About Daniel Podgorski

Daniel Podgorski is a Californian author, essayist, researcher, and web developer. On The Gemsbok, he provides art analysis (on literature, games, and films) and philosophy articles. His areas of expertise are literature and philosophy, with most of his academic research (as well as most of his informal research) focusing on intersections between the two. He has had poetry, short stories, and articles published in various academic and literary journals—and his short fiction has placed first in both competition and conference settings.

[Game: Dark Souls, FromSoftware, 2011]
Unchosen Undead:

A Thorough Existentialist Philosophical Analysis of FromSoftware’s Original Dark Souls

 

Introduction:

Dark Souls, FromSoftware’s dark fantasy masterpiece, is a seemingly impenetrable work from an interpretive and thematic standpoint. First, famously, much of its worldbuilding and story can be reached only by careful attention to environmental set pieces, optional character interactions, and item descriptions. Second, and more of an obstacle for our present analytical purpose, Dark Souls is a game which seems to be about death, decay, and annihilation—but which is simultaneously a game starring a prophecy-driven character who survives death, and in which souls are demonstrable realities.

But would-be Souls scholars should not despair. As for the subtlety and density of its worldbuilding, this is no rarity in the wider world of art. While it’s nowhere near as complex as a Modernist novel, I would contend that Dark Souls is similarly rewarding to careful attention and study as are, for instance, the works of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. So, obviously I don’t consider the difficulty of accessing its story to be an insurmountable detriment. And as for the seeming thematic contradictions of the game, these are not intractable.

A reading of Dark Souls as being in conversation with, for instance, the canon of existentialist philosophical thought—yields a relatively straightforward path toward interpretation: Dark Souls, especially through its story and gameplay mechanics, is an allegory for the human condition in an entropic universe with no inherent meaning. That might seem vague and insubstantial, but hereafter I intend to provide support for it (and eventually specificity) through careful attention to both the game and the relevant philosophy.

Dark Souls screenshot with Furtive Pygmy, Dark Soul, and First Flame - existentialist philosophical analysis of Dark Souls - FromSoftware - existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Friedrich Nietzsche

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[Game: Dark Souls, FromSoftware, 2011]
Unchosen Undead:

A Thorough Existentialist Philosophical Analysis of FromSoftware’s Original Dark Souls

was last modified: April 25th, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Consciousness, Evolutionary Biology, Panpsychism, Philosophy of Mind]
A Scientific Defense of Panpsychism:

Understanding Panpsychism through Evolutionary Biology and an Analogy to Electricity

 

Stones (Steve Parker) - scientific defense of panpsychism - evolution, biology, electricity

Photo by Steve Parker

Introduction:

Today’s topic is panpsychism, which is a theory in the philosophy of mind that deals with the nature of consciousness. In short, a person who holds to the truth of panpsychism is proposing, as a potential path toward solving the hard problem of consciousness, the notion that every piece of matter in existence possesses some modicum of consciousness. A conscious experience is something that happens at different scales and to different extents for certain collections of matter. The panpsychist would hold that an atom possesses a quantity of consciousness, as does a rock, a person, and a building.

If you’ve not read much into the philosophy of mind (and even if you have, depending on your intuitions), this might seem at first like a lot of nonsense. And furthermore, if you’ve been following along with this series—and so have a fair grasp of my naturalistic, phenomenological, pragmatic, and compromise-suffused personal philosophy—then you are probably going to be surprised by what I say next: I think panpsychism is a good theory. And, much like 19th-century philosopher William Kingdon Clifford, I think that anyone holding to the truth of evolutionary biology (as I clearly am) ought to think panpsychism is a good theory.

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[Topics: Consciousness, Evolutionary Biology, Panpsychism, Philosophy of Mind]
A Scientific Defense of Panpsychism:

Understanding Panpsychism through Evolutionary Biology and an Analogy to Electricity

was last modified: April 23rd, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: The Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare, 1611]
But Your Kind Hostess:

Rhetoric, Meter, and Tone in Act I Scene ii of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

 

Introduction:

William Shakespeare Sanders Portrait - The Winter's Tale - Act 1 Scene 2 - rhetoric, meter, tone, dialogue, analysis

Sanders Portrait of William Shakespeare

In accordance with the heightened complexity in the structure of Shakespeare’s later plays, the rhetoric and verse forms grow more dense. The intertwining thematic and formal constructions visible throughout his body of work become knotted and subtly layered.

One such instance of this mode of high-wrought writing meeting structural experimentation in the later works of Shakespeare is The Winter’s Tale. Its narrative twists (and, indeed, genre twists) set the stage for dialogue pregnant with verbal and dramatic irony.

