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Philosophy & Other Big Ideas

Philosophy for our times

The Institute of Art and Ideas

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The Institute of Art and Ideas is a not-for-profit organisation committed to bringing philosophy and critical thinking into the heart of public life, with philosophy for our times. Described by Total Politics as "Europe's answer to TED", the IA...Show More
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23:00 | Aug 29th

Saul Kripke and Timothy Williamson discuss why language has come to dominate their field, why logic matters, and what the future for the Anglo-American tradition looks like. Saul Kripke has been described by many as the world's most influential livin...Show More

43:13 | Aug 27th

“Most of the evil in the world is done with the best intentions”, said TS Eliot. And 9/11, the guillotine, and the Inquisition were inspired by those who thought they had the highest moral principles. Many philosophers have concluded that morality is...Show More

35:20 | Aug 20th

We admire achievers, from James Watt to Mandela, Marie Curie to Emmeline Pankhurst, and we school and encourage our children to be similarly focussed. Yet many spend their lives waiting for weekends and holidays. And does not play, both as sex, dru...Show More

40:17 | Aug 13th

Talk of other universes has become fashionable amongst physicists and is popular with the public. But the numbers seem hardly credible: string theory predicts 10500 parallel universes and some argue that the very idea of other universes is nonsensica...Show More

42:04 | Aug 6th

Language is widely seen as the critical tool which has set our species apart. We assume that it is successful because our words are able to describe reality. Yet from Wittgenstein to Derrida, no satisfactory theory has been able to support this intui...Show More

36:50 | Jul 30th

'Love conquers all' is a motto central to our culture and its Christian heritage. Yet Buddhists think love an obstacle to enlightenment. Nietzsche went further and called love barbaric ‘for it is practised at the expense of all others’. Is love for a...Show More

43:31 | Jul 23rd

The self is an illusion, our passions a by-product of the brain. Or so neuroscientists and philosophers would have us believe. Yet, as the late philosopher Mary Midgley tirelessly argued, even if we had a plausible account of how such a complex illus...Show More

45:39 | Jul 16th

We tend to think of physical, material things as the ultimate stuff of the universe. Yet contemporary physics has largely abandoned physical things in favour of energy and fields. And the late Mary Midgley argued that materialism was a profound mist...Show More

35:54 | Jul 9th

We may condemn tyrants and abhor serial killers, but we are obsessed with evil and violence. Our news and our entertainment focus on such material - one survey claimed the average American child has seen 8,000 fictional murders by adulthood. Yet none...Show More

38:45 | Jul 2nd

Reason was traditionally seen as the Enlightenment’s great legacy and the origin of our success. Yet reason is increasingly derided as just the rhetorical bluster of the educated elite, typically powerful and male. Is rationality just the prejudiced ...Show More

39:58 | Jun 25th

Many see the search for universal truths about the world as the noble aim of philosophy. Yet our universities largely dismiss non-Western philosophy, and critics argue that British students are taught a narrow analytic approach. Are great ideas indep...Show More

41:42 | Jun 18th

Past and future are worlds we can never inhabit. We live of necessity in the present. But physicists and philosophers with very different outlooks, from Einstein to Derrida, claim that the present is an illusion. Is time not a river at all, but inste...Show More

38:01 | Jun 11th

Freedom is often seen as the vital oxygen of creativity. Yet Shakespeare worked within a framework of censorship, Don Quixote was written from prison and Leonardo argued that at 'lives on constraint and dies of freedom'. Can oppression help produce m...Show More

39:35 | Jun 4th

According to current theories, Dark Energy and Dark Matter make up 95% of all the stuff in the universe. Yet we still have no direct evidence for them, and have no idea what they consist. Is something radically wrong? Are the theories that led to the...Show More

42:08 | May 29th

The left has traditionally seen itself as progressive, with history and morality on its side. But is history on anyone's side? And as for morality, don't all politicians think they're in the right? Should the left then give up its claim to the moral ...Show More

46:53 | May 20th

Neuroscientists believe that our minds and conciousness are no more than matter and mechanism. But if they are right, is all meaning, purpose and feeling illusory? Must we accept that we are just machines? Or do the secrets of experience lie beyond n...Show More

42:14 | May 14th

Once beauty was about goodness and truth, now we think it means little more than models, products and outdated art. Have practical concerns and the economy of desire made beauty trivial and expendable? Could we follow Goethe and Kant and cultivate ou...Show More

43:51 | May 7th

Many think Donald Trump a buffoon and a threat to world peace. But with IS weakened, and signs of progress in North Korea, perhaps his supporters can point to some initial successes. Could a belligerent approach to foreign policy make for a safer wor...Show More

38:03 | Apr 30th

We think that lightning strikes, and waves crash, even if there is no one to see them. Yet according to quantum physics, the observer is critical to reality. Theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg even argued that, in contemporary physics 'objective...Show More

45:26 | Apr 23rd

From Milton's Paradise Lost to bad boys and femmes fatales, we are seduced by the dark and dangerous. Why does the devil have all the best tunes? Have we sanitised the good and made it vacuous? Could we imagine a world where the good was exciting, dr...Show More

32:32 | Apr 16th

From yoga retreats to mindfulness, meditation is fashionable and now even prescribed by the UK's National Health Service. Yet in some cases it can lead to depression and even psychosis. Is it a mistake to think that self-exploration and being at one ...Show More

