Closer to Truth & Philosophers (guest post by Robert Lawrence Kuhn) (updated)


“Philosophy has novel opportunities to expand its share of the contemporary zeitgeist…”

The following guest post* is by Robert Lawrence Kuhn, the creator and host of Closer to Truth, a public television show which has been helping philosophy expand its share of the zeitgeist for more than 20 years. The show has featured hundreds of philosophers, scientists, and other thinkers in its quest to explore big philosophical questions, and its very well-organized website is a virtual library of interviews well worth checking out. As you’ll see at the end of the post, the show’s team is looking for suggestions for both its exploration of ideas and how it can be of better use to the philosophical community.

UPDATE (9/18/20): Robert Kuhn responds to some of the comments in an update appended to this post, which includes an announcement about their new “Emerging Scholars Initiative.”


 

Closer to Truth & Philosophers
by Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Closer to Truth, our public television series and web platform, brings philosophy to broad literate audiences in the U.S. and globally by featuring leading philosophers speaking their own words in their own voices. Closer to Truth addresses fundamental questions about existence and the universe, consciousness and minds, meaning, and religion from the perspective of philosophy—philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion. Philosophy, especially analytic philosophy, forms and shapes Closer To Truth’s way of thinking.

Closer To Truth seeks sophistication and subtlety while attracting and engaging non-expert audiences (a non-trivial challenge). That’s why it’s not “Philosophy 101”. In the conversations on the show, we explore topics in-depth, as if colleagues genuinely working through questions or arguments. What emerges, we hope, is the relevance and applicability of philosophical thinking for the big questions of existence and the big-picture conundrums of life.

That Closer To Truth’s not-so-simple, philosophy-founded shows have been broadcast for 20 years, with growing audiences on PBS stations and recently on Closer To Truth’s YouTube channel (which has attracted more than 12 million views and 130 million minutes of watch time in the past year), tracks increasing public interest in philosophical questions. Consider the thousands of comments on CTT’s YouTube channel this year alone. While not always the most thoughtful or courteous, this blizzard of reaction and opinion confirms the growth of philosophical engagement in the public square. It suggests that philosophy has novel opportunities to expand its share of the contemporary zeitgeist.

Directed by award-winning documentary producer Peter Getzels, Closer to Truth takes viewers on a rich and visually compelling journey. Featuring intensive discussions with philosophers and philosophically oriented scientists, the series’ 300 television episodes and 4,000 web videos provide abundant resources for philosophy professors and students, both for research and as supplementary materials in courses and seminars.

Closer to Truth seeks out the philosophical implications of new knowledge or ways of thinking in our categories of cosmos, consciousness, meaning. We do not simply report the latest advances in cosmology; rather, we assess and even speculate about what those latest advances may mean (if anything). Similarly, with respect to questions in philosophy of religion and consciousness studies, we take our task to discern philosophical insights by probing for hidden contradictions or lurking consequences.

“What follows?” is the question Closer To Truth loves to ask—about, say, multiple universes, mind-brain correlations, virtual immortality, and arguments for and against the existence of God. Closer To Truth does not champion any privileged tradition or hobby-horse or any particular view. We work to express and compare multiple views, often contradictory views, as long as each view is (or seems to be) intellectually coherent, thoughtful, meaningful, original or fresh, and perhaps challenging current belief or even disrupting conventional wisdom.

Closer To Truth host Robert Kuhn interviewing David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett, Meghan Sullivan, and Tim Maudlin

While Closer To Truth’s way of thinking is based broadly in the analytic tradition, we also recognize the value of other philosophical approaches (e.g., phenomenology), as well as religious thought, faith traditions, and other belief systems, and on occasion we explore their contributions to the topics we discuss, all the while aiming for systematic and rigorous inquiry.

Closer to Truth (CTT) tries to ask the kinds of questions that elicit wonder and trigger appreciation of philosophy. Consider Closer to Truth’s (CTT) three categories:

Cosmos. CTT takes a philosophy of science perspective for examining truth, causation, laws/regularities, information, time; philosophy of cosmology for the putative multiverse, beginning/end of our universe, apparent fine-tuning; philosophy of physics for foundations of quantum theory including role of the observer. CTT explores the metaphysics of “why something rather than nothing”, a CTT leitmotif—and throughout stresses critical thinking.

