Jul 10, 2020

July Online AMA Session Coming Up Tomorrow!

It's time again to answer questions from my viewers, listeners, readers, supporters, and other fans.  So tomorrow, I'll be holding my monthly online AMA - an Ask Me Anything - session. It'll be taking place at Noon Central Time tomorrow.

If there's a question you've been wanting to ask me, pop in to the session and I'll hopefully have an answer for you. You'll want to get your questions in early, since these sessions tend to draw a lot of viewers, and many of them ask questions.

Since some people ask a lot of questions in these sessions, I give priority to participants who haven't yet had a question answered, rather than just answering multiple questions by the same person.

Here's the link to the session. You can click on it and go straight to the YouTube page. There you can get a question into the queue ahead of time, and you can also set a reminder for when the session starts, if you'd like.



If you'd like to watch and listen to any of the earlier AMA sessions - you can also see what all the questions and comments were for that session by looking at the chat replay on the left side of the screen - here's a link to a playlist containing all of them.

All of the work involved in these 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.

Jul 4, 2020

Worlds Of Speculative Fiction Series Resumes With Cordwainer Smith



Back in 2016, I started a new monthly talk series, hosted at one of our local libraries, called "Worlds of Speculative Fiction".  Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, we had met regularly to discuss authors and their bodies of literature within the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror, cyberpunk, weird, alternate history, and others that fit into that overarching class of "speculative fiction".

Each session was devoted to one author, and usually focused on one main series of their works in which a more or less coherent narrative "world" could be found.  During the sessions, we discussed the world-building, the author's background and biography, and some selected philosophical themes either worked into or bearing upon the novels or short stories for that month.  

I videorecorded each of the 43 sessions we held - you can find them curated in this playlist - and we developed a group of committed "regulars" who would not just attend but actively participate in the monthly discussions.  They also suggested authors to incorporate into the series.  

We had to cancel the in-person sessions indefinitely, due to COVID-19.  That particular library is open again, but there's no effective way to socially distance in an hour-long session held around a conference table, and I can't imagine a masked-up presentation would make for interesting video.  So since March, the series has simply been on hold.

Beginning this month, I am starting the series back up again, but in a new format.  I've given a lot of thought to how I might continue the focused discussions of narrative world, author, and philosophical themes and also actively engage with an audience equally interested in these authors, texts, and ideas.  What I'm planning to do going forward each month is this:
  • Produce a roughly 90-minute YouTube video that will be my "talk" for the month, going into all the matters I want to bring into the conversation.

  • Premiere that YouTube video at a regularly scheduled day and time.  YouTube premieres allow the viewers of that video to engage in a live online chat as the video plays.  I'll be in that chat, answering questions, addressing comments, and perhaps writing out a few additional points of my own.

  • Hold a video-conferencing discussion session with a smaller group of participants right after the video premiere, continuing and deepening the conversation.  I won't be recording this session.
The author I've selected for this month of July is someone I have been wanting to get to for quite some time, Cordwainer Smith (who was actually Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger). We'll be focusing on his "Instrumentality of Mankind" narrative universe, which is spread out over a number of short stories and one novel.

If you're interested in taking part in the discussions in this first session in the new format, you might want to get your hands on the main books we'll be drawing upon:
You can sign up for the videoconferencing discussion session here.  The link to the video premiere will become available after I've created the video.


We have five more months left to the year for further sessions. I am kicking around a number of authors and narrative universes for those sessions, some of which I was scheduled to discuss this year, some of which I now have a bit of a yearning to tackle.  I'm not yet committing to which month I'll do which author and world, but here's what I have in mind so far:
  • Veronica Roth - focusing on the narrative universe of her "Carve the Mark" novels and short stories
  • Umberto Eco's - focusing on his novels, and how semiotics permeate them
  • R. Scott Bakker - focusing on his "Second Apocalypse" series of novels (might need to be two sessions)
  • Margaret Atwood - focusing on her "Gilead" alternate history/dystopia novels
  • Walter Miller - focusing on his novel A Canticle for Leibowitz

Jun 7, 2020

Recent Wisdom For Life Show Episodes

Since the WXRW radio station closed for in-person shows due to COVID-19, we've been recording episodes of the Wisdom For Life weekly.  This is a radio show devoted to approaching philosophy in public and practical ways, applying it to issues, challenges, and problems of life.

We worked out a good way to record sessions for the show.  We videoconference using Zoom, and each of us record on our end using Audacity.  Then we edit the tracks and add the intro and outro music, send it off the station, where the show airs on Saturdays at 4 PM Central.