49:55 | Apr 9th

The idea that the world is made of physical stuff alone has been central to scientific progress. But our theories do not account for experience or thought, and the particles of contemporary theoretical physics have no dimensions, so that material see...Show More

42:56 | Apr 2nd

From gene therapy and fad diets to cryonically frozen corpses, many still hope to find a way to live forever. Some scientists are starting to think death might be reversible. But Heidegger famously thought life's transience gave it meaning. Does our ...Show More

11:59 | Mar 29th

Patricia MacCormack is Professor of Continental Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University, known for her work on Posthuman ethics. In this exclusive interview, Patricia explains why she thinks the world would be a better place without humans. In ass...Show More

43:05 | Mar 26th

Many believe that porn's dark fantasies risk corrupting relationships and society. Has this arisen because pornography is largely created by men? Could feminist pornography featuring authentic sex, diverse bodies and female perspectives offer a truly...Show More

08:27 | Mar 22nd

Brooke Magnanti is best known by her pen name Belle de Jour, from the blog behind Secret Diary of a Call Girl. In this exclusive interview, Brooke explains how we should free ourselves from the shackles surrounding sex from shame, to guilt and toxic ...Show More

36:49 | Mar 19th

'Dare to know' was the radical rallying cry of the Enlightenment. But since then, philosophers from Nietzsche to Derrida have argued there are limits to knowledge so profound that truth is an impossible goal. Is the enlightenment dream over? Or can w...Show More

10:38 | Mar 15th

Hilary Lawson is a post realist philosopher, known for his theory of Closure. In this exclusive interview, Hilary explains how we should understand truth in a post truth world and why we need Enlightenment thinking now more than ever. In associati...Show More

32:01 | Mar 12th

The fundamental problem of philosophy, argued Heidegger, is 'why is there something rather than nothing?' Now, some scientists claim nothing doesn't exist and that even deepest space is full of virtual particles. Have we misunderstood the very idea o...Show More

09:10 | Mar 8th

Rupert Sheldrake is a renowned author and biologist, known for his research into parapsychology. In this exclusive interview, Rupert shares with us the secrets of consciousness, putting forward a panpsychist view of what it is to be conscious and deb...Show More

43:04 | Mar 5th

There are many who see Trump and Putin as a threat to world peace. But are they in power because we believe that strong leaders are good for us? Is it a mistake to imagine that leaders can solve all of our problems? Can we imagine a politics where we...Show More

10:30 | Mar 1st

Jon Barnes is a guest lecturer at the world's top business schools, innovator and author. In this exclusive interview, Jon shares with us how technology is already being used to shape the way we vote, organise and think about politics. From Democracy...Show More

32:37 | Feb 26th

How have ideas across the world shaped the places from which they emerged? Author and philosopher Julian Baggini explores global thinking and its varied influence on our cultures, our ideals and how we see ourselves. In association with the New Co...Show More

08:36 | Feb 22nd

In this special bonus episode, we go behind the scenes of HowTheLightGetsIn, the world’s largest music and philosophy festival, to find out the philosophy behind the festival and hear from the producers about what speakers, ideas, music and comedy wi...Show More

24:39 | Feb 19th

Sarah Langford is a barrister. Her job is to stand in court representing the mad and the bad, the vulnerable, the heartbroken and the hopeful. She must become their voice: weave their story around the black and white of the law and tell it to the cou...Show More

33:55 | Feb 12th

From medieval legends to Hollywood endings to the horoscope, we are led to believe that lifelong love means happiness. But a recent survey of 814 separate studies showed single people to be happier, more fulfilled and less stressed. Is it time to sto...Show More

37:00 | Feb 5th

Where once we made sense of the world using the idea of God, most of us now believe in a more scientific story, of an unfolding universe and evolution. Yet scientists increasingly see their theories as useful models rather than ultimate accounts. Is ...Show More

40:07 | Jan 29th

We think everyone should be treated equally. Yet we also think we are right to care most about our family, our friends and our lovers, and 82% of charitable donations in the UK are given to the causes closest to home. Should we just accept that our e...Show More

35:38 | Jan 22nd

Most think that social progress should be driven by ideas and persuasion not force. Yet from the French and Russian Revolutions to the Suffragettes, violent action has been instrumental to generating change. Is violence ever justified as a political ...Show More

14:35 | Jan 17th

Britain is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, so why do so many feel short-changed? Labour MP and former minister Angela Eagle sees an urgent need to protect social cohesion and makes a case for radical economic reform. In association wit...Show More

38:54 | Jan 15th

The big bang theory won out over the Steady State alternative 50 years ago because we discovered the universe was expanding. But now we know that the universe is in fact accelerating away from us. Might the whole big bang theory be mistaken? Is the t...Show More

41:08 | Jan 8th

'Innocent until proven guilty' is a core principle of democracy. Yet from the BBC's coverage of the Cliff Richard raid to the social media storms around MeToo, it seems we are increasingly happy to destroy reputations and careers before the proof is ...Show More

28:06 | Jan 2nd

Our worlds were once human and solid, but now our lives are increasingly virtual. What place has reality in this fantasy world? ‘Picnic Comma Lightning’ author Laurence Scott explores the challenges of finding meaning amidst the digital noise. In ...Show More

36:55 | Dec 18th, 2018

Besides being illegal, LSD has not had good press, associated with bad trips and psychological breakdown. But with a new craze for microdosing acid amongst Silicon Valley whizz kids and management gurus, and respected scientists claiming antidepressa...Show More

31:17 | Dec 11th, 2018

Is there a universal morality, and if not, are moral beliefs actually the cause of some of the greatest human suffering? To debate this issue, we have on our panel literary theorist Stanley Fish, writer, broadcaster and SOAS researcher Myriam Francoi...Show More

20:06 | Dec 4th, 2018

Sexual abuse accusations have reached an unprecedented high. How have we come here, and why is this happening now? Leading British sociologist Linda Woodhead investigates.

32:15 | Nov 27th, 2018

Deaths from heart disease have fallen by almost two thirds since the 1960s, yet outcomes for those with mental illness have not improved for decades. Is this because we have the wrong categories and the wrong diagnoses? Might neuroscience enable more...Show More

33:33 | Nov 20th, 2018

Ten years ago, the US elected its first black president. Yet race-related hate crime has increased 216% in the last year. Are we wrong to suppose that racial prejudice will be overcome by equal opportunity? Should we dream of a world where race is no...Show More

24:50 | Nov 13th, 2018

Suicide is a terrible but commonplace event amongst all societies within the human race. But at what point in our evolution did suicide come into being, and for what purpose? Can suicide be explained, and if so, can we provide an answer to those who ...Show More

36:17 | Nov 6th, 2018

We think love an indisputable force for good. Yet from Jihadi John to Anders Breivik, extremists often cite love of creed or country to justify atrocities. Might love of a person or group also be the origin of prejudice and hatred towards others? Are...Show More

45:48 | Oct 30th, 2018

In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, many called for a boycott of the films of Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. Yet 20th century literary critics encouraged us to look at the text alone, citing "the death of the author." Can and should we separate th...Show More

33:10 | Oct 23rd, 2018

Once dismissed as a utopian fantasy, universal income has now hit the mainstream. With new technologies, support from across the political spectrum, and advocates from Stephen Hawking to Mark Zuckerberg, it’s no surprise people have begun to take the...Show More

42:49 | Oct 18th, 2018

We are paying tribute to philosopher Mary Midgley who passed away last week at the age of 99 by revisiting our episode 'Are you an illusion?' in which Midgley investigates the self with fellow philosopher Simon Blackburn and neuroscientist Colin Blak...Show More

24:53 | Oct 17th, 2018

Can we ever observe universes beyond our own? Astrophysicist Catherine Heymans reveals the latest innovations that might help map out the multiverse.

20:03 | Oct 15th, 2018

In a world with artificial intelligence, how will we maintain control? Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Open Data Institute co-founder and researcher at Oxford University, examines how AI looks set to reshape our lives and society.

42:45 | Oct 3rd, 2018

Belief in the Gods once filled lives with purpose and a vision of truth. Now many in the secular West dismiss the divine yet also rue the loss of meaning and belief. Is this because evidence and reason are not sufficient to make sense of the world? ...Show More

37:03 | Oct 1st, 2018

Consciousness is one of the unresolved philosophical questions. There was hope that neuroscience might find some answers. But we still have no explanation for where brain activity ends and experience begins. Is it a mistake to think we can explain co...Show More

23:59 | Sep 19th, 2018

Would a meritocratic society provide a fair equality of opportunity? Can discrimination based on merit ever be justified, or should we aim to solve social inequality through equality of outcome? Kwame Anthony Appiah is a British Ghaniain philosop...Show More

36:23 | Sep 12th, 2018

In an age without belief or certainites, we all risk finding ourselves lost. But Camus claimed you will never live, if you are looking for the meaning of life. Should we focus on experience and being in the moment? Or is a life without an overall goa...Show More

31:55 | Sep 5th, 2018

Stephen Hawking once predicted a theory of everything by 2000. However, after decades without one he began to doubt its existence. Have we failed because no one theory can make sense of reality? Must we "employ different theories in different situati...Show More

33:18 | Aug 28th, 2018

What does is mean to socially construct a gendered identity, and why do some feminists insist on separating this from the sex we are assigned at birth? On the panel: activist Finn Mackay, Labour politician Angela Eagle and post-human philosopher,...Show More

34:51 | Aug 21st, 2018

Some refer to millennials as entitled avocado-eating lay-about’s who care more about their social media presence than engaging with and caring about the world. Millennials, on the other hand, soothe their sorrow at never being able to afford a mor...Show More

29:07 | Aug 14th, 2018

What’s the price we pay for the buzz we get from likes online? Are tech companies forcing us to follow their every whim? Mining us for data they can profit from? Or do we have the power to harness technology for good? Making our lives easier and givi...Show More

35:21 | Aug 8th, 2018

Isn’t it funny that a day at the office seems to drag by so slowly, and yet a day in the park is over in a flash? Is time, and the way it passes something that actually exists in the physical world? Or is it something that only humans perceive? ...Show More

15:49 | Jul 31st, 2018

The dogma of development has left a society divided and a planet endangered. Former UK Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett envisions a radical new future.

36:36 | Jul 24th, 2018

Our obsession with the apocalypse is everywhere from fiction stories to news headlines. Is the belief that the end is nigh rooted in the changing reality around us, or is it just a story that sells? On our panel to discuss this question is philosophe...Show More

21:07 | Jul 17th, 2018

In a post-truth world, the evidence of experts is constantly being called into question. But is abandoning the expertise of learned folk a little extreme? Green Party politician and philosopher Rupert Read takes us through the tyranny of evidence.

