Twitter: @goodintheorypod • @Clifton_Mark
2020 to 2023
Average episode: 47 minutes
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Categories: Interview-Style • Political Philosophy
Podcaster's summary: Good in Theory is a podcast about political philosophy and how it can help us understand the world today. Want to know what's in Plato's Republic or Hobbes's Leviathan but don't want to read them? This is your pod. I explain my favourite books in political theory in enough detail that you’ll feel like you read them yourself. Deep but not heavy. No experience needed.
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|2023-May-11 • 64 minutes
46 - Athenian democracy and Plato w/ Graham Culbertson (Everyday Anarchism Podcast)
This episode is a crossover collabo with Graham Culbertson of the Everyday Anarchism podcast. Graham asked me over to talk Athenian democracy, Plato, anarchism and how modern meritocratic education sucks. We had a nice time with it and hope you do too. Support the show
|2022-Sep-05 • 65 minutes
45 - Humane War feat. Samuel Moyn
War tends to bring out the human propensity for atrocity. Nobody likes indiscriminate killing, torture and so on. What to do about it? One response is to avoid war altogether. According to Yale prof Samuel Moyn, that’s what most people wanted after World War II and after Vietnam. But more recently, he’s noticed a shift. Now, politicians, especially in America, are focussing on making more humane. Leaders like Obama say they’ll make war as ‘clean’ as possible by using drone strikes and special forces and min...
|2022-Aug-17 • 37 minutes
44 - Samuel Huntington "The Clash of Civilizations?"
Samuel J. Huntington’s 1993 “The Clash of Civilizations?” is the most assigned article in American political science. It predicts a worldwide culture war (but not the kind you're thinking of). The book became a massive bestseller, Huntington was all over TV and his theory is still talked about all the time. It made him a darling to the press but reviled by his fellow academics. Think of "Clash" as a dark rejoinder to Fukuyama’s already-pretty-morose “End of History.” Instead of a peaceful...
|2022-Jun-06 • 55 minutes
43 - Tyranny at Work feat. Elizabeth Anderson
Americans hate when the state tells them what to do. They’ve got freer speech, freer access to guns and less regulation on business than any other rich country. So why do they let their work bosses walk all over them? American workers have less rights and worse conditions than workers in any other developed country. Employers can fire employees at will, impose arbitrary schedules and prevent them from forming unions. They tell them what to wear, what they can publicly say and even when they can take a shit....
|2022-May-02 • 54 minutes
42 - The New Aristocracy feat. Matthew Stewart
Matthew Stewart is a philosophy PhD and author. He’s also a Princeton guy and former management consultant so he knows rich people. His new book, The 9.9%, is about them. Not the super-rich, but the doctors, lawyers and managers that go to good colleges and live in nice neighbourhoods. The “nearly rich and not-famous,” as he puts it. We talk about how these people raise their kids, get their money and block the poorer element from their neighbourhoods. Matthew reckons the 9.9% are a new kind of aristocracy ...
|2022-Apr-18 • 58 minutes
41 - Love in the Time of Big Data feat. Alfie Bown
Big tech companies tell us they’re our servants, existing to fulfill our desires more cheaply and conveniently than ever. Alfie Bown doesn’t think so. He thinks Deliveroo, Tinder, Pornhub etc. aren’t just giving us what we want, they’re shaping what we want. He reckons our tech overlords are secretly remaking humankind on the level of desire. We chat about Chinese cars that know what you want to eat and why time travellers don’t get horny. Bown is the author of a new book called Dream Lovers: The Gamific...
|2022-Feb-08 • 75 minutes
40 - Is Liberal Democracy the Best We Can Do? feat. The Morality of Everyday Things
Is democracy the worst form of government except for all the others or is it just the worst? This is a crossover with the delightful Morality of Everyday Things podcast. Jake and Ant and I discuss what liberal democracy is, the arguments in its favour, and some big critiques. Episode includes Plato, Nazis and Lizards. Enjoy! Also, go listen to MOET pod! ReferencesFrancis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last ManCarl Schmitt The Crisis of Parliamentary DemocracyKarl Popper, The Open Society and its Enem...
|2022-Jan-24 • 73 minutes
39 - The Glorious History and Ugly Present of Rhetoric feat. Rob Goodman
Rhetoric is supposed to inspire. Imagine Cicero exhorting the Roman people, Churchill vowing to “fight on the beaches.” Yet, when politicians speak today, it’s almost always boring or obnoxious. Why? Prof. Rob Goodman, author of Words on Fire: Eloquence and its Conditions comes by today to talk about the history of rhetoric, what Cicero knew that we don’t, and the political speech styles of Trudeau (boring), Trump (obnoxious), and X González (pretty great, actually). Support the show
|2021-Dec-26 • 40 minutes
38 - GiT Holiday Special with Sep
It’s the holidays again! And Theory Elf Sep comes on to help celebrate them. We talk about the past year of working on the pod, where I've been for the past two months, how she makes the episode art and what we have planned for the coming year. We also call Rebecca! Support the show
|2021-Oct-28 • 37 minutes
37 - Thought Lab 4: The Psychology of Horror
Grizzly bears are scary. But what about zombie grizzly bears? What’s makes something horrifying rather than just frightening? Paul has a theory. It turns out that humans have a psychological way of organizing the world that also creates the possibility of getting really creeped-out. It helps explain the horror of the zombie grizzly why the old Dracula was creepier than Twilight and how war propaganda can turn enemies into monsters. ReferencesDavid Livingstone-Smith (philosopher where Paul’s getting his idea...
|2021-Oct-12 • 34 minutes
36 - Moral Saints 2: Why Be a Saint?
This episode is about Wolf’s “Moral Saints,” Peter Singer’s “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” and Larissa Macfarquhar’s Strangers Drowning. Susan Wolf thinks that devoting your life to helping others would be a real drag. It’d interfere with playing tennis and reading Tolstoy. True enough but some people might have philosophical and personal reasons to do it anyway. For example, Peter Singer argues that, if you think a child’s life is worth more than your shoes, then you’re morally obliged to give away all...
|2021-Sep-27 • 26 minutes
35 - Susan Wolf, “Moral Saints”
This episode is about Susan Wolf’s 1982 article “Moral Saints.” You’re probably a moral enough person. But have you ever had that nagging feeling that you should be even better? That if you were really good, you would devote your life to the cause, whatever cause that might be? That you should become some kind of moral saint? People who devote their entire lives to being as morally good as possible are held up as objects of admiration, as a kind of saintly standard that the rest of us feel vaguely guilty fo...
|2021-Sep-13 • 88 minutes
34 - The Esoteric Plato feat. Earl Fontainelle
Today I speak with Earl Fontainelle of the Secret History of Western Esotericism podcast (SHWEP). I don’t understand Plato. Partly this is because he never writes in his own voice and partly it’s because I can’t even always tell when Socrates is joking or even what he’s talking about. The divided line? The Myth of Er? The tyrant being exactly 729 times less happy than the philosopher? These are all weird things in the Republic that are still mysterious to me. Earl suggests that perhaps the reason Plato is s...
|2021-Aug-30 • 65 minutes
33 - The End of the End of History feat. Philip Cunliffe and George Hoare
I talk to Phillip Cunliffe and George Hoare about their new book The End of the End of History. In 1989, Francis Fukuyama predicted a boring eternity of liberal capitalism and for nearly 30 years, it looked like he might be right. We had Clinton and Blair. Globalization and apathy. Kurt Cobain. According to my guests, the end of History wasn’t just about politics, it was a whole vibe. But since 2016, things have started happening that don't quite fit the pattern and the pundits are losing their minds...
|2021-Aug-16 • 27 minutes
32 - Fukuyama’s “The End of History?”
