23 January 2020
Science of Spirituality
The Wright Show
Emotions and the Brain
The Meaning of Future Life
The Weirdness of Physics
Subscribe to MeaningofLife.tv videos via podcast or email
Jan 16, 2020 — John Horgan & Steve Taylor
Steve’s childhood experiences of euphoria in nature
Why Steve prefers “wakefulness” to “enlightenment”
Does being “awakened” make you a better person?
Steve: “Being a parent is a spiritual path”
Steve’s new book,
“Panspiritism” as an alternative to panpsychism
How is “the spirit” different than God?
Was there a point in prehistory when man behaved morally?
Brexit, Trump, and encounters with death that lead to transformation
Jan 6, 2020 — Robert Wright & Gideon Rosen
Defining “moral realism”
Cognitivists vs. noncognitivists
Are moral beliefs just expressions of human desires?
Human happiness is better than human suffering…right?
Considering whether you can be both a Darwinian and a moral realist
Moral progress, teleology, and mysticism
Why you “have to take something for granted” in any philosophical system
The bedrock sources of meaning in life
If life has meaning, does moral realism logically follow?
Dec 28, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Joseph Biehl
Why Joe left academia
Bemoaning the apathy of today’s college students
Joe’s nonprofit, the Gotham Philosophical Society
How can philosophers help improve a place like New York City?
Should philosophy be parochial or universalist?
Philosophical anti-realism and parochialism
Neighborhood pride in the cosmopolitan city
Dec 24, 2019 — Robert Wright & Rhonda Magee
Rhonda’s path to meditation and Buddhism
Rhonda’s new book,
The Inner Work of Racial Justice
Is equanimity the enemy of activism?
Using mindfulness to overcome biases and stereotypes
How Rhonda deploys contemplative practices in her law school classroom
Can one feel compassion for a cop who shot an unarmed black man?
Dec 17, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Spencer Case
In praise of non-elite institutions
Spencer’s journey from Mormonism to professional philosophy
Does philosophy matter?
The role of temperament in shaping philosophers’ views
Does moral philosophy contribute to moral progress?
Dan: It doesn’t matter whether God exists
Dan and Spencer’s concerns about the role of activism in philosophy
Does it matter if philosophy matters?
Spencer: Trying to live with integrity is central to philosophy
Dec 8, 2019 — Robert Wright & Catherine Wilson
Catherine’s new book,
How to Be an Epicurean
How Epicureanism is like and unlike utilitarianism
How the ancient Epicureans viewed nature and reality
Comparing Epicureanism with its big rival, Stoicism
On suffering and death
Epicurean influence on post-Enlightenment science and philosophy
Dec 4, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Massimo Pigliucci
Are philosophers experts?
Socrates didn’t have a PhD
Massimo hates when teachers claim to learn “just as much” from their students
What does philosophers’ expertise actually consist of?
How much is philosophy like mathematics?
What philosophers of science can teach scientists
The disappointing personal morality of moral philosophers
Grandmothers, the examined life, and the people who live best
Dec 2, 2019 — Robert Wright & Jay Michaelson
Jay’s new book,
Enlightenment by Trial and Error
Why Jay embarked on a path of mysticism
Ayahuasca, unitive experiences, and bad trips
Jews who are “religious but not spiritual”
Finding “real happiness” through meditation
Varieties of enlightening experience
What’s distinctive about Jewish mysticism?
The things Jay still takes from Judaism
Nov 25, 2019 — Robert Wright & Paul Bloom
A new study says empathy can increase political polarization
How empathy operates in today’s political environment
Is cognitive empathy a form of intelligence?
The Machiavellian uses of cognitive empathy
A counterproductive #Resistance view of Trump supporters
Paul doesn’t understand how anyone can still support Trump
Why “dehumanization” isn’t the real problem
Paul’s core message: “Don’t listen to your heart”
Nov 22, 2019 — David Ottlinger & J.P. Messina
How should we define censorship?
