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Ordinary Philosophy's Podcast
Dedicated to philosophy in the public square and the history of ideas that change the world
Category: Philosophy
Location: Oakland
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Ordinary Philosophy is founded on the belief that philosophy is an eminently useful endeavor as well as a fascinating and beaut...


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December 12, 2017 07:34 AM PST

Fort Robinson, Nebraska, July 26th, 2017

I wake up at Fort Robinson, just a little ways east of the village of Harrison in northwest Nebraska. I drove here last night from Wounded Knee, which takes about one hour and forty-five minutes. I camped out in the backseat of the car, where I continue to keep my sleeping bag, camp pad, and coats ready to make a cozy nest, in a parking lot behind one of the museum's lodges. It's a soft pinkish-blue morning, a little warm with a cool breeze blowing. It rained a little last night and everything feels fresh and clean, except me. I'll soon find a place to wash my face, brush my teeth, and change into clean clothes. But right now, all I want to do is stretch my legs, drink my little thermos of coffee, and go out exploring in this calm and lovely early summer morning.

I drive the car around the fort, getting a good look at the layout and buildings until I find what I seek: a historical marker near apparent early fort buildings from the eighteenth century...

November 13, 2017 07:08 AM PST

Wounded Knee, South Dakota, afternoon and evening of July 25th, 2017

From McLaughlin, Standing Rock Reservation, South Dakota, I make the 5-hour drive south to my next destination in the Pine Ridge Reservation, just a little ways north of the Nebraska border. My drive takes me through Badlands National Park, though only for a short while. What I see of it is beautiful, and I certainly plan to return.

My destination is Wounded Knee, named for Wounded Knee Creek and the site of a conflict between the United States Army and the band of Chief Spotted Elk, or Big Foot, as the U.S. army dubbed him...

October 15, 2017 05:00 AM PDT
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Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, North and South Dakota, morning and early afternoon of July 25th, 2017
I wake up at Prairie Knights Casino and Resort at the north end of Fort Yates in Standing Rock Reservation, on the North Dakota side. It’s by far the nicest place I’ve stayed at this trip and one of the cheapest. Thanks, gamblers, for subsidizing my roomy bed, my nice bathtub with its complimentary tasty-smelling chokecherry bath products, and my ultra-clean room!

I head south on Highway 1806, otherwise known as the Native American Scenic Byway, towards the tiny unincorporated community of Kenel, in search of the site of old Fort Manuel. Counting the road just across from Kenel’s general store, I turn left on the third road, a dirt road, guided by a little brown road sign. Then I head straight, past the turnoff that curves off to the left back towards Kenel. After a little while, this road curves to the left as well and arrives at a simple, tall, broad gateway made of three large poles with a pair of antlers in the center of the crossbeam, indicating the entrance to someone’s private property, likely a farm or ranch. The place for which the gate marks the entry is encircled by a thick grove of trees. I pull off to the right of the road in before I reach the gateway. Then I look around and see what look like historical marker signs in the field around and beyond the left side of the wooded boundary. There are some wood structures rising from the grass beyond that. I take the little footpath heading in that direction...

October 06, 2017 08:14 AM PDT

~ Dedicated to Genessa Kealoha

Journal: Faith, South Dakota, early morning July 24th, 2017

I woke up in the backseat of the rental car this morning feeling just a little stiff. I drove late into the night last night so I could break up the long drive. I stayed alert enough to continue until a little after midnight, but then sleepiness began to give me that oddly swaying feeling; time to pull over. I chose a nice big gravel lot with a semi truck parked close to the road. I pulled into the other end of the lot near a row of colorful but rusted old tractors and other farm machinery, changed into my sleep clothes, and curled up in my backseat nest. I've decided to leave it ready for such impromptu car campings.

When I awoke, I stepped out to a soft cool morning. It had rained intermittently last night and there were still a few occasional drops falling. A man stepped out from a little garage in front of what I then observed was a little motel right next to the lot. He kindly invited me into the motel's cafe for hot coffee and to freshen up, without rebuking me in word or in tone for spending the night for free right outside of his establishment. I thanked him but decided to push on. I had a little thermos with some coffee left and had felt the urge to keep going. But what a generous man! I did rebuke myself afterward for not stopping in just to show that I appreciated the invitation...

September 29, 2017 08:24 AM PDT

Journal: Horsethief Campground North, Black Hills National Forest, Saturday evening, July 22nd, 2017

It’s a little before 10 pm, the last vestige of the sun’s light has left the sky. The starlight is somewhat obscured by the slight haze and the ambient light from this bustling, heavily populated campground. The children’s shouting and crying are finally quieting down but the teens and adults are still chatting, and some are partying. I chose this site, one, because it was available (it was the last one) and two, because of its proximity to the hike I have planned for early tomorrow, I'll tell you about that after it happens. My tent is pitched for the night, my clothes are ready for the morning. I'll be glad when the night is over and I can leave this campsite. I'm rather regretting choosing this spot because all the hubbub is breaking the peace and disturbing the beauty that this forest could bring, and worsens the disappointed surprise I've been feeling since I entered the Black Hills.

