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Philosophy & Other Big Ideas

Very Bad Wizards

Tamler Sommers & David Pizarro

+28 FANS
Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podca...Show More

1:40:42 | Sep 17th

David and Tamler start out with a discussion of the new Chappelle special and the negative reaction from many critics. Is Chappelle trolling his audience? Has he lost touch with the powerless people he used to champion? Or have critics missed his lar...Show More

1:31:41 | Aug 27th

David and Tamler dive back into the Bible, this time to the perplexing and poetic Book of Job. What does this book have to say about the theodicy, the problem of evil? Why does Job (and his children) have to suffer so much just so God can prove a poi...Show More
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1:49:34 | Aug 13th

Is social psychology just a kid dressing up in grown-up science clothes? Are the methods in social psychology--hypothesis-driven experiments and model-building--appropriate for the state of the field? Or do these methods lead to a narrowing of vision...Show More

1:50:07 | Jul 30th

David and Tamler try to control their emotions (with varying success) as they go deep into Franz Kafka's masterful novella "The Metamorphosis." What kind of a story is this? A Marxist or religious allegory? A work of weird fiction? A family drama? A ...Show More

1:33:15 | Jul 16th

It's Part 2 of the Lebowski vs. Pulp Fiction showdown. This time we focus on the Dude, Walter, Donny, and most importantly Jesus Quintana. (Nobody fucks with the Jesus). What's the ethos of this stoner masterpiece? Is it a nihilstic movie? A deconstr...Show More

1:08:12 | Jul 3rd

There are only two kinds of people in the world, Pulp Fiction people and Big Lebowski people. Now Pulp Fiction people can like Big Lebowski and vice versa, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice tells...Show More

1:49:14 | Jun 18th

Memory is highly selective and often inaccurate. But what if we had an easily searchable video record of all our experiences and interactions? How would that affect our relationships? What would it reveal about our characters and our sense of who we ...Show More

2:16:14 | Jun 4th

Sam Harris returns to the podcast to talk about meditation and his new Waking Up meditation app. What are the goals of mindfulness practice - stress reduction and greater focus, or something much deeper? Can it cure David's existential dread? Tamler'...Show More

1:21:30 | May 14th

David and Tamler argue about William James' classic essay "The Will to Believe." What's more important - avoiding falsehood or discovering truth? When (if ever) is it rational to believe anything without enough evidence? What about beliefs that we ca...Show More

1:34:17 | May 1st

David and Tamler are pulled into Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas." Omelas is a truly happy city, except for one child who lives in abominable misery. Is that too high a moral cost? Why do some people walk away from the city? W...Show More

1:26:42 | Apr 16th

As parents we like to think we have an impact on our children - their future, their happiness, the kinds of people they turn out to be. But are we deluded? Dave and Tamler are joined by empathy's kryponite, the great Paul Bloom, to talk about Judith ...Show More

1:25:00 | Apr 2nd

The less we know, the more we know it. David and Tamler talk about the notorious Dunning-Kruger effect, which makes us overconfident in beliefs on topics we're ignorant about and under-confident when we're experts. Plus, we break down an evolutionary...Show More

1:33:42 | Mar 19th

David and Tamler dive into the book of Ecclesiastes, an absurdist classic that is somehow also a book of the Bible. Is everything meaningless, vain, and a chasing after the wind? Are humans just the same as animals? Are wise people no better off than...Show More

1:15:52 | Mar 5th

Poor and black defendants have more legal rights than ever, but that didn't stop mass incarceration. Why is that? We talk about a paper by Paul Butler called "Poor People Lose: Gideon and the Critique of Rights." Plus, we answer the question that’s ...Show More

1:36:22 | Feb 19th

David and Tamler talk about the invasion of dual process theories in psychology. Why do we love theories that divide complex phenomena into just two categories? Is there any evidence to back up these theories? Are we distorting our understanding of t...Show More

1:21:26 | Feb 5th

David and Tamler continue their discussion of Dostoevsky's funny, sad, philosophical novella Notes From Underground. We focus on part 2 this time - three stories from the Underground Man's past - and explore what the stories tell us about his existen...Show More

1:43:36 | Jan 22nd

We’re sick men. We’re spiteful men. We’re unpleasant men. We think our livers are diseased (especially Tamler’s). So we talk about Dostoevsky’s wild, complex, stream of consciousness masterpiece Notes From Underground. For this episode we focus on pa...Show More

1:38:40 | Jan 8th

David and Tamler dive deep into Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 hallucinatory classic, Vertigo. Why does this movie seem to gain stature among critics and academics every year? Is this a really a exploration of Hitchcock's own obsessions and sexual repressio...Show More

1:56:53 | Dec 18th, 2018

In the famous words of the idealist philosopher George Berkeley, “To exist is to be perceived.” Our ideas and perceptions are the fundamental objects in the universe; there is no real world beyond them. Hume wrote (I think) that Berkeley’s arguments ...Show More

1:46:52 | Dec 4th, 2018

David dies for science’s sins and addresses the failed replication of one of his studies (conducted with three former VBW guests) by the Many Labs Project. But first, the guys try to gauge their intuitions about the phenomenal experience of their mol...Show More

1:21:26 | Nov 20th, 2018

Tamler and David continue their Nagel-gazing by discussing another essay from Mortal Questions: "Ruthlessness in Public Life." Why do we treat the immorality of politicians, military leaders, and others in power differently than the immorality of ind...Show More

2:04:08 | Nov 6th, 2018

There was me, that is Tamler, and my droog, that is David, and we sat in our living rooms on Skype trying to make up our rassoodocks what Stanley Kubrick's a Clockwork Orange was really about? Free will? We didn't think so. Punishment? Yeah but what ...Show More

