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Why Theory

Why Theory brings continental philosophy and psychoanalytic theory together to examine cultural phenomena.

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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Tenet

In this episode, Ryan and Todd analyze the new Christopher Nolan film Tenet. They discuss the film in terms of the concept of Nachtraglickeit or retroactivity, as well as exploring the conflicted politics that Nolan proposes in the film.

1hr 18mins

2 Jan 2021

Rank #1

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German Idealism

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the phenomenon of German Idealism through its four primary figures--Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Rather than focusing solely on these figures as thinkers, they delve into the gossip surrounding each of them as well. Focusing on a significant contribution of each, they look to each of them as theorists of the simple and everyday.

1hr 32mins

9 Dec 2020

Rank #2

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Hegel's Self-Consciousness

This episode is the third in a seven part series devoted to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Ryan and Todd discuss the second major section, Self-Consciousness, with a special focus on the master/slave dialectic. They also explore the transition from Consciousness and then the transition to Reason.

1hr 15mins

24 Nov 2020

Rank #3

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Where to Start 1: The Psychoanalytic Theorists

Thanks for joining us on Why Theory. In this episode, Todd and I give a few recommendations on where to start and where not start introductory readings from six psychoanalytic theorists: Freud, Lacan, Slavoj Zizek, Joan Copjec, Alenka Zupancic, and Mari Ruti. This is the first iteration of what will hopefully be a mini series on where to start and where not to start with different thinkers. We both think this is a fine start but who are we to judge. Thanks for listening, as always. We hope you enjoy the conversation.Recommended in this episode:Freud: "A Note Upon the Mystic Writing Pad," "Negation," "Fetishism," The Interpretation of DreamsLacan: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, AnxietyZizek: Looking Awry, The Plague of Fantasies, The Fright of Real Tears, The Parallax View, Less Than NothingCopjec: "The Orthopsychic Subject," "Sex and the Euthanasia of Reason"Zupancic: The Odd One In, Ethics of the RealRuti: The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living; Between Levinas and Lacan: Self, Other, Ethics; The Ethics of Opting Out

1hr 28mins

9 May 2018

Rank #4

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Dialectics

In this episode, Todd and I discuss dialectics (as the title of the episode implies). After charting the historical development of the term, we focus on the different roles dialectics play for Kant and Hegel. Later, we finish the episode by talking about how Lacan's dialectical thinking manifests itself in his theory. This was a listener suggested episode. Shout outs to Ken in Birmingham and Sean in Dublin. Thanks so much for listening!

1hr 5mins

5 Oct 2018

Rank #5

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objet a

In this episode, Ryan and Todd try to pin down Jacques Lacan's elusive and crucial concept of the objet a. They offer different ways of thinking about and give various examples before identifying the point at which it emerges in Lacan's trajectory.

1hr 37mins

24 Dec 2019

Rank #6

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Ideology

On this episode, Todd and Ryan discuss ideology and ideology critique. They begin with basic definitions and move on to cultural political analyses of ideology today. They end with a brief discussion of race and racism and a full throated endorsement of Karen and Barbara Fields’ 2014 book Racecraft. In fact, don’t listen to this podcast. Buy that book instead. Thanks for listening. We hope you all enjoy the conversation.

1hr 2mins

1 Feb 2018

Rank #7

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Preface to Hegel's Phenomenology

This episode provides an introduction to the preface to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Ryan and Todd explore key issues from the notoriously difficult preface, including Hegel's own claim that one should not write prefaces to philosophical works. They argue that the preface provides the key to jumping in to all of Hegel's philosophy. The episode aims to lead listeners either to read the Phenomenology for themselves or to help them act as if they have read it at parties.

1hr 14mins

8 Jan 2019

Rank #8

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An Afternoon with Slavoj Zizek -- Marx

This special episode includes Todd's discussion with Slavoj Zizek about Marxism, conducted just before his debate with Jordan Peterson. Todd and Slavoj discuss why one might insist on the moniker "Marxist" today and why one might call it into question. Ryan and Todd then delve into the issues raised by Slavoj's responses. They focus Marx's relationship with Hegel and the implications of this relationship for politics.

1hr 21mins

29 May 2019

Rank #9

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Desire & Drive

In this episode, Todd and I work through two of psychoanalytic theory's most fundamental terms: desire and drive. Despite how fundamental these terms are there exists a fair amount of disagreement. Far from being generally agreed upon first principles, desire and drive are consistent sites for some of psychoanalysis's most interesting interventions (e.g. Alenka Zupancic's What is Sex? and Lee Edelman's No Future, both discussed in this episode). As always: thanks so much for listening! We very much appreciate it.

