9 April 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
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”?
Jun 22, 2019 — John Horgan & Jeffrey Kripal
Jeff’s new book,
The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge
How John and Jeff make sense of Freud
Jeff redefines the “paranormal”
What belief in levitation or clairvoyance reveals about human nature
Are hardcore atheists/materialists doing religious fundamentalism a favor?
The death and rebirth of good old human narcissism
Jeff on humanity’s future and the nature of optimism
Jun 21, 2019 — Robert Wright & Gideon Rosen
A brief primer on the free will vs. determinism debate
Are moral responsibility and determinism compatible?
Is punishment a tragic necessity or a moral good?
Gideon tries to convince Bob that compatibilism is coherent
Gideon’s distinctive take on compatibilism
A thought experiment about the moral culpability of an ancient slaveholder
Free will and the mind-body problem
Buddhist ideas about punishment
Jun 19, 2019 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Rachel Vorona Cote
Rachel’s essay on her mother’s death, “The Fraught Culture of Online Mourning”
Aryeh recalls mourning his father in the pre–social media era
A moment when language fails
Is it possible to talk about death with sincerity on Twitter?
The many (often gendered) Victorian rituals of mourning
Rachel’s forthcoming book,
Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today
Do you want to be memorialized for eternity on Facebook?
Jun 18, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Robert Gressis
Is the “Morality Everywhere Problem” really a problem?
Why Robert finds the moral question difficult to dispel
Peter Singer’s “drowning child” thought experiment
Is weakness of will keeping Robert from volunteering at the soup kitchen?
Dan: “Embrace the normal”
What do those living in dire poverty want first-worlders to do?
Why Rob is repulsed by utilitarianism
Dan: The end goal of charity is human flourishing
Were people less sensitive in the past?
Jun 11, 2019 — Josh Summers & Matthew Remski
Matthew’s new book,
Practice and All Is Coming
Justifications for sexual abuse in the early Ashtanga yoga community
Matthew: “Sacred” leaders like Pattabhi Jois have been absolved of personal responsibility
Just how ancient are modern yoga practices?
Matthew responds to accusations from the Ashtanga community
How much agency do victims of sexual abuse really have?
Reforming yoga communities with histories of abuse
Jun 1, 2019 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Sarah Marshall
Remembering the Satanic ritual abuse panic of the 1980s
How the McMartin case launched the panic
Sarah: Recovered memory therapy created the idea of Satanic ritual abuse
Why hasn’t there been a large-scale reckoning with the panic?
Contemporary resonances: witch hunts and moral panics
Sarah visits Disney World and thinks about desire
Why are there so many absent mothers in the Disney canon?
May 30, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Robert Gressis
Robert: Is it permissible to remain a philosophy professor?
Why Dan opposes the “morality everywhere” approach to life
Can professors really leave a lasting impact on students?
“First world problems” and moral obligation in the classroom
What is the “White Paper” of philosophy, and does it have any authority?
Rethinking the role of the academy in society
Dan: Philosophy as a life guide is, well, misguided
May 21, 2019 — Robert Wright & David Sloan Wilson
David’s new book,
This View of Life
In what sense, if any, could evolution be conscious?
The need to complete the Darwinian revolution
An evolutionary psychology discussion makes Bob tape his mouth shut
How successful groups avert the tragedy of the commons
Convergent cultural evolution
David: Evolution shows that neither laissez faire nor centralized planning works
A preview of the coming Bob vs. David showdown over group selection
May 14, 2019 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Leah Finnegan
How Leah realized that she should not “be herself”
The mental health benefits of getting a dog
Leah: We must bring back Kierkegaardian irony
Leah on the scourge of “urgent earnestness”
Is it ethical to not read the news?
Leah’s reflections on being “a year Twitter sober”
Lessons from the great “horseface” controversy of 2018
May 6, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Crispin Sartwell
Realism vs. anti-realism
Is reality the sum of human senses?
Why Crispin is allergic to idealism
“Rabbity moments” and Quine’s radical translation scenario
What does it mean to say someone lives “in another world”?
