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A podcast is like a radio show, except pre-recorded and distributed through the internet rather than over the airwaves. Every month on my podcast, I sit down with a contemporary philosopher of note and talk to them about the issues that grab their interest.
This month, Nora Bradford and I sit down with Nic Koziolek (Washington University in St. Louis) to discuss a phenomenon traditionally called 'self-consciousness'. What that usually means if you're reading an old school philosophy book is: knowledge a person has about the state of their own mind. So if you feel a pain, and you notice it, then it's safe you say you know you have the pain. Or if you're feeling angry, someone might take you to be an authority on whether you're angry, in the sense that if they aren't sure, they'll ask you. So that's another example. 'Self-consciousness' is a name that philosophers have given this ability to tell what's going on with your own mind. One interesting theme that comes up in our conversation is that although this isn't super common, you can sometimes be mistaken about your own mental states. Maybe you were subconsciously angry at your friend, for example, even though you didn't realize it until you started looking at how often you randomly snapped at them recently. Nic Koziolek thinks that being deceived about your own mental state works kind of the same as being deceived about anything else. If someone in your peripheral vision is wearing a silly hat but you don't notice it, you were in a position to know that they were wearing a hat, but you didn't end up actually learning that piece of information because you weren't attending to it in the right way. Similarly, you might be hard at work doing construction or home renovation and not notice that you've cut yourself. But you were in a position to know, in the sense that you would have noticed you were in pain if you'd been paying attention to that rather than the intense work you were doing.
It's a fun conversation! You can download the episode here, and you can also play it directly in the player below.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few quick links to some episodes dealing with major areas of philosophy:
No idea what any of the above means? Feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have.
Elucidations was founded in 2008 by myself and Mark Hopwood.
The idea for Elucidations came about during our first year as PhD students at the University of Chicago. One of this university's striking characteristics is how many lectures, conferences, courses, and reading groups there are to attend. A wealth of groundbreaking philosophical ideas were being shared among members of the academic community, but were too often put back into the filing cabinet afterwards, never again to see the light of day. We felt the urge to capture some of these discussions and release them into the world at large.
No one who hasn't taken several years worth of mathematics courses can attend a lecture in that field and even understand its principal claims, let alone why they might be interesting. But philosophy isn't like that at all; anyone can leaf through the major journals in the field and immediately feel like they have a stake in the questions under discussion—questions like what a number is, or whether there's such a thing as moral luck, or whether people from different cultures think in a fundamentally different way. The best work being done in philosophy right now is of interest to professionals and laymen alike.
Our podcast aims to reach both of these audiences at once, with content that's freely available for anyone to download or stream. We present the latest work from the top minds in the field, with an emphasis on clear exposition in plain English, ideally with little to none of the intimidating jargon that alienates so many newcomers. Philosophy is unique in its ability to facilitate this kind of rapprochement because its most innovative ideas can be expressed in simple, commonsense terms without any danger of being watered down.
It is our hope that through such efforts as this, the discipline can begin to recultivate the relationship with the broader culture which, although once quite strong, has fallen by the wayside in recent years. At many points in history—for example, in nineteenth century Germany—the philosophical state of the art was matter of deep cultural pride. But these days, a college graduate stopped at random and asked what philosophers do all day won't have the slightest idea what to say. As professional academics, we have done an excellent job of making our work known to each other. Now is the time to share our discoveries with everyone else.
Since the podcast was first launched in 2009, we have done our best to cover the field of philosophy in its entirety. We of course have yet to cover many important areas, but the hope is that as our catalogue expands, we come progressively closer to the ideal of complete coverage. Many of the world's most prominent philosophers have made an appearance on our program. And our following spans all (inhabited) continents, including listeners from Chile, Morocco, France, Germany, Sweden, China, Australia, and India.
Give it a listen and tell me what you think!
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