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Damn the Absolute!

Philosophy Podcasts

Damn the Absolute! is a show about our relationship to ideas. Doing our damnedest to not block the path of inquiry. Produced by Erraticus.

Damn the Absolute! is a show about our relationship to ideas. Doing our damnedest to not block the path of inquiry. Produced by Erraticus.


United States


Damn the Absolute! is a show about our relationship to ideas. Doing our damnedest to not block the path of inquiry. Produced by Erraticus.




S2E03 Literature Must Be an Unsettling Force for Democracy w/ Elin Danielsen Huckerby

Whether it's theology, philosophy, politics, or science, it is not uncommon for people to believe their particular worldview has greater authority over others. This authoritarian approach to ideas implies that one person's representation of truth more closely and certainly reflects reality—they have the truth and we must submit to it. Alternatively, pragmatists believe this abstract certitude leads to religious fundamentalism, philosophical dogmatism, political absoluteness, and rigid...


S2E02 Fear of Breakdown in American Democracy w/ Noëlle McAfee

Democratic deliberation can be viewed in a few different ways. It can be approached as a means of competing interests coming together to bargain between groups until they come to some kind of political agreement. From an epistemological sense, deliberation is what we do in the absence of certainty, and where uncertainty exists so does the political. This requires us to practice as the political philosopher Hannah Arendt says, "thinking without banisters." Deliberation takes place as...


S2E01 Scientific Knowledge Is Metaphorical w/ Jessica Wahman

Scientific inquiry is sometimes viewed as a way of getting after literal knowledge, the belief our scientific claims are a one-for-one match with reality—or what is actually happening out there in the world. However, this view requires a certainty in our beliefs or truth claims about nature that may not be justified. Furthermore, this absoluteness may lead us toward a scientism that runs counter to the openness and dynamism that animates so much of what scientists practice in their labs,...


S1E20 Can Pragmatism Help Us Live Well? w/ John Stuhr

Pragmatists do not hold absolute faith in any particular value, principle, or belief. This applies even to the many concepts affiliated with pragmatists—such as pluralism, fallibilism, democracy, and naturalism. They focus on experience as the field in which we continually test out and reconstruct our views of the world and determine what works in our particular place and time. Pragmatism is focused on concrete results in experience, judging ideas and beliefs according to their fruits and...


S1E19 Buddhist Reflections on Race and Liberation w/ Charles Johnson

Buddhist practice has been around since the sixth century. As a way of life, Buddhism acknowledges there is suffering in the world, which arises from selfish desire, and that by letting go of this desire and following the Eightfold Path—put forward by the Buddha—we can be liberated from suffering. In tandem, followers of the Buddha are called to reduce the suffering of all sentient beings. But what does this mean in the context of racism in the United States, in particular, the enormous...


S1E18 A Friendly Introduction to Stoicism w/ Derek Parsons

A philosophy of living, similar to a religion, explains the human condition and provides a moral and spiritual guide for how we can navigate identified challenges. It directs our behavior and helps us understand the significance of what we experience. Originating in the ancient Greco-Roman world, Stoicism is a life philosophy that places reason at the center of human flourishing. For a Stoic, living well means developing one's moral character through logic and mindfulness. Virtue is the...


S1E17 Reversing Climate Change w/ Ross Kenyon

Debates about reversing climate change can be understood as a tension between two groups: wizards and prophets. According to Charles C. Mann, wizards are tech-optimists, those who believe that technology resolves more problems than it creates, that technology will save us from the climate crisis. It has advanced us this far, and it will continue to do so. Think of the innovations in alternative energy, such as wind or solar power. On the other hand, prophets are more focused on how...


S1E16 Where Do Animals Fit into Human Flourishing? w/ Ike Sharpless

Answering questions about what it means for humans to flourish is difficult. Attempting any certainty as to what it means for nonhuman animals to flourish is even more confounding. And yet, these questions have significant overlap. While some cultures have developed relationships that are responsive to the lives and needs of other animals, some communities—many stemming from modern Western traditions—have tended to view nonhuman animals more like resources. Materials to be managed or...


S1E15 Making the Commons More Common w/ Neal Gorenflo

When it comes to resource management, there are two dominant forces that exert tremendous influence on who gets what: the market and the state. Sometimes these two entities compete or conflict. Other times they collaborate, and even conspire—to the great detriment of communities. Either can result in environmental exploitation, extreme inequality or poverty, erasure of culture and place, and invite an alienation that is generated by people having limited say in what happens to their...


