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Podcast Profile: Philosopher's Zone

podcast imageTwitter: @DavidPZone
Site: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone
241 episodes
2019 to present
Average episode: 30 minutes
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Categories: Broadcast Radio Programs • Interview-Style

Podcaster's summary: The simplest questions often have the most complex answers. The Philosopher's Zone is your guide through the strange thickets of logic, metaphysics and ethics.

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List Updated: 2024-Apr-14 06:08 UTC. Episodes: 241. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

Episodes
2024-Apr-11 • 28 minutes
The predicament of existence
Pain is part of life, and none of us can escape it. And yet most of us feel that the deal is worth it, that the pleasure of life outweighs the suffering. Anti-natalist philosophy takes a different view.
2024-Apr-05 • 28 minutes
Mary Midgley, public philosophy and plumbing
British thinker Mary Midgley (1919-2018) believed that philosophy should be a public undertaking, concerned with issues that have their genesis out in the world rather than within the academy. But what is the proper relationship between public and academic philosophy? And why are we talking about plumbing this week?
2024-Mar-28 • 28 minutes
Intellectual humility
Humility is the capacity for acknowledging that your own wisdom may be flawed, and that your epistemic commitments may be misplaced - but how can that acknowledgement honestly take place if you believe that the things you know are true?
2024-Mar-21 • 40 minutes
Freedom or liberty?
"Freedom" has become a familiar catchcry in Western democracies, as individuals and protest groups increasingly push back against government restrictions of any and all kinds. The problems this poses for communal life and social cohesion are obvious - so how should freedom be properly understood?
2024-Mar-15 • 28 minutes
Philosophy, angst and hope
How does a woman philosopher deal with the challenges posed by conservative, masculinist culture within her own academic discipline? Our guest this week turns to the work of Immanuel Kant, the 18th century German thinker who formulated a fine-grained philosophy of hope.
2024-Mar-07 • 43 minutes
Music, taste and AI
When you think about the music you like (or don't like), what does it tell you about your taste? Do you think you have good taste? And if you do, why? What is it about music that determines good or bad taste, and is it possible to cultivate the former?
2024-Mar-01 • 28 minutes
The philosophy of twins
This week we're exploring our enduring cultural fascination with identical twins, asking what drives it, and what philosophical questions around selfhood and identity are raised by twinship.
2024-Feb-23 • 29 minutes
Philosophy, disability and the gut
Digestive disorders are a common source of distress and social anxiety - which might seem to be an odd topic for philosophy, until you start to think about why we attach such stigma, shame and silence to issues of the gut. What does the gut tell us about our own experience of embodiment - and how can disability theory be used to shape healthier attitudes to the gut issues that plague so many of us?
2024-Feb-16 • 32 minutes
Pornography and free speech
The global pornography industry is getting bigger, more mainstream and more nasty - but does this mean it should be regulated? Many feminist philosophers would say yes - but this places them at odds with liberal defenders of pornography, who worry that regulation would constitute an attack on free speech.
2024-Feb-08 • 34 minutes
What are Australian philosophers thinking?
Australian philosophy has been punching above its weight in recent decades - but does there exist something that we could call an identifiably Australian philosophical tradition? And how does the future of Australian philosophy look, at a time when the academic Humanities are under siege, and universities are being pushed to turn out "job-ready graduates"?
2024-Jan-31 • 44 minutes
Queer vs the state
For a long time there's been an ambivalent relationship between LGBTQ communities and the state. Even in liberal democracies, which supposedly exist to protect the interests of all their citizens, examples of the state-sanctioned persecution of sexual minorities can be found right up to the present day. And the intellectual project of queer theory has had an anti-state scepticism baked into it from its earliest inception.
2024-Jan-25 • 35 minutes
What is swearing?
What exactly is it about swearing that gives it its offensive power? None of the standard philosophy-of-language explanations really gets to the bottom of why we swear, why we don't, and what we're doing when we use "obscene" language. This week, the author of a new book offers some thoughts.
2024-Jan-18 • 28 minutes
Friendship
What makes a true friend? Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics outlines certain conditions for virtuous friendship, but he sets the bar high, and his estimation of women's capacity for friendship is low. This week we're putting Aristotle in dialogue with Mary Astell, an early modern (and proto-feminist) English philosopher who also wrote extensively on friendship.
2024-Jan-11 • 30 minutes
Transgender identity and experience
Transgender is commonly invoked as an identity, but this week we're asking if it is better understood as something that points to experience.
2024-Jan-04 • 28 minutes
Gender, gaming and pop culture
If you're a gamer, you might be interested to hear that according to a new study, female characters speak approximately half as much as male characters in video games. But why should philosophers be interested?
2023-Dec-28 • 36 minutes
Richard Rorty and America
In 1998, the American philosopher Richard Rorty predicted dark days for democracy and the rise of a Trump-like figure in the USA. This week, with the publication of a new collection of Rorty's essays, we're considering the ongoing relevance of his work.
2023-Dec-21 • 28 minutes
Women philosophers in antiquity
If you don't know much about women philosophers in the ancient Graeco-Roman world, you have a good excuse. They're known to have existed, but hardly any of their works have survived, and historical accounts of their lives tend to come from biographies written by men. This week we try to unravel the mystery.
2023-Dec-14 • 28 minutes
Time in the time of COVID
During the lockdowns at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, people started to experience a strange sense of temporal distortion - time slowing down, time speeding up, time getting bent out of shape. This week we hear from a philosopher, a historian and a sociologist about how that might have happened, and what it might mean.
2023-Dec-08 • 28 minutes
Stability, security and survival: a conversation with Mary Graham
Mary Graham is one of Australia's most distinguished Aboriginal academics and authors. In this conversation, she articulates a political philosophy of relationality, conflict management and much more.
2023-Nov-29 • 41 minutes
Libertarianism
Libertarians are hard to pin down – they have a number of seemingly contradictory commitments that we normally associate with people on either the left or the right of politics. Libertarians like small government, low taxes and free markets – but they also favour things like same-sex marriage and drug legalisation. So what exactly is libertarianism, and where did it come from?
2023-Nov-24 • 46 minutes
The Cynics
Cynicism is a philosophical tradition that existed for centuries in the ancient Graeco-Roman world. Its influence can be found in the Christian gospels, throughout the Western philosophical tradition, and arguably up to the present day in the work of such protest groups as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion - not bad for a philosophical school whose most famous early practitioner lived in a wine jar and masturbated in public. But what exactly did the Cynics believe? and what can we learn from them today...
2023-Nov-16 • 28 minutes
The philosophy of biology
Biology is a scientific discipline, notionally given to the pursuit of hard facts and empirical evidence - so what can philosophy bring to the table?
2023-Nov-10 • 35 minutes
Banality, deception and evil
Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" thesis has been hugely influential in moral philosophy, but how well does it hold up today? This week we're asking if Arendt's characterisation of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as a mindless functionary, devoid of ideology, was accurate - and whether or not it's still important to understand evil as something that doesn't always appear as dramatic of colourful.
2023-Nov-03 • 28 minutes
Defining Aboriginality
The legal definition of Aboriginality is a complex issue, raising questions that have to do with identity, epistemology and politics. And while "race" as a biological category has been scientifically discredited, it still persists in Australian society, culture and law. So how should Aboriginality be defined?
2023-Oct-26 • 28 minutes
Race, biology and medicine
The idea that race is a "natural" category, grounded in biology, has long been discredited - and yet it persists in a surprising number of places. This week we're looking at how medical practice has been shaped by outmoded assumptions about race, and how these assumptions directly affect the health of racialised people.
2023-Oct-18 • 37 minutes
Is there purpose in the cosmos?
To many people, the notion that the universe has consciousness and purpose belongs back in the pre-scientific era. This week we're exploring the possibility that cosmic purpose is defensible not only philosophically, but also scientifically.
2023-Oct-12 • 35 minutes
Power, domination and the ethics of global philanthropy
When billionaires want to make a positive difference in the world, many of them turn to philanthropy. Which is fine in principle, but this week we're asking if giving away money via huge global philanthropic foundations is really an unalloyed good.
2023-Oct-05 • 37 minutes
Poverty and punishment
This year's Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme exposed a system that unfairly (and illegally) subjected vulnerable people to stress and trauma - but was it deliberately punitive? And to what extent does our welfare system reflect negative public attitudes toward people living in poverty?
2023-Sep-29 • 38 minutes
Free will, consciousness and AI: a conversation with Daniel Dennett
Daniel Dennett is one of the world's leading philosophers and cognitive scientists - at 81, and with a new memoir published, he's still as provocative and inspiring as ever.
2023-Sep-22 • 28 minutes
René Girard and victimhood
The politics of victimhood is a feature of our contemporary cultural landscape - but according to French philosopher René Girard, the impetus behind victim politics has been driving human civilisation for millennia.
2023-Sep-14 • 28 minutes
Beauty and AI
AI-powered beauty apps are becoming increasingly popular, as people use them to evaluate, rate and enhance their facial appearance in selfies and other images. But exactly what's going on behind the technological wizardry raises a host of troubling ethical and philosophical concerns.
