Apr 23, 2018

Nine Answers to Common Questions About Stoicism

A few months back, I started a new video series - Answers to Common Questions - to address some of the recurring questions, puzzles, and confusions I see coming up in various settings.  Sometimes they are posted as comments on my YouTube videos, during my online events, or in various social media (I'm on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn regularly).  Sometimes they're coming up in various philosophy-related forums or in sites like Quora.

After giving it a lot of thought, I decided that it might be useful to create videos as responses.  It's an engaging medium, to start with, and given my current digital presence, they would probably reach quite a few people.  And, having answers in easily linked-to video forms would allow me to provide some useful information with just a minimum of writing, copying, and pasting.

Since Stoicism is of major interest in the present and will likely continue as such in the foreseeable future, the questions and confusions that come up about that struck me as a good place to begin. There are a number of other Stoicism-related topics that I'll be shooting these videos about in the coming months, but it won't be Stoicism all the time for good - there are a lot of other common questions on a host of other philosophical thinkers and topics I'm hoping to get to down the line!

Here are the videos I have produced up to this point:
So, if those are questions on your mind - or if reading those titles piques your curiosity - click on those links and see if the answers sort matters out for you. As I mentioned, I'll be shooting a lot more of these, both about Stoicism and about other topics in philosophy as well. 

If you'd like to support the work that I put in on these and my other videos, consider becoming a Patreon supporter!

Apr 17, 2018

Not Just What - But When - Should We Doubt?

For years I have taught a course online for Marist College, called World Views and Values.  It's essentially an Introduction to Philosophy course, with a bit more emphasis set upon the conception of the world, the social and political sphere, and human nature.  Starting out as a 10-week course, in the last year or so, it has been shortened to an 8-week term - so it's a pretty intense experience for students in the school of Professional Studies, who often have had no background in philosophy.

In the course, we spend one week going through Rene Descartes' Discourse on Method - concentrating mainly on parts 1-4 of the work, but looking as well at the discussion of human beings, machines, and animals in part 5. One key theme of Descartes' work is doubt.  He employs what is called "methodological" or "hyperbolic" doubt as a tool - that's absolutely distinctive to his approach.  And, of course, there are a number of lingering worries that can be raised once Cartesian doubt is introduced.

(I should mention - as a side note - that if you're interested in taking an open-enrollment version of that course, based on the earlier 10-week format (which included more content), I offer it in the ReasonIO Academy at this link - Philosophical World Views and Values).

My students enrolled in the Marist course not only study the text, watch lecture videos, download resources, read through lesson pages, and do some writing assignments.  A main dimension of the class - both in terms of their grade (which they definitely care about!) and their learning - develops through their participation in discussion forums.  And one of the questions I ask them - to provoke conversation among my students - is "should we doubt everything?"

Apr 13, 2018

AMA (Ask Me Anything) Session Tomorrow

Last year, I started offering AMA - Ask Me Anything - sessions online for my viewers, subscribers, readers, and other fans.  We use YouTube Live for these events, and you can access it by clicking on this link, once the session starts. You can even click on it now, and set up a reminder for the event.

The session will take place between 1-2 PM Central Time, Saturday, April 14.  You'll want to ask your question(s) early on.  I always get to those asked at the start of the session, but as they accumulate, I don't always have the time to get to all of those people ask at the end (even with often going overtime in these sessions).



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 five 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.

Apr 10, 2018

Video Lecture Sequence - Cicero's On Duties, Book 1

Last week, I finished creating a sequence of core concept videos focused specifically on topics within Marcus Tullius Cicero's work of Stoic ethics, On Duties.  I began shooting these last semester for my students enrolled in the two Ethics classes I was teaching for Marquette University. 

I typically include some Stoic ethics in my courses, and this time around I decided instead of having them read selections from Epictetus' Discourses, I would introduce them to Cicero instead.  On Duties provides a more systematic framework, which gives them a brief look at natural law theory as well as Stoic virtue ethics.

Hopefully these will be of use to others who would like to study a classic work of Stoic ethics.  Cicero himself was not a Stoic, but he drew heavily upon Stoic philosophy, and this book is a reworking and addition to an earlier work by Panaetius, the sixth leader of the Stoic school.

Here are the 22 videos, associated into sections by content, starting with the introductory material.  hopefully they will help viewers better understand the key ideas as they work their way through Cicero's On Duties.