Consciousness. A philosophy of mind perspective for examining mind-body problems, brain/mind identity models, essence of consciousness, personal identity, free will, moral responsibility. CTT explores the subconscious, philosophy of art, life after death, alien intelligences, parapsychology, cosmos-and-consciousness conjectures—and again stresses critical thinking.

Meaning. A philosophy of religion perspective for examining perennial questions: existence/non-existence of God, traits/nature of God, theism versus atheism versus agnosticism, problem of evil. CTT explores issues in science and religion and problems in philosophical theology—and especially here stresses critical thinking.

Here are some of our Closer To Truth TV episodes, each featuring 4-6 philosophers (and philosophically inclined scientists):

  • What is Truth?
  • What is Time?
  • Epistemology: How do I Know?
  • What would an Infinite Cosmos Mean?
  • What Exists?
  • Why Anything At All?
  • What is Nothing?
  • What is Strong Emergence?
  • Can Brain Alone Explain Consciousness
  • How Does Personal Identity Persist Through Time?
  • Big Questions in Free Will
  • Free Will for Moral Responsibility?
  • Fallacies in Proving God Exists
  • Current Arguments for God
  • Is God Responsible for Evil?
  • How Belief Systems Work

In parallel, Closer To Truth’s “Women in Philosophy” series is offered in three subseries (with links): “Women in Philosophy and Physics/Cosmology”, “Women in Philosophy and Neuro/Cognitive Science”, and “Women in Philosophy of Religion”.

Our quest to get Closer To Truth is real: we try to see the world and the questions it poses objectively and honestly. We like to challenge conventional wisdom, but only in ways that are coherent. We can explore odd ideas, but we’re not comfortable with sloppy arguments. We are determined to keep an open mind—with at least one eye unblinking and skeptical.

Closer To Truth’s tagline is: the greatest thinkers exploring the deepest questions. To date we’ve featured more than 350 philosophers and philosophically oriented scientists. Here’s a partial list:

Scott Aaronson

David Albert

Michael Almeda

Peter Atkins

Robert Audi

Mahmoud Ayoub

Julian Baggini

Mark Balaguer

Ian Barbour

Julian Barbour

Timothy Bayne

Simon Blackburn

Susan Blackmore

Ned Block

Nick Bostrom

David Brin

Craig Callender

David Chalmers

Andy Clark

Sarah Coakley

William Lane Craig

Oliver Crisp

Paul Davies

Celia Deane-Drummond

Daniel Dennett

David Deutsch

Willem Drees

Hubert Dreyfus

Freeman Dyson

Paul Fiddes

Menachem Fisch

Peter Forrest

Neil Gilman

Owen Gingerich

Rebecca Goldstein

Alison Gopnik

Gordon Graham

A.C. Grayling

Joshua Greene

Susan Greenfield

Ananda Guruge

Victoria Harrison

David Bentley Hart

John Hawthorne

John Hick

Sabine Hossenfelder

Arthur Hyman

Christopher Isham

Jenann Ismael

Brian Josephson

Stuart Kauffman

Joshua Knobe

Michio Kaku

Raymond Kurzweil

George Lakoff

Jaron Lanier

Robert Laughlin

Stephen Law

Robin Le Poidevin

Brian Leftow

John Leslie

Barry Loewer

Elizabeth Loftus

Tim Maudlin

Fotini Markopoulou

Alister McGrath

Ernan McMullin

Alfred Mele

Marvin Minsky

J.P. Moreland

Nancey Murphy

Michael Murray

Yujin Nagasawa

Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Alva Noë

Timothy O’Connor

Don Page

Roger Penrose

Alvin Plantinga

John Polkinghorne

Huw Price

Varadarajar V. Raman

Lisa Randall

Michael Rea

Katherine Rogers

Holmes Rolston III

Adina Roskies

 

Carlo Rovelli

Bede Rundle

Michael Ruse

Robert John Russell

J.L. Schellenberg

Marilyn Schlitz

Simone Schnall

Eric Schwitzgebel

David Shatz

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Barry Smith

Huston Smith

Quentin Smith

Lee Smolin

Eric Steinhart

Victor Stenger

Galen Strawson

Eleonore Stump

Meghan Sullivan

Leonard Susskind

Richard Swinburne

Raymond Tallis

Max Tegmark

Michael Tooley

Peter Tse

Karen Ulhenbeck

Bas van Fraassen

Peter van Inwagen

Venerable Yifa

Mark Vernon

David Wallace

Keith Ward

Steven Weinberg

Geoffrey West

Thalia Wheatley

Edward Weirenga

Frank Wilczek

Edward Witten

Judith Wolfe

Stephen Wolfram

Nicholas Wolterstorff

N.T. Wright

Dean Zimmerman

 

Closer to Truth’s digital library is used as assignable materials in philosophy courses, personalizing complex ideas for students at all levels—introductory undergrads to doctoral candidates.