38:31 | Jul 10th, 2018

China may be on the way to replacing the US as the world's dominant economic power, but with Russia also growing its reach, could the future be more dangerous still? Do we face an uncontainable multipolar world with many nations vying for power? Or s...Show More

25:04 | Jul 6th, 2018

Is science more sinister than an honest pursuit of the truth? Is there enough evidence to support man-made climate change? Usually, we associate climate change critics with the right but this time the counter-narrative comes from outspoken astrophysi...Show More

23:01 | Jun 26th, 2018

Is it better for us to resist temptations or avoid them altogether? Philosopher of perception and action Bence Nanay argues that our ability to say no is connected with the fragmentation of our minds.

30:35 | Jun 19th, 2018

From quitting a job or relationship in the heat of an argument to taking on a new project in a flush of excitement, we think emotional decisions are often bad decisions. But might it be that emotion is the best guide to action and, as Hume thought, r...Show More

25:31 | Jun 15th, 2018

Can philosophy help us make real life decisions? Can actions speak louder than words? Our producer interviews philosophers Bence Nanay, Angie Hobbs, Christopher Hamilton, Barry Smith, Shahidha Bari, and performance artist Emma Sulkowicz about the pow...Show More

10:22 | Jun 12th, 2018

It's Philosophy Fest! A week of bonus content to celebrate our hundredth episode of Philosophy For Our Times. Today's bonus content is an audience Q&A with psychiatrist David Nutt, which followed on from his talk, The Science of Psychedelics. David f...Show More

29:08 | Jun 12th, 2018

Is our attitude to drugs harming mental health patients? Imperial College psychiatrist and former UK government drugs adviser David Nutt argues for an evidence based revolution in drugs policy.

09:03 | Jun 11th, 2018

To celebrate our 100th episode of Philosophy for Our Times, we're treating you to a week of bonus content. To kick off, here's an interview with Elif Sarican, a Kurdish rights activist, about the experiment in direct democracy currently taking place ...Show More

39:10 | Jun 7th, 2018

Does our abuse of 'elites' ignore their necessity, or should all elites be challenged and dissolved? Author of The Leaderless Revolution Carne Ross, Political Theorist at Cambridge Hugh Drochon, and activist Yassmin Abdel Magied put elites on tri...Show More

33:48 | May 15th, 2018

Many of us intuitively believe that art, philosophy and culture, from the evolution of cinema to the rise of performance poetry, is trying to constantly progress towards something better. But is this a myth? In art and philosophy, is the best yet to ...Show More

28:13 | May 8th, 2018

What happens to our bodies when we die? Forensic scientist and Belle de Jour blogger Brooke Magnanti anticipates life's strangest certainty.

30:30 | May 1st, 2018

In 1859, Charles Darwin changed the course of history for ever by publishing On the Origin of Species. In 1872 he published ‘The expression of the emotions in man and animals.’ Which didn’t rock the boat quite so much, but it continues to be a source...Show More

33:09 | Apr 26th, 2018

Outspoken critic of Richard Dawkins, and renowned Professor of English Literature Terry Eagleton launches himself heroically at the twin hornet’s nests of modern religious apathy & radicalism. Where should the unreligious look for answers? What has c...Show More

34:08 | Apr 24th, 2018

In Europe, belief in organised religion continues to decline as science advances. Yet strangely interest in everything from ley lines to solstice rituals is on the rise. Should we dismiss this as empty fantasy? Or is there in nature something essenti...Show More

23:53 | Apr 17th, 2018

Is consciousness stranger than we thought? The Science Delusion author Rupert Sheldrake strikes out against orthodoxy and asks: is the sun conscious?

37:51 | Apr 10th, 2018

From Galileo to Mandela, history is made by those with strong convictions. Yet as Nietzsche argued and Islamic State attest, those most convinced of their righteousness are often the most dangerous. Should politicians and the rest of us avoid convict...Show More

33:51 | Apr 3rd, 2018

Time appears to be the ultimate form of progress: an unavoidable direction imposed on the universe. Some physicists claim this is an illusion. How should we make sense of time? As a dimension, a flow, a place, a process, a social construct, or someth...Show More

34:42 | Mar 27th, 2018

In today’s debate Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party faces Helena Cronin, Darwinian philosopher and a strong believer in natural sex differences. Joined by Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, they debate the pros, cons and possibilities...Show More

29:32 | Mar 22nd, 2018

Over a century after Freud wrote the interpretation of dreams, how much of our unconscious minds have we uncovered? Writer, academic and critic Shahida Bari, Philosopher and Director of the Institute of Philosophy at the Institute of Advanced Stu...Show More

25:15 | Mar 20th, 2018

Darwinian philosopher Helena Cronin breaks a 21st century taboo: Did men and women evolve differently?

