Sex Cults, philosopher John Rawls and Indigenous Tourism in Canada - Dinner Table Digest № 13

The Dinner Table Digest is an intermittent collection of interesting material from around the internet, curated by Peter Thurley at Dinner Table Don'ts. Subscribe today!

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Philosophy in the Shadow of Nazism - Adam Kirsch - New Yorker

While this piece is ostensibly a book promo for The Murder of Professor Schlick by David Edwards, it provides a very accessible intro to one of the most influential philosophical traditions of the 20th century, the Linguistic Turn, promulgated by a group of German-Austrian philosophers known as the Vienna Circle. Writing between the world wars, this group of philosophers brushed up against the backdrop of the rise of Nazism, coming up against Martin Heidegger, a German philosopher who disagreed with the laser-like focus on language, arguing instead that meaning can importantly be found outside of language. Unfortunately, Heidegger was a Nazi, making it very difficult to separate his arguably important rebuttals to the Vienna Circle from his politics.

…the members of the [Vienna] Circle, though they didn’t agree on everything, were committed to two basic principles. First, “there is knowledge only from experience, which rests on what is immediately given. This sets the limits for the content of legitimate science.” Second, “the scientific world-conception is marked by application of a certain method, namely logical analysis.”

Together, these ideas gave the new school of thought its name, logical empiricism. For logical empiricists, philosophy doesn’t deal with ideas or things; it deals with statements, sentences, propositions. By putting together a series of true statements, it’s possible to create what Wittgenstein, in the “Tractatus,” called a “model of reality,” a representation of the world in language.


Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult

I have long been fascinated by cults, and after listening to the CBC podcast on the NXIVM cult a year and a half ago, I have been so interested in this sordid tale of a sociopathic narcissist with no moral compass at all leading thousands of seemingly intelligent people down a dark path to slavish devotion. When a pair of documentaries was released this fall, Shandi and I sat down to watch, enthralled. The first one, The Vow, takes a look at it from a more sociological perspective, with a filmmaker and the original whistleblower at the centre of the piece. Also involved with that production was Catherine Oxenberg, European royalty and an actress whose daughter India was deep inside the cult, eventually becoming a branded sex slave. The second documentary, featuring India, takes us through the more misogynistic elements of the cult, and looks at how some of the victims have been putting their lives back together.


Revisiting John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice - Jesse Norman - Prospect Magazine

In this piece, written by current British Conservative MP and former professor of philosophy Jesse Norman, the legacy of John Rawls is considered in light of the changing mores of the 21st century. On a personal note, Rawls is near and dear to my heart - I wrote my M.A. thesis on how his work could support a universal health care system. If you’d like to see what that might look like, check it out for yourself.

“…the present crisis raises a more specific concern about the difference principle, the most distinctive of Rawls’s rules. The book’s apparent acceptance of inequality—provided it is to the benefit of the least well-off—raised questions in the 1970s, when US CEO pay was 25 times the average worker’s. Today that ratio is 280 times, and we are far more aware of the impact of material inequality and status differences on human wellbeing. It is easy to imagine that people in the original position today might wish to choose a stronger egalitarian principle. More broadly still, we might say, if there is little more agreement about what is fair than about what is just, then it is not so clear how useful it is to define justice in terms of fairness.”


Indigenous Women in Canada take back the tourist narrative - Jessica Prupa, National Geographic

Finally, a brief look at the ways that Indigenous women on Turtle Island are reclaiming their land through tourism from a First Nations perspective.

“There used to be a sort of ‘pan-Indianism’ promoted in Canadian tourism that contributed to stereotypes about Indigenous people,” says Marilyn Yadultin Jensen, vice-chair of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) and an educator in Indigenous governance. “Now we have a stronger partnership with organizations like Destination Canada—the government-owned national research and marketing company dedicated to supporting Canada’s tourism industry—and Indigenous people are at the front end of the industry.”

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