The Partially Examined Life

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A Philosophy Podcast and Philosophy Blog
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Saints & Simulators 12: #BadAI

April 18, 2019 - 13:00
In 1989, Star Trek: The Next Generation, the second major iteration of the durable televised Star Trek science fiction franchise, introduced a terrifying new villain called “the Borg.” An unhallowed melding of a humanlike life form with cybernetic technology, the individual members of the Borg were born, raised, lived, and presumably died entirely surrounded by technological innovations. There was no such thing as “natural childbirth” for them, they were cloned mechanically, nurtured in artificial wombs, and raised to maturity in pods. An implacable collective intelligence, they mercilessly converted any creatures they encountered into extensions of themselves, cannibalizing their planets for raw materials, and sucking other intelligent lifeforms into the inescapable machine.

Episode 213: Nietzsche’s Zarathustra (Part One)

April 15, 2019 - 15:58
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! Don't wait for part 2! Get your ad-free, unbroken Citizen Edition now. Please support PEL! Sponsors: St. John's College Graduate Institute: Listen to the Hi-Phi Nation podcast at

Tidying Up With Socrates

April 12, 2019 - 01:56
Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant devoted to uncluttering our households. Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher devoted to uncluttering our minds. Can their methods of tidying up help us live happier lives?

Phi Fic #27 Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

April 11, 2019 - 05:58
Join Cezary Baranieckli, Laura Davis, Nathaniel Hanks, Daniel Johnson, and Jennifer Tejada, as we spend a very long (and with audio issues) episode deconstructing and being reshaped, by our reading of this unspeakably remarkable novel.  

Episode 212: Sartre on Literature (Part Two)

April 8, 2019 - 20:15

Continuing on What is Literature? (1948).

Sartre gives a phenomenology of reading and writing that makes reading into a creative act of completing the writer's work, and calls this cooperation ethical: the work is an appeal to the reader's freedom, and also the reader's responsibility to then know what the work reveals. Are you shirking, all you skimmers?

Start with part one, or get the unbroken, ad-free Citizen Edition.

End song: "Things I Shouldn't Have Told You" by Sam Phillips, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #90.

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NEM#95: R. Stevie Moore Just Happens… Frequently!

April 5, 2019 - 01:20

Stevie has been recording pop tunes and/or wild experiments nearly continually since the late 60s, with hundreds of albums, many of them compilations of home recordings.

We discuss "Pop Music" and "Take Back" from Afterlife (2019) and "The House Is Not in Order" by R. Stevie Moore and Alan Jenkins and the Kettering Vampires from The Embodiment of Progressive Ideals (2018) and conclude by listening to "I H8 Ppl" by R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner from Make It Be (2017). Bonus songs: "Pervert" from World War 4 (2016) and (at the end) "Goodbye, Piano" from Phonography (1976). Intro: "I Like to Stay Home" from Glad Music (1986). For more, see

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Saints & Simulators 11: #GoodAI

April 4, 2019 - 13:00
If you plot the graph of technological progress, it looks exponential. It is long and nearly horizontal extending into the past, it curves rapidly upward in the present, and many people expect that it will be nearly vertical at some point in the near future. The question is, what happens then? The technological singularity is the idea that at some point, perhaps even in the next few decades, computing power will essentially become infinite.

Episode 212: Sartre on Literature (Part One)

April 1, 2019 - 16:24

On Jean-Paul Sartre's What is Literature (1948), ch. 1 and 2.

What's the purpose of literature? Why write prose as opposed to poetry? Sartre argues that while poetry is about the words themselves, prose is about the ideas, so it's necessarily political. A written work is essentially an ethical appeal for a reader to apply his or her own faculties and experiences to complete the work through the act of reading.

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PREVIEW-(sub)Text#5: Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”

April 1, 2019 - 06:09
Wes Alwan is joined by Monica McCarthy of the Happier Hour podcast to discuss Anton Chekhov's 1898 play about family dysfunction and potentially wasting your life. This is a preview of a 54-minute discussion. You can listen to the whole thing by becoming a PEL Citizen or $5 Patreon supporter. Visit to learn how.

Constellary Tales #7: Interview with Author Joe Haldeman

March 28, 2019 - 19:12
SFWA Grand Master and multiple Hugo and Nebula winner Joe Haldeman talks about The Forever War, The Twilight Zone, and his next novel in an exclusive Constellary Tales interview. Listen to more Constellary Tales.

Saints & Simulators 10: #SoulfulMachines

March 28, 2019 - 12:00
It is possible, given that we still understand so little of the brain, that it has evolved in such a way that it does bridge the gap between the subatomic world and the macroscopic world? Perhaps the free will of the quark is transmitted up through the intermediary of the brain and into the otherwise deterministic macroscopic world. But if this is true, does it preclude the possibility of a truly living simulation? Are the human beings inside the computer doomed to be dead, deterministic automata, lacking the quantum free will of the real ones?

Episode 211: Sartre on Racism and Authenticity (Part Three)

March 25, 2019 - 16:35

Moving finally on to Jean-Paul Sartre's "Black Orpheus" (1948), where he introduces a book of black poetry by praising its revolutionary spirit as embodied in "negritude." Is this a legitimate consciousness-raising exercise or a weird fetishization of blackness?

