Every once in a while, I sneak out from behind the mixing board to offer some insights into the process of producing the program. This week, however, I’m chiming in as part of our annual Summer Reading special to let you in on some of my own reading plans.
What Is It
As some parts of our lives return to a kind of normal, Josh and Ray ask authors and philosophers about what's been on their summer reading lists.
- Cory Doctorow on "Making Hay," his short story in Make Shift: Dispatches from the Post-Pandemic Future
- Helen De Cruz from Saint Louis University, co-editor of Philosophy Through Science Fiction Stories: Exploring the Boundaries of the Possible
Plus a post-pandemic update from Stanford English colleague Michaela Bronstein and her thoughts on Richard Wright's newly-published The Man Who Lived Underground.
In this episode, Josh and Ray compile their annual summer reading list. They begin by speaking with Michaela Bronstein, Professor of English at Stanford University. Michaela says that literature is currently helping her measure the inertia of the present, and she recommends Richard Wright’s The Man Who Lived Underground. Josh compares it to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and brings up the motif of religion. In response to Ray’s question about its relevance this summer, Michaela explains that a novel about police brutality is apt to read at a time when people are looking into the long history of law enforcement abuse against Black Americans.
Next, the philosophers welcome science fiction writer and journalist Cory Doctorow to the show. Cory describes the inception of his newly-published short story “Making Hay.” Ray appreciates his optimistic tone that comes from facing challenges like climate change head on, whereas Josh brings up the realism that comes out of fearing the future. Cory believes that reading sci-fi can help us be more hopeful, since it primes our brains to be more noble when tragedies do occur. This effect has an opposite effect when reading dystopian and apocalyptic novels, which might prime us to be more suspicious of the people around us.
In the last segment of the show, Josh and Ray are joined by Helen De Cruz, Professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University. Helen explains why science fiction is inherently philosophical, as its futuristic settings are often similar to thought experiments. Josh asks how novels differ from philosophical papers in exploring philosophical questions, which prompts Helen to draw examples from multiple short stories in the anthology she recently co-edited. Ray wonders if there is a difference between those who identify as philosophers versus sci-fi writers in the way they approach their stories, but Helen thinks they are actually more similar than we might assume.
Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 1:01) → Holly J. McDede talks to poets about how they read, created, and connected over the past year.
- Sixty-Second Philosopher (Seek to 46:42) → Ian Shoales laments the decline of summer reading and reminisces on the literature of his past year.
Welcome to Philosophy Talk, the program that questions everything...
...except your intelligence. I'm Ray Briggs.