Is it possible to infer values about what we ought to do from facts about how the world is? This question introduces a major problem within meta-ethics, which is how to philosophically justify ethical obligations. In this interview, Dr. Phillip Cary explains how these difficulties in meta-ethics arose out of the political, philosophical, and scientific context of the 17th and 18th centuries. Building on the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, Cary suggests that we have been left with the fragments of a once coherent tradition. The rise of Postmodernism offers a unique opportunity to return to this earlier tradition, and to recover a context in which discussion of virtues make sense. Questions covered in this podcast include:
Is it possible to philosophically justify ethical obligations?
What is the central Postmodern insight?
Is the anti-traditional bias in Modernism itself a type of tradition?
What is the good for which human beings were created?
How is training in virtue tried to the pursuit of wisdom?
In what way do traditions create a context for virtue and rationality?
Does Hume’s famous is-ought gap show forth the failure of the Enlightenment project?
Can competing traditions speak to each other?
How does a recovery of teleology or final causation help us affirm a truth about the good?
Dr. Phillip Cary sheds light on Plato’s philosophy in this latest edition of The Robin & Boom Show. In this podcast you will learn why the ideas of a thinker from the 5th century BC are more relevant today than ever before. Plato offers a valuable antidote to a culture in which goodness, truth, and beauty are so often perceived to be located in the purely immanent. Questions addressed in this podcast include:
Was Plato a proto-Gnostic?
Did Plato hate the material body?
What is the relation between body and soul within Plato’s thought?
How did Plato’s spiritual psychology become more complex as he matured?
Does Plato’s spiritual psychology shed light on issues we face in the modern world?
How do human bodies reflect the forms of ultimate things?
How did Socrates influence Plato at the beginning of his career, and Aristotle towards the end of his career?
Does erotic love have spiritual value?
What is the role of desire in truth-seeking?
What role did neoplatonism play in in Eastern Orthodox theology?
How did St. Augustine appropriate Plato’s philosophy for the West?
Can a contemporary appropriation of neoplatonism shed light on modern issues like malls and movies?
“You can’t just decide to become a good person – it’s going to be a process. You’re going to have to engage in a moral formation over time. So Aristotle talks about the sorts of practices you need to engage in in order to embody or acquire virtues. To a certain extent, it’s not as if you perfectly acquire the virtue of courage or humility, but you engage in a process of slowly over time becoming more the sort of person you are aiming to be.”
This comment was made within the context of Bill explaining why a virtue-based approach to ethics (which situates moral duties within the larger context of human flourishing) is superior to more legalistic approaches which simply want to ask “What should I do?” Although we need to ask what-should-I-do types of questions, there will never be a context for adequately addressing such questions unless we’ve first identified what virtues are central to flourishing as human beings.
I’d like to add to Bill’s observations that the Scriptures constantly assume that virtue includes dispositions and not merely behaviors. Virtuous dispositions like peace, gratitude, contrition, joy, compassion, all include an emotional as well behavioral components. Virtuous disposition also includes such things as proper perception, right motivation, and an attraction to goodness and truth. All of this is the fruit of time and good habits, which is why a person cannot suddenly become good overnight, despite the best intentions.
Last month, my friend Mark Weisman came over to my office to discuss empathy, emotional intelligence and technology. We looped Jason Boom into the conversation through Skype. It was a fascinating conversation about some of the ways digital technology is eroding skills in empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ). In a follow-up conversation, we discussed specific techniques people can practice for increasing their EQ skills.
During these discussions, Mark Weisman was able to contribute valuable insights from his perspective working for years in the tech industry, as well as from his experience as a husband. We explored what the latest brain science is showing about the corrosive effect of too much screen-time, particularly in brain regions associated with emotional maturity, introspection, expression recognition and emotional regulation.
Robin Phillips and Jason Van Boom continue the discussion with Mark Weisman on technology, empathy, attention and EQ. In this podcast you will learn what Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica and the Great Tradition tell us about bringing attentiveness into our relationships. You will also learn the importance of slowing down to take a reflective turn, how to leverage neuroplasticity for good, and the relationship between the brain, body and emotions. Questions discussed include:
What tools and best practices are available for families who want to push back against the culture of distraction?
Is empathetic listening an ability that some people simply have while others do not, or is it a skill that can be developed with practice?
How does awareness of one’s own feelings relate to sensitivity towards the emotions of others?
How can we develop the intellectual virtue of contemplation, and how does this affect our relationships?
How does the Sabbath commandment reflect natural law?
From the podcast:
“…be aware of what other people are feeling, and listen to the emotions behind what they are saying rather than just being quick to respond to surface issues. Go deeper and really try to listen with your heart and with empathy. Often we get into fights and arguments about issues that are really just proxies for deeper emotional issues, and these deeper emotional issues, when they’re not being adequately addressed or listened to, can cause problems abort issues that are not really the issue.”
Robin and Jason are joined by Mark Weisman to discuss some of the ways digital technology is eroding skills in empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ). Mark Weisman contributes to this discussion from his perspective working for years in the tech industry. In this podcast you will learn the difference between “emotional empathy” and “cognitive empathy”, and why EQ is central to human flourishing. You will also learn what the latest brain science shows about the corrosive effect of too much screen-time, particularly in brain regions associated with emotional maturity, introspection, expression recognition and emotional regulation. (For more on this topic, visit out emotional intelligence archives.)
Jason asks Robin about Trump; Robin asks Jason about the EU. Robin suggests that the full impact of the Mueller Report has been eclipsed by left-wing overreach. President Trump is neither Jesus nor Hitler, but he has been creating new norms by pushing the envelope. This episode also features a discussion of the European Union in light of the May 2019 elections. In this show you will learn about the changing climate of European politics, as well as the difference between Europe, the EU, and the Euro.
Jason Van Boom interviews author and educator, C. Derick Varn, about the with the college admissions bribery scandal, and what this tells us about trends in higher education today. How does modern education compare to the medieval university? Is there value in elite education? What is a meritocracy? What does it mean for a student to teach himself? How has our system of university degrees developed since the Middle Ages, and is it still viable? These are some of the many questions addressed in this episode.
What do recent developments in the rebuilding of Notre Dame cathedral tell us about trends in ecclesiastical and civic architecture? How does the sacramental understanding of architecture compare with modern architectural designs, including the proposal to rebuild the spire of Notre Dame cathedral along postmodernist lines? Jason Van Boom discusses these questions with architect and theologian Steven Schloeder. In this conversation they compared contemporary attitudes towards design with medieval understandings, looking at how these competing attitudes reveal a clash in what it means to be human. Van Boom and Schloeder also explored some of the symbolism of Catholic and Orthodox church structures, and what this tells us about God’s relationship to mankind.
Jason Van Boom broadcasted this podcast from an expedition in Siberia, where he has been studying the similarities between Russia and America. He was joined (in the podcast but not the expedition) by Robin Phillips and Thomas Craffey. The three gentlemen discuss how there are striking similarities between the two nations that can easily be overlooked amidst the political tensions. By comparing Russia and America we can learn much about history, travel, human nature, and cultural anthropology.