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Podcast Profile: Philosopher's Zone

podcast imageTwitter: @DavidPZone (followed by 84 philosophers)
Site: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone
250 episodes
2017 to present
Average episode: 28 minutes
Open in Apple PodcastsRSS

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: 2022-Aug-10 11:32 UTC. Episodes: 250. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

Episodes
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 sinister global Jewish 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. As for why the perennial focus on Jews: the answer can be found in a peculiar tension between philosophical monism and the worldview of the TV ...
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 perjorative 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 s...
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-15 • 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?
2019-Sep-15 • 28 minutes
Philosophy on the couch
Sigmund Freud had mixed feelings about philosophy – he thought that philosophers and people experiencing psychosis had a lot in common. So how has contemporary philosophy come to owe such a huge debt to the father of psychoanalysis?
2019-Sep-08 • 28 minutes
Gloomy Sunday
Our reactions to suicide often depend on the era in which it takes place: when practised by ancient philosophers, it has a noble lustre. When practised by modern celebrities, it’s an emblem of the emptiness of fame and fortune. And now, the advent of voluntary euthanasia is changing our perceptions once again.
2019-Sep-01 • 28 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.
2019-Aug-25 • 28 minutes
Dementia and deception
If you’re caring for a person with dementia, what do you do if they demand to see their spouse, who in fact died long ago? If you resort to telling the person that their spouse has just gone to the shops and will be back soon, you’re not alone. “Therapeutic deception” is a time-saver for carers, and it can also be humane, a means of alleviating distress. But like all lying, it’s morally problematic.
2019-Aug-18 • 28 minutes
Why the Humanities?
In an era of university funding cuts, economic rationalism and the creeping perception that human progress comes to us principally via science and technology, who needs the Humanities?
2019-Aug-11 • 28 minutes
The (other) melancholy Dane
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is perhaps the most famous Danish depressive, but Soren Kierkegaard gives him a run for his money. He wrote uncompromisingly difficult philosophical works, so it’s not surprising that he’s an outsize but rather remote figure in the popular cultural imagination. This week’s guest wants to change all that – she’s written a biography of Kierkegaard that brings the man and the work into sharp, sympathetic focus.
2019-Aug-04 • 28 minutes
Remembering Agnes Heller
Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller was a Holocaust survivor, a dissident under Hungary’s communist regime, and one of the great modern political thinkers. She was also a wonderfully engaging speaker, and this week we hear her in conversation from 2013, as well as the reflections of a close friend and colleague.
2019-Jul-28 • 28 minutes
Rock star philosopher, and rocks
Early 20th century French thinker Henri Bergson was a celebrity. Today he’s a more obscure figure, but we're asking if his ideas should be restored to the intellectual map of the 20th century. Also: a philosopher-geologist on rocks, science and climate change.
2019-Jul-21 • 29 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?
2019-Jul-14 • 28 minutes
The world in a different light: Iris Murdoch’s philosophical vision
In a century that produced a dizzying array of philosophers and philosophical approaches, few philosophers were as distinctive, and stood out quite so conspicuously, as Iris Murdoch (1919-1999).
2019-Jul-07 • 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-Jun-30 • 28 minutes
Witnessing and translating
What happens when we take philosophy into the field? This week we’re talking archaeology, with focus on feminism, tensions between indigenous and Western scientific knowledge, and the principles of reconciliation.
2019-Jun-23 • 28 minutes
Public health and the open society
Karl Popper's idea of "the open society" promoted values of inclusivity, transparency and democratic freedom. Today, some fear that the open society is under threat, with negative consequences for a lot of things we've come to take for granted - including public health.
2019-Jun-16 • 28 minutes
Keeping them out
Most people agree that nation states don't have any moral right to control the movement of citizens within their borders, or to prevent citizens from travelling beyond those borders. So why should we accept that states have the right to exclude or restrict entry to refugees and immigrants?
