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Episode 55, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (Part II - The Plot)

February 17, 2019 - 07:00

Published in 1915, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is a gruelling and ironic depiction of the pressures imposed by family and profession in the Twentieth Century. The novella centres around travelling salesman Gregor Samsa who, one morning, finds himself transformed into an insect. What follows, depending on the interpretation, is a reflection of how modern life provides a misunderstanding of predicament and a lack of empathy towards those who have been beaten down by an unforgiving capitalist system.

Equally, The Metamorphosis asks questions of Gregor himself. Over time he has continued to disregard his own well-being and autonomy, seeing himself as the saviour of his family’s debts. Yet, by doing so, he has missed the fact that his family appear to resent the house he has chosen to rent, or that their debts are not quite as bad as they seemed. He has taken a cross which he need not have beared.

In the words of Vladimir Nabokov, “In The Metamorphosis, contract and unity, style and matter, manner and plot are most perfectly integrated”.

Contents

Part I. The Life of Franz Kafka.

Part II. The Plot.

Part III. The Meaning.

Part IV. Further Analysis and Discussion.

Episode 55, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (Part I - The Life of Kafka)

February 10, 2019 - 07:00

Published in 1915, Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is a gruelling and ironic depiction of the pressures imposed by family and profession in the Twentieth Century. The novella centres around traveling salesman Gregor Samsa who, one morning, finds himself transformed into an insect. What follows, depending on the interpretation, is a reflection of how modern life provides a misunderstanding of predicament and a lack of empathy towards those who have been beaten down by an unforgiving capitalist system.

Equally, The Metamorphosis asks questions of Gregor himself. Over time he has continued to disregard his own well-being and autonomy, seeing himself as the saviour of his family’s debts. Yet, by doing so, he has missed the fact that his family appear to resent the house he has chosen to rent, or that their debts are not quite as bad as they seemed. He has taken a cross which he need not have beared.

In the words of Vladimir Nabokov, “In The Metamorphosis, contract and unity, style and matter, manner and plot are most perfectly integrated”.

Contents

Part I. The Life of Franz Kafka.

Part II. The Plot.

Part III. The Meaning.

Part IV. Further Analysis and Discussion.

Episode 54, Why Buddhism is True with Robert Wright (Part II)

February 3, 2019 - 07:00

Currently Visiting Professor of Science and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, Robert Wright’s work in journalism, psychology and philosophy has been deeply influential. Robert is the author of many best-selling books including ‘The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, ‘Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, ‘The Evolution of God, and most recently, ‘Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment’.

Our focus for this episode is Robert Wright’s latest book, Why Buddhism is True. In a word, Wright defends the Buddhist view that ‘the reason we suffer is because we don’t see the world clearly’. The reason we don’t see the world clearly, says Buddhism, is because our perception of our own minds and ‘the outside world’ is impaired by illusions. Viewing Buddhism through the lens of evolutionary psychology, Wright argues that we have good reason to think that this Buddhist claim (that suffering is caused by illusion) is true, and that Buddhism also holds the answer to how we can alleviate ourselves from illusion and suffering.

Part I. Why Buddhism is True.

Part II. Further Analysis and Discussion.

Episode 54, Why Buddhism is True with Robert Wright (Part I)

January 27, 2019 - 07:00

Currently Visiting Professor of Science and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, Robert Wright’s work in journalism, psychology and philosophy has been deeply influential. Robert is the author of many best-selling books including ‘The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, ‘Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, ‘The Evolution of God, and most recently, ‘Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment’.

Our focus for this episode is Robert Wright’s latest book, Why Buddhism is True. In a word, Wright defends the Buddhist view that ‘the reason we suffer is because we don’t see the world clearly’. The reason we don’t see the world clearly, says Buddhism, is because our perception of our own minds and ‘the outside world’ is impaired by illusions. Viewing Buddhism through the lens of evolutionary psychology, Wright argues that we have good reason to think that this Buddhist claim (that suffering is caused by illusion) is true, and that Buddhism also holds the answer to how we can alleviate ourselves from illusion and suffering.

Part I. Why Buddhism is True.

Part II. Further Analysis and Discussion.

Episode 53, Friedrich Nietzsche (Part IV - Further Analysis and Discussion)

January 20, 2019 - 07:00

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), a man who suffered greatly from bodily ills, considered himself somewhat of a physician. Yet, his remedies were not aimed towards physical conditions of the body, but rather the personal and societal ills of his time. Nietzsche, often poetically and rhetorically, dissected what he perceived to be the root of the suffering or apathy many of his contemporaries were facing.