Suggestions for how we can structure our materials to better support your teaching needs are most welcome. As you look over our materials, if you have ideas for questions or approaches we might take up in addressing our topics, or particular philosophers with whom we should, we’d be happy to hear them.

We at Closer To Truth would appreciate feedback from the philosophy community.


UDPATE (added 9/18/20). Robert Kuhn responds to some of the comments:

We appreciate everyone’s feedback and suggestions and we will consider how we can improve. Closer To Truth focuses on limited topics in philosophy—skewed to ontological questions in “cosmos, consciousness, meaning”—and when we venture beyond, we want to be careful to maintain our sense and quality. For example, Closer To Truth does not do political or social philosophy and we only touch on ethics in relationship to other issues (e.g., free will)

Closer To Truth has a major, multi-year initiative in “Philosophy of Biology”, a new area for us and we are excited about it—we are in extensive research and planning, engaging as advisors several leading philosophers of biology (we seek diverse contributors with respect to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation).

Closer To Truth is also continuing to develop “Arts Seeking Understanding”—ten episodes were broadcast recently on PBS stations and will come to Closer To Truth YouTube early next year; more episodes are in planning.

Regarding comments that Closer To Truth lacks diversity in non-Western philosophy of religion, we agree – you are right! – and we seek to remedy this defect.  Closer To Truth does need greater representation from non-Western traditions and we are hoping to develop a Global Philosophy of Religion project, focusing on Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam (alphabetical order) (next year, COVID-19 cooperating).

Closer To Truth does have non-Western philosophers and philosophically oriented scientists—see below—but insufficient; we need more.

Buddhism

Hindu Tradition

Islam

Closer To Truth has begun an Emerging Scholars Initiative, seeking next-generation leaders in philosophy—especially philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion—and we are prioritizing groups underrepresented in these subfields. Recommendations welcome! (Comment below or email us.)

Closer To Truth Co-Creator, Producer/Director Peter Getzels and I deeply appreciate the feedback and suggestions and we look forward to more. We believe that Closer To Truth can be a resource for the philosophy community—especially as philosophy becomes more relevant broadly in the global marketplace of ideas.

Closer To Truth has a long timeline for our productions. Please have patience with us. We are on it.

And please do keep the suggestions, and the critiques, coming.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Creator, Writer, Host
Closer To Truth


[Editorial note: Closer to Truth is currently an advertiser at Daily Nous, however, this was not a sponsored post.]

guest
24 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bharath Vallabha
1 year ago

I have greatly enjoyed Closer to Truth episodes I have seen. Thank you. In a spirit of friendly criticism, here are two thoughts.

1) The show seeks to understand the mind and also human meaning. But from what I see on the website, the show seems to not address justice. Can the human mind be understood independent of the idea of human flourishing, and can flourishing be understood independent of our actual attempts to increase flourishing for all people? If humans are meaning creating creatures whose capacities are – a la the extended mind and embodied cognition theories – intertwined with cultural artifacts and identities, then understanding the mind and understanding culture, and indeed changing culture, might not be very far apart. I like the way the show goes easily between science and religion, but wonder why it ignores the practical dimension of understanding, in particular the link between understanding and justice.

2) It’s great the show provides a platform for many academic philosophers. But sometimes it seems to me the show thereby reenforces some of the problems with academic philosophy without thinking critically about that. After all, if the show interviews academic philosophers who are encultured in practices which are still mainly Eurocentric and have ignored tough questions of pluralism in the name of a “scientific” approach to philosophy, then focusing on those philosophers will end up reenforcing the limitations of academic philosophy. Would love to see episodes about the institutional challenges academic philosophy currently is facing, and how those challenges relate to the broader challenges we face in society in living meaningful lives.Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
1 year ago