1:26:23 | Oct 23rd, 2018

What better way to celebrate our 150th episode than to bring back our favorite guest – Paul Bloom! We riff on a series of topics: the new “grievance studies” hoax, sex robot brothels, perverse desires, and perverse beliefs. Then we get a little navel...Show More

1:41:41 | Oct 2nd, 2018

Is living forever a good thing? Could we maintain our values and personal attachments throughout eternity? Would we be motivated to accomplish anything? Can we make sense of a human life that doesn't have a fixed endpoint? We try to alleviate David's...Show More

1:41:19 | Sep 19th, 2018

Tamler wades into a Twitter controversy about Serena Williams - could this be his fast-track pass into the IDW? And since we're talking about that, why not throw in a discussion of Louis CK's surprise set at the Comedy Cellar? In the second segment, ...Show More

1:43:19 | Sep 4th, 2018

Oxford philosophy professor Will MacAskill joins us to talk about effective altruism, moral uncertainty, and why you shouldn’t eat your grandmother (even if consequentialism is true). How should we act when we’re not sure which moral theory is the ri...Show More

1:12:41 | Aug 21st, 2018

Is being a sports fan irrational? Does it lead to more suffering than happiness? David and Tamler discuss a recent study that suggests the answer is "yes." But does the study really capture the benefits of being fans? More generally, does science hav...Show More

1:37:02 | Aug 7th, 2018

David and Tamler go deep into Borges’ labyrinth to discuss the fascinating, multi-dimensional story “The Garden of Forking Paths.” What is the underlying reality of this story? What demands does Borges make of his readers? What is Borges telling us a...Show More

1:23:56 | Jul 24th, 2018

David and Tamler try to wrap their heads around Jorge Luis Borges' “The Library of Babel” – a short story about a universe/library that contains every possible book with every possible combination of characters. How many books would this library con...Show More

1:39:41 | Jul 10th, 2018

David and Tamler tackle the topic selected by their Patreon supporters - the psychology of personality. What are the different dimensions of personality that distinguish one person from another? How many dimensions are there - do the Big Five capture...Show More

1:30:41 | Jun 26th, 2018

In what has to be the most somber VBW to date, David and Tamler welcome Harvard psychologist Matthew Nock to the podcast to talk about suicide and other forms of self-harm. Matt tells us what we know – and what we don’t know - about the causes of su...Show More

1:21:28 | Jun 5th, 2018

David and Tamler tackle the topic of implicit bias and the controversy surrounding the implicit association test (IAT). What is implicit bias anyway? Does it have to be linked to behavior in order to truly count as a "bias"? Has the IAT been overhype...Show More

1:33:22 | May 22nd, 2018

Honor shmonor, David and Tamler return to their repugnant roots for this one. First, we pay an overdue homage to the great anonymous blogger and twitter-redeemer Neuroskeptic. We pick a few of our favorite pithy tweets and crazy science article links...Show More

1:31:25 | May 12th, 2018

It took two tries (the first one led to a big non-productive fight), but David and Tamler end up with a good discussion of honor and its connection to identity, pride, and personal relationships. Why have we rejected honor in favor of dignity? What a...Show More

1:45:37 | Apr 24th, 2018

Award-winning screenwriter and medieval philosophy scholar Yoel Inbar joins us for a deep dive on the Charlie Kaufman/Michel GondREY masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When relationships go bad is it better to believe they never happe...Show More

1:19:16 | Apr 10th, 2018

Why are we always attracted to people who mock us, resist our advances, and play hard to get? Maybe because it’s extra satisfying when you finally get them to… appear on your podcast. In our first live episode (recorded in San Antonio), the philosoph...Show More

1:32:09 | Mar 27th, 2018

From Very Bad Wizards to Megyn Kelly Today back to Very Bad Wizards, Laurie Santos has traveled the typical trajectory of the celebrity academic. Laurie joins us to talk about her cult status after creating the most popular course in Yale University ...Show More

1:16:43 | Mar 13th, 2018

David and Tamler take a break from complaining about psychological studies that measure utilitarianism to complain about the moral theory itself. We talk about one of the most famous critiques of utilitarian theories from Bernard Williams. Does utili...Show More

1:51:30 | Feb 27th, 2018

It's been 5 years since Molly Crockett has been guest on VBW. During that time she's completed a post-doc at University College, London and become a professor at Yale University. And we're...well, we're still doing the podcast. Today Molly joins us t...Show More

1:15:18 | Feb 6th, 2018

David and Tamler talk about the nature of death. Is being dead a bad thing? If so, what makes it bad? How can anything be bad for a subject that no longer exists? We didn't have a problem with oblivion for the thirteen billion years before we were bo...Show More

1:35:41 | Jan 23rd, 2018

What's the best way to build self-control, patience, productivity, and delayed marshmallow eating? For decades psychologists and economists have told us to develop traits like willpower and grit. But psychologist David DeSteno describes a better, eas...Show More

1:39:43 | Jan 9th, 2018

David and Tamler break down two episodes (with full spoilers) from the new season of Charlie Brooker's bleaker-than-bleak Netflix series Black Mirror. First up, "The USS Callister," a Star Trek parody that becomes a meditation on fandom, humiliation,...Show More

1:32:37 | Dec 26th, 2017

In this Very Special Boxing Day edition of the podcast, Tamler and David welcome back honorary Third Wizard Paul Bloom to discuss his latest article in the New Yorker about dehumanization and cruelty. Is it really the case that we dehumanize in order...Show More