2019-Jun-09 • 28 minutes
Drone homicide, jiggling brains and neurobionic revenge porn
The march of technology never stops, and sometimes institutions have trouble keeping up with the changes. This week we’re looking at possible future crimes committed via technology that’s already with us: brain-computer interfaces, which enable things to happen in the physical world by means of neural impulses – thoughts and imaginings, rather than movements.
2019-Jun-02 • 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.
2019-May-26 • 28 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?
2019-May-19 • 28 minutes
The blind spot
Can science potentially reveal everything, giving us a "God's eye view" of the world? Some hope that the answer is (or will one day be) Yes - other more cautious observers wonder if science can ever overcome its blind spot.
2019-May-12 • 28 minutes
Irrationality
In 1944, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer published their famous claim that "Enlightenment reverts to mythology" - meaning that any rational order sooner or later collapses into irrationality. Seven decades later, it seems they were were right on the money. Is human society fated to be irrational? And why is the alt-right having all the crazy fun these days?
2019-May-05 • 28 minutes
Mugged by reality
Reality TV draws increasing concern from observers who fear that cast, producers and audiences alike could be participating in something morally reprehensible - and that serious consequences for society lie ahead.
2019-Apr-28 • 28 minutes
Guilty
Resentment, blame and guilt are generally placed on the negative side of the ledger of human emotions. Nobody particularly enjoys the way they feel. But they are morally important all the same, both in the public sphere and in the realm of interpersonal relationships.
2019-Apr-21 • 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.
2019-Apr-14 • 28 minutes
Nutting it out
How are your critical thinking skills? Fine, you say. Everybody sees themselves as a competent critical thinker. But when you break critical thinking down to its component skills, it turns out to be more complicated and difficult than you might expect.
2019-Apr-07 • 28 minutes
Artificial intelligence, real emotions
Artificial intelligence is pretty impressive these days. An AI robot can interact with humans in ways that give a strong impression of empathy, intellectual engagement and independent thought. A robot can smile, frown and respond to emotional cues offered by human faces and voices. But can it experience real emotions of its own?
2019-Mar-31 • 28 minutes
The ecology of torture
Who is responsible for acts of torture? Individual perpetrators, certainly. But focusing on the guilt of individuals can lead us to miss the significance of context - social, political, cultural, the "ecology" of complex circumstances within which practices of torture occur.
2019-Mar-24 • 28 minutes
Techne-logy
The ancient Greek root of our word "technology" is techne, which means "craftsmanship" or "art". In a world where technology today is thought of in mechanistic terms - consumer items that simply appear in our lives and perform certain functions - is it time we rediscovered the techne behind its development?
2019-Mar-17 • 28 minutes
Are we enlightened?
Most of us think of the European Enlightenment as a historical period during which society cast off the shackles of mythic thinking. Today, mythic thinking is alive and well in the era of neo-liberal capitalism - at least that's according to the analysis of critical theory, a mode of philosophy deeply rooted in the dynamics of history. Critical theory comes to us via Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, whose 1944 work Dialectic of Enlightenment is still a seminal text. But how does it hold up today?
2019-Mar-10 • 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-Mar-03 • 28 minutes
Existentialism and crisis
Existentialism entered the popular consciousness after World War 2, and for many it still has a mid-century ring to it. But how does it look look today, especially in an age where the unfolding environmental crisis calls for something more than radical humanism?
2019-Feb-24 • 31 minutes
On the way
John Kaag is a philosopher who travelled to the Swiss Alps with the aim of putting into practice some of Nietzsche's recommendations for "becoming who you are". In his memoir Hiking With Nietzsche, what he finds is that following in the footsteps of the great German thinker requires big shoes.
2019-Feb-17 • 31 minutes
Walter Benjamin: multimedia prototype?
As an intellectual oddball in the early 20th century, Walter Benjamin appears to have been a precursor of the cross-disciplinary hybrid thinkers we celebrate today. Was he the first multimedia journalist?
2019-Feb-10 • 53 minutes
Ageing
Getting older: comedy or tragedy? Martha Nussbaum and Saul Levmore—co-authors of Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations About Retirement, Romance, Wrinkles and Regret—talk about older bodies, intergenerational resentment, and a certain Shakespearean geriatric.