Each of the episodes also gets loaded into the WXRW Soundcloud, and are then available to the public as podcast episodes.  Here are the four most recent episodes, if you'd like to listen to them.
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May 26, 2020

Six Podcast Episodes on Cicero's On Fate


One of the topics I like to teach in my Introduction to Philosophy classes is that of freedom and determinism.  There is a lot of great literature discussing these metaphysical matters, and one of the early important texts is an (unfortunately) incomplete one by Marcus Tullius Cicero, called On Fate. 

The ideas in On Fate get referenced by several other authors who I often teach as well, particularly Augustine of Hippo and Boethius, when they are considering the same issues of freedom of the will and causal determinism. 

What I particularly like about this text - as a teacher - are several things.  First, it's short.  True, it's shorter than we'd like since we've lost part of the text!  But it's easy enough to cover in a class session. Second, it introduces some key ideas that have been used to make sense of the topics involved.  It also introduces them to a common argument favoring fatalism, and some ideas about determinism that still show up in the present.  And third, it provides some useful summaries about the positions of four important thinkers and schools on these matters in antiquity.

The six podcast episodes come to a bit under an hour and a half of listening time.  Here they are:
If you'd like to make a contribution to helping me continue my work making classic philosophical texts, thinkers, and topics accessible for people worldwide, consider becoming a monthly supporter on Patreon.  If you'd like to make a one-time donation, you can do so directly on Paypal, or on Buy Me A Coffee.

May 17, 2020

Twelve Videos on Cicero's On Friendship



Marcus Tullius Cicero's short work On Friendship is one that I occasionally teach in my Intro to Philosophy and my Ethics classes, usually counterposed to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics books 8 and 9, which also focus on the topic of friendship.  When I teach classes focused specifically on Love, Friendship, and Relationships, On Friendship is one of the central works for the class.

I like to have core concept videos available as supplemental resources for students in my face-to-face classes.  For online classes, they're even more important.  This semester I was teaching two online ethics classes - an Ethics class in the Second Chance Pell program for Milwaukee Area Technical College, and an Ethics for Artists and Designers class for Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.  So I thought it was about time that I created a sequence of videos going through all of On Friendship.

As it turns out, that required twelve videos, all of which are linked to here
I'm planning on creating an affordable and engaging online class on this work over the summer, which will incorporate these videos, but also provide a number of downloadable handouts, lesson pages, reflection prompts, and a number of other resources designed to help learners understand and apply the key ideas of On Friendship.  Stay tuned to our Study With Sadler online academy for more on that and other classes coming out this summer!

May 11, 2020

Six Core Concepts on Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue


One of the thinkers whose work I teach regularly in my Ethics classes is Alasdair MacIntyre.  In addition to his essay "Plain Persons and Moral Philosophy", I like to introduce my students to portions of MacIntyre's highly influential work, After Virtue.  Years back, I produced some core concept videos on chapters 2 and 3 of that work. 

Recently, I created a sequence of videos on another chapter of After Virtue - number 14, "The Nature of the Virtues" - that often gets anthologized and discussed.  MacIntyre sets out several conceptions of the virtues, corresponding to different types of moral philosophies, foundational conceptions, and cultures and institutions.  He zeroes in on a conception that he views as broadly Aristotelian, and elaborates it in relation to what has become one of his most distinctive and famous ideas - that of practices.

Here are those six core concept videos focused on the main ideas, distinctions, and arguments of the chapter:

If you'd like to make a contribution to helping me continue my work making classic philosophical texts, thinkers, and topics accessible for people worldwide, consider becoming a monthly supporter on Patreon.  If you'd like to make a one-time donation, you can do so directly on Paypal, or on Buy Me A Coffee.

May 10, 2020

Wisdom For Life Show - Episode 8 - Balancing Autonomy and Connection

My co-host, Dan Hayes, and I have now produced eight episodes of our philosophy-focused radio show, Wisdom for Life.  The latest episode focuses on a common struggle in relationships: how to balance one's own need for autonomy, and that of one's partner, with the need for connection. 

If you'd like to listen to that episode, here it is!


You can also check out all of the previous episodes as well. Each is about an hour of dialogue and discussion focused on making useful concepts drawn from philosophy accessible for a general audience, and applicable to the challenges and issues we face in daily life.

Episode 1 - Philosophy as a Way of Life
Episode 2 - Dealing With Fear in a Crisis
Episode 3 - Defining What's Good and What's Bad
Episode 4 - Setting and Maintaining Boundaries
Episode 5 - What Makes Relationships Good?
Episode 6- What Is Resiliency?
Episode 7 -The Stockdale Paradox

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