Very Bad Wizards

a philosopher and a psychologist ponder human morality

About the show

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.


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    Episode 55: Rooting for Evil (With Paul Bloom)

    October 20th, 2014  |  1 hr 18 mins

    Paul Bloom joins us to talk all things villainous -why we sometimes root for the bad guys, why we admire them even when we don't, why they are much more compelling than some of our heroes.

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    Episode 54: Pooping on Ecstasy (Pain, Pleasure, and the Ethics of Breeding)

    September 24th, 2014  |  1 hr 17 mins

    Tamler and David get bullied into talking about "anti-natalism," (the view that it is unethical to bring a being into existence), and to defend our ethical position as "breeders." Well, one of us defends it, at least. The other one? Well, you'll have to judge for yourself...

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    Episode 53: The Psychology People Love to Hate (Evolutionary Psychology Pt.1)

    September 8th, 2014  |  1 hr 15 mins

    Dave and Tamler take a shot at answering the question: what is an evolutionary psychologist?

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    Episode 52: Thought Experiments (Huh!) What Are They Good For? (Part 2)

    August 25th, 2014  |  1 hr 16 mins

    Experience Machines, Chinese Rooms, Original Positions, and Ice Buckets ("I don't know what you have in mind for this evening Homer, but count me out!") Dave and Tamler continue their discussion on thought experiments--how they can be effective, the difference between their use in philosophy and psychology, and how they can spin out of control like deadly viruses and become the disease they were trying to cure.

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    Episode 51: Zombies, Trolleys, and Galileo's Balls

    August 11th, 2014  |  1 hr 18 mins

    Dave and Tamler talk about the value and purposes of thought experiments in philosophy and science.

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    Episode 50: Keeping it Unreal

    July 14th, 2014  |  1 hr 27 mins

    We honestly can't believe we made it to 50 episodes, so we must be brains in a vat. But we play along and celebrate with...a movie episode! We list our five favorite films about the subjective or questionable nature of reality. Our only rule: we couldn't choose The Matrix.

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    Episode 49: Psychopaths and Contrastivizzzzzzzz (With Walter Sinnott-Armstrong)

    June 23rd, 2014  |  1 hr 43 mins

    Special guest Walter Sinnott-Armstrong joins the podcast to explain how his theory which desperately needs a new name ("contrastivism") can dissolve most of the fundamental problems and paradoxes in philosophy.

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    Episode 48: Restorative Circle Jerk

    June 9th, 2014  |  1 hr 8 mins

    Dave and Tamler take a mulligan and try to resolve their conflict about restorative justice. Do restorative processes lead to more just outcomes than other approaches? Is it more vulnerable to instances of prejudice and bias? Is revenge a form of restorative justice?

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    Episode 47: Schooled By Our Listeners

    May 22nd, 2014  |  1 hr 2 mins

    Tamler and David leech off of their listeners and dedicate an episode to their favorite comments, questions, and criticisms from the past few weeks (but not before Tamler goes on a rant about bicycle helmets).

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    Episode 46: The Real Josh Knobe

    May 4th, 2014  |  1 hr 4 mins

    May I have your attention please? Will the real Josh Knobe please stand up? Will the real... [you know what, screw this--we're just dating ourselves.] X-phi phenom Josh Knobe rejoins the podcast to talk about the true self, naked people, gay preachers, and the Talmud.

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    Episode 45: Rounded Brains and Balanced "Play Diets"

    April 20th, 2014  |  1 hr 8 mins

    A British tabloid article about kids, brains, and spatial skills somehow provokes the biggest argument ever on the podcast. Dave and Tamler get into it about gender, toys, properly rounded brains, and balanced "play diets."

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    Episode 44: Killer Robots

    April 5th, 2014  |  1 hr 8 mins
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    Episode 43: The Nature of Nudges

    March 17th, 2014  |  50 mins 3 secs

    Dave and Tamler talk about a recent study that seems to support the view that "justice is what the judge had for breakfast" (or at least how long ago the parole board had breakfast), and we discuss the ethics of "nudges" in government and consumer marketing.

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    Episode 42: Reason, Responsibility, and Roombas (With Paul Bloom)

    March 3rd, 2014  |  1 hr 7 mins

    Can a fully determined creature deliberate? How big a role does conscious reasoning play in moral judgment and everyday life? Are we responsible for our thoughts and actions? Paul Bloom rejoins us against his better judgment to discuss his book "Just Babies" and his recent article in "The Atlantic" that set the internet on the fire

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    Episode 41: Moral Dilemmas at the Movies

    February 18th, 2014  |  1 hr 37 mins

    Dave keeps trying to explain to Tamler that we're not a movie podcast, but somehow they're doing another podcast about movies. This time they each list their top 5 movies featuring moral dilemmas. Also, Tamler tries to rationalize the Woody Allen controversy, Ozymandias from Watchmen says "screw you Paul Bloom," Dave confuses Maggie Gyllenhaal with Droopy, and for the second time ever we have to censor something one of us (Tamler) says.

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    Episode 40: How Many Moralities Are There? Pt. 2 (with Jesse Graham)

    February 3rd, 2014  |  1 hr 19 mins

    Jesse Graham joins us for part 2 of our discussion on the nature of morality, and his recent paper on Moral Foundations Theory. He highlights the key components of MFT, defends himself against our accusations of weaseling out of the normative implications of MFT, champions "Synechdoche, New York" as one of the greatest films ever made, and comes out of the closet as a rationalist.