THE BLOG @ PHILOSOPHERS' CORNER

Nonduality

What does it mean to say everything is one, not two? Doesn’t it seem like the world is full of many different things? Or is separateness just an illusion? This week we’re thinking about Nonduality and the Oneness of Being.

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Unnecessary Necessities

During the pandemic, you may have been watching Schitt’s Creek. Its characters inspired this month’s pandemic puzzle, which is about how to figure out the ideal balance between feeling like you need a lot to be happy, and feeling like you need very little.

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The Philosophy of the Vienna Circle

Is metaphysics just a bunch of nonsense? Is it okay to believe something you could never prove? Could logic be a solution to the world’s problems? This week on Philosophy Talk, we’re thinking about the Vienna Circle, a group of Austrian philosophers from the 1920s who debated these questions.

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Cracking Down on Disinformation

In a world of fake news and disinformation, how can anyone make informed political decisions? Is it possible for us all to come together as a nation if we can’t even agree on what’s true? This week, we’re thinking about Disinformation and the Future of Democracy.

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What Montaigne Knew

Are essays a good way to do philosophy? What if they’re full of digressions and contradictions? Could that possibly make them more philosophical, not less? This week we’re thinking about Michel de Montaigne and the art of the essay.

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Is Meritocracy Possible? (A Solution)

Last time, I asked: Given that meritocracy as traditionally defined is practically impossible, is there any point in appealing to it as a social ideal? This time, I suggest a way to peel off two ideas from the mirage ideal of meritocracy that might actually be feasible and worth striving for.

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What Makes A Man?

Does masculinity need a makeover for the 21st century? Should your gender matter to who you are as a person? Why think there’s just one thing it means to be a man? This week on Philosophy Talk, we’re discussing masculinity and what makes a man.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of the FBI murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton, aided by informant William O’Neal. The film bears its theme in the title: betrayal. But what exactly is betrayal? And what is its relation to trust, loyalty, and promises?

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Replacing Freud

What’s the latest scientific insight about unconscious beliefs, desires, and motivations? Do contemporary experimental psychologists do any better than Freud? Could anyone do worse? On this week’s show we’re asking: What has replaced Freud?

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#FrancisOnFilm: The Mole Agent

The Mole Agent is a charming documentary about a private investigator hired to find out whether elder abuse is happening at a nursing home in Chile. At the heart of the film is a deception, which raises questions about trust beyond the question whether lies can ever be justified by good intentions.

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What Tech Says

Are tech companies really “making the world a better place”? Isn’t “disruption” just code for circumventing legal regulations and ignoring labor laws? Does Silicon Valley really believe its own hype? On this week's show we’re thinking about “The Rhetoric of Big Tech.”

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Is Meritocracy Possible? (Pt. I)

Modern economic life—where people have careers, advancements, successes, and failures—will always end up failing to be meritocratic, as traditionally defined. Given that, is there any point to appealing to meritocracy as a social ideal? And if not, why do people find this ideal so appealing?

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The Mathematics of Democracy

Shouldn’t everybody have an equal vote? Isn’t majority rule just an excuse to keep minorities down? Is a truly fair democracy even possible? And how do we decide what counts as fair in the first place? This week on Philosophy Talk, we’ll explore answers to these questions!

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When Do False Beliefs Exculpate? (Pt. II)

In my last pandemic puzzle, I posed the question: When do false beliefs exculpate? I floated a principle—the false belief criterion of exculpation—that tried to explain when false beliefs make someone not guilty of a moral offense, but it didn't work in every case. So how do we solve this puzzle?

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Gaining Knowledge without Learning

You can come to know something by observation, by testimony, or by working it out in your head. But there’s another way of knowing something that doesn’t involve learning because it doesn’t involve coming to know a pre-existing fact. This way of knowing arises when you do something intentionally.

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2020: The Year in Poetry

As 2020 draws to a close, we take a look back at the year that has been. One good thing happened this year: the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Louise Glück. Tune into this week's show, "The Examined Year: 2020" to hear some of her poems, including my all-time favorite, “Ithaca.”

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Are “Human” Embryos Human?

Opponents of abortion argue that because embryos belong to our species, they are human embryos, and are therefore human beings. And as killing innocent human beings is wrong, abortion is wrong. But is it correct to say that human embryos are human beings?

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Finding Minds in a Material World

How did minds first evolve out of matter? Could consciousness have evolved more than once? How do we tell which living things have minds? Is there something it’s like to be a crab and live a crab's life? This week we’re thinking about “Minds and Matter.”

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When Do False Beliefs Exculpate? (Pt. I)

Another month of pandemic... and another philosophical puzzle from me to distract you from it. This time, the puzzle concerns beliefs and specifically whether acting under the guidance of false beliefs can exculpate someone of a moral wrongdoing.

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Should the Arts Be for All?

Should artists make artworks that are easy to understand? Or should there be challenging artworks out there, but free education to help us understand them? What, if anything, is the value of difficult paintings, poems, and novels? This week we’re thinking about “The Arts for All.”

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Say it Enough, They’ll Believe It

If you repeat something often enough, people are more likely to believe it. That's a phenomenon called the illusory truth effect. It can happen with smart people, and even when the statement is already known to be false. So why does repeating something make people more likely to believe it?

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Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Who’s to blame for big problems like racism, factory farming, or climate change? Isn’t it time we held governments and corporations accountable? Or would that just let individuals off the hook? This week we’re talking about collective responsibility.

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Why We Argue About Fiction

From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s puzzling that humans consume fiction. Why waste valuable cognitive resources on information we know is unreal? But it is even more puzzling that we argue about such fictions! I explore some reasons why we do this.

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What Would We Lose If We Had No Art?

Think about the art you’ve enjoyed in your life: the novels, the television, the music, the poetry, the sculpture, the paintings—the list goes on. Now try to imagine a scenario in which none of this art had ever been made. What would we lose in a world like this?

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Why Games Matter

Do games help us form social bonds and build important life skills, or are they just a pleasant way to escape the daily grind? Worse yet, could playing games make us lazy and antisocial? These are some of the questions we’re asking in this week’s show, What’s in a Game?

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