39:31 | Mar 13th, 2018

A world where men and women shared power equally is thought desirable. Yet from Angela Merkel and Mrs Thatcher, to Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, leading women often appear to behave similarly to men. Would a world run by women actually be fundam...Show More

18:37 | Mar 8th, 2018

Assistant Producer at the IAI, Bridey Addison-Child, speaks to some of our female speakers from our HowTheLightGetsIn Festival to find out what being a woman means in today's society, and explore some of the philosophical issues raised when we talk a...Show More

19:30 | Mar 6th, 2018

This year marks a hundred years that women (or some women) have held the right to vote here in Britain. But centuries before Pankhurst’s call arms in a violent protest movement, Mary Woollstonecraft envisaged a feminist utopia built on respect, equal...Show More

25:51 | Feb 27th, 2018

In this week’s episode, we’re looking at the science behind monogamous relationships and asking the question: have we, as a species, evolved beyond them? Screw the Fairytale author Helen Croydon, UCL anthropologist Kit Opie, and psychologist Susan Qu...Show More

24:20 | Feb 22nd, 2018

There is perhaps, nothing more contentious in a romantic relationship, than our partner’s attitude to pornography. Here to break through this taboo is our speaker for today’s podcast - former MP and LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell.

29:47 | Feb 20th, 2018

We rely on a narrative about who we are and what we are up to in order to make the everyday and the big decisions in our lives. But who is the I that writes the story of ourselves and how do we choose the narrative of our life? Are our choices more ...Show More

33:07 | Feb 13th, 2018

From love at first sight to falling head over heels, it seems love isn’t something we do but something that happens to us. Yet relationship experts say successful relationships are built on hard work. Can we construct the romantic narrative? Would po...Show More

24:44 | Feb 6th, 2018

We’re happy taking drugs to fight depression. But what about a pill for engineering romance? Oxford neuroscientist and Future of Humanity Institute fellow Anders Sandberg makes the case for chemically enhancing our love lives.

33:34 | Jan 30th, 2018

In this podcast we’re going to be uncovering the unknown by pitting science against religion in the ultimate quest for truth. Theologian Rosie Harper, chemist Peter Atkins and philosopher Steve Fuller debate whether science is the only way to trut...Show More

35:27 | Jan 25th, 2018

Socrates famously claimed 'the unexamined life is not worth living'. Yet from surfing to sex, playing an instrument to riding a bike, our most joyous moments are not when we are lost in thought but when we are lost in experience. Do we reflect too m...Show More

20:43 | Jan 23rd, 2018

Is Theoretical Physics on the cusp of discovering a new theory of gravity? Theoretical physicist Erik Verlinde outlines how spacetime and gravity dissolve.

34:00 | Jan 16th, 2018

Can you ever really know yourself? And if you can’t know yourself, how can you ever know the people around you, even those closest to you? Professor of Contemporary Literature Robert Eaglestone, theoretical psychologist and author of 'Soul Dust' Nich...Show More

36:30 | Jan 10th, 2018

Visions of a violent and lawless future are a commonplace, yet strangely crime has fallen 66% in the UK in the last two decades. Do we want to imagine the world is dangerous because our lives have become too safe? Or is the world scarier than the fig...Show More

18:44 | Jan 9th, 2018

We keep searching for life's meaning, but we still have no answer. Philosopher and author of 'Wolf' Mark Rowlands shows us where we might look.

28:27 | Jan 2nd, 2018

A third of all deaths are due to medical intervention and some argue that eradicating poverty, not pathogens, makes the biggest difference. Is it a fantasy to believe that medical technology can solve health? Should we spend more on social justice...Show More

22:53 | Dec 21st, 2017

In our topsy turvy post-modern world, we're held captive by the promise of the new. One of Britain's most influential cultural critics, Terry Eagleton, examines novelty's strange perils. Supported by Routledge - Associate Academic Partner of the I...Show More

28:19 | Dec 19th, 2017

The world is awash with debt. Economists argue it is essential to growth and that repayment is a legal and moral obligation. Yet from Payday lending to the debts of Greece and the Third World many see debt as unfair and unjust. Should we be less depe...Show More

22:56 | Dec 12th, 2017

With technological advancements in the world of computer science and robotics, sci-fi sex robots such as Ava from Ex Machina, and Joi from Blade Runner 2049, are coming closer and closer to becoming real. Would sex robots be a disaster for healthy se...Show More

34:09 | Dec 5th, 2017

There was a time when gold money had real value. Yet now it floats free, a fantasy made real by our belief. Are there alternative fantasies that we could create to generate different and perhaps better realities? Or is there something special about...Show More

25:26 | Nov 28th, 2017

Over 40 years have passed since string theory was first developed: what questions have been answered? Philosopher James Ladyman examines one of our strangest endeavours. "Challenging and provocative" TLS

32:46 | Nov 21st, 2017

Weapons of mass destruction, the NSA, and Watergate: many have felt cheated by the lies of the powerful. Yet we all twist the truth to keep people happy and deceive in order to protect. Is lying oddly essential? Should we accept lying as part of pers...Show More

38:38 | Nov 16th, 2017

The goal of feminism seemed simple: equal rights for both sexes. Yet tabloid controversy is raging now Beyonce, GaGa and Sandberg have claimed the label. Can female sexuality be a vehicle for female power? And is feminism recast as female power a des...Show More

14:42 | Nov 14th, 2017

We trust our doctors to do what’s best for us when we’re sick, and that their knowledge comes from the cutting edge of medical science. But what if our doctors are being led astray by medical insurance companies, and even the NHS, to create a world w...Show More

