Friday, May 15, 2020

Stephen West: Philosophy/Critical Theory/Podcaster

"Philosophize This!: The Popular, Entertaining Philosophy Podcast from an Unconventional Teacher." Open Culture (April 11, 2014)

Weinberg, Justin. "A True Lover of Philosophy." Daily Nous (May 3, 2014: also check out the comments)

West, Stephen. "A Basic Look at Post-Modernism." Philosophize This (May 21, 2018)

---. "An Appeal to Reason for All the Militant Atheists Out There." HuffPost (June 14, 2014)

---. "Antonio Gramsci on Cultural Hegemony." Philosophize This! #131 (May 23, 2019) ["Gramsci begins his explanation by evoking and repurposing a word that had been thrown around all throughout human history but it was a word that he thought in recent years was starting to take on an entirely new meaning. The thing that was responsible for allowing a particular social class to ascend to power and then maintain a privileged status…was what he called Cultural Hegemony. This concept of hegemony is going to become massively important to the political conversation of the 20th and 21st centuries and by the end of this arc of the show we’re going to have looked at it from a lot of different perspectives. Maybe we should start from the origins of the word…the word hegemony originates in ancient Greece…the root of the word comes from the greek word meaning “to lead”, some translators say it’s closer to “to rule over”…but either way during antiquity there were things called hegemons…now in the context of ancient Greece a hegemon was typically a state that had a significant military advantage over another state…the arrangement being that if the weaker state didn’t comply with certain demands from the hegemon they would be annexed or dominated militarily or burned to the ground, take your pick. The term hegemony implied the threat of physical dominance over a population of people…this was the case all throughout human history. But Gramsci is going to say that in our modern world the definition of the word hegemony needs to evolve with the political reality we are living in. We are no longer living in a world where most political control is exercised by military dominance over a population of people. Since the advent of mass media people in positions of power have realized that a much more effective way of controlling populations is by manipulating the cultural parameters that citizens have to navigate. The general idea is this: to be a human being living a life in our modern world…you always HAVE to be living that life immersed within a particular culture. But what IS a culture other than an elaborate collection of norms, rules, structures, mores, taboos, rituals, values, symbolic gestures…these things are not exactly abstract concepts…they are acute. They are visible. This is the cultural custom of a handshake to pay deference to someone else. This is not talking with your mouth full. This is the sum total of every ritual we engage in on a daily basis that all come together to create a cohesive society. But what Gramsci is going to ask is: who exactly created all of these norms and taboos that we abide by?"]

---. "Capitalism vs Communism." Philosophize This #81 (May 10, 2016)

---. "Carl Schmitt on Liberalism, Part 1." Philosophize This! (July 1, 2019) ["When John Dewey and Antonio Gramsci show up with their lunchbox the first day at the new job…this is the first order of business that people like them are going to have to deal with. Now, it’s right here that we can understand why the two of them went in the respective directions they did…because like we talked about the beginning of the 20th century can be broadly understood in terms of three major branches of political discussion, three primary conversations…that are going on…we’ve already talked about two of them and understanding all three of them is absolutely crucial because the contents OF these conversations is going to go on to dictate the direction of almost all subsequent political philosophy all the way up to the present day…when a philosopher sets out to contribute something to the political discussion of the 20th century they are almost without exception doing so in consideration to one of these three major critiques of the way we’ve done things in the past. Once again, what we’ve done in the past is Liberal Capitalist Democracy…the three major critiques are going to be John Dewey and his critique of traditional Democracy…Antonio Gramsci and his critique of Capitalism…and the guy we’re going to be talking about today…the philosopher Carl Schmitt and his critique of Liberalism."]

---. "Carl Schmitt on Liberalism, Part 2." Philosophize This! (July 1, 2019) ["So maybe the best place to begin our discussion today is just to say that the fact that the sovereign still exists at some level in our Liberal societies shouldn’t come as an enormous surprise to people. I mean, after all what exactly are systems of norms like the constitution trying to normalize? Carl Schmitt would ask if the constitution is a regulatory document…what exactly is it regulating? He would say that what it is regulating is the more fundamental, underlying political process that has been going on since the dawn of civilization. Liberalism’s been tacked on after the fact…makes us feel good…helps us FEEL like the world is a lot more peaceful and tolerant than its ever been…but once again, the reality of the world to Carl Schmitt, the reason we haven’t seen a respite from dictatorships, bloodshed and political instability is because we are still engaged in the exact same political process we’ve always been engaged in…one ROOTED in intolerance…to Carl Schmitt the foundation of the political lies in a distinction between friend and enemy."]

---. "Consequences of Reason." Philosophize This! #134 (August 7, 2019)

---. "Derrida and Words." Philosophize This (June 25, 2018)

---. "Dewey and Lippman on DemocracyPhilosophize This #130 (May 23, 2019)

---. "The Frankfurt School - Introduction." Philosophize This #108 (August 17, 2017) ["The Frankfurt School, also known as the Institute of Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung), is a social and political philosophical movement of thought located in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. It is the original source of what is known as Critical Theory. The Institute was founded, thanks to a donation by Felix Weil in 1923, with the aim of developing Marxist studies in Germany. The Institute eventually generated a specific school of thought after 1933 when the Nazis forced it to close and move to the United States, where it found hospitality at Columbia University, New York."]