1:45:37 | Dec 12th, 2017

David and Tamler assert their autonomy as individuals by discussing their favorite dystopian works of art. Rebelling against a repressive regime, they refuse to sacrifice their privacy, uniqueness, and reproductive freedom. Through sheer force of wil...Show More

1:50:03 | Nov 28th, 2017

David and Tamler keep their Nagel streak alive, discussing the essay "The Fragmention of Value" from his collection "Mortal Questions." How should we address our fragmented moral landscape, with multiple sources of value that can't be reduced or syst...Show More

1:24:41 | Nov 14th, 2017

David and Tamler dip back into the Thomas Nagel well, and discuss the problem of "moral luck." Why do we blame drunk drivers who hit someone more than drunk drivers who make it home OK? Why do we judge people for things that are beyond their control...Show More

1:32:12 | Oct 24th, 2017

Is life meaningless? Are humans just glorified dung beetles, pushing around our piles of poop with no greater purpose? What would it take for life to actually be meaningful? In this episode, Tamler and David discuss Thomas Nagel’s essay on the sense ...Show More

1:32:28 | Oct 10th, 2017

What do we mean when we say someone is angry? Can we identify anger (or any other emotion) via facial expressions, physiological changes, or neural markers? Is anger simply a feeling, something that happens to us, or does it involve a judgment? How m...Show More

1:21:53 | Sep 26th, 2017

Do you think of your life as a story? Does your life have a narrative structure or form? Do you identify with your past selves and your future selves? If not, can you live a good life, a moral life, an authentic life? Can you feel guilt, regret, and ...Show More

1:27:53 | Sep 12th, 2017

It’s Part 2 of the Patreon listener selected episode! David and Tamler continue their discussion on intelligence from our last episode by tackling the radioactive topic of group differences and IQ. Are there reliable differences in IQ across races? G...Show More

1:40:39 | Aug 29th, 2017

David and Tamler do their best to talk frankly about intelligence and IQ research. (It's our Patreon listener-selected topic! We probably would never have chosen this one on our own...). Is intelligence a meaningful, definable concept? Can we reliabl...Show More

1:29:30 | Aug 15th, 2017

Guest Yoel Inbar joins David and Tamler to break down David Lynch’s dreamy masterpiece Mulholland Drive. (FULL SPOILERS – watch before you listen!) What’s real and what’s illusion? What happens when our illusions unravel? How do expectations affect o...Show More

1:47:09 | Jul 25th, 2017

Special guest Robert Wright joins the podcast to discuss his latest book "Why Buddhism is True." What is the Buddhist conception of not-self? When we become aware that the boundaries between us and the world are fluid, what is the “we” that arrives ...Show More

1:26:11 | Jul 12th, 2017

What happens when we discover why we believe the things we believe? What if we discover that our values are the product of our cultural tradition, or personal experience, or natural selection? Should we be more skeptical of our values once we learn t...Show More

1:12:50 | Jun 28th, 2017

David and Tamler try to put the topic of campus politics to bed once and for all – with limited success. First, we get into a big fight about the prevalence and danger of political correctness in American universities. We junked that recording, and t...Show More

1:11:11 | Jun 13th, 2017

David and Tamler break down a recent classic in the philosophy of mind: "The Extended Mind" by Andy Clark and David Chalmers. What is boundary of your mind? Is it contained with your body, or does it extend to the external environment--to your laptop...Show More

1:16:45 | May 31st, 2017

David and Tamler break down the latest small-stakes academic controversy--yes the one about conceptual penises. Does the recent "Sokal-like" hoax expose the ideological extremism of gender studies? Or does it show that certain portions of the "skept...Show More

1:37:27 | May 16th, 2017

David and Tamler go ambulance chasing for scandals in their own fields. Inspired by a tweet from Jay Van Bavel, they argue about which of their disciplines--philosophy or psychology--is more completely and irredeemably fucked. Is the recent controver...Show More

1:21:13 | May 4th, 2017

Somehow, after 113 episodes David and Tamler have never done a top 5 movie episode about revenge (so unbelievable that we had to double-check). That changes today. Among the things we learned: good revenge movies are harder to find than we thought, r...Show More

1:18:16 | Apr 18th, 2017

David and Tamler break down what may be the best argument that it's rational to believe in God: Pascal's Wager. (No, we're not just trolling our Sam Harris listeners.) Does the expected value of believing in God outweigh the probability that you're w...Show More

1:31:55 | Apr 4th, 2017

For four years Tamler has been bitching about Gettier cases without even explaining what they are or why he hates them. That ends today. David and Tamler talk about the famous paper that challenged the (widespread? non-existent?) notion that knowledg...Show More

1:03:20 | Mar 22nd, 2017

In Part 2 of our episode with film scholar Yoel Inbar (AOS: Quebecois New Wave Cinema), we break down the philosophy and psychology of the movie Arrival. [Note: Massive spoilers, see the movie first!] Does our language shape our perception of reality...Show More

41:50 | Mar 14th, 2017

Any time the topic is campus politics there's a good chance we'll have to record more than once. True to form, David and Tamler yelled at each other for most of the first attempt to discuss the Middlebury College incident while special guest Yoel Inb...Show More

1:11:43 | Feb 28th, 2017

David and Tamler return to their repugnant roots to talk about Cornell's refusal to hire conservative faculty, Milo getting disinvited from CPAC, and a case in Canada involving child sex dolls and a bottle of lube. Then they launch into a discussion ...Show More

1:14:41 | Feb 7th, 2017

Inspired by a recent article, David and Tamler try to figure out what's behind our aversion to moral hypocrisy. Why do we have such low opinions of people who don't practice what they preach? Shouldn't we be happy that they promote the views we agree...Show More