2019-Feb-03 • 28 minutes
Devotion, democracy and Duterte
Is religious language incompatible with democratic politics, as philosopher Richard Rorty believed? Not in the Philippines, where religion and democracy are working together as close allies—with troubling implications for justice and human rights.
2019-Jan-27 • 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.
2019-Jan-20 • 25 minutes
African philosophy and the West
How do you articulate African philosophy in a Western academic environment? And what gets lost in the project of “translating” the former into the categories of the latter?
2019-Jan-13 • 25 minutes
Backyard ethics: defending the NIMBY
Suppose a new hospital or drug rehabilitation centre needs to be built. If you’re a NIMBY, then you’ll be fine with the project—as long as it doesn’t negatively affect your property value. NIMBYism is often touted as the scourge of suburbia, but maybe there’s more to it than meets the eye.
2019-Jan-06 • 25 minutes
Dignity and enhancement
Human dignity is one of those ideas that seem to have been around for as long as humans themselves, and few people would take issue with it. But like most ideas, human dignity has a philosophical pedigree, and there are in fact those who say we should abandon the notion—or at least modify its invocation.
2018-Dec-30 • 25 minutes
The beauty imperative
What does it mean when beauty moves from aesthetic choice to ethical ideal? The age-old belief that true beauty lies within is ever harder to sustain today. It was once sidelined as a 'women’s issue' but beauty is now taking its place as a subject for serious philosophical scrutiny.
2018-Dec-23 • 25 minutes
Telling the story
Philosophy is usually thought of as the province of ideas and abstract thought. But this week’s guest is taking philosophy in a slightly different direction, yet makes perfect sense. US academic Barry Lam is the creator and host of Hi-Phi Nation, a podcast that bringing together philosophy and storytelling—the results are rather wonderful.
2018-Dec-16 • 25 minutes
Steve Fuller on post-truth
For many of us, 'post-truth' means a culture where appeals to prejudice and emotion trump rational policy discussion. But for Steve Fuller, post-truth is just a by-product of the institutionalisation of knowledge—including scientific knowledge.
2018-Dec-09 • 25 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?
2018-Dec-02 • 25 minutes
The vice of fear
Is fear such a bad thing? Nobody likes to experience it, but fear can be a spur to virtuous action, and overcoming fear is the essence of courage. But not everyone takes such a benign view.
2018-Nov-25 • 25 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.
2018-Nov-18 • 25 minutes
Are we getting anywhere?
Is philosophy more about questions than answers? Not necessarily. It all depends on how you conceive of philosophy in the first place, particularly with regard to its institutional setting.
2018-Nov-11 • 25 minutes
Playing around
Video games helps us to engage philosophically with issues of ethics, identity and more. This makes them potentially useful as a classroom learning tool — but what about all that violence?
2018-Nov-04 • 30 minutes
Think global
Writing a global history of philosophy is a tricky business - but that hasn't stopped this week's guest from taking it on.
2018-Oct-28 • 25 minutes
Learning Confucius
How's your Confucianism? If the answer is "a little rusty", then you're not alone. Confucianism and Chinese philosophy are niche subjects in Australia, even among students of Chinese background.
2018-Oct-21 • 25 minutes
alt-Nietzsche
Few serious Nietzsche scholars today regard him as having been any sort of proto-Nazi. But that hasn’t stopped alt-right extremists today from "rediscovering" Nietzsche and claiming him as a philosophical ally.
2018-Oct-14 • 25 minutes
Hospital ethics
What happens when doctors and ethicists get together – particularly when the patient under discussion is a young child? And how can philosophy help?
2018-Oct-07 • 25 minutes
African philosophy and the West
How do you articulate African philosophy in a Western academic environment? And what gets lost in the project of “translating” the former into the categories of the latter?
2018-Sep-30 • 25 minutes
Evolution is evolving
For 160 years now, Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection has been baffling and blowing minds - and it’s not done yet. Evolution is still evolving, carrying us into an age of post-intelligent design – which brings danger as well as opportunity.
