Saturday, September 27, 2008

Stephen Pinker: Chalking it up to the Blank Slate

Steven Pinker, a native of Montreal, received his BA from McGill University in 1976 and his PhD in psychology from Harvard in 1979. After teaching at MIT for 21 years, he returned to Harvard in 2003, where he is Harvard College Professor and the Johnstone Professor of Psychology. Pinker's experimental research on cognition and language won the Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences, the Henry Dale Prize from the Royal Institute of Great Britan, and two prizes from the American Psychological Association. He has also received several honorary doctorates and numerous awards for graduate and undergraduate teaching, general achievement, and his books The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, and The Blank Slate. Pinker has also appeared in many television documentaries and writes frequently in the popular press, including in The New York Times, Time, and The New Republic.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Slavoj Žižek: What is the Question (Interview with Christopher Lydon)

Slavoj Zizek is a professor at the Institute for Sociology, Ljubljana and at the European Graduate School EGS who uses popular culture to explain the theory of Jacques Lacan and the theory of Jacques Lacan to explain politics and popular culture. He was born in 1949 in Ljubljana, Slovenia where he lives to this day but he has lectured at universities around the world. He was analysed by Jacques Alain Miller, Jacques Lacan's son in law, and is probably the most successful and prolific post-Lacanian having published over fifty books including translations into a dozen languages. He is a leftist and, aside from Lacan he was strongly influenced by Marx, Hegel and Schelling. In temperament, he resembles a revolutionist more than a theoretician. He was politically active in Slovenia during the 80s, a candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Slovenia in 1990; most of his works are moral and political rather than purely theoretical. He has considerable energy and charisma and is a spellbinding lecturer in the tradition of Lacan and Kojeve. (Click Here for Full Biography)

In New York on the last day of an American tour, absorbing the demise of Yankee Stadium and maybe of Wall Street as we thought we knew it, Zizek’s talk is a blast-furnace but not a blur. The theme through all Zizek’s gags is that the financial meltdown marks a seriously dangerous moment — dangerous not least because, as in the interpretation of 9.11, the right wing is ready to impose a narrative. And the left wing is caught without a narrative or a theory. “Today is the time for theory,” he says. “Time to withdraw and think.”
Audio Interview September 23, 2008.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jill Bolte Taylor: My Stroke of Insight

Jill Bolte Taylor (1959–) is a neuroanatomist who specializes in the postmortem investigation of the human brain. She is affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine, is the national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, and is the consulting neuroanatomist for the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute. Her own personal experience with a massive stroke, experienced in 1996 at age 37, and her subsequent nine-year recovery, has informed her work as a scientist and speaker. For this work, in May 2008 she was named to Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world. (Bio taken here)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Martin Seligman: What Positive Psychology Can Help You Become

Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., works on positive psychology, learned helplessness, depression, and on optimism and pessimism. He is currently Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is well known in academic and clinical circles and is a best-selling author.

His most recent book is the best-selling, Authentic Happiness (Free Press, 2002). He is the recipient of two Distinguished Scientific Contribution awards from the American Psychological Association, the Laurel Award of the American Association for Applied Psychology and Prevention, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Society for Research in Psychopathology. He holds an honorary Ph.D. from Uppsala, Sweden and Doctor of Humane Letters from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.

Dr. Seligman received both the American Psychological Society's William James Fellow Award (for contribution to basic science) and the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award (for the application of psychological knowledge). (Bio taken here)

Jonathan Haidt: The Real Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives

Jonathan Haidt is associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. His research focuses on the psychological bases of morality across different cultures and political ideology. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He was awarded the Templeton Prize in Positive Psychology in 2001. His book The Happiness Hypothesis examines ten "great ideas" dating from antiquity and their continued relevance to the happy life. A certain portion of his research has been focused on the emotion of elevation. (bio taken here)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Robert Brandom: Interview

Robert Brandom is Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, a fellow of the Center for the Philosophy of Science, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His interests center on philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of logic. He has published more than 50 articles on these and related areas. He is currently at work on a book on Hegel's Phenomenology He has been a Nelson Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan (1990), delivered the Hempel Lectures at Princeton (1994), and the Townsend Lectures at Berkeley (1997).

