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Podcast Profile: The Philosopher & The News

podcast imageTwitter: @newsphilosophy@philosopher1923
42 episodes
2020 to 2023
Average episode: 59 minutes
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Categories: Interview-Style

Podcaster's summary: Leading philosophers bring to the surface the ideas hidden behind the biggest news stories.

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List Updated: 2024-Apr-14 06:08 UTC. Episodes: 42. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

2023-Jul-12 • 65 minutes
Chat GPT Understands & Reuben Cohn- Gordon
Chat GPT, an AI powered chat-bot, has become the world’s fastest growing application, with over 100 million users in the first month of its launch. Even its harshest critics concede that when interacting with Chat GPT, it can seem as if one is talking to an intelligent machine. But, the standard critique goes, that’s just an illusion. Chat GPT isn’t in fact intelligent. It doesn’t understand the questions it’s asked, or the answers it gives. But, what if this critique is wrong? What if our elevation of huma...
2023-May-11 • 51 minutes
Alex O'Conor (Cosmic Sceptic) & The Absurdity of the Monarchy
On May 6th, the coronation of King Charles III took place in Westminster Abbey in London, making him officially the head of state of the United Kingdom, the head of the Church of England, and of the UK’s Armed Forces. It also made him head of Nation of sever other counties, including Canada and Australia. According to polls, more than half the British citizens seem to approve of the monarchy and the pomp and pageantry that goes with it. But can a monarch ever really have democratic legitimacy? Does the mona...
2023-Apr-13 • 59 minutes
John Naughton & The AI Hype
On March 22nd, the Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit organization focussed on reducing existential risks facing humanity, and in particular existential risk from advanced artificial intelligence (AI), published an open letter entitled Pause Giant AI Experiments. Its signatories included tech luminaries such as Elon Musk, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Its opening sentences read:“AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity, as shown by extensive re...
2023-Mar-11 • 51 minutes
Josephine von Zitzewitz & The Myth of the Russian Soul
February 24th marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some still blame the expansion of NATO in Russia’s neighbourhood as the deeper cause of this war. Others see it as Putin’s mad personal plan to go down in the history books. But some are pointing the finger to something much deeper than any of that: the Russian soul. A concept that originated in Russia’s literary tradition of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and other great authors, is seen as animating today’s national exceptionalism, fue...
2023-Jan-30 • 64 minutes
Suzanne Schneider & The Ideology Behind Gun Ownership in America
On January 21, 11 people were killed in a mass shooting in Monterey Park, near Los Angeles, California. Two days later, 7 people were killed in another shooting in Half Moon Bay, a small city on the coast south of San Francisco. It was the 37th mass shooting in the United States in 2023, only 24 days since the year began. So why is it that despite these repeated incidents, gun laws in the United States are becoming less rather than more restrictive? What is the ideology that is driving America’s love of gun...
2022-Jul-19 • 77 minutes
Toby Buckle & Freedom According to the Right
On June 24, the US Supreme court overruled a landmark decision: Roe v Wade. For nearly 50 years, abortion was a constitutional right in the Unites States. No more. “The constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” Read the decision. But quite apart from the legal argument, everyone knew this was at heart deeply political decision. Three of the judges in the majority opinion were appointed by the previous president, Donald Trump, who...
2022-May-30 • 75 minutes
Elizabeth Harman & The Ethics of Abortion
On May 2nd, Politico leaked a draft opinion of the US Supreme Court that suggested the court had voted to overrule Roe v Wade, the previous high court decision from 1973 that guaranteed the right to early term abortion in all of the US. This ruling by the Supreme Court seemingly passes the power to decide on the legality of abortion to individual States, though this essentially amounts to an immediate ban on abortions in several states. So was the Supreme Court right in allowing individual States to decide ...
2022-Apr-27 • 81 minutes
Lori Gruen & Animal Ethics in War and Peace
We don’t often think of animals as war casualties, but animals die in large numbers in every war. Sometimes as specific targets, to deprive the enemy of a food source, sometimes trapped in zoos and shelters, and other times as wildlife. But their deaths are never officially counted, and the senseless killing animals, unlike the killing of innocent civilians, is not considered a war crime. So do we have special moral duties towards animals in war, given that they have no conception of what war is, and it is ...
2022-Mar-26 • 53 minutes
Samuel Moyn & The Legal Constraints on War
On March 16th the UN’s International Court of Justice asked Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine. It had found no evidence to support Russia’s claim that Ukraine was conducting genocide against Russia Speakers in the East of the country, which has been Russia’s justification for the war. A day later Russia rejected the ruling. So, is international law completely impotent in preventing countries from going to war? And why has the law been more effective in constraining the way that countries fight even il...
2022-Mar-11 • 49 minutes
Stathis Kalyvas & Making Sense of Putin
On February 24th, Russia invaded the country of Ukraine, in an unexpected escalation of a conflict that began in 2014. It is the largest conventional military attack in Europe since World War II.According to an influential analysis of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, this is all down to NATO’s overreach in the region, and Russia is simply defending itself from being encircled by Western power. But, pay closer attention to what Putin is actually saying, and a very different explanation emerges. Putin bel...
2022-Feb-17 • 56 minutes
Stephen John & Vaccine Mandates
On February 1st a national vaccine mandate took effect in Austria. Those over the age of 18 who haven’t been vaccinated could face fines of over €3,000. Several other countries have introduced similar mandates for the elderly, medical staff and care home workers. Those resisting vaccination say it should be their choice whether to get the jab, not the state’s. Others argue that in liberal societies, it’s the state’s a right to limit the freedom of individuals when their behaviour harms others.So are those r...
2022-Feb-04 • 80 minutes
Robert Talisse & America's Real Polarization Problem
It’s been a year since the end Trump’s presidency, and the beginning of Biden’s. And while Biden pleaded for unity, and the healing of bitter political divisions in his inaugural speech, the country remains as divided as ever. 40% of Americans say in polls that they don’t believe Joe Biden is the legitimate president, and the International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy Report now classifies the United States a “backsliding democracy” sighting “runaway polarization” as one of the key threats. So is there ...
2021-Dec-09 • 57 minutes
Mollie Gerver & Decriminalising People Smuggling
On November 24th, 27 migrants died trying to cross the Channel to the UK in an inflatable dinghy. This was one of the deadliest incidents of this kind. The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson blamed France for not taking stricter measures to prevent those who enable such journeys. People trafficking gangs were “literally getting away with murder”, he said. But are the people smugglers really the ones to blame for these deaths? Would tougher sentences on those who offer such services be warranted? Are tough...
2021-Nov-19 • 71 minutes
Rami Ali & The allure of the metaverse
Mark Zuckerberg wants us to believe that soon enough, we’ll be connecting to each otehr in the metaverse, a virtual reality in which our avatars will be able to meet in virtual space, have virtual meetings and share virtual experiences. It will seem to us as though we’re really there present in virtual space, and our experience will feel real, even though they won’t be. But should we believe the hype? And even if virtual reality ends up being as exciting as Zuckerberg wants us to think, should we really t...
2021-Oct-28 • 64 minutes
William Scheuerman & Climate Activism
Insulate Britain, a new climate change campaign group, has been blocking major motorways around London in recent weeks. Its demands are simple: The UK government should fund the insulation of all social housing by 2025, as well as put forward a "legally-binding national plan" for insulating all homes in Britain by 2030. But is this form of civil disobedience an effective way to gain the public’s sympathy and bring about public policy change? Or are the role models of non-violent resistance like Ma...
2021-Oct-08 • 51 minutes
Adriana Clavel-Vázquez & Killing James Bond
Just as the new James Bond has hit the screen, the chatter about who is going to replace Daniel Craig has begun. Some are adamant that it should absolutely not be another white, straight, macho man - the times have moved on from all that. But would changing the character into a woman or a person of colour or with a different sexual orientation be doing violence to the very concept of who James Bond is? And why does it matter who James Bond, a fictional character, is portrayed by? Do the norms of the real wo...
