“The Humanities in America: The Case for Public Funding” with Brenna Daugherty

What are the humanities and why are they important? How can the National Endowment for the Humanities claim that their activities are “critical to our common civic life as a nation?” And most controversially, should the U.S. government fund such cultural endeavors? In this episode of Why? we examine the philosophical issues related to what has come to be called the public humanities: the effort of both private and governmental organizations to create and supports events that disseminate philosophy, history, literature, and other arts to the general public. Continue reading “The Humanities in America: The Case for Public Funding” with Brenna Daugherty

“Ideology and Curriculum: 30 Years of a Discussion” with Michael W. Apple

What political and economic forces affect teachers as they write their lesson plans? How does socialization create the kind of education we give our children? Why isn’t school politically neutral? In our next episode of Why? we will ask these questions and more, focusing on Michal Apple’s influential book Ideology and Curriculum. For thirty years, the book has challenge educators, directed policy conversations, and inspired those who want to think differently about schools and their roles in a democracy. Continue reading “Ideology and Curriculum: 30 Years of a Discussion” with Michael W. Apple

“On Self-Deception” with Amelie Rorty

Amelie Rorty tells us that self-deception is useful, yet this belief runs counter to much that we hold dear. What of truth and integrity? What of self-knowledge? These question lie at the core of a wide-ranging discussion about who we are, how we relate to the world around us, and our relationship with knowledge. Join Why? for a discussion that helps distinguish self-deception from delusion, ambivalence from skepticism, and how we actually live from how we think we do.Continue reading “On Self-Deception” with Amelie Rorty

“What is Critical Thinking?” with Harvey Siegel

Is it ever possible to actually persuade anybody? How do we best critically analyze our own opinions? Is human rationality really that which lies at our decision making process? Is there a right answer and how do modern diversity considerations interfere with arguments seeking the Truth? These questions mark only the beginning of discussions regarding critical thinking and the role of informal logic in people’s day to day life. Join Harvey Siegel for a discussion on how people think, whether thinking skills can actually be improved, and coping with relativism in an argument. Continue reading “What is Critical Thinking?” with Harvey Siegel

“The Other Economics: Welfare, Development, and Justice” with Amartya Sen

It is easy to think that all economists believe the free market solves every problem and that government assistance is a detriment to distributive justice. Nobel Prize winning economist and philosopher Amartya Sen argues otherwise. His groundbreaking work on famine, human capabilities, gender equality, and justice are found at the core of “development economics.” In this episode of Why?, Sen will discuss all these issues and their connection to philosophy. How are human capabilities related to democracy? Why is famine a political problem rather than simply one of food supply? How does all of this stem from a misunderstanding of Adam Smith and the connections between morality and commercial structures? Join Amartya Sen for an exciting and timely discussion about justice and the economic structures that help bring it to everyone in the world. Continue reading “The Other Economics: Welfare, Development, and Justice” with Amartya Sen

“The Morality (and Legality) of Universal Healthcare” with guest Sharona Hoffman

Very few issues are more on the American mind than health care right now. But what are the philosophical issues behind the politics? Does the state have a moral obligation to provide health care to others? Do citizens have the duty to pay for it? And given that the constitution is silent on the question of health care, what is the relationship between legality and morality? Sharona Hoffman will join us to ask these and other timely questions for what is bound to be a controversial but exciting show. Continue reading “The Morality (and Legality) of Universal Healthcare” with guest Sharona Hoffman

“Justice, Caring, and the Mentally Disabled” with Eva Feder Kittay

Modern political philosophy has argued that justice requires full equality for those who can both carry the burdens and get the benefits from participating in social cooperation. But what about those who cannot fulfill these obligations because of limited mental capacities? Are these people still due justice, and if so, what sort of equality could we expect to grant them? In other words, what do we owe to those among us who are not capable of participating in society in typical ways because of their cognitive limitations? These and other questions will focus the discussion with Eva Kittay, author of the highly influential book Love’s Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency. Does justice presuppose participation, and what happens when we shift the obligation from duty to caring for others? This discussion will get to the core of what we believe we owe others and what it means to live in a society where difference means more than just religious, ethnic, or political difference. It goes to the heart of what it means to be human in society. Continue reading “Justice, Caring, and the Mentally Disabled” with Eva Feder Kittay