2018-Sep-23 • 25 minutes
Forgiveness
“To err is human, to forgive divine” – a popular notion, but what are we really doing when we forgive? Operating at the highest level of human sensibility? Or denying the wrongdoer an opportunity for valuable self-reflection? This week we’re picking at one of the less-interrogated areas of ethics.
2018-Sep-16 • 37 minutes
Dignity and enhancement
Human dignity is one of those ideas that seem to have been around for as long as humans themselves, and few people would take issue with it. But like most ideas, human dignity has a philosophical pedigree, and there are in fact those who say we should abandon the notion—or at least modify its invocation.
2018-Sep-09 • 26 minutes
Proof and beauty
Mathematicians routinely refer to complex proofs in aesthetic terms, citing their 'elegance' or 'beauty'. This has partly to do with the social aspect of such proofs—far from being a hermetic or exclusively cerebral practice, mathematics has never strayed too far from its roots in dialogue and debate.
2018-Sep-02 • 26 minutes
Keeping them out
Most people agree that nation states don’t have any moral right to control the movement of citizens within their borders, or to prevent citizens from travelling beyond those borders. If states do see a need to exclude entry to refugees and immigrants, the reasons often appeal to a need to 'preserve' national values. But those arguments may not be so robust.
2018-Aug-26 • 25 minutes
Women, autonomy and social justice in China
Women in China have better access to education and job opportunities than ever before—yet a woman’s identity and value is still strongly linked with her role in the family, as wife and mother.
2018-Aug-19 • 25 minutes
Ethics and absolutes in the classroom
The trouble with morality is that reasonable people keep disagreeing on what’s right and wrong. The science, as they say, isn’t settled. So that being the case, how can we argue for fixed moral standards to which everyone should sign up? And how should we introduce kids to this vexed field of inquiry?
2018-Aug-12 • 25 minutes
The Pragmatists
Should philosophy be the attempt to articulate truth? If you’re a pragmatist, the answer is No. William James wrote of truth as a subset of expediency, and of truth’s 'cash value'. Richard Rorty saw truth—philosophical, moral, even scientific—in terms of contingent 'vocabularies'. At a time when The Washington Post reports that the leader of the free world has made over 3,000 false claims since becoming US President, pragmatic scepticism about truth could be a dangerous luxury.
2018-Aug-05 • 25 minutes
Telling the story
Philosophy is usually thought of as the province of ideas and abstract thought. But this week’s guest is taking philosophy in a slightly different direction, yet makes perfect sense. US academic Barry Lam is the creator and host of Hi-Phi Nation, a podcast that bringing together philosophy and storytelling—the results are rather wonderful.
2018-Jul-29 • 25 minutes
Remembering Stanley Cavell
Stanley Cavell, who died on June 19, was one of the world’s foremost contemporary thinkers, yet he always considered himself something of a philosophical outsider. His work ranged across the philosophy of language, aesthetics, ethics and epistemology—but also literature, cinema, and music. And his 'ordinary language' style and interest in questions of quality and value could be about to experience a renaissance.
2018-Jul-22 • 25 minutes
When work stops working
Why do we work? According to Judaeo-Christian tradition, work is the result of a divine curse—and for many people in today’s labour market that comes as no surprise. And as more and more jobs become automated, fewer and fewer people will have them. An ideal future is a 'post-work' world where everybody has access to a universal basic income—but maybe there's an even better way.
2018-Jul-15 • 25 minutes
On Evil
'Evil is one of those words that seem to convey moral clarity—we all feel we know evil when we see it. But there was once a time when 'evil' simply referred to mundane mischance or wrongdoing; its transformation into something almost metaphysical is a relatively recent turn.
2018-Jul-08 • 25 minutes
No laughing matter
Philosophers tend not to be funny—Nietzsche is a notable exception, and Plato had his moments—but philosophy can have a humorous side.
