What Is X?

By Justin E.H. Smith | The Point Magazine

“What Is X?” has been described as “a cross between a Platonic dialogue and ‘The Price Is Right.’” It combines dialectical inquiry of the sort perfected by Socrates and his interlocutors with a distinctly ludic spirit. Here’s how it works: For each episode, host Justin E. H. Smith invites on a guest distinguished in their field (or occasionally a “regular” person who really likes to talk). Smith asks the guest to answer a question of the form “What is X?” (for example, “What is beauty?” “What is nature?” “What are dreams?”), after which the two partners in dialogue undertake a Socratic inquiry into the nature of X, in search of a definition that satisfies both of them. There are three possible outcomes: agreement, disagreement, and aporia (Greek for “dead end”), each with its own sound effect: if we arrive at agreement, a church bell will chime; disagreement is signaled by a bleating goat; if aporia is the best we can do, we will hear naught but a gust of wind. Rigorous but freewheeling, fun and serious at once, accessibly highbrow, these conversations model rational inquiry in a new way, providing answers for truth-seekers... or perhaps just more questions. /// Host: Justin E.H. Smith (justinehsmith.substack.com) /// Presented by The Point Magazine (thepointmag.com)

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