Comforting Conversations, pt.1

Sunday, January 3, 2021
First Aired: 
Sunday, May 17, 2020

What Is It

In troubling, uncertain times, the arts and humanities are more important than ever. Engaging with works of literature can provide both much needed insight into our current struggles and a sense of perspective in a crisis. In what ways do novels or plays help us come to terms with human suffering? Can fictional narratives about past pandemics shed light on our current situation? And how can storytelling or music help bring us together in isolation? Josh and Ray converse with a range of Stanford faculty members about how philosophy, music, drama, and literature can provide comfort, connection, and a sense of community.

  • Lanier Anderson on Albert Camus' The Plague
  • Michaela Bronstein on narrative and fiction as imaginative tools
  • Ato Quayson on the social value of oral storytelling



Josh Landy  
Welcome to Philosophy Talk, the program that questions...

Ray Briggs  
...everything except your intelligence. I'm Ray Briggs.

Comments (3)'s picture


Sunday, May 17, 2020 -- 12:19 PM

Prof. Bronstein sees reading

Prof. Bronstein sees reading fictional narratives as a way of becoming aware of the way we see our lives, too, as narratives. In that recognition lies the possibility of choosing between competing ways of telling the story, or even of inventing a new narrative. This is abstract, and therefore difficult to apply to specific instances. An example she gives is of a play by Tony Kushner in which German leftists living in 1931 try to imagine what lies ahead for them, and what they should do about it. we witness them crafting a narrative about their past and current situation, unaware of what is to come in Hitler's rise, which the audience knows very well. Thus we can see the strengths and weaknesses of their various stories about themselves and their situation. The play might inspire us in the audience to think about the ways we act, or fail to act, based upon the story we tell ourselves about ourselves and our moment in history.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, February 28, 2021 -- 12:50 PM

Hmmmm... this fired a neuron;

Hmmmm... this fired a neuron; nudged a ventricle. My wife is impatient with other drivers. A friend got her an amulet. The caption reads: keep calm, and drive on. Good advice.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, March 25, 2021 -- 8:02 AM

Random Thought:

Random Thought:
Many of us have heard the adage regarding finding a needle in a haystack. There was never, to my knowledge, any back-story on how the needle may have gotten there. The implication was clear, however: finding the needle would be difficult, if not impossible. Let's hold that thought. Another similar conundrum centers on winning the lottery. Also quite difficult. One game places the odds at one chance in over thirteen million., or, slim-to-none. Ok. Going back to the needle in a pile of hay, the odds don' t seem so daunting afterall. Unlike those odds given for the game, the hay is nowhere near infinity. We could further predict success if we knew the size of the needle, and had a powerful electromagnet or other equipment at our disposal. The needle in the haystack conundrum is old. Many things we now have at the ready did not then exist. As for the lottery, the numbers do not lie. Thirteen million, give or take a few, goes far nearer to infinity than the other scenario.

I'll play the lottery though. The needle, more attainable, is not worth much. Read this in conjunction with the posts on algorithims and science overreach..