The sort of censorship that has no inherent moral valence
Various ways non-state actors can censor
When private censorship has moral stakes
Examining moral grandstanding
A changed heart vs. a false front
Could we ever resolve all our disagreements?
Reason, passion, and the founding of the Republic
Nov 11, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Meghan Daum
Meghan’s new book, The Problem with Everything
The premature obsolescence of Generation X
Meghan’s positive reaction to negative reviews of her book
Joan Didion’s critique of the Women’s Movement
The effect of online porn on Millennials
Why do institutions capitulate to Twitter mobs?
How Gen Xers are dealing with aging
Nov 8, 2019 — Robert Wright & Roger Haight
Why Pope John Paul II did not like Roger’s book
Jesus Symbol of God
Roger’s new book,
Faith and Evolution: Grace-Filled Naturalism
The intractability of the problem of evil
Ways to understand God not as a big person in the sky
Is natural selection an instrument of divine creation?
Roger’s heterodox view of Jesus of Nazareth
Roger’s problem with original sin
What is a “grace-filled naturalism”?
Nov 1, 2019 — Robert Wright & Preston Greene
Why many intelligent people think we’re living in a simulation
The philosophical argument that you’re probably not real
How cosmic rays might (and might not) reveal that reality is fake
Preston’s dire warning against trying to determine if we’re in a simulation
Is the simulation hypothesis non-falsifiable?
Is “the simulation” just religion for atheists?
Oct 22, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Crispin Sartwell
Why Crispin loves writing takedowns of cultural icons
Crispin: Ludwig Wittgenstein is overrated
Dan objects to people who try to live their lives philosophically
Hume and the limits of human reason
Wittgenstein’s critique of representationalism
Did Wittgenstein debunk philosophical skepticism?
Crispin: I want my metaphysics to be compatible with my common sense
Oct 21, 2019 — Robert Wright & Nicholas Diakopoulos
Nick’s new book,
Automating the News
Why Nick is not an alarmist about the automation of journalism
The types of journalism jobs that algorithms can’t replace
Successful collaborations between human journalists and machines
The perils of algorithmic fact-checking
Nick’s current research
Bob hopes for a bot that can assign blame for international law violations
Can the power of Twitter bots be used for good?
Oct 18, 2019 — Robert Wright & John Horgan
What is scientism, and who is doing it?
Postmodernism and whether science just tells “stories”
John criticizes the “ideological fervor” of evolutionary psychology
The hubris of scientists in the ’80s and ’90s
Has science reached its fundamental limits in trying to explain consciousness?
John wins his Nobel Prize “long bet” on string theory
The various corrupting influences on scientists
A brief debate on higher purpose
Oct 15, 2019 — This Podcast Is Self Care (Aryeh Cohen-Wade, Drew Spears, and Cait Raft)
Cait and Drew’s podcast, This Podcast Is Self Care
Emotional labor vs. self care
Unpacking the idea that self care is just for women
Crystals, sage, and “fake magic is real”
Why are Millennials so attracted to self care and the supernatural?
Astrology as anti-capitalism
The hot new trend of “self-grandparenting”
Why Aryeh loves the podcast
Oct 4, 2019 — Robert Wright & Bhikkhu Bodhi
What is the foundation of Buddhist ethics?
Buddhism is a synthesis of consequentialism and virtue ethics
The origins of Buddhism’s concern for animal welfare
Does the Buddha want you to be vegetarian?
Why isn’t there more anti-militarist activism among Buddhists?
Trying to comply with the Buddhist ideal of “right speech”
Mental defilements and their eradication
Does Buddhism’s emphasis on equanimity discourage activism?
Oct 1, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Massimo Pigliucci
What are “natural kinds”?
What the former planet Pluto can teach us about natural kinds
Massimo’s changing views on theoretical entities
Is there a paradigm shift on the horizon in evolutionary biology?
Is skepticism toward natural kinds the same as skepticism toward essential properties?
Why Massimo is skeptical of the concept of “laws of nature”
Describing “ultimate reality”
Can we distinguish between sex and gender without natural kinds?
Can we have a conception of “normal” without natural kinds?
Sep 24, 2019 — David Ottlinger & Carson Young
Our era of boycotts, from Jimmy Johns to Uber to Nike
The ethics and political philosophy of boycotts
“Society is not a person”
Waheed Hussein’s concept of social change economic consumerism
Group power and coercion
Why boycotts usually fail
How can we judge the worthiness of a boycott’s goals?
Sep 20, 2019 — Robert Wright & Agnes Callard
Why Agnes once lay down on the yellow line in the middle of the road
What explains “akrasia,” or weakness of will?
Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming
How Agnes views free will and self-creation
How do you become the “you” that you want to be?
Aspiration and the divine
Agnes’s forthcoming book on how Socrates changed the rules
Sep 18, 2019 — Nikita Petrov & David Poleski
Nikita’s Soviet experience
The individual in Russian and English languages
, the noble Russian sadness
Nikita’s American friend, the murderer
David’s Negative Mystical Experience and brush with Sai Baba
What Nikita learned from DMT trips
Creativity and depression
Sep 16, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & David Ottlinger
The fight, and meta-fight, in philosophy over trans issues
David’s essay on philosophy and activism
The admonition to “go read the literature”
Dan: The profession needs to push back against the mob
Should philosophers avoid signing petitions?
David regrets the “neglect of the ordinary virtues” in this battle
How professors should teach controversial subjects
Sep 11, 2019 — Robert Wright & Nina Strohminger
Nina’s research on how we understand the self
The traits that make your self yourself
Buddhism and the continuity of self through time
The link between egocentrism and an equanimous attitude toward death
Bob: Not-self is hard to experience and very hard to understand
Asian Buddhists vs. “white boy Buddhists”
Does a happy life require virtuous behavior?
Sep 3, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & E. John Winner
A brief history of 20th-century literary criticism
John’s battles against radical feminists as a grad student at SUNY Albany
Post-structuralism and “how modernity failed itself”
English department politics
John: “Postmodernity is all around us”
Postmodernity in the world vs. in the academy
Post-postmodernism and cultural stagnancy
Sep 1, 2019 — Robert Wright & Alexander Wendt
Why Alex shifted from international relations to quantum physics
Alex: “We are walking wave functions”
Do the origins of consciousness and free will lie in the wave collapse?
Quantum decision theory and human irrationality
The advantage of viewing humanity as quantum rather than classical
How a nation-state is like a quantum state
Alex: Language is best understood quantumly
The possibility of collective consciousness
Aug 26, 2019 — John Horgan & Frederick Crews
How Frederick became a Freudian and then an anti-Freudian
Frederick: Psychoanalysis is the Metamucil of the intellectuals
The politics of anti-Freudianism
Why has Freud persisted in the public imagination?
Frederick psychoanalyzes John
Repressed memories as a Freudian legacy
Frederick’s new book,
Freud: The Making of an Illusion
Aug 8, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Crispin Sartwell
Crispin’s recent essay, “Western Philosophy as White Supremacism”
Dan accuses Crispin of ahistorical revisionism
Descartes as a product of his age
Privileging the intellectual over the physical
Is “the conquest of nature” a good or bad thing?
Crispin: Metaphysics and racism feed each other
Is self-mastery a key to freedom, or antithetical to it?
The worst political philosophy, except for all the others?
Aug 7, 2019 — Robert Wright & Ronald Purser
Ron’s new book,
McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality
A brief history of mindfulness in America
Ron’s critique of the corporate teaching of mindfulness
A tool vs. a path
Ron: The mindfulness industry individualizes social problems
A call for civic mindfulness
Can capitalism and spirituality be reconciled?
Jul 25, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Oliver Burkeman
Journalism, from information scarcity to attention scarcity
Is it harder to find “good” information these days?