2018-Jul-01 • 25 minutes
Backyard ethics: defending the NIMBY
Suppose a new hospital or drug rehabilitation centre needs to be built. If you’re a NIMBY, then you’ll be fine with the project—as long as it doesn’t negatively affect your property value. NIMBYism is often touted as the scourge of suburbia, but maybe there’s more to it than meets the eye.
2018-Jun-24 • 25 minutes
Guilty or not guilty
Second in a two-part series on Indian philosophy. Buddhism teaches that the self is an illusion—so what do we do with self-conscious emotions like guilt and shame, which can put useful brakes on ethical misconduct? If there’s no self to be ashamed of, how should we understand the emotion? The answer lies in an ancient series of Indian Buddhist texts: the Abhidharma.
2018-Jun-17 • 25 minutes
The oblivion of India
Indian philosophy has thousands of years of history behind it, yet Western philosophers have largely ignored it—and their assumptions about Indian philosophy may have influenced the Western philosophical canon.
2018-Jun-10 • 30 minutes
Knud Loegstrup and The Ethical Demand
Danish philosopher Knud Loegstrup was a contemporary of Sartre, Arendt and Levinas—but his influence outside the world of Nordic philosophy has been limited. Scott Stephens speaks with Loegstrup’s two English translators about his masterwork The Ethical Demand, and about some unexpected resonances with English moral philosopher Iris Murdoch.
2018-Jun-03 • 25 minutes
Making differences
We're all keen on diversity these days—as long as it stays within proper boundaries. When it comes to moral values though, diverse perspectives can make us uncomfortable—so how do we manage it, and how can we do better?
2018-May-27 • 25 minutes
Morals and the market
Neoliberalism and human rights are often portrayed as standing in opposition to each other, with the fat cats at the big end of town pulling the economic levers. But neoliberalism and the discourse of modern human rights can actually be seen as close philosophical cousins.
2018-May-20 • 25 minutes
Rewilding
Most of us feel the itch of the primitive from time to time—to run without shoes, try a paleo diet, or just ditch the smartphone. The primitivist ideal exerts a seductive pull in tech-obsessed contemporary western society, but is the ideal based on a highly questionable set of philosophical assumptions?
2018-May-13 • 25 minutes
The freedom of the City
May 1968 was a watershed moment in political philosophy, and its ripple effect continues. We follow the long trajectory of May '68—from the universities and streets of Paris fifty years ago, via the work of pioneering feminist Luce Irigaray, all the way to the 'New Municipalism' that’s transforming the political and social landscapes of cities around the world today.
2018-May-06 • 25 minutes
The fate of the Common Good
The idea of the common good drove some of the most important social developments of the 20th century. Today, nations seem to be losing faith in the idea.
2018-Apr-29 • 25 minutes
Who are you?
The question of exactly what constitutes identity is an old and much-contested one. Is personhood located in a community? A culture? A race? Or is it something singular and immanent, located somewhere in the deepest recesses of the individual?
2018-Apr-22 • 25 minutes
The beauty imperative
What does it mean when beauty moves from aesthetic choice to ethical ideal? The age-old belief that true beauty lies within is ever harder to sustain today. It was once sidelined as a 'women’s issue' but beauty is now taking its place as a subject for serious philosophical scrutiny.
2018-Apr-15 • 25 minutes
Martin Luther King: political philosopher
We don’t routinely think of political figures as philosophers, but when but comes to Martin Luther King maybe we should. King was a deep thinker with a remarkably coherent vision of the moral life and a bracing take on some of the fundamental questions of political philosophy.
2018-Apr-09 • 5 minutes
Heads up for a philosophy event—Thinking Out Loud
Thinking Out Loud: The Sydney Lectures in Philosophy and Society aims to bring a leading international thinker to Western Sydney University annually to present a series of public lectures. This year Rosi Braidotti will present The Human in the Age of Technology and Climate Change. The idea of ‘human’ is undergoing rapid change. Some have termed this the age of the ‘post-human’, and it might appear a moment of great promise and liberation. Yet an underside of injustice and exclusion stubbornly remains. Rosi ...
