THE BLOG @ PHILOSOPHERS' CORNER

Narrative Burnout

When I’ve felt depressed or isolated in the past, fiction has been a source of escape and catharsis. But during this lockdown, I've been struggling with stories. I've been streaming less television, reading fewer novels, and watching fewer movies than ever before. I've got a case of "narrative burnout."

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A Pandemic of Dreams

Covid has not only infected our waking lives, it has seeped into our sleeping lives as well. Researchers report that there has been an apparent increase in vivid, powerful and disturbing dreams. This heightened awareness provides a wonderful opportunity to fulfill the ancient injunction to “Know thyself!”

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More Money Matters

We got another listener question, this time from Alicia in Berkley whose question is for Graham Hubbs, the guest on our recent episode, "(Why) Money Matters." Alicia asks about the government's ability to print money and its value and Graham answers.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Crip Camp

Are you eager for quarantine to be over but apprehensive about what the future might bring? For a dose of optimism, reflections on freedom, and a very good film, check out Crip Camp: a Disability Revolution. I was lucky to see it at this year's Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award.

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Money Matters

Is money the root of all evil, or is it just a technology that makes our lives more efficient? Should some things not be for sale? This week on Philosophy Talk, we’ll be discussing money: where it comes from, what it is now, and what it could become in the future.

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Proust and Social Distance

Marcel Proust once wrote about a hypothetical sufferer of “spiritual depression” who has no physical incapacity but lacks the will to act. If you've been walled up at home for weeks, you might suffer from this type of mental languor. A good book may be the jolt you need to spur you into new and creative thoughts.

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Puzzle 2: What is an Identity?

Continuing my series of puzzles to distract you from the current crisis, this month I'm asking: What is an identity? I mean the kind of identity that makes you a member of a certain social group (call these collective identities, social identities, or group identities), though that’s a rough characterization.

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Philosophy and the Superhero

Can comic books reveal deep truths about human nature? What can Marvel’s Miracleman teach us about metaphysics? Should we be learning about ethics from Batman and Superman? On this week’s show, we’ll be talking with Nathaniel Goldberg about what philosophers can learn from superhero comics.

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Trying to Let Go of the Past

How many times have you heard people advise others to let go of the past? Once you see that these painful, traumatic experiences are over and done, you supposedly achieve “closure” and can “get on with your life.” But trying to let go of past experiences is not really something you can achieve.

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Thinking and Mental Action

Sometimes your mind wanders, and sometimes your thoughts focus on a specific topic. When your mind wanders, you're not really doing much, but when you focus, you're engaged in a specific mental action; you control what you're thinking about. So what is this mental control?

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Game Theory and COVIDiocy

It's time for a listener question! Susan L. wrote to us with a very interesting question about game theory and COVID-19. She wanted to know if we could discover a pattern in the president's behavior and use game theory to disrupt that pattern and save lives. I put together some responses to Susan's question.

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Puzzle 1: Are Beliefs Voluntary?

Need a distraction from the incessant stream of information and speculation about the Coronavirus? I certainly do. So for my next few blogs, I’m going to describe philosophical puzzles that are either old or new. I won’t help solve them until the next blog, at which point I’ll post links to various solutions. Enjoy!

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Viral Xenophobia

As I write this, the world is in the path of a mounting pandemic. People are frightened. They should be. The novel coronavirus is dangerous. It can and does kill. But its biologically menacing character is just one part of the threat that it poses. The virus also presents us with a social threat.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Is it wrong to paint someone’s portrait without their consent? Portrait of a Lady on Fire presents this ethical dilemma for an eighteenth century portrait artist. The film is deep on many levels, but one of the most important is how it asks us to think about portraiture, privacy, and consent.

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Sorry, Critics: Parasite is a Good Movie

For me—as for the good people at the Oscars—Parasite was far and away the best film of 2019. Critics, however, are eagerly denouncing it as a failure, a capitulation, a “conservative” film, indeed a movie full of “contempt” for the working class. What is going on?

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Anti-Sacred Spaces

According to the "Blowing Off Steam" theory, rough humor—humor that deals with culturally sensitive issues in a way that bumps into or violates taboos—helps release people’s anxieties and stresses in a safe environment. Specifically, it is a release of sacred anxiety.

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Is the Self Real?

Is there such a thing as a self, something that makes you who you are? Or is the self just a convenient fiction? Would the world be a better place if we all stopped believing in selves? These are some of the questions we're asking in this week's show.

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Am I in Everything I Imagine?

Imagination is one way we can get outside our own skin and get a sense of other people’s lives. But when we take imaginative travels, must we always imagine ourselves being part of these other worlds—or can we simply imagine these worlds without including ourselves in them?

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What Is Good Philosophy?

Not too long ago, I had a Twitter exchange with Philosophy Talk’s Josh Landy about whether Freud was a good philosopher. It struck me that I’ve never given much thought to the question of what good philosophy is. Is it just a matter of taste? Or are there guidelines for separating the wheat from the chaff?

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#FrancisOnFilm: Dionysus for Docs

A documentary film has never won the Philosophy Talk Dionysus Award for Most Philosophical Film of the Year. But documentaries often raise complex philosophical issues and get us to question our assumptions. This year’s Oscar nominees for Best Documentary are no exception.

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Rough Humor

One current culture war in North American society concerns rough humor—jokes, skits, writings, cartoons, etc. that deal with culturally sensitive issues in a way that bumps into or violates taboos. But is there something harmful about rough humor?

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Is the Sentence Becoming Passé?

In an age of emojis, memes, and reaction gifs, are complete sentences becoming passé? Do outmoded forms of writing deserve to die? Or could there be room for more than one kind of writing? These are the questions we're asking on this week's show.

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What Is a “Vivid” Mental Image?

What is a mental image? You might say it’s like a picture that belongs to the “mind’s eye.” Or you might say it's like a visual experience, only less vivid. But what, exactly, does it mean for mental images to be less vivid than genuine visual experiences of the world?

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Comedy on the Edges

Is there comedy so offensive that it shouldn’t be allowed? Do some jokes encourage bigotry and hatred? Could edgy comedy ever be good for society? These are some of the questions we’re asking in this week’s show, our first new show since Ken died last month.

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What the Future Holds

Hume's problem of induction is that there’s no logical basis for drawing conclusions about what will happen in the future on the basis of what’s happened in the past. Doing so rests on an assumption that’s at best a leap of faith, and at worst an example of intellectual laziness.

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