Jan 16, 2018

Deriving The Cardinal Virtues In Cicero's On Duties

Two questions came up recently about Stoicism and the virtues in one of my social media feeds.  How did they end up with those four main virtues - Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Temperance - and do they provide any argument or rational proof for those being the main virtues?

Quite likely, more complete responses to these questions would be found in some of the Stoic literature that has unfortunately been lost.  But we do still have some more or less complete answers provided in some of the literature discussing and presenting Stoic doctrines.  Anyone who wants to understand what Stoics actually taught and thought about the virtues can check out the discussions in Diogenes Laertes, Lives of the Philosophers, book 7 - which focuses entirely on the Stoic school - or in Arius Didymus' Epitome of Stoic Ethics.

Another excellent place to go is the works of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who - although not a Stoic himself - certainly viewed their moral philosophy in a positive light.  He provides not only their views, but also many of their arguments, in work after work.  One book that is particularly important for understanding how the Stoics came up with their four virtues is On Duties.

I taught book 1 of that work last semester, in my Ethics classes at Marquette University.  As I typically do, I created some new core concept videos on key ideas from On Duties for my students.  These below focus on the four virtues and how the Stoics derived a proper understanding of each of these virtues from consideration of basic features and impulses of human nature.
You'll notice - as you read the early chapters of book 1 of On Duty - that Cicero and the Stoics aren't arbitrarily picking these four virtues out of a hat.  Each of them is a main mode of distinctively human excellence, rooted in our common and complex human nature.

Nov 27, 2017

November Philosophy Pop-Up Sessions

Since August, I've been engaging in a new sort of interaction with my various subscribers, fans, and followers - Philosophy Pop-Up sessions.  These are streaming sessions, hosted monthly on YouTube Live and Facebook Live.  Participants can watch or listen, and have the chance in real time to ask questions or leave comments, to which I do my best to respond.

I schedule each of these for one hour, but they sometimes go a bit longer.  Originally, the goal was to make them a good bit shorter - closer to 30 minutes in time - but as it turns out, people didn't want the sessions to end as quickly as intended!

The November sessions were devoted to a thinker I talked about quite a bit this month - Friedrich Nietzsche - and specifically to the "three noble responses to the problem of life" laid out in his book The Birth of Tragedy.  If you missed them, here they are:

As always, these sessions are underwritten by the generous support of my Patreon backers.  If you'd like to learn more, or to start supporting the work I do making philosophy accessible world wide, go to my Patreon page!

Oct 19, 2017

Ten Videos On John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism

One of the most commonly taught texts in Ethics classes is John Stuart Mill's classic work, Utilitarianism.  I give it a central place in my own classes, generally as a companion text to Jeremy Bentham's founding work for utilitarian moral theory, The Principles of Morals and Legislation.  Together, they provide a great overview of that approach in ethics.

Students do struggle with Mill's work, so some time back, I started creating short Core Concept videos specifically on Utilitarianism.  The first few of these, I actually shot during my class discussions.  Then, a few years ago, I created several additional videos.  I provided the entire set to my students - in both face-to-face and online classes - as a resource to help them through the text.

Since I'm now once again in the classroom - teaching two sections of Ethics for Marquette University this semester - I thought I'd add a few more videos on key ideas of Mill's Utilitarianism.  As it turned out, there were four topic that I thought needed additional discussion.  This brings the total number in to ten - enough to cover all the main ideas of the work.

Here is the full set of videos on John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism.
I hope they prove useful for you as you read - or reread - Mill's work.  And if you find it helpful for you, consider passing this post on to other people you think might find it helpful.  If you'd like to support the work I do, making philosophy accessible to the general public, take a look at my Patreon page.

Oct 12, 2017

October Philosophy Pop-Up Sessions

If you missed the monthly Philosophy Pop-Up Sessions we held online earlier on in October - before I got totally bogged down (not complaining - I love that stuff!) with Stoicon 2017, Stoicon-X Toronto, and Stoic Week - there's some good news for you!

In fact, there's two bits of good news.  The first is that I'll be doing another two Philosophy Pop-Ups this coming month of November.  Since I've got several other commitments focused on the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche coming up this month - a podcast episode, a webinar, and two online seminars - that will be the main theme for the pop-up sessions this time around.

All of my Patreon supporters find out the exact dates and times for these live events at the start of each month.  For everyone else, I announce the Philosophy Pop-Ups earlier on the day that we hold them - so you can check my social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) to find out when they are occurring.

