'Thinking Out Loud' - Philosophical Dialogues With Everyday People
Summary: Join Steve Donaldson and his citizen philosopher guests for monthly discussions on topics that boggle the mind and vex the soul. What is love? What is evil? Does free will exist? These are some of the questions we examine in this on-going series of philosophical dialogues with everyday people. Your participation is encouraged. See our web site at www.citizenphilosopher.com for instructions on how you can join the live discussions using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology. The live sessions are recorded and then released as podcasts on iTunes and other podcast outlets. Enjoy.
Is it true that no one is perfect? Is perfection an impossible goal? Or are we perfect as we are? What does it mean or would it mean to be perfect? Does perfect mean to be flawless? Does it mean to be "suitable to one's purpose"? How are we to know our purpose? Do we settle for mediocrity and decide not to strive for perfection because we are taught that perfection is not attainable? What would be on the list of "essentials" for human perfection? Is "carrying one's own weight" an essential element? Is doing one's fair share a subjective judgement or an obvious objective fact, when "all the dust has settled"? Does a virtue have to be objectively obvious to be an essential element of perfection? How about not laughing at the shortcomings of others and forgiving transgressions without hesitation? Are these essential elements of human perfection? Is it always appropriate to forgive? Is it wrong to have feeling of Schadenfreude (delight in another person's misfortune) even if one does not express them outwardly? Can one and should one control one's inner feelings, in order to be perfect? Does perfection also require making the most of one's talents, pursuing one's passions, and never selling out? What else might belong on the list? What can we say about physical perfection? How about perfection of temperament or personality? Aren't we born with some imperfections that we cannot change? How are we to pursue perfection? Is it a simple act of will? Is a personal transformation required? What are the roles of attitude, motivation, social context, support, and intervention in the pursuit of perfection? Isn't service to others part of perfection, especially in helping others to achieve their own perfection? Wouldn't a perfect person recognize that accomplishment, love, happiness and joy multiple in sharing? And even if perfection is not absolutely attainable, can we not strive in its direction? Does perfection not beckon us like a beautiful sunset on the distant horizon, perhaps out of reach, but guiding us and inspiring us nonetheless? Join citizen philosophers Carole Abel, Frank Ebbecke, Deborah Martin, Steven Stokes and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
Is liberty just a quaint and outdated word for freedom? What is freedom? Can we talk about one without the other? Is liberty personal, social, or political? Who decides our liberties? Our government? Our culture? Our conscience? What are we to be liberated from? Who or what oppresses us? Can we ever be completely liberated? Can we ever be completely free? Are wild animals free? Was Robinson Crusoe free on the deserted island? Was he liberated? Can we be free if we must continuously struggle for basic necessities? Does society curtail our freedoms or enhance them by providing a structure that eases the burden of survival? To what extent is freedom a question of attitude? To what extent is liberty a question of law? Does freedom for one come at the expense of freedom for another? Is it right to suspend civil liberties in the name of defending freedom? Is fear the enemy of freedom? Do our fears enslave us or protect us? Is it possible to have too much freedom? Does absolute freedom corrupt absolutely? Is liberation always a good thing? Doesn't national liberation lead to chaos? Doesn't personal liberation lead to the anxiety of choice? Is liberation an ends in itself, or just another beginning? If we don't exercise the freedoms we have, do they matter? To what end do we seek freedom? Join citizen philosophers Billie Lagerwerff, David Rood, Deborah Martin, Derek Breen, Erica Jensen, John Tytus, Luke, Rebbecca Quinn, Stephen Whiteman, Steven Stokes, Susan Patrick, and Uriah J. Fields and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
Are there any universal prerequisites to living the good life? Is the question totally subjective, or are there any objective measures? Is good health an essential element? Do physical impairments preclude living a good life? Do pain and suffering? How about impaired mental health? Must one have passions to live the good life? From whose perspective is one's life to be judged as good? Are pleasures, contentment, and happiness reliable indicators of a good life? When a sexual predator is fulfilling his passion, is he living the good life? Might passion be necessary, but not sufficient to a good life? How do we distinguish the essential prerequisites FOR a good life from the hallmarks OF a good life? Is peace of mind essential? Is it a cause or an effect? Can one's life be judged in progress, or must it be judged as a whole only after it has been completed, as one might judge a book or movie? What does it mean to be contributing to the goodness of the world? Are externally applied criteria any more objective than internal judgements? Can one have a good life by just appreciating the present moment? Is a spiritual framework necessary for a good life? Are the essentials for a good life the same throughout ones life? Is there a preferred or natural order to the unfolding of one's life? What does it take to stay on one's course, given that everyone's path may be different? What role does gratitude play in living the good life? Are not most of us living far better lives than even the kings and queens of previous centuries? Join citizen philosophers David Rood, Deborah Martin, George Garrett, John Tytus, Rachel Backburn, Stephen Whiteman, Steven Stokes, Susan Patrick and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