2021-Sep-24 • 70 minutes
Arif Ahmed & Free Speech on Campus
Back in May, the UK government introduced a bill that according to its description would aim to strengthen the legal duties on higher education institutions to protect freedom of speech on campuses for students, academics and visiting speakers.This month, the Higher Education Committee has been hearing oral evidence by academics, activists and students on their views on the bill, before its put before the commons for a vote. So is this a bill trying to solve a real free speech problem on campuses around t...
2021-Sep-10 • 56 minutes
Quassim Cassam & Extremism
This month marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the day two planes, hijacked by members of Al Qaeda, flew into the world trade centre in New York City, killing thousands. A third plane hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon that day, the headquarters of the US military, while a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania, after its passengers managed to divert it from its original target. A 20-year war in Afghanistan was supposed to have eradicated Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism, but last month, as the United States a...
2021-Aug-24 • 46 minutes
Darrel Moellendorf & Ending War Justly
On August 15, following the swift withdrawal of US military forces in Afghanistan, the city of Kabul was taken over by the Taliban. 20 years since the start of the American offensive against the Taliban, as a response to the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda, Joe Biden did what his two predecessors had promised, but failed to follow through: he ended America’s military involvement in Afghanistan. But the immediate collapse of the Afghan government and military that the US had spent years supporting, and the ominous ...
2021-Jul-27 • 52 minutes
Stephen Mumford & Watching the Olympics
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic games are finally going ahead. But increasing concerns over the games turning into super-spreader event, means that the athletes will be competing and performing without a live audience. The stadiums will be empty. But even without live spectators, the Olympic games will be watched by millions of people around the world. So what is it that gives many of us such a pleasure to watch athletes perform at the peak of their game? Is the pointlessness of sport, the absence of any life or de...
2021-Jul-13 • 63 minutes
Personal Responsibility in a Pandemic & The Political Philosophy Podcast
On July 19th, all legal restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic are coming to an end in England. That includes things like social distancing, keeping 2-meters apart from strangers, and the wearing of facemasks on public transport and at airports. Instead, the prime minister said the government would be relying on the personal responsibility of individuals to take any necessary precautions. But is this move by the UK government guided by science or ideology? In a pandemic, when our health doesn’t depen...
2021-Jun-29 • 62 minutes
Joe Mazor & Media Impartiality
On June 13 a new TV channel launched in the UK called GB News, dubbed by many as the UK’s answer to America’s Fox News. In an increasingly polarised political environment, is increasingly biased media all we can expect? Is this simply an honest acceptance of the fact that all journalists are biased, that, like all of us, they occupy non-neutral perspectives onto the world of politics? Or is this giving up too quickly on the value of impartiality, when it comes to news coverage? Is there in fact a way for jo...
2021-Jun-15 • 69 minutes
Tommy Curry & The Real Critical Race Theory
Why is the political right so riled up about Critical Race Theory? And what does the theory itself actually claim? Has Critical Race Theory simply become an umbrella term for all discourse to do with race and racism? And if so, are the accounts of racism as a systemic issue a watered-down account of Critical Race Theory’s more radical critique and diagnosis of the sources of racism? Tommy Curry is professor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. His book 2018 The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and t...
2021-Jun-01 • 57 minutes
Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò & America's Need for a Truth and Reconciliation Comission
A year after George Floyd’s death, is America ready for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Why is equality against the law not enough for racism to be defeatted? And how will America’s self-image as a country that pulled itself up from its bootstraps have to change when it finally admits to the huge role slavery played in the wealth it enjoys today? Olúfémi Táíwò is Professor of African Political Thought at the Africana Studies and Research Center, at Cornell University. Born in Nigeria, his work aims ...
2021-May-17 • 62 minutes
Camila Vergara & Systemic Corruption
What do we have to learn from the Ancient Greeks when it comes to thinking about the corruption of our own political system? Since corruption doesn’t seem to go away simply by electing different leaders, might it be fixed by rethinking our constitutional foundations? And what did Machiavelli mean when he said that “an evil-disposed citizen cannot effect any changes for the worse in a republic, unless it be already corrupt”?Camila Vergara is a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University in New York, and ...