2023-Sep-08 • 28 minutes
The pathology of ugliness
There are plenty of features of our faces and bodies that we don't necessarily like - but does this make them aberrations that require medical intervention? As the cosmetic surgery industry goes from strength to strength, the answer would increasingly appear to be Yes.
2023-Aug-31 • 38 minutes
Women philosophers in 19th century Germany
When we think of 19th century German philosophy, we perhaps think first of Nietzsche, or Hegel, and then some other men - but Germany in the 1800s was also home to a number of women philosophers.
2023-Aug-24 • 28 minutes
Police abolition
What might a society without police look like? For some, the idea of police abolition evokes a vision of danger, anarchy and chaos - but for heavily-policed communities subject to high rates of incarceration, it's a survival imperative.
2023-Aug-18 • 39 minutes
Neofeudalism: techno-lords and peasants
For many on the political left, the end of capitalism is a cherished ideal - but what if capitalism ended and we found ourselves with something worse? This week we're exploring the possibility that Western liberal democracies could be sliding in the direction of "neofeudalism" and devolving into a much nastier set of economic and social structures than the ones we presently have.
2023-Aug-11 • 28 minutes
Friendship
What makes a true friend? Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics outlines certain conditions for virtuous friendship, but he sets the bar high, and his estimation of women's capacity for friendship is low. This week we're putting Aristotle in dialogue with Mary Astell, an early modern (and proto-feminist) English philosopher who also wrote extensively on friendship.
2023-Aug-04 • 28 minutes
Gaslighting
Gaslighting is the word on everyone's lips right now – in fact, Merriam-Webster named it their Word of the Year for 2022. But what is it about gaslighting that has us all talking about it? And why is it philosophically interesting?
2023-Jul-28 • 28 minutes
Why time doesn't pass
Most of us experience time as something that passes, or flows like a river - or at least we think we do. Could it be that the sense of time passing is just an illusion? This week we're getting to grips with a theory of time that denies the reality of "flow" - and we're asking why time seems to speed up or slow down in certain situations.
2023-Jul-21 • 39 minutes
Exploring Tourette's
Tourette Syndrome is not well understood, even by clinicians, and it raises a host of fascinating philosophical questions around volition and free will. Is Tourette's-related behaviour intentional? And if it is, should it be understood as action that carries moral responsibility?
2023-Jul-12 • 28 minutes
Philosophy and myth
There was once a time when mythology and philosophy got along perfectly well together. But since the Enlightenment, philosophy has come to regard myth as something of an embarrassment – especially in political theory, where the memory of "blood and soil" Nazi ideology is still fresh. Is there a role for myth in secular democratic politics, and in modern philosophy?
2023-Jul-06 • 30 minutes
Transgender identity and experience
Transgender is commonly invoked as an identity, but this week we're asking if it is better understood as something that points to experience.
2023-Jun-28 • 28 minutes
How philosophy fell in love with language
Around the beginning of the 20th century, philosophy began to take what's come to be known as "the linguistic turn". All major philosophical questions, it was argued, were really questions about language, and this conviction would dominate philosophical discourse for the next century. But are philosophers now starting to turn away from the linguistic turn? And what might be coming next?
2023-Jun-23 • 28 minutes
Philosophy for tough times
Life is hard - disappointment, regret and suffering come with the territory - and if the projections of climate scientists and epidemiologists are correct, it's not going to get easier any time soon. But then, life has always been hard. What do philosophical traditions have to say about the incurable toughness of human existence?
2023-Jun-16 • 28 minutes
Taking politics seriously
Is justice a game? Most of us would say no. But for John Rawls – arguably the 20th century’s most important political philosopher – the answer was a qualified yes. This week we’re wondering if the gamification of justice can create more losers than winners.
2023-Jun-09 • 28 minutes
Gender, gaming and pop culture
If you're a gamer, you might be interested to hear that according to a new study, female characters speak approximately half as much as male characters in video games. But why should philosophers be interested?
2023-Jun-02 • 28 minutes
Exploring the multiverse
Do parallel universes exist? The answer depends on who you ask. Some philosophers and scientists say it's an absurd concept, while others say the existence of the multiverse can be inferred directly from known laws of physics.
2023-May-25 • 29 minutes
Leadership
What do we mean by good leadership? Leaders in business are generally judged according to how effective they are, how much value they generate for shareholders and so on. But at what point do ethical concerns enter the equation?
2023-May-21 • 29 minutes
Bilingual parenting, home and the mother tongue
Standard philosophical accounts of language present it as a kind of home – a place that we inhabit, and that shapes our sense of self. But what happens when we're not quite "at home" within a language?
2023-May-14 • 29 minutes
Philosophy behind bars
What does it mean to study and teach philosophy in prison? Andy West has been teaching philosophy in prisons since 2015, and his memoir The Life Inside is a fascinating account of this experience - as well as a reflection on inherited trauma and the fact that his father, uncle and brother all spent time behind bars.
2023-May-04 • 28 minutes
Trans-national adoption and "blending in"
This week we're exploring the “trans-racial adoption paradox", the feeling of belonging culturally while embodying difference, and the challenges faced by adopted people of colour navigating predominantly white communities and social worlds.
2023-Apr-28 • 36 minutes
Richard Rorty and America
In 1998, the American philosopher Richard Rorty predicted dark days for democracy and the rise of a Trump-like figure in the USA. This week, with the publication of a new collection of Rorty's essays, we're considering the ongoing relevance of his work.
2023-Apr-23 • 28 minutes
The anti-philosophers
One of the curious things about the history of philosophy is that it periodically throws up thinkers who question the whole business of… doing philosophy. How should we situate these paradoxical figures? Is it possible to be a philosopher if you're arguing that philosophy is an impossible project?
2023-Apr-13 • 28 minutes
De-extinction, pt 2
The project of bringing extinct animals back into being is sexy, hi-tech and could confer significant environmental benefits - but at what cost? Some argue that resurrecting extinct species could actually work against the conservation of threatened species that currently exist. Why worry about their possible extinction, if we can just bring them back?
2023-Apr-06 • 28 minutes
De-extinction, pt 1
Gene technology has brought us to the point where it's theoretically possible to bring back extinct animals from the "species grave". But the science is not straightforward - and neither is the philosophy.
2023-Mar-31 • 28 minutes
Art and hate speech
This week we're exploring the idea that art can say things, and do things, and mean different things according to shifting historical circumstances - and that those sayings, doings and meanings aren't always benign or harmless. How should we respond to morally problematic art - particularly the kind of art that can function as hate speech?
2023-Mar-23 • 30 minutes
Women and the canon
Women have always been philosophers, often highly regarded by their male contemporaries. So why are women philosophers often regarded today as second-tier thinkers? And what happens when we try to uncover their histories?
2023-Mar-16 • 30 minutes
Data privacy and informed consent
Ninety-four per cent of Australians do not read privacy policies that apply to them – because who has the time? But the amount of data we all create and share has dramatic implications for privacy and safety. Informed consent is taken very seriously in the medical community, is it time for companies using AI and Big Data to follow suit?
2023-Mar-09 • 30 minutes
Women philosophers in antiquity
If you don't know much about women philosophers in the ancient Graeco-Roman world, you have a good excuse. They're known to have existed, but hardly any of their works have survived, and historical accounts of their lives tend to come from biographies written by men. This week we try to unravel the mystery.
2023-Mar-05 • 30 minutes
Moral creativity
This week we're exploring the concept of moral creativity - a virtue that can be useful when it comes to negotiating the grey areas in our modern moral universe.
2023-Feb-24 • 30 minutes
Tradition, modernity and crisis in Ukraine
How can learning flourish in a time of war? Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in January 2022, thousands of scholars have fled or been displaced, while nearly 200 institutions of higher education have been damaged or destroyed. This week we explore the possibilities for supporting and restoring the academy, and the role of Ukrainian intellectual traditions in resistance.
2023-Feb-17 • 30 minutes
The lessons of failure
As much as we dislike thinking about it, failure is deeply embedded within everything we do and everything we are. From our politics to our bodies, the salient feature is that it all falls apart sooner or later. Failure has inspired a million depressing songs and poems - but it's also fertile ground for philosophy, and for some unexpectedly positive reflections.
2023-Feb-10 • 30 minutes
A Buddhist perspective on the ethics of violence
For philosopher Martin Kovan, the resources within Buddhism provide an analytical means to gain new perspectives on violence. His book is A Buddhist Theory of Killing: A Philosophical Exposition.
2023-Feb-02 • 30 minutes
On being a minority in philosophy
What challenges come with being a minority in philosophy?
2023-Jan-25 • 30 minutes
Skilled performance and cognition
When a tennis pro lunges for a difficult drop volley, or a concert cellist rips through the difficult section of a Bach suite, are they thinking about what they're doing? Some would say that elite physical performance is essentially a mindless phenomenon, and that thinking is counterproductive to success. But the reality is more complex - and more interesting.
2023-Jan-18 • 30 minutes
China, Confucius and the courtyard
For more than three millennia, most buildings in China were configured around a central courtyard. This week's guest believes that the courtyard helps us to understand Chinese society and culture, as well as Confucian philosophy. Today, with increasing numbers of people living in urban apartment buildings, the courtyard has become something of a period piece. What does this tell us about Chinese thought and identity in the modern world?
