Jan 19, 2018

AMA (Ask Me Anything) Session Coming Up Today

At 1:00 PM Central Time, I'll be going onto YouTube Live for my next monthly AMA session!

This is where my viewers, subscribers, followers, backers, fans - and anyone else who happens to show up - gets to Ask Me Anything.  I try to respond to as many of the comments and questions as I possibly can, though I don't always manage to get to all of them.

I started holding these in the Fall - committing to doing the first session when we met our first modest goal in Patreon crowdfunding support.  After my backers got us to the next goal, I committed to providing an AMA each month, and that's what I started doing in December.

Here's where you can log into the session - and don't worry if you're early! YouTube will keep that screen open for you until it starts, and even send you a reminder, if you think you need it.

If you'd like to see me in action in the previous sessions, fielding questions, addressing comments, even tackling complaints and confusions, here are links to the previous two AMA sessions:

All of the time and labor involved in these - and many other - free online events are underwritten by my Patreon supporters.  Their pledges help me earn a living for myself and my family doing work I love - making philosophy accessible to people of all walks of life, all over the world.  If you'd like to become a supporter, here's where you can do that.

Jan 17, 2018

Image For Hire Guest Appearance

Last night, I ventured out into the cold Milwaukee night and drove up to the Riverwest neighborhood.  I had a 9:00 PM appointment to go on as a guest on the Image for Hire radio show, hosted by The Skrauss on 104.1 FM.  That's Riverwest Radio, a community station here in Milwaukee that broadcasts on the radio locally and over the internet worldwide.

It was a great conversation, but before I go any further, here's the link - if you want to hear the conversation, click here.

I really like that central idea motivating The Skrauss' show - all about images, how affect and image go together, and how they can be used to "hack reality".  We don't usually talk about it in those terms, but that what moral philosophy - when it is done, studied, and applied in practical (rather than just academic) ways - aims to accomplish. 

The human person is part of reality, after all, and we use images not only to make sense of who we are, but also as models that allow us to make choices about who we are.  So, understanding, evaluating, and applying images winds up being a good part of what we do as practicing - or as Skrauss put it, "freelance" philosophers working with clients, students, or organizations.

We delved into a lot of topics:  Plato's allegory of the cave and a bit of Martin Heidegger's interpretation of it, what philosophical counseling is and how I use it with clients, whether philosophy and mysticism have any overlap (which depends on what we mean by "mysticism"), my work producing philosophy-focused YouTube videos, even our Worlds of Speculative Fiction talk series and online class (which you can enroll in here). Those are just a few!

A very fun and far-ranging conversation - and I'm looking forward to going on again sometime later this year!  And, a special thanks to my Patreon backers - their support underwrites my engagments in public philosophy!

Jan 16, 2018

Deriving The Cardinal Virtues In Cicero's On Duties

Two questions came up recently about Stoicism and the virtues in one of my social media feeds.  How did they end up with those four main virtues - Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Temperance - and do they provide any argument or rational proof for those being the main virtues?

Quite likely, more complete responses to these questions would be found in some of the Stoic literature that has unfortunately been lost.  But we do still have some more or less complete answers provided in some of the literature discussing and presenting Stoic doctrines.  Anyone who wants to understand what Stoics actually taught and thought about the virtues can check out the discussions in Diogenes Laertes, Lives of the Philosophers, book 7 - which focuses entirely on the Stoic school - or in Arius Didymus' Epitome of Stoic Ethics.

Another excellent place to go is the works of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who - although not a Stoic himself - certainly viewed their moral philosophy in a positive light.  He provides not only their views, but also many of their arguments, in work after work.  One book that is particularly important for understanding how the Stoics came up with their four virtues is On Duties.

I taught book 1 of that work last semester, in my Ethics classes at Marquette University.  As I typically do, I created some new core concept videos on key ideas from On Duties for my students.  These below focus on the four virtues and how the Stoics derived a proper understanding of each of these virtues from consideration of basic features and impulses of human nature.
You'll notice - as you read the early chapters of book 1 of On Duty - that Cicero and the Stoics aren't arbitrarily picking these four virtues out of a hat.  Each of them is a main mode of distinctively human excellence, rooted in our common and complex human nature.