1:21:10 | Jan 24th, 2017

The philosopher and pride of Bakersfield, CA Manuel Vargas joins us to talk about culpability under conditions of oppression. How should we treat wrongdoers when their actions and character are shaped in part by their oppressive circumstances? Is it ...Show More

1:17:58 | Jan 10th, 2017

David and Tamler take a break from moral grandstanding to talk about moral grandstanding. How often do we moralize to make us look respectable? Does grandstanding make us more cynical about ethical debates? Does it contribute to outrage exhaustion a...Show More

1:23:04 | Dec 28th, 2016

David and Tamler go back to basics--discussing a paper (Victoria McGeer on responsibilty and Strawson) and arguing about restorative justice. What is the function of attitudes like resentment and anger? Do they presume anything metaphysics of agency?...Show More

1:33:38 | Dec 14th, 2016

Paul Bloom takes some time away from his "Waking Up" appearances to join us for a very special movie episode: our top three films about empathy. Can movies help us understand the experiences of people who live completely different lives? Do serial ki...Show More

1:07:28 | Nov 29th, 2016

It’s the Thanksgiving episode! David and Tamler give thanks to their listeners and Patreon supporters with an episode chosen by our top Patreon subscribers (it was the most enjoyable election we've had all month). It was close, we had a bunch of gre...Show More

1:37:29 | Nov 15th, 2016

David and Tamler stumble their way through talking about the election results, how Trump got elected, the role of racism, sexism, the liberal bubble, complacency, economic anxiety - and find they're just as confused as everyone else. In the second se...Show More

1:28:06 | Nov 1st, 2016

Why do we call Mozart a creative genius? He created his music, but do we also think that he created himself? How do we determine who deserves praise as an artist? What about athletes? What standards do we use - do they involve a strong notion of fre...Show More

1:38:24 | Oct 13th, 2016

David and Tamler have their 100th episode hijacked briefly before taking it back like Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57. To celebrate the milestone Tamler pops some champagne, Dave sips his high priced Ivy League bourbon, and we both take a quiz designed...Show More

2:03:28 | Sep 27th, 2016

David and Tamler tackle three topics on their last double digit episode. First, should a middle school perform "To Kill a Mockingbird" even if they have to use bad language the "n-word," and talk about sexual assault? Tamler relates a story involving...Show More

1:22:27 | Sep 13th, 2016

David and Tamler break down the biggest question in moral philosophy -- can we derive value judgments from a set of purely factual claims? Like the Scottish Philosopher David Hume they're surprised when the usual copulation of propositions 'is' and '...Show More

1:23:01 | Aug 30th, 2016

Do you have strong views on climate change, taxes, health care, or gun control? Do you think the evidence and reason support your side of the debate? How do you know you’re right? David and Tamler discuss a recent paper by Dan Kahan and colleagues sh...Show More

1:26:53 | Aug 16th, 2016

So where are you? You’re in some house. What am I listening to? Sounds like the radio. Is it the radio? No, you’re not allowed to use that language on the radio. What are they talking about? A movie, it’s called "Memento." Have I seen that? I think s...Show More

29:55 | Aug 9th, 2016

Hello friend, did you come from the Berenstein with an 'E' universe? Or have you lived in the Berenstain with an 'A' universe? David and Tamler try to make sense of what's going on in Season 2 of Mr. Robot (Ep.1-5). You're gonna want to dig through y...Show More

1:28:34 | Aug 2nd, 2016

We all remember the famous iTunes review calling David and Tamler "repugnant." (And the T-shirt/mugs are coming soon, we promise!) But what did the reviewer mean by that? Was he calling us "immoral"? Did he actually feel disgust when he listened to t...Show More

1:36:32 | Jul 19th, 2016

Dave and Tamler don’t agree about much, but one thing they do share is an affinity for character-based approaches to ethics. Using Tamler’s interview with Georgetown Philosopher Nancy Sherman as their guide (link to chapter included), they discuss tw...Show More

1:39:01 | Jul 5th, 2016

Scandinavian film scholar Yoel Inbar joins the podcast for a deep dive on the Swedish film Force Majeure, a darkly funny meditation on what our instinctive behavior in a moment of panic can reveal about our characters and relationships. The story: wh...Show More

1:08:29 | Jun 21st, 2016

David and Tamler continue their intermittent “classic paper series” with an episode on Jonathan Bennett’s “The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn” (published in 1974—before the reason vs. emotion debate was all cool again). Using fictional and historical...Show More

1:24:03 | Jun 7th, 2016

Inspired by a recent ProPublica report on racial bias in an algorithm used to predict future criminal behavior, David and Tamler talk about the use of analytic methods in criminal sentencing, sports, and love. Should we use algorithms to influence de...Show More

1:20:49 | May 25th, 2016

David and Tamler have their first real fight in a while over an article defending "social mixing"--distributing babies randomly across families such that no infant is genetically related to the parents who raise them.. Then they discuss a study publi...Show More

1:37:53 | May 10th, 2016

David and Tamler welcome author and environmental science professor Jennifer Jacquet to the podcast to discuss the pros and cons of shame. What's the difference between shame and guilt? Is shaming effective for generating social progress or getting t...Show More

1:20:55 | Apr 26th, 2016

David and Tamler celebrate Passover with a high-spirited episode on guns, revenge, liberals, being offended, the fear of death, and whether kids have a right to be loved. Thanks to all you listeners for emailing your questions, comments, and complain...Show More

1:19:52 | Apr 12th, 2016

We hit the jackpot with this one! Economist Robert Frank (you may remember him from such episodes as The Greatest Books Ever Written) joins David and Tamler to talk about his new book Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy. What r...Show More