His diagnosis focussed primarily on the human tendency to deny life. Life denying, for Nietzsche, came in many ways: the asceticism of the Buddha or Arthur Schopenhauer, the herd-like mentality of what Nietzsche called “the Last Man”, and most famously – the otherworldly illusions of Christianity. To him, these were all attempts to cower in the face of an objectively indifferent reality.

Nietzsche’s prognosis? To stand in the face of this indifference and shout yes! To affirm life and strive for personal excellence. How he envisioned this is subject to much scholarly debate but Nietzsche provides certain clear themes over his prolific authorship.

His masterwork Thus Spoke Zarathustra suggests we should look forward to the “Ubermensch” or “Superman”, a spiritually healthier individual who approaches the world in an honest and fearless way. Similarly, continuing his claim from The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra also reminds the reader that “God is dead”. Nietzsche wanted people to recognise the void in values left by God’s absence and the responsibility we have been given to create our own meaning.

Nietzsche’s legacy is an interesting one. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, along with the Bible, ironically, were given to German soldiers during the First World War. He also, after his death, was accused of being a proto-Nazi due to his sister’s influence over his final posthumous works.

Nietzsche’s thoughts on his own works are remarkable in their irony and grandiosity. He hoped his messages would strike a chord with people and force them to look deep into their own intentions and actions. He also hoped they would provide a basis for personal change.

A passage from Ecce Homo gives us an insight into his style and desired effect:

“I know my fate. One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous — a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience, a decision that was conjured up against everything that had been believed, demanded, hallowed so far. I am no man, I am dynamite.”

Episode 53, Friedrich Nietzsche (Part III - Beyond Good and Evil)

January 13, 2019 - 07:00

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), a man who suffered greatly from bodily ills, considered himself somewhat of a physician. Yet, his remedies were not aimed towards physical conditions of the body, but rather the personal and societal ills of his time. Nietzsche, often poetically and rhetorically, dissected what he perceived to be the root of the suffering or apathy many of his contemporaries were facing.

His diagnosis focussed primarily on the human tendency to deny life. Life denying, for Nietzsche, came in many ways: the asceticism of the Buddha or Arthur Schopenhauer, the herd-like mentality of what Nietzsche called “the Last Man”, and most famously – the otherworldly illusions of Christianity. To him, these were all attempts to cower in the face of an objectively indifferent reality.

Nietzsche’s prognosis? To stand in the face of this indifference and shout yes! To affirm life and strive for personal excellence. How he envisioned this is subject to much scholarly debate but Nietzsche provides certain clear themes over his prolific authorship.

His masterwork Thus Spoke Zarathustra suggests we should look forward to the “Ubermensch” or “Superman”, a spiritually healthier individual who approaches the world in an honest and fearless way. Similarly, continuing his claim from The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra also reminds the reader that “God is dead”. Nietzsche wanted people to recognise the void in values left by God’s absence and the responsibility we have been given to create our own meaning.

Nietzsche’s legacy is an interesting one. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, along with the Bible, ironically, were given to German soldiers during the First World War. He also, after his death, was accused of being a proto-Nazi due to his sister’s influence over his final posthumous works.

Nietzsche’s thoughts on his own works are remarkable in their irony and grandiosity. He hoped his messages would strike a chord with people and force them to look deep into their own intentions and actions. He also hoped they would provide a basis for personal change.

A passage from Ecce Homo gives us an insight into his style and desired effect:

“I know my fate. One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous — a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience, a decision that was conjured up against everything that had been believed, demanded, hallowed so far. I am no man, I am dynamite.”

Episode 53, Friedrich Nietzsche (Part II - Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

January 6, 2019 - 07:00

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), a man who suffered greatly from bodily ills, considered himself somewhat of a physician. Yet, his remedies were not aimed towards physical conditions of the body, but rather the personal and societal ills of his time. Nietzsche, often poetically and rhetorically, dissected what he perceived to be the root of the suffering or apathy many of his contemporaries were facing.

His diagnosis focussed primarily on the human tendency to deny life. Life denying, for Nietzsche, came in many ways: the asceticism of the Buddha or Arthur Schopenhauer, the herd-like mentality of what Nietzsche called “the Last Man”, and most famously – the otherworldly illusions of Christianity. To him, these were all attempts to cower in the face of an objectively indifferent reality.

