Listening Lately

Let me point first to two excellent pods that really require some specialized interest and focused attention. First I would point to an episode of Philosophize This! by Stephen West. Even though West suggests that his talks are for philosophy beginners, I think you should be prepared to be thrown into the academic deep end unless you have some background in philosphy. Nonetheless, his episode on Hannah Arendt is compelling and timely. Even though she focused so much of her thougth on how the Nazis arose and took power, the parallels with present day American culture and politics are both startling and unsuprising. The episode is #136 and was dated October 31. I don’t find it yet on the philosophizethis.org site but it came through on Castbox.

A second and also quite philosophical conversation is the most recent episode of the Mindscape podcast with Sean Carroll. It was a conversation about the nature of consciousness with Philip Goff. Goff is a philosopher of mind at the University of Durham. Goff is a panpsychist, that is, he resolves the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness by positing some degree of consciousness in all parts of the universe. I focused on the philosophy of mind in my undergraduate philosophy work, and I have followed the conversation with interest now for forty years.

I must say that I found Carroll, the theoretical physicist, to be the more articulate and coherent philosopher in the conversation. I’m not a materialist as such (not certainly in Carroll’s sense), but I certainly have sympathy for Carroll’s critique of panpsychism. If one is a materialist and a panpsychist, then what precisely does this dab of universal consciousness actually add to our understanding of the hard problem of consciousness? If you have 90 minutes and you want your brain to ache a bit by the end (and who doesn’t long for that!), this is for you. No, serioulsy, this is a brave, civil and challenging conversation that I enjoyed immensely.

I am puzzled by the materialist position of Carroll which reduces subjective experience to an “emergent” property of complexity. In other contexts for Carroll, “emergent” means that a physical property “pops out of the math”. Perhaps that’s what he means here as well. If that is the case, then subjective experience seems to be an epiphenomenon, a by-product of physical processes. If that is the case, then why should we pay any attention to what any of us thinks, since thinking is by definition a subjective experience? It’s humbling to know that the hard questions haven’t gotten any real answers in the last several hundred years. Carroll’s work is at preposterousuniverse.com. I listen to all of it.

Now some briefer recommendations:

The most recent episode of Hidden Brain is called “The Talk Market.” The discussion focuses on the role of stories in the economy and economic behavior and was quite entertaining.

Charity Nebbe continues on a roll on Talk of Iowa. I listened on November 4th to an episode on child sexual abuse. It was painful and informative. She’s a courageous and compassionate interviewer.

On the 6th, I caught up a bit with Fresh Air. I thought the episode on hearing issues and protection would be ho-hum. Instead, it was informative, entertaining, practical and easy on the ears! The author of a book called Hearing in a Deafening World covered a wide range of topics with some great stories and insights. I think it’s time for me to get my hearing checked.

And I would recommend the recent episode of Code Switch, which lays out the story of the murder of Rev. James Reeb. Malcolm Gladwell had taken this on in an episode of Revisionist History, but the CS folks did an excellent job of sharing the story as done by white, southern reporters.

Finally for now, I just listened to an episode of Throughline that spends an hour laying out Kurdish history and the sad string of American betrayals in that history. Useful and informative.

Happy listening!

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