1:14:58 | Mar 22nd, 2016

We know that criminal punishment has consequences, both good and bad, and that many people think that offenders deserve it. But what does punishment mean? What is society trying to express in the way it punishes criminals? And since people from all s...Show More

1:09:44 | Mar 12th, 2016

Philosophers can be funny and funny movies can be philosophical. David and Tamler welcome frequent VBW guest and arch-enemy of empathy Paul Bloom to discuss their five favorite comic films with philosophical/psychological themes. Groundhog Day was of...Show More

1:33:19 | Feb 23rd, 2016

David and Tamler talk about the perils of trying to step outside of your own perspective in ethics, science, and politics. What do Rawls' "original position" thought experiment, Pascal's Wager, and Moral Foundations Theory have in common? (Hint: it i...Show More

1:01:34 | Feb 9th, 2016

David and Tamler continue their series of breaking down a classic essay/article in their fields. For this installment, David assigns Tamler Anthony Greenwald's fascinating 1980 review article "The Totalitarian Ego." What do totalitarian regimes, scie...Show More

1:05:30 | Jan 26th, 2016

David and Tamler take a break from their main jobs as TV critics to talk about a masterpiece in political philosophy: "Two Concepts of Liberty" by Isaiah Berlin. While they both celebrate the style and substance of this classic essay, in a startling ...Show More

1:47:10 | Jan 12th, 2016

Hello, listener. Hello, listener? That's lame. Maybe I should give you a name, but that's a slippery slope. You're only in my head. Or maybe we're in your head. Are you listening to this with headphones?Shit. It's actually happened, I'm talking to im...Show More

1:40:51 | Dec 21st, 2015

It's our last episode on campus protests and political correctness for a while, we promise! But it's a fun one.  David and Tamler welcome two guests on the opposite side of the debate spectrum. Recent Yale Alum, cognitive scientist, freelance writer,...Show More

1:47:31 | Dec 4th, 2015

Special guest Valerie Tiberius joins us to talk about values, well-being, and friendship. What role should reflection play in the good life? What about emotion? How can we make our values more consistent and sustainable? Do we know our friends better...Show More

1:08:33 | Nov 24th, 2015

David and Tamler return to the minefield of campus politics and talk about recent events at Yale, Missouri, and Amherst. Are the protests are long overdue response to systematic oppression and prejudice? Or is this new generation of students coddled,...Show More

1:20:03 | Nov 9th, 2015

Special guest Eric Schwitzgebel joins David and Tamler to discuss the moral behavior (or lack thereof) of ethicists. Does moral reflection make us better people, or does it just give us better excuses to be immoral? Who's more right about human natur...Show More

1:02:50 | Oct 26th, 2015

David and Tamler list three things they've changed their minds about in their careers. (This episode was recorded before Episode 75, but that one was way too long already.) What does Tamler think about X-phi these days? Has Dave lost his faith in the...Show More

2:29:51 | Oct 6th, 2015

Dave and Tamler celebrate their 75th episode by welcoming six BFFs of the podcast and asking them to share the biggest thing they've changed their minds about in their professional careers. You'll hear Dan Ariely on our moral duty to take science int...Show More

1:53:45 | Sep 16th, 2015

David and Tamler return after an end of summer hiatus to finally talkabout the ethics of deception….eventually. But first they break downa recent article in the journal Science documenting an attempt to replicate100 recent psychology experiments. Wha...Show More

1:08:42 | Aug 12th, 2015

In what is possibly our most repugnant first segment ever, David and Tamler break down the ethics of zoophilia and investigate the true nature of consent. In the second segment we answer some listener emails and address our first question in our new ...Show More

1:32:33 | Jul 28th, 2015

It finally happened: David and Tamler welcome special guest Joshua Weisberg to the podcast to talk about Turing machines, Chinese Rooms, and AI. What does it mean for a machine to acquire intelligence? What is the proper test? How much processing pow...Show More

1:06:36 | Jul 14th, 2015

David and Tamler go deep into the best TV show of the summer, "Mr. Robot. They talk about the moral ambiguity of its central character, the distorted vision of reality it portrays, and play a round of "Real or Not Real" with all the main characters. ...Show More

1:34:51 | Jun 29th, 2015

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, papers by Williams and movies from Sweden. Long graphic novels that celebrate being. These are a few of our favorite things. Dave and Tamler offer some moral psych-themed recommendations to help you get you...Show More

1:33:40 | Jun 17th, 2015

Dave and Tamler try to figure out what we talk about when we talk about objectivity. In past episodes we’ve claimed that logic and science (when it isn't fraudulent) are objective. Tamler has claimed repeatedly that "Louie" is an objectively better T...Show More

1:14:15 | Jun 1st, 2015

Dave drags Tamler into the nerd abyss by making him watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Tapestry,” from the 6th season. It's available on Netflix instant in the US, and likely worldwide on many sites of varying legality). We talk abo...Show More

1:17:07 | May 18th, 2015

Dave and Tamler break the cardinal rule of comedy by trying to analyze it. What are the origins and functions of humor? Can a theory explain what makes us laugh? Is humor entirely subjective? Why would anyone find Mr. Bean funny? Plus, we lose some g...Show More

1:24:51 | Apr 20th, 2015

Special guest Yoel Inbar (author of Hitchcock’s Women: From Margaret Sullivan to Tippi Hedren) joins us to talk about Hitchcock’s long take masterpiece/gimmick Rope. Based loosely on the case of Leopold and Loeb, Rope tells the story of two young men...Show More

1:19:21 | Apr 6th, 2015

Holy crap, it's the apocalypse!!!!  ...for philosophy. Maybe. Has this 2500 year old discipline become too technical, too disconnected from the real world? Is it just a handmaiden to the sciences? (Which would make Tamler Dave's handmaiden.) And what...Show More

