James Franco Has a New Show All About Philosophy
Would you rather learn philosophy from James Franco or a professor of philosophy? Well, now you don't have to choose.
“The unexamined life is not worth living,” allegedly declared Socrates while he was on trial for corrupting the Grecian youth. While it appears that through its endless chatter modern culture constantly examines life, its motivation seems to have nothing to do with the pure and unconditional love of wisdom, or how the ancient greeks called it: philosophy.
In an attempt to familiarize the general public with the oldest of the sciences, one unlikely duo—a Hollywood actor and a professor of philosophy, James Franco and Eliot Michaelson respectively—has launched a YouTube series called Philosophy Time.
In four published episodes so far, the hosts share 6-minute-long fragments of their conversations with fellow academics on topics like language, beauty and the ethics of abortion. Amongst the academics are Elisabeth Camp, philosophy professor at Rutgers University, who discusses the utility of metaphors and different types of imagination in helping us create a shared human experience.
In another clip, Elizabeth Harman, a professor of Philosophy at Princeton University with a special interest in morality, explains her views on the moral status of a fetus.
Andy Egan, also a professor of philosophy at Rutgers, tries to explain the concept of beauty by feeding Franco and Michaelson a lime after shutting down their sour receptors with “miracle fruit”.
Philosophy Time was conceived years ago when Franco and Michaelson, who met as a student and professor and became friends afterwards, wanted to work on something together. While many know James Franco as an A-list Hollywood actor, he is increasingly known for his writing, poetry, painting and music and being a kind of an academic junkie. Everyone wants to crack open his productivity secrets, because he has somehow found the time to earn an undergraduate degree in English from UCLA, graduate degrees from Columbia University, New York University and Brooklyn College, as well as a PhD in English (currently in the making) at Yale.
"I love school,” Franco says to People magazine. “I go to school because I love being around people who are interested in what I’m interested in and I’m having a great experience… I’m studying things that I love so it’s not like it’s a chore. School is a way to take my other pursuits like directing and writing seriously.”
Of course, 6-minute-long videos are insufficient for any in-depth examination of most subjects. While other philosophy platforms like Wireless Philosophy and The School of Life follow a similar model, it is hard to see them as a proper substitute for the philosophical discussions and gathering of minds that took place at the agora.
But maybe this is not the goal of Michaelson and Franco. As Michaelson himself says about the project:
“We need to figure out how to do more that reaches out beyond the NPR-set, to people interested in learning to think better but who didn’t have the luxury of taking a philosophy course or two in college, or even going to college at all. […] if we as a profession are going to have more of an impact on the world, we need to figure out how to reach more people, to offer them the tools for thinking hard and clearly about things that our discipline can offer. Not only in MOOCS, or in the pages of high-brow newspapers and magazines, but via whatever avenues are going to help us reach the most people in the most effective manner we can find."
Hopefully, the format, content and Franco’s presence will indeed manage to attract and “corrupt” some youth that otherwise wouldn’t have ventured into these deep corners of thought.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now
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The future of education and work will rely on teaching students deeper problem-solving skills.
- Asking kids 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' is a question that used to make sense, says Jaime Casap. But it not longer does; the nature of automation and artificial intelligence means future jobs are likely to shift and reform many times over.
- Instead, educators should foster a culture of problem solving. Ask children: What problem do you want to solve? And what talents or passions do you have that can be the avenues by which you solve it?
- "[T]he future of education starts on Monday and then Tuesday and then Wednesday and it's constant and consistent and it's always growing, always improving, and if we create that culture I think that would bring us a long way," Casap says.
These Jurassic predators resorted to cannibalism when hit with hard times, according to a deliciously rare discovery.
- Rare fossil evidence of dinosaur cannibalism among the Allosaurus has been discovered.
- Scientists analyzed dinosaur bones found in the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in western Colorado, paying special attention to bite marks that were present on 2,368 of the bones.
- It's likely that the predatory carnivore only ate their already-dead peers during times when resources were scarce.
As a doctor, I am reminded every day of the fragility of the human body, how closely mortality lurks just around the corner.