2023-Jan-11 • 30 minutes
Values and goals
The recipe for living well is simple: develop a morally sound set of values, formulate goals rooted in those values, and achieve those goals. But beneath this basic formula there lurks a number of tricky questions.
2023-Jan-04 • 30 minutes
Pop, philosophy and politics
When philosophy turns its attention to music, it's traditionally an exercise in high culture. Questions about the nature and function of music are often explored with reference to an established canon of "serious" music – while pop finds itself relegated to the margins. This week we're getting serious about pop, and exploring the ways that the compositional and sonic structures of pop music reflect the social and political structures of the broader culture.
2022-Dec-28 • 30 minutes
Conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism and fun
You don’t have to be stupid to be a conspiracy theorist. Many people who buy into paranoid fantasies about stolen Presidential elections and global Satanic cabals are perfectly sane, well-educated individuals. So why do they fall for these myths? This week we consider the possibility that the attraction is primarily aesthetic, and that the experience is fun. But why the perennial focus on Jews?
2022-Dec-21 • 30 minutes
Efficiency, productivity and excess
These days we’re constantly pushed to be more efficient – at work, of course, but also in our leisure pursuits and even while we sleep. How did we get here? And how can we get back to a state that’s governed by principles other than accumulation and profit? This week, a story of two key figures in the history of modern industrial capitalism: F.W. Taylor, the father of “scientific management” theory, and French thinker Georges Bataille, whose economic philosophy was predicated on the notion of spending rathe...
2022-Dec-14 • 30 minutes
Philosophy and children
Children can teach adults a thing or two when it comes to the getting of wisdom. But does this mean that children are philosophers? And if the answer is Yes, then what kind of philosophers are they?
2022-Dec-09 • 30 minutes
Power, domination and the ethics of global philanthropy
When billionaires want to make a positive difference in the world, many of them turn to philanthropy. Which is fine in principle, but this week we're asking if giving away money via huge global philanthropic foundations is really an unalloyed good.
2022-Dec-02 • 30 minutes
Bilingual parenting, home and the mother tongue
Standard philosophical accounts of language present it as a kind of home – a place that we inhabit, and that shapes our sense of self. But what happens when we're not quite "at home" within a language?
2022-Nov-25 • 30 minutes
Owning the public square
Confusion has reigned at Twitter since Elon Musk took the reins of the company, and one of the most pressing questions has to do with whether or not the social media platform will be reshaped to fit its new CEO's ideal of unfettered free speech. Musk has referred to Twitter as the "digital town square" – but how can the town square also be a private estate, owned by a billionaire? This week we're talking property, ownership... and how it all connects with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
2022-Nov-17 • 30 minutes
Philosophy behind bars
What does it mean to study and teach philosophy in prison? Andy West has been teaching philosophy in prisons since 2015, and his memoir The Life Inside is a fascinating account of this experience - as well as a reflection on inherited trauma and the fact that his father, uncle and brother all spent time behind bars.
2022-Nov-11 • 30 minutes
Causation and death
Like death, causation is something of a riddle. The death certificate of Queen Elizabeth II has "old age" given as the cause of death - but given that old age is simply an outcome of being alive for a certain period of time, what does it mean to pathologise it in this way, and to list it as a fatal condition? Far from being an exact science, death certification is rife with interpretation and contentious decision-making - and this reflects not only death's enigmatic qualities, but the mysterious nature of c...
2022-Nov-03 • 30 minutes
The prophetic vision of Günther Anders
Günther Anders is the most interesting and important philosopher you've probably never heard of. An exile from Nazi Germany who landed in America in the late 1930s, Anders was a prescient theorist of media and technology whose insights are remarkably pertinent to today's digital landscape. His major work is a best-seller in Europe and he's one of Germany's most well-regarded intellectuals, yet he's almost unknown in the Anglosphere. Why haven't we heard more about him?
2022-Oct-30 • 30 minutes
How should we treat insects?
Insect farming, we're told by its proponents, is the next big thing in edible protein production, and it may just save the world. But an insect "farm" is more like a manufacturing plant where the tiny organisms are pulped into powder form.What is the moral status of these living things? Can we be sure they're not sentient beings, capable of experiencing pain and suffering? And if we can't be sure, how should we treat them?This program was first broadcast on August 22, 2021.
2022-Oct-19 • 30 minutes
Philosophy and travel
Modern travel is a commodity: you buy a holiday. But have you ever thought of travel as a philosophical activity? Offering the discovery of new traditions, new perspectives and the acquisition of knowledge, travel should make philosophers of us all. The 19th century was an era in which travel was thought of in this way, and women were out there at the frontiers of discovery. But their independence and daring came at a potentially high cost.
2022-Oct-12 • 30 minutes
Refugees and moral obligation
Refugees have been with us for millennia, but the modern refugee exists under a distinctively modern set of circumstances. Moral philosophers often fail to take these circumstances into account, and to acknowledge the ways in which the West can be responsible for refugee crises.
2022-Oct-07 • 30 minutes
How Nietzsche extracts cheerfulness from suffering
Friedrich Nietzsche is popularly regarded as one of the gloomier thinkers, so people are often surprised to learn that he can be very funny. But the humour in his writing is doing serious work: Nietzsche is looking for a way to find joy in the darkest corners of life - and to do it without falling back on what he sees as false Christian comfort.
2022-Sep-30 • 30 minutes
Trust and scepticism in a post-truth world
How do we know the things we know? The fact is that most of our knowledge comes down to trust - particularly trust in institutions and experts. But in a world where misinformation has become a lucrative industry, how is it possible to trust wisely?
2022-Sep-25
Satanism
Can a religion be non-theistic, with no God or deity at the centre? It's a question that has exercised philosophers of religion for a long time – but members of The Satanic Temple, which was founded in the USA in 2013, would emphatically say yes. This week's guest expounds some Satanic philosophy, and has a fascinating backstory of his own.
2022-Sep-18
Housing part 3 - land rights
Familiar ideas about value, ownership and market economics can obscure the fact that there are different ways to think about housing. This week, we're looking at housing through the lens of Aboriginal property development and land rights.
2022-Sep-11
Housing part 2 - rent
Rent is one of those simple market economy mechanisms that seem very natural, as though it's an organic outgrowth of human society. But in fact, rent has a philosophical history, and one that's been traced in a new book by this week's guest.
2022-Sep-04 • 30 minutes
Housing pt 1 - care ethics
Your guide throThese days we're increasingly led to think of a house as a commodity. But what does it mean to think of a house as a site of care, rather than an asset in a system of market exchange? This week we're re-centring people in the housing value debate.ugh the strange thickets of logic, metaphysics and ethics.
2022-Aug-28 • 30 minutes
Values and goals
The recipe for living well is simple: develop a morally sound set of values, formulate goals rooted in those values, and achieve those goals. But beneath this basic formula there lurks a number of tricky questions.
2022-Aug-21
What's new in death - part 2
If we cease to exist after we die, then is our fear of death a fear of... nothing?
2022-Aug-14
What's new in death - part 1
Death holds a special fascination for all of us - but none more than philosophers, who have been pondering the puzzle of death for centuries. In this two-part series, we take a look at some recent approaches to an ancient mystery.
2022-Aug-07 • 28 minutes
Doctors and dualism
So you’re feeling sick, and you go to the doctor. The doctor sends you off for a range of diagnostic tests, which come back inconclusive. What happens next?
2022-Jul-31 • 28 minutes
Art and hate speech
This week we're exploring the idea that art can say things, and do things, and mean different things according to shifting historical circumstances - and that those sayings, doings and meanings aren't always benign or harmless. How should we respond to morally problematic art - particularly the kind of art that can function as hate speech?
2022-Jul-24 • 28 minutes
Simone de Beauvoir: becoming a woman
Simone de Beauvoir wrote that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”. It’s a much-quoted phrase that appears to speak presciently to modern concerns around sex and gender. But how well is Beauvoir understood by contemporary feminists?
2022-Jul-17 • 28 minutes
Ubuntu
Ubuntu is an African tradition of thought whose ethical orientation is captured in the well-known aphorism “I am, because we are”. But what gets lost when Ubuntu is framed as a philosophical discourse in the Western intellectual tradition? And where do we see its successes and failures in the reconstruction of post-colonial Africa?
2022-Jul-10 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in a nutshell: The aphorism
Philosophy is often thought of as proceeding via elaborate conceptual systems. But sometimes, a choice phrase is all you need to get you thinking.
2022-Jul-03 • 28 minutes
The great and the good-enough
We live in a society dominated by the aspiration to greatness, where the ancient ethical ideal of "the good life" is often framed in terms of wealth, fame and power. The notion that we might settle for a "good-enough life" seems oddly countercultural - but this week we're exploring the virtues of modest ambition, and the ways in which a relentlessly competitive social order can damage everyone, from the least to the most successful.
2022-Jun-26 • 28 minutes
Pop, philosophy and politics
When philosophy turns its attention to music, it’s traditionally an exercise in high culture. Questions about the nature and function of music are often explored with reference to an established canon of “serious” music – while pop finds itself relegated to the margins. This week we’re getting serious about pop, and exploring the ways that the compositional and sonic structures of pop music reflect the social and political structures of the broader culture.
