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Episodes

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?...

Duration:01:32:09

Episode 135: Utilitarianism and Moral Identity

3/13/2018
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David and Tamler take a break from complaining about psychological studies that measure utilitarianism to complain about the moral theory itself. We talk about one of the most famous critiques of utilitarian theories from Bernard Williams. Does utilitarianism annihilate our integrity--our unity--as people? Would trying to maximize well-being fracture our identities, and swallow up our projects, motivations, and moral convictions--the same convictions that make utilitarianism seem appealing...

Duration:01:16:42

Episode 134: Digital Outrage

2/27/2018
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It's been 5 years since Molly Crockett has been guest on VBW. During that time she's completed a post-doc at University College, London and become a professor at Yale University. And we're...well, we're still doing the podcast. Today Molly joins us to talk about moral outrage in the age of social media. Has the outrage changed now that we express so much of it online? Does it contribute to polarization and social division, or give a voice to the less powerful? How can we harness the...

Duration:01:51:30

Episode 133: Death and Dreams

2/6/2018
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David and Tamler talk about the nature of death. Is being dead a bad thing? If so, what makes it bad? How can anything be bad for a subject that no longer exists? We didn't have a problem with oblivion for the thirteen billion years before we were born, why fear it now? Plus, a discussion about the "it was all a dream" trope in TV and film. Why is it so infuriating in some works but not others?

Duration:01:15:18

Episode 132: Emotional Willpower (with David DeSteno)

1/23/2018
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What's the best way to build self-control, patience, productivity, and delayed marshmallow eating? For decades psychologists and economists have told us to develop traits like willpower and grit. But psychologist David DeSteno describes a better, easier, and more effective path--the emotions. We talk to David about his new (not-self-help) book "Emotional Success," which argues that the emotions of gratitude, pride, and compassion can help us fulfill long-term goals and (as a special bonus)...

Duration:01:35:41

Episode 130: Dehumanization and Disintegration (with Paul Bloom)

12/26/2017
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In this Very Special Boxing Day edition of the podcast, Tamler and David welcome back honorary Third Wizard Paul Bloom to discuss his latest article in the New Yorker about dehumanization and cruelty. Is it really the case that we dehumanize in order to harm others? Or does most violence actually require us to view others as fundamentally human, agentic, and capable of true suffering? But first, we discuss the stages of Star Trek transporter cognition, whether Paul and David are...

Duration:01:32:37

Episode 128: Fragmented Values and Sex Panics (with Christina Hoff Sommers)

11/28/2017
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David and Tamler keep their Nagel streak alive, discussing the essay "The Fragmention of Value" from his collection "Mortal Questions." How should we address our fragmented moral landscape, with multiple sources of value that can't be reduced or systematically ordered? Does this make all of our moral decisions arbitrary? Plus, we talk about Louis CK and in a Thanksgiving tradition special guest Christina Hoff Sommers rejoins the podcast in a moderately drunken debate with Tamler about a...

Duration:01:50:03

Episode 99: Mockingbirds, Destructo-Critics, and Mr. Robot

9/27/2016
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David and Tamler tackle three topics on their last double digit episode. First, should a middle school perform "To Kill a Mockingbird" even if they have to use bad language the "n-word," and talk about sexual assault? Tamler relates a story involving his daughter (who was supposed to play Scout) and a playwright who refused to allow his play to be censored. But when it comes to drama, middle school's got nothing on social psychology. Next, David and Tamler break down the latest controversy...

Duration:02:03:28

Episode 98: Mind the Gap

9/13/2016
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David and Tamler break down the biggest question in moral philosophy -- can we derive value judgments from a set of purely factual claims? Like the Scottish Philosopher David Hume they're surprised when the usual copulation of propositions 'is' and 'is not' suddenly turn into conclusions in the form of 'ought' and 'ought not.' And what's the deal with all these copulating propositions anyway? Aren't they a little young for that? Do propositions practice safe copulation? Is proposition porn...

Duration:01:22:27

Episode 97: Dogmatic Slumber Party

8/30/2016
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Do you have strong views on climate change, taxes, health care, or gun control? Do you think the evidence and reason support your side of the debate? How do you know you’re right? David and Tamler discuss a recent paper by Dan Kahan and colleagues showing how prone people are to make errors in processing information to favor positions they are predisposed to believe. And even more shocking: the higher your numeracy skills, the more prone you are to fall prey to this bias. So how do we...