Oliver: Reliance on social media creates false controversies
Has the mainstream media really drifted towards partisanship?
How to dismantle the partisan divide
Dan: Americans were more divided in 1968 than now
Social injustice: Perception, reality, and urgency
Jul 23, 2019 — Josh Summers & Jenny Odell
Jenny’s new book,
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
Learning from “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (part 1)
Cultivating attention through art and mindfulness
Josh’s critique of contemporary mindfulness
How social media destroys context
Jenny: “Aliveness is change”
Learning from “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (part 2)
Jul 17, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Milton Lawson
Why Dan and Milton love
How does the new season measure up?
Is “the Upside Down” a coherent idea?
Is Generation X about to have its moment in pop culture?
Dan fears wokeness is ruining pop culture
The risks of a fourth
Pop culture in an era of massive corporate control
Speculating on HBO’s mysterious
Jul 16, 2019 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Jamie Lauren Keiles
piece, “How ASMR Became a Sensation”
Searching for the science behind ASMR
Why are ASMR creators disproprotionately female?
The strange life of Gibi, one of the top “ASMRtists”
A temporary salve for Internet-era loneliness
Will ASMR go corporate?
Jamie researches the history of the Jewish American Princess
Daddy’s money, girl power, and Juicy Couture
Are there Jewish American Princes?
Jul 15, 2019 — Robert Wright & Josh Summers
Common misconceptions about meditation retreats
Hitting the bliss button
Scheduled vs. unscheduled retreats
How austere does it have to be to be effective?
Process vs. outcomes
Bob’s mini-epiphany about his dripping sink
Is meditation “for” something?
Pitfalls after leaving a retreat
Tips for first-timers
Jul 11, 2019 — John Horgan & Bernardo Kastrup
Why Bernardo thinks the mind-body problem is not as hard as it seems
Bernardo’s spiritual, intellectual, and psychedelic history
God, metacognition, and the Universe
The consolations of Bernardo’s philosophy
Bernardo: The Universe has multiple personality disorder
The narcissism of a human-centered Universe
Why John thinks we’ll never solve the mind-body problem
Jul 10, 2019 — Robert Wright & Serene Jones
Serene’s new book,
Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World
Serene’s theological upbringing and early encounters with Calvin’s writings
What a romantic tragedy early in life taught Serene about God’s grace
A revelatory brush with death in rural India
Timothy McVeigh and the challenge of forgiveness
How Serene’s father met an epic challenge to his faith and his charity
Jul 8, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Jane Clare Jones
Where have all the feminists gone?
The feminist tradition in philosophy
How does second-wave feminism distinguish sex from gender?
Jane: Patriarchy hurts men, too
On the present controversy around gender non-conformity and identity
Was Prince genderqueer?
Gender, feminism, and the classical liberal tradition
Jul 3, 2019 — Robert Wright & Lee McIntyre
Lee’s new book
The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience
Why scientific theories are never “proved”
Karl Popper’s principle of falsification explained
Why the philosophy of science hasn’t been useful to scientists
Why philosophers of science need a new way to talk about evidence
Can philosophy of science help refute science deniers?
Flat Earthers, science denial, and the scientific attitude
Cognitive bias, ideology, and the social sciences
Lee: There is no consensus about the epistemological status of science
The hubris of “naive realism”
Jun 29, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Nathan Eckstrand
Nathan’s recent essay, “Is it Time for the Humanities to Strike?”
The attack on the humanities goes international
Are non-college graduates deficient voters?
Why the educated elite aren’t the most ethical people
Could a strike re-engage the public with the humanities?
How to win over those who most thoroughly reject the humanities
Jun 25, 2019 — Josh Summers & Aaron Goldberg
Aaron’s latest album,
At the Edge of the World
How Aaron attempts to strip away complexity in his music
What makes a jazz musician “post-bop”?
Drummer Leon Parker and the Yes! Trio’s origins
Aaron’s double life in jazz and academic philosophy
What’s wrong with “Analytic Swing”?