2022-Jun-19 • 35 minutes
Edmund Burke, revolution and reform
The 18th century British parliamentarian and philosopher Edmund Burke is routinely referred to as "the founder of modern conservatism", and at a glance it's not hard to see why. He believed in the authority of tradition and inherited values, staunchly opposed the French Revolution, and was in many ways out of step with the Enlightenment humanism of his day. But on closer inspection, Burke can look a little different. This week we're considering Burke as a reformer, even a progressive - and someone who would...
2022-Jun-12 • 28 minutes
Hegel, nature and the Anthropocene
Modernity has us in a terrible bind. We know that our Western habits of growth and consumption are destroying the planet, and that we need to stop exploiting the natural world for our benefit. But at the same time, our very identity as modern humans is grounded in the notion of endless growth, self-determination and the domination of nature. The work of the 18th century German philosopher GWF Hegel provides a fascinating diagnosis of our condition. Can it also offer a cure?
2022-Jun-05 • 28 minutes
The phenomenology of love
There’s a venerable philosophical tradition devoted to explaining what love is, and it stretches back to the ancient Greeks. It deals with questions like “the problem of particularity” – the mystery of why, if we fall in love with someone because of their physical beauty and attractive character, we don’t then fall in love with anyone and everyone who shares these traits. What philosophy hasn’t had so much to say about is the phenomenology of love – the question of what love feels like. This week we’re gett...
2022-May-29 • 39 minutes
Conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism and fun
You don’t have to be stupid to be a conspiracy theorist. Many people who buy into paranoid fantasies about stolen Presidential elections and global Satanic cabals are perfectly sane, well-educated individuals. So why do they fall for these myths? This week we consider the possibility that the attraction is primarily aesthetic, and that the experience is fun. But why the perennial focus on Jews?
2022-May-22 • 28 minutes
Adoption and moral obligation
There are an estimated 16.2 million documented orphans worldwide, with as many as 100 million more children living on the streets. It’s a problem of crisis proportions, which makes it perhaps strange that so many of us consider adoption as more of a last resort than a first-order obligation – to be considered only if the path to having genetically-related children is blocked. This week we’re looking at the justifications for genetic preference in families, and asking how these justifications stack up agains...
2022-May-15 • 28 minutes
Identity politics
Identity politics is grounded in the appeal to a stable, unified self and the authority of testimony. But this week we’re asking whether that foundation is solid, and if deconstructing it might allow for a more flexible approach to social justice.
2022-May-08 • 28 minutes
Beauty: aesthetic or moral ideal?
These days, beauty is a moral imperative, an ideal to live by, and one according to which we judge ourselves and others. As a result, we increasingly shape our identities around our bodies – and not just our actual bodies with their lumps and bumps, but our imaginary future bodies: thin, smooth and firm. Gradually our notion of the good life comes to be centred on physical appearance, and this causes a range of harms which until now, philosophers have not taken seriously enough.
2022-May-01 • 28 minutes
Rupture and hope
In a world shaken by war, pandemic and climate crisis, hope is a precious resource. It can be fragile, fleeting and hard to find. But what exactly does hope mean? It has clear Christian overtones, and a venerable theological tradition behind it. This week we're talking about the ways in which the theological informs the secular, and exploring how hope plays out in the political arena. We also hear a personal story of rupture and trauma, and a perspective on hope that accommodates the tunnel as well as the l...
2022-Apr-24 • 28 minutes
Sex, death and chilli sauce
This week, a conversation about death, and the ways in which our reluctance to face mortality results in the creation of “immortality constructs” – comforting symbolic fictions that when challenged, can elicit a violent defensive response. In order to come to terms with death, we need to come to terms with sex – but this can involve a double bind for women. Is the age-old association of women with death and sexuality helpful or harmful? And what does this all have to do with chilli sauce?
2022-Apr-17 • 28 minutes
Philosophy and myth
There was once a time when mythology and philosophy got along perfectly well together. But since the Enlightenment, philosophy has come to regard myth as something of an embarrassment – and today, we often tend to view “myth” as synonymous with “falsehood”, or at least as a throwback to pre-rational, superstitious human culture. Myths are also held to be suspect in political theory, where the memory of "blood and soil" Nazi ideology is still fresh. Is there a role for myth in secular democratic politics, an...
2022-Apr-10 • 28 minutes
The predicament of existence
Most of us agree that pain is part of life, that none of us can escape it, and that death comes for all of us in the end. And yet many of us feel that life is worth it; that the pleasure of life outweighs the suffering. Anti-natalist philosophy takes a different view. The anti-natalist believes that pain outweighs pleasure, so much so that it's morally wrong to bring a child into the world. What follows from this? Should we not only abstain from procreation but seek to stop non-human animals from doing the ...
2022-Apr-03 • 28 minutes
Moral beauty and art
Movies and TV series increasingly feature leading characters that are morally repugnant, and yet we respond positively to their charisma. Why do we like them so much on screen? And is our emotional investment in their stories indicative of moral failure on our own part? This week we're exploring ideas of moral beauty, moral ugliness, and the strange ways in which artists - even in apparently morally neutral fields like architecture - can play with our notions of good and evil.
2022-Mar-27 • 28 minutes
Philosophers in love
Philosophy can sometimes be an exercise in abstract, "pure" reason, unsullied by the demands of the body or the contingencies of history. But this week we're placing history and corporeality front and centre, with a look at the intimate lives of four eminent philosophers, and asking how their private entanglements shaped their public work.
2022-Mar-20 • 28 minutes
The ethics of uterus transplantation
If a woman wants to experience pregnancy but can't, the answer could be a uterus transplant. The technology is promising, if still very new — but how ethically sound is it?
2022-Mar-13 • 28 minutes
Extremism
Can all people who hold extreme views be fairly described as "extremists"? Extremism is a slippery concept. Its connotations are pejorative but at a glance, it can be difficult to see what differentiates extremism from more acceptable forms of fringe belief such as radicalism. Is it possible to be an extremist in the name of a morally worthy cause? and how should we deal with extremists in our midst?
2022-Mar-06 • 28 minutes
Trans-national adoption and "blending in"
At the end of the Korean War in 1953, the government launched an adoption program for orphans, most of whom went to white families in the USA and western Europe. Since then, an estimated 200,000 South Korean children have been adopted to Western countries. This week’s guest has conducted field research to explore their experience of the “trans-racial adoption paradox”: the feeling of belonging culturally while embodying difference, and the challenges faced by adopted people of colour navigating predominantl...
2022-Feb-27 • 41 minutes
Efficiency, productivity, excess
These days we’re constantly pushed to be more efficient – at work, of course, but also in our leisure pursuits and even while we sleep (“hacking your sleep cycle” to extract maximum benefit from the nocturnal hours is a staple of wellness magazine articles). How did we get here? And how can we get back to a state that’s less pressured, a state governed by principles other than accumulation and profit?
2022-Feb-20 • 28 minutes
Consciousness and contemplation
Consciousness is one of those phenomena that combine the everyday with the ineffable. We experience consciousness intimately, and yet in many ways it remains ungraspable. What is consciousness? Why do we have it? How can the physical stuff of the world give rise to something as mysterious as first-person experience? Philosophy, science and contemplative traditions have all struggled with these questions - and this week, we're talking about a new Centre for Consciousness and Contemplative Studies that brings...
2022-Feb-13 • 28 minutes
Art and climate
Our current climate crisis is, as much as anything else, a crisis of communication. Artists have a unique opportunity to step in and deliver environmental messages in a way that speaks to the emotions and the gut. And in doing this, they're reconfiguring the conceptual map of what art is supposed to be. Can a public sleepover in a town hall to raise awareness of disaster preparedness be called “art”? And what role do mystery and aesthetics play in this sort of work?
2022-Feb-06 • 28 minutes
China, Confucius and the courtyard
For more than three millennia, most buildings in China were configured around a central courtyard. This week’s guest believes that the courtyard helps us to understand Chinese society and culture, as well as Confucian philosophy. Today, with increasing numbers of people living in urban apartment buildings, the courtyard has become something of a period piece. What does this tell us about Chinese thought and identity in the modern world?
2022-Jan-30 • 28 minutes
Stuff
Many of us these days are buried beneath an avalanche of stuff – everyday objects that seem to proliferate in the cupboard while our back is turned. Our obsession with material technology infects our view of human history, as many anthropologists judge the progress of past civilisations on the basis of how much stuff they generated, or “failed” to generate. And the production of stuff threatens our future, with the looming catastrophe of climate change and the growing tide of microplastics.
2022-Jan-23 • 28 minutes
What we talk about when we talk about race
The 19th century notion of race as something rooted in biology and genetics is a well-debunked idea whose time has passed. But the more recent liberal conception of race as a social construct fails to acknowledge the ways in which race is lived in and through the body (something the COVID pandemic has thrown into sharp relief). This week we’re talking about race as theory and experience, and how best to increase racial literacy.
2022-Jan-16 • 28 minutes
The death of analytic philosophy?
The death of analytic philosophy has been confidently predicted for almost as long as analytic philosophy has been around. But today, with profound challenges posed by feminism, postcolonialism and critical race theory, could its long-heralded demise finally be on the horizon? And what exactly do we mean when we talk about analytic philosophy anyway – is it a science, a tradition or little more than a style?
