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Very Bad Wizards

Science Podcasts

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

Location:

United States

Description:

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

Language:

English

Contact:

607-342-7557


Episodes

Bonus Episode: The Ambulators (A "Deadwood" Podcast)

8/9/2022
We have a sneak peek for our listeners--the first episode our new Patreon bonus series on David Milch's brilliant (but short-lived) series "Deadwood." In this inaugural edition of "The Ambulators" (we promise the name makes sense), Tamler and David discuss the pilot episode "Deadwood."

Duration:01:30:18

Episode 242: Losing My Religion

8/2/2022
David and Tamler find themselves unable to attach rational meaning to a single act in their entire lives. Let’s say we publish more articles and books. What then? What about our kids? They’re going off to college. Why? What for? We think about the future of the podcast. Let’s say we get bought out by Spotify and become more famous than Joe Rogan, Dolly Parton, and even Yoel Inbar -- more famous than all the podcasters in the world. So what? And we can find absolutely no reply. Plus, we take...

Duration:01:33:13

Episode 241: Very Bad Orgies (Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut")

7/19/2022
David and Tamler mask up and wander through the audio and visual orgy of Stanley Kubrick’s final masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut. What is this movie really about? Dreams? Wealth and power? Marriage? Jealousy? Female sexuality? Masculinity issues? The Illuminati? Pedophilia? Sex cults? Prostitution, both literal and figurative? Missing out, always on the outside looking in? Why does Tom Cruise repeat everything? Why is Nicole Kidman such a lightweight? Why can’t a successful Upper West Side couple...

Duration:02:35:16

Episode 240: Evil

7/5/2022
David and Tamler descend into the dark pits of Hell to look Satan in the eyes and discover the nature of evil. OK…that’s not fully accurate, we just read and talk about a couple of philosophy articles that analyze the concept. What are the features of evil people and acts? Does evil just mean ‘really really really really bad’ or is it categorically different in some way? Can you be evil without ever actually causing harm? Is Tony Soprano evil? Plus we take a "moral alignment" quiz (inspired...

Duration:01:33:55

Episode 239: Lose Yourself

6/21/2022
David and Tamler lose themselves in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s (pr. ‘chick sent me high’) classic paper on the concept of flow. We talk about the features of flow activities – loss of ego, the merging of your awareness with the activity, and autotelic (not what you think) enjoyment. What makes flow activities so rewarding? Do you need to develop skills over many years to experience them? Do easy and natural social interactions count as flow? Plus as men of pure virtue, we call an audible and...

Duration:01:23:27

Episode 238: I Am Not Ivan Ilyich...Am I?

6/7/2022
Ivan Ilyich is a man. All men are mortal. So Ivan Ilyich is mortal. Sure absolutely, that’s true for Ivan Ilyich and for all men. But we’re not Ivan Ilyich and we’re not ‘all men’- so what does this have to do with us? Right? David and Tamler confront their mortality as they discuss Leo Tolstoy’s brilliant and chilling short story “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Plus the ‘Why I am leaving academia’ essay has become its own genre. But is this profession really that much worse relative to others?

Duration:01:58:27

Episode 237: Glitches Ain't Shit

5/24/2022
David and Tamler explore the many variations of simulation theory, the view that our universe is just a computer generated model created by an advanced civilization that has reached “technological maturity.” What does the growing popularity of simulation theories reveal about contemporary life? Are any of the arguments for simulation theory compelling or are they just post-hoc ways of justifying what you already believe on faith? If we are living in a simulation, does that mean we can go...

Duration:01:43:18

Episode 236: Your Outie Is Skilled at Lovemaking (With Paul Bloom)

5/3/2022
We welcome Paul Bloom to talk about the first season of "Severance," the new mind-bending and mind-splitting TV series on Apple TV+. What happens when you separate your home life from your work life? Do you create a completely different person? Is it a form of self-slavery? How important is autobiographical memory to your identity? And what’s the deal with the break room… and the goats? Plus, what happens when you combine the obsessions of evolutionary psychology with the methodological...

Duration:02:10:36

Episode 235: Animated Objects

4/19/2022
Panpsychism didn't give us river spirits or mischievous sootballs, so this time we go straight to the source - a defense of animism, and in a top 10 analytic philosophy journal. Could a failed argument for the existence of God establish the existence of trees and mountains with “interiority” and “social characteristics”? Tamler wants to believe, but is the argument that'll push him over the edge? Plus – speaking of top journals, a doozy of social psych article: Is forgiveness better than...

Duration:01:51:05

Episode 234: Like A Dog (Kafka's "The Trial" Pt. 2)

4/5/2022
David and Tamler conclude their discussion of "The Trial," Franz Kafka's darkly comic vision of an opaque and impenetrable bureaucracy that comes for us all in the end. Plus we interrupt our previously scheduled opening segment because apparently something happened at the Oscars last week.

