Jan 6, 2019

Ten Videos on Augustine's City of God

Last semester, I started shooting a set of short lecture videos on the early Christian philosopher, Augustine of Hippo's City of God as resources for my students in two of my classes.  That late work of Augustine is a pretty massive tome, so we were just covering a selection of topics in books 5, 11, and 19 of the text.

The topics that we examined - human free will and divine foreknowledge, the role of Christian revelation in philosophy, created time and space, what human happiness requires, the virtues in their struggles with vices, and the extent of community - are all important in Augustine's thought as a whole.

The semester got away from me - I ended up taking on five classes (more than full time for academic teaching) - so I wasn't able to get to all of them until later on in December, after classes ended.  Here is the full set on the City of God - to which I will perhaps add additional videos down the line.
This semester, I'll only be teaching some of this material from book 11 of City of God in my classes.  But I will be covering a different Augustine text, his earlier work On Free Choice of the Will.  I'll be creating new core concept videos on that book later on in the semester.

Jan 3, 2019

Eight Short Videos on Epicurus' Thought

Some time back, I created a set of eight core concept videos focused specifically on several key ideas from the few texts we still possess authored by the great Hellenistic hedonist philosopher, Epicurus (which you can find assembled together here)

Although I'm far from being an Epicurean myself, I frequently teach his ideas in my Ethics and Introduction to Philosophy classes, so developing these short lecture videos has been very useful for me and my students.

I'll be discussing the Epicurean tradition again this semester in at least three of the five classes I'm slated to teach, and I'll likely be adding a few new Core Concept videos to supplement the stock of those I already have available.  Most likely, those won't be focused specifically on the founder of that school, though, but on the Roman poet and philosopher, Lucretius' main work, On The Nature of Things - and on book 1 of Cicero's On The Ends, in which his character, Torquatus, presents Epicurean perspectives on a variety of topics.

Here are the eight core concept videos focused specifically on Epicurus' thought.  Altogether, they comprise a bit under two hours of lectures, covering most of his main ideas, arguments, and distinctions in ethics.
As a parting thought, although Epicurus was reportedly one of the most prolific philosophers of ancient times, we currently possess just the smallest portion of his works.  And we're very fortunate to have that, because nearly all of what we do have derives from Diogenes Laertes' work Lives of the Philosophers.  Because he liked Epicurus, Diogenes copied by hand three of Epicurus' letters and the Principal Doctrines verbatim into the last book of that work. Lucky for us he did!

Jan 1, 2019

Thinkers and Texts I'm Teaching This Spring

This Spring, I'm returning to Marquette University, where I'll be teaching two sections of their new core class, Foundations in Philosophy.  Like many Catholic schools, their core curriculum has gone through recent changes that have reduced the number of required Philosophy courses (and Theology, and other courses in the humanities as well).  Having replaced both their Philosophy of Human Nature and their Ethics courses, this new Foundations course has to do quite a lot in one semester.

This is my second time around teaching Foundations, and in this interim between semesters, I've put quite a bit of thought into redesigning the course.  In a later blog post, I'll discuss what sorts of activities and assignments I've got lined up for my students.  But in this one - since I now my readers, viewers, and subscribers are always interested to know what the required readings are for the course, I thought I'd set them out here, adding a few reflections about why I made those selections.

So with no further ado, here's the list of thinkers and texts, indexed to the weeks and days of the term:

Dec 12, 2018

Seven Conversations About Modern Stoicism

Over the last year, I have been shooting sit-down interview videos, and seven of those have been conversations with people involved in the modern Stoicism movement.  Attending and speaking at Stoicon in 2017 and 2018 afforded me the opportunity to carry out these interviews.  All of them are with people who I consider friends and colleagues, so as you can tell when you watch them, we had an excellent time recording the conversations

Three of the interviewees - Christopher Gill, Donald Robertson, and Piotr Stankiewicz are team members of the modern Stoicism organization, and as such all three of them have spoken at the annual Stoicon conference.  Walter Matweychuk and Kai Whiting have also been presenters at Stoicon.  Travis Hume and Harald Kavli both are involved in local Stoic organizations and have very interesting writing projects focused on Stoicism.

You can learn a lot about Stoicism and its present prospects by talking with people who devote serious thought to it, and rely upon its principles and practice in their life and work.

Here are the links to those seven interviews - a total of just under 6 hours of conversation about Stoicism:

If you're particularly interested in Stoicism, you might check out the Modern Stoicism website, which hosts the Stoicism Today blog.  If you'd like to support my work, consider becoming a Patreon backer!

Dec 9, 2018

The Numbers Are In: It's Huxley, Stoker, and Bakker

Last week, after an initial round of suggestions, I held a runoff vote for the three fan-chosen authors I would add to the monthly talks in the Worlds of Speculative Fiction series for 2019.