Nov 27, 2017

November Philosophy Pop-Up Sessions

Since August, I've been engaging in a new sort of interaction with my various subscribers, fans, and followers - Philosophy Pop-Up sessions.  These are streaming sessions, hosted monthly on YouTube Live and Facebook Live.  Participants can watch or listen, and have the chance in real time to ask questions or leave comments, to which I do my best to respond.

I schedule each of these for one hour, but they sometimes go a bit longer.  Originally, the goal was to make them a good bit shorter - closer to 30 minutes in time - but as it turns out, people didn't want the sessions to end as quickly as intended!

The November sessions were devoted to a thinker I talked about quite a bit this month - Friedrich Nietzsche - and specifically to the "three noble responses to the problem of life" laid out in his book The Birth of Tragedy.  If you missed them, here they are:

As always, these sessions are underwritten by the generous support of my Patreon backers.  If you'd like to learn more, or to start supporting the work I do making philosophy accessible world wide, go to my Patreon page!

Oct 19, 2017

Ten Videos On John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism

One of the most commonly taught texts in Ethics classes is John Stuart Mill's classic work, Utilitarianism.  I give it a central place in my own classes, generally as a companion text to Jeremy Bentham's founding work for utilitarian moral theory, The Principles of Morals and Legislation.  Together, they provide a great overview of that approach in ethics.

Students do struggle with Mill's work, so some time back, I started creating short Core Concept videos specifically on Utilitarianism.  The first few of these, I actually shot during my class discussions.  Then, a few years ago, I created several additional videos.  I provided the entire set to my students - in both face-to-face and online classes - as a resource to help them through the text.

Since I'm now once again in the classroom - teaching two sections of Ethics for Marquette University this semester - I thought I'd add a few more videos on key ideas of Mill's Utilitarianism.  As it turned out, there were four topic that I thought needed additional discussion.  This brings the total number in to ten - enough to cover all the main ideas of the work.

Here is the full set of videos on John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism.
I hope they prove useful for you as you read - or reread - Mill's work.  And if you find it helpful for you, consider passing this post on to other people you think might find it helpful.  If you'd like to support the work I do, making philosophy accessible to the general public, take a look at my Patreon page.

Oct 12, 2017

October Philosophy Pop-Up Sessions

If you missed the monthly Philosophy Pop-Up Sessions we held online earlier on in October - before I got totally bogged down (not complaining - I love that stuff!) with Stoicon 2017, Stoicon-X Toronto, and Stoic Week - there's some good news for you!

In fact, there's two bits of good news.  The first is that I'll be doing another two Philosophy Pop-Ups this coming month of November.  Since I've got several other commitments focused on the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche coming up this month - a podcast episode, a webinar, and two online seminars - that will be the main theme for the pop-up sessions this time around.

All of my Patreon supporters find out the exact dates and times for these live events at the start of each month.  For everyone else, I announce the Philosophy Pop-Ups earlier on the day that we hold them - so you can check my social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) to find out when they are occurring.

The second bit of good news is that, since we hold these sessions through YouTube Live and Facebook Live, you can always go back and watch them later.  You can even write comments on the videos.  This month, the sessions focused on Stoicism, and specifically on Epictetus and what is called the "dichotomy of control".

Here are the videos from those two sessions:

Oct 4, 2017

Seven Videos on Nietzsche's "On Truth and Lying In An Extra-Moral Sense"

I'm slowly making good on some of the video commitments I made to my Patreon supporters.  At the start of the summer, I polled them to find out which thinkers they most wanted me to focus on, and the three winners were Immanuel Kant, Martin Heidegger, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

First, I created a number of Kant core concept videos, finishing up the sequence I started years back on his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.  Then I shifted focus to Heidegger, and shot an entire sequence of videos on his key essay "What Is Metaphysics?" (available here).  Then I started thinking about what text I wanted to tackle for Nietzsche.

I decided on his own short essay, "On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense," (available here) since that also introduces some main ideas of his in a fairly straightforward - though for many readers still challenging - manner, and I created a series of seven short videos covering that work.

Here they are:
I hope you find them useful for approaching this major philosopher. Love him, hate him, agree or disagree - Nietzsche is definitely someone worth reading and thinking about! 

What's next when it comes to my work of producing these core concept videos?  Any more Nietzsche coming?  Right now, I'm shooting new videos on John Stuart Mill, Cicero, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Aquinas for the Ethics classes I'm teaching this semester.  But I'm hoping to get back to Nietzsche soon - and to start creating new core concept videos, most likely on his Birth of Tragedy.