The Partially Examined Life: A Philosophy Podcast

A year-and-a-half ago, an old friend found me on Face­book and offered me a writ­ing job and par­tic­i­pa­tion in a pod­cast. I took him up on both.

Mark Lin­sen­may­er and I had been grad­u­ate stu­dents in phi­los­o­phy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas in Austin, but we both left before get­ting the PhD to try our hands at some­thing more prac­ti­cal. Mark sug­gest­ed we make that expe­ri­ence the theme of an ongo­ing philo­soph­i­cal dis­cus­sion: we loved phi­los­o­phy but pre­ferred it as an avo­ca­tion. There was some­thing about the pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion of phi­los­o­phy that seemed to go against the spir­it of it. We pre­ferred the “par­tial­ly exam­ined life” to the exam­ined life.

And so we decid­ed to cre­ate a phi­los­o­phy pod­cast with dis­cus­sions that were informed but not over­ly aca­d­e­m­ic, less like a class­room lec­ture and more like a con­ver­sa­tion over drinks after class, and uni­fied by the ques­tion of what makes phi­los­o­phy worth­while. We found anoth­er like­mind­ed for­mer col­league from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, Seth Paskin, and began record­ing and pub­lish­ing our dis­cus­sions as The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life. (Find the pod­cast on iTunes here.)

May 12 was the one year anniver­sary of our first episode. Dur­ing that time we’ve cov­ered top­ics rang­ing from Plato’s con­cep­tion of the exam­ined life to Nietzsche’s immoral­ism, God and faith, to the phi­los­o­phy of mind. Frankly I’m always amazed that there are peo­ple who want to lis­ten to three guys talk about these things, but we seem to have a chem­istry that works. One review—for bet­ter or for worse—pegs Mark as “the Jack Black-like musi­cian,” Seth as the “sad one with calm voice who usu­al­ly guides the rud­der of the con­ver­sa­tion back into the top­ic,” and me as “avun­cu­lar and wry.” We’ve also received a lot of great reviews on iTunes, and a thrilling com­pli­ment from philoso­pher Arthur C. Dan­to, who was gra­cious enough to lis­ten to our dis­cus­sion of two of his essays in The Philo­soph­i­cal Dis­en­fran­chise­ment of Art. We’ve been grat­i­fied to see our lis­ten­er­ship rise, but most impor­tant­ly we’re hap­py that the pod­cast has kept us con­nect­ed to phi­los­o­phy and allowed us to pur­sue it—partially—in a way that seems more com­pat­i­ble with the spir­it of the dis­ci­pline.

This post comes to us via Wes Alwan, an occa­sion­al con­trib­u­tor to Open Cul­ture.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.