Thursday, June 04, 2020

Leif Wenar on the Resource Curse and Impact Philosophy -- Manifold Episode #49

Corey and Steve interview Leif Wenar, Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University and author of Blood Oil. They begin with memories of Leif and Corey’s mutual friend David Foster Wallace and end with a discussion of John Rawls and Robert Nozick (Wenar's thesis advisor at Harvard, and a friend of Steve's). Corey asks whether Leif shares his view that analytic philosophy had become too divorced from wider intellectual life. Leif explains his effort to re-engage philosophy in the big issues of our day as Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Mill and Marx were in theirs. He details how a trip to Nigeria gave him insight into the real problems facing real people in oil-rich countries. Leif explains how the legal concept of “efficiency” led to the resource curse and argues that we should refuse to buy oil from countries that are not minimally accountable to their people. Steve notes that some may find this approach too idealistic and not in the US interest. Leif suggests that what philosophers can contribute is the ability to see the big synthetic picture in a complex world.


Leif Wenar (Bio)

Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules That Run the World

John Rawls - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Robert Nozick - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

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