-causing vaccines on the public. Another claims the tobacco industry colluded to distort the evidence that smoking causes cancer. But is there some principled way for us to distinguish wacko conspiracy theories from those that are true and reasonable?

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Teaching Philosophy: The Answer to Automation?

In our annual year-in-review show, John and Ken were joined by political theorist Margaret Levi to discuss what the future looks like for workers when technology and automation are putting so many out of work. The particular technology discussed on The Examined Year 2016 was driverless vehicles, as there were some major advances (and some setbacks) in that area last year. But that is just part of a bigger trend in automation that is threatening jobs in many sectors.

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#FrancisOnFilm: The Highs and Lows of 2016

Leslie Francis reviews the best, the worst, and the most controversial films of 2016. What films are on your list?

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Extended Q&A at De Anza High School

Last fall, we took the show just up the road to De Anza High School in Richmond, California, where a theater full of AP students and their teachers joined John and Ken for a conversation about The Value of a College Education with John Hennessy, who had just stepped down as the 11th president of Stanford University.

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Empathy for Deplorables?

Recent research concluded that racism and sexism correlated more closely with support for Trump than economic dissatisfaction did. To reach out to those racist, sexist voters, the research suggested we use empathy. But how does one conjure empathy for deplorables?

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Introducing: Francis on Film

Philosophy Talk is delighted to announce a new column on our blog called "Francis on Film" with our newest contributor, Leslie Francis! 

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R.I.P. Derek Parfit

The eminent British philosopher Derek Parfit passed away earlier this week. Although he had never joined us on the program, his 2011 book On What Matters was the subject of the first segment on our very first year-in-review special, when John and Ken talked about it with USC philosopher Mark Schroeder.

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