Philosophy Talk

Program Schedule

KSFC 91.9
Wednesday 9pm - 10pm

Philosophy Talk is radio that celebrates the value of the examined life.  Week after week, our two philosopher-hosts invite listeners to join them in conversations about a wide variety of issues-- ranging from popular culture to our most deeply held beliefs about science, morality, and the human condition.  Philosophy Talk challenges listeners to identify and question their assumptions and to think about things in new ways.   We are dedicated to reasoned conversation driven by human curiousity.  Philosophy Talks is  broadly accessible, intellectually stimulating and, most of all, fun!  

Philosophy talk is hosted by Ken Taylor, P
rofessor of Philosophy at Stanford University, and John Perry, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Riverside and  Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Stanford University.

Program Listings:
September 10, 2014
Corporations and the Future of Democracy

The US prides itself on the strength of its democratic institutions and considers itself a leader in the promotion of democratic values around the globe. But can we consistently maintain this self-image in the face of the growing power of corporations? How are capitalism and globalization subverting the interests of democracy at home and abroad? Does the problem stem from fundamental inconsistencies between global capitalism and national democracy? Can regulations provide a solution, and if so, who has the authority to create and enforce these regulations? John and Ken welcome former US Senator Russell Feingold, author of While America Sleeps: A Wake-up Call for the Post-9/11 Era, for a program recorded live on the Stanford campus.

September 17, 2014
Babies: The Birth of Morality?

Doing the right thing is often an extremely difficult task. Yet psychological research indicates that infants as young as 21 months old have a crude sense of what is right and wrong. This capacity is reflected by infants' decisions to reward or punish characters in social scenarios. But surely a genuine, robust, mature moral compass is much more complicated than that. So what can babies tell us about adult morality? How much of morality is innate, and how much must we develop as moral thinkers? John and Ken talk infant morality with Paul Bloom from Yale University, author of Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil.

September 24, 2014
Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli is best known for arguing that people in power should use deception, force, and manipulation if those tactics are necessary to achieve their ends. In an age of unscrupulous politics and ruthless business practice, shouldn't we be encouraging a move away from Machiavellian thinking? Then again, are we even sure that those "Machiavellian" views were really Machiavelli's? If not, what did he really think, and what might we learn from him? John and Ken scheme with Maurizio Viroli from Princeton University, author of Redeeming the Prince: The Meaning of Machiavelli's Masterpiece.

October 1, 2014
Second-Guessing Ourselves

We like to think of ourselves as self-aware, reflective beings, but psychological studies demonstrate that we’re usually overconfident in the accuracy of our own beliefs. Memory, for example, can be extremely unreliable, even when we feel certain we know what happened. Surprisingly, when we’re made aware of this, we adjust our level of confidence in ourselves only slightly. How, then, can we doubt ourselves in a rational and efficient manner to bring our beliefs closer to reality? And, just as importantly, how do we prevent ourselves from falling into the other extreme of constant second guessing? John and Ken don't think twice with Sherri Roush from UC Berkeley, author of Tracking Truth: Knowledge, Evidence, and Science.

October 8, 2014
Racial Profiling and Implicit Bias

Whether for counterterrorism measures, street level crime, or immigration, racial profiling of minorities occurs frequently. However, racial profiling is illegal under many jurisdictions and many might say ineffective. Is racial profiling ever moral or is it always an unjustified form of racism? Is there any evidence that certain races or ethnic groups have a tendency to behave in particular ways? Should our aim be to eliminate racial profiling completely, or is some kind of profiling inevitable? John and Ken share their profiles with Linda Alcoff from the City University of New York, author of Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self.

October 15, 2014
Corporations and the Future of Democracy

The US prides itself on the strength of its democratic institutions and considers itself a leader in the promotion of democratic values around the globe. But can we consistently maintain this self-image in the face of the growing power of corporations? How are capitalism and globalization subverting the interests of democracy at home and abroad? Does the problem stem from fundamental inconsistencies between global capitalism and national democracy? Can regulations provide a solution, and if so, who has the authority to create and enforce these regulations? John and Ken welcome former US Senator Russell Feingold, author of While America Sleeps: A Wake-up Call for the Post-9/11 Era, for a program recorded live on the Stanford campus.

October 22, 2014
Freedom, Blame, and Resentment

When someone acts without regard for our feelings or needs, a natural response is to feel resentment toward that person. But is that a rational response? What if there's no such thing as free will? Is blame still appropriate in a deterministic universe? Or are we simply genetically programmed to respond emotionally to perceived injuries? John and Ken talk freely with Pamela Hieronymi from UCLA, author of Reflection and Responsibility.

October 29, 2014
Philosophy as Therapy

From Plato and Sextus Empiricus to Wittgenstein, many important thinkers have thought of philosophy as a type of therapy. By looking at our way of life through a philosophical lens, we can achieve a particular kind of understanding that can bring us peace of mind. But can philosophy really help those who experience mental anguish? Don’t we have shrinks and medication for that? If philosophy is more likely to raise more questions than it offers answers, how could it help us overcome suffering? What would it mean for an emotional or psychological problem to have a philosophical cure? John and Ken seek solace with David Konstan from NYU, author of Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea.