Are friendships optional? Are they necessary to live the good life? Is there a universal need to give and receive affection? Why do we treat our friends the way we do? Where do our feelings about friendships come from? Are friendships more "disposable" than they used to be? How do friendships come to be? How much is it by choice? How much is it by chance? Does it require willful action? What are friends for? What are the motives for making and keeping friends? How can we know if a friendship is "true"? What do we expect from friendship? How do expectations differ? Are friendships meant to last forever? What are the ethics of ending a friendship? Is friendship an investment? Is it ethical to end a friendship with unequal investment, "an unbalanced account"? Is it ethical to just fade away? Must we know and must we give a reason for ending a friendship? How do we reconcile the need to grow and to be free with the expectations of friendship? Can we ever fail to profit from our friendship "investment" so long as we see friendship as its own reward without any further expectations? Join citizen philosophers Deborah Martin, Steven Stokes, Uriah J. Fields and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
What makes a subject philosophical? What makes a conversation style philosophical? What is required for effective conversation of any kind? Is a cooperative style better than a confrontational style in philosophical discussions? What does it take to understand another's point of view? What is the objective of a good philosophical conversation? Is the search for meaning an essential part of any philosophical conversation? What fosters philosophical thinking in others? What stifles it? Are all philosophical questions timeless and universal? Are all timeless and universal questions philosophical? Must the philosophical topic lie outside the bounds of other established disciplines? Is a conversation about philosophical conversation, a philosophical conversation? Must the philosophical question be answerable? Must it be amenable to examination? What methods of examination are philosophical? How does one measure the success of a philosophical conversation? Who benefits from the conversation? What are the benefits? Are the benefits strictly intellectual? What does it take to benefit from a philosophical conversation? Can one find philosophical insight in any conversation? Can one find philosophical insight in entertainment? How can we find philosophical insight in any present moment? Join citizen philosophers Billie Lagerwerff, David Rood, Deborah Martin, John Tytus, Stephen Whiteman, Steven Stokes, Uriah J. Fields and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
What is collective responsibility? Does an individual have a responsibility to the collective? Does the collective have a responsibility to the individual? Is there really such a thing as "the collective"? Is the whole really greater than the sum of its parts? Are there not just individuals? On the other hand, is there really such a thing as a truly separate individual? Are we not all interconnected? Does accepting the benefits of group membership automatically impose some responsibilities on the individual toward the group? Does membership impart responsibility for the decisions of the group even if a particular member disagreed with those decisions? Must one renounce membership in a group in order to be absolved of collective responsibility for the group? If you are a member of a team, what are your responsibilities toward the other team members? What is your responsibility toward the team as a whole? What is your responsibility toward the mission of the team? What if these responsibilities conflict? What role does group identity play in collective responsibility? Are we responsible for decisions of collectives that we inherit such as previous generations or previous administrations? Is there not a distinction between assuming responsibility and assigning responsibility? Can responsibility be coerced? Doesn't responsibility have to be voluntary on at least some level, for it to be true responsibility? Does collective responsibility necessarily mean sacrificing individuality? How is the welfare of the individual related to the good of the group? Does membership in a group dilute individual responsibility? What is the role of dissent in a group and how does it relate to collective responsibility? Is not the final measure of responsibility in the action that is taken? Are we not today facing problems on such a scale that collective global action will be required for our very survival? Are we capable of exercising such collective responsibility? Join citizen philosophers Betsy, Billie Lagerwerff, David Rood, Deborah Martin, John Tytus, Stephen Whiteman, Steven Stokes, Uriah J. Fields and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
Where do responsibilities come from? Are they imposed upon us by our culture? Are there any responsibilities that are innate and universal? To whom are we responsible? Are we first and foremost responsible to ourselves? Do we have a responsibility to be authentic? Do we have a responsibility to grow - "to become our best self"? Do we have a responsibility to be introspective - "Know thyself"? Do we have any fundamental responsibility to others? Is our responsibility to others merely passive (do no harm) or is it also proactive (be of service)? Are we "our bother's keeper"? Does our responsibility to others extend beyond our culture? Is being responsible the same as being moral? Do we all have the same responsibilities? Are knowledge and ability prerequisites for responsibility? Do our responsibilities change as we grow older and more aware? How does our personal responsibility relate to our collective responsibility? (Watch for a future episode on "What is Collective Responsibility?") Join citizen philosophers Billie Lagerwerff, Deborah Martin, George Garrett, John Tytus, Steven Stokes, Uriah J. Fields and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
Is there something universal about atonement that explains why it seems to be a part of so many religious, spiritual, and personal growth practices? Is it prerequisite for a joyful life? What are the essential elements of atonement? Is the acknowledgement and confession of wrongdoing sufficient? Is it necessary to "make things right"? Can there be atonement in situations where damage cannot be undone? Are words and feelings sufficient? Is action required? Is payment necessary for atonement? Is payment sufficient? What is the role of the wronged party? What if the wronged party chooses not to forgive or cannot forgive? What if the wronged party is no longer living? With whom do we need to make things right? What is the role of a guilty conscience? Is atonement a selfish act to attain inner peace? What is the proper motivation for atonement? What about situations where the wrong is done by one group of people against another group of people collectively? Can one and should one atone for the actions of others? Are we responsible for the actions of your ancestors? Are we responsible for the action of our government? Can we choose to accept responsibility for the action of others, as an act of will? Do we need to atone for the damage being done to the planet as a whole? What debt do we inherit from those who proceed us? Whom do we owe? Whom can we pay? Join citizen philosophers David Rood, Deborah Martin, Uriah J. Fields and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
Is our conscience that voice inside our head, telling us what to do? Is there only one voice? How can we tell which voice is our conscience and which is the little devil on our shoulder? Can meditation help us hear the right voice? Is our conscience a voice in our head or a feeling in our gut? Is our conscience culturally acquired or innately present? When Huck Finn was running away with his slave, Jim, what was his conscience saying? Was it a reliable guide? Is our conscience a passive resource to be consulted or an active agent that intrudes itself upon us? Rather than an instrument providing an answer, could it be just an innate drive to grapple with the question? Are pangs of guilt a reliable indicator of wrong-doing? Does our conscience speak to us on multiple levels? Which is more reliable, our gut, our heart, or our head? How do we reconcile these multiple "voices" with the fact that we are really just one being? How does empathy relate to conscience? How universal is the conscience? Why do some individual get different answers from their conscience than someone else in the same situation? To what extent is our conscience programmed by our upbringing and our culture? Does the conscience mature with life experience? Are there universal stages of development for the conscience? Is our current narcissistic society and culture of rudeness a result of a lack of proper moral or ethical nurturing? Join citizen philosophers Billie Lagerwerff, David Rood, Deborah Martin, George Garrett, John Tytus, Steven Stokes and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
Why is this longstanding human desire taking so long? Is there something peculiar about mankind? Is human aggression different from aggression we see in nature? Where does aggression come from? How is individual violence different from the collective violence of war? How does collective action give "permission" for violence committed by individuals? Why don't individuals simply refuse to commit violence even when given permission by nations at war? Is it realistic to hope for eventual universal individual enlightenment as a solution? How does group identity and ideology justify aggression? Is war ever justified? Are wars of self-defense any better than wars of aggression? Are there longstanding peaceful nations we can look toward as role models? Can weaker nations enjoy peace only when the stronger nations dominate the conflicts? How is technology changing the balance of power among nations and other smaller organizations or groups? Is it possible to transform aggressor nations or groups? Do inequality of resources and real or perceived injustices justify aggression? Are nations just behaving like living, growing organisms with legitimate needs for resources? Are there sufficient avenues to address basic needs by nonviolent means? Would self-imposed population control be sufficient to end conflict? What can be done about the increasing appetites of the developed nations? Can a common global threat unite otherwise hostile people? Might the increasingly dire, global climate crisis be such a threat? Join citizen philosophers Derek Breen, Deborah Martin, Steven Stokes and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
