Bitesize Ep 57 - The Great Debates: How to debate philosophical topics in English | Ft. Ben Marks

Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

Charlie invites the historian that lives down under back on to discuss various philosophical topics, including freedom, rules, lockdowns, and lying. They explore the idea of dreams feeling real and the ability to differentiate between dreams and reality. Listen in to see how they debate in a friendly way around some of life's big questions.
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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 057 - Transcript

Ben:
*in an exaggerated British accent* Welcome to the British English podcast. I'm your host, Charlie. I'm going to be doing today. We're going to be doing random picks on topics of philosophy and we're going to be having little debates on the big questions. I want to introduce you to my guest, Ben Marks. He's a local man, a boy from Balmain. He's going to be joining me today to discuss the big topics. Hello, Ben. Thank you. Nice to have you here. *Switches to Australian accent* Thanks, mate. Yeah, nice to be here.

Charlie:
I feel like I can just be the laughter track. That's really good.

Ben:
Yeah.

Charlie:
I like how you picked up on the ridiculous intonation that I bring.

Ben:
Did you like the.. that.. that 1980s, 1970s, sort of British television and radio presenter who have that real pompous pause between every thought as if every word that comes out of their mouth is just the word of God?

Charlie:
Well, that's me.

Ben:
You are. You are my God.

Charlie:
Yeah. So we've got these question cards in front of us.

Ben:
Yeah.

Charlie:
And we've got most adults believe that freedom is a good thing and some say that we should allow people to be as free as possible. Can you make a case why too much freedom could be a bad thing?

Ben:
Absolutely, I can. Um, I'm a believer in rules. You know, obviously, with everything, you have to strike a balance. You know, we've had authoritarian regimes that try to control every aspect of people's lives. Then we have societies that are far too free. I mean, you can look at America, for example, with their gun laws. Those.. Those laws are too free. There's not enough restriction on those. And that's clear to anyone outside of America and a lot of Americans inside America. You can just look at the statistics on that and understand why that's not a good idea. Now, pure freedom implies that we operate under the law of the jungle. That is the fittest and strongest survive and the weakest will perish and suffer. Uh, we're not animals. We've evolved beyond that. Um.. You know, the rule of law is something that's been around for a long time and, you know, fundamental laws, uh you know, statutory laws, it it? Uh.. anyway laws that are put in place by a governing body, you know, that's been around since ancient Greece. And look, let's let's just take a little look at the the best civilisations that have ever existed, the strongest civilisations, most advanced civilisations. They were the ones that had a very powerful rule of law. Um, you know, you look at ancient Greece, then classical Greece, you look at ancient Rome. Um, and then those ideals were picked up by the Europeans and took them out of a feudal age and a dark age into an age of enlightenment and, you know, have helped us progress to the, the period that we're in now where I'm sitting here in a chair, in a comfortable house, talking into a microphone, and you're listening on your computer or whatever you're listening to uh, this on. And um, yeah, it's all of this has occurred because, uh, we're truly high functioning society and part of that is the rule of law. I don't believe in the law of the jungle. I believe that there's more to being a human being than pure physical strength and I think that, you know, intelligence and other attributes need to be protected and they do need to be protected by the rule of law.

Charlie:
Very nice. Very nice. Yeah. And going back to what you said about Australia being a good balance between, you know, giving you freedom and giving you structure. I got hit with a big fine when I came to Australia straight away of crossing a red light and it was $500 there and then and I actually have learnt from that lesson and in England you don't get that kind of fine. You get some points, I think similar to Australia, also hand out points, but I've learned that lesson. I'm, I'm very fearful and I was a bit angry at the beginning, but I'm not doing it again. So I kind of feel like it works. It's a bit tough, but it works.

Ben:
Well, foreigners come here and are very surprised with how many laws we have here. I can't remember the statistic, but it was something like we have the most laws like the most small laws of anywhere in the world, I think. It was something like that. It's some crazy stat like that. And basically there's things that are good which I think that are very important, but there are also things that are just a bit much like I understand that we used to have a bad drinking culture in Sydney. I don't know for anyone listening, if you ever came here in the early 2000s, but we have an area in Sydney called Kings Cross and that was very violent and it was the alcohol and the drinking here was a bit out of control, if I'm being honest, culturally. And so they basically introduced all of these heavy drinking laws. So they started shutting all the venues in Sydney down at 1:30, no drinks after, no hard liquor after 12. Things like that. Some serious lockout laws, right?

