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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


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?



Feeling a little distracted lately? Most of us are, and not just lately. We tend to view withering attention spans and the compulsion to seek change for its own sake as curses of the social media era, but restless dissatisfaction has been the subject of philosophical inquiry for centuries.


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?


Derrida and difficulty

In the late 1960s Michel Foucault, on being asked to grade an undergraduate dissertation written by Jacques Derrida, remarked “Well, it’s either an F or an A+” The philosophy community’s verdict on Derrida has changed little in the decades since. This week we’re talking with the author of a new biography of this enigmatic philosopher.


The many worlds of David Lewis

Many believe that David Lewis had one of the finest minds of any modern philosopher. His concept of modal realism – the idea that infinite alternative worlds exist concretely in spacetime – was celebrated by his peers even while they doubted it, and his freewheeling style of writing demonstrated that it’s possible to be philosophically rigorous and still have fun. This week we explore the life and work of this pioneering American intellectual who had close ties with Australia.


Mathematics and the good life

Mathematics is often understood as something technical – essential to making sure our buildings and bridges don’t fall down, but not offering much in the way of moral interest. This week we’re asking whether or not that’s true, and finding that mathematics has strong historical connections to the philosophy of how to live well.


Bad thinking and good people

The sheer persistence of conspiracy theory and other forms of irrational thinking gets more baffling with each passing day. How did we get to this point? And how can we turn things around? This week we’re considering the notion that conspiracy theorists are not evil or stupid, but have fallen prey to epistemic stubbornness – and we’re asking how philosophy can help.


The individual and the collective

Climate change has landed us in a collective action dilemma – a situation where cooperation would benefit us all, but conflicting individual interests keep getting in the way. How can we, as individuals, enlarge our sense of self to the point where the broader community – national and global – is more than just an abstraction? And is “we-mode” reasoning always morally preferable to “I-mode” reasoning?


Philosophy and psychedelic experience

In some ways, you could say psychedelics and philosophy share a similar set of purposes. But does that mean they're different expressions of the same impulse - to know, to understand, to become wise? And is it possible to set aside the 1960s countercultural baggage and attain psychedelic experience without the use of drugs?


Buddhist logic

Logic in the Western philosophical tradition is often viewed as something abstract and universal – a bit like mathematics, involving formulas and equations that hold true in every circumstance, regardless of historical or cultural context. The tradition of Buddhist logic takes a different turn, considering logic as something connected to knowledge rather than just the structure of arguments.


Care ethics

If there's one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined, it's the importance of looking out for each other. But these days the network of our relationships is so vast, so complex and so riddled with competing interests, that it can be hard to pin down exactly what "looking out for each other" requires. This week we met a philosopher who believes that an approach known as "care ethics" can guide all of us in our moral decision making, regardless of gender or class or the particularities of...


Philosophy and children

Children are sometimes perceived as "defective adults", empty epistemic vessels that need to be filled with the knowledge of their elders. In fact, children can teach adults a thing or two when it comes to the getting of wisdom. But does this mean that children are philosophers? And if the answer is Yes, then what kind of philosophers are they?


Gender and gaming

Gender has long been an issue in the world of video games, but since the "Gamergate" online harassment campaign of 2014 - where women gamers, developers and journalists were doxxed and threatened by anti-feminist trolls - it's come to the fore. This week we're talking about women's voices and roles in gaming, and exploring ways in which gender might be reimagined in video games.


What is dignity?

Dignity is something we recognise and respect in others, and we feel it deeply when our own is threatened or attacked. But what exactly is it? This week we're exploring different kinds of dignity, and the ways in which they can get in the way of each other. We also look at how one person's appeal to dignity can be another person's moral violation.


Yan Fu: China meets Western liberalism

Yan Fu was a late 19th century naval officer and writer who was fascinated with Western philosophy. His translations of works by Thomas Huxley, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others were celebrated successes in China. But his books feature notes and interpretative gestures that make them something more than just straight translations – they’re works of philosophy in their own right.


The trouble with our moral evolution

Morality is always evolving. But what if social evolution happened so fast and so radically that our moral evolution couldn’t keep pace? According to this week’s guest, that’s our current problem: we have a set of “moral emotions” in place that no longer help us deal effectively with the challenges of post-industrial society.


RN Presents: This Much Is True

You might have noticed there's some bizarre stuff circulating out there these days, under the guise of "knowledge" or "fact". And we need to take it seriously, because even the most far-flung conspiracy theories can have direct effects on how a substantial number of people think, behave and vote. Why do people believe the things they believe? and for that matter, why do you believe the things you believe? This excellent podcast series on RN tackles the question head on, exploring rabbit...


About time, part 4: The insect clock

When a person dies under suspicious circumstances, it can be hard to determine exactly what happened and when. Enter the forensic entomologist, whose job it is to study the action of insects on the body and present their evidence to the court. Insects provide a “clock” that can help to piece together the puzzle of death – but in doing this, insects also raise a number of fascinating questions that touch on the philosophy of science, law and time.


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.