To whom or what do we have the greater obligation, a friend or the principle of honesty? Is it okay to lie to avoid hurting a friend's feelings? Is it okay to lie to protect a friend from physical harm? What about for profit or simply to avoid embarrassment? What is "situational ethics" and does it apply here? In situational ethics, if there are no universal rules that apply to every situation, what criteria should we use? Who is and is not a friend? Do friends ask friends to lie? Does friendship imply obligation? Where do obligations come from? Are obligations externally imposed or internally chosen? What are the boundaries of friendship? Is telling the truth always a virtue? Is it friendlier to be discrete or to confront? What are the alternatives? Who owns the truth? Does one have the right to demand of another that they keep private information private? Does one have the right to impose the truth on someone who does not want to hear it? Is there a gender difference in the level of confidentiality expected in a friendship? At what point is it right to end a friendship to protect one's principles? Can civil laws resolve conflicting virtues? Should confidentiality laws always be obeyed? Is there a higher law to resolve conflicts of virtues? If so, what is it? Join citizen philosophers Billie Lagerwerff, Deborah Martin, George Garrett, John Tytus, Steven Stokes, Uriah J. Fields and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
What is mysticism? Why should we believe reports of mystical experiences? What do we mean by the term, "mystical experience"? How can we distinguish between mystical experiences and psychotic experiences or other abnormal psychological phenomenon? Is the mystical experience an experience of a higher state of consciousness? Among the great variety of altered states of consciousness, how are we to judge which is higher or lower than another? What are the distinguishing characteristics that set mystical experiences apart? Is deja vu a mystical experience? What is the relationship between mystical experience and ecstasy? Can drug intoxication induce mystical experiences? Is a loss of a sense of self, always an indication of a mystical experience? Is mysticism a skill that can be taught? What are the benefits of mysticism? Does one gain supernatural powers from being in a mystical state? What are we to make of reports of levitation? Is mysticism at odds with science? What can one see while in a mystical state, that one cannot see otherwise? How does mystical insight affect the way one lives one's life? Is the mystical experience always sudden and intense? Does it have to be a so called "peak experience"? Can the mystical state also be obtained by a gradual process? Will a healthy mind in a healthy environment, naturally progress to a higher state of consciousness given sufficient time to mature? Do age and life experience help create the conditions conducive to mystical awareness? As we reflect deeply on everyday experiences, are they not also mystical? Join citizen philosophers Billie Lagerwerff, John Tytus, Mike Grosso, Steven Stokes, Uriah J. Fields and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
Is religion the antithesis of philosophy? What do they have in common? How are they different? What are the origins of religion? What is the "religious experience"? How do interpretation, doctrine, and dogma enter into religion? Does man's search for meaning inevitably lead to religion? How does religion provide meaning? What is the role of the church and its hierarchy of priests? What are the dangers of religion? Where is the line between religious instruction and involuntary indoctrination? How is spirituality different from religion? What is the role of religion in community formation and maintenance? What can science and philosophy learn from religion? Can religions evolve? Is it still possible for altogether new world religions to come into being? Can a synthesis emerge out of the collision of science, philosophy, and conflicting world religions? What could art, literature, and poetry add to such a synthesis? Join citizen philosophers Billie Lagerwerff, George Garret, John Tytus, Mike Grosso, Steven Stokes and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
What is addiction? What are the similarities and distinctions between addictions, habits, compulsions, urges, and drives? Are addictions primarily physical or psychological? How do we develop addictions? Do addictions serve a purpose? What is the relationship between addiction and pain and suffering? Are all addictions bad? Can one become addicted to love or religion? Is there a transcendent element to addiction? Is intoxication necessarily an addiction? Is there a connection between the natural drives, such as sex and eating, and addictions? How do our emotions play into addiction? How much choice is involved in addiction? How does a behavior, that in some remains just episodic, become chronic in others? How can addictions be cured? Can addictions be broken voluntarily? What is the mechanism of the vicious circle? Is there a cultural component to addictions? Are some addictions actually encouraged in some cultures for the benefit of society at the expense of the individual? Join citizen philosophers George Garret, Mike Grosso, Uriah J. Fields and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.
As we celebrate America's 231st birthday, we ask ourselves what do we think of America's experiment in democratic self-governing? Has it turned out as planned? Is it functioning as it is supposed to? What is the function of democratic government? What are the risks in adopting a democratic form of government? How is America's democracy different from other democracies? How has it changed over the last two centuries? What developments, unforeseen by the original architects, are now interfering with the founding principles? What are the founding principles of our democracy? How are we to evaluate the health of a democracy? How does one cure an ailing democracy? What are the obstacles to maintaining a healthy democracy? Do we need to develop, invent, or evolve a new, more advanced form of government to overcome the ills of the older form? What might a more enlighten/mature form of government look like? How could it come into being? Would the older form of government need to be dismantled, or could the new be added on top of the old? Join citizen philosophers Billie Lagerwerff, Derek Breen, John Tytus, Ken Thompson and myself in this stimulating and insightful discussion. Music provided by David Rood.