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Podcast Profile: Very Bad Wizards

podcast imageTwitter: @verybadwizards@peez@tamler (@verybadwizards followed by 149 philosophers)
Site: verybadwizards.com
253 episodes
2012 to present
Average episode: 89 minutes
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Categories: Interview-Style • Two Hosts

Podcaster's summary: Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

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List Updated: 2022-Dec-07 12:35 UTC. Episodes: 253. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

2022-Dec-06 • 91 minutes
Episode 250: Metaphors All the Way Down
We often think of metaphors as poetic flourishes, a nice way to punctuate your ideas and make them more relatable. But what if metaphors aren’t simply tools of language but part of thought itself? David and Tamler “dive into” George Lakoff’s theory of metaphors and “explore” the implications of his view that metaphors shape and constrain the ways we conceptualize our experience of the world. Plus if we’re really living in cancel culture, we might as well do some cancelling. Say goodbye to "Singing in the Ra...
2022-Nov-22 • 85 minutes
Episode 249: Phlegm and Carelessness (Hume's "The Sceptic")
David and Tamler gild and stain David Hume’s essay “The Sceptic” with their sentiments. If nothing is inherently valuable or despicable, desirable or hateful, then what do philosophers have to offer when it comes to happiness? If reason is powerless, does it all come down to our emotions and “humours”? Or does the study of philosophy and liberal arts naturally lead to a fulfilling and virtuous life? Plus we look at a new non-traditional social psych paper on how we always imagine that things could be better...
2022-Nov-01 • 83 minutes
Episode 248: Checkmate, Grasshopper
In this podcast we examine a recent argument for the view that chess is not, in fact, a game. We discuss the Grasshopper’s claim that all games must have a prelusory goal, as well as Skepticus’ objection to the giant Grasshopper concerning chess. We then turn to a broader analysis of the Suitsian account of games. Does the existence of illusory checkmates offer Grasshopper an avenue for replying to Skepticus? Should we bite the bullet and agree that chess is not a game? What is a lusory attitude? Is Tamler...
2022-Oct-18 • 155 minutes
Episode 247: Open the Pod, Dave (with Sam Harris)
David and Tamler welcome Sam Harris back to the show for a deep dive into Stanley Kubrick’s confounding 1968 masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey." How long is the Dawn of Man? What does the second monolith do exactly? Why are the humans so banal and expressionless? What are HAL’S motivations? Has he planned his mutiny from the start, or does the Council’s deception make him manlfunction? Or something else? Who is the Council anyway? Was HAL meant to go through the stargate? What is the final leap forward in...
2022-Oct-04 • 106 minutes
Episode 246: Existential Poker-Face (David Foster Wallace's "E Unibus Pluram")
We dive into David Foster Wallace’s sprawling 1993 essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction.” How do TV and new forms of media keep their hold on us when we know at some level that they’re reinforcing our loneliness and passivity? That’s easy, Wallace says, post-modern cool. Flatter me, let me think we’re all in the joke together, give me “an ironic permission-slip to do what I do best whenever I feel confused and guilty: assume, inside, a sort of fetal position, a pose of passive reception to co...
2022-Sep-20 • 92 minutes
Episode 245: Pragmatically Speaking
David and Tamler take their first real look at pragmatism via Richard Rorty’s “Solidarity or Objectivity.” Can we discover facts about the world as it “really is,” independent of our own culturally influenced methods of inquiry? If not, does that make us relativists? Is David right about pragamatism being an ass-backward approach to scientific truth, or is he just a pragmatist who’s not ready to admit that to himself? Plus, does "The Little Mermaid" have to be white? What about Clark Kent? And we select the...
2022-Sep-06 • 111 minutes
Episode 244: Thanks for the Memories? (Borges' "Funes the Memorious)
David and Tamler return to Borges land to get lost in the infinite, this time with his legendary and tragic character Funes the memorious. What would it be like to have perfect memory, to have full access to every perceived detail no matter how trivial? Would life be infinitely richer, with present experience and memory merging into a perfect Heraclitan flow? Or is William James correct to say that one condition of remembering is to forget, and that “if we remembered everything, we should on most occasions ...
2022-Aug-16 • 93 minutes
Episode 243: Finding My Religion
David and Tamler continue their discussion of Leo Tolstoy’s 'Confession.' When we left him last time, the famous author had bottomed out just years after writing two of the greatest novels ever written. Our eventual death, Tolstoy thought, strips life of all meaning and purpose – all answers to the question “so what?”. How does he emerge from this state of suicidal depression? What role does faith or “irrational knowledge” play in his account? What’s the meaning of the cryptic dream at the conclusion of the...
2022-Aug-09 • 90 minutes
Bonus Episode: The Ambulators (A "Deadwood" Podcast)
We have a sneak peek for our listeners--the first episode our new Patreon bonus series on David Milch's brilliant (but short-lived) series "Deadwood." In this inaugural edition of "The Ambulators" (we promise the name makes sense), Tamler and David discuss the pilot episode "Deadwood."
2022-Aug-02 • 93 minutes
Episode 242: Losing My Religion
David and Tamler find themselves unable to attach rational meaning to a single act in their entire lives. Let’s say we publish more articles and books. What then? What about our kids? They’re going off to college. Why? What for? We think about the future of the podcast. Let’s say we get bought out by Spotify and become more famous than Joe Rogan, Dolly Parton, and even Yoel Inbar -- more famous than all the podcasters in the world. So what? And we can find absolutely no reply. Plus, we take a test to det...
2022-Jul-19 • 155 minutes
Episode 241: Very Bad Orgies (Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut")
David and Tamler mask up and wander through the audio and visual orgy of Stanley Kubrick’s final masterpiece "Eyes Wide Shut". What is this movie really about? Dreams? Wealth and power? Marriage? Jealousy? Female sexuality? Masculinity issues? The Illuminati? Pedophilia? Sex cults? Prostitution, both literal and figurative? Missing out, always on the outside looking in? Why does Tom Cruise repeat everything? Why is Nicole Kidman such a lightweight? Why can’t a successful Upper West Side couple get better we...
2022-Jul-05 • 94 minutes
Episode 240: Evil
David and Tamler descend into the dark pits of Hell to look Satan in the eyes and discover the nature of evil. OK…that’s not fully accurate, we just read and talk about a couple of philosophy articles that analyze the concept. What are the features of evil people and acts? Does evil just mean ‘really really really really bad’ or is it categorically different in some way? Can you be evil without ever actually causing harm? Is Tony Soprano evil? Plus we take a "moral alignment" quiz (inspired by role playing...
2022-Jun-21 • 83 minutes
Episode 239: Lose Yourself
David and Tamler lose themselves in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s (pr. ‘chick sent me high’) classic paper on the concept of flow. We talk about the features of flow activities – loss of ego, the merging of your awareness with the activity, and autotelic (not what you think) enjoyment. What makes flow activities so rewarding? Do you need to develop skills over many years to experience them? Do easy and natural social interactions count as flow? Plus as men of pure virtue, we call an audible and choose not to m...
2022-Jun-07 • 118 minutes
Episode 238: I Am Not Ivan Ilyich...Am I?
Ivan Ilyich is a man. All men are mortal. So Ivan Ilyich is mortal. Sure absolutely, that’s true for Ivan Ilyich and for all men. But we’re not Ivan Ilyich and we’re not ‘all men’- so what does this have to do with us? Right? David and Tamler confront their mortality as they discuss Leo Tolstoy’s brilliant and chilling short story “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Plus the ‘Why I am leaving academia’ essay has become its own genre. But is this profession really that much worse relative to others?
2022-May-24 • 103 minutes
Episode 237: Glitches Ain't Shit
David and Tamler explore the many variations of simulation theory, the view that our universe is just a computer generated model created by an advanced civilization that has reached “technological maturity.” What does the growing popularity of simulation theories reveal about contemporary life? Are any of the arguments for simulation theory compelling or are they just post-hoc ways of justifying what you already believe on faith? If we are living in a simulation, does that mean we can go around killing peop...
2022-May-03 • 131 minutes
Episode 236: Your Outie Is Skilled at Lovemaking (With Paul Bloom)
We welcome Paul Bloom to talk about the first season of "Severance," the new mind-bending and mind-splitting TV series on Apple TV+. What happens when you separate your home life from your work life? Do you create a completely different person? Is it a form of self-slavery? How important is autobiographical memory to your identity? And what’s the deal with the break room… and the goats? Plus, what happens when you combine the obsessions of evolutionary psychology with the methodological problems of social ...
2022-Apr-19 • 111 minutes
Episode 235: Animated Objects
We didn’t get river spirits and mischievous sootballs from panpsychism, so this time we go straight to the source - a defense of animism, and in a top 10 analytic philosophy journal. Could a failed argument for the existence of God establish the existence of trees and mountains with “interiority” and “social characteristics”? Tamler wants to believe, but can this argument push him over the edge? Plus – speaking of top journals, a doozy of social psych article: Can forgiveness rehumanize the self? How many...
2022-Apr-05 • 113 minutes
Episode 234: Like A Dog (Kafka's "The Trial" Pt. 2)
David and Tamler conclude their discussion of "The Trial," Franz Kafka's darkly comic vision of an opaque and impenetrable bureaucracy that comes for us all in the end. Plus we interrupt our previously scheduled opening segment because apparently something happened at the Oscars last week.
2022-Mar-22 • 113 minutes
Episode 233: Keeping It Surreal (Kafka's "The Trial" Pt. 1)
David and Tamler wander through the bewildering dream-like world of Franz Kafka’s "The Trial." In part one of a two-part discussion we discuss the circumstances of its publication, the various interpretative approaches that can be taken to the novel, and all the ways that Kafka’s prose gets under your skin, making you feel what’s happening even if you don’t fully understand it. Recorded in the decidedly un-Kafka-esque location of Nosara, Costa Rica – thanks to the Harmony Hotel for having us back! Plus – S...
2022-Mar-08 • 99 minutes
Episode 232: Mind Over Matter
It’s the topic voted on by our beloved Patreon patrons, panpsychism! David and Tamler delve into the resurgent debate over whether consciousness is the fundamental stuff that makes up the universe. We hoped we might be entering Miyazaki land - river spirits, benevolent radishes, a universal mind. But is this just the same old philosophy of mind debate with different words? Are there any stakes to this debate or is it purely terminological? Plus – we answer some last-minute questions from listeners on disser...
2022-Feb-22 • 111 minutes
Episode 231: Ideal Critics (Hume's "Of the Standard of Taste")
Many of us think that art is subjective, but at the same time it seems like some artistic judgments are better than others. Do you think "Crash" deserved to receive an award for Best Picture? Did you like Season 2 of "Ted Lasso"? Well you’re wrong. So how do we reconcile these two conflicting attitudes about art? David and Tamler turn to David Hume’s classic essay "Of the Standard of Taste" (link in notes) for help. Will Pizarro finally see the error of his ways on "Straw Dogs"? Plus a doozy of a medical e...
2022-Feb-08 • 110 minutes
Episode 230: Be Happy (Lars von Trier's "Melancholia")
David and Tamler sink deeper and deeper into Melancholia, Lars von Trier’s harrowing and stunningly beautiful depiction of depression, anxiety, and a wedding reception that just won’t end. They bring Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” into the conversation and confront the question: what if the depressed and anxious people are right? Plus Whoopi, M&Ms, baby brain waves, Rogan – we empty out the opening segment Slack. Note: We recorded the opening segment before the latest development in the Joe Rogan sto...
2022-Jan-25 • 99 minutes
Episode 229: Skin Deep?
We think racism is wrong but what about “lookism” – a bias that favors attractive people over unattractive ones? If it’s wrong to judge people by the color of their skin, what about judging people for something that is only skin deep? We talk about two pieces today, a forthcoming philosophy article by William D’Allesandro “Is it Bad to Prefer Attractive Partners” and the Ted Chiang story “Liking What You See: A Documentary.” Plus we select the topic finalists for our beloved Patreon listener-selected episo...
2022-Jan-11 • 94 minutes
Episode 228: Forever Jung
David and Tamler confront their shadows and dive into Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. What are the central differences between Jung and Freud? What did Jung mean by archetypes and what’s his evidence for their centrality in the human psyche? How can we integrate elements of our unconscious and avoid projecting them onto the world? Can Jung’s ideas tell us anything about culture wars and relationships? Plus, an fMRI study on offensive humor – I thought you were stronger Batman!
2021-Dec-21 • 99 minutes
Episode 227: A Terrible Master (David Foster Wallace's "This Is Water").
David and Tamler dive into David Foster Wallace’s celebrated and surprisingly earnest Kenyon College commencement speech “This is Water”. How can we escape the prison and prism of our (literally) self-centered perspective? Can we choose to adjust our natural default settings, take a break from our running inner monologue, and pay attention to what’s in front of us right now? Is DFW appealing to Buddhist ideas or something more general that you can be found across all spiritual traditions? Plus we ask the ...
2021-Dec-07 • 117 minutes
Episode 226: Unraveling Time Traveling (with Barry Lam and Christina Hoff Sommers)
First, it’s the return of the annual drunken Thanksgiving segment! Tamler and based wicked stepmom Christina Hoff Sommers fight about JFK, systematic racism, corporations, and how to pronounce valium. (We find more common ground than usual though on Covid and Havana Syndrome.) Then podcast auteur Barry Lam joins David and Tamler to talk about David Lewis on time travel, the new season of Barry’s excellent podcast Hi-Phi Nation, and then a deep dive on maybe the best time travel movie of all time - Shane C...
2021-Nov-16 • 102 minutes
Episode 225: Forbidden Modules
David and Tamler talk about the often rancorous debate among cognitive scientists and evolutionary psychologists over whether the mind is modular -- composed of discrete systems responsible for vision, reasoning, cheater detection, sexual jealousy, and so on. David and Tamler (mostly David) describe the history of the debate, then dive into a recent paper (Pietraszewski & Wertz, 2021) arguing that virtually all the disagreement is the product of a conceptual and methodological confusion – that the two side...
2021-Nov-02 • 103 minutes
Episode 224: Hurts So Good (With Paul Bloom)
VBW favorite Paul Bloom joins us to talk about the pleasures of suffering, flow states, Sisyphus, meaning, and dating questions. Check out his new book "The Sweet Spot" which comes out today! Plus what are NFTs and why does every hate them?
2021-Oct-19 • 88 minutes
Episode 223: The Hopeless Dream of Being (Bergman's "Persona")
David and Tamler dive into Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 masterpiece “Persona”, a film about two (?) women, Elisabet, a famous stage actress who has stopped speaking, and Alma the chatty young nurse assigned to care for her at an island cottage. What happens when the roles we play as parents, spouses, friends, and colleagues start to feel like dishonest performances, an endless series of desperate lies? Can we escape to an inner sanctum of truth and authenticity? Or is that putting on another mask, playing yet anot...
2021-Oct-05 • 98 minutes
Episode 222: Choosing Sartre for All Mankind
David and Tamler don black turtlenecks and light up a couple of Gauloises to talk about Jean Paul Sartre's classic essay “Existentialism is a Humanism.” Why are choices so fundamental to our experience? What does Sartre mean when he says that “existence precedes essence”? Why does he try to shoehorn universalizability into a view that’s clearly hostile to it? And how do you pronounce Sartre without sounding like a douche? Plus, how much free time is good for you? Is that even the right question?
2021-Sep-21 • 111 minutes
Episode 221: Granite Cocks vs Robot Overlords
David and Tamler wind their way through the long-requested “Meditations on Moloch” by Scott Alexander, a comprehensive account of the coordination problems (personified by Allan Ginsberg’s demon-entity Moloch) that lead to human misery and values tossed out the window. Does Alexander’s rationalist conception of human nature ignore the work of VBW favorites like Joe Henrich and Robert Frank? Is he a little too friendly to the neo-social Darwinism view of some guy named Nick Land? And oh no, why does he have ...
2021-Sep-07 • 111 minutes
Episode 220: On Your Marx
In honor of Labor Day, David and Tamler dive into two works by Karl Marx - "The Communist Manifesto" and "Estranged Labor." What is Marx's theory of historical change? Why does capitalism produce an alienated workforce? What role does philosophy play in maintaining the status quo? Plus, fraudulent data in a famous study about dishonesty and former guest Dan Ariely is under investigation.
2021-Aug-17 • 105 minutes
Episode 219: Multiplied by Mirrors
It’s a Borges bonanza! David and Tamler dive into two stories: “Emma Zunz” and “Borges and I.” The first seems like a straightforward daughter revenge story (Tamler’s favorite genre), but Borges being Borges there are layers of doubt and fuzziness about what exactly is going on. “Borges and I” may be less than a page, but it has us questioning our identity, the relationship between private and public selves, and what happens to when you release a work out into the world. Plus, back to social psychology. A...
2021-Aug-03 • 119 minutes
Episode 218: ...But You Can't Hide (Michael Haneke's "Caché")
David and Tamler go deep on Michael Haneke’s unnerving psychological thriller Caché. An upper middle class French intellectual couple receives mysterious videotapes of the exterior of their house, forcing them to confront their past and present. Can we run from our history? Or will it always find a way to break through? And who’s sending the tapes? Plus, VBW does conceptual analysis - what does it mean to be “corny”?
2021-Jul-20 • 126 minutes
Episode 217: Dropping Paradigms (Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions")
David and Tamler hit the books and cram for their beloved Patreon listener-selected episode – this time on Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” David thinks Kuhn is a great sociologist of science but recoils at the relativistic tenor of the final chapters. Tamler loves anything that makes David recoil. Plus, should we give more weight to the advice of people on their deathbed? Or should we nod politely and get back to working for that promotion…
2021-Jul-06 • 101 minutes
Episode 216: Oral Judgments
We’ve promised you for years that we would do an episode on apologies and never got to it until today. So we both want to say from the bottom of our hearts: we’re sorry. We recognize we’ve let so many of our listeners down, and we feel just awful if you were offended by the delay. We hope this episode will be just one small step towards regaining your trust. Plus, of all the evo-psych articles in the world, this one might be the evo-psychiest: “Oral Sex as Infidelity Detection.”
2021-Jun-22 • 98 minutes
Episode 215: Touch My Pink Monkey
David and Tamler argue about the philosopher L.A. Paul’s ideas on “transformative experiences” – big life decisions that will change you and your values so much that our normal decision-making models break down. Tamler is fully on board and hopeful for philosophy, but David sees Paul’s view as a threat to his precious rationality. Plus, we tackle the greatest existential threat to human civilization history: critical race theory. Why are people on all sides so intent on misunderstanding it?
2021-Jun-08 • 81 minutes
Episode 214: You Shouldn't Feel Bad (Except You Should)
Tamler welcomes social psychologist David Pizarro of Cornell University to the podcast to talk about his recent article (along with Raj Anderson, Shaun Nichols, and Rachana Kamtekar) on “false-positive emotions.” When agents commit accidental harms, we typically tell them they shouldn’t feel too guilty, it’s not their fault, it was out of their control, and so forth. At the same time, we don’t want them to let themselves off the hook right away either. They shouldn’t feel guilty, but also they…should. What’...
2021-May-25 • 118 minutes
Episode 213: What Is It Like To Be a Robot Fish Man? (with Ted Chiang)
We’ve done deep dives on three of his stories, and now THE MAN HIMSELF, multi-award winning science fiction author Ted Chiang, joins us to explore the post-apocalyptic world of the video-game SOMA. You play Simon Jarrett, a man who goes for a brain scan in Toronto and wakes up a 100 years later in an underwater research facility, the last remaining hope to preserve human consciousness from extinction. Pizarro confronts his worst nightmare, a first-person experience of stepping into a transporter-style scena...
2021-May-11 • 105 minutes
Episode 212: Follow Your Nose (with Yoel Inbar)
Canada’s leading Russian literature scholar Yoel Inbar joins us to try to make sense of Gogol’s 1836 short story “The Nose.” A nose goes missing from a Russian official’s face and winds up in the barber’s loaf of bread. A few hours later, the nose has rocketed up the social hierarchy and denies his connection to the official. What’s going on? Is Madame Alexandra Grigorievna up to something? Plus we can’t say how but we got access to submitted abstracts for the new Journal of Controversial Ideas. We read a ...
2021-Apr-20 • 106 minutes
Episode 211: To Live and Die in Kurosawa's "Ikiru"
"Sometimes I think of my death," Akira Kurosawa said, "I think of ceasing to be...and it is from these thoughts that Ikiru came.” David and Tamler explore what it means to truly live in Kurosawa’s 1952 masterpiece about a bureaucrat in postwar Japan who learns that he will die from stomach cancer within six months. Plus a new study provides evidence for what every pet owner knows: dogs get jealous. And a shocking revelation about Harvard legends Kohlberg, Rawls, and Nozick.
2021-Apr-06 • 121 minutes
Episode 210: The Priming of the American Mind (with Jesse Singal)
Journalist, podcaster, and rapper Jesse Singal joins us to talk about his new book The Quick Fix, positive psychology (scam?), cancel culture in the media and academia (overblown?), Substack incentives, and lots more. Plus David and Tamler argue about the epistemology of ghosts.
2021-Mar-23 • 97 minutes
Episode 209: Basic Instincts (with Paul Bloom)
VBW favorite Paul Bloom joins us to talk about William James’ account of instinct and its parallels to the nativism/empiricism debates in developmental psychology today. Also discussed: Richard Dawkins trolling philosophy, the ghost in Tamler’s kitchen, and why William James’ 130 year-old writings make psychologists sad about the present state of their field. PLUS - do you wish you were closer to your non-romantic partners? Well, strap on your gloves, grab a washcloth, it’s time for exactly 15 minutes of o...
2021-Mar-09 • 102 minutes
Episode 208: Dream Theater
We’ve always had nothing but praise for neuroscientists and their work, and today is no exception. We talk about a fantastically rich and ambitious essay by Erik Hoel that offers a theory of dreams and connects it to storytelling, the self, and the importance of maintaining a distinction between art and entertainment. So eat shit MCU - Martin Scorsese was right! [ed. note: this statement not endorsed by David]. Plus another first segment wasted on Twitter culture war nonsense. Does adapting an MLK quote tri...
2021-Feb-23 • 89 minutes
Episode 207: Sometimes a Paper Tray is Just a Paper Tray
David and Tamler wander through the maze of Room 237, the great documentary by Rodney Ascher about five people and their views about what Stanley Kubrick’s "The Shining" is really about. When do interpretations become conspiracy theories? Why does Ascher never show us the faces of the interpreters? What is about Kubrick that invites obsessive and confident theorizing on the meaning of his movies? Sometimes a paper tray is just a paper tray. Or is it? Plus Tamler vents about the winter storm and mass power o...
2021-Feb-09 • 98 minutes
Episode 206: Angel Chasing (Ted Chiang's "Hell is the Absence of God")
David and Tamler return to the TCU (Ted Chiang Universe) to talk about his short story “Hell is the Absence of God." How would we behave if we had unequivocal proof of God, heaven, hell, and angels? Would that answer our questions about meaning and purpose and justice? Or would those same questions reappear in a different guise? Plus, the hard problem of breakfast, Jewish Space Lasers, and more…
2021-Jan-26 • 93 minutes
Episode 205: Making Your Nervous System Your Ally (William James on "Habit")
Ever wonder why you’re still listening to VBW all of these years? Or why you check your phone 50 times a day? Or why you put on your pants the same way every morning? (If you still wear pants these days.) David and Tamler talk about William James’ essay on habits, why they’re so powerful, and how you can make your nervous system your ally instead of your enemy. Plus, a shocking new neuroscience study reveals that we remember and share funny stories more than boring ones.
2021-Jan-12 • 97 minutes
Episode 204: Happy Freedom Day! (with Lauren Anderson)
The legendary Houston Ballet dancer Lauren Anderson joins us to talk about the Atlanta Episode “Juneteenth” (Season 1, Episode 9), a hilarious exploration of race, class, identity, and carrying around your sister’s underwear. But first David and Tamler share some thoughts on the topic on everyone’s mind right now…Bean Dad. Oh yeah and the Capitol riot. Pour yourself a Hennessy or some Emancipation Eggnog and enjoy.
2020-Dec-22 • 95 minutes
Episode 203: Gorgias, Tell Me Something I Don't Know (with Agnes Callard)
Philosopher Agnes Callard joins us to talk about Plato and his dialogue the Gorgias. Why did Plato write dialogues – are they the best way of presenting arguments? Is Plato cheating when characters contradict themselves by making dumb concessions, or is this part of his method - inviting readers to participate in the debates? Why does the Gorgias end on such a sour note, with Socrates giving long speeches after saying that long speeches shouldn’t be allowed? Plus we talk about Agnes’ recent op-ed in the New...
2020-Dec-08 • 92 minutes
Episode 202: Not as It Ought to Be (H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space")
A phosphorescence casts a pale sickly glow on David and Tamler as talk only in verbs and pronouns about H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 story “The Colour Out of Space.” What is this creature or substance that has color only by analogy, that spreads through earth and water driving man, animal, and vegetation into a madness, not as they ought to be…? What gives the story its terrifying power and its avenues for endless interpretation? Plus, does meditation make you a spiritual narcissist? We talk about a new social psy...
2020-Nov-24 • 117 minutes
Episode 201: Very Bad Lizard People
David and Tamler dive deep into the psychology and epistemology of conspiracy theories. What makes people so prone to believe in complex malevolent plots that require meticulous organization and utter secrecy at the highest levels of power? Are some conspiracies like [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] more plausible than [REDACTED] give [REDACTED] for? And what about [REDACTED]? Do [REDACTED] mislead [REDACTED] by making us think [REDACTED]? How are we supposed to [REDACTED]? Plus, we do some navel gazing, reflectin...
2020-Nov-03 • 105 minutes
Episode 200: Our 200th Episode Spectactular
David and Tamler celebrate their 200th episode with bourbon and a return to their potty humor roots. First we talk about holes, zoom dicks, and the election. Then we relitigate our bitter debate (from episode 45) over gender, toys, and balanced play diets. Have we matured over all these years? Well it’s not for us to say…
2020-Oct-20 • 100 minutes
Episode 199: When Philosophy Goes Sideways
David and Tamler check out some recent work in metaphysics and applied ethics. Does playing a Nina Simone song sideways show that Einstein was wrong about spacetime? Does a Dali painting nailed to the wall backwards have intrinsic value (see figure 1)? Is childhood bad for children? Do you have to be a child before you're an adult? Are we kidding? Is this a joke? We don't know but don't play this podcast sideways or it may lose its aesthetic value.
