April 15, 2004 • Volume 12 Number 15


A teacher of Kant, epistemology and other elements of philosophy - on AM talk-show radio?

It's not as unlikely a circumstance as one might think, says Adj. Asst. Prof. Daniel Dwyer (Philosophy), who recently appeared on the late-night show hosted by WBZ-AM syndicated radio personality Jordan Rich.

Talk-show radio, with its reputation for promoting a "fellowship of the miserable" - a phrase coined by former Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino, a frequent target of hosts and callers alike - would seem to be rather forbidding terra incognita for an academic discussing the intricacies and subtleties of philosophy.

But as Dwyer explains, it's all a matter of finding the right show, and the right host.

"Jordan Rich does a very eclectic show that reflects his wide interests in film, music, literature, and popular culture. He caters to a late-night audience in 38 states and parts of Canada who have similar interests and who don't necessarily want to talk politics or controversial issues at that time of night."

In fact, Dwyer's invitation to appear as a guest stemmed from a call-in he made to Rich during an earlier show, a conversation that touched on the nature of language. Rich asked Dwyer to come talk about the intersection between philosophical dialogue and philosophical themes latent in contemporary film and music.

During his hour-long segment, Dwyer spoke on the nature of philosophy and how best to teach it on an introductory level. On the premise that intellectuals "ignore the often superficially superficial aspects of pop culture at their own risk," Dwyer described how, for example, he incorporates recent films like "Memento," "Groundhog Day," "Insomnia" and "American Beauty" into his classes, or tries to look below the surface of popular music.

Dwyer said his experience was satisfying: no having to talk in sound bites, no shouting matches, no peddling to the lowest common denominator. "The show is unique in that Rich lets guests and callers talk without the pressure to summarize their points before being cut off too quickly. Rich is the impresario of a show that keeps the conversation moving - he is an extremely curious man who is willing to learn from his guests and his callers.

"There was time and interest, for example, to get into the ideas of the ancient Greeks, such as Plato and Aristotle, in ways that brought out the particular issues of self-knowledge and self-deception, virtue and vice, and the reality of the external world. We ended the discussion with the help of one of Rich's long-time callers in Ohio about how philosophy can help people experience the distinctly intellectual pleasures of dialogue and contemplation." -Sean Smith

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