This is a recording of a talk I gave recently to some kids at a local Christian highschool on the subject of brainwashing. The talk is something of a mix between media theory (following the approach of Marshall McLuhan) and mimetic theory (following René Girard). The idea was to present something provocative that got my young audience to think about their own context and how they're affected but it. I realize that some of the ideas here need more nuance than I was able to provide in a talk of this nature, so there's a pretty strong chance that I come across here as being more one-sided and over-confident on certain matters than is my usual preference/intention. 

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In this episode I'm talking about a few of the powerful life-changing ideas of the Stoics—philosophers like Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. I also (too) briefly touch on some of the overlaps between Stoicism and Christian theology. For more on that particular subject you can have a look at "Stoicism in Early Christianity," edited by Tuomas Rasimus, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, and Ismo Dunderberg. I refer here mostly to (my own take on) Epictetus's "Discourses and Selected Writings," as well as Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations."

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In this episode I briefly explore a few of the links between the creative act of songwriting and the creative act of working out a theology that resonates and turns out to be soul-expanding and life-enriching. https://soundcloud.com/duncan-reyburn/cave 

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June 5, 2017

48 | Skepticism

Skepticism is a fairly important facet of our mental lives—as a question and as a challenge to familiar beliefs and ways of seeing. So how does skepticism relate to faith, and how can faith make room for a healthy kind of skepticism? With reference to W. E. Bowman's "The Ascent of Rum Doodle", Walter Lippmann's "Public Opinion", and G. K. Chesterton's (astonishingly good) introductory essay to the book of Job, this episode explores the use—but also the limits—of adding a dash of skepticism to your thoughtlife.

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Anton Chekhov developed a brilliant and simple idea that storytellers could keep in mind for when they're constructing plots, something nicknamed "Chekhov's gun" and it is this: nothing should be accidental. It's a great idea for storytelling, but maybe its application is larger than that. Maybe it even has something to say about our cognitive biases. And then there's the question of how it might apply to theological contexts. What could this idea tell us about how we understand theology, as well as how we might think of theologizing itself? The idea of the IKEA effect shows up here, along with some Pauline hermeneutics. Some ideas from Christian Smith's wonderful book "The Bible Made Impossible" also feature.

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In this somewhat unusual podcast, we'll look at the rules of a game that you should try sometime (if you haven't already). The game centers on the art of conversation. The game is called a “Pigfest”. It’s a game that provides a wonderful opportunity to engage a range of new and unusual ideas with friends. The rules (in short) are: 1. Share a meal with a few friends; 2. Ask everyone to bring along a “truth statement”; 3. Find a mediator to facilitate the conversation; 4. Allocate a set amount of time (10-20 minutes, depending on how much time you have and how many people are there) to discuss each “truth statement.” 5. Practice the art of conversation.

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There's a lot that's been written on the nature of insights—what they are, how they work (in terms of cognition), what they mean, how they relate to ontology, epistemology and other -ologies. Bernard Lonergan's monster—I mean, master—work "Insight" is just one example. But, at their most basic, insights seem to me to be experiences and stories. This podcast explores the story/experience of just one insight and then offers (albeit very briefly) a few considerations for what, in my experience, helps to make insights possible. Since zombie movies have something to do with this, you can (if you want) read an article that I've written on the subject of zombies: http://repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/43543/Reyburn_Reconfiguring_2014.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y . Support the Unorthodoxy podcast here: https://www.patreon.com/unorthodoxy, and feel free to contact me (Duncan) at unorthodoxy@zoho.com 

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May 12, 2017

44 | Love

What is love? It's a vital question, but the usual answers don't always seem all that satisfactory. This episode is one attempt to arrive an an answer, with reference to the work of Karla McLaren ("The Language of Emotions") and Josef Pieper ("Faith, Hope, Love"). CS Lewis's "Four Loves" is also worth looking at (repeatedly) if you want to go a bit deeper. 

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In this second episode in a two-part spiel on creativity and the logic of novelty, I take a look at the way that analogy helps us to understand cognition. When we understand how we think — that is, how ideas are formed and how concepts are expanded through analogy — we start to get a better sense of how to escalate and build on that process to form new ideas. One book that I found particularly illuminating on the subject of analogy and cognition is Douglas Hofstadter's and Emmanuel Sander's "Surfaces and Essences" — it's a mindblowing book for anyone who is interested in philosophical speculation. I also deal a bit with the theological implications of analogy in my book "Seeing Things as They Are: GK Chesterton and the Drama of Meaning."

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Although the details of that night are unclear, we know that on 29 May 1913 composer Igor Stravinsky's pioneering "The Rite of Spring" provoked huge controversy. While some applauded the performance, a large contingent of the audience started a literal riot. This is just one example of how
different people respond quite differently to novelty. Why is this? How can we better understand what drastic innovation does and what innovation means? How can we better engage with novel ideas and with the whole enterprise of human creativity? How does creativity work? How can we be more creative? This is part 1 of a two-part exploration of the idea of creatvity and the logic of novelty. 
Part 1 focuses on how to engage novelty; part 2 explores the generation of new ideas.

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