1:13:23 | Mar 19th, 2015

Dave and Tamler talk about the human tendency to believe in a just world. Why do we have the belief? Does it make us less motivated to fight injustice? How does it connect to our beliefs about free will and punishment? Plus, the SAE incident—a case w...Show More

2:46:41 | Feb 28th, 2015

Sam Harris gets back in the VBW ring for another round on moral responsibility, ethical theories, and the grounds for our obligations to other people. Are we at a genuine stalemate when it comes to blame and desert? Is Tamler a closet consequentialis...Show More

1:01:01 | Feb 9th, 2015

Dave and Tamler discuss a new study that, according to Tamler, offers decisive support for restorative approaches to criminal punishment (the only problem is he didn't read past the introduction). And speaking of justice, we talk about "White Bear"--...Show More

1:15:26 | Jan 19th, 2015

Dave and Tamler take a break from blame and responsibility to tackle a much easier subject: meaning in life. We discuss Susan Wolf's new book "Meaning in Life and Why it Matters," and play some excerpts from Tamler's recent discussion with her. Plus,...Show More

1:12:41 | Jan 2nd, 2015

Dave and Tamler argue some more about the role of emotion and intuition in blame judgments, and then offer some moral psychology-related recommendations for your New Year’s viewing and reading pleasure. Plus, can you turn listening to VBW into a good...Show More

2:32:15 | Dec 16th, 2014

Bestselling author and friend of the podcast Sam Harris joins Tamler and Dave for a marathon podcast. (Seriously, pack two pairs of astronaut diapers for this one). We  talk about the costs and benefits of religion, dropping acid in India, and the il...Show More

1:30:26 | Dec 2nd, 2014

Film critic, VBW regular, and social psychologist Yoel Inbar joins David and Tamler to talk about Spike Lee's controversial 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, a movie about a day in the life of a small Brooklyn community on the hottest day of summer, and...Show More

45:38 | Nov 18th, 2014

David and Tamler talk about a new study that links your belief in free will to the fullness of your bladder. How do our bodily states influence our metaphysical commitments? What's the best way to measure beliefs about free will? Can you get your pro...Show More

1:10:42 | Nov 3rd, 2014

Following up their discussion of moral villains, Dave and Tamler argue about what makes a moral hero. Tamler defends Sharon Krause’s view that honor values can motivate heroic behavior. Dave accuses Tamler of being inconsistent (nothing wrong with th...Show More

1:18:17 | Oct 21st, 2014

Paul Bloom joins us to talk all things villainous -why we sometimes root for the bad guys, why we admire them even when we don't, why they are much more compelling than some of our heroes.  Then more evidence that we're really a movie podcast at hear...Show More

1:17:50 | Sep 24th, 2014

Tamler and David get bullied into talking about "anti-natalism," (the view that it is unethical to bring a being into existence), and to defend our ethical position as "breeders." Well, one of us defends it, at least. The other one? Well, you'll have...Show More

1:15:20 | Sep 8th, 2014

Dave and Tamler take a shot at answering the question: what is an evolutionary psychologist? Is it just a psychologist who believes in evolution? (No.) Is it a psychologist who embraces a computational, modular theory of the mind? (No. Well, maybe…we...Show More

1:16:35 | Aug 25th, 2014

Experience Machines, Chinese Rooms, Original Positions, and Ice Buckets.  ("I don't know what you have in mind for this evening Homer, but count me out!")  Dave and Tamler continue their discussion on thought experiments--how they can be effective, t...Show More

1:18:33 | Aug 12th, 2014

Episode Audio Dave and Tamler talk about the value and purposes of thought experiments in philosophy and science. Does the trolley problem tell us more about moral psychology than how people make judgments introlley problems? Can an imagined scenari...Show More

1:27:03 | Jul 15th, 2014

Dude, do you ever think about how, like, we could be all be in the Matrix? Seriously, no no, dude, I'm being serious. It's like, none of this might be real, you know? Actually we don't know. We honestly can't believe we made it to 50 episodes, so we ...Show More

1:43:42 | Jun 23rd, 2014

Special guest Walter Sinnott-Armstrong joins the podcast to explain how his theory which desperately needs a new name ("contrastivism") can dissolve most of the fundamental problems and paradoxes in philosophy.  We also talk about psychopaths--what t...Show More

1:08:00 | Jun 9th, 2014

Dave and Tamler take a mulligan and try to resolve their conflict about restorative justice.  Do restorative processes lead to more just outcomes than other approaches? Is it more vulnerable to instances of prejudice and bias? Is revenge a form of re...Show More

1:02:08 | May 22nd, 2014

Tamler and David leech off of their listeners and dedicate an episode to their favorite comments, questions, and criticisms from the past few weeks (but not before Tamler goes on a rant about bicycle helmets). Included in this episode: Does doing res...Show More

1:04:20 | May 5th, 2014

May I have your attention please? Will the real Josh Knobe please stand up? Will the real... [you know what, screw this--we're just dating ourselves.] X-phi phenom Josh Knobe rejoins the podcast to talk about the true self, naked people, gay preacher...Show More

1:08:26 | Apr 21st, 2014

A British tabloid article about kids, brains, and spatial skills somehow provokes the biggest argument ever on the podcast. Dave and Tamler get into it about gender, toys, properly rounded brains, and balanced "play diets." Is Dave a sanctimonious to...Show More

1:08:39 | Apr 5th, 2014

David and Tamler argue about the use of autonomous robots and drones in warfare.  Could it lead to less suffering during wars and afterwards? Would nations be motivated to design robots that behave ethically on the battlefield? Can David get through ...Show More