2022-Jan-09 • 28 minutes
Restlessness
Feeling a little distracted lately? Most of us are, and not just lately. We tend to view withering attention spans and the compulsion to seek change for its own sake as curses of the social media era, but restless dissatisfaction has been the subject of philosophical inquiry for centuries.
2022-Jan-02 • 28 minutes
Structural injustice and individual responsibility
Who is responsible for structural injustice? The answer is “practically everybody” - but that can be just another way of saying “effectively nobody”. So what responsibility do individuals bear for structural injustice? And how can this responsibility be acted upon, without falling into practices of blaming and shaming?
2021-Dec-26 • 28 minutes
Derrida and difficulty
In the late 1960s Michel Foucault, on being asked to grade an undergraduate dissertation written by Jacques Derrida, remarked “Well, it’s either an F or an A+” The philosophy community’s verdict on Derrida has changed little in the decades since. This week we’re talking with the author of a new biography of this enigmatic philosopher.
2021-Dec-19 • 28 minutes
The many worlds of David Lewis
Many believe that David Lewis had one of the finest minds of any modern philosopher. His concept of modal realism – the idea that infinite alternative worlds exist concretely in spacetime – was celebrated by his peers even while they doubted it, and his freewheeling style of writing demonstrated that it’s possible to be philosophically rigorous and still have fun. This week we explore the life and work of this pioneering American intellectual who had close ties with Australia.
2021-Dec-12 • 28 minutes
Mathematics and the good life
Mathematics is often understood as something technical – essential to making sure our buildings and bridges don’t fall down, but not offering much in the way of moral interest. This week we’re asking whether or not that’s true, and finding that mathematics has strong historical connections to the philosophy of how to live well.
2021-Dec-05 • 28 minutes
Bad thinking and good people
The sheer persistence of conspiracy theory and other forms of irrational thinking gets more baffling with each passing day. How did we get to this point? And how can we turn things around? This week we’re considering the notion that conspiracy theorists are not evil or stupid, but have fallen prey to epistemic stubbornness – and we’re asking how philosophy can help.
2021-Nov-28 • 28 minutes
The individual and the collective
Climate change has landed us in a collective action dilemma – a situation where cooperation would benefit us all, but conflicting individual interests keep getting in the way. How can we, as individuals, enlarge our sense of self to the point where the broader community – national and global – is more than just an abstraction? And is “we-mode” reasoning always morally preferable to “I-mode” reasoning?
2021-Nov-21 • 28 minutes
Philosophy and psychedelic experience
In some ways, you could say psychedelics and philosophy share a similar set of purposes. But does that mean they're different expressions of the same impulse - to know, to understand, to become wise? And is it possible to set aside the 1960s countercultural baggage and attain psychedelic experience without the use of drugs?
2021-Nov-14 • 28 minutes
Buddhist logic
Logic in the Western philosophical tradition is often viewed as something abstract and universal – a bit like mathematics, involving formulas and equations that hold true in every circumstance, regardless of historical or cultural context. The tradition of Buddhist logic takes a different turn, considering logic as something connected to knowledge rather than just the structure of arguments.
2021-Nov-07 • 28 minutes
Care ethics
If there's one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined, it's the importance of looking out for each other. But these days the network of our relationships is so vast, so complex and so riddled with competing interests, that it can be hard to pin down exactly what "looking out for each other" requires. This week we met a philosopher who believes that an approach known as "care ethics" can guide all of us in our moral decision making, regardless of gender or class or the particularities of the dilemmas we ...
2021-Oct-31 • 28 minutes
Philosophy and children
Children are sometimes perceived as "defective adults", empty epistemic vessels that need to be filled with the knowledge of their elders. In fact, children can teach adults a thing or two when it comes to the getting of wisdom. But does this mean that children are philosophers? And if the answer is Yes, then what kind of philosophers are they?
2021-Oct-24 • 28 minutes
Gender and gaming
Gender has long been an issue in the world of video games, but since the "Gamergate" online harassment campaign of 2014 - where women gamers, developers and journalists were doxxed and threatened by anti-feminist trolls - it's come to the fore. This week we're talking about women's voices and roles in gaming, and exploring ways in which gender might be reimagined in video games.
2021-Oct-17 • 28 minutes
What is dignity?
Dignity is something we recognise and respect in others, and we feel it deeply when our own is threatened or attacked. But what exactly is it? This week we're exploring different kinds of dignity, and the ways in which they can get in the way of each other. We also look at how one person's appeal to dignity can be another person's moral violation.
2021-Oct-10 • 28 minutes
Yan Fu: China meets Western liberalism
Yan Fu was a late 19th century naval officer and writer who was fascinated with Western philosophy. His translations of works by Thomas Huxley, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others were celebrated successes in China. But his books feature notes and interpretative gestures that make them something more than just straight translations – they’re works of philosophy in their own right.
2021-Oct-03 • 28 minutes
The trouble with our moral evolution
Morality is always evolving. But what if social evolution happened so fast and so radically that our moral evolution couldn’t keep pace? According to this week’s guest, that’s our current problem: we have a set of “moral emotions” in place that no longer help us deal effectively with the challenges of post-industrial society.
2021-Sep-30 • 3 minutes
RN Presents: This Much Is True
You might have noticed there's some bizarre stuff circulating out there these days, under the guise of "knowledge" or "fact". And we need to take it seriously, because even the most far-flung conspiracy theories can have direct effects on how a substantial number of people think, behave and vote. Why do people believe the things they believe? and for that matter, why do you believe the things you believe? This excellent podcast series on RN tackles the question head on, exploring rabbit holes, social media ...
2021-Sep-26 • 28 minutes
About time, part 4: The insect clock
When a person dies under suspicious circumstances, it can be hard to determine exactly what happened and when. Enter the forensic entomologist, whose job it is to study the action of insects on the body and present their evidence to the court. Insects provide a “clock” that can help to piece together the puzzle of death – but in doing this, insects also raise a number of fascinating questions that touch on the philosophy of science, law and time.
2021-Sep-19 • 28 minutes
About time, part 3: Time and perception
For something that we commonly consider to be as regular and predictable as clockwork, time sure can feel weird. Sometimes it drags, sometimes it rushes, sometimes it seems to stop altogether. We don't experience this skewed perception with other phenomena - with colours, for instance. The blue of the sky looks like the blue of the sky, no matter what we're doing or how we're feeling. So why is our experience of time so variable? Is it something that happens purely in the mind, or does it have something to ...
2021-Sep-12 • 28 minutes
About time, part 2: Time in fiction
During the early 20th century, physicists and philosophers were discovering strange things about time. And these ideas were being picked up by novelists, who wove them into such masterpieces as Joyces Ulysses and Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway – texts that continue to challenge our notions of everyday temporality.
2021-Sep-05 • 28 minutes
About time, part 1: Newton's exploding clock
Most of us think of time as something that divides neatly into seconds, minutes and hours, in a way that’s as regular and predictable at the farthest reaches of the cosmos as it is in our kitchens. But scientists and philosophers have discovered that time has some weird tricks up its sleeve. This week we’re talking about twins who grow older at different rates, broken vases that jump off the floor to reassemble themselves on the bench, and why quantum physicists are learning to do without time altogether.
2021-Aug-29 • 28 minutes
The abominable heretic
In July 1656, the young philosopher Baruch Spinoza was cast out of his Jewish community for "abominable heresies". We don't know what those crimes were, but we do know that Spinoza has remained a polarising figure within Judaism ever since.
2021-Aug-22 • 28 minutes
How should we treat insects?
Insect farming, we’re told by its proponents, is the next big thing in edible protein production, and it may just save the environment. But an insect “farm” is more like a manufacturing plant, where tiny organisms are frozen, boiled, baked, crushed or shredded alive in their billions. What is the moral status of these living things? Can we be sure they’re not sentient beings, capable of experiencing pain and suffering? And if we can’t be sure, how should we treat them?
2021-Aug-15 • 28 minutes
Was the market economy inevitable?
Today, market capitalism is so deeply woven into the fabric of everyday existence that it seems as natural and inevitable as the movement of the planets. But in fact, there was a moment in the early 20th century when an alternative economic philosophy – one of planned economies oriented toward community wellbeing – gave the free market model a run for its money. What happened, and how might things have been different?
2021-Aug-08 • 28 minutes
Structural injustice and individual responsibility
Who is responsible for structural injustice? The answer is “practically everybody” - but that can be just another way of saying “effectively nobody”. So what responsibility do individuals bear for structural injustice? And how can this responsibility be acted upon, without falling into practices of blaming and shaming?
2021-Aug-01 • 28 minutes
Women, the alt-right and the liberal centre
Why do women join white nationalist and other far-right movements? Misogyny is rampant on the alt-right, along with the notion that women's primary role is to be wives and child-bearers. But the liberal centre can be an ambivalent place for women too. Feminism was founded on the ideal of equality, and on the belief that women should be treated as individuals rather than undifferentiated members of a subordinate class. But have these liberal humanist ideals of of equality and individual autonomy outgrown the...
