Arendt on Totalitarianism

Despite being over forty years old, Roger Errera's interview of philosopher Hannah Arendt in the New York Review of Books may be as timely as ever. Could something approaching totalitarianism be unfolding before us today—either in America or abroad? We hear echoes throughout the interview that may remind you of our current political situation.

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[VIDEO] What is the Straw Man Fallacy?

We are exposed to arguments in a variety of settings: in politics, the workplace, and our personal lives. But how do we distinguish between valid arguments and mere rhetorical devices?  In this episode from Wireless Philosophy, Joseph Wu explains the Straw Man Fallacy, a common form of argument that misrepresents an opponent's views. Don't let it fool you again!  

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Is Postmodernism to Blame for Post-Truth?

Is postmodernism to blame for the current state of American politics, as philosopher Daniel Dennett claims? Or has disrespect for the distinction between truth and lies been around since before postmodernism? Should we instead be thanking postmodernism for giving us frameworks and vocabularies to make sense of current politics?

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How to Honor Black History Month

February is Black History Month. But how should we honor the occasion—especially if you're white? In addition to recognizing black artists and intellectuals, is there a more sincere way to honestly reflect on your role in America's dark past? Philosopher George Yancy thinks we can do more.

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Philosophy Behind Bars

American prisons are, for the most part, overcrowded warehouses, devoted to the punishment and daily humiliation of their inmates. As such, one would expect that they are probably not very conducive to either the teaching or the studying of philosophy–or any other academic subject matter. But does it have to be that way? Our guest this week is Jennifer Lackey, who teaches philosophy at Northwestern University and at Statesville Correctional Center in Illinois.

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[AUDIO] Love Is on the Air

What's a producer to say about love? I'll leave the heavy philosophical lifting to John and Ken, and present this Valentine's Day playlist featuring philosophers and others thinking deep about this thing called love.  

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In Defense of Polyamory

Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, a philosopher at the University of British Columbia, enjoys an open relationship with her husband. In a recent profile in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Moira Weigel profiles Jenkins's experience as a person in a "polyamorous" relationship. 

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[VIDEO] What Is Evil?

When hearing about human-inflicted tragedies, you have probably wondered at some point or another: How could someone possibly commit such a horrendous act? Evil frequently befuddles us, leading us to picture evildoers as bizzare cases of humanity, completely apart from the typical population. But how accurate is this depiction of evil? The video below, "What is Evil?" examines Hannah Arendt's thinking as she tries to understand the nature of evil, after witnessing the trial of Nazi Official Adolf Eichmann.   

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Why Teach Prisoners?

Our show this week, “Philosophy Behind Bars” features guest Jennifer Lackey, a professor of philosophy from Northwestern University who also teaches philosophy at the Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois.

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The Case For (and Against) Reparations

After the civil war, instead of reparations and restorative justice, black people were subjected to new forms of oppression: sharecropping, Jim Crow segregation, separate but equal schooling, housing discrimination -- not to mention lynchings and worse. If blacks weren’t paid reparations back then, why would we expect it to happen now?

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RIP Bharati Mukherjee

We were saddened to hear of the passing of Bharati Mukherjee last month. Bharati was an American writer and professor of English who was born in Calcutta, India. She was interested in questions about identity, alienation, and multiculturalism, particularly as it pertained to the immigrant experience. She joined John and Ken on the show in 2012 to talk about "Identities Lost and Found in a Global Age," which you can listen to below.

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The Emperor Has No Philosophy

In a recent article from the New Statesman, prompted by the death of philosopher Derek Parfit, journalist David Herman wonders what happened to the public intellectual. Where has philosophy disappeared to? In America, there has been much demand for a better, more competent press. So much so, that publications such as the New York Times claim they have the "truth" -- so you ought to subscribe! A good (and free) press is surely necessary, but is it really sufficient in this day and age?

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Deadly Thought Experiments

Consider the now-famous philosophical thought experiment, the trolley problem. An out-of-control train is barrelling into five railroad construction workers, and as an onlooker, you notice a lever that you could pull to divert the train to a track with only one worker. Do you pull the lever? Should you pull the lever?

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[AUDIO] What Role Should Anger Play in Our Lives?

Anger and outrage: useful emotions that we cannot ignore, or simply a base desire for revenge? Are these (sometimes violent) emotions something we should strive to move beyond, or do we have a right to their expression? When is anger appropriate, and in what ways can it be channeled, if at all?

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Is it Okay to Punch Nazis?

On the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Richard Spencer, a polemic thought leader in the racist “alt-right,” was punched in the face by a masked protestor. The moment was caught on video, and the punch quickly went viral on Twitter (sometimes set to music like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”).

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[LIVE VIDEO] Philosophy Conference on Trump

Can philosophers help us come to grips with Trump and our current political situation?  Tune in to the live stream for the Penn conference on "Trump, Philosophy, and American Politics: Philosophical Implications of the 45th Presidency" and find out!     Tune in here:   

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#FrancisOnFilm: Sundance - It's a Wrap!

In the last three days of Sundance, I was fortunate enough to see a few more movies worth looking out for. The first four below haven’t reportedly been sold for distribution, but you may be able to catch parts or all of them online.

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[AUDIO] Black History Month: A Playlist

On February 5, John and Ken will talk to Michael Dawson from the University of Chicago about Reparations. February is, of course, Black History Month, and we often try to schedule programs in that month that question our assumptions about African-American history, politics, and culture.

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Confessions of a Cassandra

This essay is a lot more personal than any of my previous postings on this blog—or, indeed, any my writing anywhere else. It’s personal because it concerns a topic that is so important to me that I cannot bear to shroud it in a pretense of academic detachment and so overwhelmingly significant that the thought of writing about anything else seems grotesque.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Authenticity at Sundance

Francis Lee’s "God’s Own Country" is one of this year's gems at Sundance. It's power lies in its utter authenticity. But what makes a film authentic?

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[AUDIO] Do the Privileged Have Special Obligations?

Most of us recognize that, due to the circumstances we were born into, we are given certain advantages or disadvantages in life that others do not have. However, the further question of whether those with privilege have special obligations to the disadvantaged remains controversial.

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#FrancisOnFilm: Art Manifestos at Sundance

Manifesto, starring Cate Blanchett and directed by German filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt, transforms a visual installation into film. Blanchett plays roles from an elderly vagrant in an abandoned factory in Berlin reflecting situationist artists such as Lucio Fontana to a new anchor and reporter question and answer about minimalism.

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#FrancisOnFilm: What is a Documentary?

Is it a film that records (i.e. “documents”) events? Re-tells them? Or shapes them? Sundance is a film festival renowned for its documentaries and this year is no exception.

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Stanley Cavell and Public Philosophy

In this article, Mark Greif, the essayist and founding editor of n+1, an intellecutal publication, wrote a tribute to his former mentor, the philosopher Stanley Cavell. Using Cavell as a model, and Cavell's own intellectual inspirations, Emerson and Thoreau, Greif asks, what makes a good public philosopher?

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#FrancisOnFilm: Al Gore at Sundance - Truth to Power

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power brings Al Gore’s message of the urgency of addressing climate change to film audiences. People interested in philosophy should see this film not only for what it says about the environment and politics but also for what it says about truth and how to present it.

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