Philosopher's Zone

Philosopher's Zone Podcast

The simplest questions often have the most complex answers. The Philosopher's Zone is your guide through the strange thickets of logic, metaphysics and ethics.

Politics at the extremes
Politics has never been a gentle pursuit, but these days the gloves are well and truly off. How did we get here? What are the implications for political philosophy, and for politics in general? As for where we might be headed, there are fascinating – if rather terrifying – clues in the work of French thinker René Girard....

PRESENTS — Ideas
Ideas is a program from CBC Canada and it's about... well, ideas. Each episode takes a concept and dives deep into its past, present and possible future. Whether you're interested in the meaning of community, the history of the saxophone, the environmental downside to jean manufacturing, the lure of political authoritarianism or our cultural obsession with serial killers, Ideas has an idea that's going to keep you listening. Pulling apart concepts, seeing how they work, and discovering why they still mat...

Progressive Islam
Progressive Muslim thought seeks to establish an Islam that's equipped for the modern world - and still embedded within the Islamic intellectual tradition....

religion islam philosophy feminism


The abominable heretic
In July 1656, the young philosopher Baruch Spinoza was cast out of his Jewish community for "abominable heresies". We don't know what those crimes were, but we do know that Spinoza has remained a polarising figure within Judaism ever since....

Shifting the frame on COVID-19
When we think about COVID-19 as a medical issue first and foremost, what are we missing? This week we explore the ways in which legal, economic, cultural and ethical perspectives on COVID-19 could be just as important as the medical....

covid medicine ethics

Lev Shestov: staying awake in the dark
Lev Shestov is one of the great forgotten modern philosophers, and now could be the time to rediscover him. His was a philosophy of hope in the face of hopelessness, and the parallels between his time and our own are compelling....


Moral grandstanding
Moral grandstanding is not a harmless pastime. It’s insidious and corrosive, eating away at the foundations of public discourse and deepening the divisions between us. But how to stop it?...

ethics philosophy

AI home devices: A feminist perspective
Smart home devices make life easier, and they're increasingly popular. But are they gender-neutral entities, or "smart wives"?...

philosophy ethics technology feminism women ai robots alexa sexism

Inhumanity
Our capacity to do terrible things to each other seems boundless. But we'd find it a lot more difficult without recourse to a neat conceptual trick: dehumanisation....

philosophy ethics politics humanity humanrights


What are we doing when we argue?
Argument and debate don’t need to be blood sports. Done properly, argument can be about beneficial mutual exchange and trust....

philosophy ethics politics covid-19

What are we doing when we argue?
Argument and debate don’t need to be blood sports. Done properly, argument can be about beneficial mutual exchange and trust....

philosophy ethics politics covid-19

Nihilism and utopia
COVID-19 has exposed a streak of nihilism in 21st century capitalist societies. How do we move forward without succumbing to despair on one hand, or utopian thinking on the other?...

philosophy ethics politics covid-19 coronavirus pandemic nihilism


Mind, matter and motherhood
When Nicola Redhouse had each of her two children, she experienced shattering post-natal anxiety that sent her deep into the mystery of the self, and the relationship between mind and body. A long standing participant in psychoanalysis, she found herself up against the practical limits of Freudian theory - but would science provide more useful insight?...

freud psychoanalysis

Montesquieu and despotism
Montesquieu was the 18th century French philosopher who introduced the term "despotism" into our political vocabulary. Today, his analysis is as relevant as ever....

philosophy ethics politics despotism montesquieu government democracy

The digital dead
When we die, our digital selves sometimes live on. The line between death and life — already blurred by medical technology — is even blurrier in the digital domain. How should we prepare for our electronic afterlives?...

philosophy ethics death ai


Philosophy by postcard
A fascinating public philosophy project, celebrating a major figure whose work deserves greater recognition — not just as a philosopher, but as a pioneering woman in a very male world....

philosophy ethics irismurdoch philosophers writing women

The ethics of uterus transplantation
If a woman wants to experience pregnancy but can't, the answer could be a uterus transplant. The technology is promising, if still very new — but how ethically sound is it?...

women uterus female sex ethics philosophy ivf technology pregnancy parenthood bioethics medicalscience organtransplants

Race in America pt 2: Lewis Gordon
Any conversation about racial justice has to go back to basics: questions about the nature of humanity and the meaning of freedom. Philosopher Lewis Gordon explores these questions in the light of COVID-19 and America's current upheavals....

philosophy ethics race racism america unitedstates georgefloyd humanity freedom


Race in America pt 1: George Yancy
Speaking out against racism by insisting on the collusion of white people — even well-meaning ones — in a system that's racist to the core can bring serious consequences. George Yancy knows this well....

philosophy ethics books non-fiction race racism america usa protest blacklivesmatter africanamerican georgeyancy

Choosing a personal philosophy: Existentialism
Tired of having a casual, abstract flirtation with philosophy? It might be time to commit. A personal philosophy of life can be hugely helpful — but which one to choose?...

philosophy ethics books non-fiction existentialism transcendence

Driverless cars, inequality and the 'trolley problem' in a high-tech world
The road has always been a great social leveller — we all get stuck in the same traffic jams. But with the advent of driverless cars, that could all be about to change, with troubling ethical consequences....