Charlie:
Yeah, that's the lockout laws, right?

Ben:
Yeah.

Charlie:
Okay.

Ben:
And we can't, we're not allowed drink in parks. We're not allowed to drink on the street. We're not allowed to drink in, you know, like everyone does. We'll go to the park and have some drinks, but it's actually against the law. You can be fined for it. And I think that's a little bit draconian. I think that those sort of laws need to be in place in certain areas, certain areas that are cultural hubs, right? So a lot of it's revenue raising in my opinion, but there are certain laws which are good. I mean, Kings Cross was a very violent place and it was a culture that needed to be sort of, you know, people might disagree with me, but I think it was a culture that needed to be quashed, squashed and rubbed out. And it has been.

Charlie:
Right.

Ben:
Sydney's a better place for it now.

Charlie:
Okay, so when Americans look at the way that Australia treated lockdown, they have this kind of, in my opinion, strange extreme version of what actually happened. I think a lot of people across the world saw Australia as like this locked down, very harshly treated - they often used it in the newspapers, draconian method of treating people during lockdown. Do you think that was true?

Ben:
Um, well, I didn't experience what it was like in other countries, so I can't tell you what the counterpoint to that was but I do know that I agreed with the lockdowns. I thought that before, we we didn't have enough information when the virus first hit. We just didn't. And we needed to allow ourselves that buffer for.. I would always put the safety of the population ahead of the economy. I mean, that's just me personally.

Charlie:
Okay.

Ben:
Um, I don't think anyone.. There are vulnerable people in our population. I think that they need to be protected. I think that, you know, you can't you can't just say, oh, well, let them die so our economy can be good. That's just me personally, though. Some people, you know, think differently to that.

Charlie:
Yeah

Ben:
Um, I honestly, I gotta tell you, for me, the lockdowns, I mean, we were all paid money by the government. I know it was like, um, uh, it's a lot of big hit, a big hit on the economy, but we were given a bit of money and I actually utilised that time very well. I mean, I learnt a whole bunch of things that have basically started me a new career. So it was good for me, it wasn't great for everyone. But yeah, that's, that's how I would have reacted at the time. What about you?

Charlie:
Yeah

Ben:
What did you think about the, the uh, British way of dealing with it?

Charlie:
I felt like the Brits weren't given harsh enough treatment. I don't know if anyone will agree with me with that, but I think that Australia dealt with it in a in a way that was more effective. It was obviously loads of factors like the fact that we were so far removed from a lot of other countries and London is right at the hub of Europe. So obviously that's got to play a part in it. And Italy had high infection rates. But I think everyone looks at Australia as in like, ooh, they were in lockdown for ages, but really we had a year of not getting it and then we didn't get vaccines because we were fine.

Ben:
Yeah, not getting it in any way whatsoever.

Charlie:
Yeah. And then, and then eventually it caught up with us and we didn't have vaccines, so it was like our lockdown now and everyone was like looking at us like, ooh, they're still in lockdown. How draconian. But it wasn't. Yeah.

Ben:
Yeah. No, I think there was a lot of silliness surrounding COVID in terms of like people claiming there was conspiracy theories. And it was, you know, I mean, that all that nonsense out of America.

Charlie:
Yeah. But yeah, um, so we got to that from 'can you make a case why too much freedom could be a bad thing'. Yeah. What you were saying about Australia, I think, yeah, I think they do have a good balance between the two.

Ben:
Everything's a balance, isn't it?

Charlie:
Yeah, absolutely.

Ben:
Yeah, yeah.

Charlie:
All right. Should we do one more?

Ben:
Yeah, we can do one more.

Charlie:
Should we do a what is right and wrong?

Ben:
Oh, yeah, sure. Whatever you like. You.. Dealer's choice.

Charlie:
Okay. Can you think of an occasion where the right thing to do would be to lie rather than tell the truth?

Ben:
Oh, yeah? Well, I think if you dress anything up as a white lie, you can make yourself feel better.

