28 March 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
Mar 27, 2020 — Robert Wright & Ruth Whippman
America the Anxious
Ruth is skeptical that meditation leads to happiness
Is being in the moment overrated?
Is there a mindful view of the coronavirus pandemic?
Radical self-help at the Landmark Forum
The CEO of Zappos created a happiness city in Las Vegas. It did not go well.
A plea for tolerance in the battle over attachment parenting
Why are Mormons so gosh darn happy?
Happiness in the UK vs. the US
Mar 24, 2020 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Jesse Singal
Jesse’s new article, “The Rise of PTSD”
How society viewed traumatized veterans of WWII vs. Vietnam
Effective treatments for PTSD
The danger of trauma becoming an identity
From 9/11 to coronavirus, we live in traumatic times
Speech policing and social climbing in the name of trauma
Jesse’s forthcoming book,
The Quick Fix
Mar 20, 2020 — Robert Wright & Narayan Helen Liebenson
Is Bob a bad yogi?
The Magnanimous Heart
Narayan’s journey from Janet to Narayan
How Narayan entered contemplative practice
Learning from snakes and lizards in Thailand
Defining the Buddhist term dukka as “a constant squeeze”
Dealing with feelings of grief and loss after a divorce
Narayan: Not taking sides is not the same as passivity
Mindfulness and the death of a loved one
Mar 10, 2020 — Robert Wright & Robin Wang
Dao De Jing
‘s famous opening line, “The Dao that can be told is not the eternal Dao”
“The way” as a descriptive and prescriptive moniker
Rising above the perspective of the moment
The relationship among Daoism, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism
Spirituality and transcendence in Daoism
Robin’s work as a consultant on
The Karate Kid
Why Robin’s book uses “yinyang” instead of “yin and yang”
Mar 6, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Helen Joyce
Helen’s forthcoming book on gender
Why are younger women attracted to novel gender theories?
Social constructivism vs. self-constructivism
Did feminists bring this upon themselves?
Helen: Immigration caused Britain’s political realignment
Helen’s narrative of the evolution of trans identity
Why is it harder to be a girl now, when society is less sexist?
Dan: Online porn has made teenage boys undateable
Mar 2, 2020 — Nikita Petrov & John Horgan
Nikita’s new project, Psychopolitica.com
A collection of DMT stories
The drama and the silliness of life as experienced by children
The ontological status of DMT entities
Three big pretenses: “I exist,” “I know what’s going on,” “Everything is ok”
Between a zombie and a madman
The paradoxical writings of Jorge Luis Borges
John’s new book,
Podcasting is the new rock’n’roll
Feb 26, 2020 — Robert Wright & David Bentley Hart
David’s new book,
That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation
What does the New Testament actually say about Hell?
Original sin and the crucifixion of Jesus
David’s case against eternal damnation
Free will, sin, and freedom
What did “the Kingdom of Heaven” mean to Jesus?
David: Envisioning the afterlife “always results in a kind of cartoon”
David’s quick thoughts on the mind-body problem
Mysticism in the Eastern Orthodox Church
Feb 24, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Robert Gressis
Robert’s essay examining whether pansexuality is obligatory
Orientation vs. desire
Is the push for trans rights undermining gay and lesbian rights?
Dan: Sexual attractions can’t be subject to moral scrutiny
Kant and the malleability of sexual consciousness
Dan fears the totalitarian impulse
Trans activists vs. lesbians
Feb 18, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Milton Lawson
In praise of
Why does Adam Sandler’s dirtbag character evince such sympathy?
Punishment and forgiveness in narrative storytelling
In praise of
Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy’s triumphant return to
Is offensive comedy coming back?
Why were these two films snubbed by the Oscars?
Expertise vs. experience in cultural criticism
Feb 11, 2020 — Robert Wright & Alexander Wendt
In a new TEDx talk, Alex calls for a science of UFOs
Why Bob finds two naval sightings credible
Alex: “There’s some decent chance that these things are alien”
Alex’s proposal for a UFO monitoring system
Might it be suicidal to let ETs know that we know about them?
Alex: Maybe the aliens are waiting for us to figure it out
What explains the taboo against academic study of UFOs?
Alex’s willingness to be misperceived as a crank
Feb 8, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Spencer Case
Spencer describes being quarantined in Wuhan, China
What is “moral realism”?
Can you be a moral realist and a moral subjectivist at the same time?
Revisiting Plato’s Ring of Gyges
Dan: There’s no evidence of morality beyond performances
The trouble with giving advice
“All things considered,” what ought you to do?
What we lost in the Scientific Revolution
Feb 5, 2020 — How to Live a Good Life (Robert Wright, Massimo Pigliucci, & Skye Cleary)
Skye and Massimo’s new co-edited book, with Daniel Kaufman,
How to Live a Good Life
Existentialism’s intersections with Stoicism
How Skye encountered Existentialism while in business school
Sartre and de Beauvoir’s famous attempt to live a life of freedom
Are philosophers a bunch of hypocrites?
Personal authenticity vs. social convention
Why Stoicism doesn’t mean passive acceptance
Skye and Massimo on the philosophies they found most interesting
How Wittgenstein would view this book
Jan 28, 2020 — John Horgan & Massimo Pigliucci
How Massimo’s midlife crisis moved him from biologist to philosopher
What’s the point of philosophy?
Philosophical doubt as as a counterweight to scientific confidence
John mistrusts science’s yearning for certainty
Massimo’s path to stoicism
Can reason make you happier?
Abusive Buddhist gurus and other unexpectedly bad people
Was Seneca a hypocritical asshole?
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, & 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