trolleyproblem ethics philosophy ai technology autonomousvehicles driverlesscars inequality


Citizens and urban planning
Consensus among citizens in the development of cities is always the goal — but it's rarely achieved. This week we explore the philosophical foundations of a more realistic model for citizen participation in urban planning....

philosophy ethics habermas mouffe urbanplanning building cities citizenparticipation rationality

The big snore
Boredom hasn't received a lot of philosophical attention — which isn't surprising, given that it suggests a radical absence of anything to talk about. But even the most tedious things can prove on inspection to be complex, multi-layered and... well, interesting....

philosophy ethics music books boredom isolation reading creativity inspiration

What can genes tell us?
Can our genes tell us if we're gay? Or intelligent? Science says the answer is complex, and that genetic determinism — the idea that we're genetically hardwired for certain outcomes — shouldn't be taken seriously. But genetic determinism has taken hold of the public imagination....

philosophy ethics genetics genes dna nurture nature biology


What can genes tell us?
Can our genes tell us if we're gay? Or intelligent? Science says the answer is complex, and that genetic determinism — the idea that we're genetically hardwired for certain outcomes — shouldn't be taken seriously. But genetic determinism has taken hold of the public imagination....

philosophy ethics genetics genes dna nurture nature biology

Border patrol
Refugees are often spoken and written about as victims: people on the far side of a border that separates them from all the things we citizens know and love about our homeland. But what if the refugee actually knows things about Australia that we don't?...

philosophy ethics refugees immigration asylum behrouzboochani

Thinking a pandemic
We're told that COVID-19 is an unprecedented event, one that's upended all our old certainties — so it's perhaps strange that we're thinking about it in very familiar ways. Considering the history, the politics and the ethics of COVID-19 can reveal fascinating and uncomfortable insights about ourselves and our society....

philosophy ethics covid-19 coronavirus hannaharendt pandemic


Time in a time of excess time
Many of us have extra time on our hands at the moment, and for many of us that time can feel like a burden. But what is this mysterious relationship between what time feels like and what it really is?...

philosophy time metaphysics covid-19 coronavirus

Time in a time of excess time
Many of us have extra time on our hands at the moment, and for many of us that time can feel like a burden. But what is this mysterious relationship between what time feels like and what it really is?...

philosophy time metaphysics covid-19 coronavirus

Honour in the institution
Institutions shape every aspect of our lives, yet they can be strangely amorphous things, operating according to norms and conventions that often undermine each other. For women, this can result in institutional discrimination – in workplaces and public organisations, but also in less tangible institutions like the family and the law. This week we’re talking feminist institutionalism, and the need for a women’s honour code....

philosophy feminism ethics gender


AI and moral intuition: use it or lose it?
Artificial intelligence is helping us to make all sorts of decisions these days, and this can be hugely useful. But if we outsource our moral intuition to AI, do we risk becoming morally de-skilled?...

ai artificialintelligence robots

LGBT elders, isolation and loneliness
As LGBT people grow old, they can become particularly vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness. Simone de Beauvoir had a keen appreciation of the challenges of ageing – “old age exposes the failure of our entire civilisation” – so can we find resources in her brand of existentialism that address some of the issues raised by LGBT elders?...

Dangerous minds
Heidegger was an unrepentant Nazi. Nietzsche's later work contains passages that openly advocate slavery and genocide. Today, with far-right extremism on the rise around the world, how concerned should we be when reading – and teaching – the work of these canonical figures?...

christchurch mosque


Dangerous minds
Heidegger was an unrepentant Nazi. Nietzsche's later work contains passages that openly advocate slavery and genocide. Today, with far-right extremism on the rise around the world, how concerned should we be when reading – and teaching – the work of these canonical figures?...

christchurch mosque

The many and the one
We casually talk about "Australia" as though it were a single entity. But what exactly is such a collective? And how can it be held responsible for its deeds - or misdeeds? This week we're talking group duties - and for International Women's Day, a conversation about gender and progress in philosophy....

The many and the one
We casually talk about "Australia" as though it were a single entity. But what exactly is such a collective? And how can it be held responsible for its deeds - or misdeeds? This week we're talking group duties - and for International Women's Day, a conversation about gender and progress in philosophy....


The why of philosophy
Is philosophy experiencing an unprecedented crisis? And are universities becoming a hostile environment for philosophers?...

posttruth postmodernism

Is reason enough?
These days it seems that critical thinking could be failing us – and we’re not sure why. Have too many people strayed from the path of reason? Or is reason insufficient – ever overrated – as an ingredient in the formation of good citizens?...

Is reason enough?
These days it seems that critical thinking could be failing us – and we’re not sure why. Have too many people strayed from the path of reason? Or is reason insufficient – ever overrated – as an ingredient in the formation of good citizens?...


