Theodor Adorno: Free Time

German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno is a key figure in the post-war Frankfurt School of critical theory and one of the top writers every graduate student in North America pretends to have read more extensively than they actually have. Well, we should all stop pretending and hit the books, because Adorno's work on the culture industry, especially the ways in which manufactured "entertainment" actually poison the true experience of leisure, is more relevant now than it was in Adorno's lifetime. In this episode, Joe & Josh serve as temporarily reliable guides to Adorno's prophetic analysis, before being derailed by complaints about their own laziness and their culture-industry-induced preoccupation with conspiracy theories. Capitalism wins again! Still, if you listen carefully, they're clearly on the cusp of Mündigkeit, which might just transform the free time they waste podcasting into freedom proper.

Either way, read the damn essay and make up your own mind:

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George Orwell: Politics and the English Language

Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, is a strong candidate for greatest English essayist of the twentieth century, and "Politics and the English Language" is his final and most famous statement on propaganda, obfuscation, and how linguistic degeneration as a sign of civilizational decline. You probably got assigned this essay in college and don't remember because you never did the readings. Well, now's your second chance. Follow along with Junior Anti-Sex League enforcers Joe & Josh as they hash out the connection between language and thought, try to figure out when it's OK to change our words to suit modern political sensitivities, and rehearse the same complaints against Fox News and media consolidation that they've been making since 2002. Oh, and inevitably fall through the Trump trapdoor. Orwell would have surely found this episode, um... not ungood at least.

As always, be sure to read the original essay before listening:

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Sam Harris: Thinking About Good and Evil

In their first episode, Joe & Josh read America's least controversial writer, Sam Harris, on how science can help us answer moral questions. And they're more than a little skeptical. Along the way, they talk about the meaning of life, moral relativism, and the origins of good and evil. As first episodes go, this one is perhaps the greatest in the history of podcasting. (Prove that statement is wrong. Scientifically.) Get ready for earnest ruminations on the death camps and the atom bomb, a shout-out to Emile Cioran, and many declarations of your hosts' own total lack of intellectual confidence.

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Welcome Episode

In this inaugural mini-episode, Joe & Josh give their defense of the Essay Questions podcast and explain what made them want to do it in the first place. They give an overview of some of the authors and topics that this season will cover, argue that long-form essays are of vital importance in an age of social media and short attention spans, and explain how their decade-plus friendship gave them an excuse to bring yet another podcast into the world. Please be sure to listen to this episode before you jump into the main content. Enjoy!

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