Nietzsche’s prognosis? To stand in the face of this indifference and shout yes! To affirm life and strive for personal excellence. How he envisioned this is subject to much scholarly debate but Nietzsche provides certain clear themes over his prolific authorship.

His masterwork Thus Spoke Zarathustra suggests we should look forward to the “Ubermensch” or “Superman”, a spiritually healthier individual who approaches the world in an honest and fearless way. Similarly, continuing his claim from The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra also reminds the reader that “God is dead”. Nietzsche wanted people to recognise the void in values left by God’s absence and the responsibility we have been given to create our own meaning.

Nietzsche’s legacy is an interesting one. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, along with the Bible, ironically, were given to German soldiers during the First World War. He also, after his death, was accused of being a proto-Nazi due to his sister’s influence over his final posthumous works.

Nietzsche’s thoughts on his own works are remarkable in their irony and grandiosity. He hoped his messages would strike a chord with people and force them to look deep into their own intentions and actions. He also hoped they would provide a basis for personal change.

A passage from Ecce Homo gives us an insight into his style and desired effect:

“I know my fate. One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous — a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience, a decision that was conjured up against everything that had been believed, demanded, hallowed so far. I am no man, I am dynamite.”

Episode 53, Friedrich Nietzsche (Part I - The Life of Nietzsche)

December 30, 2018 - 07:00

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), a man who suffered greatly from bodily ills, considered himself somewhat of a physician. Yet, his remedies were not aimed towards physical conditions of the body, but rather the personal and societal ills of his time. Nietzsche, often poetically and rhetorically, dissected what he perceived to be the root of the suffering or apathy many of his contemporaries were facing.

His diagnosis focussed primarily on the human tendency to deny life. Life denying, for Nietzsche, came in many ways: the asceticism of the Buddha or Arthur Schopenhauer, the herd-like mentality of what Nietzsche called “the Last Man”, and most famously – the otherworldly illusions of Christianity. To him, these were all attempts to cower in the face of an objectively indifferent reality.

Nietzsche’s prognosis? To stand in the face of this indifference and shout yes! To affirm life and strive for personal excellence. How he envisioned this is subject to much scholarly debate but Nietzsche provides certain clear themes over his prolific authorship.

His masterwork Thus Spoke Zarathustra suggests we should look forward to the “Ubermensch” or “Superman”, a spiritually healthier individual who approaches the world in an honest and fearless way. Similarly, continuing his claim from The Gay Science, Thus Spoke Zarathustra also reminds the reader that “God is dead”. Nietzsche wanted people to recognise the void in values left by God’s absence and the responsibility we have been given to create our own meaning.

Nietzsche’s legacy is an interesting one. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, along with the Bible, ironically, were given to German soldiers during the First World War. He also, after his death, was accused of being a proto-Nazi due to his sister’s influence over his final posthumous works.

Nietzsche’s thoughts on his own works are remarkable in their irony and grandiosity. He hoped his messages would strike a chord with people and force them to look deep into their own intentions and actions. He also hoped they would provide a basis for personal change.

A passage from Ecce Homo gives us an insight into his style and desired effect:

“I know my fate. One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous — a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience, a decision that was conjured up against everything that had been believed, demanded, hallowed so far. I am no man, I am dynamite.”

Episode 52, Existentialism and Romantic Love with Skye Cleary (Part II)

December 23, 2018 - 07:00

Dr Skye Cleary is a philosopher and author, best known for her work in the field of existentialism. As well as teaching at Columbia, Barnard College and the City College of New York, Skye is also the associate director of the Center for New Narratives in Philosophy at Columbia University.

Skye’s contribution to the world of public philosophy has been extensive, writing for a wealth of publications, including The Paris Review, TED-Ed, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Aeon, Business Insider, The Independent and New Philosopher magazine. Skye is also the editor of the American Philosophical Association blog and the author of our focus for this episode, her 2015 book, Existentialism and Romantic Love.

We’re going to be discussing with Skye the idea of romantic love, and what we can learn about love from existentialist philosophers such as Max Stirner, Soren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Friedrich Nietzsche. In a world of romantic cinema, novels, love songs, dating apps, and self-help books, the dream of romantic love has been sold to many of us, but Skye Cleary thinks we need to take a step back. The worry, is that we might blindly sacrifice our freedom, offload our happiness onto another person, or use them as a means to our own ends. Existentialism teaches us that we should aim to live authentically and embrace our freedom. Our question for this episode, is whether or not our current understanding of romantic love is compatible with such a view. Can Jack meet Jill fall in love, and not fall down the hill? Should we, can we, and why, should we love?