2021-Jul-25 • 28 minutes
Nietzsche and transfiguration
Friedrich Nietzsche engaged closely with Christian themes and concepts, re-casting them for a secular age. One of these was transfiguration, the strange alchemical process by which human brokenness and misfortune can be turned into a kind of redemption. For Nietzsche, this was an aesthetic process, and it made an art form of philosophy.
2021-Jul-18 • 29 minutes
Trust, risk and experts
Public trust in experts is on the wane. And when we consider that a key role of experts is the assessment and management of risk, this mistrust becomes worrying, given that life in an industrialised technology-driven world keeps getting riskier by the day. How should experts communicate risk? and what kind of trust should we place in them?
2021-Jul-11 • 28 minutes
Mathematical objects
We all use numbers every day of our lives, and most of us fail to appreciate how mysterious they are. What exactly is a number? You can't trip over the number 4, it has no physical properties, so in what sense can it be said to exist? If it's just a symbolic representation, then why are numbers and other mathematical objects so effective in the real world - in solving scientific problems, in helping cicadas to evade predators, and so on?
2021-Jul-04 • 28 minutes
Misogyny
It's strange to think that in a supposedly egalitarian democracy like Australia, we could have a misogyny problem. But the never-ending toll of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and casual workplace sexism confirms it, as does the growing "men's rights" backlash against any attempt to foreground the problem. What light can philosophy - a notoriously male dominated profession - throw on the issue?
2021-Jun-27 • 28 minutes
Analytic philosophy: the leading brand
A quick scan of leading philosophy journals reveals that what passes for "philosophy" is selectively screened, with analytic philosophy clearly the dominant style. We look at the history of this phenomenon, some of the likely consequences, and how might it be addressed.
2021-Jun-20 • 28 minutes
The death of analytic philosophy?
The death of analytic philosophy has been confidently predicted for almost as long as analytic philosophy has been around. But today, with profound challenges posed by feminism, postcolonialism and critical race theory, could its long-heralded demise finally be on the horizon? And what exactly do we mean when we talk about analytic philosophy anyway – is it a science, a tradition or little more than a style?
2021-Jun-13 • 28 minutes
Marxism pt 2: Black Marxism
There’s an influential critique of Marx that accuses him of failure to take sufficient account of race in his analysis of capitalism. But is this a fair assessment? What happens when we bring racial analysis to the Marxist tradition? And how “Marxist” is a contemporary liberation movement like Black Lives Matter?
2021-Jun-06 • 28 minutes
Marxism pt 1: Marx the philosopher
Karl Marx's interest in philosophy took an early swerve into journalism, and he famously wrote that "philosophers have only interpreted the world - the point is to change it". On one hand he was a revolutionary who favoured getting his hands dirty in the muck of history over abstract theorising, but on the other hand he was also a man of ideas who engaged with many of the philosophers of his day, in particular Hegel. Was Marx himself a philosopher?
2021-May-30 • 39 minutes
Ethics, philosophy and immigration
Does anti-racism require open borders? Should refugees be selected on the basis of the skills they offer? Can immigration restrictions conform to the demands of justice? Conventional wisdom says that philosophers approach these kinds of questions from a normative perspective - their job is to establish principles for how a society should be run, as distinct from the job of a historian or a sociologist. But is that really the case?
2021-May-23 • 28 minutes
Women and the Dhamma
Buddhist teaching is radically egalitarian, and yet the need for a Buddhist feminism is pressing. Is gender irrelevant to Buddhist teaching? And for women who have been denied agency or a sense of identity, how reasonable is the doctrine of non-self?
2021-May-16 • 28 minutes
What can David Hume teach us?
Scottish philosopher David Hume was an amiable 18th century gentleman - cultured, generous, well liked by all who knew him. And yet he's become something of a "thinker's thinker", hugely admired by academic philosophers, but never quite managing to fire the public imagination or attain the mythic status of a Socrates or a Nietzsche. Our guest this week believes it's time to embrace Hume as a philosopher who can teach us how to live.
2021-May-09 • 28 minutes
Chronomobilities
Going from one country to another is mostly thought of as a movement in space - a change of one physical location for another. But migration can also make profound changes in the everyday experience of time, and this is especially acute in cases where migration status is uncertain - on a temporary visa, say, or in immigration detention.
2021-May-02 • 28 minutes
Logic in Indian philosophy
Logic in Western philosophy can have formal perfection, but limited epistemic value. "All chairs are 50 feet tall, my mother is a chair, therefore my mother is 50 feet tall" is a sound piece of logical deduction, but it doesn't tell us anything true or useful about the world. In Indian intellectual tradition, logic is more like scientific reasoning - its aim is to increase knowledge. This week we're looking at logic in one of the classical schools of Indian philosophy.
2021-Apr-25 • 28 minutes
Ecocultural identity
Each of us is made up of a mix of identities - political, sexual, class, gender and so on. But how often do we stop to think of our ecocultural identity? This week we hear from the co-editors of a new book whose message is that in order to arrest the slide into ecological calamity, we urgently need to de-throne our species and embrace a new humility.
2021-Apr-18 • 28 minutes
Philosophy and ecology
What happens when we recognise non-human animals as sentient beings with rights? Why do women have a particular stake in environmental justice? What exactly do we mean when we talk about sustainability? Anyone looking for a way into these important contemporary questions could start by exploring the work of Val Plumwood, the pioneering Australian eco-feminist philosopher who died in 2008.
2021-Apr-11 • 28 minutes
Restlessness
Feeling a little distracted lately? Most of us are, and not just lately. We tend to view withering attention spans and the compulsion to seek change for its own sake as curses of the social media era, but restless dissatisfaction has been the subject of philosophical inquiry for centuries.
2021-Apr-04 • 28 minutes
Neurophenomenology and embodied sensemaking
“Making sense” of something is often understood as a rational, purely mental process – an understanding based on the Cartesian separation of mind and body. But what about the role of the senses in sensemaking? This week we’re looking at sensemaking as an embodied phenomenon in such highly rational, technocratic environments as seafaring and air control.
2021-Mar-28 • 29 minutes
The problem with "moral machines"
There’s a lot of talk these days about building ethics into artificial intelligence systems. From a philosophical perspective, it’s a daunting challenge – and this has to do with the nature of ethics, which is more than just a set of principles and instructions. Can machines ever really be moral agents?
2021-Mar-21 • 28 minutes
Honour in the institution
Institutions shape every aspect of our lives, yet they can be strangely amorphous things, operating according to norms and conventions that often undermine each other. For women, this can result in institutional discrimination – in workplaces and public organisations, but also in less tangible institutions like the family and the law. This week we’re talking feminist institutionalism, and the need for a women’s honour code.
2021-Mar-14 • 28 minutes
Identity politics
Identity politics is grounded in the appeal to a stable, unified self and the authority of testimony. But this week we’re asking whether that foundation is solid, and if deconstructing it might allow for a more flexible approach to social justice.
2021-Mar-07 • 28 minutes
Living like a Stoic
What does it mean to live according to Stoic philosophical principles - and what do the ancient Greeks and Romans have to tell us in the modern world?
2021-Feb-28 • 28 minutes
What we talk about when we talk about race
The 19th century notion of race as something rooted in biology and genetics is a well-debunked idea whose time has passed. But the more recent liberal conception of race as a social construct fails to acknowledge the ways in which race is lived in and through the body (something the COVID pandemic has thrown into sharp relief). This week we’re talking about race as theory and experience, and how best to increase racial literacy.
2021-Feb-21 • 28 minutes
Cultural appropriation
In an increasingly connected, globalised world, borrowing freely between cultures can draw moral condemnation. Cultures have fuzzy edges, and it can be hard for the unwary artist to know exactly when and where respectful homage tips into cultural appropriation. This week we’re looking at where the moral lines are drawn, and asking if “cultural appropriation” might be a term that obscures more than it reveals.
2021-Feb-14 • 28 minutes
Civilisation and the salon
What is civilisation? A place, an ideal, a culture? Is civilisation under threat - and if so, who are the barbarians? Also, the art of the salon, a refined 18th century tradition that bridged the gap between high intellectual culture and practical everyday life. Is the salon due for a revival?
2021-Feb-07 • 28 minutes
Derrida and difficulty
In the late 1960s Michel Foucault, on being asked to grade an undergraduate dissertation written by Jacques Derrida, remarked “Well, it’s either an F or an A+” The philosophy community’s verdict on Derrida has changed little in the decades since. This week we’re talking with the author of a new biography of this enigmatic philosopher.
2021-Jan-31 • 35 minutes
Free will, retribution and just deserts
Is free will an illusion? If so, it’s a very useful one. Belief in moral responsibility can keep us from behaving in ways that are anti-social or criminal. But if free will and moral responsibility can’t be justified philosophically, how should we deal with wrongdoers?
2021-Jan-24 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire part 5: Tracks of thought
As a young girl, Aileen Moreton-Robinson learned to track in the bush, and this was the beginning of her philosophical education, as she learned how all things are connected. Today she sees Western thought as disconnected, disjointed, and badly in need of a relational approach that might get us talking properly about race and power.
2021-Jan-17 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire part 4: Africa
Africa has a history of rich and ancient philosophical traditions. Those traditions were rendered invisible by European colonisers, who sought to overlay Africa's past with the values of the Enlightenment. Today, African philosophy is being uncovered and introduced to the West - but is the West listening?
