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Patterson in Pursuit

Interviews with intellectuals from across the globe. Exploring philosophy, politics, religion, and rationalism. Steve Patterson is an independent philosopher currently traveling the world to interview people in the pursuit of truth. Topics include logic and epistemology, skepticism, metaphysics, ethics, science and religion, truth, Christianity, Buddhism, atheism, culture, economics, the philosophy of mathematics, and every other topic that's important to humans.
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Patterson in Pursuit
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Now displaying: 2016
Dec 29, 2016

The bittersweet paradox is another popular irrationalist argument, which claims that two mutually exclusive things can be experienced together - happy and sad, black and white, bitter and sweet.

Once again, this type of argument falls short, and precise language clears up any confusion. It conflates the appearance of mutual exclusivity with actual mutual exclusivity.

If two things are mutually exclusive, then they cannot be experienced together. If they are experienced together, it's a demonstration that they aren't mutually exclusive.

Dec 26, 2016

Merry Christmas and Bah Humbug! This is an analysis of my interview with a Christian theologian from Cambridge. I wasn't a big fan of his argument, which ultimately rested on a dubious distinction between "who" and "what."

Also in this episode: my attempt at rationally explaining the connection between Jesus and the Christian God.

Dec 18, 2016

Drug prohibition causes more harm than good - that's the argument from libertarians like Dr. Jeff Miron of Harvard. He analyzes the topic from an economic and practical standpoint.

In this episode, we also discuss the role of government in providing a social safety net. Can private charity do a better job than public charity? Jeff thinks so, and I agree with him.

Dec 11, 2016

For the last decade, I've been searching for certain foundations, and finally, I've found them. Logic represents the foundation for all knowledge, and it's the subject of my first book on philosophy: Square One: The Foundations of Knowledge.

If you are interested in objective truth, certain knowledge, and logic, then pick up a copy. Anybody can read it and understand - it's not written for academics, and it doesn't contain useless jargon.

All of my work - present and future - draws from the ideas in Square One. If I've made a mistake here, you can confidently discard the rest of my worldview without hesitation.

Dec 8, 2016

Though it's bound to upset people, I don't think being in the military is honorable. I think it's a sign of weakness, and in most circumstances, it causes more harm than good.

Submitting to orders is not noble. Killing people because you were commanded to isn't courageous. Believing propaganda is not respectable.

Soldiers are how they've been used: as political pawns for ambitious men.

Dec 4, 2016

What are numbers? What are concepts? Do they exist, or do we just act like they exist?

I'm joined by Dr. Jody Azzouni of Tufts University. He's a philosopher who has been arguing for nominalism for years - the idea that numbers and abstract objects don't exist at all. 

His position is a wonderful contrast to the previous interviews I've done on this topic, where the guests have been Platonists. My own views sit in-between nominalism and Platonism.

I think abstract objects exist, but they do not exist in a Platonic realm. They exist in our minds. When we stop thinking about them, they stop existing.

Nov 28, 2016

If consciousness can't be explained within the conceptual toolbox of physicalism, then what's an alternative theory? Are we stuck with dualism?

This is my breakdown of the interview with Professor Bram about consciousness, machine intelligence, and the implications of rejecting reductive physicalism.

Nov 20, 2016

Since recorded history, people have been talking about "religious" or "spiritual" experiences. It's a shame that intellectuals are no longer able to discuss them openly. It's become taboo.

Fortunately, my guest doesn't care about taboos, and he shares some details about his own religious experiences, and I do as well.

We're not the only intellectuals with these experiences, and it's about time we start talking about it. The ideas are too important to leave unexamined.

Nov 17, 2016

Cultures are not delicate flowers that must be preserved until the end of time. Cultures emerge from different individuals trying to best navigate life. Cultures have positive traits and negative traits. As humans, we should steal the positive and leave the negative behind.

Nov 10, 2016

It all started with mashed potatoes...

Nov 6, 2016

Buddhist philosophy focuses on some of the most difficult questions in philosophy - what is the "self"? What is the self's relationship to consciousness? Are there meaningful boundaries in the universe, or is everything a mental construction?