28:41 | Nov 7th, 2017

Being a real man used to be about courage, grit, and determination. But in an age of increased empathy and softness the story is getting blurred. Is the 'real man' a fantasy we should be pleased to see relegated to history along with Marlboro ads, o...Show More

20:31 | Oct 31st, 2017

Only 3 percent of mammals are monogamous. The faithful few include beavers, wolves, bats, and, of course, humans. Why is monogamy so rare? And how did we come to practise it? UCL anthropologist Kit Opie takes you on journey back to the beginning ...Show More

25:24 | Oct 24th, 2017

Disillusioned with the mainstream, Sophie Walker joined and now leads the Women's Equality Party. Here she asks: is radical thinking enough to change society? Music: Apache Force by Little Glass Men available under an Attribution Creative Commons ...Show More

19:53 | Oct 17th, 2017

We all want a better world and most see morality as helping to choose the right actions. Yet we can't know for sure the outcome of any action. Is morality therefore curiously independent of outcomes? Does this leave it without foundation or function?...Show More

18:02 | Oct 10th, 2017

What is the strange allure of opiate addiction? Author and former prison psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple argues his personal take on the problems poppies pose. "A modern master" Guardian Music: Apache Force by Little Glass Men available under a...Show More

36:48 | Oct 3rd, 2017

From the existence of the self to the nature of free will, many philosophers have dedicated their lives to the problems of the mind. But now some neuroscientists claim to have settled these raging debates. Is it possible we have discovered a science ...Show More

18:04 | Sep 26th, 2017

Aristotle said that we "acquire a particular quality by acting a certain way" - he believed that you could fake it 'til you make it. But is this a reductive understanding of confidence? Are we right to desire confidence, or should we reimagine our un...Show More

20:46 | Sep 19th, 2017

What could secular Buddhist philosophy bring to a dissatisfied West? Buddhist teacher and author Stephen Batchelor gives ancient wisdom a 21st century home. Music: Apache Force by Little Glass Men available under an Attribution Creative Commons Li...Show More

27:24 | Sep 12th, 2017

The headlines of new discoveries about the universe continue, but are we approaching our limits? Mathematician and broadcaster Marcus du Sautoy explores. Music: Apache Force by Little Glass Men available under an Attribution Creative Commons Licen...Show More

31:53 | Sep 5th, 2017

We effortlessly use language to describe the world. Yet the puzzle of how language achieves this has stumped philosophers for a century. Are we simply missing the right theory? Or is something more profound at stake if language does not in fact provi...Show More

43:05 | Aug 29th, 2017

We think information provides facts about the world around us. Yet some in quantum physics now claim that information is primary, more fundamental than matter. Could information provide the ultimate constituents of the world? Or is this a delusion bo...Show More

19:14 | Aug 23rd, 2017

How can we rethink society to halt existential crises as rapidly as the threats can occur? Director of the Centre for Effective Altruism Sebastian Farquhar outlines his solution.

36:36 | Aug 18th, 2017

From writing to art, the intense to the light hearted, imagination transports us to untold fantasy worlds. Yet Picasso claimed "everything you can imagine is real". Should we dismiss this as the overblown claims of a celebrity artist, or might what ...Show More

20:53 | Aug 16th, 2017

Has Westminster made progress to equality? Cameron told Shadow Secretary for Business Angela Eagle to “Calm down dear”; here she forecasts the future of sexism in politics. Music: Apache Force by Little Glass Men and Enter the World of Paradise by...Show More

33:14 | Aug 14th, 2017

Far flung destinations are often home to those seeking to 'find themselves'. Encouraged perhaps by Socrates’ maxim for an ethical life: 'know thyself'. But do any of us ever arrive? Is the self a real and stable enough 'thing' that it can be known?...Show More

18:14 | Aug 11th, 2017

Can the threat of terror be fought with compassion? Conservative politician and Spectator's 'Backbencher of the year' Charlotte Leslie issues a rallying cry for the politics of love. Music: Apache Force by Little Glass Men and Enter the World of P...Show More

23:29 | Aug 9th, 2017

Is statistical and scientific ignorance undermining the fight against sexism? Darwinian philosopher Helena Cronin argues sex difference should be accepted not ignored. Music: Apache Force by Little Glass Men and Enter the World of Paradise by D SM...Show More

39:23 | Aug 8th, 2017

The shaming exposes and social media scandals of today can seem as backwards as the stocks or the pillory. Yet the fear of shame can bring the powerful to heel. What is our curious shame about shame? Might shaming be our best tool for change? Or shou...Show More

30:31 | Aug 4th, 2017

The first female to enter the Radio Hall of Fame, MBE recipient Annie Nightingale is the BBC's longest serving DJ. Join the "first lady of radio" as she discusses 50 years at the forefront of Britain's shifting music scene. Music: Apache Force by ...Show More

41:09 | Aug 2nd, 2017

Fulfill your dreams and make the most of your life! So advocate headmasters, moralists and revolutionaries. Yet poet John Betjeman's principal regret was that he did not have more sex. Is life not about goals and ambition but about the moment of bein...Show More

40:33 | Jul 31st, 2017

Copernicus and Darwin taught us to be skeptical of feeling we were special. Yet from the size of the electron to the cosmological constant our universe is strangely fine-tuned for life. Is this a spectacularly fortuitous accident? Has the universe ...Show More

48:14 | May 31st, 2017

At 10 billion matches, Tinder has made more connections than there are people. But neuroscience reveals that too much choice can increase expectations and reduce desire. Is choice actually a bad thing? Have dating apps democratised intimacy, or are t...Show More

32:21 | May 9th, 2017

Mathematics is rarely seen as a romantic discipline. But 30% of couples now meet using online algorithms. Could big data be the key to making love last? And if so what makes for the perfect match? eHarmony's Chief Scientist Steve Carter unveils n...Show More

25:37 | Apr 25th, 2017

Terror attacks on satellites would cause mass destruction within moments. Why are we ignoring the risks? Space security expert and Chatham House Research Director Patricia Lewis reveals the silent dangers in space.