Episode 52, Existentialism and Romantic Love with Skye Cleary (Part I)

December 16, 2018 - 07:00

Dr Skye Cleary is a philosopher and author, best known for her work in the field of existentialism. As well as teaching at Columbia, Barnard College and the City College of New York, Skye is also the associate director of the Center for New Narratives in Philosophy at Columbia University.

Skye’s contribution to the world of public philosophy has been extensive, writing for a wealth of publications, including The Paris Review, TED-Ed, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Aeon, Business Insider, The Independent and New Philosopher magazine. Skye is also the editor of the American Philosophical Association blog and the author of our focus for this episode, her 2015 book, Existentialism and Romantic Love.

We’re going to be discussing with Skye the idea of romantic love, and what we can learn about love from existentialist philosophers such as Max Stirner, Soren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Friedrich Nietzsche. In a world of romantic cinema, novels, love songs, dating apps, and self-help books, the dream of romantic love has been sold to many of us, but Skye Cleary thinks we need to take a step back. The worry, is that we might blindly sacrifice our freedom, offload our happiness onto another person, or use them as a means to our own ends. Existentialism teaches us that we should aim to live authentically and embrace our freedom. Our question for this episode, is whether or not our current understanding of romantic love is compatible with such a view. Can Jack meet Jill fall in love, and not fall down the hill? Should we, can we, and why, should we love?

Episode 51, Simone de Beauvoir (Part IV - Further Analysis and Discussion)

December 9, 2018 - 07:00

Simone de Beauvoir was a pioneer for the second-wave feminist movement and one of the most famous philosophers to have lived. Strikingly, Beauvoir did not label herself as a philosopher, since she never attempted to provide an original treatise which aimed to fully encapsulate the truth of the world or the human condition. Instead, she considered herself as a writer, commentator and novelist. Beauvoir’s identification should not, however, discredit her as a philosopher. Jean-Paul Sartre’s work on existentialism is heavily indebted to Beauvoir’s careful eye and scholarly expertise, and her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, is considered by many as one of the most significant texts in moral philosophy and existentialism; the ethical text which Sartre promised, but never produced.

Simone de Beauvoir’s most famous text is The Second Sex; a detailed examination on what it means to be a woman through the lens of existentialism. The Second Sex was highly controversial at the time of its publication; receiving backlash from certain areas of male-dominated academia and the press. Nevertheless, it is still considered to be one of the greatest works in feminist philosophy.

Episode 51, Simone de Beauvoir (Part III - The Second Sex)

December 2, 2018 - 07:00

Simone de Beauvoir was a pioneer for the second-wave feminist movement and one of the most famous philosophers to have lived. Strikingly, Beauvoir did not label herself as a philosopher, since she never attempted to provide an original treatise which aimed to fully encapsulate the truth of the world or the human condition. Instead, she considered herself as a writer, commentator and novelist. Beauvoir’s identification should not, however, discredit her as a philosopher. Jean-Paul Sartre’s work on existentialism is heavily indebted to Beauvoir’s careful eye and scholarly expertise, and her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, is considered by many as one of the most significant texts in moral philosophy and existentialism; the ethical text which Sartre promised, but never produced.

Simone de Beauvoir’s most famous text is The Second Sex; a detailed examination on what it means to be a woman through the lens of existentialism. The Second Sex was highly controversial at the time of its publication; receiving backlash from certain areas of male-dominated academia and the press. Nevertheless, it is still considered to be one of the greatest works in feminist philosophy.

Episode 51, Simone de Beauvoir (Part II - The Ethics of Ambiguity)

November 25, 2018 - 07:00

Simone de Beauvoir was a pioneer for the second-wave feminist movement and one of the most famous philosophers to have lived. Strikingly, Beauvoir did not label herself as a philosopher, since she never attempted to provide an original treatise which aimed to fully encapsulate the truth of the world or the human condition. Instead, she considered herself as a writer, commentator and novelist. Beauvoir’s identification should not, however, discredit her as a philosopher. Jean-Paul Sartre’s work on existentialism is heavily indebted to Beauvoir’s careful eye and scholarly expertise, and her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, is considered by many as one of the most significant texts in moral philosophy and existentialism; the ethical text which Sartre promised, but never produced.

