Sunday, November 15, 2009

What is it

The program that questions everything – except your intelligence – started off questioning the conventional wisdom that there would be no audience for a radio show about philosophy.  One hundred and ninety-nine programs later, Ken and John are hanging in there with large loyal audiences in the Bay Area and Oregon, outposts at over fifty stations across North America, and a huge internet following.  In their 200th program Ken and John compile a list of the Top 10 most pressing philosophical issues for the 21st century with help from you, their listeners, and three past guests: Jenann Ismael, Brian Leiter, and Martha Nussbaum. 

Listening Notes

It’s Philosophy Talk’s 200th episode, and John and Ken are having a party.  On the guest list are three of the show’s favorite philosophers, Jenann Ismael, Brian Leiter, and Martha Nussbaum, as well as the loyal listeners who call in.  John and Ken open by offering their top ten reasons to listen to Philosophy Talk, and then move on to the larger topic of the top ten philosophical issues facing contemporary philosophers.  Many questions have been around for generations and are as pertinent as ever, but the continuing progress of science and shifting social values have framed old questions in new ways.  Where should the modern philosopher even begin?

Jenann Ismael joins us first, and John and Ken ask her for her input as to the most important philosophical question of our age.  Ismael believes that one of the most important is the question of how to effect change in the world, particularly in regards to the environment.  On an individual level, out efforts are seemingly useless; we need a whole new framework to promote the greater good, and at present we have no design for such a framework.  Our hosts take up this thread and offer their views.  Between Ismael and the next guest callers offer their greatest philosophical concerns, including those regarding capital punishment, truth in the information age, and the “destruction of belief.”

Brian Leiter has a different approach to the most important question for the future of philosophy; simply that as we cannot see the future, saying what the most important question is or will be is nearly impossible.  He offers more when pressed by John and Ken, raising some interesting questions about what philosophy can actually accomplish. 

Leiter is followed by our final guest, Martha Nussbaum, who is concerned with our lack of an adequate theory of global justice.  She believes that while we’ve made important strides in our quest for social justice, our frame of reference for the implementation of justice is still the nation state.  This makes global justice a significant—and very important—challenge.  John and Ken give their thoughts, as do callers.  John closes the program by revealing the much-anticipated Top Ten Philosophical Problems of the 21st Century.  Listen in to find out what made the list!

  • Roving Philosophical Report (seek to 6:20): Andi McDaniel heads to the UC Berkeley campus to find out what students consider the most important philosophical questions of their generation.  She gets varied answers, some quite out-of-the-box.
  • 60-Second Philosopher (seek to 49:50): Ian Shoales gives us a quick take on the past 100 years in philosophy, beginning with Darwinism and ending with Snuggies.

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Jenann Ismael, University of Arizona






Brian Leiter, University of Chicago





Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago

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