Very much second grad’s comment below that “this show is very…white.” The juxtaposition of the whiteness of most of the contributors with the tagline “the greatest thinkers exploring the deepest questions” is interesting – and draining. For example, can we understand religion without being open to the different ways cultures have understood God? The link to science in the show suggests a certain focus on universal questions, which pertain to all people. A great ideal. But can universality in philosophy be realized the way it is in physics or logic? Without addressing the hard social issues and conceptual frameworks which keep people from understanding each other? Just assuming “yes” has been one of the main pitfalls of academic philosophy, and the show seems to amplify that into the world. Given its topics and its reach, would be great if the show addressed this.Report

Nicholas Hall
Nicholas Hall
1 year ago

I love it.Report

Ockham
Ockham
1 year ago

While I didn’t get a chance to look at everything at the Closer to Truth site, it seems to me that not much attention, if any, is given directly to the topic of “values in science”, particularly non-epistemic values, and this seems quite relevant to a fair bit of what the show is interested in exploring.Report

Wolf
Wolf
1 year ago

In a few CTT interviews and episodes, Consciousness, specifically the unconscious, and the unknowns in Quantum Theory are compared.

Can a whole episode/interview series of cross-discipline participants delve into this narrow topic to explore the often made comparison? If it has already, please pardon my ignorance.

The question might be: Do humans create pseudo-science or ephemeral philosophy to answer these scientific unknowns and does it defer or advance the answers? Psychologically, have we been continuously doing this throughout history?

In The Demon-Haunted World, I believe Carl Sagan referred to this as the “God of the Gaps.”Report

assistant prof
assistant prof
1 year ago

While I don’t know what happens behind the scenes at Closer To Truth, I do get the sense that the show is limited by — and I don’t know if this is the right name for it — a “fame bias” — that leads them to feature philosophers who are sufficiently established such that non-philosophers may have heard of them. I understand there may be reasons for this, but the fact of the matter is that such people, as smart and accomplished as they are, are just a small subset of the set of good philosophers with interesting things to say.

Perhaps this is a feature of however it is that Kuhn or others at the show come to hear about philosophy and philosophers, in which case they may want to add to the means by which they learn about new developments in philosophy (for example sign up for topic notifications at PhilPapers, or subscribe to table of contents alerts for a range of philosophy journals, or follow some of the more philosophical philosophy blogs, or join some of the philosophy Facebook groups, etc.)Report

Nick
Nick
1 year ago

My love of philosophy has been reinforced over and over by Closer to Truth’s content. I love it. I’ve shown videos in my classes. Thanks for all you do.Report

Gary Bala
1 year ago

Many thanks for a mind-blowing video and interview series CTT.

Many installments, especially those with provocative world-renowned thinkers, push us to the limits of understanding of our world.

As to suggestions, I have wondered if the architecture and limits of “analytic philosophy” itself is constraining even further deep knowledge. If not done already, can you do an episode exploring the “philosophy of philosophy” – sometimes called meta philosophy?

Hawking opined “Philosophy is dead.” Others who identify as genuine philosophers posit that philosophy is at bottom of all things, whether we know it or like it, or not.

Thus, it seems to me to be an avenue for exploration, if we wish greater understanding of our reality.

Many thanks again and congrats for a fantastic video series contribution!Report

grad
grad
1 year ago

This show is very… white.Report

grad
grad
Reply to  grad
1 year ago
Nick
Nick
Reply to  grad
1 year ago

Complaints about lack of diversity in the context of moral and political discussions make perfect sense. People in minority groups have perspectives on those matters that members of majority groups don’t. But it’s hard to see how that’s true when it comes to matters of God, mind, consciousness, free will, etc.–the stuff Closer to Truth deals with. But maybe I’m wrong here? Is there a reason to think that demographic diversity helps us get…brace yourself…closer to truth on the non-normative issues CTT investigates? (If your point is that the producers of the show are unjustly discriminating against minority philosophers–e.g., there are excellent voices out there who are being excluded on the basis of their group membership–then that’s a different thing. We’d all object to that.)Report

AD
AD
Reply to  Nick
1 year ago

For whatever it’s worth, they have a pretty good number of interviews with non-Western philosophers on God (and other stuff).Report

Dutta
Reply to  AD
1 year ago

Actually they don’t. The ratio is about 10 to 1 or 15 to 1, when it should be 2 to 1 (Christianity?Islam/Judaism to Hinduism/Buddhism)Report

