Philosopher's Zone-logo

Philosopher's Zone

ABC (Australia)

The simplest questions often have the most complex answers. The Philosopher's Zone is your guide through the strange thickets of logic, metaphysics and ethics.

The simplest questions often have the most complex answers. The Philosopher's Zone is your guide through the strange thickets of logic, metaphysics and ethics.


Melbourne, VIC


The simplest questions often have the most complex answers. The Philosopher's Zone is your guide through the strange thickets of logic, metaphysics and ethics.




Philosopher's Zone ABC Radio National GPO Box 9994 Sydney 2001 (02) 8333 1411


About time, part 3: Time and perception

For something that we commonly consider to be as regular and predictable as clockwork, time sure can feel weird. Sometimes it drags, sometimes it rushes, sometimes it seems to stop altogether. We don't experience this skewed perception with other phenomena - with colours, for instance. The blue of the sky looks like the blue of the sky, no matter what we're doing or how we're feeling. So why is our experience of time so variable? Is it something that happens purely in the mind, or does it...


About time, part 2: Time in fiction

During the early 20th century, physicists and philosophers were discovering strange things about time. And these ideas were being picked up by novelists, who wove them into such masterpieces as Joyces Ulysses and Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway – texts that continue to challenge our notions of everyday temporality.


About time, part 1: Newton's exploding clock

Most of us think of time as something that divides neatly into seconds, minutes and hours, in a way that’s as regular and predictable at the farthest reaches of the cosmos as it is in our kitchens. But scientists and philosophers have discovered that time has some weird tricks up its sleeve. This week we’re talking about twins who grow older at different rates, broken vases that jump off the floor to reassemble themselves on the bench, and why quantum physicists are learning to do without...


The abominable heretic

In July 1656, the young philosopher Baruch Spinoza was cast out of his Jewish community for "abominable heresies". We don't know what those crimes were, but we do know that Spinoza has remained a polarising figure within Judaism ever since.


How should we treat insects?

Insect farming, we’re told by its proponents, is the next big thing in edible protein production, and it may just save the environment. But an insect “farm” is more like a manufacturing plant, where tiny organisms are frozen, boiled, baked, crushed or shredded alive in their billions. What is the moral status of these living things? Can we be sure they’re not sentient beings, capable of experiencing pain and suffering? And if we can’t be sure, how should we treat them?


Was the market economy inevitable?

Today, market capitalism is so deeply woven into the fabric of everyday existence that it seems as natural and inevitable as the movement of the planets. But in fact, there was a moment in the early 20th century when an alternative economic philosophy – one of planned economies oriented toward community wellbeing – gave the free market model a run for its money. What happened, and how might things have been different?


Structural injustice and individual responsibility

Who is responsible for structural injustice? The answer is “practically everybody” - but that can be just another way of saying “effectively nobody”. So what responsibility do individuals bear for structural injustice? And how can this responsibility be acted upon, without falling into practices of blaming and shaming?


Women, the alt-right and the liberal centre

Why do women join white nationalist and other far-right movements? Misogyny is rampant on the alt-right, along with the notion that women's primary role is to be wives and child-bearers. But the liberal centre can be an ambivalent place for women too. Feminism was founded on the ideal of equality, and on the belief that women should be treated as individuals rather than undifferentiated members of a subordinate class. But have these liberal humanist ideals of of equality and individual...


Nietzsche and transfiguration

Friedrich Nietzsche engaged closely with Christian themes and concepts, re-casting them for a secular age. One of these was transfiguration, the strange alchemical process by which human brokenness and misfortune can be turned into a kind of redemption. For Nietzsche, this was an aesthetic process, and it made an art form of philosophy.


Trust, risk and experts

Public trust in experts is on the wane. And when we consider that a key role of experts is the assessment and management of risk, this mistrust becomes worrying, given that life in an industrialised technology-driven world keeps getting riskier by the day. How should experts communicate risk? and what kind of trust should we place in them?


Mathematical objects

We all use numbers every day of our lives, and most of us fail to appreciate how mysterious they are. What exactly is a number? You can't trip over the number 4, it has no physical properties, so in what sense can it be said to exist? If it's just a symbolic representation, then why are numbers and other mathematical objects so effective in the real world - in solving scientific problems, in helping cicadas to evade predators, and so on?



It's strange to think that in a supposedly egalitarian democracy like Australia, we could have a misogyny problem. But the never-ending toll of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and casual workplace sexism confirms it, as does the growing "men's rights" backlash against any attempt to foreground the problem. What light can philosophy - a notoriously male dominated profession - throw on the issue?


Analytic philosophy: the leading brand

A quick scan of leading philosophy journals reveals that what passes for "philosophy" is selectively screened, with analytic philosophy clearly the dominant style. We look at the history of this phenomenon, some of the likely consequences, and how might it be addressed.


The death of analytic philosophy?

The death of analytic philosophy has been confidently predicted for almost as long as analytic philosophy has been around. But today, with profound challenges posed by feminism, postcolonialism and critical race theory, could its long-heralded demise finally be on the horizon? And what exactly do we mean when we talk about analytic philosophy anyway – is it a science, a tradition or little more than a style?


Marxism pt 2: Black Marxism

There’s an influential critique of Marx that accuses him of failure to take sufficient account of race in his analysis of capitalism. But is this a fair assessment? What happens when we bring racial analysis to the Marxist tradition? And how “Marxist” is a contemporary liberation movement like Black Lives Matter?


Marxism pt 1: Marx the philosopher

Karl Marx's interest in philosophy took an early swerve into journalism, and he famously wrote that "philosophers have only interpreted the world - the point is to change it". On one hand he was a revolutionary who favoured getting his hands dirty in the muck of history over abstract theorising, but on the other hand he was also a man of ideas who engaged with many of the philosophers of his day, in particular Hegel. Was Marx himself a philosopher?


Ethics, philosophy and immigration

Does anti-racism require open borders? Should refugees be selected on the basis of the skills they offer? Can immigration restrictions conform to the demands of justice? Conventional wisdom says that philosophers approach these kinds of questions from a normative perspective - their job is to establish principles for how a society should be run, as distinct from the job of a historian or a sociologist. But is that really the case?


Women and the Dhamma

Buddhist teaching is radically egalitarian, and yet the need for a Buddhist feminism is pressing. Is gender irrelevant to Buddhist teaching? And for women who have been denied agency or a sense of identity, how reasonable is the doctrine of non-self?


What can David Hume teach us?

Scottish philosopher David Hume was an amiable 18th century gentleman - cultured, generous, well liked by all who knew him. And yet he's become something of a "thinker's thinker", hugely admired by academic philosophers, but never quite managing to fire the public imagination or attain the mythic status of a Socrates or a Nietzsche. Our guest this week believes it's time to embrace Hume as a philosopher who can teach us how to live.



Going from one country to another is mostly thought of as a movement in space - a change of one physical location for another. But migration can also make profound changes in the everyday experience of time, and this is especially acute in cases where migration status is uncertain - on a temporary visa, say, or in immigration detention.