The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast
The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast
Mark Linsenmayer
The Partially Examined Life is a podcast by some guys who were at one point set on doing philosophy for a living but then thought better of it. Each episode, we pick a short text and chat about it with some balance between insight and flippancy. You don't have to know any philosophy, or even to have read the text we're talking about to (mostly) follow and (hopefully) enjoy the discussion. For links to the texts we discuss and other info, check out www.partiallyexaminedlife.com. We also feature episodes from other podcasts by our hosts to round out your partially examined life, including Pretty Much Pop (prettymuchpop.com, covering all media), Nakedly Examined Music (nakedlyexaminedmusic.com, deconstructing songs), and (sub)Text (lit, film, psychoanalysis). Learn about more network podcasts at partiallyexaminedlife.com.
PEL Presents (sub)Text: Order and Innocence in Melville's "Billy Budd"
Bill Budd is a beautiful man. Not just good looking, but exquisitely good natured, something that costs him no effort and has required no instruction. And yet it is ultimately his beautiful soul and good nature that get Billy killed. Wes & Erin discuss Herman Melville’s final and unfinished work of fiction, and whether a good heart and good intentions are more important than obedience to authority and adherence to civilized norms. Subscribe: (sub)Text won’t always be in the PEL feed, so please subscribe to us directly: Apple | Spotify | Android | RSS Bonus content: The conversation continues on our after-show (post)script. Get this and other bonus content at by subscribing at Patreon. Follow (sub)Text: Twitter | Facebook | Website Thanks to Nick Ketter for the audio editing on this episode.
Nov 26
1 hr 32 min
Ep. 257: Locke Against Innate Ideas (Part One)
On Book I of John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689). How do we know things? Locke thought all knowledge comes from experience, and this might seem uncontroversial, but what are the alternatives? We consider the idea that there are some ideas we're just born with and don't need to learn. But what's an "idea," and how is it different from a principle? Clearly we have instincts ("knowhow") but is that knowledge? We consider occurrent vs. dispositional nativism, the role of reason, and what Locke's overall project is after. Don't wait for Part Two; get the full, ad-free Citizen Edition now. Please support PEL! Sponsors: Visit literati.com/life for $50 off your annual book club membership. Have your donation matched up to $250 at givewell.org/PEL (choose podcast and partially examined life at checkout). See headspace.com/PEL for a free month of guided meditations.
Nov 23
53 min
PEL Presents NEM#136: Mark Bingham: To and In New Orleans
Mark got signed as a teen in 1966, left to play theatrical prog jazz in Indiana during college, had a spell in a "no wave" band in New York, and finally settled down in the '80s as an in demand producer and collaborator in New Orleans, working with groups like R.E.M., Flat Duo Jets, and John Scofield. He's only finished two solo albums but has a ton of archive recordings being released soon, and now plays guitar in a cajun band. We discuss "Pissoffgod.com" from Psalms of Vengeance (2009), "Ash Wednesday and Lent" by Ed Sanders (music by Mark Bingham) from Poems for New Orleans (2007), "That's Why" by Social Climbers from their self-titled album (1981), and then listen to "Blood Moon" by Michot's Melody Makers from Cosmic Cajuns from Saturn (2020). Intro: "Flies R All Around Me" by Screaming Gypsy Bandits from Back to Doghead (1970). Hear more Nakedly Examined Music. Like our Facebook page. Support us on Patreon. Sponsors: Get three months free Internet privacy protection at ExpressVPN.com/NEM. Buy one MasterClass annual membership and get one free to gift to a friend at masterclass.com/EXAMINED. Get a month's free trial of guided meditations at headspace.com/NEM.
Nov 22
1 hr
PEL Presents PMP#69: Story Songs w/ Rod Picott
Plenty of songs try to tell stories, but do the pop song format and narrative really mix? Songwriter and short story author Rod Picott joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to talk about classics by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, formative nightmares like "Leader of the Pack" and "The Pina Colada Song, borderline cases like "Bohemian Rhapsody," and more. How does this form relate to theater, videos, and commercials? For more, visit prettymuchpop.com. Hear bonus content for this episode at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. Sponsor: Visit ExpressVPN.com/pretty to get three months free.
