Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spring Heeled Jack - Your History Podcast

Your History PodcastYour History Podcast is a new podcast to arrive at the history scene. The host, Dan Brown (a name to be blessed with), announces the aim with the podcast: to reveal those stories that so easily go lost.

The first episode, A Victorian Character, does exactly that: it tells a story (transcript). The story is of Spring Heeled Jack, a mysterious figure that roamed London in the nineteenth century. In confusing accounts Jack's victims describe how they are attacked by somebody more resembling a monster rather than a ring of the mill criminal. They were also not robbed, they were just scared out of their wits, sometimes groped, but nothing more.

The true identity of Jack, it was presumed, would be an upper class prankster, but he was never caught and he continued to roam even when some of the suspects had died. Jack has been reported well into the twentieth century and Dan concludes he might be roaming still, hence sticking to the story-telling quality of the podcast. This is entertainment mixed in with history and it is pulled off rather well. We will keep an eye on Dan Brown's progress.

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Several issues of Philosophy Bites

Philosophy Bites' host Nigel WalburtonPhilosophy Bites allows me to pick up a short talk on philosophy week in week out. I listen to most of them. Here is a list of recent talks:

Hugh Mellor: tense is not part of time. Tense indicates past, present and future, but whatever is indicated as (for example) future doesn't stay that way, though the event stays the same. Tense is the relation between a person and a point in time. The time itself is absolute. The present follows you around, while time ticks on. A certain time, and the occurrence at that time, stay the same occurrence at the same time even though once it was your future, it became you present and afterwards it is in the past.

Cogito Ergo Sum
Anthony Grayling: I think therefore I am. Descartes claims he has to exist in order to dream, think, doubt. Then there is a mind body problem. The thinking is there, hence the mind exist, but this doesn't imply the body is not an illusion. There is a lot of controversy. One of the ways to tackle the argument is that it is as much a truism as 'I exist' or 'I am here', which is always true as it is said. But the question needs always be addressed: epistemology, what can we know?


Anthony Appiah: recognize that people across societies have much in common and be tolerant of their differences. Negotiating the differences is hard when deeply held morals and beliefs are at stake. How to reach agreement? More important than assumptions about universal morality is to understand certain procedures of how to conduct the negotiations. Conversation will not resolve the differences, but is aimed at allowing to live together (and keep on conversing).

Free Will
Thomas Pink: The problem of free will starts with blame. We blame others or ourselves for a fault which we had the power to prevent. But do we have the power to do otherwise? Even if we do, what about the certainty about causality; are we sure about the outcome of exercising power or not? We do have an experience about free will; we are free to choose goals. The next step: the extent to which we can translate our goals into actions. As long as we cannot show our will has generally nothing to do with our actions, we might as well assume our will is free to determine our actions.

More Philosophy Bites:
Free rider problem,
Is war innate?,

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