19 October 2021
The Wright Show
Science of Spirituality
Emotions and the Brain
The Meaning of Future Life
The Weirdness of Physics
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Nov 3, 2020 — Robert Wright & Josh Summers
Philo of Alexandria, seminal Logos theorist
Bob: Teleology is perfectly compatible with a scientific worldview
A logic shaping the unfolding of life
How Jordan Peterson understands the Logos
Does order flow from consciousness?
Moral progress and human interdependence
Teleology without theology
The Logos and the “simulation hypothesis”
Nov 1, 2020 — John Horgan & Lee Vinsel
Lee’s new book,
The Innovation Delusion
Is progress real?
Lee’s critique of the documentary
The Social Dilemma
The necessity and dangers of “expertise”
John’s problems with Buddhism
Oct 13, 2020 — Robert Wright & Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons
Guthrie’s new book,
Just Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity
Guthrie’s personal faith journey
The tradition of liberal Protestantism
Human sexuality and evangelicalism
Guthrie sees a liberatory counternarrative in Scripture
What drives militant atheism?
What happened to Christian antiwar activism?
Do young progressives privilege identity over class?
Why Guthrie prays for President Trump
Oct 7, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Robert Gressis
A review of Kate Manne’s book
sparks an online philosophy feud
Is America systematically misogynistic?
How Twitter incentivizes bad behavior
The professional norms around book reviewing
Dan sees “no honor all the way down” on the other side
Is there a case for keeping some topics off limits?
Oct 1, 2020 — Robert Wright & Josh Summers
Applying cognitive empathy to the Supreme Court vacancy fight
The danger of runaway retaliation
The Social Dilemma
, a new documentary critical of social media
Enhance your online stature by vilifying the other tribe!
How will historians view the social media era?
Can Democrats oppose Barrett mindfully?
The links between yoga and mindfulness
Sep 21, 2020 — Robert Gressis & Jaime Edwards
Jaime explains how Marx understood ideology
Our tendency to get facts wrong in a self-serving way
Cognitive biases that lead the working class astray
Why do we have reason?
“Thank God for the ruling class!”
How do the elite get what they want?
Imagining the meetings of the megarich
Sep 14, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Joshua Rasmussen
How can there be persons?
Against hypostatic ontological commitment
Things vs. thingy things
Mind over matter, or vice versa?
Are there minds? Dan isn’t sure.
Have philosophers gone beyond their ambit?
Philosophy as service to people
Sep 8, 2020 — Robert Wright & Sharon Salzberg
How Sharon became one of the first Americans to study Buddhism in India
Sharon’s new book,
Real Change: Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World
Does meditation seal you off from the world?
Mindfully coping with anger on social media
There’s more political diversity among meditators than you might think
Sharon explains lovingkindness meditation
The difficult work of finding compassion for your enemies
Planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
Sep 3, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Milton Lawson
The incredible achievement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
The choices that led to the MCU’s greatness…
…and the choices that didn’t quite work out
Milton foresees future “Has Marvel Lost Its Way?” thinkpieces
Blatant speculation on upcoming films
Dan fears wokeness ruining Marvel movies
Aug 25, 2020 — Robert Wright & Ingrid Newkirk
Ingrid’s new book,
Animal rights vs. animal welfare
Amazing facts about animals (and the many things we still don’t know)
Is it bad to call your dog a “pet” (or for that matter “yours”)?
Contemplating animal consciousness
How unethical is Bob’s pescatarian diet?
The rise of artificial meat
Ingrid asks, “Do you think that animal was a volunteer?”
Ingrid’s extremely unusual last will and testament
Aug 18, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Crispin Sartwell
Explaining Crispin’s position on explanatory unity
Dan: Meaning is part of social reality, it’s not all in our heads
What is the substance of our ontological commitments?
Why Dan thinks philosopher W.V.O. Quine is almost right
The conspicuous absence of philosophers from the public discourse about values
Metaphysics is not as complicated and important as people think it is
Aug 10, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & David Ottlinger
Why does bad CGI make us feel weird?
Where digital effects work (
) vs. where they don’t (
Gollum vs. Thanos, Roger Rabbit vs. Jar Jar Binks
The tragic digital miscues of
Are practical effects dead?
The closing of aesthetic diversity
Jul 28, 2020 — Robert Wright & Bruce Feiler
Bruce’s new book,
Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age
Debunking the idea of the “predictable crises of adult life”
Two kinds of life changes: “disruptors” and “lifequakes”
Does Bob need a lifequake?
Bruce: “The linear model of life transitions is just wrong”
Millennials zigging and zagging
The ABCs of meaning: agency, belonging, cause
How to write your own life story
Are the stories we tell about ourselves just BS? And is that okay?
How to change the meaning of your life
Jul 26, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Russell Blackford
The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the Future of Liberalism
Preserving the liberal tradition
Can the genie of stakes-inflation be put back in the bottle?