Charlie:
That's true. Those headphones really suit you, mate.

Ben:
Oh, thanks. That's great. Those glasses really suit you. I can. I can take these headphones off when I leave.

Charlie:
Well, today was the first day that I tried contact lenses.

Ben:
Oh, yeah?

Charlie:
Yeah.

Ben:
Don't do that again.

Charlie:
What? Why?

Ben:
I don't know. Just. It'll just give you red eyes and you won't be able to do anything.

Charlie:
*Laughing* What? Okay. What about this one? Dreams feel just like real life until you wake up, that is, so how do you know that you're not dreaming now?

Ben:
Ah, that's not true. Dreams don't feel like real life. Next. Do you think dreams feel like real life?

Charlie:
I'm trying to figure out a way to disagree with you.

Ben:
They don't really feel like real life. You know, when you.. When you're awake, you know you're awake. You know what I mean? In a dream, you are bound by certain thought patterns here.. we're free thinking, man, like we we are. You've just talked about being in a dream. That awareness. If you're in a dream, that awareness, you would just suddenly like, you'd know you're in a dream. You know what I mean?

Charlie:
I have to say, when I am experiencing a nightmare and then.. What's it called when you're actually unable to get out of it?

Ben:
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Charlie:
Your body's stuck.

Ben:
You mean? Oh, I get that all the time. That's sleep paralysis.

Charlie:
Yes.

Ben:
It feels like a demon's holding your throat and your whole body.

Charlie:
That's just your girlfriend.

Ben:
You can't open your eyes. You're.. You're stuck.

Charlie:
It's mad, isn't it, that feeling?

Ben:
Horrible.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Ben:
I don't.. you know.. I got.. I got this sexy, like, alien woman beating me to death in my dream, and I just can't get out of it. No, like, honestly, it's a really weird. It's a really weird phenomenon.

Charlie:
The reason I brought it up was because even in that situation, I'm dreaming but I know that I'm dreaming and I'm wanting to wake myself up, like my brain is saying, 'wake your body up'. So to prove your point, I know that I'm dreaming.

Ben:
Like, honestly, the amount of clarity that we have in our thoughts right now is completely different to the amount of clarity.. It's not just clarity, it's fluidity in your thoughts. So in a dream, you're actually quite bound by the narrative that's being spat out, you know? You're almost like just reacting, whereas now..

Charlie:
But it's very imaginary or imaginative, sorry.

Ben:
Yeah, well, I don't know exactly how it works within your brain, but when you're in the dream, have you noticed that you're much more reactionary than you are in control?

Charlie:
Yes. Yes.

Ben:
That there's a.. There seems to me to be a fundamental difference in the fluidity of your thought patterns. Like now, I know, I know I'm awake. There's no there's no way I'm asleep. Right? Like, it's not the same thing to me. I can tell.

Charlie:
Wake up, Ben.

Ben:
Imagine if I just woke up now.

Charlie:
Imagine.

Ben:
If that happened - if I woke up right now, like, say, I'm just talking to you and then suddenly I hear this 'Ben, it's morning' and I'm like, five years old, and I'm going to school and like.

Charlie:
'Ben do you want porridge? Benny?'

Ben:
My mum doesn't talk like that. Anyway.

Charlie:
It's your dad, I thought.

Ben:
Oh, God. Um, now you're making my brain trip out. No, no. I do know when I'm asleep, and I know when I'm awake for sure.

Charlie:
Oh, good, good, glad.

Ben:
Um, you know, there are certain..

Charlie:
Put that on your resume.

Ben:
Yeah. Top of the bill. Where have you worked? I don't think you're asking the pertinent questions. Um.

Charlie:
So if you had to guess, why do you think we dream?

Ben:
I think that it's a sorting out of our thoughts and our feelings. I think it's a necessary thing that occurs um.. When we go to sleep, a certain liquid, a fluid is released. I can't remember what it's called, but it basically, it washes through our brain and it it I suppose it cleans our brain.

Charlie:
Yeah, I've heard that. Yeah. It's kind of like it's getting rid of the lactic acid of the brain.