In 1989, Francis Fukuyama was a foreign policy expert with an interest in Hegel. He published a little essay called “The End of History?” in which he argued that the Cold War was more than a rivalry between two superpowers or an experiment to find the most efficient way to organize an economy. Fukuyama thought it was the final chapter in a millennia-long struggle to find a way of life that satisfies our deep spiritual need for freedom and equality. Therefore the end of the Cold War would mark the end of His...
|2021-Aug-02 • 47 minutes
31 - Thought Lab 3: Utilitarianism & the Great Spreadsheet
Today, Paul Sagar and I get into utilitarianism. We talk about thought experiments that involve: drowning kids, ruined loafers, death squads and bioweapons. The drowning children are from Peter Singer. He's a utilitarian that thinks that we rich first-world types should be giving away all our money to save the global poor from starving and malaria. Paul disagrees. He brings in another philosopher (Bernard Williams) to argue that worrying about starving children all the time would violate his integrity....
|2021-Jul-19 • 33 minutes
30 - Plato's Republic 13: Choose Yourself
This episode covers the last bit of book 10 of Plato’s Republic. Imagine you get to choose your reincarnation. You can come back as a tyrant, a sports star, a swan, whatever you want. What do you pick? And what do you have to know to make a good choice? Socrates has some advice. In this final episode of Republic, tell the story of a man who travelled to the afterlife and came back to tell the tale. This puts a didactic bow on the all-night conversation they’ve been having and demonstrates how Socrates thin...
|2021-Jul-05 • 45 minutes
29 - Plato's Republic 12: Poetic Sweet Tooth
Socrates thinks that poetry is like candy: delicious but bad for us. If we consume too much, it’ll rot our souls. That’s because the poets just pander to our passions with no concern with or knowledge of the truth. But pandering poets aren’t the problem. It’s us. Socrates thinks that humans have a poetic sweet tooth that makes certain kinds of stories irresistible to us. We let ourselves get carried away by them and start to believe that they’re true. Following our natural taste for art undermines reason an...
|2021-Jun-19 • 37 minutes
28 - Plato's Republic 11: A Tyrant's Life
This episode covers book 9 of Plato's Republic. In this episode, Socrates is going to finally answer the question that started it all. Back in book 2, Glaucon and Adeimantus challenged Socrates to prove to them that it’s worthwhile to be just. To them, the life of injustice looks pretty good, if you can get away with it. Money, sex, power, what’s not to like?Socrates has been building up his answer since episode 4 of this series. He’s built an imaginary city, and education system and a group of superhu...
|2021-Jun-07 • 50 minutes
27 - Plato's Republic 10: Degenerate Cities, Degenerate Souls
How does politics affect personality? In the ideal city, the perfect laws and education create philosopher kings. But what about everywhere else? In this chapter, Socrates gets down to some real-world political science and analyzes the four kinds of regime that actually exist in the Greek world. And because the city matches the soul, each of the regimes has its own distinctive personality type. Socrates reckons that living in a state like Sparta will make you spirited and proud; living under oligarchy will...
|2021-May-14 • 56 minutes
26 - Plato's Republic 9: Horny for the Good
This episode covers book 7 of Plato's Republic. Socrates is what I call a “philosopher of desire.” He cares more about the questions than the answers, the journey than the destination, the boner than the nut. And he brings that energy to his teaching. In this episode, Socrates tells the boys that the “form of the good” is the one thing that anyone who wants to live a good life absolutely needs to know about. So what is it? Glaucon wants to know so badly he yells out to Apollo and begs Socrates to tell...
|2021-Apr-19 • 54 minutes
25 - Thought Lab 2: Tainted Art and Moral Luck
Is it ok to laugh at The Cosby Show? To rock to “Rock With You”? To eat with the knife that was used to murder your family? Does bad luck make you a bad person? It may seem reasonable to separate the art from the artist and the instrument from the act, but Paul says that’s not how our brains work. He thinks human morality is driven by inconsistent irrational emotions and he thinks that’s a good thing. In our second Thought Lab, we talk about bad celebrities, haunted knives and moral luck.Paul Sagar "T...
|2021-Mar-29 • 43 minutes
24 - Plato's Republic 8: The Philosopher Kings
This book covers parts of books 5-6 of Plato’s Republic. Who should rule the city in speech? Philosophers of course! In this episode, Socrates explains his most famous political proposal: philosopher kings. He wants the leaders to be smart and capable and virtuous. And charming and good-looking. Is that too much to ask? In a democracy, it is. Socrates doesn't just say what good leaders look like he also says why democracies will never have one. Who’s to blame for bad democratic politics? Is it corrupt...
