The Examined Year: 2018

Sunday, December 30, 2018

What Is It

A new year offers an opportunity to reflect on the significant events of the previous year. So what happened over the past twelve months that challenged our assumptions and made us think about things in new ways? Join the Philosophers as they celebrate the examined year with a philosophical look back at the year that was 2018.

  • The Year in Climate Consciousness with Greg Dalton, Founder and Host of Climate One at the Commonwealth Club
  • The Year in Demagoguery and Propaganda with Yale philosopher Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

Plus a philosophical roundtable featuring all four hosts, including host emeritus John Perry and new Dean of Stanford Humanities and Sciences Debra Satz.

Listening Notes

Ken and Josh introduce 2018’s edition of The Examined Year, Philosophy Talk’s annual episode that looks back on the philosophical significance of events and ideas that have shaped the past year. This year the hosts are reflecting on two worrying trends: demagoguery and propaganda in politics and the impending climate crisis. 

Greg Dalton, founder and host of the climate-focused radio show and podcast Climate One, joins Ken and Josh to discuss the year in climate consciousness. Greg and the hosts debate whether climate change can be treated as a faceless, indiscernible enemy that cannot be stopped by or blamed on anyone in particular, or if framing around pernicious actors and activist heroes best mobilizes the masses. Next, Ken and Josh welcome previous hosts John Perry and Debra Satz for a philosopher’s roundtable focused on major philosophical problems of modernity. They debate whether technology like Artificial Intelligence will be a cancerous or benign force in society in the future. Yale Professor of Philosophy Jason Stanley joins the show afterward to lament the rise of ultra-nationalist and authoritarian politics. While Ken sees the virtue and illiberalism of populist movements on the left and right, Jason argues that far-right nationalist movements in America and Europe most closely resemble 20th century fascism.

In the last segment, Ken, Josh, and Jason search for reasons to be hopeful in the coming year. Despite dangerous uncertainty in nature and politics, the hosts agree with Jason that pacifism in the face of challenges is not the answer. Instead, the responsibility is on individuals to band together in action. Even in the darkest periods of the past, humanity has persevered, which gives Josh hope for the future.

  • Roving Philosophical Report (seek to 2:48): Holly J. McDede walks us through the major weather and climate moments of 2018, including an ominous UN Report on Climate Change, unprecedented temperatures in Britain, Pakistan, and The North Pole, and natural disasters from Indonesia to Southern California.
  • Sixty-Second Philosopher (seek to 47:20): Ian Shoales swiftly recaps a year in business, tech, and popular culture, finding that perhaps the only common thread is narcissism, exemplified by self-serving year-end lists.




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

Ken Taylor  
...except your intelligence. I'm Ken Taylor.

Josh Landy  
And I'm Josh Landy. We're here at the studios of KALW San Francisco.

Comments (1)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, December 13, 2018 -- 12:54 PM

It is our nature to do this

It is our nature to do this soul-searching, year-to-year. I am working on a piece regarding our fuzzy notions about infinity and whether it means anything, and, am coming to conclude it does not, yet we still think about it, while wringing our figurative hands over a previous year. I suppose, as the Baha'i used to say, and probably still do: perfection is in perfecting. However, if we can never hope to 'get there', does any of that really matter? I just don't think so.