Q&A with Matt Teichman
Tell us about your podcast.
Elucidations (lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/elucidations/) is a long-form interview podcast in which I talk to contemporary authors about their areas of research. Each episode focuses on a specific topic and runs about 30 to 45 minutes in length. The goal of the program is to provide a resource for anyone to learn about what philosophy looks and sounds like. Everyone with an interest in philosophy knows what it’s like to get cornered at a party and asked about what exactly they do. But thanks to Elucidations, I have a convenient answer: check out my podcast and listen for yourself!
Why did you start doing a podcast?
I began doing a podcast because as a graduate student, I was intellectually inspired by a lot of the conversations taking place around me and felt they needed a broader reach. In the US, the ability to experience a rigorous education is largely restricted to people of economic means — but it shouldn’t have to be that way and it doesn’t have to be that way. Putting some of the material that students are exposed to at elite universities in a publicly accessible forum is one baby step on the way toward making our educational system more democratic.
What are the best three episodes you’ve aired so far, in your opinion.
I don’t think it would be fair to my guests to rank the episodes I’ve released, but perhaps I can instead mention three episodes at random out of the dozens that I’ve been most happy with.
Episode 54 (bit.ly/2Mo7lFQ) with Patricia Blanchette gives a detailed overview of Frege’s philosophy with something to offer to both novices and experts. But it isn’t just an introduction to Frege; it’s an introduction to the major issues that motivated and vexed 20th century logicians, with the clearest explanation of Russell’s paradox you’ll ever hear.
Episode 59 (bit.ly/2Qk9wgO) with Rebecca Kukla beautifully illustrates how if you take a magnifying class to the texture of our everyday life, you’ll find that it is woven out of foundational issues in epistemology and the philosophy of science. Rebecca Kukla systematically walks us through the way our cultural anxieties about risk management, scientific evidence, pregnancy, and gender roles are connected by unpacking the reasoning behind a California bill requiring companies to publicly announce any possible risk their products may pose to unborn children.
Episode 75 (bit.ly/2QnYeZ6) with Malte Willer is a remarkably accessible intro to a challenging technical topic with serious ramifications for logic and ethics. In that episode, he discusses an interesting moral dilemma that seems to require giving up on the assumption that if logical reasoning has gotten you to a conclusion, that conclusion has to remain the same no matter what further information you receive. Logic becomes a good deal more strange and interesting than you might have thought once you give up on that assumption.
Can you recommend one other philosophical podcast and tell us about one good episode?
This one’s easy: I recommend the History of Philosophy podcast. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s not only the best podcast on the history of philosophy — it’s the best reference on the history of philosophy that I know of, full stop. Anyone who listens to the entire thing from start to finish will coming away knowing way more about philosophy than the average undergraduate major does.
One episode of the History of Philosophy podcast that I particularly love is the one on Abelard’s ethics (historyofphilosophy.net/abelard-ethics). That episode tackles a topic in metaethics that I find hugely interesting but which I rarely see discussed: namely, to what kind of thing does moral evaluation canonically apply? Is it mainly actions that get to be good or bad? Actions plus our reasons for engaging in them? Actions plus our intentions? Actions plus our character? Maybe just our character? I think you’ll find the episode to be a lot of fun.
Very briefly, I’d also like to give a shout-out to two newer philosophy podcasts that are notable for doing serious philosophy outside of the academic setting. This is something the field has sorely needed for a long time, and I hope the recent rise of this type of program is a sign of more such material to come. They are, respectively, the Political Philosophy podcast (politicalphilosophypodcast.com/) and Who Shaves the Barber? (williamnava.podbean.com/)
Beside straight up philosophy podcasts, could you recommend another podcast?
I am a huge fan of The Rubin Report, a political talk show that I listen to in audio form (rubinreport.com/). It’s not for the faint of heart — my politically liberal friends in particular are almost certain to be offended by it. I myself am in a near-constant state of offense while listening. But hearing arguments for views you find problematic is sometimes the price you have to pay for staying informed about where the rest of civilization is coming from. Regardless of whether I agree with the host’s political views, the supernatural charitability he extends towards his guests is incredible, and something we would all do well to emulate.