Plato's woman problem
In The Republic, Plato outlines a role for women in his ideal society that seems revolutionary, i.e. that they should occupy the highest position in public life. In Athenian society at the time, women were completely excluded from politics, so this is a radical proposal. But elsewhere, Plato expresses doubt about women’s natural abilities. What did he really think? And how does this tension persist today for women in philosophy?...

ancienthistory plato ancientgreece westernculture

Plato's woman problem
In The Republic, Plato outlines a role for women in his ideal society that seems revolutionary, i.e. that they should occupy the highest position in public life. In Athenian society at the time, women were completely excluded from politics, so this is a radical proposal. But elsewhere, Plato expresses doubt about women’s natural abilities. What did he really think? And how does this tension persist today for women in philosophy?...

ancienthistory plato ancientgreece westernculture

In praise of mortality
Ever since we humans became conscious of the fact that we’re all going to die, we’ve dreamed of immortality. Life is good, so wouldn't eternal life be even better? Today's guest offers a robust critique of the ideal of immortality - and one that takes a fascinating turn to politics....

politics marx socialism


Remembering Roger Scruton
An avowed conservative of a kind mistrusted by both modern-day left and right, Scruton remained steadfast in his first principles. He pitted his intellect against what he saw as the encroachments of modernity on human life, including the overreach of science and technology. Wishful thinker, or beacon in a sea of error?...

Uluru and the heart of the liberal state
The fundamental challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia are systemic, they run much deeper than any single issue – education, health, rates of incarceration – can capture. But the Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for a series of reforms that could address the key issue for all Indigenous Australians....

Disability and dignity
Philosophers have been slow to address disability - which is odd, because disability raises a host of fascinating and challenging issues around justice, rights and fairness....

disability


Politics and the sacred
According to Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, modern secular politics is theological from the ground up – which may come as a nasty surprise to the many people who believe, often for very good reasons, that religion and politics should be kept as far from each other as possible....

jacquesderrida

Politics and the sacred
According to Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, modern secular politics is theological from the ground up – which may come as a nasty surprise to the many people who believe, often for very good reasons, that religion and politics should be kept as far from each other as possible....

jacquesderrida

Thinking the country
What constitutes a "philosophical" conversation? You might reasonably expect such a conversation to be conceptual, exploring abstract notions of self, time, being, ethics and so on. For indigenous Australian philosophers, the conversation gets real very fast....

naidoc


Plato, Buddhism and storytelling
At a glance, Platonic philosophy and Buddhism might seem to have little in common. But their ideas on moral development and "turning the soul" towards reality have fascinating congruences....

plato

Free speech crisis on campus?
With freedom of speech at Australian universities currently under governmental review, we explore the notion of free speech on campus. Should what gets said at universities - and who gets to say it - be regulated? And is the supposed "free speech crisis" just a front for the culture wars?...

freespeech

The Bonhoeffer moment
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian whose involvement in the plot to kill Hitler has given rise to the term "Bonhoeffer moment" - a crisis point where morally repugnant acts might be considered in order to head off greater evil. And these days, it seems everyone is having a Bonhoeffer moment....


The Bonhoeffer moment
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian whose involvement in the plot to kill Hitler has given rise to the term "Bonhoeffer moment" - a crisis point where morally repugnant acts might be considered in order to head off greater evil. And these days, it seems everyone is having a Bonhoeffer moment....

The Bonhoeffer moment
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian whose involvement in the plot to kill Hitler has given rise to the term "Bonhoeffer moment" - a crisis point where morally repugnant acts might be considered in order to head off greater evil. And these days, it seems everyone is having a Bonhoeffer moment....

Happy?
What is happiness, and why are we incapable of getting a fix on it? Is the happiness industry really in the business of making us unhappy? And can philosophy help?...


Happy?
What is happiness, and why are we incapable of getting a fix on it? Is the happiness industry really in the business of making us unhappy? And can philosophy help?...

Happy?
What is happiness, and why are we incapable of getting a fix on it? Is the happiness industry really in the business of making us unhappy? And can philosophy help?...

Philosophy in the wake of Empire part 5: Tracks of thought
As a young girl, Aileen Moreton-Robinson learned to track in the bush, and this was the beginning of her philosophical education, as she learned how all things are connected. Today she sees Western thought as disconnected, disjointed, and badly in need of a relational approach that might get us talking properly about race and power....


Philosophy in the wake of Empire part 4: Africa
Africa has a history of rich and ancient philosophical traditions. Those traditions were rendered invisible by European colonisers, who sought to overlay Africa's past with the values of the Enlightenment. Today, African philosophy is being uncovered and introduced to the West - but is the West listening?...

feminism queer gender

Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 3: Missionary feminism
Feminist arguments in the West have been used to advance imperialist projects that inflict suffering on women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Western feminist focus on individual rights can be disastrous when played out in non-Western contexts. Is it time to rethink “missionary feminism”?...

Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 3: Missionary feminism
Feminist arguments in the West have been used to advance imperialist projects that inflict suffering on women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Western feminist focus on individual rights can be disastrous when played out in non-Western contexts. Is it time to rethink “missionary feminism”?...


Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 3: Missionary feminism
Feminist arguments in the West have been used to advance imperialist projects that inflict suffering on women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Western feminist focus on individual rights can be disastrous when played out in non-Western contexts. Is it time to rethink “missionary feminism”?...

Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 3: Missionary feminism
Feminist arguments in the West have been used to advance imperialist projects that inflict suffering on women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Western feminist focus on individual rights can be disastrous when played out in non-Western contexts. Is it time to rethink “missionary feminism”?...

Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 2: Migrants and other Others
As refugees from the former colonies make their way to Europe, notions of “European life” and “European values” are facing unprecedented challenges. As postcolonial subjects, how should these migrants be received and understood?...

holocaust immigration europe


Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 1: The white way to think
The West has a history of colonisation and empire-building. How has this shaped the discipline of philosophy? This week – first in a five-part series – we look at racism and the unfortunate legacy of Immanuel Kant, who believed the non-white races were incapable of philosophical reflection....

Reparation
When individuals and communities today still suffer the consequences of past wrongs — slavery, dispossession, invasion, the theft of land and resources — what exactly is owed to them, and who should pay?...

slavery philosophy

Reparation
When individuals and communities today still suffer the consequences of past wrongs — slavery, dispossession, invasion, the theft of land and resources — what exactly is owed to them, and who should pay?...

slavery philosophy


Feminism, ecology, motherhood
The climate debate isn't just about science; it's also about gender and power. Ecofeminism takes this seriously - but does it also perpetuate negative stereotypes about women's supposedly "natural" connection to the earth and to nurturing?...

climatechange


Feminism, ecology, motherhood
The climate debate isn't just about science; it's also about gender and power. Ecofeminism takes this seriously - but does it also perpetuate negative stereotypes about women's supposedly "natural" connection to the earth and to nurturing?...

climatechange

Genetically obsolete
The prospect of human genetic enhancement raises moral concerns. Will a genetically enhanced human in 2060 will be rendered “obsolete” by technological advances that come along in 2070? What happens when we blur the distinction between person and product?...

geneticscience

Richard Rorty and transcendence
A professional academic philosopher, the American neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty was also a provocative critic of his own discipline. He had little time for what he saw as the pretensions of analytic philosophers and their ambitions to transcendence. But his work is tangled up in its own ambitions and fascinating contradictions....

democracy


Richard Rorty and transcendence
A professional academic philosopher, the American neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty was also a provocative critic of his own discipline. He had little time for what he saw as the pretensions of analytic philosophers and their ambitions to transcendence. But his work is tangled up in its own ambitions and fascinating contradictions....

democracy

Classical ethics, modern problem
Plato and Aristotle were acute observers and analysts of the world around them, but they never had to deal with climate change. Trust, virtue and reason seem to be in short supply today. Can the ancients show us how to recover these essential aspects of social harmony?...

plato aristotle climatechange

Classical ethics, modern problem
Plato and Aristotle were acute observers and analysts of the world around them, but they never had to deal with climate change. Trust, virtue and reason seem to be in short supply today. Can the ancients show us how to recover these essential aspects of social harmony?...

plato aristotle climatechange


Philosophy on the couch
Sigmund Freud had mixed feelings about philosophy – he thought that philosophers and people experiencing psychosis had a lot in common. So how has contemporary philosophy come to owe such a huge debt to the father of psychoanalysis?...

psychology psychoanalysis freud

Philosophy on the couch
Sigmund Freud had mixed feelings about philosophy – he thought that philosophers and people experiencing psychosis had a lot in common. So how has contemporary philosophy come to owe such a huge debt to the father of psychoanalysis?...

psychology psychoanalysis freud

Philosophy on the couch
Sigmund Freud had mixed feelings about philosophy – he thought that philosophers and people experiencing psychosis had a lot in common. So how has contemporary philosophy come to owe such a huge debt to the father of psychoanalysis?...

psychology psychoanalysis freud


Gloomy Sunday
Our reactions to suicide often depend on the era in which it takes place: when practised by ancient philosophers, it has a noble lustre. When practised by modern celebrities, it’s an emblem of the emptiness of fame and fortune. And now, the advent of voluntary euthanasia is changing our perceptions once again....

Gloomy Sunday
Our reactions to suicide often depend on the era in which it takes place: when practised by ancient philosophers, it has a noble lustre. When practised by modern celebrities, it’s an emblem of the emptiness of fame and fortune. And now, the advent of voluntary euthanasia is changing our perceptions once again....

Politics at the extremes
Politics has never been a gentle pursuit - but these days the gloves are well and truly off. How did we get here? What are the implications for political philosophy, and for politics in general? As for where we might be headed, there are fascinating – if rather terrifying – clues in the work of French thinker René Girard....


Dementia and deception
If you’re caring for a person with dementia, what do you do if they demand to see their spouse, who in fact died long ago? If you resort to telling the person that their spouse has just gone to the shops and will be back soon, you’re not alone. “Therapeutic deception” is a time-saver for carers, and it can also be humane, a means of alleviating distress. But like all lying, it’s morally problematic....

