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Podcast Profile: The Minefield

podcast imageTwitter: @RadioNational
Site: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/theminefield
239 episodes
2019 to present
Average episode: 49 minutes
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Categories: Broadcast Radio Programs • Interview-Style • Two Hosts

Podcaster's summary: In a world marked by wicked social problems, The Minefield helps you negotiate the ethical dilemmas, contradictory claims and unacknowledged complicities of modern life.

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List Updated: 2024-Apr-14 06:08 UTC. Episodes: 239. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

Episodes
2024-Apr-11 • 53 minutes
What would the moral obligation to avoid civilian deaths look like in Gaza?
Does the failure on the part of Israel to enable the provision of humanitarian aid or to do everything in its power to prevent civilian casualties suggest “a blameworthy indifference to Palestinian lives”?
2024-Apr-09 • 4 minutes
PRESENTS — Ideas, "Our Bodies, Our Cells"
This isn't a bonus episode of The Minefield. Instead, we wanted to introduce you to a podcast we think of as a kind of kindred spirit to ours. Given the rapid increase in the number of podcasts over the last 7 years or so, it can be difficult to find offerings of real quality, intellectual curiosity, and genuine depth.IDEAS from the CBC is a rich and wide-ranging exploration of contemporary thought and intellectual history. In the age of clickbait and superficial headlines, this is unapologetically a progra...
2024-Apr-04 • 54 minutes
Ramadan — the rediscovery of society
It is important to remember that Thoreau’s motivation for withdrawing was neither escapism nor apolitical quietism. The fact that he departed on 4 July signals an invitation to discover a different way of living together.
2024-Mar-28 • 53 minutes
Ramadan — the importance of friendship
If Thoreau regards withdrawal and solitude as means by which we learn to escape self-deception, then they may well be little more than preparation for the moral demands friends make of one another.
2024-Mar-21 • 53 minutes
Ramadan — the discipline of solitude
Solitude is neither alone-ness nor idleness. It is strenuous and takes practice. Solitude does not simply happen in the way that isolation or loneliness does — it must be inhabited.
2024-Mar-14 • 54 minutes
Ramadan — the necessity of withdrawing
Are periodic bouts of withdrawal from life’s urgent demands and heated debates necessary to regain a sense of our shared humanity, and to renew the commitments that sustain the moral life?
2024-Mar-07 • 53 minutes
Q+A on “the wisdom of crowds”
Waleed Aly, Scott Stephens and philosopher Stephanie Collins field questions from a live studio audience on crowd-behaviour, conformity and the importance of dissent.
2024-Feb-29 • 53 minutes
How much credence should we give to “the wisdom of crowds”?
Ever since Plato, “crowds” have been associated with irrationality, emotivism, conformism, short-term thinking, and herd-like behaviour. But what if it turns out that crowds are collectively more intelligent than their individual members?
2024-Feb-22 • 54 minutes
When is it right to call some act – or someone – “evil”?
What are we trying to convey when we reach for a word like “evil”? Is it something about a person’s actions or character? Is it what they do or the manner in which they do it?
2024-Feb-15 • 54 minutes
From Beyoncé to Taylor Swift — what’s behind the mass appeal of live music events?
It is worth reflecting, not just on what is singular about Taylor Swift at this particular cultural moment — why she attracts both the loyalty and the animus that she does — but on what it is about live music events that now draw millions of people to them.
2024-Feb-08 • 54 minutes
What is the harm in “deepfakes” — and what are they doing to democracy?
Over the last 18 months, enormously powerful generative AI tools have been placed in the hands of anyone who wants them; as a consequence, the internet and our social media feeds have been inundated with wholly or partially synthetic content.
2024-Feb-01 • 54 minutes
How can trust be cultivated in a time of pervasive suspicion?
Because it is sustained by nothing more substantial than a weave of trusted institutions, shared habits and moral commitments, democracies are highly susceptible to the corrosive effects of distrust; Jedediah Purdy joins Waleed and Scott to discuss the necessary conditions for democratic life.
2024-Jan-25 • 53 minutes
What do we lose by succumbing to conspiracy-mindedness?
Ours is a time when institutional distrust, digital disinformation and mutual suspicion have become pervasive — but can democracy withstand epistemic and social fragmentation of this kind?
2024-Jan-18 • 54 minutes
In a screen saturated age, is literacy under threat?
Professor Maryanne Wolf joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss whether we are entering an age of widespread moral illiteracy — an incapacity to engage in the processes that make up the habit of deep reading.
2024-Jan-11 • 54 minutes
What do we lose when we lose the capacity for boredom?
It is fair to say that boredom is a distinctly modern terror. But, as Stan Grant discusses with Waleed and Scott, what if existential boredom points us to our deeper need?
2024-Jan-04 • 54 minutes
Goya’s “Saturn” and its moral challenge
Spanish painter Francisco de Goya’s depiction of Saturn eating his son is a haunting portrait of lust and the fear of one’s own finitude. Christos Tsiolkas joins Waleed and Scott to look into that darkness, and discover what looks back.
2023-Dec-28 • 53 minutes
Politics, farce ... and Fawlty Towers
Now that John Cleese has announced that the iconic series will return, it’s worth examining what made Fawlty Towers a masterpiece — and whether its interaction with the political climate of the 1970s had anything to do with it.
2023-Dec-21 • 53 minutes
What are playlists doing to our ability to listen to music?
Platforms like Spotify have transformed the way people listen to music through their use of recommendation algorithms and customised playlists designed to cater to either a particular activity or a particular mood.
2023-Dec-14 • 54 minutes
Dickens’s philosophy of generosity: Revisiting “A Christmas Carol”, 180 years on
Australian novelist Briohny Doyle joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to examine Charles Dickens’s unforgettable tale of misanthropy and remorse, and discover how its aesthetic techniques and ethical vision continue to speak to us today.
2023-Dec-07 • 54 minutes
How much should we expect from the state?
What is a state for? How does its nature, actions, and limits differ from other corporate bodies? Is the relationship of a state to its citizens fundamentally that of a service provider to its clients?
2023-Nov-30 • 54 minutes
Should drivers of electric vehicles be taxed more to use the roads?
If we are not careful, the use of incentives to encourage people to purchase electric vehicles could backfire by offending our sense of fairness.
2023-Nov-23 • 54 minutes
What is social cohesion, what cultivates it, and what undermines it?
The latest Mapping Social Cohesion report from the Scanlon Foundation paints a complex picture that helps us understand the conditions within which social cohesion is able to strengthen, and those factors which cause it to become brittle and even break down.
2023-Nov-16 • 52 minutes
What is the moral case for a ceasefire in Gaza?
Calls for an end to the devastation of Gaza, and the death and displacement of its residents, reached a crescendo on Remembrance Day. While the moral case is compelling, it raises questions that are complex and consequential.
2023-Nov-09 • 54 minutes
What’s behind the anger? On Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”
Nearly a century after its publication, Australian novelist Charlotte Wood joins Waleed and Scott to discuss what Virginia Woolf’s essay tell us about egotism, contempt, creative freedom and the possibility of moral transformation.
2023-Nov-02 • 54 minutes
Do we know what the result of the Voice referendum means?
Because referenda are zero-sum contests, the message they convey is paradoxically both obscure and unambiguous — which is to say, their meaning is open to interpretation and unintentionally harsh.
2023-Oct-26 • 54 minutes
Is it time to reconsider Australia’s bipartisan commitment to “stopping the boats”?
Australia recently marked ten years since the introduction of Operation Sovereign Borders — a policy whereby refugees entering Australian waters by boat were met with unwavering, military-led deterrence.
2023-Oct-19 • 54 minutes
Some deaths matter more to us than others — but should they?
The civilian massacres in Israel on 7 October and the devastation inflicted on residents of Gaza both make claims on our humanity, on our capacity to recognise and respond to the deaths of others — but some find these claims mutually exclusive.
2023-Oct-12 • 54 minutes
Can young people stay politically engaged without becoming disillusioned with democracy?
One of the great paradoxes of democracy is that those who will have to bear the consequences of the political decisions we make now have little-to-no say in the decision-making process itself.
2023-Oct-05 • 54 minutes
Travel is bad for the climate — but what if it’s also bad for us?
Most of us are aware of the environmental costs associated with international tourism. But have we considered whether travel enhances or diminishes our moral lives?
2023-Sep-28 • 1 minutes
What’s the point of blame? When is it right to forgive?
Blame and forgiveness are two of the most natural responses to wrongdoing — and yet, increasingly, these responses are viewed with a degree of suspicion, if not outright hostility, due to the myriad ways they can go wrong.
2023-Sep-21 • 54 minutes
Can democracy withstand the strategic use of online confusion?
Is there any way of retrieving the deliberative conditions under which democratic life is possible, when the social media cacophony makes hearing one another so hard?
2023-Sep-14 • 53 minutes
In a critical age, are we losing the ability to say why we love what we love?
We’ve reached the point in mass culture, to say nothing of the “higher culture” of academia, when criticism is the norm. To the point that we increasingly define ourselves by what we hate.
2023-Sep-07 • 53 minutes
Facing the darkness: The moral challenge of Goya’s “Saturn devouring his son” (1823)
Spanish painter Francisco de Goya’s depiction of Saturn eating his son is a haunting portrait of lust and the fear of one’s own finitude. Christos Tsiolkas joins Waleed and Scott to look into that darkness, and discover what looks back.
2023-Aug-31 • 53 minutes
When is a referendum an unethical way of resolving a political question?
Now that the PM has announced the date of the referendum, it’s worth remembering that the zero-sum nature of referenda can unleash the kind of bruising rhetoric that does lasting damage to a political community, no matter the outcome.
2023-Aug-24 • 54 minutes
Should climate change make us rethink the ethics of nuclear energy?
Opposition leader Peter Dutton has recently reintroduced the prospect of nuclear power as part of Australia’s commitment to decarbonisation. But what is behind the push for nuclear, and does it make sense in a nation like this?
2023-Aug-17 • 54 minutes
1 May 1956: Was Elizabeth Anscombe right to charge Harry Truman with murder?
When Oxford University proposed to confer an honorary degree on the man who ordered an atomic bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe condemned the decision as “shar[ing] in the guilt of a bad action by praise and flattery”.
2023-Aug-10 • 59 minutes
8 September 1974: Was Gerald Ford right to pardon Richard Nixon?
When US President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon of his crimes, did he thereby place the presidency above the law — or did he understand a hard reality about democratic politics that should inform the multiple prosecutions of Donald Trump?
2023-Aug-03 • 54 minutes
Is there any benefit to boredom?
It is fair to say that boredom is a distinctly modern terror. But, as Stan Grant discusses with Waleed and Scott, what if existential boredom points us to our deeper need?
2023-Jul-27 • 54 minutes
Does AI pose a threat to human life — and if so, what kind?
Are the doomsday scenarios associated with Artificial “Super” Intelligence distracting us from the ways that the pervasive use of AI is already corrupting our use of language and the transmission of knowledge?
2023-Jul-20 • 54 minutes
Are cluster munitions a “lesser evil” in the war in Ukraine?
Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden made the surprising decision to supply Ukraine with cluster munitions. Does the threat posed by Russia outweigh the moral considerations that place such weapons beyond the pale for many other nations?
2023-Jul-13 • 54 minutes
Why do we distance ourselves from our age?
Western culture’s association of ageing with decline and obsolescence fuels (and is fuelled by) a desire to dissociate ourselves from our age — but such forms of subtle and overt ageism express contempt for something that is essentially human.
2023-Jul-06 • 54 minutes
What does it take to address a “wicked problem” like political corruption?
The newly formed National Anti-Corruption Commission faces both unrealistic expectations and a potentially fraught political climate. Professor A.J. Brown joins Waleed and Scott to discuss how it can restore popular faith in democratic politics.
2023-Jun-29 • 54 minutes
What are playlists doing to our ability to listen to music?
Platforms like Spotify have transformed the way people listen to music through their use of recommendation algorithms and customised playlists designed to cater to either a particular activity or a particular mood.
2023-Jun-22 • 53 minutes
How to respond responsibly to the “cost of living crisis”?
The tendency over the past four decades has been for governments to try to shield their populations from energy shocks and their associated “cost of living” crises — but is such a response truly sustainable?
2023-Jun-15 • 53 minutes
Does the Voice to Parliament undermine Australia’s political traditions?
The proposed Voice to Parliament is particularly susceptible to two arguments: that it violates the principle of equal citizenship; and that it will enshrine a divisive form of “identity politics” in Australian public life. Whether these arguments hold depends on our understanding of the meaning of democratic equality.
2023-Jun-08 • 54 minutes
“Succession” — from tyranny to tragedy
The final season of HBO’s prestige television series Succession confirms that the various characters’ willingness to betray, deceive, manipulate and enact an unrelenting cruelty upon one another has all but assured that, in the end, everyone loses.
2023-Jun-01 • 54 minutes
Are Labor’s “stage three” tax cuts unjust and unethical?
It’s been a long time since a policy adopted by the federal government has presented such a knot of party-political, parliamentary, social and ethical problems — Professor Miranda Stewart joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to try to untangle it.
2023-May-25 • 54 minutes
Is Stan Grant’s decision the result of a broken media?
At the end of Monday’s Q+A, Wiradjuri man and journalist Stan Grant stated: “We in the media must ask if we are truly honouring a world worth living in.” Why aren’t more taking him seriously?
2023-May-18 • 53 minutes
What is the human cost of success? Revisiting HBO’s Succession
As the fourth and final series of the HBO television show “Succession” approaches its finale, Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens revisit the first three seasons. Why does this show matter? What does it tell us, despite its opulence and obscenity, about what is of greatest value in human life?
2023-May-11 • 54 minutes
What is the phenomenon of “bigness” doing to human agency?
We live in an era dominated by vast digital platforms, what David Auerbach calls “meganets” – the sheer volume of data they trade in and numbers they produce seem to render them unassailable, irresistable.
2023-May-04 • 54 minutes
Is loneliness a problem that can be solved?
Hyperconnectivity has coincided with an epidemic of loneliness — but is loneliness simply part of the human condition? Samantha Rose Hill joins The Minefield to discuss whether we can counter its harmful effects while nurturing genuine solitude.
2023-Apr-27 • 54 minutes
Martial virtues, military conditioning, and moral damage
Can soldiers be trained to kill their fellow human beings without that training doing irreparable damage to the moral lives of the soldiers themselves?
2023-Apr-20 • 54 minutes
“An eye that cannot weep” — What does compassion demand of us?
In the final episode of our Ramadan series, we explore the roots of our occasional heedlessness when confronted by the plight and pleas of another person: What could make us callous to their suffering, and how should we respond?
2023-Apr-13 • 54 minutes
“Knowledge that does not benefit” — On the uses and abuses of information
In the fourth instalment of our Ramadan series, we discuss whether “knowledge” which is wielded in a way that demeans others, or which is accumulated as a form of vanity, can really be considered beneficial?
2023-Apr-06 • 54 minutes
“A soul that will not be satisfied” — The problem of human restlessness
For this third show in our Ramadan series, we’re asking what it is about the human condition that seems to drive it to perpetual discontentment? What is the virtue of repose, and when does “contentment” become indolence or conformity, a chronic lack of curiosity?
2023-Mar-30 • 54 minutes
“A prayer that is not heard” — The dangers of ego-centric speech
Ego-centrism is a form of inattentiveness, a failure to be responsive to the moral reality of another person. In this second instalment in our Ramadan series, we explore how such inattentiveness can corrupt our words and actions.
2023-Mar-23
“A heart that cannot humble itself” — The virtue of intellectual humility
What does it mean to be intellectually humble? How might such humility be cultivated? What are its benefits — both to ourselves and to those around us?
2023-Mar-16
Should Fawlty Towers’ farcical vision of Britain be “rebooted”?
Now that John Cleese has announced that the iconic series will return, it’s worth examining what made Fawlty Towers a masterpiece — and whether its interaction with the political climate of the 1970s had anything to do with it.
2023-Mar-09
What does the failure of Robodebt tell us about the government’s “duty of care”?
What made the Online Compliance Initiative — better known as the Robodebt scheme — so egregious is the way it was designed to treat those purported to be “welfare cheats” with utter contempt.
2023-Mar-02
What does it mean to be a moral parent?
Even though we rarely frame it in these terms, it is hardly inappropriate to refer to the relationship between a parent and a child as a moral relationship. Professor Luara Ferracioli joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to explore the nature, and limits, of that relationship.
2023-Feb-23
Should early childhood education be compulsory?
There are good political and philosophical reasons for seeing free and equal access to early childhood education as an expression of our shared commitment to justice.
2023-Feb-16
Sports betting: Is it corrupting what it means to be a fan?
Dr Lauren Gurrieri joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss the sophisticated ways sports gambling operators are targeting new clientele — through targeted ads and by parasitising existing social media technologies.
2023-Feb-09
What is generative-AI doing to our capacity to write — and think?
Professor Naomi Baron joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss whether ChatGPT and its soon-to-be-released competitors, with their lure of efficiency and ease, are threatening the human ability to write.
2023-Feb-02
What does it mean to be “literate” — and is it under threat?
Professor Maryanne Wolf joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss whether we are entering an age of widespread moral illiteracy — an incapacity to engage in the processes that make up the habit of deep reading.
2023-Jan-26
What’s at stake in this year’s constitutional referendum?
Professor Mark McKenna discusses with Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens why any proposal to change the Australian Constitution must navigate Australians’ conservative disposition and underlying sense of national pride.
2023-Jan-19
What’s the point of political comedy?
While political comedy has long been a distinguishing feature of truly democratic cultures, one of the more notable shifts over the past two decades has been the merger of comedy into political commentary. What has this done to the conditions of our common life?
2023-Jan-12
The ethics of shame
Perhaps no “moral emotion” in our time is more reviled than shame. It is regarded, certainly in the West, as uniquely destructive to a healthy sense of self, as psychologically damaging and socially abusive, and to be avoided at all costs. Professor Owen Flanagan joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss whether shame has been given a bad rap, and why we might need more of it.
2023-Jan-05
Is anger corrosive to the moral life? A conversation with Christos Tsiolkas
There is no doubt that emotions like anger can be a proper response to the persistence of injustice or inequality or prejudice or cruelty in the world. But it can also be exhausting and insatiable in its desire for retribution, or to impose one’s will upon the world. Should we, then, seek to renounce anger?
2022-Dec-29
Purification and the Moral Life: Disciplining the Eyes
There are habits of seeing which can corrupt our moral lives, or clutter our vision, or defile our imaginations. Just as there is a “contemptuous gaze”, as Iris Murdoch puts it, there are also “eyes tempered by grace”. So what might it mean to undergo a “fast for the eyes” in order to see the world more clearly?
2022-Dec-22
The Art of Living: Jane Austen's "Emma"
In Jane Austen’s novel Emma, we find an abiding concern with the demands, not just of propriety, but of morality, an attentiveness to the dangers of self-deception, and vivid reminders of the importance of friendship to progress in the moral life.
2022-Dec-21 • 54 minutes
Bonus episode: The 2022 Simone Weil Lecture on Human Value
In November 2022, Scott Stephens delivered the 20th annual Simone Weil Lecture on Human Value hosted by the Australian Catholic University. His topic was the moral conditions of democratic life.
2022-Dec-15
Should you avoid disagreements this Christmas or welcome them?
Over the next few weeks, we are bound to be in the same space with some most disagreeable company. Is this a prospect we should dread?
2022-Dec-08
The ethical demands of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967)
Does Stanley Kramer's 1967 film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", have to make too many sacrifices in order to be morally palatable to its white audience?
2022-Dec-01
Is jealousy a moral emotion, or an immoral one?
Jealousy is one of those rare emotions whose presence or evidence is almost always looked down upon, but whose total absence is also viewed with a certain suspicion, even disdain. So how does it differ from envy? Can jealousy ever be "moral"?
2022-Nov-24
Is fashion remaking our bodies?
Ever since the advent of “ready-to-wear” mass-produced clothing, the brands and prevailing fashions they establish hold out a kind of “idealised” body to which wearers must conform.
2022-Nov-17
Is civility a moral obligation in a democracy?
In our time, civility has gotten a bad name — usually by being reduced to something like politeness or courtesy. But is that all there is to civility?
2022-Nov-10
Queen at Live Aid, 1985
There is no denying that Queen’s set at Live Aid on 13 July 1985 was one of the most electrifying live performances ever captured. But did Queen simply pull out their “greatest hits”, or were they attuned to the ethical demands of the occasion?Guest: Shane Homan is the Head of the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.
2022-Nov-03
Disruption or continuity: What does climate change demand?
Movements like Extinction Rebellion and Effective Altruism both regard the fact of climate change and the impending threat of climate catastrophe as moral realities that cannot be ignored. Which is the more fitting response?
2022-Oct-27
Sports, sponsorship and solidarity
How far should clubs be expected to go when it comes to accommodating the ethical or religious objections of their players to wear sponsor logos?
2022-Oct-20
What are the moral limits of compromise?
Politics is sometimes called the “art of the possible”, which entails sacrificing what is ideal for the sake what is tolerable and achievable. But when are such compromises virtuous, and when are they a form of consent to injustice?
2022-Oct-13
Can Twitter be reformed, or should it be abandoned?
What are we to make of Elon Musk’s claims about “free speech” and about a private company functioning as a “de facto public town square”?
2022-Oct-06
Live from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas: Is contempt corroding democracy?
Because of the pervasiveness of contempt, we no longer see those with whom we radically disagree as members of a common moral community, and therefore as participants in a shared political project.
2022-Sep-29
How should the West respond to the threats of a wounded Putin?
Ukraine has enjoyed remarkable military success against Russian invaders — thanks, in no small part, to the financial support and weaponry provided by Western nations. In response, President Vladimir Putin has raised the possibility of nuclear retaliation. Does such a prospect change the moral calculus of the West’s support of and solidarity with Ukraine?
2022-Sep-22
Can sport teach us anything about the shape of a fair society?
Are the more deleterious tendencies of economy and culture moulding sport after its own image?
2022-Sep-15
Was Queen Elizabeth a “political” figure?
In a time when everything is politicised, it is worth noting that so many people have such evident affection for a figure who stood above the political fray. Does democratic politics require apolitical institutions in order to be healthy?
2022-Sep-08
Is nostalgia necessarily a bad thing?
Over the last century, we’ve seen the profound longing for a way of life that has seemingly been “lost” — or, more insidiously, “stolen” — be weaponised by cunning politicians and turned against members of a political community. But should nostalgia simply be dismissed?
2022-Sep-01
What do we owe our work?
For many people, burning-out is taken as proof of our dedication to our jobs. Have we finally reached the point where we can re-envision the relationship between work and life?
2022-Aug-25
How much should we care about Scott Morrison’s “secret ministries”?
For the last two weeks, Australian political coverage has been consumed by a series of decisions undertaken by the former Prime Minister. What made them so serious? How far should we go to ensure they can't happen again?
2022-Aug-18
How much polarisation can a democracy withstand?
Democracies assume that there will be a high level of disagreement among its members. But what happens when those disagreements become incommensurable, when the parties become unintelligible to one another?
2022-Aug-11
The ethics of shame
Perhaps no “moral emotion” in our time is more reviled than shame. It is regarded, certainly in the West, as uniquely destructive to a healthy sense of self, as psychologically damaging and socially abusive, and to be avoided at all costs. Professor Owen Flanagan joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss whether shame has been given a bad rap, and why we might need more of it.
2022-Aug-04 • 54 minutes
Can constitutional recognition be an act of patriotic pride?
In his speech to the Garma Festival, PM Anthony Albanese put it to the nation that constitutionally enshrining a First Nations Voice would not undermine Australia’s national identity, but more fully express it. Professor Tim Soutphommasane joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss the nature and moral limits of patriotism, and whether it can co-exist with an appropriate sense of national remorse, even shame.
2022-Jul-28 • 54 minutes
Should voice assistants use the voices of our loved ones?
Amazon recently unveiled its plans for an update to Alexa that will enable the device to sound like someone you love — even someone who has died. Professor Yolande Strengers joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to unpack why this is such a bad idea, and how to understand the ethical limits of our relationship with technology.
2022-Jul-21 • 54 minutes
What's the point of political "diversity"?
Following the ignominious resignation of Boris Johnson, the Tories are looking for a new leader — and the UK a new Prime Minister. The cast of contenders is the most diverse we’ve seen, but that hasn’t yielded a notably different political vision. Why? ANU political scientist Marija Taflaga joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss the significance of and constraints on diversity in political representation.
2022-Jul-14 • 54 minutes
Does standpoint epistemology undermine democratic politics?
Democratic politics is more than a matter of power. It is predicated on the possibility of discovering common ground through practices of mutual recognition, exchange, attentiveness, and understanding.
2022-Jul-07 • 54 minutes
The Art of Living: Jane Austen's "Emma"
In Jane Austen’s novel Emma, we find an abiding concern with the demands, not just of propriety, but of morality, an attentiveness to the dangers of self-deception, and vivid reminders of the importance of friendship to progress in the moral life.
2022-Jun-30 • 54 minutes
Persuasion — is it possible, or even desirable?
Far too much debate today is more like a play of competing monologues, or self-promotion designed to perform for one’s tribe. Should we give up on the fantasy of persuasion through argumentation and cascading theses altogether?
2022-Jun-23 • 54 minutes
Is Julian Assange entitled to a “free speech” defence?
Julian Assange’s defenders claim that the free speech protections afforded to news organisations should apply to Assange as well — and that his impending extradition to the US therefore poses a threat to democracy. Professor Katharine Gelber joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss whether the free speech argument holds.
2022-Jun-16 • 54 minutes
What’s the point of political comedy?
While political comedy has long been a distinguishing feature of truly democratic cultures, one of the more notable shifts over the past two decades has been the merger of comedy into political commentary. What has this done to the conditions of our common life?
2022-Jun-09 • 54 minutes
What would a First Nations Voice mean for Australia?
Five years after the historic gathering at the red centre, Anthony Albanese used his election night victory speech to “commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full”. Professor Megan Davis joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens on The Minefield to discuss some of the obstacles that stand in the way of a constitutional referendum, and how a First Nations Voice might transform the moral fabric of our politics.
2022-Jun-02 • 54 minutes
The ethical dilemmas of crowd-funding platforms
Social media platforms have been the objects of unrelenting public and political scrutiny over the past decade. Rather less attention has been paid to their more benign cousins — so called “crowd-funding platforms” like GoFundMe. Until now. For what happens when one person’s worthy cause is another’s moral abomination?
2022-May-26 • 54 minutes
What is the significance of Australia’s federal election?
Does the 2022 federal election tell us anything about the future of Australian democracy? We know that the Coalition was resoundingly defeated. But does Australia’s new patchwork parliament hold out a surprising model for how some of the inherent limits of representative politics can be overcome?
2022-May-19 • 4 minutes
How do you solve a problem like housing affordability?
There is an inescapable conflict that any policy meant to address housing affordability must contend with: in order to make home-ownership more achievable for some, the value of houses must decrease — thereby offending the way we have been urged to see houses as an instrument of financial accumulation. Professor Victoria Ong ViforJ joins The Minefield to discuss whether there is a solution.
2022-May-12 • 54 minutes
Is it ethical to be ambivalent?
We live in a time when “hot” emotions prevail. It could be that an alternative sentiment, in some ethically complex circumstances, is ambivalence — which is to say, a willingness to withhold judgment, to linger in the interval between two options.
2022-May-05 • 54 minutes
Sovereignty, security, and the Solomon Islands
By turning the Solomon Islands into a federal election “issue”, Australia has emphasised the national security implications of their agreement with China. PM Manasseh Sogavare has, in response, asserted their right to “manage our sovereign affairs”. ANU’s Terence Wood joins The Minefield to discuss the tension between security and sovereignty, and what it all means for Solomon Island’s democratic culture.
2022-Apr-28
Purification and the Moral Life: The Ethics of Hunger and Eating
Few of life’s activities are as morally complicated as eating. If food has become, in our time, a source of nourishment for what Iris Murdoch calls the “fat relentless ego”, what might it mean to transform food into a means of achieving companionability with others?
2022-Apr-21 • 1 minutes
Purification and the Moral Life: Disciplining the Eyes
There are habits of seeing which can corrupt our moral lives, or clutter our vision, or defile our imaginations. Just as there is a “contemptuous gaze”, as Iris Murdoch puts it, there are also “eyes tempered by grace”. So what might it mean to undergo a “fast for the eyes” in order to see the world more clearly?
2022-Apr-14 • 54 minutes
Purification and the Moral Life: Chastening Speech
Of all the ways we interact with the world and with the moral reality of other persons, none is as fundamental as speech. In a time when we are saturated with words, what might it mean to purify our language?
2022-Apr-07 • 54 minutes
Purification and the Moral Life: Transforming Desire
What if the impediments to moral growth are not purely or even primarily external to us? During the month of Ramadan, we explore the inner tension between our tendency toward egotism, craving, and self-deception, and the task of cultivating the virtues of humility, self-restraint, and moral clarity.
2022-Mar-31 • 54 minutes
Is anger corrosive to the moral life? A conversation with Christos Tsiolkas
There is no doubt that emotions like anger can be a proper response to the persistence of injustice or inequality or prejudice or cruelty in the world. But it can also be exhausting and insatiable in its desire for retribution, or to impose one’s will upon the world. Should we, then, seek to renounce anger?
2022-Mar-24 • 54 minutes
Live from WOMADelaide: Should children get the vote?
The question of whether the franchise should be extended to children has become an increasingly pressing topic in political theory. But why would we want them to vote? Is it in the interests of political equality? It is to achieve a specific outcome — say, more future-oriented, climate friendly policies? Or is it to cultivate the necessary democratic virtues?
2022-Mar-17 • 54 minutes
What's at stake in the conflict in Ukraine?
It is hardly surprising that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been met by fierce, swift, and unified opposition on the part of the West and their allies — who have offered strategic support to the Ukrainian military, and isolated Russia through an unprecedented regime of economic, diplomatic, and cultural sanctions. What might this mean for international responses to other such atrocities elsewhere?
2022-Mar-10 • 54 minutes
What’s worse in politics — lying or hypocrisy?
Lying has become so commonplace in politics that it has almost become expected — if not quite accepted. Many politicians who are notoriously promiscuous with the truth even remain relatively popular. Whereas few things infuriate voters like hypocrisy. Should hypocrisy bother us as much as it does? Should we be quite as blasé about political lying as we seem to be?
2022-Mar-03 • 3 minutes
"Succession" — A Theatre of Cruelty
Works of art, both high and low, can inform and inflect a moral vision of the world. It makes sense to approach works of art with an attentiveness to the light they shed on our lives and our life together. But does this still apply to the award-winning HBO series “Succession”, with its evident delight in cruelty, cunning, and almost virtuosic vulgarity?
2022-Feb-24 • 54 minutes
Does Australia have a concept of “solidarity”?
Two years ago Scott Morrison raised the drawbridge, effectively sealing “Fortress Australia” off from the rest of the world. What effect has the act of separating Australian citizens and residents from the world and from each other had on our sense of national life, identity, and solidarity? “We” may be “all in this together” — but who, exactly, can be said to count among this “we”?
2022-Feb-17 • 54 minutes
Was the Religious Discrimination Bill destined to fail?
The debate over the Religious Discrimination Bill has exposed a tension at the heart of the liberal vision of a pluralistic society, in which citizens commit to living together despite their profound disagreement over matters of highest importance. What happens when disagreement becomes a cause of harm?
2022-Feb-10 • 54 minutes
How essential is compulsory voting to Australia’s democratic culture?
The practice of compulsory voting, along with the two other pillars of Australia’s electoral system — preferential voting and non-partisan election administration — have kept Australian democracy remarkably stable over the past hundred years. But just how much can we rely on these formal elements of Australian democracy to safeguard Australia’s democratic culture?
2022-Feb-03 • 54 minutes
Are we suffering from too much moral language?
The misuse of moral language in public debate is nothing new. But in our social-media saturated age, this misuse has taken on a distinct and rather perfidious form. Morally weighted language is regularly used to grant excessive or abusive claims, and personal or categorical insults, an air of moral seriousness. This kind of language marks the end of conversation. Are we better off without it?
2022-Jan-27 • 54 minutes
Novak and Boris — why have they elicited such strong public emotions?
Over the past two months, the conduct of two prominent figures have evoked fierce expressions of public emotion. What explains the intensity of feeling? Have these emotions distorted the public’s judgment, or have they granted that judgment a certain moral clarity?
2022-Jan-20 • 54 minutes
Why don’t we talk more about class?
It’s become a sad commonplace in our time to hear the lines along which democratic societies are now divided. What is often absent, however, is mention of class. Why? Do Korean films like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, or Hwang Dong-hyuk’s smash hit Squid Game, have anything to teach us? Atlantic staff writer George Packer joins us.
2022-Jan-13 • 54 minutes
What are we doing when we "quote"?
How might we avoid bad faith quotations, served up in vain interests, and locate ourselves, our hearers, our readers, in a community of mutual interest and intellectual wonder — not so much using quotations, as exposing ourselves to their provocation?
2022-Jan-06 • 54 minutes
Emojis: Universal language, or harbinger of an age of moral illiteracy?
They seem innocuous, but since their invention more than two decades ago, emojis have come to permeate our forms of online communication. Indeed, they are the perfect expression of what communication has become in a social-media saturated age.
2021-Dec-30 • 54 minutes
Should journalists stay away from social media?
Over the last year, there have been a number of high-profile cases where journalists have either landed themselves in legal trouble, or have sparked fierce backlash, due to their conduct on social media. This raises complex problems, not just for the public’s perception of journalists, their impartiality and credibility, but also of the news organisations to which they belong.
2021-Dec-23 • 54 minutes
Is "opinion" doing more harm than good?
Opinion writing plays a disproportionate role in our media eco-system: it drives online traffic, fuels emotion, feeds the forces of polarisation, and promotes an incapacity to understand one another. But is there a different way to think about opinion?
2021-Dec-16 • 54 minutes
“Prestige television” and the moral life
One of the most notable cultural changes to have taken place over the past two decades is the emergence of “prestige television” — which is to say, television as the visual equivalent of literature, and with similar ambitions. What has this shift done to our moral sensibilities, or to our understanding of the shape and demands and limits and possibilities of the moral life?
2021-Dec-09 • 54 minutes
Should wealthy nations be procuring booster doses?
Now that vaccines are enjoying widespread coverage among wealthy nations, and with the recent emergence of the Omicron variant and rapidly rising rates of infection in the United States and throughout Europe, many states have begun implementing domestic booster campaigns. But this presents thorny ethical problems involving vaccine distribution and global equity.
2021-Dec-02 • 54 minutes
The ethics of “sh*t-stirring”
In a time when so many opinions are clamouring for views in our debauched attention economy, “sh*t-stirring” has become an irresistible strategy to get oneself noticed. But it does so at a cost, not least to the reputational cost of those who practice it — including moral philosophers. So what is the difference between “sh*t-stirring” and something like virtuous provocation?
2021-Nov-25 • 54 minutes
Melbourne’s protests — last gasp or harbinger of things to come?
Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen a new wave public protests grow in both size and palpable anger in Victoria. With politicians already trying to make the most of these demonstrations in the lead-up to next year’s federal election, what are their implications for representative politics in Australia?
2021-Nov-18 • 54 minutes
The ethics of political U-turns
How much leeway should we give politicians to change, if not their minds, then at least their positions? Under what circumstances are political “U-turns” not liable to condemnation or censure? When should they be met with suspicion, and when should they be received as a reflection of the hard realities of representative politics itself?
2021-Nov-11 • 54 minutes
Why don’t we talk more about class?
It’s become a sad commonplace in our time to hear the lines along which democratic societies are now divided. What is often absent, however, is mention of class. Why? Do Korean films like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, or Hwang Dong-hyuk’s smash hit Squid Game, have anything to teach us? Atlantic staff writer George Packer joins us.
2021-Nov-04 • 54 minutes
Should we enjoy sports that ruin athletes' lives?
Every so often, fans are forced to reckon with the high price that sports can exact on the lives of athletes. In such moments, we are compelled to ask: Is our enjoyment worth the cost?
2021-Oct-28 • 54 minutes
What are we doing when we “quote”?
How might we avoid bad faith quotations, served up in vain interests, and locate ourselves, our hearers, our readers, in a community of mutual interest and intellectual wonder — not so much using quotations, as exposing ourselves to their provocation?
2021-Oct-21 • 54 minutes
How much should we care about climate change?
There is a growing evidence that people have accepted the reality of climate change and the need for action. But there is significant divergence in attitudes toward the salience of the problem — which is to say, how big a problem it is, how much it should matter to us, and where to rank climate change in a list of national priorities.
2021-Oct-14 • 54 minutes
Persuasion — is it possible, or even desirable?
Far too much debate today is more like a play of competing monologues, or forms of self-promotion designed to perform for one’s tribe. Should we give up on the fantasy of persuasion through argumentation and cascading theses, as some philosophers have, or do we need to rethink the conditions of persuasion altogether?
2021-Oct-07 • 54 minutes
Has the pandemic shown the unassailability of utilitarianism — or its inherent limitations?
As the philosopher Bernard Williams anticipated, utilitarianism has largely disappeared from public view, not because it is no longer adhered to, but because it has become the “operating system” that governs most of our public decision-making. What the COVID-19 pandemic has done is make that hidden calculus explicit.
2021-Sep-30 • 54 minutes
Has democratic politics become too contemptuous of everyday life?
In modern politics and moral philosophy, what is most meaningfully human is regularly ignored in the interests of solving “real problems”. While this is often understandable, it also points to a certain debility, a malaise at the heart of the way forms of both representative politics and moral philosophy are often practiced: an inattention to the “everyday”.
2021-Sep-23 • 54 minutes
Should we avoid humiliating the unvaccinated?
If levels of strident “vaccine hesitancy” in Australia are extremely low, and the push to help the population reach the necessary vaccination threshold is more logistical than it is ideological, should we continue publicly to use language and to employ punitive measures which effectively humiliate or ostracise the unvaccinated?
2021-Sep-17 • 6 minutes
PRESENTS — This Much Is True
Even in a scientifically enlightened, media-savvy age, conspiracy theories have proven strangely resilient. They just don’t seem to want to go away, and many people seemingly can’t get their fill. We’ve touched on the odd persistence of conspiracy theories on this show in the past, but now RN has devoted an entire series to what makes conspiracies attractive, how people find themselves swallowed up by them, and, perhaps most importantly, how people have found their way out.
2021-Sep-16 • 54 minutes
From Abu Ghraib to Nakhon Sawan — why does torture persist?
The events of 9/11 are inseparable from the horrors of what was subsequently revealed about the use of torture against detainees in locations like Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. What does the persistence of torture say about political communities that continue to countenance its use?
2021-Sep-09 • 54 minutes
Australian politics – is the divide geographical, not ideological?
In the face of the latest COVID-19 outbreaks, there is little that has differentiated the governing strategies of Liberal and Labor state governments — certainly not at the level of practice. Are we witnessing a more long-term scrambling of Australia’s already unclear political divisions?
2021-Sep-02 • 54 minutes
Should journalists stay away from social media?
Over the last year, there have been a number of high-profile cases where journalists have either landed themselves in legal trouble, or have sparked fierce backlash, due to their conduct on social media. This raises complex problems, not just for the public’s perception of journalists, their impartiality and credibility, but also of the news organisations to which they belong.
2021-Aug-26 • 54 minutes
Was US failure in Afghanistan inevitable?
Does the swift collapse of the US-backed Afghan government suggest that places like Afghanistan are ungovernable by anything other than brute force and unimpeded corruption — or does it suggest that the ultimate folly of the post-9/11 wars was the conceit of “nation building” itself?
2021-Aug-19 • 54 minutes
The ethics of dobbing
Snitching, ratting, dobbing, grassing — these are all words for behaviour that we are taught, at a very young age, to find reprehensible. Is our reticence to “dob” an expression of a worrying disposition toward non-intervention, or is it an expression, even if a perverse one, of a deeper moral principle?
2021-Aug-12 • 54 minutes
How much dissent is permissible in a public health emergency?
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of “emergency politics”, in which the normal processes of democratic deliberation and public accountability have been suspended. In a public health crisis, is democratic dissent a problem to be solved, or a resource for a more sustainable, mutually beneficial outcome?
2021-Aug-05 • 54 minutes
Can national shame lead to political change?
Could the full acknowledgement of the extent of our complicity in the injustices of the past, constitute a galvanising principle, the basis upon which a new political community is formed? Is shame really inimical to national pride, or is it rather one of its expressions?
2021-Jul-29 • 54 minutes
The ethics of space tourism
A new “space race” is underway – except this time, it’s not between the United States and Russia, or even China and India. Instead, billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson are spearheading the lucrative “space tourism” industry. Should this be seen as a source of hope, or simply one more expression of capitalism’s dogma of infinite growth.
2021-Jul-22 • 54 minutes
Myanmar — what are the limits of political violence?
The military coup, which overturned the results of last November’s national election, has plunged Myanmar into a cycle of escalating violence. This poses quite specific questions about the legitimacy and limits of revolutionary violence, and the kind of political community that might be left in its wake.
2021-Jul-15 • 54 minutes
Is COVID-19 bringing the worst out of Australian politics?
What is the prolonged experience of the pandemic showing us about the nature of Australian politics, the limits of executive power, the role of experts in the administration of public life, and the fault-lines that continue to undermine our sense of common purpose?
2021-Jul-08 • 54 minutes
Is nihilism compatible with the moral life?
In moral philosophy and mass culture alike, “nihilism” has a bad name. And little wonder. It is most often associated with meaninglessness, pessimism, and amoralism. At its heart, nihilism is a view of the world in which progress is not assured, a world without overarching meaning. Does that present a problem to the moral life?
2021-Jul-01 • 54 minutes
Has justice been done to George Floyd?
Is the conviction and sentencing of Derek Chauvin something to be celebrated as an indication of moral progress? Can the shared horror over George Floyd’s murder, and the solidarity that followed it, galvanise a fresh commitment to justice and a preparedness to sacrifice existing privileges?
2021-Jun-24 • 54 minutes
What's so bad about laughter?
Philosophy’s concern with laughter is as old as philosophy itself. The association of laughter with derision and contempt runs through the concerns of philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Hobbes and Nietzsche. But is there laughter beyond ridicule and derision? Can laughter be transformative or liberating?
2021-Jun-17 • 54 minutes
What are we doing when we make promises?
Should we be bound by the constraints of our former self, and the promises we have made in the past? Is moral progress a matter of consistency with one’s previous self, away from one’s previous self, or toward ever-enriching relationships with others?
2021-Jun-10 • 54 minutes
Are there ethical limits to vaccination incentives?
Should certain privileges be afforded to those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine (from international travel to attending sports venues and restaurants)? Could such privileges act as incentives (and if so, under what conditions), or are they more likely to produce deep feelings of inequity and resentment?
2021-Jun-03 • 54 minutes
Aged care: How do we honour our obligations to the elderly?
The Royal Commission into Aged Care and the ravages of COVID-19 within aged care facilities have thrown a spotlight on the adequacy, the ethics and the dignity of our ongoing care of the elderly. To what extent have entrenched patterns of ageist prejudice created the conditions within which certain forms of abuse and neglect could take place? And what can we do to challenge and change these prejudices?
2021-May-27 • 54 minutes
Is it ever OK to abandon your team?
Attachment to sporting clubs is one of our deepest and most emotionally charged forms of prejudice. But what about those moments when a fan decides she can no longer support her team? Has she betrayed her team? Alternatively, in what ways can clubs betray their fans?
2021-May-20 • 54 minutes
What are the conditions of co-existence in Israel-Palestine?
The incommensurability of the claims in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict produces a kind of moral absolutism, whereby one side is entirely to blame and another is entirely justified. But are there moral resources that can be brought to bear which grant the legitimacy of the maximal claims of both sides, and then set about exploring the conditions of mutual recognition?
2021-May-13 • 54 minutes
Fatigue – the emotional cost of the moral life?
Fatigue is a fascinating moral phenomenon. It can be a consequence of attentiveness, a willingness to face the realities of the world. But it can also be a form of avoidance, of “moral laziness”, the symptom of an active desire not to confront matters that seem to call for our attention. What are the dangers of fatigue, and how are we to respond to it when it overtakes us?
2021-May-06 • 54 minutes
Neglected Practices: Solitude
How do we practice solitude in a time rich with distractions and which exhibits peculiar aversion to (and fear of) loneliness? And when we are alone with ourselves, how do we avoid the dangers of self-deception such that solitude becomes genuinely transformative — for us, and for others?
2021-Apr-29 • 54 minutes
Neglected Practices: Fasting
While fasting is an observance associated with Ramadan, versions the practice are broadly familiar to us — from the forms of “self-restraint” that are bound up with physical fitness, to advice commending the health benefits of a regular 14-hour fast. But are these forms of “self-care” just further preoccupations with “the self”, rendering us forgetful of the needs of the moral life?
2021-Apr-22 • 54 minutes
Neglected Practices: Not-Knowing
One of the defining features of our time is the overproduction of what could be called “useless knowledge” — ranging from gossip and empty speculation, to undeniably important “news” which makes no claim on our moral lives other than that we have an opinion about it. In a world full of competing distractions, could it be that one of the greatest moral challenges is how to limit what we know?
2021-Apr-15 • 54 minutes
Neglected Practices: Attentiveness
With the proliferation of digital distractions and addictive technologies, many of us live in a state of perpetual half-attention. We tend to move from one “sugar-hit” to the next — stimuli which elicit strong if transitory emotions, but discourage us from being present, entirely, to one person, one text, one idea. What is the lack of attentiveness doing to our moral lives?
2021-Apr-08 • 54 minutes
What should become of the office?
Will the experience of working-from-home make employees reluctant to resume the daily struggle with traffic or public transportation, or to put up with irritating co-workers and unproductive work environments? Or will we discover that we’ve missed something precious in being deprived of interactions with others?
2021-Apr-01 • 54 minutes
Can politics bring about the change women are demanding?
It’s understandable that so much anger should be directed at the federal government, and that the federal government’s numerous missteps and failures to respond appropriately to what this moment demands have added insult to injury. But if the problem is culture-wide, can federal politics be the solution?
2021-Mar-25 • 54 minutes
Has COVID-19 undermined our commitment to civility?
One of the perhaps underappreciated aspects of COVID-19 is the way the pandemic has dealt a blow to these daily interactions which reinforce our commitment to a common life. What is ‘civility’? What is the regulative role it plays in our common life?
2021-Mar-18 • 54 minutes
Does climate change challenge our concept of moral responsibility?
Does our limited conception of moral responsibility stem from a profound failure to recognise our interconnectedness, the extent to which our lives are implicated in the suffering and wellbeing of others – human and nonhuman?
2021-Mar-11 • 54 minutes
What “justice” can an independent inquiry deliver?
In the absence of a police investigation into an historical allegation of sexual assault against the Attorney-General, many Australians have pinned their hopes on an independent, arms-length, confidential inquiry. Professor Rosalind Dixon joins us to discuss the legal and moral grounds for such an inquiry.
2021-Mar-04 • 54 minutes
Emojis: Universal language, or harbinger of an age of moral illiteracy?
They seem innocuous, but since their invention more than two decades ago, emojis have come to permeate our forms of online communication. Indeed, they are the perfect expression of what communication has become in a social-media saturated age.
2021-Feb-25 • 54 minutes
Facebook and the news: should the divorce be permanent?
The measures Facebook has taken over the past week have precipitated a long-overdue reckoning. Now that the “social network” has lifted the veil on its ambitions and civic disdain, how can news media companies continue, in good conscience, with their Faustian pact?
2021-Feb-18 • 54 minutes
What can our experience of art tell us about the moral life?
Professor Rita Felski joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to explore whether a better understanding of the nature of aesthetic experience – of what art does to us, and why – can give us a better sense of the nature of moral disagreement, and of how it is that we might come to discover a shared world.
2021-Feb-11 • 54 minutes
What democracy needs to survive
Do Republicans have an obligation to convict and impeach Trump, for the sake of the health of the body politic? Can democracy itself survive when each “side” casts its electoral success as necessary to the survival of the nation, and the “other side” as an existential threat?
2021-Feb-04 • 54 minutes
Is “opinion” doing more harm than good?
Opinion writing plays a disproportionate role in our media eco-system: it drives online traffic, fuels emotion, feeds the forces of polarisation, and promotes an incapacity to understand one another. But is there a different way to think about opinion?
2021-Jan-28 • 54 minutes
Was Twitter right to suspend Trump?
Perhaps the most consequential event over the last two months was decision of social media companies to ban Donald Trump — permanently or indefinitely — from their platforms “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”. Why are some vaguely uneasy about this move? Are there valid ethical objections?
2021-Jan-20 • 51 minutes
Is "cancel culture" really constricting free speech?
How does liberal democracy manage incommensurable disagreement? Do the moral and political demands for justice and inclusion trump the principles of free expression and open debate? What is the moral status of "opinion"?
2021-Jan-13 • 47 minutes
What is AI doing to the moral life?
It is the nature of technology to insinuate itself into our daily lives, and to convince us that it is both benevolent by design and utterly indispensable. Little wonder that we have invited digital domestic assistants into our homes and lives at an alarming rate — but at what cost?
2021-Jan-06 • 44 minutes
After the fires, are we invited to moral community with trees?
Over summer last year, Australia witnessed the devastation of forests and the immolation of wildlife on an unimaginable scale. The emotional or even the tragic content of the bushfires has been — understandably — reserved for the loss of human life and home and livelihood, and for the loss of some non-human animals. But why do we grieve fauna and not flora? What if these fires present to us an invitation we refuse to heed: an invitation to rediscover moral companionship, moral community with trees?
2020-Dec-30 • 51 minutes
Ordinary vices: Impatience
The vice of impatience reflects a particular relationship to time: the notion that time is a finite commodity that ‘must be made the most of’, not an opportunity for encounter or an invitation to attentiveness and mutual discovery. Better put, impatience is ultimately about control.
2020-Dec-23 • 42 minutes
Ordinary vices: Is pride an affront to, or the basis of, dignity?
Can pride be ‘redeemed’, and form the basis of human dignity, or is pride as such a form of moral corruption, a debased form of moral vision?
2020-Dec-16 • 47 minutes
The “great audit”: Taking stock of 2020
This is a year that has thrown up a sometimes dizzying series of crises and moral conundrums. On this, our last show of 2020, we try to take stock of the major events and try to discern the underlying themes that come to light. What have we learned — about us, about our world, about our common life?
2020-Dec-09 • 42 minutes
Woke politics: The power of the disempowered?
Is "woke politics" really a form of moral judgment, or is it merely a brand of moralism that seeks to side-step the hard work needed for genuine moral and political transformation?
2020-Dec-02 • 50 minutes
How much should we care about political corruption?
Have we come to accept a degree of corruption as part of the price we pay for democracy? Is administrative competence more important to us than political incorruptibility?
2020-Nov-25 • 52 minutes
War crimes, moral responsibility, and moral injury
The Brereton Report compels us to reflect on what it might mean to say that soldiers express a nation’s “values and laws” – which is to say, that soldiers and civilians belong to the same moral community.
2020-Nov-18 • 47 minutes
Can America’s post-election divisions be overcome?
While Trump’s conduct, cruelty, and incompetence disqualified him in the eyes of a majority of Americans, very nearly half of the nation voted for and remain fiercely devoted to the president. America is divided, but so is the Democratic party. What does this mean for the future?
2020-Nov-11 • 43 minutes
Can Aboriginal political philosophy and political liberalism be reconciled?
Should we think about the story of Australia’s halting “recognition” of its First Peoples as an expression of the ongoing conflict between political philosophies and conceptions of what properly constitutes the common life of a people?
2020-Nov-04 • 47 minutes
Has Trump revealed democracy’s fragility or resilience?
During the week in which American voters cast their verdict on Trump’s term in office, it makes sense to ask: To what extent is Trump to blame for America’s political malaise? In what ways might Joe Biden’s nomination be a sign of democratic hopefulness?
2020-Oct-28 • 46 minutes
What is AI doing to the moral life?
It is the nature of technology to insinuate itself into our daily lives, and to convince us that it is both benevolent by design and utterly indispensable. Little wonder that we have invited digital domestic assistants into our homes and lives at an alarming rate – but at what cost?
2020-Oct-21 • 47 minutes
Could COVID-19 make inequality worse?
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed, rather than alleviated, the nature and extent of inequality in many modern societies. As the recent federal budget demonstrated, Australia is a case in point. What is ‘inequality’, and why is it problematic?
2020-Oct-14 • 38 minutes
The ethics of second chances
We have become increasingly interpersonally punitive and unforgiving, believing this to be a sign of our moral seriousness or our commitment to justice. But perhaps Shakespeare’s late plays — especially Cymbeline and Winter’s Tale — hold out a different moral vision.
2020-Oct-07 • 49 minutes
Should we rejoice that Trump has COVID-19?
What should our reaction be to the news of that Trump tested positive to COVID-19? It is wrong to feel glad, or to hope that he experiences severe symptoms, or that he dies?
2020-Sep-30 • 54 minutes
Should we attempt to escape from “politics”?
“Politics” is, it seems, inescapable. Christos Tsiolkas joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss whether we should preserve ways — in literature, in art, in comedy, in sport — to escape the limits of political conflict.
2020-Sep-23 • 49 minutes
How far should courts push societies to change?
The conflict and partisan positioning that followed the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reflects the role played by the US Supreme Court in adjudicating matters of intense social and political disagreement. What matters should be left to the messy process of political deliberation, contestation, and compromise? Professor Adrienne Stone joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss when, and how, the courts should negotiate politics and public opinion.
2020-Sep-16 • 49 minutes
Is it wrong to respond to arguments with allegations?
Disagreements these days are often met with claims that an argument is “offensive, harmful, unhelpful, or divisive.” What consideration should be given to the likely consequences of an argument? How is this open to abuse?
2020-Sep-09 • 48 minutes
Why does COVID-19 attract conspiracy theories?
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven particularly conducive for those intent on discerning an insidious plot behind both the emergence of the virus and the political response. To what extent are these conspiracies part of a wider culture of pervasive distrust and mutual suspicion?
2020-Sep-02 • 48 minutes
US president as "sufferer in chief"?
Joe Biden has presented himself as a person who knows pain and loss, a tragic figure of uncommon empathy and compassion. Does this tell us anything about how political leadership may be changing under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic?
2020-Aug-26 • 44 minutes
Should a COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory?
Before walking it back, Scott Morrison said he expected a COVID-19 vaccine "to be as mandatory as you can possibly make [it]". The Prime Minister thereby brought to the fore a series of complicated, but fundamental, ethical questions.
2020-Aug-19 • 46 minutes
What if COVID-19 doesn’t go away?
What if the hoped for COVID-19 vaccine is delayed by months – or years? Do we have the emotional and interpersonal resources to bear up under the strain? Alda Balthrop-Lewis joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss the habits and practices which might help us cultivate the kind of inner life, and life with others, that could see us through the pandemic.
2020-Aug-12 • 48 minutes
Ordinary vices: Ingratitude
Many of us are prone to express our sense of having hardship inflicted upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic — only to be reminded that someone else, somewhere else, has it much worse than we do. Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens discuss when we are permitted to complain, without being guilty of ingratitude.
2020-Aug-05 • 46 minutes
What is the “value” of philosophy?
The fee changes to university degrees announced by the federal government are designed to produce “job ready graduates” by funnelling students into “job-relevant” courses — but at the expense of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Professor Moira Gatens joins Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens to discuss what society loses when philosophy is devalued.
2020-Jul-29 • 50 minutes
Is there a moral imperative to wear masks?
The COVID-19 pandemic presents us with an all-too concrete situation in which seemingly minor, individual actions can have dire consequences for thousands of others. Is the pandemic an extreme situation that makes unusual demands of us, or does it simply make visible the kinds of moral demands which are upon us even in more 'normal' times?
2020-Jul-22 • 45 minutes
Is COVID-19 the end of globalisation?
COVID-19 has reversed the dynamics and inner-logic of globalisation. As we begin imagining a world after COVID-19, will things go back to “normal”? Should things go back to “normal”
2020-Jul-15 • 50 minutes
Is "cancel culture" really constricting free speech?
How does liberal democracy manage incommensurable disagreement? Do the moral and political demands for justice and inclusion trump the principles of free expression and open debate? What is the moral status of "opinion"?
2020-Jul-08 • 47 minutes
Can you enjoy sport without crowd noise?
Teams across codes and countries are facing the prospects of competing in empty or largely empty stadiums. Whatever that might mean for the players themselves, the lack of crowd noise is proving too off-putting for fans watching from home. Kasey Symons from Swinburne University joins us to discuss why.
2020-Jul-01 • 40 minutes
Should the police be abolished?
Following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, there are serious calls to defund or even "abolish" the police in the United States. It’s a serious proposal, and it deserves to be taken seriously. But what does it mean, and how can it be done? Yale Law School Professor Tracey Meares joins us to discuss what police abolition looks like.
2020-Jun-24 • 52 minutes
How to acknowledge the debt of historical injustice?
What does it mean for a nation - whether it be the United States, Germany, or Australia - fully to acknowledge the truth of its past, to drag its moral debts into the light of day? Should a sense of guilt play any role in that acknowledgement?
2020-Jun-17 • 48 minutes
Democratic politics is being challenged, but is it changing?
What are we to make of the fact that, in a time when democratic politics is being radically challenged by a series of seismic shocks, and when ideas or options once thought impossible are now squarely back ‘on the table’, our political leaders and their opponents have rarely seemed more conventional? David Runciman, Professor of Politics at Cambridge University and host of the Talking Politics podcast, joins us to dissect this political moment.
2020-Jun-10 • 50 minutes
Ordinary vices: Impatience
The vice of impatience reflects a particular relationship to time: the notion that time is a finite commodity that ‘must be made the most of’, not an opportunity for encounter or an invitation to attentiveness and mutual discovery. Better put, impatience is ultimately about control.
2020-Jun-03 • 49 minutes
After the death of George Floyd
The death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police was both shocking and sickeningly familiar. What are the protesters communicating about the moral content of the police-killing of black men and women?
2020-May-27 • 44 minutes
Free riding: Why act, when acting is likely to make no difference?
Are there reasons to act in a particular way, to willingly make some sacrifice, do something which may be good, and which we may even be committed to, when our actions (or lack of action) are likely to be of no consequence? Is size detrimental to democratic community? Professor Roger Crisp joins us to discuss whether the free rider problem highlights the limitation of moral philosophy.
2020-May-20 • 37 minutes
Ramadan and the reality of interdependence
Much like the month of Ramadan, the COVID-19 pandemic presents an intense reminder of a reality we most often ignore: the fact of the limits we inhabit, and our dependence on others.
2020-May-13 • 45 minutes
Is there a moral case against the COVID-19 “shutdown”?
Calls are mounting for an end to the “shutdown” that has been imposed by governments throughout the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – including from some highly regarded philosophers. Are there more humane, more democratic ways of responding to the threat of the virus?
2020-May-06 • 54 minutes
Is COVID-19 bringing the best, or worst, out of our politics?
Is the pandemic having a chastening effect on our politics, bringing voters back to the real-world consequences of political decisions, or is the pandemic in fact playing right into the hands of populist politicians, creating ideal conditions in which to fan the flames or fear, resentment and mutual suspicion?
2020-Apr-29 • 46 minutes
Is it time to end simulated sex on television and film?
Why, in the light of the #MeToo movement, have we not questioned the aesthetic, much less moral, justification for the disproportionate amount of nudity and simulated sex required of female actors? Do we really need to prolong this puerile reliance on sex to attract viewers?
2020-Apr-22 • 41 minutes
Ordinary vices: Is pride an affront to, or the basis of, dignity?
Can pride be ‘redeemed’, and form the basis of human dignity, or is pride as such a form of moral corruption, a debased form of moral vision?
2020-Apr-15 • 37 minutes
Can we avoid cruelty in the face of COVID-19?
As societies, we are having to grapple with the question of whether some will be made to bear a disproportionate amount of the cost of our collective response to COVID-19.
2020-Apr-08 • 38 minutes
How can we live with coronavirus uncertainty?
In little more than a month, the coronavirus has exploded the sense of certainty, confidence, optimism and control on which so much of modern life, the economy and politics are predicated. Were these always just illusions?
2020-Apr-01 • 45 minutes
Can we cultivate social solidarity in a time of physical distancing?
Any meaningful recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will require imagination, risk, solidarity and vulnerability; it will mean refusing to ‘free-ride’ and a willingness to sacrifice. How can we cultivate this capacity for social solidarity in our time of social fragmentation and mutual distancing?
2020-Mar-25 • 39 minutes
What (new) forms of living might the coronavirus produce?
What new forms of life together — of modesty, prudence, simplicity, mutuality, sociality and cooperation — might we discover under the conditions of scarcity and social isolation imposed by the coronavirus, that perhaps we didn’t envision in more 'normal' times?
2020-Mar-18 • 41 minutes
What does the coronavirus reveal about us?
Is there a way of responding to the coronavirus that is both effective and ethical? That contributes to the tasks of social cohesion and mutual concern?
2020-Mar-11 • 20 minutes
Is capitalism inimical to ethics?
Does capitalism cultivate an ethos, an understanding of the nature of social relations and mutual obligation that is inimical to what might be called the demands of "democratic morality"?
2020-Mar-04 • 39 minutes
International Women’s Day – cause for celebration, or commiseration?
The corporate rebranding of International Women’s Day (IWD) couldn’t be further from the day’s revolutionary roots, or any meaningful discussion of women’s liberation. It negates any discussion of the nature of power under patriarchy, and how relations of power between women and men might be genuinely transformed.
2020-Feb-26 • 46 minutes
Why do we want celebrities to be 'authentic'?
Why it is that we want to know the 'truth' about celebrities? What happens when the very promise of transparency, of authenticity — of intimacy, even — becomes part of the carefully cultivated appearance of celebrity itself?
2020-Feb-19 • 44 minutes
Ordinary vices: What’s wrong with lying?
This week on The Minefield, we explore what Montaigne referred to as "that accursed vice" — the most corrupt and all-corrupting of them all: lying.
2020-Feb-12 • 48 minutes
Why does democracy demand transparency?
Does representative democracy depend on practices of public scrutiny, or exercises of 'popular sovereignty' between elections?
2020-Feb-05 • 50 minutes
In the aftermath of the Iowa caucus …
Every four years, a disproportionate amount of attention is focused on the unlikely midwestern state of Iowa. In a very real way, the Iowa caucuses encapsulate the profound political and ethical challenges that confront the Democratic Party in its bid to defeat Donald Trump in November — challenges that continue to bedevil democratic politics in other countries: How to mobilise voters around a common cause, without tipping over into either absolutism or unprincipled, 'whatever-it-takes' pragmatism?
2020-Jan-29 • 44 minutes
After the fires, are we invited to moral community with trees?
Over the summer months, Australia has witnessed the devastation of forests and the immolation of wildlife on an unimaginable scale. The emotional or even the tragic content of the bushfires has been — understandably — reserved for the loss of human life and home and livelihood, and for the loss of some non-human animals. But why do we grieve fauna and not flora? What if these fires present to us an invitation we refuse to heed: an invitation to rediscover moral companionship, moral community with trees?
2020-Jan-22 • 48 minutes
2020 — why does the future look so much like the past?
Back in 2008, newly elected prime minister Kevin Rudd convened a summit of Australia’s "best and brightest" to discuss what kind of nation they wanted Australia to be in 2020. Now that we’re here, 2020 doesn’t look very much like the future at all. What happened? Is there a lesson here about the importance of adopting a sceptical posture, a profound reticence to claim to know, much less predict, our political future? Or are we just reading the wrong signs?
2020-Jan-15 • 45 minutes
Can we overcome terminal disagreement in our politics and morality?
If the recent glut of "democracy in crisis" books is anything to go by, there is a sense that something has gone wrong in our common life. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has diagnosed the increasing 'tribalism' in and of our civic and political life particularly acutely, and he joins Waleed and Scott to discuss whether and how we might break free from its Manichean absolutism.
2020-Jan-08 • 43 minutes
What if the greatest threat to a free media was from within?
Our lives are saturated with 'news'; but far from creating informed citizens, this is producing forgetful, inattentive citizens. Megan Le Masurier joins us to discuss whether "slow journalism" could help us remember what matters.
2020-Jan-01 • 47 minutes
Should children be given the vote?
Cambridge historian and host of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman, has put forward a radical proposal to extend the vote to children as young as six. Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens discuss whether this is just what is needed to recover a healthy democratic culture.
2019-Dec-25 • 48 minutes
False necessities: Is 'taste' enough to morally justify the mass slaughter of animals?
Is our culinary enjoyment enough to justify a complicity in cruelty which our fellow citizens find reprehensible?
2019-Dec-18 • 46 minutes
Is literary fiction necessary for the moral life?
What does a society lose when it neglects the moral discipline of reading literary fiction?
2019-Dec-11 • 41 minutes
2019 — the year where nothing really mattered?
What stands out to you about 2019? This week, for the last show of 2019, Waleed and Scott discuss the year that was, what it all meant, and what it means for the future of our common life.
2019-Dec-04 • 51 minutes
The dangers of 'clipification'
The media has always been in the business of isolating and mass circulating 'newsworthy' pieces or slivers of reality. But we are living in an age of 'clipification', where reality itself is broken up into highlights tailor-made to be shared and viewed again and again. What does democracy look like in an age of 'clipification'?
2019-Nov-27 • 46 minutes
What’s wrong with swearing?
These days, mass culture, movies, commercial television, music, novels are awash with language that once would have been deemed beyond the pale. Does it still make sense to speak of 'obscene language'? What makes words 'obscene'? Can obscene language be used in such a way that removes the taint from what they refer to?
2019-Nov-20 • 48 minutes
False necessities: Is economic growth a moral good?
Is economic growth a virtuous circle or a Faustian treadmill that benefits some and immiserates others (human and not)?
2019-Nov-13 • 54 minutes
Does "calling-out" do more harm than good?
What is it about "calling-out" someone online or "cancelling" someone guilty of an egregious wrong, that is problematic? Does moral seriousness, in a time of incommensurable disagreement, necessarily need to take the form of moral purity?
2019-Nov-06 • 46 minutes
What happened when the Berlin Wall came down?
The fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago is celebrated across the Western world as a world-historical moment: the triumph of freedom over tyranny, of democracy over communism. But is this justified? And why the fascination in the West? Professor of International Relations Sarah Percy joins Waleed and Scott to discuss what the 'fall' of the Berlin Wall revealed, and concealed.
2019-Oct-30 • 45 minutes
What moral obligations does feminism impose on men?
Feminism is undeniably one of the most significant political movements of the last century. So what does feminism demand of men? Meagan Tyler joins Scott and Waleed to discuss whether men can be "feminists"?
2019-Oct-23 • 42 minutes
Does democracy have a problem with conspiracies?
If conspiracism is the consequence of particular conceptions of truth, knowledge, agency, power in democratic politics, is it a problem that can be solved? Professor Sophia Rosenfeld joins us to discuss whether conspiracism become an inescapable, all-pervasive feature of modern life.
2019-Oct-16 • 47 minutes
Was betrayal inevitable?
What obligations does the United States have to the Kurds, and indeed, to the region as a whole? Professor Nader Hashemi from the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver joins us to discuss the past, present and future of the Syrian conflict.
2019-Oct-09 • 45 minutes
Is optimism dangerous for democratic politics?
Modern democratic politics have taken what could be called an 'optimistic turn': a kind of hyperbolic cheeriness in the face of a purported threat; an assurance that the future will be bright, and that only the man at the helm can deliver it. So there’s no need to be anxious. Political philosopher Romand Coles joins Waleed and Scott to discuss why this optimism is the antithesis of genuine democratic hope.