026: Ep22 – The Little Engine that Couldn’t

Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast

In this twenty-second episode of the Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast, co-hosts Dr. Eric Thomas Weber and Dr. Anthony Cashio interview Dr. Mariana Alessandri of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) on the topic of “The Little Engine that Couldn’t.” Dr. Alessandri is an assistant professor of philosophy at UTRGV. She has published in The New York TimesTimes Higher Education, as well as in academic journals. She recently published a piece related to this episode in The New York Times, titled “In Praise of Lost Causes.”

Dr. Mariana Alessandri.

This episode of Philosophy Bakes Bread is followed by not one, but two “breadcrumb” episodes. The first one is a follow-up conversation that we had on the bread-baking metaphor. The second is about what we should tell our kids if we adopt Dr. Alessandri’s quixotic pessimism as our outlook. Be sure to check those out: Ep23, BC3 – Who Bakes Bread Anymore?; Ep24, BC4 – Teaching Kids about Pessimism.

Listen for our “You Tell Me!” questions and for some jokes in one of our concluding segments, called “Philosophunnies.” Reach out to us on Facebook @PhilosophyBakesBread and on Twitter @PhilosophyBB; email us at philosophybakesbread@gmail.com; or call and record a voicemail that we play on the show, at 859.257.1849. Philosophy Bakes Bread is a production of the Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA). Check us out online at PhilosophyBakesBread.com and check out SOPHIA at PhilosophersInAmerica.com.


(64 mins)

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  1. Joshua Foa DienstagPessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009).
  2. Seneca.
  3. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (New York: Harper Perennial,  2005).
  4. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, biography.
  5. Martin Seligman, et al., The Optimistic Child (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995), 295-7.



You Tell Me!

For our future “You Tell Me!” segments, Mariana proposed the following question in this episode, for which we invite your feedback: “If you could somehow know that you were going to fail at something, what is still worth doing?” What do you say?

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