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 39: How Many Moralities Are There? (Pt.1)

    January 20th, 2014  |  59 mins 48 secs

    Dave and Tamler bounce back this week after having to trash the last episode. Does morality ultimately boil down to a single principle (such as harm or justice), or is there more to ethical life than is dreamt of in the minds of philosophers? We settle this question once and for all in the first of a 2-part episode in which we discuss Jesse Graham et al's recent paper on Moral Foundations Theory. (Jesse Graham himself joins us in Part 2).

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    Episode 38: The Greatest Movies Ever Made about Personal Identity

    December 30th, 2013  |  1 hr 21 mins

    Who is the real you? What happens to your identity when your body gets cloned or reconstituted with all the same memories and character traits? Does society construct our true selves or repress them? Can we ever escape our pasts and become different people? Dave thinks conceptual analysis and arousal measuring devices can solve all these problems but allows Tamler his dream of temporarily becoming the host of a movie podcast. They list their top 5 favorite movies about personal identity.

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    Episode 37: Porn, Poop, and Personal Identity (with Nina Strohminger)

    December 16th, 2013  |  45 mins 47 secs

    The guest we've been waiting for--Nina Strohminger--joins us to talk about the connection between disgust and humor, cheap laughs, moral character and personal identity, and the British opt-in plan for porn.

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    Episode 36: An Irresponsible Meta-Book Review of Joshua Greene's "Moral Tribes"

    November 25th, 2013  |  55 mins 12 secs

    Our most irresponsible episode ever! Dave and Tamler talk about two reviews of a book they haven't read--Joshua Greene's "Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them"--and feel only a little shame.

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    Episode 35: Douchebags and Desert

    November 11th, 2013  |  1 hr 1 min

    Dave and Tamler talk about the influence of character judgments on attributions of blame. What is the function of the blame--to assign responsibility or to judge a person's character? Is it fair that we blame douchebags more than good people who commit exactly the same act, or is it yet another cognitive bias that should be avoided?

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    Episode 34: Does Reading Harry Potter Make You Moral? (with Will Wilkinson)

    October 28th, 2013  |  1 hr 13 mins

    Special guest Will Wilkinson joins the podcast to talk about whether fiction makes us better people, and to discuss his recent Daily Beast article that trashed Dave's profession and livelihood.

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    Episode 33: Monkeys, Smurfs, and Human Conformity (With Laurie Santos)

    October 14th, 2013  |  57 mins 9 secs

    Special guest Laurie Santos (Psychology, Yale) joins us to talk about what animal cognition can tell us about human nature. Why are other primates better at resisting the misleading influence of others than humans? Is conformity a byproduct of our sophisticated cultural learning capacities? Are we more like Chimpanzees or Bonobos? Why does Dave spend so much time writing Smurf fan fiction?

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    Episode 32: Disagreeing About Disagreement

    September 30th, 2013  |  1 hr 18 mins

    Part II of our discussion on Rai and Fiske (sort of):  We answer a listener's email and in the process
    get into an episode long argument about moral intuitions, psychological facts, the implications of moral disagreement.

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    Episode 31: An Anthropologist's Guide to Moral Psychology (Pt. 1)

    September 15th, 2013  |  54 mins 54 secs

    In the first of a two-part episode, we discuss one of our favorite recent papers--Tage Rai and Alan Page Fiske's 2011 paper on how social relationships shape and motivate our moral emotions and judgments.  We also talk about Sam Harris' $20,000 "Moral Landscape Challenge."

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    Episode 30: The Greatest Books Ever Written

    September 2nd, 2013  |  1 hr 11 mins

    Dave and Tamler celebrate their one year anniversary and 30th episode with one of their least cynical episodes yet. They talk about 5 philosophy/psychology(-ish) books that influenced and inspired them throughout the years.

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    Episode 29: PEDs, Tenure Pills, and "Hyberbolic Chambers"

    August 19th, 2013  |  47 mins 54 secs

    Dave and Tamler try to artificially bulk up their expertise on the ethics of performance enhancing drugs and end up raising a lot more questions than they answer.

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    Episode 28: Moral Persuasion

    August 5th, 2013  |  1 hr 9 mins

    Dave and Tamler try their best to do a show without guests--we talk about moral persuasion, motivated reasoning, and whether it's legitimate to use emotionally charged rhetoric in a philosophical argument. Plus, we describe how students proceed through the "Stages-of-Singer," and Tamler finally defends himself against Dave's slanderous accusation of hypocrisy about animal welfare.

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    Episode 27: You, Your Self, and Your Brain (With Eddy Nahmias)

    July 22nd, 2013  |  1 hr 22 mins

    Our streak of very special guests continues! Philosopher Eddy Nahmias joins the podcast to us why people mistakenly think they're not morally responsible, and how his new study casts doubt on Sam Harris's view on free will. Eddy also describes his new project (with Toni Adleberg and Morgan Thompson) on why women leave philosophy.

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    Episode 26: Evolution and Sexual Perversion (with Jesse Bering)

    July 7th, 2013  |  1 hr 21 mins

    Psychologist and author Jesse Bering joins us to talk about evolutionary psychology and his forthcoming book "Perv." In the relatively uncontroversial part of the episode, we ask if homophobia is an adaptation and if women have evolved rape defenses. After that, sex with animals, sex with bookshelves, foot fetishes, amputee fetishes, falling down the stairs fetishes... I don't know, just listen.

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    Episode 25: Burning Armchairs (with Joshua Knobe)

    June 24th, 2013  |  58 mins 28 secs

    Josh Knobe, the Michael Corleone of experimental philosophy, joins us to talk about taking philosophy into the lab and the streets. We discuss how people moralize everyday concepts like intention, causation, and innateness. Dave wonders if X-phi people are just doing social psychology, and Tamler tries his best to get Josh mad with his critique of Josh's experimental work on free will.

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    Episode 24: The Perils of Empathy (with Paul Bloom)

    June 10th, 2013  |  1 hr 23 mins

    Paul Bloom joins us in the second segment for a lively discussion about the value of  empathy as a guide our moral decisions. And in our first scoop, we talk about Paul's new book "Just Babies: The Origin of Good and Evil,"racist babies, and how 80s sitcoms changed the world.