Why the Humanities?
In an era of university funding cuts, economic rationalism and the creeping perception that human progress comes to us principally via science and technology, who needs the Humanities?...

humanities liberalarts

The (other) melancholy Dane
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is perhaps the most famous Danish depressive, but Soren Kierkegaard gives him a run for his money. He wrote uncompromisingly difficult philosophical works, so it’s not surprising that he’s an outsize but rather remote figure in the popular cultural imagination. This week’s guest wants to change all that – she’s written a biography of Kierkegaard that brings the man and the work into sharp, sympathetic focus....


The (other) melancholy Dane
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is perhaps the most famous Danish depressive, but Soren Kierkegaard gives him a run for his money. He wrote uncompromisingly difficult philosophical works, so it’s not surprising that he’s an outsize but rather remote figure in the popular cultural imagination. This week’s guest wants to change all that – she’s written a biography of Kierkegaard that brings the man and the work into sharp, sympathetic focus....

Remembering Agnes Heller
Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller was a Holocaust survivor, a dissident under Hungary’s communist regime, and one of the great modern political thinkers. She was also a wonderfully engaging speaker, and this week we hear her in conversation from 2013, as well as the reflections of a close friend and colleague....

Rock star philosopher, and rocks
Early 20th century French thinker Henri Bergson was a celebrity. Today he’s a more obscure figure, but we're asking if his ideas should be restored to the intellectual map of the 20th century. Also: a philosopher-geologist on rocks, science and climate change....

henribergson


Women and the Dhamma
Buddhist teaching is radically egalitarian, and yet the need for a Buddhist feminism is pressing. Is gender irrelevant to Buddhist teaching? And for women who have been denied agency or a sense of identity, how reasonable is the doctrine of non-self?...

Thinking the country
What constitutes a "philosophical" conversation? You might reasonably expect such a conversation to be conceptual, exploring abstract notions of self, time, being, ethics and so on. For indigenous Australian philosophers, the conversation gets real very fast....

naidoc


Witnessing and translating
What happens when we take philosophy into the field? This week we’re talking archaeology, with focus on feminism, tensions between indigenous and Western scientific knowledge, and the principles of reconciliation....

philosophyofscience

Public health and the open society
Karl Popper's idea of "the open society" promoted values of inclusivity, transparency and democratic freedom. Today, some fear that the open society is under threat, with negative consequences for a lot of things we've come to take for granted - including public health....

Keeping them out
Most people agree that nation states don't have any moral right to control the movement of citizens within their borders, or to prevent citizens from travelling beyond those borders. So why should we accept that states have the right to exclude or restrict entry to refugees and immigrants?...


Drone homicide, jiggling brains and neurobionic revenge porn
The march of technology never stops, and sometimes institutions have trouble keeping up with the changes. This week we’re looking at possible future crimes committed via technology that’s already with us: brain-computer interfaces, which enable things to happen in the physical world by means of neural impulses – thoughts and imaginings, rather than movements....

Analytic philosophy: the leading brand
A quick scan of leading philosophy journals reveals that what passes for "philosophy" is selectively screened, with analytic philosophy clearly the dominant style. We look at the history of this phenomenon, some of the likely consequences, and how might it be addressed....

Mind, matter and motherhood
When Nicola Redhouse had each of her two children, she experienced shattering post-natal anxiety that sent her deep into the mystery of the self, and the relationship between mind and body. A long standing participant in psychoanalysis, she found herself up against the practical limits of Freudian theory - but would science provide more useful insight?...

freud psychoanalysis


The blind spot
Can science potentially reveal everything, giving us a "God's eye view" of the world? Some hope that the answer is (or will one day be) Yes - other more cautious observers wonder if science can ever overcome its blind spot....

The blind spot
Can science potentially reveal everything, giving us a "God's eye view" of the world? Some hope that the answer is (or will one day be) Yes - other more cautious observers wonder if science can ever overcome its blind spot....

Irrationality
In 1944, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer published their famous claim that "Enlightenment reverts to mythology" - meaning that any rational order sooner or later collapses into irrationality. Seven decades later, it seems they were were right on the money. Is human society fated to be irrational? And why is the alt-right having all the crazy fun these days?...


Mugged by reality
Reality TV draws increasing concern from observers who fear that cast, producers and audiences alike could be participating in something morally reprehensible - and that serious consequences for society lie ahead....

Guilty
Resentment, blame and guilt are generally placed on the negative side of the ledger of human emotions. Nobody particularly enjoys the way they feel. But they are morally important all the same, both in the public sphere and in the realm of interpersonal relationships....

guilt blame philosophy

Politics and the sacred
According to Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, modern secular politics is theological from the ground up – which may come as a nasty surprise to the many people who believe, often for very good reasons, that religion and politics should be kept as far from each other as possible....

jacquesderrida philosophy


Nutting it out
How are your critical thinking skills? Fine, you say. Everybody sees themselves as a competent critical thinker. But when you break critical thinking down to its component skills, it turns out to be more complicated and difficult than you might expect....

Artificial intelligence, real emotions
Artificial intelligence is pretty impressive these days. An AI robot can interact with humans in ways that give a strong impression of empathy, intellectual engagement and independent thought. A robot can smile, frown and respond to emotional cues offered by human faces and voices. But can it experience real emotions of its own?...

ai

The ecology of torture
Who is responsible for acts of torture? Individual perpetrators, certainly. But focusing on the guilt of individuals can lead us to miss the significance of context - social, political, cultural, the "ecology" of complex circumstances within which practices of torture occur....