Ben:
Exactly. It's cleansing the brain of certain negative chemicals that are coming out in it. I don't know. I can't remember the name of the liquid, but it does come out when we sleep. Now, dreaming is, in my opinion, just it's a way of sorting out your your deeper thoughts and feelings you push aside. You know, we go through the day and every, you know, we try and distract ourselves. Well, not all of us. The smarter people use other methods, but most of us just go about our day and we're busy and then anything that's negative that's going on in our life or anything doesn't have to be negative. Anything else that's going on in our life may be pushed to the back and I think that all comes out and gets sorted out in the night. I think you really do need a brain reset in the night, and I think that's what dreaming does. It lets you go through the things that you need to process.

Charlie:
I think I would agree with you.

Ben:
What do you think?

Charlie:
I think dreams are there for us to know when we're fluent in another language.

Ben:
Yeah, this is what they say, isn't it? They say if you're a bilingual person and you're living in another country, they say the moment you because you sometimes say, oh, well, what what what do you feel like you speak now? Do you feel like you speak English or, you know, Mandarin, for example? They say, I knew it was when I started dreaming in Mandarin.

Charlie:
Yeah, I said that, but I don't believe it, actually. I, um, because I've, I've dreamt in Spanish before, and I'm very far from fluent.

Ben:
Really?

Charlie:
But the weird thing about that..

Ben:
You've dreamt in Spanish?

Charlie:
But I was actually better in my dream. Like, I could actually speak more.

Ben:
Yeah, okay. With dreams, I find it the funniest thing. You seem to access parts of your brain that are highly intelligent, that you don't access in day to day life. And I mean, I wonder what is restricting our brains from doing that in day to day life? It's probably things like anxiety.

Charlie:
Yes, anxiety is a big part of it.

Ben:
Anxiety and it's not a lack of self-belief and also just a lack of relaxation. I think, you know, in day to day life, we block ourselves in so many ways, right? Now, the reason I say this is I often have dreams that are like, um, very clever metaphors for how I'm feeling. And it's not something I would have thought of necessarily by myself. I mean, I did think of it by myself, but it's not something I would have consciously thought of. It's coming from a deeper part of my brain, which seems like it's more intelligent than me, if you know what I mean. But it's not. It's me. I'm thinking it. It's my brain. Now, like an example of that is I always have these dreams. Just one example is if I'm drinking too much and I'm feeling like alcohol is, I'm out of I'm not controlling the alcohol intake. The alcohol intake is controlling me. If I ever have that, if I'm going through a period with that, it's like, whatever, you know, I might be stressed and then I'm going out too much. If I'm getting to that point, I always have dreams where there are spiders in every nook and cranny of the house. In the couch, everywhere.

Charlie:
Is that because you're in Australia and there actually are? Every single corner.

Ben:
Well, first and first of all, there are spiders all under my couch currently.

Charlie:
Ugh, really?

Ben:
Yeah they're just daddy long legs, they're all right, but, um, they're not poisonous, by the way, for anyone who wants to know, they're those thin spiders that almost look like little pieces of atoms assembled. Uh, I have this dream about spiders being in every nook and cranny. And what that is, is a clear metaphor to me that there's a poison that's encroaching on my life.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's a nice metaphor. I like that.

Ben:
And this happens to me all the time. It's the same thing. Everyone gets that dream where you're running and your legs aren't keeping up with you.. you can't make yourself run. You feel stuck in the mud. It's when you're feeling stuck in the mud in your life.

Charlie:
Yeah, I've had that before with rollerblades on in the grass.

Ben:
Yeah, something like that. And it's a physical.. Your brain's very good at creating a physicalization of your feelings in a metaphorical way, you know?

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah. Thank you very much, Ben. Appreciate it.

Ben:
Yeah, no worries

Charlie:
Thank you for sacrificing your Monday evening.

Ben:
Yes.

Charlie:
For some recordings.

Ben:
No worries. And I have to get up early tomorrow.

Charlie:
Oh, dear. Well, let's get you to bed. Thank you very much, guys, for listening to the end of this. And, yeah, once again, thank you, Ben. Goodbye.

Ben:
No worries. Thank you so much, Charlie. See you next time.

Charlie:
Ta-ra.

Ben:
Bye bye.

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Podcast host: Charlie:
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