|2021-Mar-16 • 33 minutes
23 - Plato’s Republic 7: Socratic Family Values
This episode covers book 5 of Plato’s Republic.What do you do when the private family causes too much corruption? Nationalize it! Create a giant family monopoly that includes every citizen in one giant clan. In this episode, Socrates explains his most normal proposal—that women should have jobs—and his most shocking, which involves a state eugenics program disguised as a religious festival. This chapter makes some people think Plato’s a feminist and other’s say he’s a fascist. Either way, it shows us that v...
|2021-Mar-01 • 44 minutes
22 - Thought Lab 1: The Dead Chicken Experiment
This is the first in our Thought Lab series, in which political theorist Paul Sagar comes by to chat about thought experiments and the themes they raise.This week, we ask: are harmless acts ever morally wrong?Official liberal morality says “no” but most actual liberals will “yes,” if you find the right example. What about sex with dead chickens? Or your siblings? Or a child sex doll? If nobody is around to see you or hear you, is it still wrong to wear blackface?But this episode isn’t just a game of “would ...
|2021-Feb-15 • 62 minutes
21 - GiT Valentine's Day Special: Rousseau and Romance Past
I talk about a crush I had in Paris as a boy. Then Sep and I dig into Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Marcel Proust to explain what on earth was going on in my heart. Rousseau advises how to get from boner to bonheur. Proust explains why it’s easier to fall for someone you pass in a car than someone you actually have to talk to. We find out that the human heart is a liar that it's more fun to believe anyway. Support the show
|2021-Jan-18 • 76 minutes
20 - Do Free Markets Make Free Humans? Interview with Jeffrey Bercuson
Jeffrey Bercuson is author of A History of Political Thought: Property, Labor, and Commerce from Plato to Piketty.This book does a whirlwind tour through the history of political thought explaining how different thinkers have approached the commercial or money-making part of human life. We talk about how attitudes have shifted from ancient scepticism about commerce in Plato and Aristotle to its celebration in thinkers like Hegel and Hayek. Bercuson also explains how, even if we accept the arguments of some ...
|2021-Jan-04 • 62 minutes
19 - Granny Gore to Girl Power: Naomi Hamer on the History of Fairy Tales
Naomi Hamer of Ryerson University tells us an unfamiliar version of a classic fairy tale then chats about how children’s stories have changed and the different moral and political and economic factors that changed them. According to Hamer the seduction and cannibalism isn’t gone, it’s just less explicit. Also, “what big hands you have grandma!” is just as horny as it always sounded. References: Naomi's Twitter Jack Zipes, "A Second Gaze at Little Red Riding Hood's Trials and Tribulations"...
|2020-Dec-21 • 50 minutes
18 - GiT Xmas movie special with Sep
Sep of Sep’s Weird Movie Blog comes on to talk about Christmas movie and capitalist fairy tale, Trading Places. Sep is Good in Theory’s episode artist, editor, and BFF of the pod. Links:Sep's TwitterTrading Places trailer Zardoz trailerRoadhouse trailer My CBC Xmas article we mention Support the show
|2020-Dec-06 • 46 minutes
17 - Plato's Republic 6: How to be a Good Person
This episode covers book 4 of Plato’s Republic. What does it mean to be a good person? What is justice? To answer these questions, Socrates and the boys have built imaginary cities, raised educated and nobly lied to armies, and sent them all to live in a camp. Today’s the day Socrates brings it all home and explains his definition of justice both in the city and in the soul. And to boot, he explains the structure of the human soul. Credits: Adeimantus: Rebecca AmzallagGlaucon: Zachary AmzallagAncient music:...
|2020-Nov-16 • 44 minutes
16 - Plato's Republic 5: Lies, Noble Lies and Gymnastics
This episode covers the second half of book 3 of Plato’s Republic. Glaucon and Socrates develop a completely immersive education program for the guardians that controls every aspect of their social and physical environment. Then, they tell them it never happened because actually they were sleeping underground being built by the god to defend the city. Glaucon doubts anyone would believe this “noble lie,” but Socrates isn’t too worried. Ideology finds a way. Credits: Glaucon: Zachary AmzallagAncient music: ...