Techne-logy
The ancient Greek root of our word "technology" is techne, which means "craftsmanship" or "art". In a world where technology today is thought of in mechanistic terms - consumer items that simply appear in our lives and perform certain functions - is it time we rediscovered the techne behind its development?...

Are we enlightened?
Most of us think of the European Enlightenment as a historical period during which society cast off the shackles of mythic thinking. Today, mythic thinking is alive and well in the era of neo-liberal capitalism - at least that's according to the analysis of critical theory, a mode of philosophy deeply rooted in the dynamics of history. Critical theory comes to us via Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, whose 1944 work Dialectic of Enlightenment is still a seminal text. But how does it hold up today?...

philosophy criticaltheory marx

Free speech crisis on campus?
With freedom of speech at Australian universities currently under governmental review, we explore the notion of free speech on campus. Should what gets said at universities - and who gets to say it - be regulated? And is the supposed "free speech crisis" just a front for the culture wars?...

freespeech philosophy


Existentialism and crisis
Existentialism entered the popular consciousness after World War 2, and for many it still has a mid-century ring to it. But how does it look look today, especially in an age where the unfolding environmental crisis calls for something more than radical humanism?...

philosophy feminism environment

On the way
John Kaag is a philosopher who travelled to the Swiss Alps with the aim of putting into practice some of Nietzsche's recommendations for "becoming who you are". In his memoir Hiking With Nietzsche, what he finds is that following in the footsteps of the great German thinker requires big shoes....

philosophy

Walter Benjamin: multimedia prototype?
As an intellectual oddball in the early 20th century, Walter Benjamin appears to have been a precursor of the cross-disciplinary hybrid thinkers we celebrate today. Was he the first multimedia journalist?...

philosophy walterbenjamin


Ageing
Getting older: comedy or tragedy? Martha Nussbaum and Saul Levmore—co-authors of Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations About Retirement, Romance, Wrinkles and Regret—talk about older bodies, intergenerational resentment, and a certain Shakespearean geriatric....

ageing aging oldage philosophy

Devotion, democracy and Duterte
Is religious language incompatible with democratic politics, as philosopher Richard Rorty believed? Not in the Philippines, where religion and democracy are working together as close allies—with troubling implications for justice and human rights....

rorty philosophy duterte philippines

Devotion, democracy and Duterte
Is religious language incompatible with democratic politics, as philosopher Richard Rorty believed? Not in the Philippines, where religion and democracy are working together as close allies—with troubling implications for justice and human rights....

rorty philosophy duterte philippines


Disability and dignity
Philosophers have been slow to address disability - which is odd, because disability raises a host of fascinating and challenging issues around justice, rights and fairness....

philosophy disability

African philosophy and the West
How do you articulate African philosophy in a Western academic environment? And what gets lost in the project of “translating” the former into the categories of the latter?...

racism colonialism postcolonialism philosophy

Backyard ethics: defending the NIMBY
Suppose a new hospital or drug rehabilitation centre needs to be built. If you’re a NIMBY, then you’ll be fine with the project—as long as it doesn’t negatively affect your property value. NIMBYism is often touted as the scourge of suburbia, but maybe there’s more to it than meets the eye....

nimby nimbyism notinmybackyard income wealthdistribution culturalvalues socialcapital


Dignity and enhancement
Human dignity is one of those ideas that seem to have been around for as long as humans themselves, and few people would take issue with it. But like most ideas, human dignity has a philosophical pedigree, and there are in fact those who say we should abandon the notion—or at least modify its invocation....

dignity biologicalenhancement post-human

The beauty imperative
What does it mean when beauty moves from aesthetic choice to ethical ideal? The age-old belief that true beauty lies within is ever harder to sustain today. It was once sidelined as a 'women’s issue' but beauty is now taking its place as a subject for serious philosophical scrutiny....

beauty aesthetics make-up cosmetics

Telling the story
Philosophy is usually thought of as the province of ideas and abstract thought. But this week’s guest is taking philosophy in a slightly different direction, yet makes perfect sense. US academic Barry Lam is the creator and host of Hi-Phi Nation, a podcast that bringing together philosophy and storytelling—the results are rather wonderful....

storytelling story


Steve Fuller on post-truth
For many of us, 'post-truth' means a culture where appeals to prejudice and emotion trump rational policy discussion. But for Steve Fuller, post-truth is just a by-product of the institutionalisation of knowledge—including scientific knowledge....

post-truth fakenews

Reparation
When individuals and communities today still suffer the consequences of past wrongs — slavery, dispossession, invasion, the theft of land and resources — what exactly is owed to them, and who should pay?...

slavery philosophy

The vice of fear
Is fear such a bad thing? Nobody likes to experience it, but fear can be a spur to virtuous action, and overcoming fear is the essence of courage. But not everyone takes such a benign view....

fear courage vices virtues


Plato, Buddhism and storytelling
At a glance, Platonic philosophy and Buddhism might seem to have little in common. But their ideas on moral development and "turning the soul" towards reality have fascinating congruences....

plato philosophy

Are we getting anywhere?
Is philosophy more about questions than answers? Not necessarily. It all depends on how you conceive of philosophy in the first place, particularly with regard to its institutional setting....

philosophy progress descartes

Playing around
Video games helps us to engage philosophically with issues of ethics, identity and more. This makes them potentially useful as a classroom learning tool — but what about all that violence?...