2021-Jan-10 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 3: Missionary feminism
Feminist arguments in the West have been used to advance imperialist projects that inflict suffering on women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Western feminist focus on individual rights can be disastrous when played out in non-Western contexts. Is it time to rethink “missionary feminism”?
2021-Jan-03 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 2: Migrants and other Others
As refugees from the former colonies make their way to Europe, notions of “European life” and “European values” are facing unprecedented challenges. As postcolonial subjects, how should these migrants be received and understood?
2020-Dec-27 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 1: The white way to think
The West has a history of colonisation and empire-building. How has this shaped the discipline of philosophy? This week – first in a five-part series – we look at racism and the unfortunate legacy of Immanuel Kant, who believed the non-white races were incapable of philosophical reflection.
2020-Dec-20 • 28 minutes
In the wild
For centuries, “the wild” has been thought of as the place where humans rarely or never go. Our cities are meant to be refuges from the wild, and the policies that govern our lives are intended to impose order on chaos. But climate change is showing us that the wild and the urban environments are closely intertwined – and as Indigenous communities know well, policy is beset with incoherences and cruelties that make it anything but rational. Is it time to rethink “the wild” for the 21st century?
2020-Dec-13 • 28 minutes
The inside of anger
Anger is a normal human emotion, we seem to be hard wired for it. And there's a body of ethical opinion that says anger can be useful - as a means of communication, as a means of appreciating injustice rather than just recognising it, as as a spur to restorative action. But could we get along without it?
2020-Dec-06 • 28 minutes
Phenomenology
What if even the most ordinary experience could reward close and detailed analysis, revealing fascinating insights into the structures of consciousness and the world? This is the question asked by phenomenology, which investigates the experience of experience, and this week’s guest has written a new book exploring phenomenology from the ground up.
2020-Nov-29 • 28 minutes
Anti-social media
What can social media platforms deliver in the way of genuine personal connection and moral truth? And how good - or bad - are Facebook and Twitter for the philosophy community?
2020-Nov-22 • 29 minutes
Science, misinformation and dissent
Science welcomes dissent. Scientific progress depends on challenging and dismantling theories as well as verifying them. But how should we deal with misinformation about science, and the ways it can erode such liberal democratic values as personal autonomy?
2020-Nov-15 • 29 minutes
Refugees and moral obligation
Refugees have been with us for millennia, but the modern refugee exists under a distinctively modern set of circumstances. Moral philosophers addressing the refugee issue often fail to take these circumstances into account, and to acknowledge the ways in which the West can be responsible for refugee crises.
2020-Nov-08 • 29 minutes
Philosophy in a nutshell pt 6: Becoming a woman
Simone de Beauvoir wrote that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”. It’s a much-quoted phrase that appears to speak presciently to modern concerns around sex and gender. But how well is Beauvoir understood by contemporary feminists?
2020-Nov-01 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in a nutshell pt 5: Ubuntu
Ubuntu is an African tradition of thought whose ethical orientation is captured in the well-known aphorism “I am, because we are”. But what gets lost when Ubuntu is framed as a philosophical discourse in the Western intellectual tradition? And where do we see its successes and failures in the reconstruction of post-colonial Africa?
2020-Oct-25 • 29 minutes
Philosophy in a nutshell pt 4: Nietzsche and nihilism
"God is dead, and we have killed him" — a statement that's fuelled the popular misapprehension of Nietzsche as a crusading atheist, or militant nihilist. In fact, he was neither of those things, and "God is dead" is a much more interesting proposition than is often thought.
2020-Oct-18 • 29 minutes
Philosophy in a nutshell pt 3: Derrida and the text
In 1967, French philosopher Jacques Derrida wrote "There is nothing outside the text". Or did he? It's a bad translation that's launched a thousand bad interpretations - but it's gone on to become a key element of Derrida's work.
2020-Oct-11 • 29 minutes
Philosophy in a nutshell pt 2: Confucius, wealth and politics
In the Analects, Confucius is recorded as saying "When a country is well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. When a country is badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of". It's an interesting aphorism to consider in the light of China today, as the government seeks to promote Confucian ethics, while at the same time running an economy that's delivered vast wealth to a small political elite.
2020-Oct-04 • 29 minutes
Philosophy in a nutshell pt 1: The aphorism
First program in a series exploring famous philosophical fragments. Philosophy is often thought of as proceeding via elaborate conceptual systems. But sometimes, a choice phrase is all you need to get you thinking.
2020-Sep-27 • 29 minutes
Politics at the extremes
Politics has never been a gentle pursuit, but these days the gloves are well and truly off. How did we get here? What are the implications for political philosophy, and for politics in general? As for where we might be headed, there are fascinating – if rather terrifying – clues in the work of French thinker René Girard.
2020-Sep-22 • 6 minutes
PRESENTS — Ideas
Ideas is a program from CBC Canada and it's about... well, ideas. Each episode takes a concept and dives deep into its past, present and possible future. Whether you're interested in the meaning of community, the history of the saxophone, the environmental downside to jean manufacturing, the lure of political authoritarianism or our cultural obsession with serial killers, Ideas has an idea that's going to keep you listening.Pulling apart concepts, seeing how they work, and discovering why they still matter ...
2020-Sep-20 • 35 minutes
Progressive Islam
Progressive Muslim thought seeks to establish an Islam that's equipped for the modern world - and still embedded within the Islamic intellectual tradition.
2020-Sep-13 • 29 minutes
The abominable heretic
In July 1656, the young philosopher Baruch Spinoza was cast out of his Jewish community for "abominable heresies". We don't know what those crimes were, but we do know that Spinoza has remained a polarising figure within Judaism ever since.
2020-Sep-06 • 29 minutes
Shifting the frame on COVID-19
When we think about COVID-19 as a medical issue first and foremost, what are we missing? This week we explore the ways in which legal, economic, cultural and ethical perspectives on COVID-19 could be just as important as the medical.
2020-Aug-30 • 28 minutes
Lev Shestov: staying awake in the dark
Lev Shestov is one of the great forgotten modern philosophers, and now could be the time to rediscover him. His was a philosophy of hope in the face of hopelessness, and the parallels between his time and our own are compelling.
2020-Aug-23 • 29 minutes
Moral grandstanding
Moral grandstanding is not a harmless pastime. It’s insidious and corrosive, eating away at the foundations of public discourse and deepening the divisions between us. But how to stop it?
2020-Aug-16 • 29 minutes
AI home devices: A feminist perspective
Smart home devices make life easier, and they're increasingly popular. But are they gender-neutral entities, or "smart wives"?
2020-Aug-09 • 29 minutes
Inhumanity
Our capacity to do terrible things to each other seems boundless. But we'd find it a lot more difficult without recourse to a neat conceptual trick: dehumanisation.
2020-Aug-02 • 28 minutes
What are we doing when we argue?
Argument and debate don’t need to be blood sports. Done properly, argument can be about beneficial mutual exchange and trust.
2020-Jul-26 • 29 minutes
Nihilism and utopia
COVID-19 has exposed a streak of nihilism in 21st century capitalist societies. How do we move forward without succumbing to despair on one hand, or utopian thinking on the other?
2020-Jul-19 • 29 minutes
Mind, matter and motherhood
When Nicola Redhouse had each of her two children, she experienced shattering post-natal anxiety that sent her deep into the mystery of the self, and the relationship between mind and body. A long standing participant in psychoanalysis, she found herself up against the practical limits of Freudian theory - but would science provide more useful insight?
2020-Jul-12 • 29 minutes
Montesquieu and despotism
Montesquieu was the 18th century French philosopher who introduced the term "despotism" into our political vocabulary. Today, his analysis is as relevant as ever.
2020-Jul-05 • 52 minutes
The digital dead
When we die, our digital selves sometimes live on. The line between death and life — already blurred by medical technology — is even blurrier in the digital domain. How should we prepare for our electronic afterlives?
2020-Jun-28 • 28 minutes
Philosophy by postcard
A fascinating public philosophy project, celebrating a major figure whose work deserves greater recognition — not just as a philosopher, but as a pioneering woman in a very male world.
2020-Jun-21 • 29 minutes
The ethics of uterus transplantation
If a woman wants to experience pregnancy but can't, the answer could be a uterus transplant. The technology is promising, if still very new — but how ethically sound is it?
2020-Jun-14 • 28 minutes
Race in America pt 2: Lewis Gordon
Any conversation about racial justice has to go back to basics: questions about the nature of humanity and the meaning of freedom. Philosopher Lewis Gordon explores these questions in the light of COVID-19 and America's current upheavals.
2020-Jun-07 • 36 minutes
Race in America pt 1: George Yancy
Speaking out against racism by insisting on the collusion of white people — even well-meaning ones — in a system that's racist to the core can bring serious consequences. George Yancy knows this well.
2020-May-31 • 29 minutes
Choosing a personal philosophy: Existentialism
Tired of having a casual, abstract flirtation with philosophy? It might be time to commit. A personal philosophy of life can be hugely helpful — but which one to choose?
2020-May-24 • 29 minutes
Driverless cars, inequality and the 'trolley problem' in a high-tech world
The road has always been a great social leveller — we all get stuck in the same traffic jams. But with the advent of driverless cars, that could all be about to change, with troubling ethical consequences.