|2020-Nov-02 • 42 minutes
15 - Interview: politics v. philosophy with Agnes Callard
Agnes Callard is a philosophy prof, Plato expert and public philosopher. We talk about the relationship between politics and philosophy (it’s complicated), why nobody should trust philosophers (they don’t know anything), and why human beings can’t even think something without someone else telling them they’re wrong. We mention Callard’s op-eds: “Should we cancel Aristotle?” and “How to politicize a classroom”Twitter: https://twitter.com/AgnesCallardSupport the show
|2020-Oct-19 • 38 minutes
14 - Plato's Republic 4: Myths 4 KidZ
This episode covers parts of books 2 and 3 of Plato’s Republic. Adeimantus and Socrates start planning an education for the guardians. As it stands, young Athenians are fed an unhealthy banquet of lies written by the likes of Homer and Hesiod. Socrates wants new lies that set a good example for the kids. Lies with less fighting and sex and crying. Boring lies. And they might be for adults too. Ancient music: Michael Levy Adeimantus: Rebecca AmzallagSupport the show
|2020-Oct-05 • 42 minutes
13 - Plato’s Republic 3: City of Pigs, Army of Dogs
This episode covers the first part of book 2 of Republic. Glaucon and Adeimantus take over the conversation with Socrates and challenge him to prove that it’s good to be good. Glaucon gets wild with a ring of invisibility. The gang builds a utopian city of pigs and meets an army of good-natured dogs. Pod Art: Marijke BouchierTheme music: David Zikotivz, Clayton Tapp Ancient music: Michael Levy Editing, episode art and social: SepidehAdeimantus: Rebecca AmzallagGlaucon: Zachary AmzallagSupport the show
|2020-Sep-21 • 19 minutes
12 - Interview: Paul Sagar, what's your problem with Plato?
Paul Sagar is a lecturer in political theory at King's College London and the guy who played Thrasymachus in book 1. He actually doesn't like reading Plato very much. I ask him why. Support the show
|2020-Sep-21 • 35 minutes
11 - Plato's Republic 2: Good to be Bad
(covers the second half of book 1 of Plato's Republic) In this episode, Socrates goes up against his most formidable opponent yet: the sophist Thrasymachus. Thrasymachus leaps at Socrates “like a wild beast” and yells at him for playing dirty. Then, he tells the boys that morality is a lie and that they should do as much injustice as they can get away with. Socrates responds by winning the argument in the least persuasive way possible. Pod Art: Marijke BouchierTheme music: David Zikotivz, Clayton Tapp ...
|2020-Sep-07 • 34 minutes
10 - Plato's Republic 1: Justice for Beginners
Plato’s Republic is full of bad arguments and worse political proposals and it may still be the most influential work of political theory ever. Book 1 sets the stage for an all-night conversation between Socrates and some friends that covers: ethics; politics; education; epistemology; psychology; and a whole lot more. It all gets started with the question “what is justice?” Pod art: Marijke BouchierTheme music: David Zikotivz, Clayton Tapp Ancient lyre music: Michael Levy on SpotifyEditing, episode art and ...
|2020-Aug-10 • 53 minutes
9 - Athens: Ahoy Polloi!
9 - Athens: Ahoy Polloi! The Athenians ran their government like an open mic night, pulled off one of the greatest golden ages in human history and show why true democrats hate elections. The secret sauce of Athenian greatness? Seamen. Lots of seamen. Old Oligarch: Alan Mark at Tankards n TalesArt: Marijke BouchierMusic: David Zikotivz, Clayton Tapp, and (new) Michael Levy on SpotifyEditing, episode art and social: SepidehTexts: The Old OligarchPericles’ Funeral Oration Support the show
|2020-Jul-21 • 46 minutes
8 - Sparta: Killer Beehive
The Spartans are legendary fighters and legendary patriots. They believed in equality, meritocracy, and freedom. They also ran the most brutal slave state in the ancient world. Their secret? Institutions! Art: Marijke BouchierMusic: David Zikotivz, Clayton Tapp, and The Green Hornet Theme. Editing, episode art and social: SepidehReferences: -Plutarch Life of Lycurgus -Plutarch The Sayings of Spartan Women-"This is Sparta!" Techno remix-Three: a Sparta comic from the Helot perspectiveSupport the sh...