---. "The Frankfurt School (Part 2) - The Enlightenment." Philosophize This #109 (August 26, 2017)

---. "The Frankfurt School (Part 3) - The Culture Industry." Philosophize This #110 (September 7, 2017)

---. "The Frankfurt School (Part 4) - Eros." Philosophize This #111 (October 20, 2017)

---. "The Frankfurt School (Part 5) - Civilization." Philosophize This #112 (November 6, 2017)

---. "The Frankfurt School (Part 6) - Art As a Tool for Liberation." Philosophize This (December 2, 2017)

---. "The Frankfurt School (Part 7): The Great Refusal." Philosophize This (December 23, 2017)

---. "How to Tell a Facebook Flatterer From a Facebook Friend." HuffPost (March 29, 2014)

---. "Jürgen Habermas – The Public Sphere." Philosophize This! #143 (May 1, 2020) ["When transnational corporations with very specific ends they’re trying to achieve OWN major media outlets. When there is so much power in controlling people’s values…Habermas thinks the economic/governmental system COLONIZES the lifeworld. Where we used to sit around the dinner table and have discussions to determine our thoughts about the world…we now turn on a screen and are SOLD ways to think about things. The further we got from the origins of the public sphere in those coffee houses back in France …the further we got away from communicative rationality. We got so far away from it we could barely SEE it anymore…to the point where brilliant thinkers like Adorno and Horkheimer wrote an entire book about rationality and didn’t even consider its existence! But for any chains we were supposedly wrapped in by the Enlightenment, Habermas thought the key to get us out of them was built into the Enlightenment all along. We just lost sight of it. The emancipatory potential of reason…reason’s ability to direct us AWAY from treating people as a means to an end…the type of reason GROUNDED in communication…GROUNDED in the pursuit of genuinely trying to understand the other person’s perspective and then working towards agreement…the type of reason that can allow us to make our decisions about things not by buying into an endless sales pitch, but by talking to our fellow citizens in the lifeworld comparing our individual perspecitives… True democracy, to Habermas, is when the lifeworld controls the system. Not the system controlling the lifeworld."]

---. "Michel Foucault (Part 1)." Philosophize This (August 15, 2018) ["Foucault himself would never describe [Discipline and Punish] as a 'history' of anything. Foucault hated the word history and almost never used it in his writing. He used words to describe this book more like, a geneology of the way we’ve treated criminals, or an archaeology of how criminals have been punished over the years. He hates the word history…because so often the word history brings with it a connotation… that we exist in our modern world at the end of this long historical timeline of events that have led to near constant progress. This idea that, hey, we used to be these barbaric savages that followed the playbook of Machievelli, the ends justify the means, we used to believe that it was morally acceptable for the king or the people in power to brutally torture and kill someone that was guilty of a heinous crime…but then HISTORY happened. Time went on…progress was made. Great political theorists came along…great leaders, great ethical philosophers did their work and we all realized the error of our ways and brought into existence a more modern world where everyone is much more free…the people in power inhibiting the lives of the average citizen far less than they used to . Foucault is going to call this assumption about history into question and really dig deeper into the idea of: how much has really changed when it comes to the fundamental relationship between those in power and the citizens?"]

---. "Michel Foucault Pt. 2 - The Order of Things." Philosophize This! #122 (September 24, 2018)

---. "Michel Foucault Pt. 3 - Power." Philosophize This (September 24, 2018)

---. "Plato." Philosophize This! (June 20, 2013)

---. "Richard Rorty." Philosophize This! 142 (May 1, 2020) ["Some people called Rorty a postmodernist…which would USUALLY place him in staunch opposition to anything that even SOUNDS like the word Enlightenment. Like EXCITEMENT! But let me tell ya…Rorty was a VERY exciting man. He REJECTED the title of postmodernist and most titles for that matter. He operated in a very unique realm for a thinker where like a TYPICAL post-structuralist he didn’t believe in any sort of grand narrative that could explain away the universe…but yet he was STILL…a die hard, card carrying fan…of the PROJECT of the Enlightenment overall. See in a world where there are so many 20th century thinkers hating on the Enlightenment…here is a guy some viewed as a post-structuralist, coming to its defense. Let me explain WHY he would DO something like this."]

---. "Socrates and the Sophists." Philosophize This! #3 (June 23, 2013) ["This week we talk about the prosperity of Athens and how it led to the rise and ideas of a group of philosopher teachers called the Sophists, we tied up some loose ends and helped put all that we've learned in the last two episodes into context with a graph of the Presocratics, and we ended by talking about a man named Socrates."]

---. "Structuralism and Context." Philosophize This (January 28, 2018) ["On this episode, we talk about the origins of Structuralism. Included is a discussion on the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, (born Nov. 26, 1857, Geneva, Switz.—died Feb. 22, 1913, Vufflens-le-Château), Swiss linguist whose ideas on structure in language laid the foundation for much of the approach to and progress of the linguistic sciences in the 20th century."]

---. "Structuralism and Mythology (Part 1)." Philosophize This! (March 18, 2018) ["On this episode, we talk about the mythology that underlies the media we consume and how it serves as an access point to the structures of culture."]

---. "Structuralism and Mythology (Part 2)." Philosophize This! (March 18, 2018)

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