2021-May-10 • 3 minutes
Authority and Knowledge series with The Philosopher
The Philosopher & The News will be resuming next week with guest Camila Vergara, author of Systemic Corruption: Constitutional Ideas for an Anti-Oligarchic Society. If in the meantime you're craving your weekly philosophy fix, I have just the thing for you. This week The Philosopher journal is putting on virtual lectures every single day, to coincide with the release of its spring issue on the topic of Authority and Knowledge.To see the full program, and register for these events, for free, go to: ...
2021-Apr-26 • 54 minutes
Nancy Tuana & The Inequities of the Anthropocene
According to the received narrative, we have entered a new geological era in the history of our planet, the Anthropocene. Human beings, so the theory goes, have become geological agents, having an impact on the planet so profound that it can only be compared to past ice ages and the early stages of the planet’s formation. But this narrative implies that all humans have had a hand in changing the planet, and that that all humans are affected in the same way by climate change. Philosophers, historians and geo...
2021-Apr-19 • 48 minutes
Sarah Conly & The One Child Policy
In 1825 the planet’s human population was 1 billion. In 2011, there were 7 billion human beings on the planet. With the current projections estimating that by the year 2050 the human population will be 9.6 billion, there is a pressing question: Can climate change be stopped simply by moving to greener energy sources and reducing the consumption levels of the developed world? Or is something more drastic in order, like curbing the human population growth ? Given the grim history of states trying to control ...
2021-Apr-12 • 65 minutes
Alexander Douglas & Planning the Green New Deal
In 2019 the US Congress representative Alexandria Occasio Cortez and US senator Edward Markey put forward a resolution called the Green New Deal. Borrowing the name from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, a massive state-led plan to save the economy from the 1929 crash, the Green New Deal proposes an even more ambitious state plan, this time to save the planet from climate change. The aim of a net-zero carbon emissions economy within the next thirty years, the argument goes, can only be achieved by...
2021-Apr-05 • 66 minutes
Thom Brooks & There is no Solving Climate Change
What if we’re been thinking about climate change the wrong way? What if it’s not a problem that can be solved, but something that can only be managed? What if climate change is here to stay? Thom Brooks is the author of Climate Change Ethics for an Endangered World. He is professor of Law and Government at the University of Durham, and the outgoing Dean of the Durham Law School. He is also a public policy advisor and the founding Director of the Labour Academic Network. This podcast is created in partnershi...
2021-Mar-29 • 75 minutes
Brexit and Freedom with The Political Philosophy Podcast
January 1st this year marked the end of the transition period in the UK’s long and tortured journey of leaving the European Union. Four and a half years after the 2016 Brexit referendum the UK began a new chapter in its history, sovereign and independent, as the Leave campaign might have put it, no longer constrained by the EU’s laws and courts. Underneath those claims lies a variety of different conceptions of freedom. As Isaiah Berlin explained in his famous essay “Two Concepts of Liberty” there are at ...
2021-Mar-22 • 70 minutes
Brian Patrick Green & The Ethics of Space Exploration
On February 22nd, NASA released video footage of the car-sized Rover Perseverance, landing on the surface of Mars. After a journey of seven months and 293 million miles, the robot vehicle finally reached the red planet, with the aim of searching for ancient signs of life on Mars. A couple of weeks later, Elon Musk’s company Space X tested a prototype of Starship, a vehicle meant to enable mass interplanetary travel, and the eventual colonisation of other planets by humans. This, according to Musk, would be ...
2021-Mar-15 • 64 minutes
Ann Sophie Barwich & Smelling the World
One of the many things that the pandemic forced us to rethink is the importance of a sense we usually don’t give much attention to: Our sense of smell. More than half of people with Covid-19 experience the loss of smell or taste and while two-thirds recover within six to eight weeks, many are left without much improvement months down the line. Some of the people who regain their sense of smell, experience it as hugely altered (parosmia) — aromas that they used to enjoy are now overbearingly pungent, and eve...
