Philosophy Talk The program that questions everything... except your intelligence.
Philosophy Talk

Philosophy Talk


The program that questions everything... except your intelligence.

Most Recent Episodes

589: Mary Wollstonecraft

More at Mary Wollstonecraft is often labeled as a "liberal feminist" because of her concern for women's rights and conceptions of freedom. But that label narrows her work, which was broadly critical of all social inequalities that distort human relations. So why did Wollstonecraft think that virtue is not truly possible unless we are all free? What did she think was key to the liberation of women? And what were her criticisms of the powerful institutions of her day, like the monarchy? Josh and Ray explore the life and thought of Mary Wollstonecraft with Sylvana Tomaselli from the University of Cambridge, author of "Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics." Part of the "Wise Women," series generously supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

588: Why Is the World So Weird?

More at Quantum mechanics, mathematics, human consciousness.... whichever way you slice it, the universe is weird. How can our conscious minds be made from unconscious atoms? What should we make of quantum entanglement, or the fact that light can be both a particle and a wave? Why is it that there are exactly as many fractions as there are whole numbers? Josh and Ray boggle at the strangeness of it all with Eric Schwitzgebel from UC Riverside, author of "The Weirdness of the World."

587: Shakespeare's Outsiders

More at Over 400 years after his death, Shakespeare is still widely regarded as the greatest dramatist of all time. His many plays tackle questions about power, influence, identity, and moral and social status. His characters—be they villains or heroes—are often disdained because of their race, religion, class, disability, or gender. So what do Shakespeare's plays reveal about identity and status in his time? How might they shed light on who we include and who we exclude today? Could Shakespearian dramas have more in common with modern day soap operas than we think? Ray and guest-host Adrian Daub go inside with David Sterling Brown from Trinity College, author of "Shakespeare's White Others."

538: Could Robots Be Persons?

More at As we approach the advent of autonomous robots, we must decide how we will determine culpability for their actions. Some propose creating a new legal category of "electronic personhood" for any sufficiently advanced robot that can learn and make decisions by itself. But do we really want to assign artificial intelligence legal—or moral—rights and responsibilities? Would it be ethical to produce and sell something with the status of a person in the first place? Does designing machines that look and act like humans lead us to misplace our empathy? Or should we be kind to robots lest we become unkind to our fellow human beings? Josh and Ray do the robot with Joanna Bryson, Professor of Ethics and Technology at the Hertie School of Governance.

586: Mind Sharing

More at Mind reading might sound like the stuff of science fiction. But in philosophy and psychology, mind reading is something that human beings do whenever we try to guess what another person is thinking. Could it be that people are also natural born mind sharers, unconsciously shaping our behavior to be understood by others? How do we change or exaggerate our actions when others are present? And how can we use these insights to communicate better with our loved ones? Josh and Ray share their mind(s) with Julian Jara-Ettinger, Director of the Computational Social Cognition Lab at Yale University.

585: Margaret Cavendish

More at Margaret Cavendish was a writer of poetry, philosophy, polemics, histories, plays, and utopian fiction. She employed many different genres as a way to overcome access barriers for women and build an audience for her subversive philosophical ideas. So, what was so radical about Cavendish's views? Why did she think all matter, even rocks, was at least partially rational? And how did she anticipate the term "epistemic injustice" 400 years before it was coined? Josh and Ray explore the life and thought of Margaret Cavendish with Karen Detlefsen from the University of Pennsylvania, co-editor of "The Routledge Handbook of Women and Early Modern European Philosophy."

584: The 2024 Dionysus Awards

More at What movies of the past year challenged your assumptions and made you think about things in new ways? Josh and guest co-host Jeremy Sabol present our annual Dionysus Awards for the most thought-provoking movies of 2023, including: • Best Film about Social Justice that Wonders What Makes a Good Film about Social Justice • Most Disturbing Exploration of a Female Criminal Who Thinks She May Be Innocent • Most Moving Film (or TV show!) about Difficult Choices

583: Im Yunjidang

More at 8th-century Korean philosopher Im Yunjidang was the first Confucian to argue for women's equality in matters of morality and to claim that women, just like men, can be sages. She also argued that it isn't just what you do that matters morally—it's also how you decide. So what does it mean to be a sage and how does someone become one? How did Im Yunjidang use traditional Confucian texts to argue for women's spiritual equality? And what did she think was important when it comes to making difficult moral choices? Josh and Ray explore her life and thought with Hwa Yeong Wang from Duke Kunshan University, editor of "Korean Women Philosophers and the Ideal of a Female Sage: The Essential of Writings of Im Yungjidang and Gang Jeongildang." Part of the "Wise Women" series, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

582: Can A.I. Help Us Understand Babies?

More at Artificial intelligence is everywhere in our day-to-day lives and our interactions with the world. And it's made impressive progress at a variety of visual, linguistic, and reasoning tasks. Does this improved performance indicate that computers are thinking, or is it just an engineering artifact? Can it help us understand how children acquire knowledge and develop language skills? Or are humans fundamentally different from machines? Josh and Ray decode the babble with Michael Frank, Professor of Human Biology at Stanford University and Director of the Symbolic Systems Program.

581: 20th Anniversary Quiz Night

More at Philosophy Talk made its radio debut on August 20, 2003 with a live pilot on KALW San Francisco and weekly broadcasts beginning in January 2004. To celebrate two decades on the air, in November 2023 we held our first-ever Quiz Night. Longtime listeners and first-time fans filled KALW's popup space in downtown San Francisco as Director of Research Laura Maguire ran eight teams through the gauntlet of a philosophical pub quiz. In this special 20th anniversary episode, Josh and Ray (who participated in the quiz as regular contestants) revisit the drama and intellectual derring-do from that evening with their guest quiz-taker, host emeritus John Perry.