Philosophy Salon. A weekly gathering of students, faculty, and staff to discuss philosophical ideas in a reading, work of art, or media piece including podcasts, YouTube videos, or lecture recordings. The material will always be short but rich in ideas. You are cordially invited to join us on Thursdays at 4:15 in the Reading Room at the Williams College Museum of Art.

(read/listen to/watch/contemplate the material in advance)

September 21st, Contingency, Determinism, and Justice. Read the Jorge Borges (1941) short story, “The Lottery in Babylon” (20 minutes). Y en español aquí.

Past Salons

Fall ’22 and Spring ’23

May 11, Secular Faith, Mortality, and Spirituality. Listen to part of a lecture and discussion by Martin Hägglund (27 minutes, video starts at 5 minute mark, watch to 32 minute mark) and read Filipe Pereira (2020) “Is Immortality Desirable?” (5 minutes).

May 4, Love in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Listen to Hi-Phi Nation’s “Love in the Time of Replika” (50 minutes).

April 27, Free Will, Blame, and Neurolaw. Listen to RadioLab’s “Neurolaw” on YouTube (16 minutes) and Adina Roskies, “Neuroscience and Free-Will” on the Philosophy Bites podcast (18 minutes).

April 20, The Ethics of GradingRead John Danaher (2020) “The Moral Problem of Grading: An Extended Analysis” (25 minute read).

April 13, Ironic Aesthetic Appreciation. Read Alexandra King (2023) “Taco Bell and the Paradox of Ironic Appreciation” (15 minute read). Also this quotation from David Foster Wallace (1 minute read).

April 6, Colonization and Human Bondage. Read Octavia Butler (1984) “Bloodchild” (30 minute read). Note special venue for this meeting: We will convene salon in the Object Lab Gallery at WCMA rather than in the Reading Room.

March 16, Equity Language. Read George Packer (2023) “The Moral Case Against Euphemism” (15 minute read) and skim the sections of “A Progressive’s Style Guide” that interest you.

March 9, Aztec Philosophy. Read James Maffie (2005) “Aztec Philosophy” from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (25 minute read).

March 2, Aphantasia and Consciousness. Read Kathryn Nicolai (2020), “I’m blind in my mind, here’s what it’s like to live with Aphantasia” (4 minute read), Neesa Sunar (2021), “I have no mind’s eye: Let me try to describe it for you” (4 minute read), and watch Raquel Albieri Krempel (2020), “Conscious thought and aphantasia” (20 minutes, the q&a at the end of the talk is optional).

February 23, Would it be bad if human beings went extinct?, Émile Torres, “The Ethics of Human Extinction” (20 minute read).

February 16, Lookism, Social Judgment, Ted Chiang’s (2002) short story “Liking What You See: A Documentary” (25 minute read).

December 8th, What is Philosophical Writing?, Jennifer Whiting, “Cultivating Dialectical Imagination,” (20 minute read) and Joshua Habgood-Coote et al. “Can a good philosophical contribution be made just by asking a question?” (10 second read).

December 1st, a conversation with Amy Levine ’14, University of Chicago Social Thought and Philosophy, on Normativity, Identity, and Love. As background, read Jordy Rosenberg, “Gender Trouble on Mother’s Day,” (20 minute read) and Heinrich von Kleist, “On the Marionette Theatre” (15 minute read).

November 17th, Metaphysical Beliefs and Psychedelics, Timmermann et al., “Psychedelics alter metaphysical beliefs.” (20 minute read.)

November 10th, Everyday Ethics, Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Ethicist column from recent issues of the New York Times Magazine. (25 minute read.)

November 3rd, a conversation with Kimberly Ann Harris, University of Virginia, on Objectification. As background, view this video. (10 minutes.)

October 27th, Happiness, Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” (15 minute read.)

October 20th, Manga Introduction to Philosophy: Time and Existence. Read Chapter 1, Parts 1 & 2, “What is Time?” and Chapter 2, Parts 1 & 2, “What is Existence?” from Masahiro Morioka’s Manga Introduction to Philosophy. (Approx. 30 minute read, depending on how long you spend on the manga illustrations.)

October 13th, The Ethics of AI Art. Watch this Vox Video (13 minutes) and read Rohita Naraharisetty, “Why AI Art Makes the Internet—and Art—Less Authentic” (5 minute read) and Anders Sandberg, “Reflective Equilibrium in a Turbulent Lake: AI Generated Art and The Future of Artists” (7 minute read). If you’re curious, experiment with Stable Diffusion.

October 6th, Gamification of Public Discourse, C. Thi Nyguyen, “The Gamification of Public Discourse” 2019 Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture on YouTube. (40 mins.)

September 29th, Free Will and Physics, Jenann Ismael, “Physics and Free Will with Jenann Ismael,” from the Free Will Show Podcast. Listen from 22:30 to 42:00 (20 minute segment.) and read “Physics Forgets that We Are Part of Reality” (12 minute read).

September 22nd, Large Language Models and Sentience, LaMBDA, “Is LaMDA Sentient? —An Interview” (Interviewer: Blake Lamoine)

September 15th, Meaning and the Universe, Jorge Borges, “Library of Babel.”  Y en español aquí.