I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Houston. I'm the author of Relative Justice (Princeton 2012) and A Very Bad Wizard: Morality Behind the Curtain which features interviews with eminent researchers including Peter Singer, Susan Wolf, Philip Zimbardo, Anthony Appiah, Frans de Waal, Jonathan Haidt, along with VBW guests Paul Bloom and Valerie Tiberius. My new book Why Honor Matters comes out in Spring 2018.
May 22nd, 2018 | 1 hr 33 mins
mice, neuroscience, neuroskeptic, trolley problems
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 @neuroskeptic 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 experiment that aims to finally answer the question: do our judgments in sacrificial dilemmas (like the trolley problem) -actually- predict our behavior? Plus, we find out live (on tape) if David is a Laurel or a Yanni - or is he a Samantha?
May 12th, 2018 | 1 hr 31 mins
culture, dignity, honor, identity
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 Berger "On the Obsolescence of the Culture of Honor" (along with Tamler's new book) was the launching point for the discussion (links to both in show notes).
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April 24th, 2018 | 1 hr 45 mins
eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, memory, michel gondry, relationships
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 preorder Why Honor Matters and get your free bonus episode! Upload your receipt here
April 10th, 2018 | 1 hr 19 mins
buddhism, death, shaun nichols
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 exist?). But the evidence collected by Shaun and colleagues suggests exactly the opposite. Why would that be?
Plus, David and Tamler choose six finalists for the Patreon listener selected episode (did Jordan Peterson make the list?), and we announce a special bonus for people who pre-order Tamler’s forthcoming book "Why Honor Matters."
March 27th, 2018 | 1 hr 32 mins
happiness, the good life, yale
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. The course explores questions like: 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 young are people more stressed, anxious, and overworked than they used to be? And how can we nudge ourselves into living better lives?
March 13th, 2018 | 1 hr 16 mins
bernard williams, christina hoff sommers, lewis and clark, utilitarianism, woke
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 utilitarianism 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 in the first place? Is it ultimately self-defeating as a moral theory?
Plus, we talk about the adventures of Tamler's based step-mom Christina Hoff Sommers' at Lewis and Clark law school. Will David stay woke?
February 27th, 2018 | 1 hr 51 mins
evolutionary psychology, internet, moral outrage, trolleyology, twitter
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 benefits of online outrage while minimizing the costs? Plus, Dave and Tamler perform an exorcism on the unholy offspring of evolutionary psychology and trolleyology.
February 6th, 2018 | 1 hr 15 mins
death, it was all a dream, thomas nagel
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?
January 23rd, 2018 | 1 hr 35 mins
compassion, dave desteno, emotional success, emotions, gratitude, pride, utilitarianism
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) make us happier and better people.
Plus, David and Tamler take a quiz that measures how utilitarian they are, and you won't believe the results!!! (Actually, you will.)
January 9th, 2018 | 1 hr 39 mins
black mirror, charlie brooker, lying
David and Tamler break down two episodes (with full spoilers) from the new season of Charlie Brooker's bleaker-than-bleak Netflix series Black Mirror. First up, "The USS Callister," a Star Trek parody that becomes a meditation on fandom, humiliation, and cowardly revenge. Next we talk about "Black Museum" - could it be the final episode of Black Mirror? Should it be? After four seasons of indicting humanity, has Charlie Brooker turned his critical lens on himself?
Plus, you thought it was bad for children to tell lies, but it turns out that it's good!