2020-May-17 • 29 minutes
Citizens and urban planning
Consensus among citizens in the development of cities is always the goal — but it's rarely achieved. This week we explore the philosophical foundations of a more realistic model for citizen participation in urban planning.
2020-May-10 • 29 minutes
The big snore
Boredom hasn't received a lot of philosophical attention — which isn't surprising, given that it suggests a radical absence of anything to talk about. But even the most tedious things can prove on inspection to be complex, multi-layered and... well, interesting.
2020-May-03 • 29 minutes
What can genes tell us?
Can our genes tell us if we're gay? Or intelligent? Science says the answer is complex, and that genetic determinism — the idea that we're genetically hardwired for certain outcomes — shouldn't be taken seriously. But genetic determinism has taken hold of the public imagination.
2020-Apr-26 • 29 minutes
Border patrol
Refugees are often spoken and written about as victims: people on the far side of a border that separates them from all the things we citizens know and love about our homeland. But what if the refugee actually knows things about Australia that we don't?
2020-Apr-19 • 28 minutes
Thinking a pandemic
We're told that COVID-19 is an unprecedented event, one that's upended all our old certainties — so it's perhaps strange that we're thinking about it in very familiar ways. Considering the history, the politics and the ethics of COVID-19 can reveal fascinating and uncomfortable insights about ourselves and our society.
2020-Apr-12 • 29 minutes
Time in a time of excess time
Many of us have extra time on our hands at the moment, and for many of us that time can feel like a burden. But what is this mysterious relationship between what time feels like and what it really is?
2020-Apr-05 • 28 minutes
Honour in the institution
Institutions shape every aspect of our lives, yet they can be strangely amorphous things, operating according to norms and conventions that often undermine each other. For women, this can result in institutional discrimination – in workplaces and public organisations, but also in less tangible institutions like the family and the law. This week we’re talking feminist institutionalism, and the need for a women’s honour code.
2020-Mar-29 • 28 minutes
AI and moral intuition: use it or lose it?
Artificial intelligence is helping us to make all sorts of decisions these days, and this can be hugely useful. But if we outsource our moral intuition to AI, do we risk becoming morally de-skilled?
2020-Mar-22 • 28 minutes
LGBT elders, isolation and loneliness
As LGBT people grow old, they can become particularly vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness. Simone de Beauvoir had a keen appreciation of the challenges of ageing – “old age exposes the failure of our entire civilisation” – so can we find resources in her brand of existentialism that address some of the issues raised by LGBT elders?
2020-Mar-15 • 28 minutes
Dangerous minds
Heidegger was an unrepentant Nazi. Nietzsche's later work contains passages that openly advocate slavery and genocide. Today, with far-right extremism on the rise around the world, how concerned should we be when reading – and teaching – the work of these canonical figures?
2020-Mar-08 • 28 minutes
The many and the one
We casually talk about "Australia" as though it were a single entity. But what exactly is such a collective? And how can it be held responsible for its deeds - or misdeeds? This week we're talking group duties - and for International Women's Day, a conversation about gender and progress in philosophy.
2020-Mar-01 • 28 minutes
The why of philosophy
Is philosophy experiencing an unprecedented crisis? And are universities becoming a hostile environment for philosophers?
2020-Feb-23 • 28 minutes
Is reason enough?
These days it seems that critical thinking could be failing us – and we’re not sure why. Have too many people strayed from the path of reason? Or is reason insufficient – ever overrated – as an ingredient in the formation of good citizens?
2020-Feb-16 • 28 minutes
Plato's woman problem
In The Republic, Plato outlines a role for women in his ideal society that seems revolutionary, i.e. that they should occupy the highest position in public life. In Athenian society at the time, women were completely excluded from politics, so this is a radical proposal. But elsewhere, Plato expresses doubt about women’s natural abilities. What did he really think? And how does this tension persist today for women in philosophy?
2020-Feb-09 • 35 minutes
In praise of mortality
Ever since we humans became conscious of the fact that we’re all going to die, we’ve dreamed of immortality. Life is good, so wouldn't eternal life be even better? Today's guest offers a robust critique of the ideal of immortality - and one that takes a fascinating turn to politics.
2020-Feb-02 • 28 minutes
Remembering Roger Scruton
An avowed conservative of a kind mistrusted by both modern-day left and right, Scruton remained steadfast in his first principles. He pitted his intellect against what he saw as the encroachments of modernity on human life, including the overreach of science and technology. Wishful thinker, or beacon in a sea of error?
2020-Jan-26 • 28 minutes
Uluru and the heart of the liberal state
The fundamental challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia are systemic, they run much deeper than any single issue – education, health, rates of incarceration – can capture. But the Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for a series of reforms that could address the key issue for all Indigenous Australians.
2020-Jan-19 • 28 minutes
Disability and dignity
Philosophers have been slow to address disability - which is odd, because disability raises a host of fascinating and challenging issues around justice, rights and fairness.
2020-Jan-12 • 28 minutes
Politics and the sacred
According to Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, modern secular politics is theological from the ground up – which may come as a nasty surprise to the many people who believe, often for very good reasons, that religion and politics should be kept as far from each other as possible.
2020-Jan-05 • 28 minutes
Thinking the country
What constitutes a "philosophical" conversation? You might reasonably expect such a conversation to be conceptual, exploring abstract notions of self, time, being, ethics and so on. For indigenous Australian philosophers, the conversation gets real very fast.
2019-Dec-29 • 28 minutes
Plato, Buddhism and storytelling
At a glance, Platonic philosophy and Buddhism might seem to have little in common. But their ideas on moral development and "turning the soul" towards reality have fascinating congruences.
2019-Dec-22 • 28 minutes
Free speech crisis on campus?
With freedom of speech at Australian universities currently under governmental review, we explore the notion of free speech on campus. Should what gets said at universities - and who gets to say it - be regulated? And is the supposed "free speech crisis" just a front for the culture wars?
2019-Dec-16 • 28 minutes
The Bonhoeffer moment
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian whose involvement in the plot to kill Hitler has given rise to the term "Bonhoeffer moment" - a crisis point where morally repugnant acts might be considered in order to head off greater evil. And these days, it seems everyone is having a Bonhoeffer moment.
2019-Dec-08 • 28 minutes
Happy?
What is happiness, and why are we incapable of getting a fix on it? Is the happiness industry really in the business of making us unhappy? And can philosophy help?
2019-Dec-01 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire part 5: Tracks of thought
As a young girl, Aileen Moreton-Robinson learned to track in the bush, and this was the beginning of her philosophical education, as she learned how all things are connected. Today she sees Western thought as disconnected, disjointed, and badly in need of a relational approach that might get us talking properly about race and power.
2019-Nov-24 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire part 4: Africa
Africa has a history of rich and ancient philosophical traditions. Those traditions were rendered invisible by European colonisers, who sought to overlay Africa's past with the values of the Enlightenment. Today, African philosophy is being uncovered and introduced to the West - but is the West listening?
2019-Nov-17 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 3: Missionary feminism
Feminist arguments in the West have been used to advance imperialist projects that inflict suffering on women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Western feminist focus on individual rights can be disastrous when played out in non-Western contexts. Is it time to rethink “missionary feminism”?
2019-Nov-10 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 2: Migrants and other Others
As refugees from the former colonies make their way to Europe, notions of “European life” and “European values” are facing unprecedented challenges. As postcolonial subjects, how should these migrants be received and understood?
2019-Nov-03 • 28 minutes
Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 1: The white way to think
The West has a history of colonisation and empire-building. How has this shaped the discipline of philosophy? This week – first in a five-part series – we look at racism and the unfortunate legacy of Immanuel Kant, who believed the non-white races were incapable of philosophical reflection.
2019-Oct-27 • 28 minutes
Reparation
When individuals and communities today still suffer the consequences of past wrongs — slavery, dispossession, invasion, the theft of land and resources — what exactly is owed to them, and who should pay?
2019-Oct-20 • 28 minutes
The problem with humanism
How well does humanism's account of itself hold up in philosophical terms?
2019-Oct-13 • 28 minutes
Feminism, ecology, motherhood
The climate debate isn't just about science; it's also about gender and power. Ecofeminism takes this seriously - but does it also perpetuate negative stereotypes about women's supposedly "natural" connection to the earth and to nurturing?
2019-Oct-06 • 28 minutes
Genetically obsolete
The prospect of human genetic enhancement raises moral concerns. Will a genetically enhanced human in 2060 will be rendered “obsolete” by technological advances that come along in 2070? What happens when we blur the distinction between person and product?
2019-Sep-29 • 28 minutes
Richard Rorty and transcendence
A professional academic philosopher, the American neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty was also a provocative critic of his own discipline. He had little time for what he saw as the pretensions of analytic philosophers and their ambitions to transcendence. But his work is tangled up in its own ambitions and fascinating contradictions.
2019-Sep-22 • 28 minutes
Classical ethics, modern problem
Plato and Aristotle were acute observers and analysts of the world around them, but they never had to deal with climate change. Trust, virtue and reason seem to be in short supply today. Can the ancients show us how to recover these essential aspects of social harmony?