Duration:01:23:01

Bonus Episode: More Doobie-ous Theories About "Mr. Robot" (Season 2)

8/9/2016
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Hello friend, did you come from the Berenstein with an 'E' universe? Or have you lived in the Berenstain with an 'A' universe? David and Tamler try to make sense of what's going on in Season 2 of Mr. Robot (Ep.1-5). You're gonna want to dig through your vomit for adderall for this one. Links The Berenstain BearsThe Berenstein Bears: We Are Living in Our Own Parallel UniverseOn the Berenstein Bears Switcheroo

Duration:00:29:55

Episode 95: The Repugnance of Repugnance

8/2/2016
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We all remember the famous iTunes review calling David and Tamler "repugnant." (And the T-shirt/mugs are coming soon, we promise!) But what did the reviewer mean by that? Was he calling us "immoral"? Did he actually feel disgust when he listened to the podcast? And if so, was there wisdom in his repugnance--did the feeling offer any moral insight about the podcast's value? How did an emotion that originally evolved for pathogen avoidance get into moralizing business anyway? And why do...

Duration:01:28:34

Episode 94: Buttery Friendships

7/19/2016
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Dave and Tamler don’t agree about much, but one thing they do share is an affinity for character-based approaches to ethics. Using Tamler’s interview with Georgetown Philosopher Nancy Sherman as their guide (link to chapter included), they discuss two ancient perspectives on how to develop good character and live happy, virtuous lives: Aristotle's and that of the Stoics. Why did Aristotle focus so much on friendship and what happens when those friendships get too "watery"? Are emotions...

Duration:01:36:32

Episode 93: Avalanches, Blame, and Cowardice (With Yoel Inbar)

7/5/2016
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Scandinavian film scholar Yoel Inbar joins the podcast for a deep dive on the Swedish film Force Majeure, a darkly funny meditation on what our instinctive behavior in a moment of panic can reveal about our characters and relationships. The story: while having lunch on a ski slope in the French Alps, a family believes that an avalanche is bearing down on them. Just as it seems the avalanche is going to hit them, the father (Tomas) grabs his phone and gloves and runs indoors, abandoning his...

Duration:01:39:01

Episode 92: Jonathan Edwards' Basement

6/21/2016
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David and Tamler continue their intermittent “classic paper series” with an episode on Jonathan Bennett’s “The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn” (published in 1974—before the reason vs. emotion debate was all cool again). Using fictional and historical examples, Bennett raises a number of questions that are central to our understanding of human morality, such as what ought to guide our behavior--human sympathy or moral beliefs? Do emotions like empathy/sympathy have judgments built into...

Duration:01:08:28

Episode 90: Of Mice and Morals

5/24/2016
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David and Tamler have their first real fight in a while over an article defending "social mixing"--distributing babies randomly across families such that no infant is genetically related to the parents who raise them.. Then they discuss a study published in Science in 2013 in which participants could earn money if they agreed to let mice be killed in a gas chamber. Do free markets threaten our moral characters and cause us to abandon our principles? What are mechanisms behind this...

Duration:01:20:48

Episode 89: Shame on You (with Jennifer Jacquet)

5/10/2016
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David and Tamler welcome author and environmental science professor Jennifer Jacquet to the podcast to discuss the pros and cons of shame. What's the difference between shame and guilt? Is shaming effective for generating social progress or getting tax cheats to pay up? Is twitter shaming on the rise or on its way out? And what does David do when he's alone in the dark? But before all of that, David and Tamler introduce a new way to support the podcast--through our Patreon account...

Duration:01:37:53

Episode 88: A Doobie for Elijah

4/26/2016
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David and Tamler celebrate Passover with a high-spirited episode on guns, revenge, liberals, being offended, the fear of death, and whether kids have a right to be loved. Thanks to all you listeners for emailing your questions, comments, and complaints--this was a fun, energetic discussion. Plus, a blast from the past from an unusually alert Pizarro: Michael Shannon reading a sorority letter. But won't somebody please think of the children???!! Links Mr. Robot Season 2 premiere...

Duration:01:20:54

Episode 87: Lucky You (with Robert Frank)

4/12/2016
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We hit the jackpot with this one! Economist Robert Frank (you may remember him from such episodes as The Greatest Books Ever Written) joins David and Tamler to talk about his new book Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy. What role does pure chance play in making or breaking our careers and lives? Are effort and talent enough to succeed, or does the ball need to bounce our way? Where do we get our will-power and talent--is that ultimately a matter of luck as well? And...

Duration:01:19:52

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