The seven authors in the run-off were:  Bram Stoker, Thomas Ligoti, Stephen Donaldson, Katherine Kurtz, Aldous Huxley, Robert Jordan, and R Scott. Bakker.

Patreon supporters of my work got one additional vote.  Everyone who voted was allowed to choose up to three authors. There were 51 votes total in the runoff.

The big winner was Aldous Huxley, with 29 votes.  So, he will go into the October slot.  We'll be looking at his dystopian/utopian novels Brave New World, Ape and Essence, and Island.  We'll likely also discuss some of his essays as well, including The Perennial Philosophy.

Bram Stoker was the clear second place, with 19 votes.  He'll be in the November slot for the series.  We will, of course, be discussing his novel Dracula, his collection of short stories Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories, and his later novels The Lady of the Shroud and the Lair of the White Worm.

Third place was a little closer. R. Scott Bakker got 13 votes. Thomas Ligotti and Robert Jordan each got 10 votes, so either of them could easily have slipped into that number 3 slot.  Next December, we'll be discussing his Prince of Nothing series of novels, The Darkness That Comes Before, The Warrior-Prophet, and The Thousandfold Thought.

We now have the entire lineup for 2019 established.  Here it is:

  • January – Edgar Allen Poe’s Uncanny Universe 
  • February - G.K. Chesterton’s Novels of Rebellion and Intrigue 
  • March - Mary Shelley’s Modern Worlds 
  • April – Lewis Carroll’s Fantastical Lands 
  • May – Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth 
  • June – Piers Anthony’s Xanth Novels 
  • July – Gordon Dickson’s Childe Cycle Novels 
  • August – August Derleth’s Universe of the Cthulhu Mythos 
  • September – Karl Edward Wagner’s Ancient World of Kane 
  • October – Aldous Huxley’s Utopias and Dystopias 
  • November – Bram Stoker’s World of Gothic Horror 
  • December – R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing Series
Remember that we have a FREE open-access online course for the series, where you can watch the videos, access resources and links, find out any news about the ongoing series, and interact with others about the series, the authors, and the books.

Dec 8, 2018

Nine Podcast Episodes on Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling

Earlier this term, I created a set of nine core concept videos on the great early existentialist, Søren Kierkegaard's, work Fear and Trembling.  I then converted all of those videos into podcast episodes, boosting the sound quality.

I provided both the videos and the podcasts to my students in my Foundations of Philosophy class (at Marquette University), and early released them to my Patreon supporters.  Then, episode after episode, video after video, I released them to the general public.

For those who might have missed them, and who would find the podcast episodes useful in studying this important work by Kierkegaard - in which he contrasts the "knight of faith" against the "knight of infinite resignation" and elaborates what he terms a "teleological suspension of the ethical" - I've linked the entire series so far, in order, below. 

Eventually, I plan to return to this book and produce videos and podcast episodes on the remaining portions and concepts from the work I didn't get to this time around. 

For the time being, here are those nine episodes - a bit over two and a half hours of podcast:

To listen to more podcast episodes - so far on Plato, Cicero, and Epictetus (with many other thinkers and works yet to come) - you can go to my Soundcloud channel, or find them on iTunes or GooglePlay.

Dec 6, 2018

Get In On The Vote - Worlds of Speculative Fiction 2019

Last week, I created a video about our upcoming year of monthly talks in the Worlds of Speculative Fiction series.  We're going into year four, and in lining up the new authors I'm scheduled to discuss, I deliberately left three slots open so that I could get some input from my viewers, subscribers, supporters and other fans.  After listing the nine authors I'd already picked out (see below), I asked viewers to leave comments with their initial suggestions for authors to fill those three remaining slots.

Many people weighed in, and I picked the seven most suggested authors for a run-off vote, which is going on right now (and ends on Saturday).  If you'd like to get in on that vote, here's where you can cast your ballot.  It's between these authors:  Bram Stoker, Thomas Ligoti, Stephen Donaldson, Katherine Kurtz, Aldous Huxley, Robert Jordan, and R Scott. Bakker.

Each participant gets to vote for three of these authors, and the top three join the roster for 2019.  (My Patreon supporters get an extra vote as well.)  Voting will go on through Saturday, then I'll tally all the votes up, and officially announce who the three authors will be.

The nine other authors I've already picked out for 2019 are: Edgar Allen Poe, G.K. Chesterton, Mary Shelley, Lewis Carroll, Tanith Lee, Piers Anthony, Gordon Dickson, August Derleth, and Karl Edward Wagner.

I should mention two other things in passing.  The first is that, if you haven't seen the previous sessions in the talk series, I've placed them all in this playlist.  The second is that I've also created a free online course to house those videos and a host of other resources on those authors, their books, and the narrative worlds they created, which you can sign up for here.