AD
AD
Reply to  Dutta
1 year ago

I said there was a pretty good number, not a pretty good ratio.Report

Dutta
Reply to  AD
1 year ago

That’s OK. Those few non-Western ‘experts’, that Kuhn interviewed, didn’t know much either. He has completely ignored those who actually know about ‘God’ and other such stuff – the theosophists. Anyway, soon the Christ will be here and we will all find out how little all these so-called ‘experts’ understand.Report

griff
griff
Reply to  Nick
1 year ago

Nick, if you think that the whiteness, Westernness, and maleness of professional philosophy hasn’t had a huge impact on the kinds of discussions, questions, and answers given in the discipline (and who it is that can be an authority on these matters), then you need to read more of the published results of the metaphilosophical labor that’s already been performed by women, gender minorities, and BIPOC. Race, gender, class, and ability aren’t just pertinent to the shape of moral and political discourses in philosophy. They play a role in the way the discourse is framed in ALL areas and topics of philosophy.

So I agree with grad that the show might be improved by featuring more non-white voices.Report

Dutta
Reply to  grad
1 year ago

It is not a question of being very ‘white’, but when discussing the existence and nature of God,, the show almost exclusive talks to experts in the Judeo-Christian Abrahamic traditions. There are only token representatives from the Eastern traditions (these don’t need to be non-white, white people can represent these religions just as well).

This is especially important because, I would suggest that the Western monotheistic idea of God is rather limited (if not completely wrong).Report

AD
AD
1 year ago

Thanks for the show! It is fantastic.

Someone above worries that the show only interviews sufficiently ‘famous’ philosophers that the public ls likely to know. In fact, I imagine non-philosophers know virtually none of the philosophers featured on the show. Sure, some non-philosophers will have heard of Dennett or Plantinga or Nagasawa, but such recognition will be few and far between. While there’s always more philosophers to be interviewed, I think CTT has done a great job in getting good philosophers with interesting things to say on it. And for what it’s worth, I think they have interviewed quite a few lesser known people, e.g. Raymond Tallis, Oliver Crisp, Stephen Law, and so on.Report

Pete Murray
Pete Murray
1 year ago

Really nice resource that I’m surprised I’ve never heard of.

From the perspectives both of accessibility and usefulness in the classroom, a very valuable feature to add would be transcripts of the interviews, perhaps even synced to the video a la TED Talks. A program like Descript or otter.ai could make short work of generating transcripts for new videos going forward, and also for your back catalog.Report

Bharath Vallabha
1 year ago

Robert Kuhn, Thank you for your thoughtful update and comments about non-Western phil of religion and other things. One comment about the following:

“Closer To Truth focuses on limited topics in philosophy—skewed to ontological questions in “cosmos, consciousness, meaning”—and when we venture beyond, we want to be careful to maintain our sense and quality. For example, Closer To Truth does not do political or social philosophy and we only touch on ethics in relationship to other issues (e.g., free will).”

It is certainly a respected view that topics of consciousness and meaning are separable from questions in social philosophy and ethics. But in addition to work in feminism and post-colonial studies which question this view, there is a lot of “standard” 20th century philosophy which was devoted to rejecting this separation of questions of mind and ethics. The most obvious are various versions of neo-Aristotelians, pursued in various ways by thinkers like Anscombe, McIntyre and McDowell. On the broader question of link between mind and meaning of life, thinkers as diverse as Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Dewey all found that a problematic separation – and explored further by Rorty, Putnam, Cavell, Hadot and others, as well as by some who were part of your show, such as Dreyfus. That this is a real issue of debate in philosophy might be well worth bringing out in the show – otherwise it gives a skewed impression of the subject, and also how it can play a role in public discourse.Report

Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
1 year ago

Bharath: I appreciate your critique and suggestions. We will put on our agenda the “separation of questions” issue when Closer To Truth produces its Global Philosophy of Religion project mid/late next year (hopefully) . I’d probably distinguish more fundamental areas, such as philosophy of physics/cosmology and philosophy of mind/consciousness, from areas more influenced by environmental / social conditions (e.g., meaning, purpose). We do seek a larger voice for Closer To Truth in public discourse as well as in philosophy courses (and in the philosophy community).Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Robert Lawrence Kuhn
1 year ago

Robert, Look forward to the global philosophy of religion project. A crucial issue of our time.