November 5, 2014
The Fairness Fixation

Imagine that your eight-year-old son arrives home boasting that he won the race that day in gym class. Right as your heart begins to swell with pride, he reveals that he wasn’t the only winner—the whole class won the race. The gym teacher, it turns out, thought that naming just one winner would be unfair. If our obsession with fairness leads to absurdities like this, why should we be so committed to being fair? Why not reserve the best we have to offer for those who actually deserve it? Can there be justice, kindness, and compassion in a world without fairness? John and Ken play favorites with Stephen Asma from Columbia College Chicago, author of Against Fairness: In Favor of Favoritism.

November 12, 2014
Identities Lost & Found in a Global Age

Throughout human history, people have tended to live and die in the place they're born. Place is an important part of identity. But what happens when people are deprived of this sense of place? What psychological effects do emigrants, exiles, and expatriates endure? What happens to the importance of place when community membership can be based on common interests among people linked by email and facebook? John and Ken situate themselves with UC Berkeley English Professor Bharati Mukherjee, author of Miss New India and other novels exploring migration, alienation, and identity.

November 19, 2014
Transformative Experiences

We are faced with decisions all the time in life. Normally, we think about the possible outcomes and chose a course of action that matches what we take to be of most value to us. However, one might think that some decisions—like whether or not to have a child—can so profoundly transform our lives that we cannot possibly know what the outcome will be like until it actually happens. Are these the kind of decisions in which our regular approach to decision-making becomes useless? Can life-changing decisions ever be made rationally? If not, can we still make good choices? John and Ken make some major decisions with Laurie Paul from UNC Chapel Hill, author of Transformative Experience.

November 26, 2014
Gun Control

The right to bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, is at once both distinctly American and highly controversial. Incidents such as the Sandy Hook school shooting force the nation to think hard about how the law should balance gun ownership with the risk these deadly weapons present to society. What kind of right is the right to bear arms, if it is a right at all? What responsibilities ought to come with gun ownership? And what can philosophical thinking contribute to such delicate policy decisions? John and Ken stand their ground with Hugh LaFollette from the University of South Florida, author of The Practice of Ethics.

December 3, 2014
Hypocrisy

Hypocrites believe one thing, but do another. Jefferson opposed slavery, but owned slaves. Jesus professed universal love, but cursed an innocent fig tree. Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty, but as governor of California will be responsible for executions. Hypocrites all – but vile hypocrites? Surely it was better that Jefferson was a hypocrite, and articulated the case against slavery, than not opposing it at all. Does it take courage to defend a view that you, yourself, don't have the courage or the character to follow through on? John and Ken try to practice what they preach with Lawrence Quill from San Jose State University, author of Secrets and Democracy: From Arcana Imperii to Wikileaks.

December 10, 2014
The Lure of Immortality

Would you like to live forever? It is a tempting notion that has been explored and imagined for centuries. Perhaps immortality is desirable, but it might also be that death is a significant part of what gives meaning to life. So what would a society of immortal individuals look like? What might some of the challenges or rewards of an immortal life be? How would living forever affect our relationships with one another, our life goals, or simply the way we perceive time? Would the impacts of immortality ultimately be beneficial or detrimental to us? John and Ken tempt fate with John Fischer from UC Riverside, author of Our Stories: Essays on Life, Death, and Free Will.

December 17, 2014
Gut Feelings and the Art of Decision-Making

We may think of ourselves as rational decision-makers, but we often base even high-stakes decisions on intuitions or "gut feelings" rather than explicit reasoning. Decisions based on intuition are not highly esteemed in business, politics, or medicine – which may lead decision-makers to construct elaborate post facto rationalizations to explain their intuitive choices. What place should intuitions have in important decision-making? Is there a role for expertise in developing reliable gut-feelings? John and Ken trust their instincts with Gerd Gigerenzer from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, author of Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious.

December 24, 2014
Humanity Violated

Humans tend to treat other humans who differ from them, even in seemingly small and insignificant ways, as less than fully human. Our tendency to dehumanize the "other" has sometimes led to great atrocities like the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, and the slave trade. It is arguably responsible for such widespread social ills as racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Where does our tendency to dehumanize others come from? Is it based on bad arguments hat can be rationally refuted, or are its origins deeper in the human psyche? Are we bound to see the "other" as less than fully human? John and Ken take a human approach with David Livingstone Smith from the University of New England, author of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others.

December 31, 2014
Prostitution and the Sex Trade

Some consider the commodification of sexual services inherently wrong, something that ought to be abolished outright. Others claim that prostitution is a legitimate form of commerce and that changing its legal status would reduce or eliminate most harms to sex workers. So in a just society, are there any conditions under which buying and selling sex are morally acceptable? Does the sex trade inevitably involve coercion of some kind, or can becoming a sex worker ever be a free, fully autonomous choice? John and Ken explore the complexities of the world's oldest profession with novelist, columnist, and former sex worker Tracy Quan, author of the best-selling Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl. This program was recorded live at the Public Radio Program Directors Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

January 7, 2015
The Examined Year - 2014

A new year offers an opportunity to reflect on significant moments of the past twelve months. But what ideas and events that took shape over the past year have prompted us to question our assumptions and to think about things in new ways? What significant events – in politics, in science, and in philosophy itself – have called into question our most deeply-held beliefs? Join John, Ken, and their special guests as they celebrate the examined year with a philosophical look back at the year that was 2014.

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