Careful attention to a particular passage and to the relationship between that passage and the entire play can yield a vivid portrait of how the play’s thematic concerns are woven into every moment. The passage near the beginning of The Winter’s Tale wherein Hermione convinces Polixenes to stay in Sicily is a potent example of this. In this scene, the play’s concerns with authoritative testimony and with gendered power structures belie the facade of courtly playfulness. These areas of interest, though never explicitly confronted, are present in the passage’s musicality, rhythm, diction, and rhetoric.

There is a confluence in the dialogue formed by the rhetorical flux of femininity, power, youth, and virtue and the ironic metrical disharmony of the dialogue’s participants which situates the scene as an introduction to The Winter’s Tale‘s comedy with hints of its imminent tragedy.

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[Work: The Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare, 1611]
But Your Kind Hostess:

Rhetoric, Meter, and Tone in Act I Scene ii of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

was last modified: August 3rd, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Thick as a Brick, Ian Anderson, 1972]
It May Make You Feel:

Analyzing Lyrics in Jethro Tull’s Concept Album Thick as a Brick—Unserious Joke or Serious Art?

 

Introduction:

Photo of Jethro Tull by Cornet Benoit - Thick as a Brick, Ian Anderson - ironic, sincere, lyrics, analysis

Photo by Cornet Benoit

I know what you’re thinking: “What is an article about a progressive rock album doing in this book blog series?” Well, as you could probably tell from how it has featured poetry and plays in the past, this is not a book blog series; it’s a literary analysis and review series. And in any situation where poetry, which most would feel very comfortable labeling as literature, is a candidate for study—songwriting is eligible as well. Now, on to the topic at hand.

Fans of musicians like Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, and Arlo Guthrie are no doubt familiar with songs stretching above the ten-minute mark. And fans of bands like The Who, Rush, and Pink Floyd are familiar with entire albums built around one narrative or theme. But fans of Jethro Tull’s fifth album, Thick as a Brick, are automatically familiar with both.

This strange album from 1972 contains just one album-length song, also called “Thick as a Brick,” which was cut into two parts that filled both sides of the record on which it was originally distributed. But even when ignoring the song’s gargantuan duration, Thick as a Brick is an odd album; it was produced with the intention of poking fun at the pretentiousness of the long, thematic, narrative format of music (often called concept albums), and especially of progressive rock, which it also is.

This makes the album a prime example of parody which is seemingly undercut by the album’s success, with many missing the mockery and the album masquerading as a sincere expression for most listeners for decades. Much like how there are people like Nabra Nelson that see the novel Brave New World as a utopia rather than a dystopia, an artist’s intention might be distant from how people ultimately interpret or accept their art. Thick as a Brick even hit the number one spot on the American, Canadian, and Australian charts shortly after its release. But after all, is the song really just one big joke, or are people right to be taking it so seriously?

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[Work: Thick as a Brick, Ian Anderson, 1972]
It May Make You Feel:

Analyzing Lyrics in Jethro Tull’s Concept Album Thick as a Brick—Unserious Joke or Serious Art?

was last modified: March 28th, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: King Lear, William Shakespeare, 1606]
Music be the Food of Madness:

Repetition, Rhythm, and Passion in Act II Scene iv of Shakespeare’s King Lear

 

William Shakespeare Sketch by M.R.P. - King Lear Act II Scene iv - Act 2 Scene 4 - repetition, meter, speech, analysis

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

The mental disintegration of Lear in Shakespeare’s King Lear is marked, in much of Lear’s dialogue from the play’s latter three acts, by madness interspersed with moments of lucidity. Yet, just before that madness becomes dominant, one can see a pivotal moment in the dramatic action at once figuring and presaging Lear’s breakdown by examining the final scene of the play’s second act.

More particularly, this pivot can be witnessed by paying close attention to the portion of Act II Scene iv which features Lear’s last speech prior to his passionate invocation of the storm on the heath. This speech, delivered in response to the final stripping of his attendant knights by Goneril and Regan, showcases a Lear concerned with dignity, identity, and sanity.

Rather than madness interspersed with lucidity, this speech comes across instead as lucidity tinged with madness. A motion can be traced from logic toward passion and from sanity toward madness via attention to the speech’s employment of poetic techniques.

While grief encroaches on the logical concerns and addresses of the speech’s content, the precise metrical and musical constructions of Shakespeare (much like the constructions of Robert Browning that I have previously covered in this series) reflect the motion of the content—both in the moments when Lear is in total control of his faculties, as well as when he feels his mental control slipping.

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[Work: King Lear, William Shakespeare, 1606]
Music be the Food of Madness:

Repetition, Rhythm, and Passion in Act II Scene iv of Shakespeare’s King Lear

was last modified: August 3rd, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski