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The Partially Examined Life

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Madison, WI


The Partially Examined Life is a philosophy podcast by some guys who were at one point set on doing philosophy for a living but then thought better of it. Each episode, we pick a short text and chat about it with some balance between insight and flippancy.




Episode 172: Mind, Self, and Affect with Guest Dr. Drew (Part One)

Radio legend Dr. Drew Pinsky talks with us about “Attachment and Reflective Function: Their Role in Self-Organization” by Peter Fonagy and two articles by Allan Schore. The focus is "theory of mind"; how do we develop the ability to impute thoughts and intentions to others? What in our upbringing can interfere with this development? We relate this back to previous episodes (Hegel, Buber, etc.) on recognition by others of the self. Listen to more Dr. Drew at, especially his...

Duration: 00:45:00

Episode 171: Buddhism vs. Evolution with Guest Robert Wright (Part Two)

Continuing on Why Buddhism Is True. We discuss the "no self" doctrine as articulated in Buddha's Second Discourse and the modularity-of-mind theory that Bob claims supports it. What are the ethical implications, and do we really need meditation to achieve its alleged ethical benefits? Continued from part 1, or get the ad-free Citizen Edition. Please support PEL! End song: "Alphalpha Bhang" by Anton Barbeau, as interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music ep. 50. Sponsors: Visit for...

Duration: 01:11:30

Episode 171: Buddhism vs. Evolution with Guest Robert Wright (Part One)

Bob joins the PEL four to discuss his new book Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. Bob applies his expertise in evolutionary psychology to corroborate Buddhism's claims that we are deluded: about our desires, emotions, the unity of our selves, and the "essences" we project on things and people. And he thinks meditation can instill in the diligent the ability to see things more clearly. But does it really? Don't wait for part 2! Get the full,...

Duration: 00:55:06

Episode 170 Second Opinions: Leftists on "Society of the Spectacle"

Mark and Seth ask Doug Lain (Zero Squared), Brett O'Shea (Revolutionary Left Radio), and C. Derick Varn (Symptomatic Redness) what they think of Debord and PEL's treatment of the book on Ep #170. End song: "Open Your Eyes (Wake Up)" from Tyler Hislop, interviewed on Nakedly Examined Music #24. Go to for three free meals with free shipping. Get 20% off your first pair of underwear plus free shipping

Duration: 01:11:11

Episode 170: Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" (Part Two)

More on the 1967 Situtationist book. Do we buy Debord's critique? Is any merely partial critique (i.e. no revolution) just more spectacle? Is technology inherently dehumanizing? Don't these passivity/anti-technology arguments even apply to books? Could Debord's model of authenticity catch on in society as a whole? Start with part 1, or get the Citizen Edition. Please support PEL!End song: "Millionaire" by The Mekons (1993); Jon Langford appears on Nakedly Examined Music #22. Try...

Duration: 01:13:06

Episode 170: Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" (Part One)

What is culture? In modern capitalism, Debord's 1967 book describes it as all about the economy. it's not just our jobs that keep us trapped, but our life outside of working hours is also demanded by "the system" via our activity as consumers, and this commoditization infiltrates every corner of our lives. Debord wants us to WAKE UP, break our chains, and live lives of immediacy, vitality, and authenticity. Don't wait for part 2! Get your unbroken, ad-free Citizen Edition now. Please...

Duration: 00:55:24

TEASER-Episode 169: Analyzing Hitchcock's "Vertigo" (Part Two)

Some audio tidbits to hint at the analytic glories in the second half of our discussion, getting deeper into the psychoanalytic/existential interpretations of the film. Get the discussion at or with a PEL Citizenship.

Duration: 00:01:55

PEL Special: Combat & Classics on Rousseau's "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences"

A new podcast for the PEL Podcast Network! Meet Jeff, Lise, and Brian, who are joined by Wes and Dylan to discuss Rousseau's claim that the arts and sciences lead to "moral corruption." Get more C&C on the PEL site or at Become a PEL Citizen to attend a C&C online seminar on Nietzsche's ”Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” on Aug. 14, 8pm EST. Your support for PEL helps the PEL network! Visit for $25 off your first clothing order. Get in on fall...

Duration: 00:53:10

Episode 169: Analyzing Hitchcock's "Vertigo" (Part One)

On the 1958 film and articles including Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1975) and Robin Wood's "Vertigo" (1965). What's the nature of love/lust? Are we really just loving an image we've built while remaining fundamentally isolated? And is it just an illusionary social construct that keeps us all from feeling fundamental vertigo? Lacan, existentialism, and more! Part 2 will be for supporters only! It won't be on the public feed next week, so get the full discussion...

