You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?
Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?
Each week, host Jason Gots surprises some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. Join us and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Maria Popova, Mary-Louise Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many more...
Edith Hall – from Aristotle to Oprah and back again: how to live your best life
Classicist Edith Hall reminds us that Aristotle's "virtue ethics" was a sophisticated, subtle approach to the pursuit of lifelong happiness a couple millennia before Oprah thought of inviting us to live our best life.
- "Aristotle invents empirical science, where you go out with your own senses and amass data and then infer scientific principles from it. He simply treats morality in the same way."
- How to find happiness, how to deal with loss, and how to build a democracy that works.
We've been talking a lot lately on this show about happiness. What it is, where we can get more of it, why it does not yet seem to be available on the Internet. Author Ruth Whippman presented some compelling evidence that the way most Americans are pursuing happiness is making us unhappier. Buddhist master teacher Joseph Goldstein talked about a way of training yourself to be more generous, and the happiness this has brought to his life.
In her new book ARISTOTLE'S WAY, classicist Edith Hall reminds us that Aristotle's "virtue ethics" was a sophisticated, subtle approach to the pursuit of lifelong happiness a couple millennia before Oprah thought of inviting us to live our best life. Offering no listicles of the top ten happiness hacks, Aristotle tried to live and taught the virtues of an ethically guided, purpose driven life with plenty of room for good friends, sensual pleasures, and long walks on the beaches of Ancient Greece, Macedonia, and what is now Turkey.
Edith Hall—my guest today—enjoys putting the pleasure as well as the rigor into all aspects of Ancient Greek and Roman History, society, and thought. She's a professor of Classics at King's College, London, the author of more than 20 books, and a world leader in the study of ancient theatre and culture.
Surprise conversation starter clips in this episode:
Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates.
- During times of war or national crisis in the U.S., school boards and officials are much more wary about allowing teachers and kids to say what they think.
- If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism.
- Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise. Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like – which is more often a rant than a healthy debate.
Should all speech be free? How much intolerance should society tolerate?
- For society to stay open and free, you don't need to eliminate prejudice. You need the opposite: All kinds of prejudice pitted against each other.
- Intellectual diversity helps society as a whole learn the truth. And as long as society has rules that force ideas to be openly tested, the intolerant will not gain the upper hand.
- "In America it's legal to be intolerant. It may not be right. It may not get you accepted or respected. But absolutely it's legal and it should be legal," says Jonathan Rauch.
Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.
- "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
- "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"
How do you write away the personal hole in your heart when that hole was left by a man half the world idolizes? Steve Jobs' daughter, the writer Lisa Brennan-Jobs, on the process and effects of writing her beautiful memoir SMALL FRY.
- "If I hadn't gone back with a fine-toothed-comb, a lot of these assumptions I had would have just been the air I breathed into my future."
- "There is something like theft in a memoir. If you want to write about yourself you have to write about other people who are unwitting and don't want to be written about…"
Artist, "bird noticer", and concerned citizen of the digital state of the world Jenny Odell looks at many different ways of resisting the attention economy, sinking into the reality of our lives, and finding solidarity and agency with others.
- "Someone is defining the terms already by asking the question. And if you're not attentive, you will accept those terms."
- "It's really hard to draw a hard line around an entity in any ecological system. And I think this is a great description of the self, too."
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