Dan: Woke illiberalism is a kind of luxury
Russell’s recommendations for keeping the liberal tradition alive
The role of legislation and institutions in tamping down illiberalism
Jul 21, 2020 — Robert Wright & David Livingstone Smith
David’s new book,
On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It
The tension at the heart of dehumanization
David: Genocides are moralistic
The essential role of psychological essentialism
Dehumanization in American politics
When David received death threats after critiquing Jordan Peterson
The “Great Chain of Being” and our complex conception of monsters
Why David doesn’t like the term “the banality of evil”
How to resist dehumanization
Jul 19, 2020 — John Horgan & Philip Goff
Philip’s 2019 book,
Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness
What’s the difference between panpsychism and philosophical idealism?
John: Solipsism is “an absolute impediment to a truly scientific theory of consciousness”
Does panpsychism “cheat” when it comes to philosophy’s fundamental problems?
The moral dimension of panpsychism
Hallucinogens and mystical experience
Jul 14, 2020 — Robert Wright & Bhikkhu Bodhi
Buddhism and the military atrocities in Myanmar and Sri Lanka
The early political history of Buddhism
Varieties of Buddhist rationales for nonviolence
The history of war between Southeast Asian nations
Is warfare antithetical to attaining enlightenment?
Justifications for non-pacifism
Meditation and the antiwar mindset
Foreign policy, anti-China sentiment, and BLM protests
Jul 13, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Crispin Sartwell
What are persons?
Why don’t we say “my legs went to the store”?
Actions and intentions
The case of the robot who voted
Are addicts in control of their actions?
The moral culpability of a naughty dog
Jul 7, 2020 — Robert Wright & Rutger Bregman
Rutger’s new book,
Humankind: A Hopeful History
Debunking the “veneer theory” of human nature
Are violence and war intrinsic to human nature?
The human self-domestication thesis
Why Bob doesn’t like the idea of people “deserving punishment”
Is it bad to emphasize the dark side of human nature?
What the debunking of the Stanford Prison Experiment can teach us
Giving money to rich people: Why the U in UBI?
Would UBI turn us all into couch potatoes (or worse)?
Jul 6, 2020 — Robert Gressis & Douglas Edwards
Doug’s new book,
Plato’s Cave and the three layers of wrestling reality
What it means when wrestlers break the fourth wall
Real life can be “just as scripted as wrestling, if not more so”
How and why moral virtue changed in wrestling
The only performance where people say “you know it’s fake, right?”
What philosophers could learn from professional wrestling
Jun 25, 2020 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Abigail Nathanson
Abby’s research on “death anxiety”
Demoralization, purpose, and meaning
Death anxiety and the quality of life of health care providers
Abby’s experience contracting the coronavirus
Is religious belief a cure for death anxiety?
Is life without death worth living?
Jun 22, 2020 — Nikita Petrov & Tony Ortega
A Scientology ship commander calls the pandemic “suppressive and anti-social”
Turning to L. Ron Hubbard during the pandemic: radiation as a state of mind
The appeal of groups like Scientology in a crisis
The pandemic is the rare mainstream event that got Scientologists’ attention
Hubbard and Trump, Scientology and post-truth
Nikita’s experience with an exercise similar to “past lives auditing”
We thought the Internet was a threat to Scientology. Were we wrong?
Jun 18, 2020 — Mark Sussman & John Brenkman
John’s new book,
Mood and Trope
From the “linguistic turn” to the “affective turn”
Kant vs. Nietzsche vs. Heidegger vs. Deleuze
In praise of unsystematic criticism
Clarifying some Heideggerian terminology
From the sublime to the Anthropocene
Jun 14, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Massimo Pigliucci
Are we really as social as the Stoics believed?
Distinguishing between the “objective” and the “real”…
…and between the “real” and representations of the “real”
Dan: It makes no difference whether or not values are objective
Massimo’s solution to the omnivore’s dilemma
Massimo: “Values are never separate from facts”
Jun 5, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Milton Lawson
Spoiler alert! Critiquing
Star Trek: Discovery
Serial vs. episodic storytelling
Why Dan hated
‘s main character
Is the show too woke?
Debating the big twist in
Dan: Two things screw up
as a Star Trek show
Throwing science out the window
Milton: Audiences don’t know what they want
Have younger viewers turned away from science fiction?
Jun 2, 2020 — Robert Wright & Paul Bloom
Paul describes the view from Toronto
Zero- and non-zero-sum aspects of the pandemic
Paul: Canada’s multiparty system helps defuse polarization
A disaster without solidarity
How our emotions caused us to underreact to the pandemic
Masks and mobs
Trump’s fragile feelings
Why has the external threat of the disease not united humanity?
