Till the bottom
Episode 18. “N” is for Nationalism, National guilt and National pride (with Mohammed Radi)

Episode 18. “N” is for Nationalism, National guilt and National pride (with Mohammed Radi)

August 19, 2019

On the 18th Episode of Till The Bottom we discuss the politics and ethics of all things National. We invited Mohammed Radi for this conversation, a PhD candidate with a strong personal stance on Nationalism, National guilt and National pride who has experience engaging audiences on these topics in the city of Dresden. We do not see eye-to-eye on every issue in the agenda and thanks to that the conversation turned lively and interesting. We tried to build a steelman out of arguments in favor of cultivating a strong national identity, an ideology none of us is particularly fond of but that had some important historical merits. We talked about the Nation-state as a stepping stone towards an all-encompassing circle of empathy. We also touched upon the guilt-ridden young German generations carrying the moral burden of the actions perpetrated by some of their ancestors during the XX century. Along the same lines, we discuss Colonialism and the feelings of guilt harbored in modern minds of some of the inhabitants of former colonial powers. All of that and more on the Episode 18 of Till The Bottom.

We really enjoyed this one and we hope you do as well!

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Episode 17. On becoming a pianist and on judging art (with Dr. Irina Naumovska)

Episode 17. On becoming a pianist and on judging art (with Dr. Irina Naumovska)

July 12, 2019

First of all, find out more about our gifted guest at: http://www.irinanaumovska.com/

In Episode 17 of Till The Bottom, Dr. Irina Naumovska joins us to take us on a tour along the path towards becoming a professional pianist. Dr. Naumovska tells us how a musical education, of the serious kind, starts almost right after stepping out of the cradle. The fisrt half of the Episode is all about her story. How her unwavering passion for the piano spared her from going through the all-too-common career choosing crisis. She talked to us about the early wanderings imposed on the life of an aspiring professional musician. Dr. Naumovska explains to us how a musical performance is evaluated and which are the salient elements of music that are rated during an evaluation. The discussion about rating music takes us to a broader conversation about judging art in general. The second half of the Episode is all about how subjective artistic judgement is and, to our taste, how subjective it should be. We speak about the transition from romanticism to modernism and the avuenues that this evolution opened for artistic experimentation... as well as for an explosion of subjectivity. We talk about kitsch, the faking of authentic emotion. We speculate about where is the value in art, the object? the concept? the subject?... all of that and more in Episode 17 of Till The Bottom, enjoy!

Erratum: The author (composer???) of "4′33″" is John Cage and not Charles Ives. Thanks to Dr. Naumovska for quickly pointing this out!

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Episode 16. Men, women, consent and inequality of outcome (with Dr. Swati Krishnan)

Episode 16. Men, women, consent and inequality of outcome (with Dr. Swati Krishnan)

June 12, 2019

In this (audio exclusive) episode of Till The Bottom we have Dr. Swati Krishnan to discuss a variety of topics that deservedly have attracted a great deal of attention in recent years. The landscape in which men and women interact keeps on shifting ever more dynamically, so much that it seems that finding ways to sail through it as smooth as possible is a project in permanent construction. We begin by wondering how much progress towards gender equality has been made since the days when Simone de Beauvoir wrote "The second sex". Swiftly we move to discuss the extent to which sexual education in more traditional societies is hampered by taboos. Also, with drawing from recent "high profile" cases such as the Aziz Ansari affair, we explore the intricacies of what "consent" means in modern, casual and considerably chaotic sexual encounters. Finally, we discuss whether professional inequalities of outcome among the sexes are better explained from the "top down", as being the consequences of conditioning or even oppression, or, from the "bottom up", as being better explained through gender typical preferences and biological factors. Was a middle ground found? Listen to find out!

(By the way, this episode was recorded last December, so "this August" means August 2018)

 

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Episode 15. It’s all about the kink: penises, rough sex, rape fantasies

Episode 15. It’s all about the kink: penises, rough sex, rape fantasies

May 15, 2019

One thing led to another until things got quite kinky in the 15th Episode of Till The Bottom. It was to be expected. In which other direction could a conversation head when your starting point is "sexual selection"? Following up from Episode 14, we got deeper into trying to find a naturalistic angle to approach some spicy aspects of human sexuality and anatomy. We talked quite a bit about penises, human and otherwise, what they are for in general and in particular. We talked about the widespread appeal for "rough sex" in human males as well as in females. We ran over a handful of some rather queer human paraphilia (turned on by sneezing? you are not alone). And then, we touched upon a topic that rightly sits among the most controversial and delicate themes one can think of: rape and one of its uncomfortable derivatives "rape fantasies". We hope that you enjoy and do not get too triggered with this scandalous conversation!

One correction. A woman, Erika Eiffel, did indeed marry the Eiffel Tower. However, she did not seek a divorce to wed the Golden Gate. She simply went ahead and made love to it. Actually, just a small chunk of it.

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Episode 14. The evolution of beauty: from humans to birds and back

Episode 14. The evolution of beauty: from humans to birds and back

April 13, 2019

In this episode we sit down to discuss the very origins of beauty. Are the rather maligned "standards of beauty" imposed upon us by cultural means? Do we absorb them by being constantly bombarded by publicity and movies? As we argue, beauty is a much deeper and universal concept with a long evolutionary history. Beauty transcends human whims, it pervades the animal kingdom. Aesthetics is not the exclusive dominion of our species, in birds, it has generated an explosion of physical exhuberance and fascinating behavior. We humans have not lagged behind in the business of shaping the body and the mind of the opposite sex. From Darwin to Zahavi, from humans to birds, to chimpanzees and back to humans, here we explore what are the mechanisms through which, as Richard O. Prum asserts, "beauty happens".Enjoy!

