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.
June 27th, 2017 | 1 hr 12 mins
campus politics, conceptual penis hoax, james lindsay
David and Tamler try to put the topic of campus politics to bed once and for all – with limited success. First, we get into a big fight about the prevalence and danger of political correctness in American universities. We junked that recording, and tried to distill our best points into a new one. (Trust us – it was for the best.) We also narrow down all the topic recommendations from our beloved Patreon supporters to five finalists. In the second segment, James Lindsay (co-author of the "Conceptual Penis" hoax) joins us to talk about why he thinks the hoax was more successful in exposing gender studies than some of their critics (including us) have suggested.
June 13th, 2017 | 1 hr 11 mins
distributed cognition, extended mind, male circumcision
David and Tamler break down a recent classic in the philosophy of mind: "The Extended Mind" by Andy Clark and David Chalmers. What is
boundary of your mind? Is it contained with your body, or does it extend to the external environment--to your laptop, notebook,
smartphone and more? Is this a purely terminological question, or one with practical and moral significance? And what is the role of
intuition in providing an answer? Plus, Dave shares an email alerting him to the psychological trauma of male circumcision along
with an exciting all-natural method for restoring the foreskin (that was stolen from us as infants).
May 31st, 2017 | 1 hr 16 mins
conceptual penises, happiness, pain, pleasure, sokal hoax, taste
David and Tamler break down the latest small-stakes academic controversy--yes the one about conceptual penises. Does the recent "Sokal-like" hoax expose the ideological extremism of gender studies? Or does it show that certain portions of the "skeptic" community are susceptible to the same biases as their opponents? In the main segment they discuss the problems with measuring pain, pleasure, and happiness. When your doctor asks you to rate your pain between 1 and 10 and you say a 7, does your '7' reflect the same subjective experience as another person's '7'? (That depends--have you experienced childbirth?) How can we get more accurate readings of pain and pleasure across different people with different experiences? Most importantly, which number gets you the Vicodin?
May 16th, 2017 | 1 hr 37 mins
David and Tamler go ambulance chasing for scandals in their own fields. Inspired by a tweet from Jay Van Bavel, they argue about which of their disciplines--philosophy or psychology--is more completely and irredeemably fucked. Is the recent controversy at the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia diagnostic of larger problems in philosophy? Can the replication crisis ever be solved? Can philosophy return to studying the big questions? What can psychologists actually discover about the human mind?
Warning: this episode features a more respectful and mature dialogue than some VBW listeners may be comfortable with.
May 4th, 2017 | 1 hr 21 mins
movies, passover, revenge, vengeance
Somehow, after 113 episodes David and Tamler have never done a top 5 movie episode about revenge (so unbelievable that we had to double-check). That changes today. Among the things we learned: good revenge movies are harder to find than we thought, revenge (at least, movie revenge) is messy, and David knows at least one movie that Tamler has never heard of. Plus, should Jews be celebrating the killing of Egyptian first borns? Or atoning for it? (Or perhaps just pouring out a little more wine at Passover?)
April 18th, 2017 | 1 hr 18 mins
expected utility, god, pascal's mugging, pascal's wager
David and Tamler break down what may be the best argument that it's rational to believe in God: Pascal's Wager. (No, we're not just trolling our Sam Harris listeners.) Does the expected value of believing in God outweigh the probability that you're wrong? How does belief work--can you just turn it on and off? What if you believe in the wrong God? This leads to a wide-ranging discussion on decision theory, instrumental rationality, artificial intelligence, transformative experiences, and whether David should drop acid. Your brain AND you future self will love this episode!
April 4th, 2017 | 1 hr 31 mins
epistemology, gettier cases, monogamy, skepticism
For four years Tamler has been bitching about Gettier cases without even explaining what they are or why he hates them. That ends today. David and Tamler talk about the famous paper that challenged the (widespread? non-existent?) notion that knowledge is, and only is, justified true belief. We talk about the so-called skeptics about knowledge that Gettier inspired, then discuss the real skepticism that Descartes examined with his evil demon thought experiment. Plus, you know how you're in a monogamous relationship because of science? Well, turns out that science may be flawed....
March 22nd, 2017 | 1 hr 3 mins
In Part 2 of our episode with film scholar Yoel Inbar (AOS: Quebecois New Wave Cinema), we break down the philosophy and psychology of the movie Arrival.
March 14th, 2017 | 41 mins 50 secs
Special guest Yoel Inbar joins Tamler and David to discuss the Charles Murray protest at Middlebury College (and the top porn searches by State).
February 28th, 2017 | 1 hr 11 mins
Tamler and Dave discuss moral pluralism.
February 7th, 2017 | 1 hr 14 mins
Tamler and David discuss moral hypocrisy.
January 24th, 2017 | 1 hr 21 mins
Philosopher Manuel Vargas joins us to talk about moral responsibility under oppression.
January 10th, 2017 | 1 hr 17 mins
edge.org, moral grandstanding
David and Tamler take a break from moral grandstanding to talk about moral grandstanding, focusing on a recent paper by philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke.
December 28th, 2016 | 1 hr 23 mins
Tamler and David discuss the increasingly trollish nature of Aeon Magazine articles, then discuss (and argue about) philosopher Victoria McGeer's 2012 article "Co-reactive attitudes and the making of moral community."
December 13th, 2016 | 1 hr 33 mins
empathy, movies, paul bloom
Paul Bloom joins Tamler and David to discuss their picks for the top three movies about empathy.
November 29th, 2016 | 1 hr 7 mins
David and Tamler give thanks to their listeners and Patreon supporters with an episode chosen by our top Patreon subscribers--the drafting of a "constitution" for our very own Utopia.