The second bit of good news is that, since we hold these sessions through YouTube Live and Facebook Live, you can always go back and watch them later.  You can even write comments on the videos.  This month, the sessions focused on Stoicism, and specifically on Epictetus and what is called the "dichotomy of control".

Here are the videos from those two sessions:

Oct 4, 2017

Seven Videos on Nietzsche's "On Truth and Lying In An Extra-Moral Sense"

I'm slowly making good on some of the video commitments I made to my Patreon supporters.  At the start of the summer, I polled them to find out which thinkers they most wanted me to focus on, and the three winners were Immanuel Kant, Martin Heidegger, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

First, I created a number of Kant core concept videos, finishing up the sequence I started years back on his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.  Then I shifted focus to Heidegger, and shot an entire sequence of videos on his key essay "What Is Metaphysics?" (available here).  Then I started thinking about what text I wanted to tackle for Nietzsche.

I decided on his own short essay, "On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense," (available here) since that also introduces some main ideas of his in a fairly straightforward - though for many readers still challenging - manner, and I created a series of seven short videos covering that work.

Here they are:
I hope you find them useful for approaching this major philosopher. Love him, hate him, agree or disagree - Nietzsche is definitely someone worth reading and thinking about! 

What's next when it comes to my work of producing these core concept videos?  Any more Nietzsche coming?  Right now, I'm shooting new videos on John Stuart Mill, Cicero, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Aquinas for the Ethics classes I'm teaching this semester.  But I'm hoping to get back to Nietzsche soon - and to start creating new core concept videos, most likely on his Birth of Tragedy.

Sep 27, 2017

Philosophy Pop-Ups From September

Back in August, I started a new side project - doing live Philosophy Pop-Up sessions online.  I held the second set earlier this month.  For each of these, I pick a topic to start with, log on to either Facebook Live or YouTube Live, start talking about the topic, and then start responding to viewers' questions or comments.

Last month, we started out talking about Martin Heidegger's philosophy.  This month, I tackled a topic I'm currently writing a book about - Stoicism and its central focus on "living in accordance with nature".  We had several hundred people watching these live sessions - and quite a few of those people leaving comments or asking questions - so I extended the time from the originally planned 30-40 minutes to over an hour for each.

These are indeed "pop-ups" - I announce them in my social media on the day that I'm holding them.  I do make an exception for my Patreon supporters, as a perk for them - I let them know at the start of the month the day and time when each of the Philosophy Pop-Ups will take place.  (If you're interested in supporting my work - and getting some of those cool perks - here's my Patreon page).

Next month, since we'll be having Stoic Week, I'm also going to focus on something Stoic-related.  I haven't quite decided on the topic - quite likely I'll poll my Patreon supporters to tap their insights about it.  But you can bet there will be two more of these sessions in October - one on Facebook Live, the other on YouTube Live.

For those who missed the sessions this month, here are the video-recordings.

So, if you're not a Patreon supporter, you'll want to stay tuned to my Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn social media presence - I'll be announcing both of the October sessions on Stoicism earlier in the day of those Philosophy Pop-Ups!

Sep 4, 2017

A Baker's Dozen of Interviews and Guest Appearances

I love doing interviews and putting in guest appearances, for several reasons.  Each new podcast, website, video series, or other venue that I go on expands my audience in some way.  That means that the ideas that I'm speaking about get a hearing from a wider range of people - and that's good.  It also adds potential new clients and opens up additional opportunities for the work I do, as a practical philosopher.  Going on someone else's show or site, and getting into conversations about what I do and what I'm passionate about, forces me to reexamine and improve my own skill-sets ass a communicator.

A good part of what I do involves articulating and applying resources culled from philosophy to common problems, issues, and challenges.  Some of that work focuses primarily on personal matters that impact not just academics, but also ordinary people and working professionals.  Other portions of that work bear upon institutions, organizations, and leadership.  So providing guest appearances and interviews - this is something that really struck home in the last few months - is really a natural extension of the work I'm already engaged in - putting philosophy into practice.

Since the start of 2017, I've done more than a dozen interviews or guest appearances - about a wide range of topics, issues, and philosophical ideas - appearing online in print, podcast, and video forms. I'm scheduled to go on several others later in the year, and just gave another interview yesterday with the New Acropolis. On that note, if you've got a podcast, platform, or site and would like to have me come on as a guest, reach out to me by email!