“Literature in the Digital Age” with Crystal Alberts

Is a book on the web still a book? Do hyperlinks change the role of narrative? What is an author if anyone can publish anything whenever they want? These questions frame Why?’s first episode in front of a live audience. Recorded at the newly renovated opera house in New Rockford, North Dakota, guest Crystal Alberts will crack open “philosophy of literature” to help us investigate our assumptions about reading, writing, and art in general. An expert in “new media,” we will take the opportunity to ask her the kinds of questions that come up all-too-often in today’s computerized world. What does interactivity do to the experience of reading? How does the urgency of “hipness” compare with the time-tested lessons of the classics? What does the world “classic” mean anyway? Is the feel of paper on your fingers a necessary component of good reading?Continue reading “Literature in the Digital Age” with Crystal Alberts

“Exporting Democracy” with Paul E. Sum

“Democracy assistance” has become ever more important to U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Its goal is to help usher in or encourage democratic practices amongst the world. But these attempts raise many philosophical questions including whether it is possible to “export” democracy at all. Paul E. Sum is a political scientist whose research explores the effectiveness of such democracy assistance programs in the post-communist world. In late July, he will travel to Romania for one year to investigate that country’s transition to democracy. With this episode of WHY?, we will catch up with him before he goes and ask a range of preliminary but related questions: What is a democracy? What conditions are necessary for a transition to this form of government? What method most effectively delivers democracy assistance? And, what has the track record of the US attempt to foster democracy been so far? We hope, when he returns, to revisit these questions and discover what new information he can provide about the process of democratization in Romania and around the world. Continue reading “Exporting Democracy” with Paul E. Sum

“America’s So-Called Decline” with Mark Stephen Jendrysik

Today’s pundits and politicians love to tell us that America is in decline. Michael Moore, Bill O’Reilly, Patrick Buchanan, Bill Clinton, and even philosophers like Allan Bloom and Noam Chomsky work to persuade us that America has lost its way. But this message is nothing new. From the earliest moments of North American settlement people have been preaching American downfall, yet this “jeremiad” – the use of the theme of downfall named after the biblical Book of Jeremiah – “does not invite discussion. It is not designed to create debate. It preaches to the converted, or at best draws in those who have not considered the issues before and are ready to be converted.” So writes Mark Jendrysik, author of the book Modern Jeremiahs: Contemporary Visions of American Decline.” Continue reading “America’s So-Called Decline” with Mark Stephen Jendrysik

“Competition, Society, and the Athlete” with Paul Gaffney

What is the meaning of athletic competition and how should we understand its prominence in our society? Is victory the chief criterion of success or are other values significant? Does it play a moral role in our society? Can it teach us something? Is competition beautiful? Can we justify the enormous investments made in our professional and amateur sporting enterprises? What precisely is the satisfaction gained by athletic achievement? Continue reading “Competition, Society, and the Athlete” with Paul Gaffney

“Philosophy of Hunting” with Lawrence E. Cahoone

What happens when a philosopher raised outside of a culture that promotes hunting takes up the sport? What philosophical lessons can he learn from the experience and how can he describe them in existential terms? Lawrence Cahoone asks these questions and more. Growing up in the urban and suburban Northeast, he had no experience of hunting. But in middle-age, after moving to a rural area, he decided that if he was going to eat meat he ought to find some himself. It seemed only fair. So, he began to hunt. But as a philosophy professor, he was forced to reflect on the experience in a very particular way. Was it moral to shoot animals? What does it feel like to seek and to kill? What was involved in entering the “wild on wild” business? Philosophers have debated whether hunting is a violation of animal rights, a friend to the environment, or a sport. But what Larry ended up asking was something more basic. In the end, he wanted to know: what does hunting mean? Continue reading “Philosophy of Hunting” with Lawrence E. Cahoone