In this episode I spoke with Michal Pagis who is an associate professor of sociology at Bar Ilan University, Israel about her new book Inward: Vipassana Meditation and the Embodiment of the Self published by the University of Chicago Press in 2019. Using micro-sociological analysis through participant observation and auto-enthnography, Michal studied Western Vipassana practitioners of SN Goenka 10-day SILENT meditation retreats. We explored a range of questions and topics – especially her observations of socialization process of these practitioners into modes of collective solitude, as well as the tensions, conflicts and complexities these practitioners face with such a secularized practice. It was a lively and deeply engaging conversation that I think you will enjoy.
Dr. Pagis studies the transformations in self and identity in contemporary post-industrial culture with a focus on the intertwining of religion and psychology. Her research includes the modern practice of Buddhist meditations, life-coaching, spiritual care in the medical system and the penetration of popular psychology into ultra-religious and anti-liberal communities.
In this episode I spoke with Adrian Daub about his new book, What Tech Calls Thinking, published by FSG Originals. I discovered Adrian’s fascinating book in a New York Times review which called it ‘scintillating.” Adrian examines the philosophical traditions tech leaders and their boosters draw on to make plausible and inevitable their industry’s resistible rise. His book is an engaging critique of an industry that is blinded by its own elitism and privilege while exploiting and distorting intellectual ideas in ways that function to erase cultural memory and blunt our analysis or skepticism. Diving deep into the intellectual history of Silicon Valley, we explore tech’s rhetorical strategies that have disabled critical thinking and critical analysis. We touch on various motifs such as the “dropping out” of college media hype, Marshall McLuhan’s influence on tech and its valorization of the platform, tech and the counterculture (including Esalen), the hegemonic imperative of disruption, and the fake “fail better next time” trope among the Silicon Valley privileged – and much more.
Adrian is an academic and writer and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Adrian's writing on history, technology, pop culture and philosophy has appeared in The Guardian, n+1, The New Republic, Logic, Longreads and elsewhere.