Listen to parts one and two first, or get the ad-free, unbroken Citizen Edition, which will also get you access to (sub)Text#5 on Checkhov's Uncle Vanya. Please support PEL!

End song: "Punch Bag" by Godley & Creme as discussed on Nakedly Examined Music #3.

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NEM#94: Ian Moore Grown Far Beyond Blues-Rock

March 22, 2019 - 23:21
Ian has released 10 studio albums and 3 EPs since 1993, starting as an Austin guitar hero and evolving into an eclectic, subtle Seattle songwriter who teaches songwriting courses. We discuss "1000 Blackbirds" from Toronto (2018), the title track from Strange Days (2017), and "Abilene" from Luminaria (2004). End song: "Sad Affair" from El Sonido Nuevo (2011). Intro: "Satisfied" from Ian Moore (1993). For more, see Sponsor: Visit to host your music free for 30 days using promo code nem. Get this and every episode ad-free plus bonus content at

Saints & Simulators 9: #ChaosAndEmergence

March 21, 2019 - 12:00
The paired opposite to reductionism is called emergentism, and in recent years it has begun to gain an increasing number of advocates. In summary, it means that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Unexpected behaviors and properties can emerge, even from simple well-understood parts, at high enough levels of organization... Some of the ways emergentists have proposed creating artificial intelligence include building or simulating artificial neural nets, or using quantum computers, which take advantage of wave-particle duality and superimposition to perform fuzzy logic. Others reject the entire idea of shortcuts to emulating human intelligence, in favor of simply duplicating the entire fine structure of the human brain in virtual form –something not possible today, but perhaps in the future.

Episode 211: Sartre on Racism and Authenticity (Part Two)

March 18, 2019 - 15:36

Continuing on Jean-Paul Sartre's Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate (1946).

Is there an "authentic" way to respond to persecution? As part of his critique of anti-semitism, Sartre criticized the responses of some Jews to this situation, e.g. denying that the persecution exists, pretending to not be Jewish, or in any way accepting the terms of anti-semitism and setting up one's life in reaction to it. Sartre instead recommends solidarity and "concrete liberalism," which we try to figure out.

Listen to part one first. Don't wait for the last part; get the full, ad-free Citizen Edition now. Please support PEL! Join us for PEL Live on 4/6!

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Saints & Simulators 8: #ArtificiallyIntelligent

March 14, 2019 - 12:00
At root, Bostrom’s argument hinges around a single controversial question. Is it possible to truly create or simulate a person? Is there any point, with any level of technology, no matter how advanced, that this becomes possible?

Episode 211: Sartre on Racism and Authenticity (Part One)

March 11, 2019 - 17:17

On Jean-Paul Sartre's Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate (1946) and "Black Orpheus" (1948).

How can we best understand the psychology of racism? Sartre condemns anti-Semitism as denying the facts of the human condition: the responsibility for fixing problems and not blaming them on a demonized other. But he also criticizes "the democrat" for a humanism that pretends we're in a post-racial world, calling instead for "concrete liberalism" that treats Jews not as abstract individuals but as real people in an an oppressed situation.

Don't wait for parts 2 and 3; get the full, ad-free Citizen Edition now. Please support PEL! See PEL Live in NYC on April 6.

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NEM#93: Peter Aaron Lives in the Blues-Punk Moment

March 9, 2019 - 14:59
Peter started in hardcore punk and used the blues to add depth for his band The Chrome Cranks, which released four studio albums and a live album in the mid 90s then another in 2012. Since then he's been a music journalist and author, writing about The Ramones, The Band, and others, with occasional musical projects. We discuss his new single "Bomb Train Blues" (2018) with the band Young Skulls and Chrome Cranks tracks "Dark Room" from Chrome Cranks (1994) and "Rubber Rat" from Ain’t No Lies in Blood (2012). We conclude by listening to "Purge 4" from Purges by Peter Aaron and Brian Chase (2016). Intro/outro: "Hot Blonde Cocktail" by The Chrome Cranks from Love in Exile (1997). For more, see Hear more Nakedly Examined Music. Like our Facebook page. Support us on Patreon. Check out Mark's new album.

Saints & Simulators 7 – #GoingBayesian

March 7, 2019 - 12:00
We left off last week with the question of how much weight we should give to Nick Bostrom’s argument that we are not only possibly simulated, but likely to be so. This argument, or at least our representation of it, rests on two key claims: first, that our descendants will be able to create people just like ourselves; and second, that they will create a lot of them. The argument is compelling only in the case that both are true.

Episode 210: Frantz Fanon’s Black Existentialism (Part Two)

March 4, 2019 - 16:01

Continuing on Black Skin White Masks (1952), starting with the influential ch. 4 "The Fact of Blackness." Are the successive coping strategies to racism (including "anti-racist racism" and embrace of negritude) that Fanon describes necessary steps in a dialectic which should be encouraged, or would it be best to learn from his "mistakes" and jump right to the humanistic end-point? With guest Lawrence Ware.

Start with part 1 or get the ad-free Citizen Edition. Please support PEL! See PEL Live in NYC on April 6.

End song: "Malaika" by John Etheridge and Vimala Rowe; hear John interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #85.

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