Duration: 00:48:28

Episode 168: Darwin's "Origin of Species" (Part Two)

More on Darwin's famous book. Why does it matter for philosophy, beyond providing an alternative to intelligent design? Is it really anti-religious? How can well tell if it's really a scientific theory? Talking about a species evolving trait X to enable survival sounds teleological; is it really, and is that bad? Why would the mind develop through natural selection? Continues from part 1, or just get the unbroken, ad-free Citizen Edition. Please support PEL! End song: "I Live" by Jason...

Duration: 01:06:45

Episode 168: Darwin's "Origin of Species" (Part One)

On Charles Darwin's 1859 book, ch. 1-4, 6, and 14. What are the philosophical ramifications of Darwin's theory of evolution? We go through Darwin's arguments, compare his views to other theories of evolution like Lamarck's, and talk about how an evolutionary way of looking at things has influenced philosophers. Don't wait for part 2! Get your unbroken, ad-free Citizen Edition now. Please support PEL! Get $50 off a new mattress by visiting Enroll in The New School's Open...

Duration: 00:49:09

Episode 167: Hume on Intelligent Design (Part Two)

Continuing on David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), with guest Stephen West. We get further into what’s wrong with the design argument and why Hume thinks that it’s merely a verbal dispute whether we want to say that God designed the orderly universe or just say that the universe is orderly. Also, the problem of evil! Listen to part 1 first, or get the ad-free, unbroken Citizen Edition. Please support PEL! End song: “Shittalkers” by Ken Stringfellow, as interviewed...

Duration: 01:06:25

Episode 167: Hume on Intelligent Design (Philosophize This! Crossover) (Part One)

On David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779). How would a scientifically minded person argue for the existence of God? In Hume’s dialogue, a character named Cleanthes argues from this point of view for God’s existence based on the complexity and order apparent in nature: It looks designed. But how good is that argument, and is it enough to prove an infinite God of the traditional sort? With guest Stephen West. Don't wait until next week for part 2; get the rest of the...

Duration: 00:47:58

Episode 166: Spinoza on Politics and Religion (Part Two)

Concluding on the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670) and Tractatus Politicus (1677). What's the relationship between ethics, reason, and revelation? What could "faith" possibly mean to a hard-core rationalist like Spinoza? Is it possible to buy into the non-denominational "true religion" without believing any of the dogmas of traditional religion at all? And what kinds of limits on free speech is Spinoza committed to? Continued from part one or get the ad-free Citizen Edition. Please...

Duration: 01:35:47

Episode 166: Spinoza on Politics and Religion (Part One)

On Benedict de Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), ch. 12-20 and the Tractatus Politicus (1677). What’s the relationship between ethics and political power? Given that religious factions tend to create strife, what’s the optimal role of the government in mitigating that damage? Is theocracy in any way a good idea? Don’t wait for the rest of the discussion! Get the ad-free, unbroken Citizen Edition right now. Get a free audiobook when starting a 30-day trial at...

Duration: 00:54:24

Episode 165: Spinoza on Biblical Interpretation (Part Two)

Continuing on the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), ch. 1–11. We go more into natural laws vs. ordinances; does it make sense to say that God makes rules for people? Also, how does Spinoza deal with alleged miracles given that natural laws are absolute regularities? Continued from part 1, or get the ad-free Citizen Edition now. Please support PEL! Get The Rise and Fall of Dodo at

Duration: 01:08:03

Episode 165: Spinoza on Biblical Criticism (Part One)

On Benedict de Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), ch. 1–11. For Spinoza, the Bible was a political issue, and he was interested in a way to read it that didn't lead to people fighting wars and persecuting each other. Spinoza argues that a respectful reading is one that looks for the central message and doesn't paper over many places where the text was tailored to its original audience's prejudices, or where for historical reasons we can't now really know what it meant to...

Duration: 01:06:58

REISSUE-PEL Ep 24: Spinoza on God & Metaphysics


Duration: 01:49:14

Nakedly Examined Music: Steve Hackett, Nik Kershaw, Ken Stringfellow, Robbie Fulks


Duration: 01:14:45

Episode 164: Dostoyevsky on Perfection in "The Idiot" (Part Two)


Duration: 01:24:27

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