A deep dive into the meaning of statistical significance
May 27, 2020 — Robert Wright & Andrew Sullivan
Remembering Andrew’s recently deceased dog Eddy
Can we explain the bond between dogs and people?
The many disgusting things that dogs love
Andrew angers the cat lovers in the audience
Are there actually “cat people” and “dog people”?
Dogs’ use of affection as a tool
What can we learn from dogs about how to be present?
Andrew: “I do think that after death I will be with my dogs”
Andrew wants the economy to open up—a little
May 24, 2020 — Robert Wright & Jacqueline Novogratz
Jacqueline’s new book,
Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World
Female saints as childhood role models
How Jacqueline helped start Rwanda’s first microfinance bank
Jacqueline’s “patient capital” investment nonprofit, Acumen
The four steps toward building moral imagination
Toilet entrepreneurship in Nairobi
Changing the market for coffee and chocolate farmers
Can identity connect as well as it divides?
Jacqueline: A moral revolution must come from inside us
May 20, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Crispin Sartwell
Dan’s in-progress book,
Prolegomena for a Pluralist Metaphysics
Avoiding the “crazy positions”
A stereoscopic view of the “scientific” and “manifest” images
Dan: A world with people in it is only explainable in fragmentary terms
Crispin sees the leading edge of the new dualism
On the ontological status of coming-of-age stories
Previewing future fights
May 12, 2020 — Robert Wright & John Horgan
John fails the coronavirus antibody test; Bob consoles him
Science fiction, free will, and robot sex
interpretation of quantum mechanics
The Wright-Horgan interpretation of
, part 1 (spoilers)
The Wright-Horgan interpretation of
, part 2 (lots of spoilers)
John: we need the concept of free will more than we need God
Is the many worlds interpretation consoling or terrifying?
May 11, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Jesse Singal
The continuing battle over gender in philosophy
Harm avoidance vs. competing interests
Jesse: There’s disagreement within the trans community over what it means to be trans
Dan: “This is madness to everyone other than the people inside the tent”
The social dynamics of philosophy
Ordinary language and “they”
Will the trans movement moderate?
Dan: Philosophy is in trouble and the pandemic is making it worse
Apr 28, 2020 — Robert Wright & Evan Thompson
Evan’s new book,
Why I Am Not a Buddhist
Evan’s critique of “Buddhist modernism” and “Buddhist exceptionalism”
Which of Buddhism’s major claims are naturalistic?
Is Buddhism fundamentally different than other religions?
Bob defends Buddhist insights into human psychology
Evan’s case against “neural Buddhism”
Does a clearer view of reality make you more equanimous?
All about nirvana
Debating evolutionary psychology
Evan: This book is friendly criticism
Apr 23, 2020 — Epidemiological Modeling, Policy, and Covid-19 (Daniel Kaufman, Eric Winsberg, & John Symons)
How to model an epidemic
The costs and benefits of cost-benefit analysis
Turning coronavirus models into coronavirus policy
Eric: Your intuitions about the virus’s spread are “useless”
The use and abuse of epidemiological models
Pandemic models and failures of political leadership
Our scandalous lack of infection-rate data
Why suppressing the virus “is a marathon, not a sprint”
Apr 20, 2020 — John Horgan & Errol Morris
Can we ever really know the world?
Debating the ideas of Thomas Kuhn, famous philosopher of science
Will we ever see the end of war?
Errol’s book about Kuhn,
The Ashtray: (Or the Man Who Denied Reality)
Errol: Science without truth cannot live
John sticks up for Kuhn
Errol’s vexed personal relationship with Kuhn
Stephen Hawking’s sense of humor
Errol: “We’re a dumbass species”
The glass is half empty and filled with poison
Apr 9, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Massimo Pigliucci
Will the pandemic forever change college education?
Laying out the “hard problem” of consciousness
Why panpsychism is not a solution to the problem
The battle between radicals and conservatives in physics
Physicalism vs. idealism
Massimo explains “scientific metaphysics”
Why illusionism is not a solution to the problem
Misrepresentations vs. useful representations
Apr 7, 2020 — Robert Wright & Scott Barry Kaufman
Scott’s new book,
Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization
Debunking myths about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
The origins of humanistic psychology
Optimism for the thinking person
Psychological security in an era of new threats and superficial social connections
Psychological growth: exploration, love, and purpose
Defining “peak experiences”
Scott says Bob is a “transcender.” Bob is skeptical.
Is this a kind of secular spirituality?
Evaluating peak experiences achieved through psychedelics
Mar 31, 2020 — Daniel Kaufman & Robert B. Talisse
Robert’s new book,
The revealing differences between Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts
The diminishing importance of place in American culture
How homogeneity distorts groups
Partisan identity has become the core of our social selves
Is this the inevitable product of late capitalism?
What happens after Trumpism runs its course?
Robert finds optimism in a Nashville bluegrass club
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