30:23 | Apr 18th, 2017

In 2013 we found the Higgs boson. Then, in early 2016, we found Gravitational Waves. Eminent CERN physicist John Ellis asks: what's next for 21st-century physics?

38:31 | Apr 13th, 2017

Where are the alternatives to injustice and uncertainty? Author of The Establishment Owen Jones makes the case for an end to despair and a new era of politics.

40:50 | Apr 6th, 2017

We all think we know what gravity is. But where gravity comes from stumped Newton, and 300 years later we are no closer to an explanation. We don't even have a mathematical account of gravity that applies in all situations. Why is a force so central ...Show More

46:55 | Mar 28th, 2017

We think we know what is real and what is not. Yet strangely we can't even agree what reality is made of - everyday things, particles and energy, or language and thought. Is reality essentially incomprehensible because it is beyond us? Or do we just...Show More

46:33 | Mar 21st, 2017

The $3bn Human Genome project to uncover the genetic cause of disease was billed as ground breaking. Despite frequent positive newspaper headlines, critics argue we have uncovered almost nothing about disease. Will it eventually prove useful or are g...Show More

33:20 | Mar 14th, 2017

Freedom is a goal we all endorse. Yes as neuroscience shows and history suggests, we are less content when we have more choice. Is too much freedom paradoxically debilitating? Do we need constraints to thrive, and might our chains be key to our freed...Show More

46:46 | Mar 7th, 2017

From bats to beetles, animals sense the world differently in order to survive. Yet we think seeing and feeling tell us how things really are. Might our senses be radically limited? Are science and logic routes to escape our sensory limitations, or is...Show More

46:15 | Feb 28th, 2017

We see community and society as good. Yet communities are also fortresses of privilege and conformity, as migrants know only too well. Is the tribe, from the football team to the nation, to be feared and contained? Or is finding our place in a larger...Show More

42:56 | Feb 21st, 2017

Madness is understood as the opposite of reason. Yet as Van Gogh and Nietzsche attest, madness can also be an inexplicable source of insight. Might madness be a strange form of wisdom rather than its diseased opposite? Or is this to make light of a c...Show More

35:07 | Feb 14th, 2017

We want "I love you" to mean forever. But neuroscientists claim three years into a relationship and romantic activity in the brain has ceased.  Can love only be known in short doses? Should we accept romance as fleeting and abandon long term commitme...Show More

47:39 | Feb 7th, 2017

From Aristotle to Einstein humans have tried to make sense of the world.  Yet despite huge advances a final explanation looks ever distant.  What makes our lives and the world so puzzling and inexplicable? Is it the limitation of the human brain or i...Show More

46:50 | Jan 24th, 2017

We all want a better world, and we seemingly make progress, with more technology and less prejudice. Yet ideals and utopias are strangely difficult to imagine, let alone achieve. Is it that we just lack imagination or are leaders inherently corrupt? ...Show More

45:31 | Jan 17th, 2017

Philosophy as therapy is an ancient idea. Endorsed by Wittgenstein and popularized by self-help books. But isn't philosophy about understanding even if the insights are uncomfortable? Can philosophy be a dynamic force changing how we think and what w...Show More

46:04 | Jan 10th, 2017

More women MPs, more women CEOs, women it would seem are on the move. Yet the gap between successful women and the rest is growing. Might feminism's success paradoxically harbour the end of the sisterhood as we swap one inequality for another? Or are...Show More

28:37 | Jan 3rd, 2017

Designer babies and human enhancement were once confined to fiction. Now biotechnology allows designer genetics, and many already choose the sex of their children. Where will this technology lead the human race? Should we be nervous of the ability to...Show More

28:01 | Dec 20th, 2016

If we have rights and ownership of anything it is surely of our own body. Yet we cannot dispose of it as we please, intoxicants are outlawed, and selling our body for sexual pleasure or organ donation is restricted. Is our body strangely not our own ...Show More

30:27 | Dec 13th, 2016

We structure our lives on the flow of time. Yet physicists since Einstein have argued that all time, past, present and future, is like space provided in a single block. Is the flow of time an illusion? Are we deceived when we feel time passing, or is...Show More

51:59 | Dec 6th, 2016

We all want to do the right thing. But from suicide bombers to Catholic priests, we have never been able to agree on what the right thing is. Should we give up on morality and see it as a fiction designed to justify beliefs? Or, despite our disagreem...Show More

44:19 | Nov 29th, 2016

We think we've grown out of the belief in evil. It's not in our genes and people don't get possessed. But across media and culture, from Star Wars to Isis, evil still holds us strangely captive. Why does the devil seem to have the best tunes? Is the...Show More