S1E14 A Tool for a Pluralistic World w/ Justin Marshall

Coming to some semblance of consensus opinion is a paramount challenge in a pluralistic world. We disagree on what constitutes truth and how we ought to obtain it, whether our undertaking be moral, scientific, or political. It has been a common practice in Western philosophy to focus on uncovering an accurate reflection of reality, in hopes that by showing others these true representations of the world, we can bring our community members into agreement. This view holds that if we can...


S1E13 The Philosophy of Lived Experience w/ Henriikka Hannula

There has long been a bit of jousting between the human and natural sciences over who is more rigorous or which method is better capable of providing us with facts about the world. For certain types of empiricists, this jockeying for epistemological status and justification has tended to skew in favor of the natural sciences. And given the premium some cultures place on prediction, control, and the power that comes with laying hold of causal laws, the natural sciences have enjoyed abundant...


S1E12 Philosophers Need to Care About the Poor w/ Jacob Goodson

While some philosophers view their primary task as one of discovering the nature of reality and then describing it accurately for the rest of us, others have practiced philosophy as an edifying enterprise, asserting that it should be employed to help us better resolve social and political problems—to change the world. Although both of these approaches have been utilized throughout history, the philosopher John McCumber argues that this later movement in philosophy was mostly purged from...


S1E11 A Small Farm Future w/ Chris Smaje

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that we are always in an age of crisis. Whether this entails more apocalyptic tendencies or more tempered framings, crisis seems to be a constant companion throughout human history. At present, crises abound regarding climate change, exploitation of land, and soil degradation. We’re seeing major cracks in political economies, many of which stem from misguided cultural paradigms. With an industrialized global economy based on fossil fuels and an ethos...


S1E10 Unschooling and Gentle Parenting w/ Tiersa McQueen

Mass schooling is a relatively recent phenomenon, an experiment in education that gained steam following the industrial revolution, becoming increasingly widespread in the nineteenth century, in part, due to advocates like Horace Mann. Mann was a social reformer skeptical of parents’ abilities to properly educate their children to become future employees and democratic citizens. He believed these common schools, as they were called, could remedy the lack of proper discipline found in some...


S1E09 Trust in a Polarized Age w/ Kevin Vallier

Trust plays a central role in democratic societies. If we can’t rely upon fellow community members to act in accordance with generally accepted norms, then we’re going to be in a really bad way. Social trust in the US has fallen dramatically. In the early 1970s, around half of Americans said that most people can be trusted. Today, less than a third of Americans feel that way. Similarly, political trust—our faith in political institutions and processes to function properly—has declined as...


S1E08 Subsistence Agriculture During the Collapse of Industrial Capitalism w/ Ashley Colby

We occupy human environments that are overlapped by numerous social, moral, and political systems. Some of these interlock while it’s unclear how exactly others relate to one another. The more theoretically-minded among us—and the more ideology-craving parts within us—tend to reach for rather all-encompassing frameworks to help us make sense of what creates social and environmental ills. We look around ourselves and see nutritious food shortages, ecological exploitation, social injustices,...


S1E07 Charles Peirce and Inquiry as an Act of Love w/ David O'Hara

Many Western philosophers have approached questions of knowledge conceiving of truth as something that is “out there,” unchangeable, abstract, and universal. There is an inherent structure in the universe and we must discover what exactly it is. One merely needs to uncover a segment of the structure of the universe and the rest of truth will reveal itself. In this tradition, truth is viewed as foundational and essential. Truth can be reasoned to from the solitude of one’s desk. Experience...


S1E06 Levinas and James: A Pragmatic Phenomenology w/ Megan Craig

Early in life we learn rules for moral conduct. We are taught which actions are right and which ones are wrong. Eventually we’re able to grasp principles and closed systems that allege to hold in place the reasons for why any particular action has moral value. In philosophical terms, this might look like John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian happiness principle: an action is right insofar as it maximizes utility or pleasure for the greatest number of people. It might resemble Immanuel Kant’s...


S1E05 An Expansive and Democratic View of Physical Education w/ Nate Babcock

Theorists and activists argue that education is the bedrock of a democratic society. Having a well-educated citizenry is necessary for people to meet the demands required for democracies to thrive. In the United States, schooling is conceived of as one of the primary vehicles for educating these democratic citizens. For many who have gone through traditional schooling, physical education seems like an interruption in the school day, for better or for worse, a distraction from the rest of...


S1E04 Religious Disagreement and Whether Religious Expertise Exists w/ Helen De Cruz

We want to be in proper relationship with the world. In other words, we want to have as many true beliefs as possible, or, at least, fewer false beliefs. We hope the ideas we hold will suit us well for adapting to the demands of our social, moral, and physical environments. This is also true when it comes to religious beliefs, but how do we discern which ones are justified true beliefs and which ones are wrongheaded? The numberless instances of religious disagreements should cause us to...