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United States

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English

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Episodes

Episode 155: Alfred Hitchcock's Money Shot

1/8/2019
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David and Tamler dive deep into Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 hallucinatory classic, Vertigo. Why does this movie seem to gain stature among critics and academics every year? Is this a really a exploration of Hitchcock's own obsessions and sexual repression? Is it a story about filmmaking and celebrity? Or is it just a twisty noir thriller about a man who has no job and can't kiss to save his life? Plus, some thoughts about bad reviews on Rate My Professor and why it's hard to get feedback about...

Duration:01:38:39

Episode 154: Metaphysical Vertigo (Borges's "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius")

12/18/2018
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In the famous words of the idealist philosopher George Berkeley, “To exist is to be perceived.” Our ideas and perceptions are the fundamental objects in the universe; there is no real world beyond them. Hume wrote (I think) that Berkeley’s arguments don’t admit of the slightest refutation, and they don’t inspire the slightest conviction. On Earth, that may be true. On Tlön, it’s false – the people there are “congenital idealists.” Their language, philosophy, literature, and religion...

Duration:01:56:53

Episode 153: Progress in Psychology: A Reply to BootyBootyFartFart

12/4/2018
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David dies for science’s sins and addresses the failed replication of one of his studies (conducted with three former VBW guests) by the Many Labs Project. But first, the guys try to gauge their intuitions about the phenomenal experience of their molecule-for-molecule mirror reflection duplicate in a universe with a non-orientable topology. Could this spell doom for e-categoricalism? Plus, the annual Thanksgiving tradition: IDW star and Factual Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and Tamler...

Duration:01:46:52

Episode 152: Ruthlessness, Public and Private

11/20/2018
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Tamler and David continue their Nagel-gazing by discussing another essay from Mortal Questions: "Ruthlessness in Public Life." Why do we treat the immorality of politicians, military leaders, and others in power differently than the immorality of individuals? Why does it seem less aversive to shake the hand of someone responsible for the death of thousands of civilians through military action than it does to shake the hand of a serial killer who has merely killed dozens? Are the rules we use...

Duration:01:21:31

Episode 151: Viddy Well, My Listeners (Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange")

11/6/2018
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There was me, that is Tamler, and my droog, that is David, and we sat in our living rooms on Skype trying to make up our rassoodocks what Stanley Kubrick's a Clockwork Orange was really about? Free will? We didn't think so. Punishment? Yeah but what about punishment? And what about the old ultraviolence - can it still shock us in the modern age? Then suddenly we viddied that thinking was for the gloopy ones and that the oomny just, like, press record and start the podcast. Slooshy well, my...

Duration:02:04:09

Episode 150: Paul Bloom Insisted That We Talk About Sex Robots

10/23/2018
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What better way to celebrate our 150th episode than to bring back our favorite guest – Paul Bloom! We riff on a series of topics: the new “grievance studies” hoax, sex robot brothels, perverse desires, and perverse beliefs. Then we get a little navel gazey (OK maybe more than a little) and talk about podcasting as a form of media and discussion, good teaching, and what we’ve learned about our listeners and ourselves. (Note: the audio may sound a little echoey towards the end because of how...

Duration:01:26:23

Episode 149: Death, Immortality, and Porn (Intuition) Pumps

10/2/2018
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Is living forever a good thing? Could we maintain our values and personal attachments throughout eternity? Would we be motivated to accomplish anything? Can we make sense of a human life that doesn't have a fixed endpoint? We try to alleviate David's paralyzing fear of death by examining two articles - one on how immortality is worse than we think, and the other providing evidence that dying might be better than we think. Plus,we examine some famous thought experiments - if they were porn....

Duration:01:41:41

Episode 148: Am I Wrong?

9/19/2018
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Tamler wades into a Twitter controversy about Serena Williams - could this be his fast-track pass into the IDW? And since we're talking about that, why not throw in a discussion of Louis CK's surprise set at the Comedy Cellar? In the second segment, we step outside of last week's social media culture wars to discuss "But I Could Be Wrong," a paper by philosopher George Sher from Rice University. What happens once we realize that our moral convictions are often not better justified than the...

Duration:01:41:21

Episode 147: Effective Altruism and Moral Uncertainty (with The One True Scotsman, Will MacAskill)

9/4/2018
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Oxford philosophy professor Will MacAskill joins us to talk about effective altruism, moral uncertainty, and why you shouldn’t eat your grandmother (even if consequentialism is true). How should we act when we’re not sure which moral theory is the right one? Can we formulate a guide for behavior, modeled on decision theory, that maximizes expected moral value? How do we assign credences to ethical (as opposed to empirical) claims? Why has effective altruism become so popular, so fast, yet at...

Duration:01:43:19

Episode 146: Sore Losers (Does Sports Make Us Unhappy?)

8/21/2018
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Is being a sports fan irrational? Does it lead to more suffering than happiness? David and Tamler discuss a recent study that suggests the answer is "yes." But does the study really capture the benefits of being fans? More generally, does science have the tools to truly measure the costs and benefits of rooting for your favorite teams? Plus, we talk about The Nation apologizing for publishing a poem written in Black English Vernacular, and introduce a dramatic new segment: "Guilty...