Nov 17
47 min
PREVIEW-Ep. 256: Kropotkin's Anarchist Communism (Part Two)
Mark, Wes, Dylan, Seth get into specific points and textual passages from Peter Kropotkin's The Conquest of Bread (1892). In this preview, we start by considering that Kropotkin is right that mutual aid is a natural tendency and so communism is very much feasible, why hasn't it happened already? In the full discussion, we discuss K's version of the "you didn't build that" argument, plus guaranteed minimum income, identity and criminal justice in a stateless world, religion, and more. To hear this second part, you'll need to go sign up at partiallyexaminedlife.com/support. 
Nov 16
7 min
Ep. 256: Kropotkin's Anarchist Communism (Part One)
On Peter Kropotkin's The Conquest of Bread (1892). If we want an egalitarian society, do we need the state to accomplish this? Kropotkin says no, that in fact the state inevitably serves the interests of the few, and that if we got rid of it, our natural tendencies to cooperate would allow us through voluntary organizations to keep everyone not only fed and clothed, but able to vigorously pursue callings like science and art. Part two of this episode is only going to be available to you if you sign up at partiallyexaminedlife.com/support. Get it now or listen to a preview. Sponsors: Visit TheGreatCoursesPlus.com/PEL for a free trial of The Great Courses Plus Video Learning Service. Organize your Inbox: Save $25 sanebox.com/pel. Learn about St. John's College at SJC.edu.
Nov 9
52 min
PEL Presents (sub)Text: The American Dream in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby"
We all know this story, in part because it captures a period that will always have a special place in the American imagination. Prosperous and boozy, the Jazz Age seemed like one great party, held to celebrate the end of a terrible world war; the liberating promise of newly ubiquitous technologies, including electricity, the telephone, and the automobile; and a certain image of success as carefree, inexhaustibly gratifying, and available to all who try. And yet perhaps this fantasy is rooted in disillusionment, and a denial of inescapable social realities, including the impossibility of genuine social mobility. What do we mean when we talk about the American Dream? Is it realistic? Wes & Erin discuss F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Subscribe: (sub)Text won’t always be in the PEL feed, so please subscribe to us directly: Apple | Spotify | Android | RSS Bonus content: The conversation continues on our after-show (post)script. Get this and other bonus content at by subscribing at Patreon. Follow (sub)Text: Twitter | Facebook | Website Thanks to Tyler Hislop for the audio editing on this episode.
Nov 8
1 hr 23 min
PREVIEW-Ep. 255: Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" (Part Two)
If you'd like to hear more of the discussion on Sun Tzu that we started in part one, you'll need to go sign up at partiallyexaminedlife.com/support. Here are some exchanges from part two, where we continue with Brian Wilson working through the text, considering Sunzi's strategies and assumptions, and how these might (or might not) apply to competing in the business world.
Nov 2
8 min
Ep. 255: Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" (Part One)
On the Chinese military treatise from around the 5th century BCE. How does a philosopher wage war? The best kind of war can be won without fighting. The general qua Taoist sage never moves until circumstances are optimal. We talk virtue ethics and practical strategy; how well can Sunzi's advice be applied to non-martial pursuits? With guest Brian Wilson. Part two of this episode is only going to be available to you if you sign up at partiallyexaminedlife.com/support. Get it now or listen to a preview. Sponsor: Visit TheGreatCoursesPlus.com/PEL for a free trial of The Great Courses Plus Video Learning Service.
Oct 25
50 min
PREVIEW-Ep. 254: Michael Sandel Against Meritocracy (Part Two)
Mark, Wes, Dylan and Seth continue the discussion on The Tyranny of Merit to talk further about how social values can and do change, and whether these changes can be engineered in the way that Sandel seems to want. We interviewed Michael Sandel in part one. To hear this second part, you'll need to go sign up at partiallyexaminedlife.com/support. This preview includes a couple of exchanges from near the beginning to give you a flavor of what to expect.
Oct 18
11 min
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