Simone de Beauvoir’s most famous text is The Second Sex; a detailed examination on what it means to be a woman through the lens of existentialism. The Second Sex was highly controversial at the time of its publication; receiving backlash from certain areas of male-dominated academia and the press. Nevertheless, it is still considered to be one of the greatest works in feminist philosophy.

Episode 51, Simone de Beauvoir (Part I - The Life of Simone de Beauvoir)

November 18, 2018 - 07:00

Simone de Beauvoir was a pioneer for the second-wave feminist movement and one of the most famous philosophers to have lived. Strikingly, Beauvoir did not label herself as a philosopher, since she never attempted to provide an original treatise which aimed to fully encapsulate the truth of the world or the human condition. Instead, she considered herself as a writer, commentator and novelist. Beauvoir’s identification should not, however, discredit her as a philosopher. Jean-Paul Sartre’s work on existentialism is heavily indebted to Beauvoir’s careful eye and scholarly expertise, and her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, is considered by many as one of the most significant texts in moral philosophy and existentialism; the ethical text which Sartre promised, but never produced.

Simone de Beauvoir’s most famous text is The Second Sex; a detailed examination on what it means to be a woman through the lens of existentialism. The Second Sex was highly controversial at the time of its publication; receiving backlash from certain areas of male-dominated academia and the press. Nevertheless, it is still considered to be one of the greatest works in feminist philosophy.

Episode 50, ‘The Golden Age of Female Philosophy’ with Rachael Wiseman (Part II)

November 11, 2018 - 09:59

Rachael Wiseman is a lecturer of philosophy at the University of Liverpool and previously an Addison Wheeler Research Fellow at Durham University. She, and her colleague Dr Clare MacCumhaill, are co-leaders on the British Academy funded project, In Parenthesis, which explores the work and friendship of the philosophical wartime quartet: Mary Midgley, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, and Iris Murdoch. Dr Wiseman, along with her colleague Professor Amber Carpenter, are also co-leaders of the Integrity Project, which looks at the meaning, relevance, and importance of ‘integrity’ across many spheres: moral, political, and even integrity in public philosophy. Dr Wiseman publishes research at the intersection of philosophy of mind, action and ethics, and has written on Elizabeth Anscombe’s approach to the hard problem of consciousness, the nature of the self and action, and a monograph on Elizabeth Anscombe’s own monograph, Intention.

In this episode, we will be talking to Dr Wiseman about her In Parenthesis project and the four female philosophers that she argues constitute a school of philosophy, one which is regularly omitted from the orthodox canon of ‘great thinkers’ or ‘schools of thought’. In the words of Rachael and here colleague Clare MacCumhaill:

The history of Analytic Philosophy we are familiar with is a story about men… [and] The male dominance is not just in the names of the ‘star’ players. Michael Beaney’s 2013 Oxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophy begins by listing the 150 most important analytic philosophers. 146 of them are men. For women who wish to join in this conversation, the odds seem formidably against one.

Episode 50, ‘The Golden Age of Female Philosophy’ with Rachael Wiseman (Part I)

November 4, 2018 - 06:00

Rachael Wiseman is a lecturer of philosophy at the University of Liverpool and previously an Addison Wheeler Research Fellow at Durham University. She, and her colleague Dr Clare MacCumhaill, are co-leaders on the British Academy funded project, In Parenthesis, which explores the work and friendship of the philosophical wartime quartet: Mary Midgley, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, and Iris Murdoch. Dr Wiseman, along with her colleague Professor Amber Carpenter, are also co-leaders of the Integrity Project, which looks at the meaning, relevance, and importance of ‘integrity’ across many spheres: moral, political, and even integrity in public philosophy. Dr Wiseman publishes research at the intersection of philosophy of mind, action and ethics, and has written on Elizabeth Anscombe’s approach to the hard problem of consciousness, the nature of the self and action, and a monograph on Elizabeth Anscombe’s own monograph, Intention.

In this episode, we will be talking to Dr Wiseman about her In Parenthesis project and the four female philosophers that she argues constitute a school of philosophy, one which is regularly omitted from the orthodox canon of ‘great thinkers’ or ‘schools of thought’. In the words of Rachael and here colleague Clare MacCumhaill:

The history of Analytic Philosophy we are familiar with is a story about men… [and] The male dominance is not just in the names of the ‘star’ players. Michael Beaney’s 2013 Oxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophy begins by listing the 150 most important analytic philosophers. 146 of them are men. For women who wish to join in this conversation, the odds seem formidably against one.