Rank #1: Ep. 222: Debating Functionalism (Block, Chalmers) (Part Two)
Continuing on Ned Block's "Troubles with Functionalism" (1978) and David Chalmers's "Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia" (1995).
What would it be like to be halfway between person and machine? If you think the machine can't have consciousness, then Chalmers thinks that there's no sensible way to describe such an experience, ergo the machine (if functionally equivalent to the person) must have consciousness after all.
End song: "Machine" by Helen Money as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #101.
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Rank #2: Episode 119: Nietzsche on Tragedy and the Psychology of Art
On Friedrich Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy (1872). Nietzsche thought that you could tell how vital or decadent a civilization was by its art, and said that ancient Greek tragedy was so great because it was a perfect synthesis of something highly formal/orderly/beautiful with the intuitive/unconscious/chaotic. But then Socrates ruined everything! With guest John Castro.
Includes a preview of the Aftershow feat. Greg Sadler.
End song: "Some Act" by Mark Lint and the Fake from "So Whaddaya Think?" (2000).
Rank #3: Ep. 222: Debating Functionalism (Block, Chalmers) (Part One)
On Ned Block's "Troubles with Functionalism" (1978) and David Chalmers's "Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia" (1995).
If mental states are functional states, there couldn't be zombies. Yet Block claims that there could be zombies: for example, a functional duplicate of you whose components are actually citizens of China obeying algorithmic rules. Even if the resulting system acts like you, it obviously isn't conscious. Chalmers argues that you'd then need to explain the experiences of a creature half way between you and the zombie, but you can't, so Block's argument doesn't work and functionalism is left standing. What do you think? Do you hate weird thought experiments like these?
Sponsor: Visit the St. John's College Graduate Institute: partiallyexaminedlife.com/sjcgi.
Subscribe to Mark's new podcast at prettymuchpop.com.
Rank #4: Part 1 of Episode 1: “The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living.”
Rank #5: Episode 213: Nietzsche's Zarathustra (Part One)
On Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, books 1 and 2 (1883).
What is wisdom? In this text whose style parodies the Bible, we get pithy advice and allegorical imagery to guide us away from self-defeating, life-denying attitudes and orient us towards creative self-overcoming (i.e. exertion of the Will to Power). The Last Man who no longer knows how to give birth to a dancing star is a rotten egg!
Rank #6: Episode 87: Sartre on Freedom and Self-Deception
Rank #7: PREVIEW-Episode 32: Heidegger: What is “Being?”
Rank #8: PREVIEW-Episode 61: Nietzsche on Truth and Skepticism
On Friedrich Nietzsche's "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" (1873). What is truth? This essay, written early in Nietzsche's career, is taken by many to make the extreme claim that there is no truth, that all of the "truths" we tell each other are just agreements by social convention. WIth guest Jessica Berry, who argues that that Nietzsche is a skeptic: our "truths" don't correspond with the world beyond our human conceptions; all knowledge is laden with human interests. Get the full discussion at partiallyexaminedlife.com.
Rank #9: Ep. 218: The Hard Problem of Consciousness (Chalmers et al) (Part One)
Can we explain human experience using the terms of brain physiology? Chalmers thinks not, and lays out the arguments against this and the range of positions philosophers have taken in response to these objections.
Sponsor: Visit thegreatcoursesplus.com/PEL for a free trial of The Great Courses Plus Video Learning Service.
Rank #10: PREVIEW-Episode 80: Heidegger on our Existential Situation
On Martin Heidegger's "Letter on Humanism" (1949).
What's our place in the world? What is it, really, to be human? Heidegger thought that being human hinges on having a proper relationship to Being, which is more basic than particular beings like people and tables and such, yet it being so close, Heidegger thinks it's hardest to see, and easy to be distracted from.
Rank #11: Episode 124: The Stoic Life with Epictetus
On the Manual of Epictetus, aka The Enchiridion (135 CE). What's a wise strategy for life? Stoicism says that the secret is mastering yourself. Nothing external can break your spirit unless you let it. So, how weird and misguided is that advice? With guest Alex Fossella.
End song: "But I Won't" by Mark Lint from Spanish Armada: Songs of Love and Related Neuroses (1993).
Rank #12: Episode 178: Nietzsche as Social Critic: "Twilight of the Idols" (Part One)
On Friedrich Nieztsche's 1888 book summarizing his thought and critiquing the founding myths of his society. He defends "spiritualized" instinct and frenzied creativity, but also Napoleon and war. We try to figure out what kind of social critic he'd be today. Would we actually like him?
Rank #13: Episode 192: "The Closing of the American Mind": Allan Bloom on Education (Part One)
On Allan Bloom's 1987 best-selleing polemic. What is the role of the university in our democracy? Bloom thinks that today's students are conformist, relativistic, and nihilistic, and that great books and thinking for thinking's sake are the cure.
Sponsor: Visit thegreatcoursesplus.com/PEL for a one-month free trial of The Great Courses Plus Video Learning Service.
Rank #15: PREVIEW-Episode 35: Hegel on Self-Consciousness
Rank #16: PREVIEW-Episode 81: Jung on the Psyche and Dreams
On Carl Jung's "Approaching the Unconscious" from Man and His Symbols, written in 1961.
What's the structure of the mind? Jung followed Freud in positing an unconscious distinct from the conscious ego, but Jung's picture has the unconscious much more stuffed full of all sorts of stuff from who knows where, including instincts (the archetypes) that tend to give rise to behavior and dream imagery that we'd have to call religious. We neglect this part of ourselves at our psychological peril!
Rank #17: PREVIEW-Episode 70: Marx on the Human Condition
On Karl Marx's The German Ideology, Part I, an early, unpublished work from 1846. What is human nature? What drives history? How can we improve our situation? Marx thought that fundamentally, you are what you do: you are your job, your means of subsistence. All the rest, this culture, this religion, this philosophy, is just a thin layer over our basic situation. Ideas are not primarily what changes the world; it's economics. Get the full discussion at partiallyexaminedlife.com.
Rank #18: Episode 105: Kant: What Is Beauty?
Rank #19: Episode 164: Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” on Perfection (Part One)
Rank #20: Episode 189: Authorial Intent (Barthes, Foucault, Beardsley, et al) (Part One)
On four essays about how to interpret artworks: “The Intentional Fallacy” by W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley (1946), "The Death of the Author" by Roland Barthes (1967), "What is an Author?" by Michel Foucault (1969), and “Against Theory” by Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels (1982). When you're trying to figure out what, say, a poem means, isn't the best way to do that to just ask the author? Most of these guys say no, and that's supposed to reveal something about the nature of meaning.