049: Ep45 – Experimentation in Art and Law

Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast

Dr. Brian Butler.In this forty-fifth episode of the Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast, we interview Dr. Brian Butler of the University of North Carolina Asheville. We talk with Brian about two applications of the idea known as “democratic experimentalism” that have been at the heart of his work. One application concerns Constitutional law. The other involves the history of Black Mountain College, an experiment in democratic experimentalism applied to higher education, where art was central to education in the college.

Sue Spayth (left) and unknown student in front of the Lee Hall, Blue Ridge Campus, 1938.

© Western Regional Archives, States Archives of North Carolina. This and other photos available at Metalocus.

Dr. Butler is the Thomas Howerton Distinguished Professor of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at the UNC Asheville. He recently published his book, The Democratic Constitution: Experimentalism and Interpretation, with the University of Chicago Press. He was also the Project Director in 2010 for a large grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities’s “We the People” Grant program, which focused on “Black Mountain College: An Artistic and Educational Legacy.” Black Mountain College was founded in 1933 in North Carolina as was an experimental college with a central role for art in liberal arts education. John Dewey’s philosophy of education was a fundamental inspiration for the college.

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.


(1hr 8 mins)

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  1. Entry on H. L. A. Hart at Oxford Legal Philosophers.
  2. Ronald Dworkin’s obituary in The New York Times.
  3. Brian Butler, The Democratic Constitution: Experimentalism and Interpretation (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017).
  4. A brief introduction to the history of Black Mountain College.
  5. Martin Duberman, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 2009).
  6. Mary Caroline (M. C.) Richards, a former faculty member at Black Mountain College.
  7. The Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center.
  8. State Archives of North Carolina.
  9. Visit Black Mountain College.


You Tell Me!

For our future “You Tell Me!” segments, Dr. Butler posed the following questions in this episode:

“How does democracy relate to evidence? What type of evidence should be allowed in a democracy and what kind of evidence should be excluded?”

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