Erratum: It is Alfred Wallace, not Arthur Wallace... sorry!

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Episode 13. Epigenetics, the link between nature and nurture (with Dr. Uddipta Biswas)

Episode 13. Epigenetics, the link between nature and nurture (with Dr. Uddipta Biswas)

March 22, 2019

Dr. Uddipta Biswas joins us in this episode to add another chapter to the perennial Nature vs Nurture debate. This time, however, rather than trying to proclaim a definitive winner we expound on what might constitute the ultimate bridge between both: the relatively novel science of epigenetics. As we hope it becomes clear, Nature and Nurture are not opposite sides in an irreconcilable dichotomy. They feed onto each other through intricately orchestrated biochemical mechanisms, some of which have been elucidated thanks to large scale real life tragedies such as the "Dutch hunger winter" or the seasonal Overkalix famines. Oversimplifying a little, nature predisposes and Nurture enhances (or frustrates). So, can we all become Einsteins, Eulers, Gausses given the right nurturing? It is not that simple...

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Episode 12. East meets West: Identity in a fluid world (with Jiaying Lin)

Episode 12. East meets West: Identity in a fluid world (with Jiaying Lin)

February 22, 2019

To open the second season of Till The Bottom we bring you Jiaying Lin, a Chinese PhD candidate researching urban planning in TU Dresden. Jiaying joined us to talk about a personal topic with huge resonance potential. For an innumerable amount of immigrants the so-called "cultural shock" associated with settling in a new home is an external as well as an internal struggle. The internal upheaval unfolding as one adapts to a new environment can amount to no less than an "identity crisis", or more positively, an "identity revolution". Jiaying has gone through a bit of both. In this episode we explore Jiaying's own identity revolution as she weighs the merits and drawbacks of the "Eastern" way of life on the one hand and the "Western" lifestyle on the other. We talk about stereotypes, collectivism vs individualism, cultural templates of success and even the curious quirks of the dating scene in some Eastern cultures. Hope you enjoy!

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Episode 11. Just how “far to the right” will Europe swing? (with Matthaus Mittasch)

Episode 11. Just how “far to the right” will Europe swing? (with Matthaus Mittasch)

January 15, 2019

Dr. Matthaus Mittasch joins us to close the first season of Till The Bottom on a truly high note. Matthaus starts by re-telling some of the unsavory discriminatory incidents that he faced growing up in East Germany. Sooner than later the conversation became a hybrid between a thought exercise and a debate about the socio-political future of Germany and the rest of Europe. It is a fact that Europe is turning "right", but, how far will the continent sleepwalk into increasingly extreme forms of right wing politics? Just how commonplace is racism in (some parts) of modern day Europe? Our intuitions do not quite converge and that was all for the good, it made for an intense but always civil debate which literally ended on a couple of friendly handshakes. If only every disagreement could end like this!

Oh, and important and slightly distressing note. We recorded this episode when Trump's wall looked like a rather distant and implausible mirage... now it is plausible that our predictive abilities might let us down on that one!  

Thank you for sticking with us through our first season. We certainly enjoyed the ride and we hope you did too! 

The second season is coming soon and we are more than eager to welcome you for one more chatty ride!

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Episode 10. If the Matrix is conscious… bring it on! (with Dr. Till Korten)

Episode 10. If the Matrix is conscious… bring it on! (with Dr. Till Korten)

December 17, 2018

In this episode Dr. Till Korten returns to talk about possible dystopian scenarios where a superintelligent Artificial Intelligence (AI) is suddenly unleashed upon this world. We argue that, although it is surely not a very pleasant thought, if the AI happens to be conscious then it would not be an absolute tragedy. But in order to get there we argue back and forth on what consciousness might be while trying to get rid of our anthropocentric biases. Easier said than done!

Oh, and apologies to Dr. Murray Shanahan for re-christening him as "Michael Shanahan"!

Thanks to Dr. Till Korten for joining us, we hope to get you back one of these days!

To Dr. Shanahan's essay: https://aeon.co/essays/beyond-humans-what-other-kinds-of-minds-might-be-out-there

To Thomas Nagel's landmark paper: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2183914?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

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Episode 9 1/2. Should there be limits to speech? (with Nakul Gote)

Episode 9 1/2. Should there be limits to speech? (with Nakul Gote)

December 17, 2018

This is the last part of a series of conversations with Nakul Gote and we could rightly say that some of the best topics were saved for last. The conversation starts pretty much where the last one ended, that is, with Islam and the prospects of its reformation. Nevertheless it quickly became a much broader discussion about free speech and the all too prescient issue of "free exchange of ideas". We played the role of devil's advocates to try to highlight the possible pitfalls into which free societies might fall if left totally to their own devices, that is, if they were constructed totally from the "bottom-up" and without intervention from the "top". In the end, we agreed that free speech is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones upon which any society which considers itself "free" must be built upon. Thanks to Nakul Gote for this round of conversations!

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