Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve heard me go on about a philosophy podcast I’m launching any moment now. Well, today’s the day. Concurrent with this post, I’m officially releasing episode one of Who Shaves the Barber? I’ll pretend you have questions and answer them:
It’s a weekly podcast – new episodes every Tuesday. Episodes will range anywhere from 40 – 90 mins (I’ll try to keep ’em short, but I’m a naturally long-winded fella). For some episodes (I’m aiming for about half-ish), I’ll interview philosophers. For the others, I’ll do my own presentation on a topic.
Oh, cool. Is there a more specific focus than just all philosophy?
The tagline is “Exploring paradoxes, thought experiments, and other pointless problems.” That doesn’t really answer your question, but it’s kinda relevant and I wanted to share it. (By the way, I don’t really think philosophy is pointless, I just like piss off people who take it very seriously [unless they’re my guests].)
The useless but most accurate answer is that I’ll be talking about whatever topics interest me. The more useful answer is that I’m most interested in paradoxes, philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, epistemology, skepticism, ontology, and metaphilosophy. In terms of focus and style, my presentation will tend to mesh most with the “analytic” tradition (although, as the scare quotes indicate, I’m skeptical of the premise behind the “split.” But that’s a topic for another day).
I’m not super knowledgeable. How much background knowledge are you assuming?
Logic is one of these things we all have intuitions about. Most of us think we know how to use it. But what actually IS it? When we say, “that’s not logical,” or, “logic dictates that x,” are we all referring to the same thing? Most of us would agree that logic is a fundamental aspect of how we reason – that, in fact, we can’t reason without it. But then, if there are disagreements about how logic works – and there are! – how can we decide which side is right without presupposing some type of logic?
If existentialism means anything, it means believing in freedom. Jean-Paul Sartre, probably the most well-known existentialist, argued that, in all situations, we are free to choose between options. In fact, though existentialism is a diverse and complex school of thought, it boils down to the following two claims:
Radical freedom: we are always free to choose how to act.
Radical responsibility: we are personally responsible for our entire experience of life.
This should sound utterly incompatible with determinism: the view that causality is an exclusively physical phenomenon. If all causality reduces to the interactions of physical matter and forces, what room is left for personal choice? This isn’t even a question about whether physical states of affairs fully determine how everything will turn out (“hard determinism”). Even if some level of probability or even randomness enters the picture, so long as it all happens in the realm of the physical, then, whichever way it happens to work, it’s still notup to us.
Or, to put it more precisely: even though some of it is up to us, how we choose to influence what is up to us is not up to us. We obviously do choose. But how we choose is only the manifestation of physical causation doing its thing. As Schopenhauer put it: “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.”