Friday, September 19, 2008

Amartya Sen: The Violence of Illusion

Amartya Sen is Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, at Harvard University and was until recently the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has served as President of the Econometric Society, the Indian Economic Association, the American Economic Association and the International Economic Association. He was formerly Honorary President of OXFAM and is now its Honorary Advisor. Born in Santiniketan, India, Amartya Sen studied at Presidency College in Calcutta, India, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is an Indian citizen. He was Lamont University Professor at Harvard also earlier, from1988 – 1998, and previous to that he was the Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University, and a Fellow of All Souls College (he is now a Distinguished Fellow of All Souls). Prior to that he was Professor of Economics at Delhi University and at the London School of Economics. (bio taken here)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

John McDowell: Intention in Action

John H. McDowell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. Before coming to Pittsburgh in 1986, he taught at University College, Oxford. He has held visiting appointments at Harvard University, the University of Michigan, UCLA, and Princeton University. He was the John Locke Lecturer at Oxford University in 1991. His major interests are Greek philosophy, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology, and ethics. He is a fellow of the British Academy and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (Bio taken here)

McDowell is a contemporary philosopher whose most influential work has been in the philosophy of mind and language. He questions whether empirical thought is rationally grounded in experience in this Howison Lecture in Philosophy from UC Berkeley.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Donald Davidson and Richard Rorty: A Discussion

Donald Davidson was one of the most important philosophers of the latter half of the twentieth century. His ideas, presented in a series of essays from the 1960's onwards, have been influential across a range of areas from semantic theory through to epistemology and ethics. Davidson's work exhibits a breadth of approach, as well as a unitary and systematic character, which is unusual within twentieth century analytic philosophy. Thus, although he acknowledged an important debt to W. V. O. Quine, Davidson's thought amalgamates influences (though these are not always explicit) from a variety of sources, including Quine, C. I. Lewis, Frank Ramsey, Immanuel Kant and the later Wittgenstein. And while often developed separately, Davidson's ideas nevertheless combine in such a way as to provide a single integrated approach to the problems of knowledge, action, language and mind. The breadth and unity of his thought, in combination with the sometimes-terse character of his prose, means that Davidson is not an easy writer to approach. Yet however demanding his work might sometimes appear, this in no way detracts from either the significance of that work or the influence it has exercised and will undoubtedly continue to exercise. Indeed, in the hands of Richard Rorty and others, and through the widespread translation of his writings, Davidson's ideas have reached an audience that extends far beyond the confines of English-speaking analytic philosophy. Of late twentieth century American philosophers, perhaps only Quine has had a similar reception and influence. (bio taken here)

J.B. Schneewind: What Has Moral Philosophy Done For Us Lately?

Jerome B. Schneewind is a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. He received his B.A. from Cornell and his Ph.D. from Princeton. Schneewind taught at Chicago, Princeton, Yale University, the University of Pittsburgh (where he was also for several years Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences) and Hunter College CUNY where he was also Provost before coming to Hopkins as chair of the philosophy department in 1981. He has also taught at Leicester, Stanford, and Helsinki. He taught courses on the history of ethics, types of ethical theory, the British empiricists, Kant's ethics, and utopian thought.

He has held Mellon, Guggenheim, and NEH fellowships and spent 1992-1993 as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences. He is a past president of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as Chair of the American Philosophical Association's Board of Officers from July 1999 to June 2002. (bio taken here)

A discussion of Richard Rorty's challenge to the relevance of contemporary ethics.

Click Window to Play

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Henry Louis Gates Jr. & Cornel West: A Discussion About Race

A discussion with Henry Louis Gates, chairman of the Department of African American studies at Harvard University, and Cornel West, professor of African American studies at Harvard, about their book "The Future of the Race", which examines the W.E.B. Du Bois essay, "The Talented Ten". Gates and West also discuss civil rights, apartheid, affirmative action and what race relations in America will look like over the next fifty years.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sam Harris: The Problem with Atheism

Mr. Harris' writing has been published in over ten languages. He and his work have been discussed in Newsweek, TIME, The New York Times, Scientific American, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Nature, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.

Mr. Harris is a graduate in philosophy from Stanford University. He is completing a doctorate in neuroscience, studying the neural basis of belief with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). (Bio taken here)

AAI Lecture: The Problem with Atheism

Monday, September 8, 2008

Billy Collins

About Collins, the poet Stephen Dunn has said, "We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going. I love to arrive with him at his arrivals. He doesn't hide things from us, as I think lesser poets do. He allows us to overhear, clearly, what he himself has discovered."

In 2001, Collins was named U.S. Poet Laureate. His other honors and awards include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Click Here to watch a reading by Billy Collins, introduced by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, where he gives the final reading of his tenure as U. S. Poet Laureate.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Giogio Agamben: What is a Paradigm?

Giorgio Agamben, Phd.,: Baruch Spinoza Chair at EGS, is a professor of aesthetics at the University of Verona, Italy and teaches philosophy at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris and at the University of Macerata in Italy. As Post-Doc he participated in seminars with Martin Heidegger in Freiburg and directed the Italian Walter Benjamin Edition. Agamben's unique blending of literary theory, continental philosophy, political thought, religious studies, literature and art makes him one of the most challenging thinkers of our time. He was a visiting professor in Paris and taught at American universities such as UC Berkeley, Los Angeles, Irvine, Santa Cruz, and Northwestern. (Click Here for full bio)