Think global
Writing a global history of philosophy is a tricky business - but that hasn't stopped this week's guest from taking it on....

philosophy

Learning Confucius
How's your Confucianism? If the answer is "a little rusty", then you're not alone. Confucianism and Chinese philosophy are niche subjects in Australia, even among students of Chinese background....

philosophyconfucianismchina

alt-Nietzsche
Few serious Nietzsche scholars today regard him as having been any sort of proto-Nazi. But that hasn’t stopped alt-right extremists today from "rediscovering" Nietzsche and claiming him as a philosophical ally....

nietzsche nazism fascism alt-right


Hospital ethics
What happens when doctors and ethicists get together – particularly when the patient under discussion is a young child? And how can philosophy help?...

African philosophy and the West
How do you articulate African philosophy in a Western academic environment? And what gets lost in the project of “translating” the former into the categories of the latter?...

racism colonialism postcolonialism philosophy

Evolution is evolving
For 160 years now, Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection has been baffling and blowing minds - and it’s not done yet. Evolution is still evolving, carrying us into an age of post-intelligent design – which brings danger as well as opportunity....

charlesdarwin


Forgiveness
“To err is human, to forgive divine” – a popular notion, but what are we really doing when we forgive? Operating at the highest level of human sensibility? Or denying the wrongdoer an opportunity for valuable self-reflection? This week we’re picking at one of the less-interrogated areas of ethics....

Dignity and enhancement
Human dignity is one of those ideas that seem to have been around for as long as humans themselves, and few people would take issue with it. But like most ideas, human dignity has a philosophical pedigree, and there are in fact those who say we should abandon the notion—or at least modify its invocation....

dignity biologicalenhancement post-human

Proof and beauty
Mathematicians routinely refer to complex proofs in aesthetic terms, citing their 'elegance' or 'beauty'. This has partly to do with the social aspect of such proofs—far from being a hermetic or exclusively cerebral practice, mathematics has never strayed too far from its roots in dialogue and debate....

beauty aesthetics numbers equations


Keeping them out
Most people agree that nation states don’t have any moral right to control the movement of citizens within their borders, or to prevent citizens from travelling beyond those borders. If states do see a need to exclude entry to refugees and immigrants, the reasons often appeal to a need to 'preserve' national values. But those arguments may not be so robust....

borders migration

Women, autonomy and social justice in China
Women in China have better access to education and job opportunities than ever before—yet a woman’s identity and value is still strongly linked with her role in the family, as wife and mother....

confucianism gender confucius genderequality china chinese

Ethics and absolutes in the classroom
The trouble with morality is that reasonable people keep disagreeing on what’s right and wrong. The science, as they say, isn’t settled. So that being the case, how can we argue for fixed moral standards to which everyone should sign up? And how should we introduce kids to this vexed field of inquiry?...

morals morality virtue ethics


The Pragmatists
Should philosophy be the attempt to articulate truth? If you’re a pragmatist, the answer is No. William James wrote of truth as a subset of expediency, and of truth’s 'cash value'. Richard Rorty saw truth—philosophical, moral, even scientific—in terms of contingent 'vocabularies'. At a time when The Washington Post reports that the leader of the free world has made over 3,000 false claims since becoming US President, pragmatic scepticism about truth could be a dangerous luxury....

richardrorty truth pragmatism

Telling the story
Philosophy is usually thought of as the province of ideas and abstract thought. But this week’s guest is taking philosophy in a slightly different direction, yet makes perfect sense. US academic Barry Lam is the creator and host of Hi-Phi Nation, a podcast that bringing together philosophy and storytelling—the results are rather wonderful....

storytelling story

Remembering Stanley Cavell
Stanley Cavell, who died on June 19, was one of the world’s foremost contemporary thinkers, yet he always considered himself something of a philosophical outsider. His work ranged across the philosophy of language, aesthetics, ethics and epistemology—but also literature, cinema, and music. And his 'ordinary language' style and interest in questions of quality and value could be about to experience a renaissance....

stanleycavell aesthetics linguistics ethics


When work stops working
Why do we work? According to Judaeo-Christian tradition, work is the result of a divine curse—and for many people in today’s labour market that comes as no surprise. And as more and more jobs become automated, fewer and fewer people will have them. An ideal future is a 'post-work' world where everybody has access to a universal basic income—but maybe there's an even better way....