|2020-Jul-13 • 62 minutes
7 - Interview: Rebecca Goldstein
Rebecca Goldstein wrote a book of Platonic dialogues, in which Plato is on a 21st-century book tour in America. It’s called Plato at the Googleplex.We talk about Plato and whether you can do philosophy and politics at the same time, and the Harper’s letter in favour of “open debate” that Goldstein signed and Twitter got mad about. We discuss when, if ever, it’s a good idea to constrain free speech and inquiry. https://www.rebeccagoldstein.com/ Art: Marijke BouchierMusic: David Zikotivz and Clayton TappEditi...
|2020-Jul-06 • 33 minutes
6 - The Polis: Freedom Farms, Phalanxes and Class War
The Greeks invented political liberty and everyone loves them for it. Were they freedom-loving geniuses? Maybe. Were they farm boys who could handle a spear? Yes. Were they deep in debt and looking for a way out? Absolutely. Art: Marijke BouchierMusic: David Zikovitz and Clayton TappEditing, episode art and social: SepidehSupport the show
|2020-Jun-22 • 38 minutes
5 - Plato’s Apology 5: The Apology of Athens
Executing an innocent 70-year-old philosophy might look bad but you had to be there. Topics include: Why a reasonable, well-intentioned Athenian may have voted to kill Socrates. Why politics might get interested in you, even if you’re not interested in politics.The difference between morality tales and philosophy tales. Art: Marijke BouchierMusic: David Zikotivz and Clayton TappEditing, episode art and social: SepidehCreamsicles: Zachary AmzallagCute Athenian boy tryna smashSupport the show
|2020-Jun-07 • 52 minutes
4 - Plato's Apology 4: Your Brain On Politics
A lot of Athenians suspect Socrates of plotting to overthrow democracy. On the other hand, Socrates says that when Athenians start thinking politics, they turn into a paranoid mob. This episode covers both sides and it honestly sounds like Socrates is complaining about Twitter. Topics:-Why people who are into politics are so annoying. -How the “political mindset” differs from the “philosophical mindset.”-Whether Socrates is an enemy of the state.Art: Marijke BouchierMusic: David Zikotivz and Clayton TappEdi...
|2020-May-25 • 34 minutes
3 - Plato's Apology 3: Not-So-Dangerous Minds
Some people think that philosophy is an outrage to religion and a danger to morality. Was this why the Athenians killed Socrates? Are these ever good reasons to kill a philosopher? Do people say philosophy is dangerous just to make it sound sexier? Pod art: Marijke BouchierMusic: David Zikotivz and Clayton TappEditing, episode art, social: SepidehPopsicles: Zachary AmzallagImpious outrages include: Piss ChristMutilation of the Herms#notmychristianGay DumbledoreIrreligious acts with an olive treeClerks on Lo...
|2020-May-11 • 40 minutes
2 - Plato’s Apology 2: Free Speech Hero?
Socrates insults his jury, dares them to sentence him to death, then makes fun of them when they do. Unswerving commitment to truth? Troll’s defence? Suicide by jury? All of the above? Part 2 of a 4-part series on Plato’s Apology. Bill and Ted trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3fx6TugN7gSupport... the show
|2020-May-11 • 41 minutes
1 - Plato's Apology 1: The Divine Troll
Socrates, daddy of Greek philosophy, is on trial for impiety and corrupting the youth. According to him, his only crime was trolling the city of Athens. The Apology is an account of Socrates’s court defence, told by his student Plato. This is part 1 of a 4-part series on this book. Text of Plato’s Apology: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html... Support the show
|2020-May-04 • 1 minutes
Good in Theory is a podcast about political philosophy and the history of ideas. Clif Mark explains his favourite books in enough detail that you'll feel like you read them yourself. Support the show