2020-Oct-06 • 92 minutes
Episode 198: Is Mental Illness a Myth? (Thomas Szasz's "The Myth of Mental Illness")
David and Tamler explore Thomas Szasz’s provocative and still relevant 1961 book “The Myth of Mental Illness,” the topic selected by our beloved Patreon supporters. When we think of mental disorders as “diseases,” are we making a category mistake? Are we turning ordinary “problems in living” into pathologies that must be treated (with pills or psychoanalysis)? Does this model rob us of our autonomy in direct or indirect ways? Plus, with VBW 200 only 2 episodes away we give our top 3 dream guests, and David ...
2020-Sep-22 • 113 minutes
Episode 197: The Long Slow Death That Is Life
The psychologist Yoel Inbar has always tried to imbue his work with a sort of interiority, and now he joins us for a deep dive into Charlie Kaufman’s baffling and distressing new film “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” Why does Jessie Buckley’s name and career keep changing? What’s going on with the dog? Why are the parents unstuck in time? Don’t worry you’ll get home, we have tire chains in the trunk. Plus, aliens, open science, and the illuminati. It’s all connected.
2020-Sep-08 • 110 minutes
Episode 196: The Loneliest Paper in Philosophy
She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and head over heels in love with you. There’s only one problem – she’s from a possible world, not the actual one. What we thought would be a funny opening segment idea turns into a semi-serious discussion of Neil Sinhababu’s 2008 article “Possible Girls.” Plus David and Tamler share some thoughts on teaching in normal times and today.
2020-Aug-25 • 116 minutes
Episode 195: Jesus on Trial (Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov")
David and Tamler dive into the most celebrated and philosophically rich scenes in Dostoevsky’s masterpiece "The Brother’s Karamozov." Alyosha gets in the middle of a rock-fight, Ivan Karamazov makes a devastating moral case against God, and the Grand Inquisitor convicts Jesus Christ of heresy against the church. (Note: this segment is the second of an upcoming five episode VBW miniseries on The Brothers Karamozov – more info on that to come very soon!) Plus one of us has a milestone birthday... [Specia...
2020-Aug-11 • 114 minutes
Episode 194: God Has No Mother (with Chris Matheson)
David and Tamler welcome special guest Chris Matheson - co-writer of the "Bill and Ted" movies and author of "The Story of God" and "The Buddha’s Story" - to talk about religion, immortality, comedy, Freud, and why the secret ingrediet to good satire is love. Plus David and Tamler do a conceptual analysis of stoner movies and discuss their favorites.
2020-Jul-21 • 88 minutes
Episode 193: Free Wanting (Frankfurt's "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person")
David and Tamler want to go old school and discuss a classic Frankfurt paper on free will. But do they want to want that? Are they free to want what they want to want? Are they free to will what they want to will or to have the will they want? And if that’s not Dr. Seuss enough for you, shouting “FUCK” increases pain tolerance but what about shouting “TWIZPIPE”?
2020-Jul-07 • 97 minutes
Episode 192: Postmodern Wet Dreams (Borges' "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote")
David and Tamler dive into “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” a very funny Borges story that also raises deep questions about authorship, reading, and interpretation. What would it mean for the same text to be written by two different authors more than three hundred years apart? Is this story the post-modernist manifesto that literary critics like Roland Barthes believed it to be? Or is the narrator in the story just a delusional sycophant, a victim of Menard’s practical joke – and by extension, a prac...
2020-Jun-23 • 97 minutes
Episode 191: All the Rage
A lotta anger out there right now, but does it do more harm than good? Is anger counterproductive, an obstacle to progress? And even if it is, can anger still be appropriate? We talk about two excellent articles on anger by the philosopher Amia Srinivasan. Plus we express some counterproductive anger of our own at the IDWs response to the protests.
2020-Jun-09 • 121 minutes
Episode 190: We Pod. We Pod-Cast. We Podcast. (Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit”)
David and Tamler talk about police violence, the protests, and Harry Frankfurt's journal article turned bestseller ”On Bullshit." Plus we dive into a comic masterpiece of late capitalism: the University of Oregon's brand guidelines.
2020-May-26 • 98 minutes
Episode 189: The Anality of Evil (Freud's "Civilization and its Discontents")
David and Tamler dive into Sigmund Freud’s world of unconscious drives, death instincts, and thwarted incestuous urges in his classic text “Civilization and its Discontents.” If society has made so much progress, why are human beings perpetually dissatisfied? Can religion help us or is it a big part of the problem? What’s really going on when you piss on a fire to put it out? Also: how seriously should we take Freud today given some of his wackier ideas? And is he a psychologist, a philosopher, or something...
2020-May-12 • 102 minutes
Episode 188: Conceptual Mummies (Nietzsche's "Twilight of the Idols")
Socrates was ugly and tired of life, his dialectic was a weapon of revenge against the nobility. Philosophers are mummies who hate the body and the senses. Reason is a tricky old woman. Morality is a misunderstanding. Kant is a sneaky Christian. And don't even get Nietzsche started on "free will" or the "self" - both are just excuses for priests to punish people. David and Tamler tackle Friedrich Nietzsche's “Twilight of the Idols,” a set of aphorisms full of passion, provocation, and questions without answ...
2020-Apr-21 • 101 minutes
Episode 187: More Zither
With a global pandemic and a collapsing economy upon us, it's time to ask ourselves some tough questions. Sex robots or platonic love robots - what are you more excited for? If you walked in on your partner with one of them, which would make you more jealous? Are you male or female? Can evolutionary psychology explain sex-linked preferences for sensitive, empathetic Alexas? We then dive into the shadowy echo-filled streets of post-war Vienna - and talk about one of our favorite movies, a true noir classic: ...
2020-Apr-07 • 90 minutes
Episode 186: The One with Peter Singer
The legendary Peter Singer joins us to talk about effective altruism, AI, animal welfare, esoteric morality, future Tuesday indifference, and more. I mean, it’s Peter freakin’ Singer - what more do we need to say? Plus, the explosive ‘one or two spaces after a period' debate: has science resolved it?
2020-Mar-24 • 85 minutes
Episode 185: The Devil's Playground
David and Tamler begin by talking about the question on everyone’s mind right now – are we obligated to be pansexual? Then, since many of us have more free time on our hands these days, we thought it might be a good idea to revisit Bertrand Russell’s essay (published in Harper’s Magazine) “In Praise of Idleness.” How did workaholism become the norm? Why do we see working insanely long hours as a virtue, a moral duty rather than a necessity? Would more leisure make us more fulfilled and creative or just bore...
2020-Mar-17 • 87 minutes
Bonus Episode: Top 5 Deadwood Characters
Here's something that might help with the Coronavirus blues: we're releasing our latest Patreon bonus episode for everyone. In this (unedited) episode, Tamler and David talk about their Top 5 "Deadwood" characters. If you've seen the show, let us know if you agree or disagree, or if we should go fuck ourselves. And if you haven’t watched it yet, you might have some time on your hands for the next month or two - there’s almost no better way to spend it than watching "Deadwood." Enjoy!
2020-Mar-10 • 85 minutes
Episode 184: Tainted Glove
David and Tamler start off talking about the infamous Richard Dawkins eugenics tweet. What does it mean for eugenics to “work”? And given the sensitive nature and horrific history of eugenics, is it wrong to raise the topic even if you’re just focused on the science? Hey we’re just asking questions, man… Then, huge baseball fan that he is, David insists that we talk about the massive Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal and cheating in sports more generally. When is bending the rules just part of the game ...
2020-Feb-25 • 99 minutes
Episode 183: Accept the Mystery (with Paul Bloom)
VBW favorite Paul Bloom takes a short break from his Sam Harris duties to help us break down the Coen Brothers' ode to uncertainty, "A Serious Man." Does inaction have consequences? Can you understand the cat but not the math? Why are there Hebrew letters carved into the back of a goy's teeth? Dybbuk or no Dybbuk? Why does God make us feel the questions if he’s not gonna give us any answers? Plus, Paul defends the psych establishment against critiques from the podcast peons at "Two Psychologists Four Beers...
2020-Feb-11 • 118 minutes
Episode 182: The Paper That Launched a Thousand Twitter Wars (With Yoel Inbar)
Podcasting legend Yoel Inbar (from Two Psychologists Four Beers) joins us to break down Tal Yarkoni's "The Generalizability Crisis,” the paper that launched a thousand Twitter wars. Psychologists make verbal claims about the world, then conduct studies to test these claims -but are the studies actually providing evidence for those claims? Do psychological experiments generalize beyond the the strict confinments of the lab? Are psychologists even using the right statistical models to be able to claim that th...
2020-Jan-28 • 129 minutes
Episode 181: The Fraudulence Paradox (David Foster Wallace's "Good Old Neon")
Our whole lives we’ve been frauds. We’re not exaggerating. Pretty much all we’ve ever done is try to create a certain impression of us in other people. Mostly to be liked or admired. This episode is a perfect example, Tamler pretending to be a cinephile (check out his four favorite pieces of 2019 “pop culture” in the first segment), David trying to connect with the people (Baby Yoda, Keanu Reeves etc.) – and of course what could be more fraudulent than a deep dive into a David Foster Wallace story, rhapsodi...
2020-Jan-14 • 116 minutes
Episode 180: Chekhov's Schrödinger's Dagger (Kurosawa's "Rashomon")
Eleventh Century Japan. A samurai and his wife are walking through the forest and come across a bandit. The bandit attacks the samurai and has sex with/rapes his wife. A woodcutter finds the samurai, stabbed to death. Who killed the samurai and with what? What role did his wife play in his death? Kurosawa gives us four perspectives, told in flashbacks within flashbacks. Who’s telling the truth? Is anyone? Can we ever know what really happened? A simple story on the surface becomes a meditation on epistemol...
2019-Dec-24 • 123 minutes
Episode 179: Talking Shit
David and Tamler wrap up the decade with an episode on trash-talking that morphs into a debate over the value of experimental inquiry. Participants in a lab put more effort into a slider task after they’re insulted by a confederate. Do experiments like these tell us anything about trash-talking in general? Can it explain the effect of Mike Tyson telling Lenox Lewis he’d eat his children, or of Larry Bird looking around the locker room before the 3-point contest saying he was trying to figure out who’d fini...
2019-Dec-10 • 101 minutes
Episode 178: Borges' Obsession-Obsession ("The Zahir")
David and Tamler happen across Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Zahir” and now they can’t stop thinking about it. What is the ‘Zahir’ – this object that can take many forms and that consumes the people who find it? What does it represent? Is it the fanaticism of being in love? The ever-present threat (and temptation) of idealism? A subtle critique of Christian theology? Is the Zahir a microcosm of everything? Why is Borges so obsessed with obsession? Plus, it’s the annual drunken end-of-the night Thanksgiving ‘deba...
2019-Nov-26 • 125 minutes
Episode 177: Pure Linguistic Chauvinism
Tamler learns something new about menstruation. David weighs in on the democratic debates and the impeachment hearings. Then we map the various social and political factions onto the factions in our respective fields. Who are establishment neoliberals of philosophy, and who are the white feminists? What about the IDWs of psychology – and the Chads and Stacys? Finally we get serious and break down the article by Alan Fiske in Psychological Review called “The Lexical Fallacy in Emotion Research.” Does langua...
2019-Nov-12 • 108 minutes
Episode 176: Split-Brains and the (Dis)Unity of Consciousness
David and Tamler discuss famous 'split brain' experiments pioneered by Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga. What happens when you cut off the main line of communication between the left and right hemispheres of our brain? Why under certain conditions do the the left and right brains seem like they have different abilities and desires? What does this tell us about the ‘self’? Do we have two consciousnesses, but only that can speak? Does the left brain bully the right brain? Are we all just a bundle of differe...
2019-Oct-29 • 103 minutes
Episode 175: At Least We Didn’t Talk About Zombies (Nagel’s “What is it Like to be a Bat?”)
We try (with varying success) to wrap our heads around Thomas Nagel’s classic article “What is it Like to be a Bat?" Does science have the tools to give us a theory of consciousness or is that project doomed from the outset? Why do reductionist or functionalist explanations seem so unsatisfying? Is the problem that consciousness is subjective, or is it something about the nature of conscious experience itself? Is this ultimately an epistemological or metaphysical question? What are we talking about? Do we e...
2019-Oct-15 • 106 minutes
Episode 174: More Chiang for Your Buck ("Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom" Pt. 2)
Is character destiny, or can fluky decisions or tiny shifts in weather patterns fundamentally change who we are? Does the existence or non-existence of alternate universes have any bearing on freedom and responsibility? David and Tamler conclude their discussion of Ted Chiang’s “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom” along with another very short piece by Chiang called “What’s Expected of Us” that was first published in Nature. Plus, do you have low likability in the workplace? It could be because you’re too...
2019-Oct-01 • 100 minutes
Episode 173: Talking to Your (Alternate) Self [Ted Chiang's "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom"]
David and Tamler dive back into the Ted Chiang well and explore the fascinating world described in "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom." What if you could interact with alternate versions of yourself - versions that made different choices, had different jobs, or different partners? Would you get jealous of your other selves if they were more successful? Would you want them to be unhappy so you could feel better about your own choices and path? If your alternate self was in a good relationship with a woman,...
2019-Sep-17 • 101 minutes
Episode 172: Are You Free (to like the Chappelle special)?
David and Tamler start out with a discussion of the new Chappelle special and the negative reaction from many critics. Is Chappelle trolling his audience? Has he lost touch with the powerless people he used to champion? Or have critics missed his larger point, and failed to approach the new special as an art form? Then they address the latest development in the literature around Benjamin Libet's famous study that, according to some people, proved that free will doesn't exist. How did that study get so much ...
2019-Aug-27 • 92 minutes
Episode 171: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Theodicy? (The Book of Job)
David and Tamler dive back into the Bible, this time to the perplexing and poetic Book of Job. What does this book have to say about the theodicy, the problem of evil? Why does Job (and his children) have to suffer so much just so God can prove a point to Satan? Are the speeches of Job's friends meant to be convincing? Does Job capitulate in the end? Does God contradict himself in the last chapter? What’s the deal with Elihu? So many questions, not as many answers – maybe that's why it's such a classic. P...
2019-Aug-13 • 110 minutes
Episode 170: Social Psychology Gets an Asch-Kicking
Is social psychology just a kid dressing up in grown-up science clothes? Are the methods in social psychology--hypothesis-driven experiments and model-building--appropriate for the state of the field? Or do these methods lead to a narrowing of vision, stifled creativity, and a lack of informed curiosity about the social world> David and Tamler discuss the strong methodological critique of psychology from two of its leading practitioners - Paul Rozin and Solomon Asch. Plus, food porn, real estate porn, ou...
2019-Jul-30 • 110 minutes
Episode 169: A Bug's Life (Kafka's "The Metamorphosis")
David and Tamler try to control their emotions (with varying success) as they go deep into Franz Kafka's masterful novella "The Metamorphosis." What kind of a story is this? A Marxist or religious allegory? A work of weird fiction? A family drama? A dark comedy? Why does a story about a man who turns into a giant insect get under our skins so much? Plus a study that links insomnia to our fear of death. What a cheerful summer episode! (Actually we're fairly proud of this one... As always we suggest read...
2019-Jul-16 • 93 minutes
Episode 168: The Big Lebowski vs Pulp Fiction (Pt. 2)
It's Part 2 of the Lebowski vs. Pulp Fiction showdown. This time we focus on the Dude, Walter, Donny, and most importantly Jesus Quintana. (Nobody fucks with the Jesus). What's the ethos of this stoner masterpiece? Is it a nihilstic movie? A deconstruction of masculinity? A cannabis infused Daoist parable? And is it fair to compare these two classics from the 90s? Fair? Who's the fucking nihilist you bunch of crybabies! Plus - trolling. What is it? Why do people do it? Can works of art troll their audienc...
2019-Jul-03 • 68 minutes
Episode 167: The Big Lebowski vs Pulp Fiction (Pt. 1)
There are only two kinds of people in the world, Pulp Fiction people and Big Lebowski people. Now Pulp Fiction people can like Big Lebowski and vice versa, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice tells you who you are. In the first episode of this two-parter, David and Tamler make that choice – and then go deep into the themes, performances, and philosophy of Tarantino’s iconic 90s classic Pulp Fiction. What’s the meaning of a foot massage? What counts as a ...
2019-Jun-18 • 109 minutes
Episode 166: Total Recall (Ted Chiang's "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling")
Memory is highly selective and often inaccurate. But what if we had an easily searchable video record of all our experiences and interactions? How would that affect our relationships? What would it reveal about our characters and our sense of who we are? Is there a kind of truth that can’t be determined by perfect objectivity? David and Tamler dive deep into Ted Chiang’s amazingly rich and poignant short story “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” which explores how new technologies shape individu...
2019-Jun-04 • 136 minutes
Episode 165: Life With No Head (With Sam Harris)
Sam Harris returns to the podcast to talk about meditation and his new _Waking Up_ meditation app. What are the goals of mindfulness practice - stress reduction and greater focus, or something much deeper? Can it cure David's existential dread? Tamler's fear of his daughter going away to college? Can sustained practice erode the illusion of self? Is that even something we'd want to do? What if it diminishes our attachment to people we love? And what is the self anyway? Is Sam a defender of panpsychism? So m...
2019-May-14 • 82 minutes
Episode 164: Choosing to Believe
David and Tamler argue about William James' classic essay "The Will to Believe." What's more important - avoiding falsehood or discovering truth? When (if ever) is it rational to believe anything without enough evidence? What about beliefs that we can't be agnostic about? Are there hypotheses that we have to believe in order for them to come true? Does James successfully demonstrate that faith can be rational? Plus, a philosopher at Apple who's not allowed to talk to the media - what are they hiding? And w...
2019-May-01 • 94 minutes
Episode 163: Should I Stay or Should I Go? (Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas")
David and Tamler are pulled into Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas." Omelas is a truly happy city, except for one child who lives in abominable misery. Is that too high a moral cost? Why do some people walk away from the city? Why does no one help the child? Why does Le Guin make us create the city with her? Plus, we talk about our listener meetup in Vancouver, and a new edition of [dramatic music] GUILTY CONFESSIONS. Note: if this episode strikes you as too puritanical, then please a...
2019-Apr-16 • 87 minutes
Episode 162: Parents Just Don't Understand (with Paul Bloom)
As parents we like to think we have an impact on our children - their future, their happiness, the kinds of people they turn out to be. But are we deluded? Dave and Tamler are joined by empathy's kryponite, the great Paul Bloom, to talk about Judith Rich Harris's view that parents matter a lot less than you might think (while genes and peer groups matter a lot more than you might think) . Plus, what the connection between art and morality? Should we support "cancel culture"? Is it wrong to play Michael Jac...
2019-Apr-02 • 85 minutes
Episode 161: Reach-Around Knowledge and Bottom Performers (The Dunning-Kruger Effect)
The less we know, the more we know it. David and Tamler talk about the notorious Dunning-Kruger effect, which makes us overconfident in beliefs on topics we're ignorant about and under-confident when we're experts. Plus, we break down an evolutionary psychology article on why poor men and hungry men prefer women with big breasts. Trust us, it's a really bad study. We're sure about it.
2019-Mar-19 • 94 minutes
Episode 160: Everything is Meaningless: The Book of Ecclesiastes
David and Tamler dive into the book of Ecclesiastes, an absurdist classic that is somehow also a book of the Bible. Is everything meaningless, vain, and a chasing after the wind? Are humans just the same as animals? Are wise people no better off than fools? Will God judge us after we die, rewarding the good people and punishing the shit-heels? What if there is no afterlife and this is all we get? How should we deal with our pointless, unjust existence? Plus we return to our opening-segment bible— _Aeon_—and...
2019-Mar-05 • 76 minutes
Episode 159: You Have the Right to Go to Prison
Poor and black defendants have more legal rights than ever, but that didn't stop mass incarceration. Why is that? We talk about a paper by Paul Butler called "Poor People Lose: Gideon and the Critique of Rights." Plus, we answer the question that’s on everyone’s mind: how to live as an anti-natalist. And Tamler is appalled to discover David's anti-natalist leanings.
2019-Feb-19 • 96 minutes
Episode 158: False Dichotomies and Oral Reciprocity
David and Tamler talk about the invasion of dual process theories in psychology. Why do we love theories that divide complex phenomena into just two categories? Is there any evidence to back up these theories? Are we distorting our understanding of the mind and morality? And what we can do to get out of this mess? Plus, Liam Neeson, moral pet peeves, and oral ethics.
2019-Feb-05 • 81 minutes
Episode 157: Notes From Underground (Pt. 2)
David and Tamler continue their discussion of Dostoevsky's funny, sad, philosophical novella _Notes From Underground_. We focus on part 2 this time - three stories from the Underground Man's past - and explore what the stories tell us about his existentialist rants in part 1. Is he consumed with guilt over his treatment of Liza? Is he ashamed of his social awkwardness, low status, and self-destructive behavior? Or is he a narcissistic proto-incel suffering from an especially acute case of spotlight effect? ...
2019-Jan-22 • 104 minutes
Episode 156: Notes From Underground (Pt. 1)
We’re sick men. We’re spiteful men. We’re unpleasant men. We think our livers are diseased (especially Tamler’s). So we talk about Dostoevsky’s wild, complex, stream of consciousness masterpiece _Notes From Underground_. For this episode we focus on part 1 of the novella, and the philosophy behind it. Is the underground man an existentialist hero affirming his freedom in the face of a deterministic hyper-rationalist worldview? Or is he a lonely man consumed with guilt and self-loathing, constructing a prete...
2019-Jan-08 • 99 minutes
Episode 155: Alfred Hitchcock's Money Shot
David and Tamler dive deep into Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 hallucinatory classic, "Vertigo". Why does this movie seem to gain stature among critics and academics every year? Is this a really a exploration of Hitchcock's own obsessions and sexual repression? Is it a story about filmmaking and celebrity? Or is it just a twisty noir thriller about a man who has no job and can't kiss to save his life? Plus, some thoughts about bad reviews on Rate My Professor and why it's hard to get feedback about job performance...
2018-Dec-18 • 117 minutes
Episode 154: Metaphysical Vertigo (Borges's "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius")
In the famous words of the idealist philosopher George Berkeley, “To exist is to be perceived.” Our ideas and perceptions are the fundamental objects in the universe; there is no real world beyond them. Hume wrote (I think) that Berkeley’s arguments don’t admit of the slightest refutation, and they don’t inspire the slightest conviction. On Earth, that may be true. On Tlön, it’s false – the people there are “congenital idealists.” Their language, philosophy, literature, and religion presuppose idealism. It’...
2018-Dec-04 • 107 minutes
Episode 153: Progress in Psychology: A Reply to BootyBootyFartFart
David dies for science’s sins and addresses the failed replication of one of his studies (conducted with three former VBW guests) by the _Many Labs Project_. But first, the guys try to gauge their intuitions about the phenomenal experience of their molecule-for-molecule mirror reflection duplicate in a universe with a non-orientable topology. Plus, the annual Thanksgiving tradition: IDW star and Factual Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and Tamler argue over drinks about standpoint epistemology, political cor...
2018-Nov-20 • 81 minutes
Episode 152: Ruthlessness, Public and Private
Tamler and David continue their Nagel-gazing by discussing another essay from _Mortal Questions_: "Ruthlessness in Public Life." Why do we treat the immorality of politicians, military leaders, and others in power differently than the immorality of individuals? Why does it seem less aversive to shake the hand of someone responsible for the death of thousands of civilians through military action than it does to shake the hand of a serial killer who has merely killed dozens? Are the rules we use to judge the ...
2018-Nov-06 • 124 minutes
Episode 151: Viddy Well, My Listeners (Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange")
There was me, that is Tamler, and my droog, that is David, and we sat in our living rooms on Skype trying to make up our rassoodocks what Stanley Kubrick's a Clockwork Orange was really about? Free will? We didn't think so. Punishment? Yeah but what about punishment? And what about the old ultraviolence - can it still shock us in the modern age? Then suddenly we viddied that thinking was for the gloopy ones and that the oomny just, like, press record and start the podcast. Slooshy well, my brothers, slooshy...
2018-Oct-23 • 86 minutes
Episode 150: Paul Bloom Insisted That We Talk About Sex Robots
What better way to celebrate our 150th episode than to bring back our favorite guest – Paul Bloom! We riff on a series of topics: the new “grievance studies” hoax, sex robot brothels, perverse desires, and perverse beliefs. Then we get a little navel gazey (OK maybe more than a little) and talk about podcasting as a form of media and discussion, good teaching, and what we’ve learned about our listeners and ourselves. (Note: the audio may sound a little echoey towards the end because of how far we’ve crawled...
2018-Oct-02 • 102 minutes
Episode 149: Death, Immortality, and Porn (Intuition) Pumps
Is living forever a good thing? Could we maintain our values and personal attachments throughout eternity? Would we be motivated to accomplish anything? Can we make sense of a human life that doesn't have a fixed endpoint? We try to alleviate David's paralyzing fear of death by examining two articles - one on how immortality is worse than we think, and the other providing evidence that dying might be better than we think. Plus,we examine some famous thought experiments - if they were porn. And a special bon...
2018-Sep-19 • 101 minutes
Episode 148: Am I Wrong?
Tamler wades into a Twitter controversy about Serena Williams - could this be his fast-track pass into the IDW? And since we're talking about that, why not throw in a discussion of Louis CK's surprise set at the Comedy Cellar? In the second segment, we step outside of last week's social media culture wars to discuss "But I Could Be Wrong," a paper by philosopher George Sher from Rice University. What happens once we realize that our moral convictions are often not better justified than the convictions of pe...
2018-Sep-04 • 103 minutes
Episode 147: Effective Altruism and Moral Uncertainty (with The One True Scotsman, Will MacAskill)
Oxford philosophy professor Will MacAskill joins us to talk about effective altruism, moral uncertainty, and why you shouldn’t eat your grandmother (even if consequentialism is true). How should we act when we’re not sure which moral theory is the right one? Can we formulate a guide for behavior, modeled on decision theory, that maximizes expected moral value? How do we assign credences to ethical (as opposed to empirical) claims? Why has effective altruism become so popular, so fast, yet at the same time s...
2018-Aug-21 • 73 minutes
Episode 146: Sore Losers (Does Sports Make Us Unhappy?)
Is being a sports fan irrational? Does it lead to more suffering than happiness? David and Tamler discuss a recent study that suggests the answers to these question is "yes." But does the study really capture what it means to be a sports fan, and how it can contribute to our well-being? And does science in general have the tools to truly measure the costs and benefits of rooting for your favorite teams? Plus, we talk about The Nation apologizing for publishing a poem written in Black English Vernacular, and...
2018-Aug-07 • 97 minutes
Episode 145: Lost in Borges' Garden
David and Tamler go deep into Borges’ labyrinth to discuss the fascinating, multi-dimensional story “The Garden of Forking Paths.” What is the underlying reality of this story? What demands does Borges make of his readers? What is Borges telling us about time, freedom, war, and art? Is the story itself a maze for readers to wander and lose their way? We don’t have all the answers, but it was one of our favorite discussions in a long time. Plus, we give some brief non-spoiler opinions about Boots Riley’s mov...
2018-Jul-24 • 84 minutes
Episode 144: Borges' Babylon
David and Tamler try to wrap their heads around Jorge Luis Borges' “The Library of Babel” – a short story about a universe/library that contains every possible book with every possible combination of characters. How many books would this library contain? Would some of the books justify our lives (if we could find them)? Can we know whether a book is deeply meaningful or deeply misleading? Why are the librarians so alone and so consumed with anguish? Wouldn’t we all just end up just looking for the porn boo...
2018-Jul-10 • 100 minutes
Episode 143: The Psychology of Personality
David and Tamler tackle the topic selected by their Patreon supporters - the psychology of personality. What are the different dimensions of personality that distinguish one person from another? How many dimensions are there - do the Big Five capture all of them? Do we share some of these differences with other species? Why don't personality psychologists include moral character traits? Plus - are you curious about your partner's true political commitments? No problem, just install a periscope in your toile...
2018-Jun-26 • 91 minutes
Episode 142: Suicide (with Matthew Nock)
In what has to be the most somber VBW to date, David and Tamler welcome Harvard psychologist Matthew Nock to the podcast to talk about suicide and other forms of self-harm. Matt tells us what we know – and what we don’t know - about the causes of suicide and the ways to prevent it. In the first segment we talk about the recent exposé of Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Were the guards told to be brutal? Were the prisoners never aware that could have left the study at any time? What is Tamler going to...
2018-Jun-05 • 81 minutes
Episode 141: Implicit Bias
David and Tamler tackle the topic of implicit bias and the controversy surrounding the implicit association test (IAT). What is implicit bias anyway? Does it have to be linked to behavior in order to truly count as a "bias"? Has the IAT been overhyped as a reflection of individual or group prejudice? And why is the debate on this topic so depressing? Plus, some deep thoughts on the intellectual dark web, how to join it, and what the analogy is supposed to reflect.
2018-May-22 • 93 minutes
Episode 140: Milgram's Mice
Honor shmonor, David and Tamler return to their repugnant roots for this one. First, we pay an overdue homage to the great anonymous blogger and twitter-redeemer Neuroskeptic. We pick a few of our favorite pithy tweets and crazy science article links from his @neuroskeptic twitter account. Topics include: How much would you pay for porn? Should we be stereotyping zoophiles? Animal or fist - how to distinguish? And what do the left and right brain actually do? In part 2, we discuss an experiment that aims to...
2018-May-12 • 91 minutes
Episode 139: Honor, Identity, and Headbutts
It took two tries (the first one led to a big non-productive fight), but David and Tamler end up with a good discussion of honor and its connection to identity, pride, and personal relationships. Why have we rejected honor in favor of dignity? What are the costs and benefits of doing that? How do people "find themselves" in an industrialized anonymous society? What should you do when someone insults your sister and you're playing in the final of the World Cup? The seminal paper by Peter Berger "On the Obsol...
2018-Apr-24 • 106 minutes
Episode 138: Memory, Pain, and Relationships (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Award-winning screenwriter and medieval philosophy scholar Yoel Inbar joins us for a deep dive on the Charlie Kaufman/Michel GondREY masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When relationships go bad is it better to believe they never happened? What is the nature of memory, how is it constructed, and is it possible to zap them out existence with an Apple IIe? Will Tamler have a more optimistic take on the ending of the movie than David? (Hint: yes) Also--only two more weeks to preorder Why Honor...
2018-Apr-10 • 79 minutes
Episode 137: Are Buddhists Afraid to Die? (with Shaun Nichols)
Why are we always attracted to people who mock us, resist our advances, and play hard to get? Maybe because it’s extra satisfying when you finally get them to… appear on your podcast. In our first live episode (recorded in San Antonio), the philosopher Shaun Nichols joins us to discuss his recent article “Death and the Self”. You might think that Buddhist conceptions of the self as illusory would reduce their fear of death (after all, if there’s no real self, why worry about it ceasing to exist?). But the e...
2018-Mar-27 • 92 minutes
Episode 136: The Good Life (with Laurie Santos)
From Very Bad Wizards to Megyn Kelly Today back to Very Bad Wizards, Laurie Santos has traveled the typical trajectory of the celebrity academic. Laurie joins us to talk about her cult status after creating the most popular course in Yale University history: Psychology and the Good Life. The course explores questions like: Why are we so bad at predicting what will make us happy? What makes it so hard to do the things we know are good for us? Why young are people more stressed, anxious, and overworked than t...
2018-Mar-13 • 77 minutes
Episode 135: Utilitarianism and Moral Identity
David and Tamler take a break from complaining about psychological studies that measure utilitarianism to complain about the moral theory itself. We talk about one of the most famous critiques of utilitarianism from Bernard Williams. Does utilitarianism annihilate our integrity--our unity--as people? Would trying to maximize well-being fracture our identities, and swallow up our projects, motivations, and moral convictions--the same convictions that make utilitarianism seem appealing in the first place? Is ...
2018-Feb-27 • 112 minutes
Episode 134: Digital Outrage (with Molly Crockett)
It's been 5 years since Molly Crockett has been guest on VBW. During that time she's completed a post-doc at University College, London and become a professor at Yale University. And we're...well, we're still doing the podcast. Today Molly joins us to talk about moral outrage in the age of social media. Has the outrage changed now that we express so much of it online? Does it contribute to polarization and social division, or give a voice to the less powerful? How can we harness the benefits of online outra...
2018-Feb-06 • 75 minutes
Episode 133: Death and Dreams
David and Tamler talk about the nature of death. Is being dead a bad thing? If so, what makes it bad? How can anything be bad for a subject that no longer exists? We didn't have a problem with oblivion for the thirteen billion years before we were born, why fear it now? Plus, a discussion about the "it was all a dream" trope in TV and film. Why is it so infuriating in some works but not others?
2018-Jan-23 • 96 minutes
Episode 132: Emotional Willpower (with David DeSteno)
What's the best way to build self-control, patience, productivity, and delayed marshmallow eating? For decades psychologists and economists have told us to develop traits like willpower and grit. But psychologist David DeSteno describes a better, easier, and more effective path--the emotions. We talk to David about his new (not-self-help) book "Emotional Success," which argues that the emotions of gratitude, pride, and compassion can help us fulfill long-term goals and (as a special bonus) make us happier a...
2018-Jan-09 • 100 minutes
Episode 131: I Have No Genitals and I Must Scream
David and Tamler break down two episodes (with full spoilers) from the new season of Charlie Brooker's bleaker-than-bleak Netflix series Black Mirror. First up, "The USS Callister," a Star Trek parody that becomes a meditation on fandom, humiliation, and cowardly revenge. Next we talk about "Black Museum" - could it be the final episode of Black Mirror? Should it be? After four seasons of indicting humanity, has Charlie Brooker turned his critical lens on himself? Plus, you thought it was bad for childr...
2017-Dec-26 • 93 minutes
Episode 130: Dehumanization and Disintegration (with Paul Bloom)
In this Very Special Boxing Day edition of the podcast, Tamler and David welcome back honorary Third Wizard Paul Bloom to discuss his latest article in the New Yorker about dehumanization and cruelty. Is it really the case that we dehumanize in order to harm others? Or does most violence actually require us to view others as fundamentally human, agentic, and capable of true suffering? But first, we discuss the stages of Star Trek transporter cognition, whether Paul and David are closet-dualists, and whether...
2017-Dec-12 • 106 minutes
Episode 129: Dystopias
David and Tamler assert their autonomy as individuals by discussing their favorite dystopian works of art. Rebelling against a repressive regime, they refuse to sacrifice their privacy, uniqueness, and reproductive freedom. Through sheer force of will - the human spirit - they triumph over the pressures to ... wait what? You want me to take that pill? Okay, can't hurt. Aaahhhhh. So happy... So content... Must keep order. When the individual feels, the community reels. I am you, and you are I. I am you, and...
2017-Nov-28 • 110 minutes
Episode 128: Fragmented Values and Sex Panics (with Christina Hoff Sommers)
David and Tamler keep their Nagel streak alive, discussing the essay "The Fragmention of Value" from his collection "Mortal Questions." How should we address our fragmented moral landscape, with multiple sources of value that can't be reduced or systematically ordered? Does this make all of our moral decisions arbitrary? Plus, we talk about Louis CK and in a Thanksgiving tradition special guest Christina Hoff Sommers rejoins the podcast in a moderately drunken debate with Tamler about a possible sex panic. ...
2017-Nov-14 • 85 minutes
Episode 127: Moral Luck
David and Tamler dip back into the Thomas Nagel well, and discuss the problem of "moral luck." Why do we blame drunk drivers who hit someone more than drunk drivers who make it home OK? Why do we judge people for things that are beyond their control (when we have strong intuitions that uncontrollable acts don't deserve blame)? Does moral luck ultimately swallow all of our behavior? Can we truly embrace the view that "actions are events and people are things" or are we stuck with another unsolvable clash of...
2017-Oct-24 • 92 minutes
Episode 126: The Absurd
Is life meaningless? Are we just glorified dung beetles, pushing around our piles of poop with no greater purpose? What would it take for life to actually be meaningful? In this episode, Tamler and David discuss Thomas Nagel’s essay on the sense of meaninglessness and absurdity that can so easily creep into human existence (with a special emphasis on the work of Camus and the philosophy of Rick and Morty). But first we tackle even more important questions about the human condition such as, why is it easier ...
2017-Oct-10 • 92 minutes
Episode 125: Can You Feel It?
What do we mean when we say someone is angry? Can we identify anger (or any other emotion) via facial expressions, physiological changes, or neural markers? Is anger simply a feeling, something that happens to us, or does it involve a judgment? How much control do we have over our emotions, and can we be responsible for them? We talk about the work of Lisa Feldman Barrett and Bob Solomon. Plus, Tamler engages in conceptual analysis on Star Trek transporter beliefs (yes you read that right) and David is too ...
2017-Sep-26 • 82 minutes
Episode 124: Dr. Strawson or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Episodic Life
Do you think of your life as a story? Does your life have a narrative structure or form? Do you identify with your past selves and your future selves? If not, can you live a good life, a moral life, an authentic life? Can you feel guilt, regret, and resentment? Plus, speaking of stories, we talk about a new study suggesting that books with anthropomorphic animals can't teach moral lessons to kids.
2017-Sep-12 • 88 minutes
Episode 123: What Chilling Effect? (Intelligence Pt. 2)
It’s Part 2 of the Patreon listener selected episode! David and Tamler continue their discussion on intelligence from our last episode by tackling the radioactive topic of group differences and IQ. Are there reliable differences in IQ across races? Given that IQ is strongly heritable, and that racial categories are based (in part) on biological differences, does it follow that group differences in IQ are due to biological differences across racial groups? (Could only a politically motivated science-denier c...
2017-Aug-29 • 101 minutes
Episode 122: Nothing but a "G" Thing (Intelligence Pt. 1)
David and Tamler do their best to talk frankly about intelligence and IQ research. (It's our Patreon listener-selected topic! We probably would never have chosen this one on our own...). Is intelligence a meaningful, definable concept? Can we reliably test for it? How much of the variability in IQ across individuals is due to heritable factors? Are people with higher IQ happier, wealthier, or healthier than people with lower IQ? And why is this topic so controversial anyhow? Plus in the intro segment Tamler...
2017-Aug-15 • 90 minutes
Episode 121: The Beauty of Illusion - David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"
Guest Yoel Inbar joins David and Tamler to break down David Lynch’s dreamy masterpiece Mulholland Drive. (FULL SPOILERS – watch before you listen!) What’s real and what’s illusion? What happens when our illusions unravel? How do expectations affect our experience? How can artists use our expectations to manipulate our emotions? Come for the questions, stay for the answers – or at least for more questions.
2017-Jul-25 • 107 minutes
Episode 120: Clap Your Hand for Robert Wright
Special guest Robert Wright joins the podcast to discuss his latest book "Why Buddhism is True." What is the Buddhist conception of not-self? When we become aware that the boundaries between us and the world are fluid, what is the “we” that arrives at this insight? Can daily meditation make you less of a dick? How does evolutionary psychology bear on these questions? Plus, Dave horrifies Tamler with his new hipster habit.
2017-Jul-11 • 86 minutes
Episode 119: A Brief History of Values
What happens when we discover why we believe the things we believe? What if we discover that our values are the product of our cultural tradition, or personal experience, or natural selection? Should we be more skeptical of our values once we learn their history? Plus, data on Google porn searches reveal that you're all a bunch of sick fucks.
2017-Jun-27 • 73 minutes
Episode 118: We Don't Love Them Hoax
David and Tamler try to put the topic of campus politics to bed once and for all – with limited success. First, we get into a big fight about the prevalence and danger of political correctness in American universities. We junked that recording, and tried to distill our best points into a new one. (Trust us – it was for the best.) We also narrow down all the topic recommendations from our beloved Patreon supporters to five finalists. In the second segment, James Lindsay (co-author of the "Conceptual Penis" h...
2017-Jun-13 • 71 minutes
Episode 117: Extended Minds, Extended Foreskins
David and Tamler break down a recent classic in the philosophy of mind: "The Extended Mind" by Andy Clark and David Chalmers. What is boundary of your mind? Is it contained with your body, or does it extend to the external environment--to your laptop, notebook, smartphone and more? Is this a purely terminological question, or one with practical and moral significance? And what is the role of intuition in providing an answer? Plus, Dave shares an email alerting him to the psychological trauma of male circumc...
2017-May-31 • 77 minutes
Episode 116: Pain, Pleasure, and Peer-Reviewed Penises
David and Tamler break down the latest small-stakes academic controversy--yes the one about conceptual penises. Does the recent "Sokal-like" hoax expose the ideological extremism of gender studies? Or does it show that certain portions of the "skeptic" community are susceptible to the same biases as their opponents? In the main segment they discuss the problems with measuring pain, pleasure, and happiness. When your doctor asks you to rate your pain between 1 and 10 and you say a 7, does your '7' reflect t...
2017-May-16 • 97 minutes
Episode 115: Which Field is More [email protected]%ed: Philosophy or Psychology?
David and Tamler go ambulance chasing for scandals in their own fields. Inspired by a tweet from Jay Van Bavel, they argue about which of their disciplines--philosophy or psychology--is more completely and irredeemably fucked. Is the recent controversy at the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia diagnostic of larger problems in philosophy? Can the replication crisis ever be solved? Can philosophy return to studying the big questions? What can psychologists actually discover about the human mind? Warning: t...
2017-May-04 • 81 minutes
Episode 114: Great Vengeance and Furious Anger (Top 5 Movies About Revenge)
Somehow, after 113 episodes David and Tamler have never done a top 5 movie episode about revenge (so unbelievable that we had to double-check). That changes today. Among the things we learned: good revenge movies are harder to find than we thought, revenge (at least, movie revenge) is messy, and David knows at least one movie that Tamler has never heard of. Plus, should Jews be celebrating the killing of Egyptian first borns? Or atoning for it? (Or perhaps just pouring out a little more wine at Passover?)
2017-Apr-18 • 78 minutes
Episode 113: Pascal, Probability, and Pitchforks
David and Tamler break down what may be the best argument that it's rational to believe in God: Pascal's Wager. (No, we're not just trolling our Sam Harris listeners.) Does the expected value of believing in God outweigh the probability that you're wrong? How does belief work--can you just turn it on and off? What if you believe in the wrong God? This leads to a wide-ranging discussion on decision theory, instrumental rationality, artificial intelligence, transformative experiences, and whether David should...
2017-Apr-04 • 92 minutes
Episode 112: Gettier Goggles
For four years Tamler has been bitching about Gettier cases without even explaining what they are or why he hates them. That ends today. David and Tamler talk about the famous paper that challenged the (widespread? non-existent?) notion that knowledge is, and only is, justified true belief. We talk about the so-called skeptics about knowledge that Gettier inspired, then discuss the real skepticism that Descartes examined with his evil demon thought experiment. Plus, you know how you're in a monogamous relat...
2017-Mar-22 • 63 minutes
Episode 111: Our Language Doesn't Have a Word For This Title (with Yoel Inbar)
In Part 2 of our episode with film scholar Yoel Inbar (AOS: Quebecois New Wave Cinema), we break down the philosophy and psychology of the movie Arrival.
2017-Mar-14 • 42 minutes
Episode 110: Stepsisters and Neck Braces (with Yoel Inbar)
Special guest Yoel Inbar joins Tamler and David to discuss the Charles Murray protest at Middlebury College (and the top porn searches by State).
2017-Feb-28 • 72 minutes
Episode 109: Moral Pluralism: Behind the Lube
Tamler and Dave discuss moral pluralism.
2017-Feb-07 • 75 minutes
Episode 108: The Gimp Exception
Tamler and David discuss moral hypocrisy.
2017-Jan-24 • 81 minutes
Episode 107: Winking Under Oppression (with Manuel Vargas)
Philosopher Manuel Vargas joins us to talk about moral responsibility under oppression.
2017-Jan-10 • 78 minutes
Episode 106: American Grandstand
David and Tamler take a break from moral grandstanding to talk about moral grandstanding, focusing on a recent paper by philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke.
2016-Dec-28 • 83 minutes
Episode 105: Wizards With (Reactive) Attitudes
Tamler and David discuss the increasingly trollish nature of Aeon Magazine articles, then discuss (and argue about) philosopher Victoria McGeer's 2012 article "Co-reactive attitudes and the making of moral community."
2016-Dec-13 • 94 minutes
Episode 104: Smelling Salts for Morality: Our Top 3 Movies About Empathy (with Paul Bloom)
Paul Bloom joins Tamler and David to discuss their picks for the top three movies about empathy.
2016-Nov-29 • 67 minutes
Episode 103: Very Bad Utopias
David and Tamler give thanks to their listeners and Patreon supporters with an episode chosen by our top Patreon subscribers--the drafting of a "constitution" for our very own Utopia.
2016-Nov-15 • 97 minutes
Episode 102: Red, Black, and Blue
Tamler and David talk about the 2016 US presidential election, and more serious things like Black Mirror's "San Junipero" episode.
2016-Oct-31 • 88 minutes
Episode 101: Having Desert and Eating It Too
David and Tamler argue over how much we can learn about moral responsibility from the way we attribute blame and praise in the domains of art and sports.
2016-Oct-13 • 98 minutes
Episode 100: It's a Celebration
David and Tamler celebrate their 100th episode with champagne, bourbon, an online test of our moral judgments, and an AMA.
2016-Sep-27 • 123 minutes
Episode 99: Mockingbirds, Destructo-Critics, and Mr. Robot
David and Tamler tackle claims of decepto-criticism in psychology, discuss the dilemmas of 7th grade theater production, and have a lengthy discussion of Mr. Robot Season 2.
2016-Sep-13 • 82 minutes
Episode 98: Mind the Gap
David and Tamler tackle the naturalistic fallacy.
2016-Aug-30 • 83 minutes
Episode 97: Dogmatic Slumber Party
David and Tamler take on motivated reasoning and our biased processing of information to favor positions we are predisposed to believe.
2016-Aug-16 • 87 minutes
Episode 96: Memory and Meaning in "Memento" (with Paul Bloom)
Paul Bloom joins us to discuss Christopher Nolan's "Memento."
2016-Aug-09 • 30 minutes
Bonus Episode: More Doobie-ous Theories About "Mr. Robot" (Season 2)
In this bonus emergency episode Tamler and David talk about mid-season Mr. Robot (S2) theories.
2016-Aug-02 • 89 minutes
Episode 95: The Repugnance of Repugnance
Tamler and David tackle the emotion of disgust and the role it should play in moral judgment
2016-Jul-19 • 97 minutes
Episode 94: Buttery Friendships
Tamler and David discuss Nancy Sherman's thoughts on Aristotle, Stoicism, and how to live a good, happy life.
2016-Jul-05 • 99 minutes
Episode 93: Avalanches, Blame, and Cowardice (With Yoel Inbar)
Tamler and David are joined by VBW regular Yoel Inbar to discuss the themes of cowardice and character in the recent Swedish film "Force Majeure."
2016-Jun-21 • 68 minutes
Episode 92: Jonathan Edwards' Basement
David and Tamler discuss Jonathan Bennett's classic paper "The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn."
2016-Jun-07 • 84 minutes
Episode 91: Rage Against the Machines
Tamler and David discuss a recent article that claims that an algorithm used to predict criminal behavior is racially biased, and argue about the wisdom of using algorithms across other domains in life.
2016-May-24 • 81 minutes
Episode 90: Of Mice and Morals
David and Tamler have their first real fight in a while over an article defending "social mixing"--distributing babies randomly across families such that no infant is genetically related to the parents who raise them. Then they discuss a study published in "Science" in 2013 in which participants could earn money if they agreed to let mice be killed in a gas chamber.
2016-May-10 • 98 minutes
Episode 89: Shame on You (with Jennifer Jacquet)
David and Tamler welcome author and environmental science professor Jennifer Jacquet to the podcast to discuss the pros and cons of shame.
2016-Apr-26 • 81 minutes
Episode 88: A Doobie for Elijah
David and Tamler celebrate Passover with a high-spirited episode on guns, revenge, liberals, being offended, the fear of death, and whether kids have a right to be loved.
2016-Apr-12 • 80 minutes
Episode 87: Lucky You (with Robert Frank)
The economist Robert Frank joins us for a discussion of success and luck.
2016-Mar-22 • 75 minutes
Episode 86: Guns, Shame, and the Meaning of Punishment
Tamler and David discuss the meaning of punishment and the recent decision in Texas that will allow students to carry guns on campus.
2016-Mar-11 • 70 minutes
Episode 85: A Zoo with Only One Animal (with Paul Bloom)
Philosophers can be funny and funny movies can be philosophical. David and Tamler welcome frequent VBW guest and arch-enemy of empathy Paul Bloom to discuss their five favorite comic films with philosophical/psychological themes.
2016-Feb-23 • 93 minutes
Episode 84: Lifting the Veil
Tamler and David discuss Bernard Williams' "Rawls and Pascal's Wager"
2016-Feb-09 • 62 minutes
Episode 83: Ego Trip
Tamler and David discuss Anthony Greenwald's classic article "The Totalitarian Ego."
2016-Jan-26 • 66 minutes
Episode 82: Totalitarian Slide-Rulers
Tamler and David discuss Isaiah Berlin's influential essay, "Two Concepts of Liberty"
2016-Jan-12 • 107 minutes
Episode 81: Domo Arigato, Mr. Robot (With Yoel Inbar)
Special guest Yoel Inbar joins Dave and Tamler to talk about the best show of last year. Warning: This episode is full of spoilers. Do not listen until you've seen Season 1 of Mr. Robot.
2015-Dec-21 • 101 minutes
Episode 80: The Coddling of the Wizard Mind (with Vlad Chituc and Christina Hoff Sommers)
It's our last episode on campus protests and political correctness for a while, we promise! But it's a fun one. David and Tamler welcome two guests on the opposite side of the debate spectrum: Recent Yale Alum, cognitive scientist, freelance writer, (and writer of novel-length emails), Vlad Chituc joins both of us to defend the Yale protests, provide some context, and explain why the good people at FIRE are hypocritical about free expression. In the middle segment, Tamler talks with his notorious stepmother...
2015-Dec-03 • 108 minutes
Episode 79: Good Lives, Good Friends, and Gay Mormons (with Valerie Tiberius)
Special guest Valerie Tiberius joins us to talk about values, well-being, and friendship. In the first segment, David and Tamler list a few things they're grateful for on Thanksgiving, including you, the listeners (awwwwww...).
2015-Nov-23 • 69 minutes
Episode 78: Wizards Uprising
David and Tamler return to the minefield of campus politics and talk about recent events at Yale, Missouri, and Amherst. Are the protests are long overdue response to systematic oppression and prejudice? Or is this new generation of students coddled, hypersensitive, and hostile to free speech? Maybe a little bit of both?
2015-Nov-09 • 80 minutes
Episode 77: On the Moral Nature of Nazis, Jerks, and Ethicists (with Eric Schwitzgebel)
Special guest Eric Schwitzgebel joins David and Tamler to discuss the moral behavior (or lack thereof) of ethicists. Does moral reflection make us better people, or does it just give us better excuses to be immoral? Who's more right about human nature--Mencius or Xun Zi? What did Kant have against bastards and masturbating? Plus, we talk about jerks, robot cars, and killing baby Hitler.
2015-Oct-26 • 63 minutes
Episode 76: Cha-Cha-changes
David and Tamler list three things they've changed their minds about in their careers.
2015-Oct-06 • 150 minutes
Episode 75: A Golden Shower of Guests
Dave and Tamler celebrate their 75th episode by welcoming six BFFs of the podcast and asking them to share the biggest thing they've changed their minds about in their professional careers. You'll hear Dan Ariely on our moral duty to take science into the real world, Laurie Santos on the the role of neuroscience in explaining psychological findings, Yoel Inbar on what it means to do good science as a psychologist, Eric Schwitzgebel on his metaphysical epiphany about materialism, Nina Strohminger on bre...
2015-Sep-16 • 114 minutes
Episode 74: Lies, Damned Lies, and Ashley Madison
David and Tamler return after an end of summer hiatus to finally talk about the ethics of deception….eventually. But first they break down recent article in the journal "Science" documenting an attempt to replicate 100 recent psychology experiments.
2015-Aug-11 • 69 minutes
Episode 73: Authentic Apes and Infinite Torture
In what is possibly our most repugnant first segment ever, David and Tamler break down the ethics of zoophilia and investigate the true nature of consent. In the second segment we answer some listener emails and address our first question in our new capacity as International Ethics Experts.
2015-Jul-28 • 93 minutes
Episode 72: Tweenie Turing Tests, AI, and Ex Machina (with Joshua Weisberg)
It finally happened: David and Tamler welcome special guest Joshua Weisberg to the podcast to talk about Turing machines, Chinese Rooms, and AI. Plus, a spoiler-filled discussion of the recent movie "Ex Machina."
2015-Jul-14 • 67 minutes
Episode 71: The Murky Morals and Mysterious Metaphysics of "Mr. Robot"
David and Tamler go deep into the best TV show of the summer, "Mr. Robot."
2015-Jun-28 • 95 minutes
Episode 70: Some Favorite Things
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, papers by Williams and movies from Sweden. Long graphic novels that celebrate being. These are a few of our favorite things.
2015-Jun-17 • 94 minutes
Episode 69: CHiPs on Our Shoulders (Lessons in Objectivity)
Dave and Tamler try to figure out what we talk about when we talk about objectivity.
2015-Jun-01 • 74 minutes
Episode 68: Risky, Reckless, and Regretful
Dave drags Tamler into the nerd abyss by making him watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Tapestry,” from the 6th season). We talk about the themes of the episode: regret, risk aversion, the arrogance of hindsight, and the dream of living your past “knowing what you know now.”
2015-May-18 • 77 minutes
Episode 67: Funny How?
Dave and Tamler break the cardinal rule of comedy by trying to analyze it. What are the origins and functions of humor? Can a theory explain what makes us laugh? Is humor entirely subjective?
2015-Apr-20 • 85 minutes
Episode 66: Übermensch at Work
Special guest Yoel Inbar joins us to talk about Hitchcock’s masterpiece/gimmick "Rope."
2015-Apr-06 • 79 minutes
Episode 65: Philocalypse Now
Holy crap, it's the apocalypse!!!!...for philosophy. Maybe.
2015-Mar-19 • 73 minutes
Episode 64: Believing in a Just World
Dave and Tamler talk about the human tendency to believe in a just world. Why do we have the belief? Does it make us less motivated to fight injustice? How does it connect to our beliefs about free will and punishment?
2015-Feb-27 • 167 minutes
Episode 63: Stalemates and Closets (with Sam Harris)
Sam Harris gets back in the VBW ring for another round on moral responsibility, ethical theories, and the grounds for our obligations to other people.
2015-Feb-09 • 61 minutes
Episode 62: Brain Jizz and "Black Mirror"
Dave and Tamler discuss a new study that, according to Tamler, offers decisive support for restorative approaches to criminal punishment (the only problem is he didn't read past the introduction). And speaking of justice, we talk about "White Bear"--the most disturbing episode of the UK series Black Mirror that doesn’t involve sex with a non-kosher animal.
2015-Jan-19 • 75 minutes
Episode 61: Putting a Little Meaning in Your Life
Dave and Tamler take a break from blame and responsibility to tackle a much easier subject: meaning in life.
2015-Jan-01 • 73 minutes
Episode 60: Drunk on Intuitions
Dave and Tamler argue some more about the role of emotion and intuition in blame judgments, and then offer some moral psychology-related recommendations for your New Year’s viewing and reading pleasure.
2014-Dec-15 • 152 minutes
Episode 59: Tumors All the Way Down (With Sam Harris)
Bestselling author and friend of the podcast Sam Harris joins Tamler and Dave for a marathon podcast. (Seriously, pack two pairs of astronaut diapers for this one).
2014-Dec-01 • 90 minutes
Episode 58: Do the Right Thing (with Yoel Inbar)
Film critic, VBW regular, and social psychologist Yoel Inbar joins David and Tamler to talk about Spike Lee's controversial 1989 film "Do the Right Thing," a movie about a day in the life of a small Brooklyn community on the hottest day of summer, and how the day's events lead to a race riot.
2014-Nov-17 • 46 minutes
Episode 57: Free Willie
David and Tamler talk about a new study that links your belief in free will to the fullness of your bladder. How do our bodily states influence our metaphysical commitments? What's the best way to measure beliefs about free will? Can you get your prostate checked without having someone stick something in your private areas? Plus, an exclusive look at the shocking truth about social psychology experiments.
2014-Nov-03 • 71 minutes
Episode 56: Moral Heroes and Drunk Utilitarians
Following up their discussion of moral villains, Dave and Tamler argue about what makes a moral hero. Tamler defends Sharon Krause’s view that honor values can motivate heroic behavior. Dave accuses Tamler of being inconsistent (nothing wrong with that) and slightly Kantian (NOOOOOO!!!). In the final segment, we’re back on the same page fawning over Susan Wolf’s paper “Moral Saints.” Plus, are drunks more likely to be utilitarians? And why does Dave hate Temple Grandin?LinksThe...
2014-Oct-20 • 78 minutes
Episode 55: Rooting for Evil (With Paul Bloom)
Paul Bloom joins us to talk all things villainous -why we sometimes root for the bad guys, why we admire them even when we don't, why they are much more compelling than some of our heroes.
2014-Sep-24 • 78 minutes
Episode 54: Pooping on Ecstasy (Pain, Pleasure, and the Ethics of Breeding)
Tamler and David get bullied into talking about "anti-natalism," (the view that it is unethical to bring a being into existence), and to defend our ethical position as "breeders." Well, one of us defends it, at least. The other one? Well, you'll have to judge for yourself...
2014-Sep-08 • 75 minutes
Episode 53: The Psychology People Love to Hate (Evolutionary Psychology Pt.1)
Dave and Tamler take a shot at answering the question: what is an evolutionary psychologist?
2014-Aug-25 • 77 minutes
Episode 52: Thought Experiments (Huh!) What Are They Good For? (Part 2)
Experience Machines, Chinese Rooms, Original Positions, and Ice Buckets ("I don't know what you have in mind for this evening Homer, but count me out!") Dave and Tamler continue their discussion on thought experiments--how they can be effective, the difference between their use in philosophy and psychology, and how they can spin out of control like deadly viruses and become the disease they were trying to cure.
2014-Aug-11 • 79 minutes
Episode 51: Zombies, Trolleys, and Galileo's Balls
Dave and Tamler talk about the value and purposes of thought experiments in philosophy and science.
2014-Jul-14 • 87 minutes
Episode 50: Keeping it Unreal
We honestly can't believe we made it to 50 episodes, so we must be brains in a vat. But we play along and celebrate with...a movie episode! We list our five favorite films about the subjective or questionable nature of reality. Our only rule: we couldn't choose The Matrix.
2014-Jun-23 • 104 minutes
Episode 49: Psychopaths and Contrastivizzzzzzzz (With Walter Sinnott-Armstrong)
Special guest Walter Sinnott-Armstrong joins the podcast to explain how his theory which desperately needs a new name ("contrastivism") can dissolve most of the fundamental problems and paradoxes in philosophy.
2014-Jun-09 • 68 minutes
Episode 48: Restorative Circle Jerk
Dave and Tamler take a mulligan and try to resolve their conflict about restorative justice. Do restorative processes lead to more just outcomes than other approaches? Is it more vulnerable to instances of prejudice and bias? Is revenge a form of restorative justice?
2014-May-22 • 62 minutes
Episode 47: Schooled By Our Listeners
Tamler and David leech off of their listeners and dedicate an episode to their favorite comments, questions, and criticisms from the past few weeks (but not before Tamler goes on a rant about bicycle helmets).
2014-May-04 • 64 minutes
Episode 46: The Real Josh Knobe
May I have your attention please? Will the real Josh Knobe please stand up? Will the real... [you know what, screw this--we're just dating ourselves.] X-phi phenom Josh Knobe rejoins the podcast to talk about the true self, naked people, gay preachers, and the Talmud. Plus, what happens when Tamler takes a sleeping pill by mistake in the afternoon and goes on Facebook? Why do you have get so drunk on Purim? And Dave discovers a Google-assisted loophole that allows you to be an immoral shit your wh...
2014-Apr-20 • 68 minutes
Episode 45: Rounded Brains and Balanced "Play Diets"
A British tabloid article about kids, brains, and spatial skills somehow provokes the biggest argument ever on the podcast. Dave and Tamler get into it about gender, toys, properly rounded brains, and balanced "play diets."
2014-Apr-05 • 69 minutes
Episode 44: Killer Robots
David and Tamler argue about the use of autonomous robots and drones in warfare.  Could it lead to less suffering during wars and afterwards? Would nations be motivated to design robots that behave ethically on the battlefield? Can David get through an episode without mentioning Star Trek? Plus, Tamler distances himself from the villainous philosophy professor in the new movie God is Not Dead and David complains about the growing number of porn journals.  LinksKnowledge is Powe...
2014-Mar-17 • 50 minutes
Episode 43: The Nature of Nudges
Dave and Tamler talk about a recent study that seems to support the view that "justice is what the judge had for breakfast" (or at least how long ago the parole board had breakfast), and we discuss the ethics of "nudges" in government and consumer marketing.
2014-Mar-03 • 68 minutes
Episode 42: Reason, Responsibility, and Roombas (With Paul Bloom)
Can a fully determined creature deliberate? How big a role does conscious reasoning play in moral judgment and everyday life? Are we responsible for our thoughts and actions? Paul Bloom rejoins us against his better judgment to discuss his book "Just Babies" and his recent article in The Atlantic that set the internet on the fire and riled up the likes of Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne.  Plus, what's the difference (if any) between getting into a Star Trek transporter and getting an axe to the head, and wh...
2014-Feb-18 • 98 minutes
Episode 41: Moral Dilemmas at the Movies
Dave keeps trying to explain to Tamler that we're not a movie podcast, but somehow they're doing another podcast about movies. This time they each list their top 5 movies featuring moral dilemmas. Also, Tamler tries to rationalize the Woody Allen controversy, Ozymandias from Watchmen says "screw you Paul Bloom," Dave confuses Maggie Gyllenhaal with Droopy, and for the second time ever we have to censor something one of us (Tamler) says.
2014-Feb-03 • 80 minutes
Episode 40: How Many Moralities Are There? Pt. 2 (with Jesse Graham)
Jesse Graham joins us for part 2 of our discussion on the nature of morality, and his recent paper on Moral Foundations Theory. He highlights the key components of MFT, defends himself against our accusations of weaseling out of the normative implications of MFT, champions "Synechdoche, New York" as one of the greatest films ever made, and comes out of the closet as a rationalist. Also in this episode, Tamler begins to defend Sam Harris (you read that right) from Dan Dennett's criticisms of Ha...
2014-Jan-20 • 60 minutes
Episode 39: How Many Moralities Are There? (Pt.1)
Dave and Tamler bounce back this week after having to trash the last episode. Does morality ultimately boil down to a single principle (such as harm or justice), or is there more to ethical life than is dreamt of in the minds of philosophers? We settle this question once and for all in the first of a 2-part episode in which we discuss Jesse Graham et al's recent paper on Moral Foundations Theory. (Jesse Graham himself joins us in Part 2).
2013-Dec-30 • 81 minutes
Episode 38: The Greatest Movies Ever Made about Personal Identity
Who is the real you? What happens to your identity when your body gets cloned or reconstituted with all the same memories and character traits? Does society construct our true selves or repress them? Can we ever escape our pasts and become different people? Dave thinks conceptual analysis and arousal measuring devices can solve all these problems but allows Tamler his dream of temporarily becoming the host of a movie podcast. They list their top 5 favorite movies about personal identity.
2013-Dec-16 • 46 minutes
Episode 37: Porn, Poop, and Personal Identity (with Nina Strohminger)
The guest we've been waiting for--Nina Strohminger--joins us to talk about the connection between disgust and humor, cheap laughs, moral character and personal identity, and the British opt-in plan for porn.  Plus: how psychologists measure erections and Dave goes Platonist about the form of hilarity. Tamler's daughter should have issued an extra strong disclaimer for this one.LinksNina Strohminger [ninastrohminger.com]David Cameron Proposes Porn Filter [thedailybeast.com]Strohming... N. a...
2013-Nov-25 • 55 minutes
Episode 36: An Irresponsible Meta-Book Review of Joshua Greene's "Moral Tribes"
Our most irresponsible episode ever!  Dave and Tamler talk about two reviews of a book they haven't read--Joshua Greene's Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them--and feel only a little shame.   (Since the recording, at least one of us has finished the book).  Can Greene successfully debunk all non-utilitarian intuitions?  Does Greene have a dark enough view of human nature?  What would an ideal moral world look like?   Will Dave ever stop ma...
2013-Nov-11 • 61 minutes
Episode 35: Douchebags and Desert
Dave and Tamler talk about the influence of character judgments on attributions of blame. What is the function of the blame--to assign responsibility or to judge a person's character? Is it fair that we blame douchebags more than good people who commit exactly the same act, or is it yet another cognitive bias that should be avoided?
2013-Oct-28 • 74 minutes
Episode 34: Does Reading Harry Potter Make You Moral? (with Will Wilkinson)
Special guest Will Wilkinson joins the podcast to talk about whether fiction makes us better people, and to discuss his recent Daily Beast article that trashed Dave's profession and livelihood.
2013-Oct-14 • 57 minutes
Episode 33: Monkeys, Smurfs, and Human Conformity (With Laurie Santos)
Special guest Laurie Santos (Psychology, Yale) joins us to talk about what animal cognition can tell us about human nature. Why are other primates better at resisting the misleading influence of others than humans? Is conformity a byproduct of our sophisticated cultural learning capacities? Are we more like Chimpanzees or Bonobos? Why does Dave spend so much time writing Smurf fan fiction? [Smurf you, Tamler. -dap]. Also, Dave and Tamler talk about a scathing review of Malcolm Gladwell's new book, and E...
2013-Sep-30 • 79 minutes
Episode 32: Disagreeing About Disagreement
Part II of our discussion on Rai and Fiske (sort of):  We answer a listener's email and in the process get into an episode long argument about moral intuitions, psychological facts, the implications of moral disagreement.
2013-Sep-15 • 55 minutes
Episode 31: An Anthropologist's Guide to Moral Psychology (Pt. 1)
In the first of a two-part episode, we discuss one of our favorite recent papers--Tage Rai and Alan Page Fiske's 2011 paper on how social relationships shape and motivate our moral emotions and judgments.  We also talk about Sam Harris' $20,000 "Moral Landscape Challenge."
2013-Sep-02 • 72 minutes
Episode 30: The Greatest Books Ever Written
Dave and Tamler celebrate their one year anniversary and 30th episode with one of their least cynical episodes yet. They talk about 5 philosophy/psychology(-ish) books that influenced and inspired them throughout the years.
2013-Aug-19 • 48 minutes
Episode 29: PEDs, Tenure Pills, and "Hyberbolic Chambers"
Dave and Tamler try to artificially bulk up their expertise on the ethics of performance enhancing drugs and end up raising a lot more questions than they answer.
2013-Aug-05 • 69 minutes
Episode 28: Moral Persuasion
Dave and Tamler try their best to do a show without guests--we talk about moral persuasion, motivated reasoning, and whether it's legitimate to use emotionally charged rhetoric in a philosophical argument. Plus, we describe how students proceed through the "Stages-of-Singer," and Tamler finally defends himself against Dave's slanderous accusation of hypocrisy about animal welfare.
2013-Jul-22 • 82 minutes
Episode 27: You, Your Self, and Your Brain (With Eddy Nahmias)
Our streak of very special guests continues! Philosopher Eddy Nahmias joins the podcast to us why people mistakenly think they're not morally responsible, and how his new study casts doubt on Sam Harris's view on free will. Eddy also describes his new project (with Toni Adleberg and Morgan Thompson) on why women leave philosophy.
2013-Jul-07 • 81 minutes
Episode 26: Evolution and Sexual Perversion (with Jesse Bering)
Psychologist and author Jesse Bering joins us to talk about evolutionary psychology and his forthcoming book "Perv." In the relatively uncontroversial part of the episode, we ask if homophobia is an adaptation and if women have evolved rape defenses. After that, sex with animals, sex with bookshelves, foot fetishes, amputee fetishes, falling down the stairs fetishes... I don't know, just listen.
2013-Jun-24 • 58 minutes
Episode 25: Burning Armchairs (with Joshua Knobe)
Josh Knobe, the Michael Corleone of experimental philosophy, joins us to talk about taking philosophy into the lab and the streets. We discuss how people moralize everyday concepts like intention, causation, and innateness. Dave wonders if X-phi people are just doing social psychology, and Tamler tries his best to get Josh mad with his critique of Josh's experimental work on free will.
2013-Jun-10 • 83 minutes
Episode 24: The Perils of Empathy (with Paul Bloom)
Paul Bloom joins us in the second segment for a lively discussion about the value of  empathy as a guide our moral decisions. And in our first scoop, we talk about Paul's new book "Just Babies: The Origin of Good and Evil,"racist babies, and how 80s sitcoms changed the world.
2013-May-27 • 76 minutes
Episode 23: Straw Dogs (with Yoel Inbar)
Dave, Tamler, and special guest Yoel Inbar break down Sam Peckinpah's brilliant (at least according  to one of us) 1971 film Straw Dogs.
2013-May-12 • 64 minutes
Episode 22: An Enquiry Concerning Slurs and Offensiveness
In what might very well be the last episode before we're pulled off the air, Tamler outlines his data-free "theory" of what makes something offensive. What makes a joke about race, ethnicity, gender, disability funny sometimes, and deeply hurtful at other times?
2013-May-06 • 93 minutes
Episode 21: Grad School
Dave and Tamler shrug off inside baseball concerns and argue whether to go to grad school, what to do when you get there, and share horror stories about the job market.   Also, Tamler explains why the sorority sister who wrote the infamous email is a "civil rights visionary," Dave refuses to say "c*#t punt," and listener contributions from Boomer Trujillo, Yoel Inbar, Rachel Grazioplene, Dave Tucker, and Nina Strohminger. LinksMichael Shannon Reads Sorority Letter [funnyordie.c...
2013-Apr-21 • 60 minutes
Episode 20: Boston, Brains, and Bad Pronunciation (with Molly Crockett)
Dave and Tamler begin with a brief, heartfelt discussion about the Boston Bombings. In the second and third segments, Molly Crockett joins us to challenge Fiery Cushman for the prize of classiest episode ever.
2013-Apr-06 • 63 minutes
Episode 19: The Burning Bridges Episode (Pt. 2)
Re-recording a not-so-tragically lost episode (it kinda sucked), Dave and Tamler talk about the things they hate most about philosophy and psychology.
2013-Mar-22 • 50 minutes
Episode 18: "Boy If Life Were Only Like This" (With Joe Henrich)
Joe Henrich joins the podcast to tell us that we know nothing about his work and that how we got to teach a class in anything is absolutely amazing. We continue our discussion from Episode 17 about his critique of the social and behavioral sciences in "The Weirdest People in the World" and his work in small scale societies on fairness norms.
2013-Mar-15 • 50 minutes
Episode 17: Learning about Bushmen by Studying Freshmen?
Thousands of studies in psychology rely on data from North American undergraduates. Can we really conclude anything about the "human" mind from such a limited sample-- especially since Westerners are probably more different from the rest of the world's population than any other group We talk about Joseph Henrich and colleagues' critique of the behavioral sciences in their paper "The WEIRDEST People in the World."
2013-Mar-02 • 60 minutes
Episode 16: Race, Reparations, and American (In)Justice (with Damani McDole)
For those who thought our most uncomfortable topics were behind us, on this episode we are joined by David's childhood friend Damani McDole [facebook.com] to discuss several potentially offensive topics surrounding race and justice in America, such as slavery, reparations, affirmative action, and the use of the N-word. When Damani mounts an economic and moral defense for reparations for the descendants of slaves, David prefers to point to the difficulties in deciding who gets paid ( someo...
2013-Feb-16 • 54 minutes
Episode 15: The Burning Bridges Episode (Pt. 1)
You don't need to be a psychologist or a philosopher to enjoy a good, old-fashioned bitch-fest. In the first of a two-part episode (no single compact disc, 8-track, or LP could hold all our complaints), Tamler and David list two of the things that bug them about their respective fields. We take issue with bad writing, brain worship, meaningless questions, and psychologists' obsession with the number two. Enjoy and try not to hold it against us.
2013-Feb-08 • 27 minutes
Episode 14: Bonus Episode on Snitches, Tattletales, and Whistleblowers
In a break from tradition, we recorded a 25-minute episode on the morality of tattletaling, snitching, ratting, and whistleblowing. We discuss why these people seem especially despicable (except for maybe "Bubbles" from "The Wire" and the guy from "The Insider"), and David gets Tamler to agree that he'd never turn him into the police.
2013-Jan-22 • 60 minutes
Episode 13: Beanballs, Blood Feuds, and Collective Moral Responsibility (With Fiery Cushman)
Our classiest episode yet (OK, that's not saying much, but still...)--Psychologist Fiery Cushman joins us for a discussion about collective punishment and collective responsibility. We use Fiery's recent paper on the practice of "beaning" in baseball (punishing one player for a teammate's offense by throwing a 95 MPH fastball at the player's head) to illustrate the phenomenon.
2013-Jan-13 • 73 minutes
Episode 12: Justice for #[email protected] ?
Dave and Tamler square off the role of the victim in criminal punishment and find little to agree about. Tamler defends the restorative justice approach, while Dave expresses skepticism about its value and worries it might even be damaging.
2012-Dec-28 • 76 minutes
Episode 11: It is Morally Wrong to Kill Morgan Freeman (with Yoel Inbar)
Social psychologist Yoel Inbar joins Tamler and David to discuss Clint Eastwood's masterpiece of the Western genre: "Unforgiven." The discussion includes the nature of revenge, the requirements of justice, the rules of nicknaming, and who or what was being referred to as "unforgiven" in the movie's title.
2012-Dec-10 • 59 minutes
Episode 10: Religion, Meaning, and Morality
Does life have meaning if there is no God? Why should I be a good person if there's no reward or punishment waiting for me in the afterlife? Why does religion seem to make people happier and healthier? Dave and Tamler heroically try to answer these questions without being stoned.
2012-Dec-03 • 69 minutes
Episode 9: Social Psychology, Situationism, and Moral Character
After discussing some listener feedback about the movie Swingers, Tamler and David talk about two classic experiments in social psychology: the Milgram Experiments and the Zimbardo Prison experiment. They discuss the power of the situation, its influence on recent philosophy, and whether there is room to believe in moral character and virtue. Also, Tamler admits to his former struggles with hard core street drugs, and Dave ponders which prison gang would be most accepting if he had to serve hard time.
2012-Nov-11 • 71 minutes
Episode 8: Dishonesty, Character, and Dan Ariely
In a very special episode of Very Bad Wizards, Dan Ariely joins David to chat about cheating, character, and the importance of moral rules. Tamler and David sandwich the chat with a discussion about the US Presidential election, the irony of moral psychologists making people do bad things, and end with a full-blown argument about what it means to say that something is morally wrong.
2012-Nov-04 • 67 minutes
Episode 7: Psychopaths and Utilitarians Pt. 2 (Now with more poo poo)
Tamler and David continue their discussion of utilitarian psychopaths (and psychopathic utilitarians), then broaden the discussion to include disgust and empathy. In the end, they resolve all questions about the proper role of emotions in moral judgment.
2012-Oct-20 • 62 minutes
Episode 6: Trolleys, Utilitarians, and Psychopaths (Part 1)
Tamler contemplates ending it all because he can't get 'Call Me Maybe' out of his head, and Dave doesn't try to talk him out of it. This is followed by a discussion about drones, psychopaths, Canadians, Elle Fanning, horrible moral dilemmas, and the biggest rivalry in Ethics: utilitarians vs. Kantians.
2012-Oct-08 • 65 minutes
Episode 5: Revenge, Pt. 2: The Revenge
Dave and Tamler continue their discussion about their favorite topic. They talk about the evolutionary origins of retributive behavior, cross-cultural differences in revenge norms, and the proportionate punishment for someone who gives your wife a foot massage. They also play a clip from an interview they conducted in Nosara with local attorney Andres Gonzalez about the Costa Rican treatment of the criminals they call ‘pobrecitos.’
2012-Sep-20 • 52 minutes
Episode 4: Revenge, Pt. 1
Dave allows Tamler to rant about Sam Harris’s straw man attacks on moral relativism before launching into discussion about revenge, justice, "True Grit," and Michael Dukakis. Though they differ on many issues, Tamler and Dave agree that it’s hard to satirize a guy with shiny boots.
2012-Sep-08 • 62 minutes
Episode 3: "We believe in nothing!" (Cultural diversity, relativism, and moral truth)
Tamler and Dave discuss recent work in philosophy and psychology about the differences in moral values and practices across cultures.
2012-Aug-31 • 74 minutes
Episode 2: The "Dangerous Truth" about Free Will (Free Will and Morality, Pt. 2)
Tamler and David discuss whether giving up our belief in free will makes us more likely to abandon our moral standards.
2012-Aug-30 • 71 minutes
Episode 1: Brains, Robots, and Free Will (Free Will and Morality Pt. 1)
Dave and Tamler talk about the new wave of skepticism about free will and moral responsibility in the popular press from people like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, and argue that neuroscientific data adds little of substance to the case other than telling us what we already know: human beings are natural biological entities. Dave comes out as a Star Trek nerd and asks whether we're all, in the end, like Data the android. They also wonder whether a belief in free will is all that's keeping us from having sex w...