2018-Apr-08 • 25 minutes
The shadow of eugenics
Eugenics is a science that seems to belong back in the darkest days of the 20th century. But today, 'newgenics' has people worried, as reproductive technologies make it increasingly possible to filter out certain genetic disorders. How does this colour our notion of what constitutes a 'desirable' or 'undesirable' human subject?
2018-Apr-01 • 25 minutes
Oh, the Humanities
We often hear that the academic Humanities and social sciences are in crisis—underfunded, out of touch with the job market, hamstrung by political correctness and moral relativism. So why study philosophy? And could a good dose of scientific method help to solve the problem—if indeed there is one?
2018-Mar-25 • 25 minutes
Thinking small
Understanding the human condition has been the province of many disciplines, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect microbiology to be among them. Think again!
2018-Mar-18 • 49 minutes
Philosophy for children: the why and the how
Children are natural philosophers — so why don’t we routinely teach them how to do philosophy? Some issues around that debate were aired at a recent public panel hosted by the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.
2018-Mar-11 • 25 minutes
Steve Fuller on post-truth
For many of us, 'post-truth' means a culture where appeals to prejudice and emotion trump rational policy discussion. But for Steve Fuller, post-truth is just a by-product of the institutionalisation of knowledge—including scientific knowledge.
2018-Mar-04 • 25 minutes
Extended minds, predictive processes, and Andy Clark
Andy Clark is a big name in what’s known as embodied and extended cognition. The theory positions the mind beyond the brain. If accurate, his ideas will have radical practical consequences well beyond the philosophy of mind.
2018-Feb-25 • 25 minutes
The philosophy of parenting—part 4
An authentic life will risk heartbreak for the highs—sounds like parenting. Matt Beard presents his final foray into the bewildering modern world of children, parents and families.
2018-Feb-18 • 25 minutes
The philosophy of parenting—part 3
Every parent knows the guilt that comes from being a ‘bad parent’—after you’ve lost your temper, given in to a tantrum and spoiled your precious little angel! It might affect how the child grows up, but how to work that out?
2018-Feb-11 • 25 minutes
The philosophy of parenting—part 2
Brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, those weird second cousins you never talk to… how might we define family—and why it matters.
2018-Feb-04 • 38 minutes
The philosophy of parenting—part 1
Should you have kids? Don’t look for sage advice—part 1 of a 4-part series.
2018-Jan-28 • 25 minutes
The value of thought experiments
Drop those test tubes, take off your lab coat, pull up a comfy chair and think your way to scientific truth.
2018-Jan-21 • 25 minutes
Fuelling free will
Alfred Mele has four years and four million dollars trying to get to the bottom of free will. He learnt that it was like petrol.
2018-Jan-14 • 25 minutes
Carlo Rovelli and his quantum problem
Carlo Rovelli on the desperate need for some conceptual engineering to dig quantum thinking out of a deep black hole.
2018-Jan-07 • 25 minutes
Stones rolling and the joy of ordinary objects
The structure of the universe is written in stone—maybe. Dana Goswick talks metaphysics.
2017-Dec-31 • 25 minutes
Awesome ethics and the art of mushroom blading
Forget the meaning of life; an ethical definition of awesome is far more important.
2017-Dec-24 • 25 minutes
Enid Blyton—the moral of the story
She might not be in vogue these days, but for one Cambridge philosopher Enid Blyton is serious moral business.
2017-Dec-17 • 25 minutes
Robot dogs dream of consciousness
What makes the human mind so distinctive? Perhaps the answer is in your dreams.
2017-Dec-10 • 26 minutes
Parental guidance recommended
The nature of Family could be more than a Christmas puzzle.
2017-Dec-03 • 25 minutes
Envy has its reasons
When and why might it be ok to hate your colleague’s promotion?
2017-Nov-26 • 25 minutes
A tale of two universes
Philosophy and modern physics: a case of the irrelevant versus the impractical?
2017-Nov-19 • 25 minutes
Autonomy, self, and substances
Substance abuse lets you say ‘it wasn’t me’. Then who was it?