50:03 | Mar 17th, 2014

Dave and Tamler talk about a recent study that seems to support the view that "justice is what the judge had for breakfast" (or at least how long ago the parole board had breakfast), and that makes Tamler question his position on widening judicial di...Show More

1:07:58 | Mar 3rd, 2014

Can a fully determined creature deliberate? How big a role does conscious reasoning play in moral judgment and everyday life? Are we responsible for our thoughts and actions? Paul Bloom rejoins us against his better judgment to discuss his book "Just...Show More

1:37:39 | Feb 19th, 2014

Dave keeps trying to explain to Tamler that we're not a movie podcast, but somehow they're doing another podcast about movies. This time they each list their top 5 movies featuring moral dilemmas. Also, Tamler tries to rationalize the Woody Allen con...Show More

1:19:58 | Feb 3rd, 2014

Jesse Graham joins us for part 2 of our discussion on the nature of morality, and his recent paper on Moral Foundations Theory. He highlights the key components of MFT, defends himself against our accusations of weaseling out of the normative implica...Show More

59:48 | Jan 20th, 2014

Dave and Tamler bounce back this week after having to trash the last episode. Does morality ultimately boil down to a single principle (such as harm or justice), or is there more to ethical life than is dreamt of in the minds of philosophers? We sett...Show More

1:21:23 | Dec 31st, 2013

Who is the real you? What happens to your identity when your body gets cloned or reconstituted with all the same memories and character traits? Does society construct our true selves or repress them? Can we ever escape our pasts and become different ...Show More

45:47 | Dec 17th, 2013

The guest we've been waiting for--Nina Strohminger--joins us to talk about the connection between disgust and humor, cheap laughs, moral character and personal identity, and the British opt-in plan for porn.  Plus: how psychologists measure erections...Show More

55:12 | Nov 25th, 2013

Our most irresponsible episode ever!  Dave and Tamler talk about two reviews of a book they haven't read--Joshua Greene's Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them--and feel only a little shame.   (Since the recording, at least o...Show More

1:01:03 | Nov 11th, 2013

Dave and Tamler talk about the influence of character judgments on attributions of blame. What is the function of the blame--to assign responsibility or to judge a person's character? Is it fair that we blame douchebags more than good people who comm...Show More

1:13:59 | Oct 28th, 2013

Special guest Will Wilkinson joins the podcast to talk about whether fiction makes us better people, and to discuss his recent Daily Beast article that trashed Dave's profession and livelihood. Also, Dave and Tamler try to make sense of Ancient Gree...Show More

57:09 | Oct 14th, 2013

Special guest Laurie Santos (Psychology, Yale) joins us to talk about what animal cognition can tell us about human nature. Why are other primates better at resisting the misleading influence of others than humans? Is conformity a byproduct of our so...Show More

1:18:39 | Sep 30th, 2013

Part II of our discussion on Rai and Fiske (sort of):  We answer a listener's email and in the process get into an episode long argument about moral intuitions, psychological facts, the implications of moral disagreement. Before that, we talk about ...Show More

54:54 | Sep 16th, 2013

In the first of a two-part episode, we discuss one of our favorite recent papers--Tage Rai and Alan Page Fiske's 2011 paper on how social relationships shape and motivate our moral emotions and judgments.  We also talk about Sam Harris' $20,000 Moral...Show More

1:11:48 | Sep 2nd, 2013

Dave and Tamler celebrate their one year anniversary and 30th episode with one of their least cynical episodes yet.  They talk about 5 philosophy/psychology(-ish) books that influenced and inspired them throughout the years.  They also respond to a l...Show More

47:54 | Aug 19th, 2013

Dave and Tamler try to artificially bulk up their expertise on the ethics of performance enhancing drugs and end up raising a lot more questions than they answer.  Why do we condemn certain methods for boosting performance on the playing field and pr...Show More

1:09:04 | Aug 5th, 2013

Dave and Tamler try their best to do a show without guests--we talk about moral persuasion, motivated reasoning, and whether it's legitimate to use emotionally charged rhetoric in a philosophical argument. Plus, we describe how students proceed throu...Show More

1:22:14 | Jul 22nd, 2013

Our streak of very special guests continues!  Philosopher Eddy Nahmias joins the podcast to us why people mistakenly think they're not morally responsible, and how his new study casts doubt on Sam Harris's "pamphlet" on free will.  Eddy also describe...Show More

1:21:29 | Jul 8th, 2013

Psychologist and author Jesse Bering joins us to talk about evolutionary psychology and his forthcoming book Perv.   In the relatively uncontroversial part of the episode, we ask if homophobia is an adaptation and if women have evolved rape defenses....Show More

58:28 | Jun 24th, 2013

Josh Knobe, the Michael Corleone of experimental philosophy, joins us to talk about taking philosophy into the lab and the streets.   We discuss how people moralize everyday concepts like intention, causation, and innateness.  Dave wonders if X-phi p...Show More

1:23:01 | Jun 10th, 2013

Paul Bloom joins us in the second segment for a lively discussion about the value of  empathy as a guide our moral decisions.  And in our first scoop, we talk about Paul's new book (coming in November) Just Babies: The Origin of Good and Evil ,  raci...Show More

1:16:24 | May 27th, 2013

Dave, Tamler, and special guest Yoel Inbar break down Sam Peckinpah's brilliant (at least according  to one of us) 1971 film Straw Dogs.    They talk about the notorious rape scene, the meaning of the final siege, standing up to Cornish townies, and ...Show More

1:04:09 | May 12th, 2013

In what might very well be the last episode before we're pulled off the air, Tamler outlines his data-free "theory" of what makes something offensive. What makes a joke about race, ethnicity, gender, disability funny sometimes, and deeply hurtful at ...Show More