Davidson’s closet analogy for conceptual schemes
What makes a given statement true?
May 3, 2019 — Robert Wright & William von Hippel
Bill’s new book,
The Social Leap
Why happiness is fleeting
Junk food and happy marriages
How to escape the anxiety of status competition
Psychological downsides of being a hunter-gatherer
Why America is more politically tribalized than Australia
The benefits of self-deception
Apr 30, 2019 — Robert Wright & Luke Kemp
Are we on the road to civilizational collapse?
Why we need global governance, not global government
The double-edged sword of civilizational complexity
The apocalyptic scenario Bob fears most
Luke: Not every problem has a technical solution
Bob: Slower technological change would be a blessing
Apr 26, 2019 — Robert Wright & Paul Bloom
How the new media landscape exacerbates tribalism
Can science and reason help combat tribalism?
Why tribal behavior comes naturally to humans
Want to succeed on social media? Try ridicule and moral condemnation!
Why virtual reality may not help you understand the plight of others
Trump’s masterful exploitation of empathy
If a magic therapy “cured” Harvey Weinstein, would punishment still be necessary?
Why social science is, and will stay, liberal
Apr 23, 2019 — Robert Wright & Richard Wrangham
Richard’s new book,
The Goodness Paradox
Why Jane Goodall’s view of chimpanzees took a turn for the darker
Proactive violence (a human specialty) vs. reactive violence
Richard’s “execution hypothesis” for how early humans dealt with violent males
Bob offers an alternative explanation for the domestication of our species
How our cousins the bonobos became nicer than our cousins the chimps
Richard’s explanation for the evolution of moral sense
Is war a part of human nature?
Apr 19, 2019 — Robert Wright & John Thatamanil
Alfred North Whitehead and his “process philosophy”
“Process theology,” which features a changing, non-omnipotent God
A God of persuasion, not coercion
Whitehead’s conception of divinity
Whitehead’s God and Christian theology
Waiting, or not waiting, for God
Beauty and the divine
How Whitehead’s God solves the problem of evil
Apr 16, 2019 — Robert Wright & Geoffrey Miller
What is polyamory?
The evolutionary origins of romantic jealousy
How polyamorous couples manage jealousy, insecurity, and time
Bob extols the benefits of long-term monogamy
Geoffrey’s advice for young men who can’t find romantic partners
Do smaller polyamorous communities get a little, well, incestuous?
Why are fewer young men having sex regularly?
Geoffrey: The ethics of polyamory set it apart from casual dating
Apr 12, 2019 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & B. D. McClay
B. D.’s essay on mononucleosis and gnosticism
What the ancient gnostics believed about body and spirit
Fingernail clippings and other problems with bodily resurrection
Pros and cons of living in a body
Did George H.W. Bush get to walk out of his wheelchair at the gates of Heaven?
B. D. explains the Children’s Crusade of 1212
The Children’s Crusade’s contemporary resonances
, the reality show that makes you feel good about humanity
Apr 10, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Crispin Sartwell
What explains the sharp divide between analytic and continental philosophy?
Continental philosophy’s association with romanticism and fascism
How Richard Rorty, Crispin’s dissertation advisor, bridged the gap between the two schools
Heidegger’s skepticism of science
Crispin articulates the divide in terms of substance and style
How continental philosophy challenges the primacy of argument
Apr 8, 2019 — Robert Wright & Paul Shapiro
Paul Shapiro’s new book,
Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World
Why conventional meat production is inefficient and unsustainable (not to mention cruel)
Recent innovations in lab-cultured protein, fat, and even leather
Will cultured meat ever become affordable?
How plant-based “meat” and “dairy” have gained market share in the past decade
Paul: History won’t look kindly on our treatment of animals
How Paul’s company is working to reduce meat consumption
Apr 2, 2019 — Robert Wright & Randolph Nesse
Randy’s new book,
Good Reasons for Bad Feelings
What’s the function of grief?
Good for your genes but bad for you
Evolutionary explanations for low mood/depression
What Freud got right
Orgasms and natural selection
Social media, the digital crack cocaine