33:07 | Nov 22nd, 2016

We want news to accurately reflect the real world. But in an age when competing channels with different perspectives are instantly available should we recognise this goal as an illusion? Should we accept that journalists set the world's agenda with ...Show More

47:48 | Nov 17th, 2016

We think science is based on facts and evidence. But from gravity to dark matter, string theory to parallel universes, its theories are curiously bereft of hard evidence. Is evidence less important than we think and conjecture alone capable of leadin...Show More

32:42 | Nov 10th, 2016

Many neuroscientists believe disorders of the mind will be solved when we understand the differences between the male and female brain. Yet is is frequently argued that men and women are not born but made. Are mental differences between the sexes rea...Show More

43:37 | Nov 3rd, 2016

Evil artificial intelligences are luckily confined to fiction. Yet leading scientists claim that intelligent machines are 'the most serious threat facing mankind'. Are they right or could a mind free from human prejudices create a better world? Or is...Show More

50:56 | Oct 27th, 2016

As Romeo and Juliet showed, love is a wild and unpredictable force even when faced with reason and control. But we join online dating sites to increase our probability of finding it. Are emotions and intimacy rational choices that can be measured and...Show More

45:28 | Oct 20th, 2016

Nearly twenty years have passed since scientists first proposed a mysterious force, Dark Energy, pushing our universe apart. Yet there is no direct evidence for it or any idea what it might be. Might our theories of the universe be profoundly mistak...Show More

42:32 | Oct 13th, 2016

While the world turns we think ideas, right or wrong, are eternal. Yet meaning changes over time and context. Should we conclude that, like the material world, ideas are transient and knowledge and morality passing stories? Or is the eternal in our g...Show More

39:09 | Oct 6th, 2016

At a time of uncertainty and doubt, we often suppose that science alone can uncover the truth. Yet a recent paper found that 90% of scientific studies are not reproducible. Should we see science as a flawed method and look elsewhere for our truths, o...Show More

50:38 | Sep 29th, 2016

Western values have been extraordinarily successful. Yet now we seem on the back foot, unsure of ourselves and sometimes embarraseed at our own past. Beset with postmodern doubts, do we need to revive belief in the values and importance of our ideals...Show More

46:46 | Sep 22nd, 2016

We think empathising with others is the route to a better world. But studies show that empathy encourages us to help one named child over ten anonymous others. Is morality perhaps not about empathy at all? Does the moral way to act have more to do wi...Show More

48:33 | Sep 15th, 2016

'God does not play dice with the universe' Einstein famously argued. Yet contemporary physics embeds just such dice playing at the core of its account. Is the universe really unknowable even to itself? Or as Einstein implied is this misguided and i...Show More

42:26 | Sep 13th, 2016

Our life is made up of experiences. But what experience is remains a mystery. Heidegger thought it inexplicable and neuroscientists cannot find its location. Do we just need a better theory to uncover its secrets? Or is experience somehow both all t...Show More

39:46 | Sep 8th, 2016

Few take anarchism and the abandonment of organised government as a viable political goal.  Yet in economics, capitalism is just such a leaderless anarchic system.  Might a radically decentralised political system be more credible than we think?  Or ...Show More

43:54 | Sep 7th, 2016

From Newton's laws to E=mc2, we think we have uncovered the secrets of the universe. But some claim these laws evolve and others point to their human and cultural origins. Might eternal natural laws be human hubris? Or is the mind of God in our grasp...Show More

42:15 | Sep 7th, 2016

We believe democracy leads to a fairer world. Yet almost all governments claim to be democratic including China, Russia and Syria. And 50 years after the abolition of hanging, UK polls still show a majority in favour. Is democracy illusory and troubl...Show More

44:04 | Sep 6th, 2016

As China and Russia adopt their own variants, the reign of capitalism seems absolute. Yet there are many who wish for an alternative and some who claim a final crisis is in the making. Is there a radical alternative that we have not yet discovered? O...Show More

46:10 | Sep 5th, 2016

We think space and time are the structure of the universe. Yet Einstein argued 'space and time are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live'. And philosophers, Kant and Heidegger, saw space and time as the framework of thought not ...Show More

48:16 | Sep 4th, 2016

The power of words is a wonder, and language perhaps our greatest skill. Yet the gap between the sound of a bell and its description is huge. Are the limits to language so profound that the big questions of science and philosophy are beyond us? Or ca...Show More

40:43 | Sep 3rd, 2016

There is no self, no 'I', only a flickering illusion. So claim many neuroscientists and philosophers. Yet for the rest of us, the denial of the self feels like a bitter pill to swallow. Is the self a fantasy? Or is it essential to our being and consc...Show More

47:48 | Sep 2nd, 2016

From schizophrenia to depression we assume our psychiatric diagnoses are real. But as the mental health epidemic turns global, the categories now seem like the cause. Is it time to abandon our biological account of mental illness? Or is it the best s...Show More

47:57 | Sep 1st, 2016

Neuroscience has enabled us to explain how the brain affects the body. Yet there is no theory to explain how the matter of the brain creates thought and experience. Is consciousness inexplicable because it is not part of the material world? Or is it ...Show More

43:09 | Aug 31st, 2016

A generation raised on Foucault and Derrida has learned to distrust claims to objective truth. Yet the mantra that 'there is no truth' is a paradox. Do we need a new conception of fantasy and reality to free us from the tyranny of truthmakers and the...Show More