On Evil
'Evil is one of those words that seem to convey moral clarity—we all feel we know evil when we see it. But there was once a time when 'evil' simply referred to mundane mischance or wrongdoing; its transformation into something almost metaphysical is a relatively recent turn....

evil

No laughing matter
Philosophers tend not to be funny—Nietzsche is a notable exception, and Plato had his moments—but philosophy can have a humorous side....

comedy nietzsche plato


Backyard ethics: defending the NIMBY
Suppose a new hospital or drug rehabilitation centre needs to be built. If you’re a NIMBY, then you’ll be fine with the project—as long as it doesn’t negatively affect your property value. NIMBYism is often touted as the scourge of suburbia, but maybe there’s more to it than meets the eye....

nimby nimbyism notinmybackyard income wealthdistribution culturalvalues socialcapital

Guilty or not guilty
Second in a two-part series on Indian philosophy. Buddhism teaches that the self is an illusion—so what do we do with self-conscious emotions like guilt and shame, which can put useful brakes on ethical misconduct? If there’s no self to be ashamed of, how should we understand the emotion? The answer lies in an ancient series of Indian Buddhist texts: the Abhidharma....

guilty indian abhidharma shame theself

The oblivion of India
Indian philosophy has thousands of years of history behind it, yet Western philosophers have largely ignored it—and their assumptions about Indian philosophy may have influenced the Western philosophical canon....


Knud Loegstrup and The Ethical Demand
Danish philosopher Knud Loegstrup was a contemporary of Sartre, Arendt and Levinas—but his influence outside the world of Nordic philosophy has been limited. Scott Stephens speaks with Loegstrup’s two English translators about his masterwork The Ethical Demand, and about some unexpected resonances with English moral philosopher Iris Murdoch....

thegoodsamaritan hannaarendt emmanuellevinas knudloegstrup satre irismurdoch translation

Making differences
We're all keen on diversity these days—as long as it stays within proper boundaries. When it comes to moral values though, diverse perspectives can make us uncomfortable—so how do we manage it, and how can we do better?...

diversity moralvalues globalisation

Morals and the market
Neoliberalism and human rights are often portrayed as standing in opposition to each other, with the fat cats at the big end of town pulling the economic levers. But neoliberalism and the discourse of modern human rights can actually be seen as close philosophical cousins....

morals socialpolicy ngos freidrichhayek neo-liberalism humanrights


Rewilding
Most of us feel the itch of the primitive from time to time—to run without shoes, try a paleo diet, or just ditch the smartphone. The primitivist ideal exerts a seductive pull in tech-obsessed contemporary western society, but is the ideal based on a highly questionable set of philosophical assumptions?...

nature paleo rousseau noblesavage primitivism nativepeople ontology

The freedom of the City
May 1968 was a watershed moment in political philosophy, and its ripple effect continues. We follow the long trajectory of May '68—from the universities and streets of Paris fifty years ago, via the work of pioneering feminist Luce Irigaray, all the way to the 'New Municipalism' that’s transforming the political and social landscapes of cities around the world today....

revolution may1968 luceirigaray protest encomu adacolau paris students

The fate of the Common Good
The idea of the common good drove some of the most important social developments of the 20th century. Today, nations seem to be losing faith in the idea....

thecommongood europeanunion civilrights hanssluga


Who are you?
The question of exactly what constitutes identity is an old and much-contested one. Is personhood located in a community? A culture? A race? Or is it something singular and immanent, located somewhere in the deepest recesses of the individual?...

identity personhood

The beauty imperative
What does it mean when beauty moves from aesthetic choice to ethical ideal? The age-old belief that true beauty lies within is ever harder to sustain today. It was once sidelined as a 'women’s issue' but beauty is now taking its place as a subject for serious philosophical scrutiny....

beauty aesthetics make-up cosmetics

Martin Luther King: political philosopher
We don’t routinely think of political figures as philosophers, but when but comes to Martin Luther King maybe we should. King was a deep thinker with a remarkably coherent vision of the moral life and a bracing take on some of the fundamental questions of political philosophy....

martinlutherkingjr.


Thinking Out Loud
Thinking Out Loud: The Sydney Lectures in Philosophy and Society aims to bring a leading international thinker to Western Sydney University annually to present a series of public lectures. This year Rosi Braidotti will present The Human in the Age of Technology and Climate Change. The idea of ‘human’ is undergoing rapid change. Some have termed this the age of the ‘post-human’, and it might appear a moment of great promise and liberation. Yet an underside of injustice and exclusion stubbornly remains. Rosi ...

The shadow of eugenics
Eugenics is a science that seems to belong back in the darkest days of the 20th century. But today, 'newgenics' has people worried, as reproductive technologies make it increasingly possible to filter out certain genetic disorders. How does this colour our notion of what constitutes a 'desirable' or 'undesirable' human subject?...

eugenics newgenics genes genetics reproductivetechnology

Oh, the Humanities
We often hear that the academic Humanities and social sciences are in crisis—underfunded, out of touch with the job market, hamstrung by political correctness and moral relativism. So why study philosophy? And could a good dose of scientific method help to solve the problem—if indeed there is one?...

thehumanities isaacnewton


Thinking small
Understanding the human condition has been the province of many disciplines, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect microbiology to be among them. Think again!...

microbiome smallness microscopy lifescience

Philosophy for children: the why and the how
Children are natural philosophers — so why don’t we routinely teach them how to do philosophy? Some issues around that debate were aired at a recent public panel hosted by the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia....