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The Philosopher & The News

Philosophy Podcasts

Leading philosophers bring to the surface the ideas hidden behind the biggest news stories.

Leading philosophers bring to the surface the ideas hidden behind the biggest news stories.


United Kingdom


Leading philosophers bring to the surface the ideas hidden behind the biggest news stories.




Lori Gruen & Animal Ethics in War and Peace

We don’t often think of animals as war casualties, but animals die in large numbers in every war. Sometimes as specific targets, to deprive the enemy of a food source, sometimes trapped in zoos and shelters, and other times as wildlife. But their deaths are never officially counted, and the senseless killing animals, unlike the killing of innocent civilians, is not considered a war crime. So do we have special moral duties towards animals in war, given that they have no conception of what...


Samuel Moyn & The Legal Constraints on War

On March 16th the UN’s International Court of Justice asked Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine. It had found no evidence to support Russia’s claim that Ukraine was conducting genocide against Russia Speakers in the East of the country, which has been Russia’s justification for the war. A day later Russia rejected the ruling. So, is international law completely impotent in preventing countries from going to war? And why has the law been more effective in constraining the way that...


Stathis Kalyvas & Making Sense of Putin

On February 24th, Russia invaded the country of Ukraine, in an unexpected escalation of a conflict that began in 2014. It is the largest conventional military attack in Europe since World War II. According to an influential analysis of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, this is all down to NATO’s overreach in the region, and Russia is simply defending itself from being encircled by Western power. But, pay closer attention to what Putin is actually saying, and a very different explanation...


Stephen John & Vaccine Mandates

On February 1st a national vaccine mandate took effect in Austria. Those over the age of 18 who haven’t been vaccinated could face fines of over €3,000. Several other countries have introduced similar mandates for the elderly, medical staff and care home workers. Those resisting vaccination say it should be their choice whether to get the jab, not the state’s. Others argue that in liberal societies, it’s the state’s a right to limit the freedom of individuals when their behaviour harms...


Robert Talisse & America's Real Polarization Problem

It’s been a year since the end Trump’s presidency, and the beginning of Biden’s. And while Biden pleaded for unity, and the healing of bitter political divisions in his inaugural speech, the country remains as divided as ever. 40% of Americans say in polls that they don’t believe Joe Biden is the legitimate president, and the International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy Report now classifies the United States a “backsliding democracy” sighting “runaway polarization” as one of the key...


Mollie Gerver & Decriminalising People Smuggling

On November 24th, 27 migrants died trying to cross the Channel to the UK in an inflatable dinghy. This was one of the deadliest incidents of this kind. The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson blamed France for not taking stricter measures to prevent those who enable such journeys. People trafficking gangs were “literally getting away with murder”, he said. But are the people smugglers really the ones to blame for these deaths? Would tougher sentences on those who offer such services be...


Rami Ali & The allure of the metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg wants us to believe that soon enough, we’ll be connecting to each otehr in the metaverse, a virtual reality in which our avatars will be able to meet in virtual space, have virtual meetings and share virtual experiences. It will seem to us as though we’re really there present in virtual space, and our experience will feel real, even though they won’t be. But should we believe the hype? And even if virtual reality ends up being as exciting as Zuckerberg wants us to think,...


William Scheuerman & Climate Activism

Insulate Britain, a new climate change campaign group, has been blocking major motorways around London in recent weeks. Its demands are simple: The UK government should fund the insulation of all social housing by 2025, as well as put forward a "legally-binding national plan" for insulating all homes in Britain by 2030. But is this form of civil disobedience an effective way to gain the public’s sympathy and bring about public policy change? Or are the role models of non-violent resistance...


Adriana Clavel-Vázquez & Killing James Bond

Just as the new James Bond has hit the screen, the chatter about who is going to replace Daniel Craig has begun. Some are adamant that it should absolutely not be another white, straight, macho man - the times have moved on from all that. But would changing the character into a woman or a person of colour or with a different sexual orientation be doing violence to the very concept of who James Bond is? And why does it matter who James Bond, a fictional character, is portrayed by? Do the...


Arif Ahmed & Free Speech on Campus

Back in May, the UK government introduced a bill that according to its description would aim to strengthen the legal duties on higher education institutions to protect freedom of speech on campuses for students, academics and visiting speakers. This month, the Higher Education Committee has been hearing oral evidence by academics, activists and students on their views on the bill, before its put before the commons for a vote. So is this a bill trying to solve a real free speech problem on...


Quassim Cassam & Extremism

This month marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the day two planes, hijacked by members of Al Qaeda, flew into the world trade centre in New York City, killing thousands. A third plane hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon that day, the headquarters of the US military, while a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania, after its passengers managed to divert it from its original target. A 20-year war in Afghanistan was supposed to have eradicated Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism, but last month, as the...


Darrel Moellendorf & Ending War Justly

On August 15, following the swift withdrawal of US military forces in Afghanistan, the city of Kabul was taken over by the Taliban. 20 years since the start of the American offensive against the Taliban, as a response to the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda, Joe Biden did what his two predecessors had promised, but failed to follow through: he ended America’s military involvement in Afghanistan. But the immediate collapse of the Afghan government and military that the US had spent years supporting,...


Stephen Mumford & Watching the Olympics

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic games are finally going ahead. But increasing concerns over the games turning into super-spreader event, means that the athletes will be competing and performing without a live audience. The stadiums will be empty. But even without live spectators, the Olympic games will be watched by millions of people around the world. So what is it that gives many of us such a pleasure to watch athletes perform at the peak of their game? Is the pointlessness of sport, the absence...


Personal Responsibility in a Pandemic & The Political Philosophy Podcast

On July 19th, all legal restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic are coming to an end in England. That includes things like social distancing, keeping 2-meters apart from strangers, and the wearing of facemasks on public transport and at airports. Instead, the prime minister said the government would be relying on the personal responsibility of individuals to take any necessary precautions. But is this move by the UK government guided by science or ideology? In a pandemic, when our...


Joe Mazor & Media Impartiality

On June 13 a new TV channel launched in the UK called GB News, dubbed by many as the UK’s answer to America’s Fox News. In an increasingly polarised political environment, is increasingly biased media all we can expect? Is this simply an honest acceptance of the fact that all journalists are biased, that, like all of us, they occupy non-neutral perspectives onto the world of politics? Or is this giving up too quickly on the value of impartiality, when it comes to news coverage? Is there in...


Tommy Curry & The Real Critical Race Theory

Why is the political right so riled up about Critical Race Theory? And what does the theory itself actually claim? Has Critical Race Theory simply become an umbrella term for all discourse to do with race and racism? And if so, are the accounts of racism as a systemic issue a watered-down account of Critical Race Theory’s more radical critique and diagnosis of the sources of racism? Tommy Curry is professor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. His book 2018 The Man-Not: Race,...


Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò & America's Need for a Truth and Reconciliation Comission

A year after George Floyd’s death, is America ready for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Why is equality against the law not enough for racism to be defeatted? And how will America’s self-image as a country that pulled itself up from its bootstraps have to change when it finally admits to the huge role slavery played in the wealth it enjoys today? Olúfémi Táíwò is Professor of African Political Thought at the Africana Studies and Research Center, at Cornell University. Born in...


Camila Vergara & Systemic Corruption

What do we have to learn from the Ancient Greeks when it comes to thinking about the corruption of our own political system? Since corruption doesn’t seem to go away simply by electing different leaders, might it be fixed by rethinking our constitutional foundations? And what did Machiavelli mean when he said that “an evil-disposed citizen cannot effect any changes for the worse in a republic, unless it be already corrupt”? Camila Vergara is a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University...


Authority and Knowledge series with The Philosopher

The Philosopher & The News will be resuming next week with guest Camila Vergara, author of Systemic Corruption: Constitutional Ideas for an Anti-Oligarchic Society. If in the meantime you're craving your weekly philosophy fix, I have just the thing for you. This week The Philosopher journal is putting on virtual lectures every single day, to coincide with the release of its spring issue on the topic of Authority and Knowledge. To see the full program, and register for these events, for...


Nancy Tuana & The Inequities of the Anthropocene

According to the received narrative, we have entered a new geological era in the history of our planet, the Anthropocene. Human beings, so the theory goes, have become geological agents, having an impact on the planet so profound that it can only be compared to past ice ages and the early stages of the planet’s formation. But this narrative implies that all humans have had a hand in changing the planet, and that that all humans are affected in the same way by climate change. Philosophers,...