1hr 2mins

15 Sep 2018

Rank #10

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Defending Freud (side A)

In this episode, Ryan and Todd spell out the common criticisms launched against Freud and psychoanalysis. In each case, they try to show how these critiques ultimately come up short and either secretly rely on Freud's own psychoanalytic method when criticizing him or miss the aim of the psychoanalytic project. In this part, they address the image of Freud as a cocaine addict, as a pervert, and as a charlatan. In the next episode, they will confront the charges of Freud's heteronormativity and his sexism.

1hr 11mins

23 Oct 2019

Rank #11

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Psychoanalysis and Capitalism

In this episode, Ryan and Todd argue for a psychoanalytic understanding of capitalism's appeal and staying power. They reflect on the possibilities for a psychoanalytic critique of capitalism and ponder its abilities to offer alternatives, rather than just serve as a source of critique.

1hr 15mins

9 Oct 2019

Rank #12

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Where to Start 2: Hegel, Marx, Fanon, Deleuze, Foucault

Discussed in this episode: Hegel, Marx, Fanon, Deleuze, FoucaultRecommended in this episode:HegelPreface to Phenomenology of Spirit; Lesser Logic; Introduction to History of PhilosophyMarx"The Commodity" from Capital vol. 1; Grundrisse; The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte FanonBlack Skin, White Mask; The Wretched of the EarthDeleuze"The Death Instinct" from Coldness and Cruelty; Difference & Repetition; Spinoza: Practical PhilosophyFoucaultDiscipline & PunishListen to hear what is NOT recommended!

1hr 8mins

18 May 2018

Rank #13

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Psychoanalysis and Existentialism

In this episode, Ryan and Todd discuss the possibilities for the marriage of psychoanalysis and existentialism, including the ideas that might render this marriage ultimately untenable. They explore how psychoanalysis and existentialism each provides a critique of the other, touching on Jacques Lacan's critique of Jean-Paul Sartre and Sartre's version of existential psychoanalysis.

1hr 17mins

7 Dec 2019

Rank #14

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Psychoanalysis and Racism

Ryan and Todd discuss the encounter between psychoanalytic theory and the problem of racism. They focus on the role that enjoyment plays in racism and why racism is necessary for the survival of capitalist society. They also address the problem of white privilege as a signifier. During this discussion, they deal with two outstanding books on racism, Racecraft by Barbara and Karen Fields, and Trauma and Race by Sheldon George.

1hr 14mins

26 Jan 2019

Rank #15

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(Neo)liberalism

In this episode, Ryan and Todd debate the political viability of the term "Neoliberalism." They explore what neoliberalism signifies and whether or not this signifier can function as a building block for the contemporary Left. The episode also delves into the terms used for leftism--like progressivism and emancipatory politics--in order to understand which might be most appropriate.

1hr 17mins

21 Nov 2018

Rank #16

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An Afternoon with Slavoj Zizek -- Lacan

In the second of a series of three special episodes featuring Slavoj Zizek, Ryan and Todd respond to Todd's interview with Slavoj concerning his relationship to Lacan. They cover what Slavoj thinks is the key Lacanian concept and seminar, as well as Slavoj's assessment of trans theory. Ryan questions Slavoj's written interventions on this issue for not highlighting the way that the psychoanalytic theory of subjectivity speaks directly to the trans position.

1hr 22mins

10 Jun 2019

Rank #17

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Where to Start 3: Heidegger, Badiou, Agamben, Butler, Derrida

On this episode, Todd and Ryan discuss the following thinkers:Martin Heidegger (Start to 18 minutes)Recommended: Being and TimeAlain Badiou (18 min to 35)Recommended: Philosophy and Event, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, Theory of the SubjectGiorgio Agamben (35 to 43:40)Recommended: Homo Sacer, Means Without EndsJudith Butler (43:55 to 55ish)Recommended: Gender Trouble, Subjects of DesireJacques Derrida (56 to End)Recommended: Specters of Marx, Positions, "Freud and the Scene of Writing"

1hr 3mins

14 Jul 2018

Rank #18

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Sexuation (Aphorism 2)

In this episode, Todd and Ryan come to grips with another of Lacan's many aphorisms: "there is no sexual relationship." After first defining Lacan's idea against the dominant ideological notion of complementarity in the romantic tie (i.e. "You complete me"), Todd and Ryan sketch out when and where the phrase appears in Lacan's oeuvre, how it develops, and what contemporary relevance the idea has. As with the first Aphorism episode, this podcast ends with a film recommendation that helps explain the concept.

1hr 10mins

4 Mar 2019

Rank #19

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Hegel and Race

In this episode, Ryan and Todd examine Hegel's critique of racism and analyze the charge of racism leveled against him. They discuss his championing of the revolting slaves in Haiti, as well as his comments about Africa in the Philosophy of History.

1hr 12mins

18 Nov 2019

Rank #20