The Examined Year - 2015

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What Is It

A new year offers an opportunity to reflect on the significant events of the previous year. But what ideas and events took shape over the past twelve months that challenged our assumptions and made us think about things in new ways? Join John, Ken, and their special guests as they celebrate the examined year with a philosophical look back at the year that was 2015:

The Year in Campus Culture Wars with Kate Manne from Cornell University, co-author of "When Free Speech Becomes a Political Weapon"
The Year in Refugees and Migration with Beverly Crawford from UC Berkeley, author of Power and German Foreign Policy: Embedded Hegemony in Europe
The Year in Science and Climate Change with Allen Thompson from Oregon State University, co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics (forthcoming)

Listening Notes

This episode is one of many trades, from the climate change agreement and what it represents to the push to create a more tolerant environment, one of heightened sensitivities and “safe spaces,” to the refugee crisis.

John and Ken first welcome guest Kate Manne, Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University and co-author of “When Free Speech Becomes a Political Weapon.” Is there a culture war going on in college campuses, asks Ken? Kate prefers not to describe it in militaristic terms, but explains that she sees it as an exciting time. Challenging gender and race hierarchies goes against a lot of ingrained social instincts, and for students to be saying that those who are in authority should be sensitive to the political and emotional ramifications of our words and actions is major. John asks Kate about her experiences in philosophy courses, and Kate describes an upsetting incident regarding slurs which took place during her time at graduate school. Shouldn’t people get used to things like graphic material without needing trigger warnings, asks John? Kate explains why she absolutely thinks not. And, as Ken asks, are we coddling students by creating this sort of hypervigilant and self-aware environment? Tune in to find out!

The following segment features guest Beverly Crawford, Adjunct Professor in International and Area Studies at UC Berkeley and author of Power and German Foreign Policy: Embedded Hegemony in Europe. It has been quite a year for international studies, what with immigration and the refugee crisis and the subsequent strain on politics, says Ken. He thinks of refugees as part of a larger migration problem. But what exactly is the difference between refugee and immigrant? Refugee status, Beverly explains, entails the fleeing from persecution or torture in your own country – being forced to leave due to these circumstances. It’s a legal status. On the other hand, migrants are of all kinds – there are, among others, economic, climate, and war migrants. John wonders if our present system for dealing with refugees is inadequate. Beverly explains that the United Nations has asked the U.S. to take in 65,000 refugees and that the process takes about two years with the extensive vetting that goes on. Still, she does not see anything wrong with the process. Ken believes that European politics is now showing its ugliness; Beverly thinks the situation in Europe is worse than in the U.S., which is the country that takes in the most refugees. It’s a problem, she says, of dealing with the Other. Ken is torn between two viewpoints: why should the accident of where you were born dictate the rest of your lives? On the other hand, a nation is a shared project of the citizens, and there is no reason why one country should feel obliged to take in everybody. The conversation continues between John and Ken.

The third segment is with Allen Thompson, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Studies at Oregon State University and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics (forthcoming). John wonders if, given that most of us have been worried about climate change for so long, we can finally relax a little now that all nations have come together during the Paris Agreement. Allen says that we can certainly worry less than we would have to were the agreement not in place. He highlights the unprecedented and historic nature of this deal and emphasizes that we need to work on implementation, for agreements without that are nothing but empty words. Ken wonders if he should be more optimistic about the capacity of humans collectively taking on the problems that humans collectively caused. Allen says that while we don’t know with certainty if we can face the challenges, we can – and must – be hopeful. What we lack today are sufficient institutional structures to allow us to solve these collective issues. The trio talks about previous agreements and the future of climate negotiations and change.

  • Roving Philosophical Report #1 (Seek to 2:04): Shuka Kalantari talks about campus culture wars at Yale University and the push towards mindfulness regarding Halloween costumes.
  • Roving Philosophical Report #2 (Seek to 16:50): Shuka kickstarts the conversation about the refugee crisis by re-contextualizing “First they came…” by Martin Niemoller.
  • Roving Philosophical Report #3 (Seek to 34:34): Shuka talks about the historic climate deal and gets input from author, social activist, and filmmaker Naomi Klein on why the agreement may not be as effective as we might think.
  • 60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 48:02): For Ian Shoales, the year flashed by in a matter of 60 seconds. So, did he find any hope in a dismal 365 days?