To help me answer these questions, I'm joined by Dr. Janet Gyatso of Harvard University, who is the Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies.

 

Nov 3, 2016

What's the difference between sex and gender? Is "being a woman" different than "identifying as a woman"?

I suspect that a great deal of controversy surrounding transgender people comes down to the way we use language. If we keep a sharp distinction between sex and gender, any tension resolves itself.

Oct 30, 2016

Is the Trump phenomenon reactionary? Is it a cultural movement? What do conservatives think about Trump?

I'm joined by the distinguished Dr. Harvey Mansfield, who has been teaching political philosophy at Harvard for more than 50 years. He has a distinctive conservative voice, and he shares his analysis of the 2016 election.

Oct 23, 2016

I have basic questions about Christian theology - What is God? Who is Jesus? What's the connection between humans and God? What does it mean to be "saved"? Does Christianity imply dualism?

To find answers, I spoke with the theologian Dr. Ian McFarland at the University of Cambridge in England.

Oct 20, 2016

Where are the meaningful boundaries in reality? If there are none - if boundaries are a construction of the mind - then there is no difference between "self" and "not-self", or between "the perceiver" and "the perceived".

In this way, mystics claim that "all is one".

It's a beautiful idea, though I don't think it's quite accurate. Regardless, it needs to be rationally defended and grappled with.

Oct 16, 2016

It's no secret that I'm a curmudgeon. My rule of thumb is that "everybody is wrong about everything all the time." However, this extreme skepticism might be a methodological mistake. To challenge me, I'm joined by T.K. Coleman, who is one of the most positive thinkers around.

Oct 13, 2016

 

Slavery was an injustice. Nobody disputes that. However, it's not clear that reparations will correct the injustice.

In my view, reparations have rhetorical power, but they will not fix the problem. In fact, they will cause additional injustice. Reparations are theft in the present to pay for theft in the past. 

Oct 9, 2016

The world of ideas is moving past academia. We're in the midst of it. More and more people are realizing that the "experts" aren't as knowledgeable as they've been told - and that formal credentialing doesn't guarantee you a job upon graduation.

The community of dissatisfied intellectuals is growing, and I want to be part of it. Let's build the community that we'd like to see.

Oct 6, 2016

Not all certainly true propositions are logically necessary. I discovered this several years ago while laying in bed, thinking about steak. 

Who said philosophy should be confined to a classroom?

Oct 2, 2016

Is the brain a computer? Do machines calculate the same way humans do? Can artificial intelligence ever be conscious?

What does it even mean to be "intelligent"?

To help me answer these questions, I spoke with Dr. Bram van Heuveln of RPI.

Sep 29, 2016

Statistical anomalies: are they divine, or merely coincidental? One-in-a-million events are consistent with two mutually exclusive theories - so how to choose between them?

Questions like this throw us inescapably into the world of philosophy and theoretical reasoning. 

Sep 25, 2016

Breakdown of John Searle's philosophy of mind. His own resolution to the mind/body problem is called "biological naturalism".  

In my analysis, Searle is a closet dualist - even if he despises the title. 

Sep 22, 2016

Religious people have a certain quality that I've noticed over the years. It isn't about their beliefs. It isn't about their methods for reasoning. It's about something else: their commitment to the truth as they perceive it.

If that's true, then religiosity isn't a bad thing itself. In fact, if it's coupled with philosophy and critical reasoning, it's something to admire.

Sep 18, 2016

"The truth is that there is no truth". That roughly summarizes postmodern philosophy.  To my mind, this is an elementary error. It is a self-evident contradiction. However, I admit that I'm biased towards logic and rationality. 

To help me understand postmodernism better, I am joined by Dr. Stephen Hicks, who explains the history and ideas of postmodern philosophy.

Sep 14, 2016

Progressives are masters of indignation. But before talking about how things "should be", it seems wise to first understand how things actually are.

Worldviews not guided by economics are inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst.

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