Duration:01:12:41

Episode 145: Lost in Borges' Garden

8/7/2018
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David and Tamler go deep into Borges’ labyrinth to discuss the fascinating, multi-dimensional story “The Garden of Forking Paths.” What is the underlying reality of this story? What demands does Borges make of his readers? What is Borges telling us about time, freedom, war, and art? Is the story itself a maze for readers to wander and lose their way? We don’t have all the answers, but it was one of our favorite discussions in a long time. Plus, we give some brief non-spoiler opinions about...

Duration:01:37:02

Episode 144: Borges' Babylon

7/24/2018
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David and Tamler try to wrap their heads around Jorge Luis Borges' “The Library of Babel” – a short story about a universe/library that contains every possible book with every possible combination of characters. How many books would this library contain? Would some of the books justify our lives (if we could find them)? Can we know whether a book is deeply meaningful or deeply misleading? Why are the librarians so alone and so consumed with anguish? Wouldn’t we all just end up just looking...

Duration:01:23:55

Episode 143: The Psychology of Personality

7/10/2018
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David and Tamler tackle the topic selected by their Patreon supporters - the psychology of personality. What are the different dimensions of personality that distinguish one person from another? How many dimensions are there - do the Big Five capture all of them? Do we share some of these differences with other species? Why don't personality psychologists include moral character traits? Plus - are you curious about your partner's true political commitments? No problem, just install a...

Duration:01:39:40

Episode 142: Suicide (with Matthew Nock)

6/26/2018
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In what has to be the most somber VBW to date, David and Tamler welcome Harvard psychologist Matthew Nock to the podcast to talk about suicide and other forms of self-harm. Matt tells us what we know – and what we don’t know - about the causes of suicide and the ways to prevent it. In the first segment we talk about the recent exposé of Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Were the guards told to be brutal? Were the prisoners never aware that could have left the study at any time? What is...

Duration:01:30:41

Episode 141: Implicit Bias

6/5/2018
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David and Tamler tackle the topic of implicit bias and the controversy surrounding the implicit association test (IAT). What is implicit bias anyway? Does it have to be linked to behavior in order to truly count as a "bias"? Has the IAT been overhyped as a reflection of individual or group prejudice? And why is the debate on this topic so depressing? Plus, some deep thoughts on the intellectual dark web, how to join it, and what the analogy is supposed to reflect.

Duration:01:21:28

Episode 140: Milgram's Mice

5/22/2018
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Honor shmonor, David and Tamler return to their repugnant roots for this one. First, we pay an overdue homage to the great anonymous blogger and twitter-redeemer Neuroskeptic. We pick a few of our favorite pithy tweets and crazy science article links from his @neuro_skeptic twitter account. Topics include: How much would you pay for porn? Should we be stereotyping zoophiles? Animal or fist - how to distinguish? And what do the left and right brain actually do? In part 2, we discuss an...

Duration:01:33:21

Episode 139: Honor, Identity, and Headbutts

5/12/2018
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It took two tries (the first one led to a big non-productive fight), but David and Tamler end up with a good discussion of honor and its connection to identity, pride, and personal relationships. Why have we rejected honor in favor of dignity? What are the costs and benefits of doing that? How do people "find themselves" in an industrialized anonymous society? What should you do when someone insults your sister and you're playing in the final of the World Cup? The seminal paper by Peter...

Duration:01:31:25

Episode 138: Memory, Pain, and Relationships (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

4/24/2018
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Award-winning screenwriter and medieval philosophy scholar Yoel Inbar joins us for a deep dive on the Charlie Kaufman/Michel GondREY masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When relationships go bad is it better to believe they never happened? What is the nature of memory, how is it constructed, and is it possible to zap them out existence with an Apple IIe? Will Tamler have a more optimistic take on the ending of the movie than David? (Hint: yes) Also--only two more weeks to...

Duration:01:45:37

Episode 137: Are Buddhists Afraid to Die? (with Shaun Nichols)

4/10/2018
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Why are we always attracted to people who mock us, resist our advances, and play hard to get? Maybe because it’s extra satisfying when you finally get them to… appear on your podcast. In our first live episode (recorded in San Antonio), the philosopher Shaun Nichols joins us to discuss his recent article “Death and the Self”. You might think that Buddhist conceptions of the self as illusory would reduce their fear of death (after all, if there’s no real self, why worry about it ceasing to...

Duration:01:03:25

Episode 136: The Good Life (with Laurie Santos)

3/27/2018
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From Very Bad Wizards to Megyn Kelly Today back to Very Bad Wizards, Laurie Santos has traveled the typical trajectory of the celebrity academic. Laurie joins us to talk about her cult status after creating the most popular course in Yale University history: Psychology and the Good Life. Why are we so bad at predicting what will make us happy? What makes it so hard to do the things we know are good for us? Why are young people more stressed, anxious, and overworked than they used to be? And...

Duration:01:32:09