June 2017

Your Question: Habermas and Factions

Does Habermas believe that factions are good because of the authenticity of their rationally discursive sources but bad because real discourse is limited by interfactional communication prohibition? -John in Berkeley

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Habermas, Rationality, and Democracy

This week we examine the philosophy of the great 20th century German philosopher, social theorist, cultural critic and public intellectual, Jürgen Habermas. We focus on his stirring and hopeful vision of democracy.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Is Wonder Woman a Feminist Movie?

Wonder Woman is a wonderfully engrossing movie, but is it a feminist one? The answer depends on what you think it means to be a feminist and what you make of the beauty of Gal Gadot.

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The Unnatural is the Political

The belief that some things are natural while others are unnatural is part of the common currency of human thought, but we rarely pause to consider exactly what it means to say that something is unnatural. It’s important to do so because this concept is politically very potent.

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[AUDIO] Time Biases

We all have preferences around when good or bad experiences happen, but some of those preferences cause us to make poor or irrational choices. These are knows as time biases. But are time biases always harmful or can they sometimes be helpful? Would being temporally neutral lead to a better life?

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Pawns of ISIS

Who exactly are the pawns of ISIS? There's the stereotypical image of a Muslim young man, whose mind has been infected by ISIS propaganda. But there are also the Islamophobes, who take themselves to be fighting against any form of Islam, but who are unwittingly executing ISIS strategy.

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Habermas and the Fate of Democracy

Habermas has thought about the rise of a sort of authoritarian populism and the value of an inclusive and equal public sphere. On top of his intellectual pursuits, he has made a concerted effort to not to restrict his thoughts on democracy to the philosophy seminar room.

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Racial Profiling and Implicit Bias

We might agree that the practice of racial profiling—police or security targeting individuals for investigation because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin—is wrong. But the question is, exactly why is it wrong?

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[AUDIO] How Important is Privacy?

We have a tendency to desire at least some degree of privacy, allowing us to live part of our lives outside of the public eye. Is privacy foundational to our lives? How much does privacy deserve to be protected when greater safety often comes with its sacrifice?

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Why Do We Work 40 Hours a Week?

How did the standard 40 hours a week work schedule become so ubiquitous? Should we keep this standard or abandon it? Would we be more productive if we worked less? Does more time to reflect increase or decrease productivity?

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#FrancisOnFilm: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. is a fun movie with psychedelic colors, battles in space, and great ’70s music played on a Walkman. But it also touches on the famous brain in a vat thought experiment, which raises the skeptical problem: how do you know all your experiences aren’t illusory?

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Psychopathy and Evil

How ought we to understand psychopathy, especially child psychopathy? If some unlucky children are wired to lack empathy or remorse, can we justifiably call them evil? To what extent can an action be labeled evil in the absence of choice?

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Conceptual Penises and Failed Hoaxes

Recently, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University named Peter Boghossian and a PhD in math named James Lindsay attempted to reinvent the Sokal Hoax in an effort to discredit an entire field of academic study. Turns out the joke's on them...

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Should Philosophers Get Political?

Do politically engaged philosophers tend to become part of self-righteous, moralizing, and vindictive internet mobs? Is there a way for philosophers to engage politically without losing the clarity, rigor, and reasonableness that is distinctive of philosophy?

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Truth and Progress in Philosophy

Students of philosophy might sometimes get frustrated because they don’t get definitive answers to the sorts of questions that philosophers ask. But are these frustrations based on a misconception of the relationship between truth and progress in philosophy?

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Ai Weiwei: How Censorship Works

How does censorship really work? And what are its effects? To what extent are ordinary citizens responsible for government censorship? Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei takes to The Stone to make his case.

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Queerness

Is queerness something that all lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people have in common? Is it a sexual identity, a political identity, both, or something else entirely? Sometimes “queer” is used as a slur, yet there are many people who proudly self-identify as queer.

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[VIDEO] What Makes for a Good Life?

It's one of philosophy's greatest and oldest questions: how should we live our lives? Seeking pleasure? Knowledge? Self-actualization? Is there meaning to be found in this life? Must we create it ourselves?

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A Deep Dive into Democracy

America’s so-called democracy is under serious strain these days. Some fear that the system may soon be stressed to the breaking point. So we thought we’d start out the summer with a deeper look at Democracy in America.

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