What makes phil of physics/cosmology and phil of mind/consciousness “more fundamental areas”? To whom are they more fundamental? To whom ought they be more fundamental? If you mean they are more interesting to you, I fully respect that; it’s your show. If you mean they are more fundamental to philosophy, and to inquiry and humanity as such, that seems off to me. Importantly off. If humans are fundamentally temporal, embodied, cultural beings, finding our common humanity won’t be a matter of going directly to the questions most abstracted from the cultural concerns. It means something different, which a different conception of philosophy through the centuries has pursued – wisdom; the wisdom of how to find the universal through the particular, the contingent and the contested.

Let me put my cards on the table. I left academic philosophy because I felt by prioritizing the abstract phil mind/physics approach over the wisdom approach, academic philosophy has put itself into the corner in reaching the public. Academic phil needs to get away from that approach, which has dominated it – at least in analytic phil – for the last century. As someone interested in alternate ways of pursuing phil outside academia, I am naturally concerned if a big player outside academia like closer to truth reenforces the very dichotomy which I tried to get away from. That is, reenforces it without being explicit about it with the audience – as if treating phil physics/mind as “more fundamental” is the natural way of doing philosophy, and is how most philosophers do think. To connect it to the comments above about “famous” philosophers, this focus on the abstract questions might be in fact how many well known philosophers have thought. But then it strikes me as unfair that in addition to the big platforms they already have in the profession, they also thereby get platforms into the general public, and possibly drown out the other voices that are trying to pursue different approaches – and are just now getting going within academic philosophy and also outside it.Report

Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
1 year ago

Bharath: Let’s distinguish kinds of “fundamental”. Closer To Truth means fundamental from the perspective of the cosmos, not from the perspective of human sentience. Fundamental as in how the world works at its deepest levels, as if human beings never existed. Fundamental as in foundational, in the narrow sense: like chemistry is more fundamental than biology and physics is more fundamental than chemistry; like quantum mechanics is more fundamental than classical physics and string theory may be more fundamental than quantum mechanics; like there is a full and final mechanism or explanation for consciousness, irrespective of whether human beings can ever know it or even recognize it.

This is not to say that there are not other kinds of fundamental — human beings, societies, cultures, as you well point out, have their own expressions of fundamental, which are every bit as real and relevant. This is to say that Closer To Truth self-limits what we count as fundamental. In this sense, Closer To Truth is not about philosophy writ large; it is about cosmic and human existence, with philosophy as our guide and way of thinking.

Sure, as you recognize, I love this stuff, but personal passion should have no bearing on what is or is not fundamental. The meta-question of what gives rise, at given times with suites of social constraints and pressures, to various views of what’s fundamental is a rich area to explore — say, what’s fundamental in consciousness, describing the drivers, scientific and social, for eliminative materialism, identity theory physicalism, functionalism, epiphenomenalism, property dualism, substance dualism, panpsychism, idealism, each in all its variants. While the social construction of consciousness theories is not Closer To Truth’s core, it could well be a Closer To Truth topic.

I like cards held face up. Regarding what academic philosophy should or should not be or do is indeed a vital issue for the academy, but not for Closer To Truth. Closer To Truth focuses on Physics/Cosmology (including quantum theory, multiverse, mathematics, information, time, complexity, emergence, raw existence); Mind/Consciousness (including mind-body problems, free will, personal identity, diverse intelligences, aesthetics/art, parapsychology, kinds of survival); Ultimate Meaning/Purpose (if any) (including metaphysics, philosophy of religion, philosophical theology, critical thinking); and coming in two years, Life (philosophy of biology). On these topics, whoever the best thinkers on planet earth, in the academy or not, we want them. (We are soliciting recommendations for diverse views, especially from underrepresented groups.) Perchance you and I have opportunity to discuss these matters on Closer To Truth, it is good that we do not here come to consensus.Report

Bharath Vallabha
Reply to  Bharath Vallabha
1 year ago

Robert, That’s helpful. I fully respect that in understanding, say, consciousness there is a non-human, cosmic perspective; after all, there were millions of years of animal life before humans. And much about our own consciousness we might never understand. At the same time, the cosmic perspective can’t explain consciousness completely, since a lot of consciousness – indeed the structure of everyday consciousness – is bound up with our perspective and interests. As you say, we don’t have to have consensus here.

You might know his work already, but for the links between biology, consciousness, meaning and global religion, I found the sociologist Robert Bellah’s Religion in Human Evolution amazing. It gels really well with contemporary philosopher Evan Thompon’s Mind in Life. Connections between life and spirit were also pursued by 20th century Indian philospher/yogi Aurobindo Ghose.Report