Apr 6, 2018

Descartes And The Third Class of Person

Readers typically encounter Rene Descartes through one of two of his main works. It's either the Discourse on Method or the Meditations on First Philosophy.  Both provide some of the same outlines, insights, and even arguments central to Cartesian philosophy, but they do so in quite distinct manners.

In the Discourse - the one I focus upon here - Descartes begins by telling us the story of his own education, or more properly speaking, the narrative of his quest for knowledge that he could be certain about and thereby orient his life by.  This tale is in its broadest traits one we are all familiar with.  It furnishes the basic plot structure to many movies, shows, stories, and even songs in our own time.

A person starts out young, naive, and talented.  Endowed with a quick intellect, but not knowing much of anything at the start, he applies himself to the studies set before him by his teachers, and he excels.  But as he thinks over what he has learned, and as he compares it to what he learns through living and observing the world outside the school, worries and doubts begin to get their grips in him. 

This student has learned widely within, perhaps even mastered, what are acknowledged to be main subjects - domains of knowledge - but he comes to suspect and then realize that what he possesses does not amount to genuine knowledge.  It's not - to use the master-metaphor Descartes makes recourse to - a solid foundation upon which a lasting and secure edifice can be progressively constructed.

What then?  How will the hero of our story attain the object of his desire?  We typically telescope the narrative at this point - making it easier upon our students, or perhaps also ourselves - and move straightaway into the Cartesian method and the chain of arguments found in short form in the Discourse and in much greater depth within the Meditations.  Let's not do that here.

Mar 4, 2018

New Milwaukee Chapter of SOPHIA - And Our First Event!

Milwaukee now has a local chapter of SOPHIA!  This is a national organization devoted to bringing philosophy out of the academy and back into the public sphere.

For those of you in the area, we'd love for you to join us at our first event for the general public - Where Do Justice and Kindness Meet?

We will be meeting in the Community Room of the Milwaukee Public Library - Central Branch.  The event begins at 1:30 PM, and runs until about 4:00 PM on Saturday, March 17.  To sign up for this event, to learn more, or to join our local SOPHIA chapter, go to our Meetup page.

Feb 22, 2018

Eight Recent Appearances

Since posting back in September about "A Baker's Dozen of Interviews and Guest Appearances", I've continued to do a number of other appearances on podcasts and radio shows.  These might be of interest to some of my readers, subscribers, followers, and fans. 

So it's about time for another round-up of the more recent  podcast and show appearances since then - what I've been doing over the last five months.  So, here they are - the shows, a brief description of what topics we talked about, and where you can watch or listen to each of them:


The Death Hangout (hosted by Olivier Lavor and Keith Clarke) - what legacy means to us, death and the soul, Stoic views on legacy and life, Martin Heidegger and "being towards death", emotional attitudes towards death – listen here

Zero Books Podcast (hosted by Doug Lain) - my backstory, the Half Hour Hegel project, doing philosophy on YouTube, some Marx, some Nietzsche, modern Stoicism, and the notion of eclecticism – listen here

Image For Hire Radio Show (hosted by The Skrauss on Riverwest Radio) - my work as a “freelance philosopher”, Plato’s allegory of the cave, what philosophical counseling does, what virtue ethics and images have to do with each other, and even some H.P. Lovecraft – listen here

Paul Kovalski Podcast (hosted by Paul Kovalski) - transition from being a traditional academic to a practical philosopher and entrepreneur, lessons I’ve learned, fears and obstacles entrepreneurs encounter, and how Stoic philosophy and other virtue ethics can be useful – listen here

The Panpsycast (hosted by Jack Symes and Olly Marley) - Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy, key themes of his works, the death of God and transvaluation of values, and his relevance for the present – listen to the first part here and the second part here

The Stoic Creative (hosted by Scott Perry) - a roundtable discussion on Stoicism and creativity, featuring myself, Chris Gill, Debbie Joffe-Ellis, and others – you can watch or listen here

The Stoic Body Podcast (hosted by Philip Ghezelbash) -  discussing Stoic philosophy as applied to health, veering off into discussion of food, animal rights, and fasting – watch or listen here

Stoic Mettle Podcast: hosted by Scott Hebert, discussing Stoicon and Stoic Week, the growth of modern Stoicism, prospects for Stoic philosophy in the present – you can listen here


If you've got a podcast, video channel, show or site and you'd like to bring me on, reach out to me, and we'll get a conversation going!