1:33:25 | May 6th, 2013

Dave and Tamler shrug off inside baseball concerns and argue whether to go to grad school, what to do when you get there, and share horror stories about the job market.   Also, Tamler explains why the sorority sister who wrote the infamous email is a...Show More

1:00:20 | Apr 21st, 2013

Dave and Tamler begin with a brief, heartfelt discussion about the Boston Bombings.  Tamler talks about why Patriots' Day and the Boston Marathon mean so much to a kid growing up in Boston.  They speculate a bit about the motive behind the attack and...Show More

1:03:09 | Apr 6th, 2013

Re-recording a not-so-tragically lost episode (it kinda sucked), Dave and Tamler talk about the things they hate most about philosophy and psychology.  But first they discuss a blog post by a Rochester professor that wonders why it's not OK to rape s...Show More

49:54 | Mar 22nd, 2013

Joe Henrich joins the podcast to tell us that we know nothing about his work and that how we got to teach a class in anything is absolutely amazing.   We continue our discussion from Episode 17 about his critique of the social and behavioral sciences...Show More

50:12 | Mar 16th, 2013

Thousands of studies in psychology rely on data from North American undergraduates. Can we really conclude anything about the "human" mind from such a limited sample-- especially since Westerners are probably more different from the rest of the world...Show More

1:00:21 | Mar 2nd, 2013

For those who thought our most uncomfortable topics were behind us, on this episode we are joined by David's childhood friend Damani McDole [] to discuss several potentially offensive topics surrounding race and justice in America, such a...Show More

53:50 | Feb 16th, 2013

You don't need to be a psychologist or a philosopher to enjoy a good, old-fashioned bitch-fest. In the first of a two-part episode (no single compact disc, 8-track, or LP could hold all our complaints), Tamler and David list two of the things that bu...Show More

27:14 | Feb 8th, 2013

In a break from tradition, we recorded a 25-minute episode on the morality of tattletaling, snitching, ratting, and whistleblowing. We discuss why these people seem especially despicable (except for maybe "Bubbles" from "The Wire" and the guy from "T...Show More

1:00:09 | Jan 22nd, 2013

Our classiest episode yet (OK, that's not saying much, but still...)--Psychologist Fiery Cushman joins us for a discussion about collective punishment and collective responsibility. We use Fiery's recent paper on the practice of "beaning" in baseball...Show More

1:13:05 | Jan 14th, 2013

Dave and Tamler square off the role of the victim in criminal punishment and find little to agree about. Tamler defends the restorative justice approach, while Dave expresses skepticism about its value and worries it might even be damaging. Arguments...Show More

1:15:48 | Dec 28th, 2012

Social psychologist Yoel Inbar joins Tamler and David to discuss Clint Eastwood's masterpiece of the Western genre, "Unforgiven." The discussion includes the nature of revenge, the requirements of justice, the rules of nicknaming, and who or what was...Show More

58:52 | Dec 11th, 2012

Does life have meaning if there is no God? Why should I be a good person if there's no reward or punishment waiting for me in the afterlife? Why does religion seem to make people happier and healthier? Dave and Tamler heroically try to answer these q...Show More

1:08:48 | Dec 3rd, 2012

After discussing some listener feedback about the movie Swingers, Tamler and David talk about two classic experiments in social psychology: the Milgram Experiments and the Zimbardo Prison experiment.  They discuss the power of the situation, its infl...Show More

1:11:03 | Nov 12th, 2012

In a Very Special Episode of Very Bad Wizards, Dan Ariely joins David to chat about cheating, character, teling your significant other about kissing someone at a conference, and the importance of moral rules.  Tamler and David sandwich the chat with ...Show More

1:07:00 | Nov 4th, 2012

After a clip from The Third Man, Dave and Tamler continue their discussion from Episode 6 on Ted Bundy, utilitarians, and trolley problems. They also talk about Tamler’s TED talk envy, inappropriate acts with trees, and make a plea for more listener ...Show More

1:01:39 | Oct 20th, 2012

Tamler contemplates ending it all because he can't get 'Call Me Maybe' out of his head, and Dave doesn't try to talk him out of it. This is followed by a discussion about drones, psychopaths, Canadians, Elle Fanning, horrible moral dilemmas, and the ...Show More

1:05:02 | Oct 8th, 2012

Dave and Tamler continue their discussion about their favorite topic.  They talk about the evolutionary origins of retributive behavior, cross-cultural differences in revenge norms, and the proportionate punishment for someone who gives your wife a f...Show More

51:34 | Sep 20th, 2012

Dave allows Tamler to rant about Sam Harris’s strawman attacks on moral relativism before launching into discussion about revenge, justice, True Grit, and Michael Dukakis. Though they differ on many issues, Tamler and Dave agree that it’s hard to sat...Show More

1:01:34 | Sep 8th, 2012

Tamler and Dave discuss recent work in philosophy and psychology about the differences in moral values and practices across cultures. We talk about the implications of moral diversity: does  it mean that we cannot criticize that practices of other cu...Show More

1:13:50 | Sep 1st, 2012

Tamler and David discuss whether giving up our belief in free will makes us more likely to abandon our moral standards. Links“You Can’t Handle the Truth!” Jesse Bering “Scientists say free will probably doesn’t exist, but urge: “Don’t stop believing!...Show More

1:10:51 | Aug 30th, 2012

Dave and Tamler start out talking about the new wave of skepticism about free will and moral responsibility in the popular press from people like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne.  Neuroscience figures heavily in their arguments, but Dave and Tamler agree ...Show More