The first attraction (as a street sign identified it) that I came across after entering the Black Hills from the north is Deadwood. This Old West town has been converted to a sort of quaint Disneyland of themey cutesy old-timey trinket-mall combined with Las Vegas excess. I'm sure that if I expected to arrive at Disneyland-LasVegas, I'd think nothing of it, or take it all in with the sense of humor that usually keeps me from turning curmudgeon. But for the last few days I've been immersed in national parks, monuments, memorials, forests, and other spaces that move one to wonder and contemplation and even enlightenment. They're managed so as to showcase, and to protect, and to educate about the natural wonders or important historical occurrences that caused them to be instituted. When I saw that ‘Black Hills National Forest’ sign among the lovely pines across from a glowing red clay hillside, I was happily anticipating more of that since that's primarily what I was here for.

But here on Deadwood's Main Street, the greed for gold, which drove our theft and rape of this natural treasure from those who treated it with the leave-no-trace care that did much better justice to its grandeur, is celebrated without any apparent self-consciousness....

September 18, 2017 03:46 AM PDT

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Friday, July 21st, 2017

Early morning Friday, I awake to a most spectacular view: the Beartooth Mountains from the top of Beartooth Pass, at about 10,900 feet above sea level. As you may remember, I had to pull off the road to sleep last night since I encountered a road block in the middle of the night between Yellowstone National Park and my next destination, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The Beartooth Pass drive is incredible, a worthy destination in itself. I'm very glad I chose this longer route, I can't imagine any other northern route would come close to its beauty.

The drive from the pass to the Little Bighorn is a happy and thoughtful one. I have the deep glow of satisfaction from reveling in the spectacular natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park and Custer-Gallatin National Forest combined with the physical afterglow which follows vigorous exercise from my fast hike up Mt. Washburn. But during the long drive, I also think a lot about the events which occurred at the site I'm approaching, so I've grown a little somber as well....

September 09, 2017 07:25 AM PDT

Journal: Billings, Montana, Friday, July 21, 2017

In my idealistic early adulthood, I often lamented how a certain coffee chain, with its weirdly militarist logo of a two-tailed mermaid with a star on her head (the old logo was much better), seemed to crowd out much of the market for charming coffee shops serving Italian style preparations while playing quality music. The more I've traveled, however, the more I've come to appreciate their ubiquitous clean bathrooms, unlimited wifi, comfortable chairs and tables to write and read at, and dependable coffee.

Especially this morning. I woke up disheveled and a bit cramped: I camped out in the car last night on a pull-out near the road block at the very top of the pass on Beartooth Highway, which runs through the mountains of the Shoshone and Custer-Gallatin National Forests. There's construction on the road and I made it there too late to get through; they close the top of the pass during the night so that the construction zone can be navigated safely, only in daylight hours. My decision as to where to spend the night, therefore, was made for me: every campground, lodge, and hotel I passed were full. It was too windy to set up my tent in the dark, so I re-made the nice cozy nest in the backseat that I had made the night before to spend the night in Yellowstone. I fell asleep to a spectacularly clear and starry night, and I woke up to this...

September 07, 2017 01:33 AM PDT

Journal: Powell Campground & Lochsa Lodge, Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest, Monday, July 17th, 2017

After lingering over breakfast this morning with my sister Bonnie, cousin Beth, nephew Cory, and cousin Mo, I realized there was no way I was making it from Spokane to Yellowstone National Park today. So I thought: why not camp near Lochsa Lodge and do the Lewis and Clark Wendover Ridge hike, which friends of mine will be doing later this week, on the way? I've left plenty of time in my itinerary to go spur-of-the-moment adventuring. My friends have told so many tales of joy and hardship on this hike that my curiosity and spirit of competition just can't resist the challenge. So, I make my decision. I stop at Superior Ranger Station off I-90, discuss my plans with the two oh-so-kind and helpful women there, and get directions. The ranger here who knows the trails, as well as the ranger she conferred with by phone at Powell Ranger Station, both warn me that the trail is extremely rough and in parts nearly impassible, not having been maintained in any way for at least two years. Sounds to me right now more like a dare than a warning.

I head south on Petty Creek Road, a beautiful drive through a pastoral valley, and over the ridge to Highway 12 and a short drive back west. I was here last in snowy, frigid January. It's very different today...

September 04, 2017 01:35 PM PDT

Hello, friends of Ordinary Philosophy!

From time to time, I take a trip to some corner of the globe, to explore the lives and ideas of great thinkers in the places where they lived and worked. For this series, I follow in the footsteps of thinkers who are no longer alive, since those who are still telling their own stories. But those who are no longer alive in the body live on in the ideas that they pass on, and in the example they provide for us to follow.

I’m pleased and excited to announce my seventh philosophical-historical adventure: an almost three-week road trip through the Great Plains and on to Illinois. I’ll fly from Chicago to Scotland on August 9th: I’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in the history of ideas at the University of Edinburgh starting this fall. In the meantime, I’m overjoyed to have this window of time to explore parts of my country which I’ve never seen, and to learn as much as I can along the way...

August 24, 2017 10:05 AM PDT

In my recent readings in the history of the Lakota and other native peoples of America’s Great Plains, I’ve been struck by descriptions of their giveaway ceremonies. They remind me of another practice I had learned of before, and which I believe is more generally familiar: the potlatch, a related custom practiced by Native Americans of the Northwest. Potlatches generally came with strict expectations of giving the gifts away again promptly, and then some. These exchanges cemented power relations and were often aggressively competitive; they’re better understood as tactical, sociopolitical transactions rather than simple acts of generosity.

Lakota giveaway ceremonies, however, are much more altruistic in the sense that we commonly understand the term....

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