Philosophy Talk asks which you is the real you

Dec 4, 2015

Is there such a thing as 'one true self', or is the self merely a conglomerate of 'mini-selves' shaped by cultural and social forces?  

Philosophy Talk asks about perception, memory, and justice

Nov 27, 2015

What do Descartes and Perry Mason have in common? They both distrust eyewitness testimony.  

Philosophy Talk asks about the demands of morality

Nov 20, 2015

What does it really mean - in the real world - to lead a moral life?

What was so dangerous about Spinoza's ideas that he was ex-communicated for them?

Peter Dobey

Alva Noë  is a professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley with a background in cognitive and brain science, so it makes sense that he writes about the nature of consciousness and human experience.

How can abstract philosophical arguments about love be represented in a five-movement violin concerto?

Philosophy Talk asks about the logic and limits of Regret

Oct 16, 2015

If you regret something, do you have to regret all of its consequences? If you affirm something, do you have to affirm all of the events that led to it, including the regrettable ones?


How can we separate genetic fact from genetic fiction?

Philosophy Talk asks about Dance as a way of knowing

Oct 2, 2015

Is dance a form of perception? Is perception a form of dance?

Philosophy Talk asks about the technology of immortality

Sep 25, 2015

What kind of world would it be if some people achieved immortality through technology, while the rest of us died away?

Philosophy Talk asks about the changing face of feminism

Sep 20, 2015

What are the basic tenets of the most recent wave of feminism, and how does it differ from the previous waves?

How should we reconcile conflicts between the state’s responsibility to properly educate minors and the parents’ rights to influence their children's values and ideals? 

Philosophy Talk asks: Are some people better than others?

Aug 21, 2015

Should he most gifted among us be held back by the morality of ordinary folk?

What in the world is a Monad? Why does Leibniz care so much about the so-called Principle of Sufficient Reason? And how could he claim that this is the Best of all Possible Worlds? 

Is it just dumb luck that the universe has just the right settings to support life as we know it?

What books should thoughtful people be reading this summer?

Philosophy Talk asks: Should satire have its limits?

Jul 24, 2015

Are there topics we should never satirize? Is there a well-defined line between satire and hate speech? 

We like to think of ourselves as rational agents who exercise conscious control over most of our actions and decisions. Yet in recent years, neuroscientists have claimed to prove that free will is simply an illusion, that our brains decide for us before our conscious minds even become aware.

Should we think of whistleblowers as selfless martyrs, as traitors, or as something else?  Hear John Perry and Ken Taylor's conversation with the world's most famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden.  Tuesday at 12pm.

Are you a tax-raising, soy latte-drinking, Prius-driving, New York Times-reading, Daily Show-watching, corporation-hating liberal? Or a gun-toting, Bible-loving, Walmart-shopping, homophobic, climate-change-denying, immigrant-hating conservative? Why does it seem like all of American politics often boils down to these two absurd positions? Is it because of our particular political system, our culture, or deeper psychological impulses?

Philosophy Talk asks: Can we make sense of Heidegger?

Jun 26, 2015

Best known for his work Being and Time, Martin Heidegger has been hailed by many as the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century. He has also been criticized for being both nearly unreadable and a Nazi. Yet there is no disputing his seminal place in the history of Western thought. So what did Heidegger mean when he wrote about world, being, and time?

The ideal of science is objectivity in the service of advancing knowledge. We tend to assume that to be objective, scientists must keep their politics from influencing their work. But time and time again we see that science, even some of our best science, is awash in political influences. Could politics sometimes have a positive effect on objectivity in science? If so, which kinds of politics might have a positive effect and which might not? What criteria could we use to make the distinction? And does 'objectivity' still have meaning in this context?

Philosophy Talks asks: How does Propaganda work?

May 29, 2015

Governments and other political institutions employ propaganda to sway public opinion, instill ideas, and exert a degree of control over people. While totalitarian regimes have been known to do this explicitly, democratic governments often disguise their propaganda with persuasive rhetoric. So what exactly constitutes propaganda and how does it work? Does it always involve lies or falsehoods? Can propaganda ever be morally justified or is it a pernicious form of communication? John and Ken trade slogans with Jason Stanley from Yale University, author of How Propaganda Works. 

Philosophy Talk asks: How does Fiction shape us?

May 22, 2015

A good novel can do many things. It can distract us from the humdrum of daily existence, stimulate our imaginations, and delight us with its creative use of language. But isn’t there something more we gain from engaging with fictional worlds and characters? Do we, for example, use literary texts to morally improve ourselves? Is there some deeper truth we’re supposed to learn from a good novel? Or do we use fiction to fine-tune certain cognitive capacities?

Humans have an amazing capacity to communicate. By uttering sounds we are able to convey meaning to those around us. These noises we make take on properties – they mean certain things, they are true or false, etc. Some animals also use forms of language: bees, for example, use dances and pheromones to communicate with each other. What gives these signals – words and movements – their linguistic meaning? How is it possible to communicate complex propositions simply by making sound?

According to Corinthians 13, “Love is patient, love is kind and envies no one.” But is love always unconditional? Should it be? If unconditional love means that we love no matter what our beloved’s actions or traits are, doesn’t that suggest we should love everyone in this way? If not, how do we select just a few to love unconditionally? Perhaps the feeling we reserve for those we cherish most in the world is better described as selfless rather than unconditional love, in which case we are confronted with another challenge.

Philosophy Talk asks: Why believe in Reincarnation?

May 1, 2015

According to Buddhist tradition, all people must suffer illness, aging, and death. Yet the universe is seen as a vast living entity, in which cycles of individual life and death are repeated without cease. Therefore death is a necessary part of the process of life, making renewal and new growth possible. So what does this view mean about the eternality of the self? Is there a single subject or consciousness that persists through all the cycles of death and rebirth? What are the karmic consequences of one’s moral acts for future lives?

Philosophy Talk asks: Is Economics really a Science?

Apr 21, 2015

With the recent global economic crisis, many people wonder if our economic policies are built on sound principles or on dubious, unscientific claims. What kinds of assumptions does Economics make about markets and the behavior of producers and consumers? What kinds of assumptions does it make about the rationality of individuals? How, if at all, are those claims empirically verified? Or are they just speculative theories proven false by the current crisis?

Philosophy Talk asks: What can non-violence really achieve?

Apr 10, 2015

We all hope for peace. Yet in the face of violence, it often seems the only recourse is more violence. Advocates of non-violence claim it’s not necessary to respond to war in kind, and that responding violently, even in self-defense, just perpetuates the cycle of violence. So how can we practice non-violence under the direct threat of violence? Can non-violent acts be spread to stop aggression and war? And are there times when violence is, in fact, necessary?

Philosophy Talk asks: What is Wilderness?

Apr 5, 2015

Nowadays we think of wilderness as a fully natural environment that contrasts sharply with the designed and constructed environments in which we normally move. But does that vision of wilderness really exist anymore? What is natural and what is artificial about wilderness? Should humans be understood as a part of nature or distinct from it? And how should we approach conservation efforts so that we balance the needs of a growing world population with the need to preserve some aspect of the wild in our lives?