2021-Mar-08 • 58 minutes
Emily Thomas & The Meaning of Travel
The reason Covid-19 became the pandemic it did had to do with a distinctly modern phenomenon: global mass travel. Until about a year ago, getting on a plane and travelling thousands of miles across the Earth for a business meeting, or a short holiday in a different country, was something millions of people didn’t think twice about.These days, travel is one of the things the pandemic has deprived us of, reminding us what a privilege it was to be able to roam freely around the world, making us appreciate what...
2021-Mar-01 • 64 minutes
Jonathan Wolff & Pandemic Policy Ethics
One set of ethical questions has been looming large since the start of the pandemic: How do we evaluate the costs and benefits that result from lockdown measures? Is it possible to weight the lives saved by lockdown measures against the unemployment, damage to mental health and education that they resulted in? Or are such comparisons impossible to make? Is there a price to human life, and if so, how do we arrive at it? What are the ethical principles that we should follow when making decisions under condit...
2021-Feb-22 • 58 minutes
Richard Kearney & The Importance of Touch
One of the first things we lost as the Covid pandemic began was the handshake. It foreshadowed what would follow in the months ahead: Social distancing, the loss of human touch and our longing for the physical presence of others. As we began living an increasingly disembodied existence on Zoom meetings and video calls with friends and family, many of us had a similar realization: The tactile sensation cannot be replaced with vision and sound.Historically, much of philosophy downgraded the importance of touc...
2021-Feb-15 • 56 minutes
Jeffrey Howard & Dangerous Speech
Two days after the storming of the Capitol, following a Trump rally, and with the former president seemingly continuing to glorify the events of January 6, Facebook and Twitter decided to ban him from the social media platforms, in Twitter’s case permanently. Many welcomed this move, while others cried that this constituted a violation of the former President’s free speech. Some argued that Twitter and Facebook are private companies, and therefore can enforce their terms of service however they see fit. Ot...
2021-Feb-08 • 71 minutes
Elizabeth Anderson & Talking to the Other Side
In the era of populism and political polarisation, listening to the other side has become harder than ever. Even agreeing to a common starting point, a set of facts about the world, has come to seem impossible. To many of us it seems that our political and cultural opponents just live in a different world, a different reality from us. Facts have become politicised, and their acceptance or denial a sign of one’s political identity. On top of that, much of political discourse takes place in an environment not...
2021-Feb-01 • 60 minutes
Maya Goldenberg & Vaccine Hesitancy
Most commentators treat vaccine hesitancy as part of a bigger problem: the death of expertise. Maya Goldenberg disagrees: vaccine hesitancy has to do with trust. According to the received narrative, people have stopped listening to experts, relying instead on Google searches and social media influencers for advice on important topics. There is an ongoing war, the narrative continues, between knowledge and ignorance, and the way to win the war it is by educating the public, those who think a scientific pape...
2021-Jan-25 • 55 minutes
Quassim Cassam & Conspiracy Theories
The SARS-Covid-2 pandemic brought to the surface something that has accompanied other pandemics in the past: conspiracy theories. Now, with several vaccines having been developed, the conspiracy theories have turned to them.But how should we understand conspiracy theories? And why do people find them so attractive? Do the producers of conspiracy theories really believe in them? And what does the rise of populism have to do with the proliferation of conspiracy theories? Quassim Cassam, is professor of Philos...
2021-Jan-18 • 52 minutes
David Runciman & Political Representation
On January the 6th, what started as a Trump rally in Washington DC, ended up in the violent storming of the Capitol, with, members of Congress being rushed to safety. Fuelled by the president’s words, calling the 2020 election results fraudulent, Trump’s followers took over the Capitol, shouting among other things “This is our house!” and “They work for us!” referring to the members of Congress, their representatives. Commenting on the events President-elect Joe Biden, said “The scenes of chaos at the Capit...
2020-Dec-30 • 3 minutes
Understanding Our Times
A new podcast where leading philosophers bring to the surface the philosophy hidden behind the biggest news stories. Together we'll be exploring the ideas that can help us understand the times we're living through. Welcome to The Philosopher & The News.This podcast is made in partnership with The Philosopher journal: by Pataphysical: by Nick Halliday: