This week’s conversation is about Epicurus and the Good Life. Now in common parlance an epicurean is one who is “fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating and drinking.” But the ancient Greek Philosopher, Epicurus was decidedly not an epicurean in that sense of the word. His philosophy is actually pretty far removed from epicureanism as ordinarily understood.
This we’re going to discuss what it is to be “normal”. It seems simple enough. What’s normal is what most people do. Or perhaps what most people do, or what typical people do, or what most typical people do. It’s definitely what normal people do --- but that’s circular.
This week it's our annual Dionysus Awards show. The Dionysus Awards are presented to the most philosophically interesting movies of the year. And sometimes, when we feel like it, we also honor philosophically notable movies from the past. Unlike your average awards show, we accept nominations from the floor. So we’ll be talking to some of our listeners who wrote in with their suggestions, and to some special guests as well.
February is Black History Month. So we thought it might be a good time to do an episode on Black Solidarity. Now I admit that this topic may seem to be a bit, shall we say, 20th century. When this country still suffered from rampant racism, it made perfect sense for black people to band together on the basis of their shared history and experience to fight it. But now, in the 21st century? in the age of Obama? Why should we bother with matters racial anymore?
This week we’ll be asking about the Right to Privacy.
This is one of those times when we need to start by disentangling concepts. We use ‘private’ and ‘privacy’ in several different ways. Both words derive from ‘privus’ in Latin which means `single’ or `individual’. Being private is usually opposed to being public; privacy means withdrawn in one way or another from the public.
Some famous and not-so-famous pieces of philosophy are, strictly speaking, fiction: the Dialogues of Plato, Hume and Berkeley and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, for example. And Rousseau’s Emile has some novel-like elements. Among the less famous are my own Dialogues. (In case you are interested, the are Dialogues on Personal Identity and Immortality, and Dialogue on Good, Evil and the Existence of God. Both published by Hackett publishing. Small and inexpensive, they make great gifts.)
The program broadcast this Sunday asks the question: “Is Democracy a Universal Value?” According to the dictionary:
“Democracy.” A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.
The dictionary definition leaves a lot of room for variation. In a direct democracy, for example, the people collectively decide political matters. In a representative democracy, the people elect representatives to make the political decisions. And exactly who is an "eligible member"? Only those over 18? Or 21? Only men? Only property-owners?
This week, we do something special. We take a look back at the past year, though the lens of Philosophy. We call the episode -- The Examined Year: 2011. But this is not your typical year in review show -- not by a long shot. We take our inspiration, from Socrates who said that the unexamined life is not worth living. For us, that implies that that the unexamined year is not worth living through. Fortunately for us all, though, 2011 was a year well worth living through and well worth examining. It was best of times and the worst of times -- a year in equal parts inspiring and troubling.
'Nihilism’ is based on the Latin word for `nothing’: nihil. Nihilism is used for a lot of positions in philosophy… that there is nothing at all; that we know nothing at all; that there are no moral principles at all, and virtually any other position that could be framed with the word `nothing’. But the most common use, and what we'll explore today, is nihilism as the view that nothing we do, nothing we create, nothing we love, has any meaning or value whatsoever.
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