Season 5 coming October 16th, 2021

Season 5 of Hi-Phi Nation will begin with a mini-series on the life and works of David Kellogg Lewis, one of the greats of the latter half of the 20th century who died 20 years ago, and who would have been 80 years old today. After a very heavy fourth season and a very heavy two years for the world, we are going to cover much lighter topics, from David Lewis on time travel, alternate universes, and conversational scorekeeping, to the roles vampires, zombies, cannibals, and demons play in philosophy. We’ll also have an episode on altruism and on de-extinction. Please tell all your friends to subscribe so you don’t miss the season. Here is a picture of David Lewis in his 20s from his college yearbook, and a clip of him speaking to Australians in 1981.

A Personal Update

One of the most difficult years of my life, which I hope to god is now over, Delta-willing, just concluded today. My mom, Connie Wong, passed away this morning. I had been taking care of her in hospice at her home the past two months. My sister, her husband, and other family were holding the fort while I had to do my jobs the rest of the time. She lived alone in Southern California.

It was a tragic end to quite an epic life story, a long battle with a non-cancerous brain tumor she discovered in June 2020. Amidst Covid conditions in hospitals, Covid-teaching, Covid-childcare, I zipped between coasts to get her through a botched and failed surgery, daily radiation therapy that ultimately failed and may have accelerated her decline, attempts at physical therapy, and finally, a quick descent into a very debilitating state characterized by painful seizures, the loss of use of half her body, her memory, then speaking, then swallowing.

If we have been collaborating on anything the last year, I apologize for how uncharacteristically difficult I must have been to be productive. Most of all I apologize to all the listeners of the podcast for how tardy the next season has been, but of all the things I could have suspended to prioritize my mother’s care, it was the only one that made sense (in addition of course to the quality of my undergraduate teaching). But the next season is coming, I’m putting the episodes together now, and Slate and I are aiming for a release this October.

The story of the past year is a long story of a series of catastrophic medical mistakes that occurred one morning on July 30th, 2020 , the people who were left to clean up the mess, and the tragedy that ensued. Its also about how the end-of-life system in this country needs to change. As a fan and supporter of all makers of audio, I’m happy to share the story with anyone who wants it for a public audience, but I’m not going to talk about it on my show.

Connie was a single mother with an 8th grade education, sent to the fields by Mao at 15. She fled Guangzhou in 1971 with a satchel of flour and oil. She biked for 40miles, lost her shoes, spent 9 nights walking over hills, and then 6 hours in the water swimming to Hong Kong. She then moved to a foreign country at 30, became a bank teller, raised two children alone who ended up with PhDs, and fully bought and designed the house she retired in. I think her life is a win. She was 72.

Last moments to Register for Panel Discussion

The next event leading up to the fifth season of Hi-Phi Nation is tomorrow at June 10, 1pm ET, 6pm British time, and features a distinguished panel discussion on whether and when we have duties to our past and past selves. It is free, and there is a special invite-only “Green Room” discussion where you can speak “face to face” with the panelists. Just register to get the Zoom link, and put “Hi-Phi Nation” in the “Affiliation” category to get the VIP Green Room link. Do that here: https://marcsandersfoundation.org/duty/

Duties to the past and past selves

Scholars call them “Ulysses contracts.” They are when people decide to take away their own freedom in the future when they think they aren’t in a position to make a good decision. An alcoholic may ask a rehab center to kidnap her and force herself back to rehab should she relapse, a sufferer of bi-polar disorder may require family and doctors to force medication in the event of an episode, those who anticipate dementia may even request physician-assisted suicide in some countries. On an even larger scale, cultures and countries sometimes hold themselves to the visions of their founders and past people even at the expense of current ones, out of feeling of obligation to the past and to vindicate past sacrifices. These kinds of practices are not without problems, and detractors. The next event leading up to the fifth season of Hi-Phi Nation is June 10, 1pm ET, 6pm British time, and features a distinguished panel discussion on whether and when we have duties to our past and past selves. It is free, and there is a special invite-only “Green Room” discussion where you can speak “face to face” with the panelists. Just register to get the Zoom link here, and put “Hi-Phi Nation” in the “Affiliation” category to get the VIP Green Room link. https://marcsandersfoundation.org/duty/

Individual Character and Structural Injustice

In the run-up to the release of Season 5 this fall, I am doing a series of panel discussions, free and open to the public on May 27th, 5:30pm Eastern Time. The first in the series is posted below. I’d love to see Hi-Phi Nation listeners there!

Event Description:

We live in a time when structural injustices and systemic problems abound, in public health, race relations, gender relations, and more. Policymakers and activists propose structural solutions targeting systems as a whole, like a sugar tax, liability insurance for police, school desegregation, or paid family leave. Policy solutions seldom include suggestions that moral and psychological traits of individuals are at fault or should be the focus of change, like moral education, empathy cultivation, or prejudice and bias reduction. Is there a role for interventions targeting individual moral character or psychology to address at least some of the “structural” problems that we face? Register to receive the Zoom link at https://marcsandersfoundation.org/icsi/

Panelists include:

  • Sally HaslangerFord Professor of Philosophy and Women’s and Gender Studies, MIT
  • Jorge LA Garcia, Professor, Boston College
  • Nancy Snow, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing, U. of Oklahoma
  • Alex Madva, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Cal Poly Pomona and Director of the California Center for Ethics & Policy

Hosted by Barry Lam, Associate Director of MSF and host of Hi-Phi Nation podcast.

Final Hi-Phi Nation invite-only Zoom events

This season, patrons of the show received an invitation for an after-show discussion and Q&A with myself and a philosopher talking about the issues from the episode in more detail. Our final event featured philosopher Gregg Caruso who is publishing a book arguing against retributive justice. I am making that event available to everyone here. Please consider becoming a patron of the show, where as a little as $1 a month can support the making of Season 5 of Hi-Phi Nation. Just go to patreon.com/hiphination

Season finale out today

Hello blogreaders, the season finale of the show is out now, and it ties the entire series today with the question, why punish? This one is very philosophical, with a rigorous examination of the reasons for and against retributive justice.

Now that Season 4 is complete, I want to put out a message to all philosophers and philosophically curious journalists that I am taking pitches for Season 5, not just ideas for shows, but story-driven philosophy for the show that you would like to make yourself, and I can serve as editor. If you have an idea or are interested, email me at hiphination@gmail.com.