Duration:01:53:02

Episode 233: Keeping It Surreal (Kafka's "The Trial" Pt. 1)

3/22/2022
David and Tamler wander through the bewildering dream-like world of Franz Kafka’s "The Trial." In part one of a two-part discussion we discuss the circumstances of its publication, the various interpretative approaches that can be taken to the novel, and all the ways that Kafka’s prose gets under your skin, making you feel what’s happening even if you don’t fully understand it. Recorded in the decidedly un-Kafka-esque location of Nosara, Costa Rica – thanks to the Harmony Hotel for having us...

Duration:01:53:08

Episode 232: Mind Over Matter

3/8/2022
It’s the topic voted on by our beloved Patreon patrons, panpsychism! David and Tamler delve into the resurgent debate over whether consciousness is the fundamental stuff that makes up the universe. We hoped we might be entering Miyazaki land - river spirits, benevolent radishes, a universal mind. But is this just the same old philosophy of mind debate with different words? Are there any stakes to this debate or is it purely terminological? Plus – we answer some last-minute questions from...

Duration:01:39:20

Episode 231: Ideal Critics (Hume's "Of the Standard of Taste")

2/22/2022
Many of us think that art is subjective, but at the same time it seems like some artistic judgments are better than others. Do you think Crash deserved to receive an award for Best Picture? Did you like Season 2 of Ted Lasso? Well you’re wrong. So how do we reconcile these two conflicting attitudes about art? David and Tamler turn to David Hume’s classic essay Of the Standard of Taste (link in notes) for help. Will Pizarro finally see the error of his ways on Straw Dogs? Plus a doozy of a...

Duration:01:50:58

Episode 230: Be Happy (Lars von Trier's "Melancholia")

2/8/2022
David and Tamler sink deeper and deeper into Melancholia, Lars von Trier’s harrowing and stunningly beautiful depiction of depression, anxiety, and a wedding reception that just won’t end. They bring Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” into the conversation and confront the question: what if the depressed and anxious people are right? Plus Whoopi, M&Ms, baby brain waves, Rogan – we empty out the opening segment Slack. Note: We recorded the opening segment before the latest development in the...

Duration:01:49:59

Episode 229: Skin Deep?

1/25/2022
We think racism is wrong but what about “lookism” – a bias that favors attractive people over unattractive ones? If it’s wrong to judge people by the color of their skin, what about judging people for something that is only skin deep? We talk about two pieces today, a forthcoming philosophy article by William D’Allesandro “Is it Bad to Prefer Attractive Partners” and the Ted Chiang story “Liking What You See: A Documentary.” Plus we select the topic finalists for our beloved Patreon...

Duration:01:38:51

Episode 228: Forever Jung

1/11/2022
David and Tamler confront their shadows and dive into Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. What are the central differences between Jung and Freud? What did Jung mean by archetypes and what’s his evidence for their centrality in the human psyche? How can we integrate elements of our unconscious and avoid projecting them onto the world? Can Jung’s ideas tell us anything about culture wars and relationships? Plus, an fMRI study on offensive humor – I thought you were stronger...

Duration:01:33:43

Episode 227: A Terrible Master (David Foster Wallace's "This Is Water").

12/21/2021
David and Tamler dive into David Foster Wallace’s celebrated and surprisingly earnest Kenyon College commencement speech “This is Water”. How can we escape the prison and prism of our (literally) self-centered perspective? Can we choose to adjust our natural default settings, take a break from our running inner monologue, and pay attention to what’s in front of us right now? Is DFW appealing to Buddhist ideas or something more general that you can be found across all spiritual traditions?...

Duration:01:32:39

Episode 226: Unraveling Time Traveling (with Barry Lam and Christina Hoff Sommers)

12/7/2021
First, it’s the return of the annual drunken Thanksgiving segment! Tamler and based wicked stepmom Christina Hoff Sommers fight about JFK, systematic racism, corporations, and how to pronounce valium. (We find more common ground than usual though on Covid and Havana Syndrome.) Then podcast auteur Barry Lam joins David and Tamler to talk about David Lewis on time travel, the new season of Barry’s excellent podcast Hi-Phi Nation, and then a deep dive on maybe the best time travel movie of all...

Duration:01:56:39

Episode 225: Forbidden Modules

11/16/2021
David and Tamler talk about the often rancorous debate among cognitive scientists and evolutionary psychologists over whether the mind is modular -- composed of discrete systems responsible for vision, reasoning, cheater detection, sexual jealousy, and so on. David and Tamler (mostly David) describe the history of the debate, then dive into a recent paper (Pietraszewski & Wertz, 2021) arguing that virtually all the disagreement is the product of a conceptual and methodological confusion –...

Duration:01:42:26

Episode 224: Hurts So Good (With Paul Bloom)

11/2/2021
VBW favorite Paul Bloom joins us to talk about the pleasures of suffering, flow states, Sisyphus, meaning, and dating questions. Check out his new book The Sweet Spot which comes out today! Plus what are NFTs and why does everyone hate them?

Duration:01:42:38