“Why Do Conspiracy Theories Work?” with Guest Quassim Cassam

We are living in a time of conspiracy theories that fuel a divisive and increasingly violent politics, even when they’re obviously untrue. They are spouted by our representatives; they’re believed by our neighbors. How do conspiracy theories ensnare people so effectively and why are believers so reluctant to change their minds? Can we assume that the truth will win out, or is there something else going on, something beyond logic and reason?Continue reading “Why Do Conspiracy Theories Work?” with Guest Quassim Cassam

“Is Free Speech worth it?” with guest Thane Rosenbaum

Free speech is probably the most valued and cited right in the U.S. Constitution, yet it faces a tremendous backlash from the younger generation. The Supreme Court has expanded free speech to include almost all forms of expression just as the internet makes it virtually impossible to distinguish truth from lies. And, as we face powerful protests from Black Lives Matter, white supremacists, and people who oppose wearing masks in public, we’re forced to ask, if one of these groups has the freedom to express themselves, must they all?Continue reading “Is Free Speech worth it?” with guest Thane Rosenbaum

“A Philosophical Look at Immigration and Migration” with guest Adam Hosein

Immigration controversies never end. If we’re not worried about Syrian refugees or Mexicans looking for a better life, we’re concerned with Jews escaping genocide or the Irish seeking food. And whatever we do, we always seem to get it wrong. We are blamed for not doing enough, condemned for doing too much, scoffed at for focusing on other people’s problems, instead of own. How do we sort all of this out? How should we treat people who want or need to relocate to our homeland? What are our obligations to migrants and refugees? Continue reading “A Philosophical Look at Immigration and Migration” with guest Adam Hosein

“Who Should we Blame and Who Should we Forgive?” with guest Miranda Fricker

We’ve been told that forgiveness is a part of psychological wellness, that blaming people is a form of hostility. But if these things are true, doesn’t that let people off the hook too easily? We’ve also been led to believe that forgiving others is the great legacy of Christianity, but other religions do the same thing. Can’t we imagine a secular theory of blame and absolution, as well? On this episode of Why? Radio, we discuss these core questions about human relationships and how we are held accountable for our actions.Continue reading “Who Should we Blame and Who Should we Forgive?” with guest Miranda Fricker

“Can we change social norms?” with guest Cristina Bicchieri

Every community has behaviors that are considered normal and each of them enforces these actions in a variety of ways. Why do cultures converge on particular actions and how much choice do individuals have to obey? Is it possible to identify which are norms and which are just idiosyncrasies? Most importantly, if we determine that these social expectations are immoral, is it possible to intentionally change them? This episode of Why? Radio explores behaviors ranging from child marriage to when it’s appropriate to yell at one another, and asks how and when to change social norms.Continue reading “Can we change social norms?” with guest Cristina Bicchieri

“Colin Kaepernick’s Football Protests and America” with guest Eric Burin

America is in the midst of a ferocious debate about protests on the football field. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem to call attention to police brutality against African Americans, inspiring others to do the same. Some think he is justified, others claim he is just a belligerent employee. On this episode, we look at the philosophical issues behind this debate, and have a discussion that focuses on race, sports, patriotism, the history of the United States, and the nature of democracy itself.Continue reading “Colin Kaepernick’s Football Protests and America” with guest Eric Burin

“Does Big Data Threaten Our Democracy?” with guest Cathy O’Neil

Most of us know that every time Facebook changes its algorithm, it chooses which friends we see, and that when a credit bureau changes their algorithm, it determines which houses we can buy. What most of us don’t know is that algorithms also determine who gets arrested and who bags our groceries. On this episode of Why? Radio, we examine what it means to be a data scientist and discuss the flaws and possibilities of mathematical analysis. We also gauge the moral and political impact of big data on our everyday l lives, asking about the ways in which it can undermine equality and freedom. Continue reading “Does Big Data Threaten Our Democracy?” with guest Cathy O’Neil

“Philosophy Changing Lives” with guest Peter Singer

Peter Singer has made a career out of making controversial claims. From calling for animal liberation to justifying euthanasia, he has been remarkably consistent in his attempts to minimize suffering. Now he is talking about charity and global responsibility. The results are just as compelling.  In this episode, Why? Radio talks with Peter about the moral demand to minimize harm and the expectations that ethics can make all of us better of. Listen as we engage in a wide-ranging discussion about the relationships between ethical theory and practice, the utilitarian justification for rights, and Peter’s own non-profit.Continue reading “Philosophy Changing Lives” with guest Peter Singer

“Is Aging a Disease that Can be Cured?” with guest Aubrey de Grey

What would you say if we told you that aging is a disease that could be cured? How about if we predicted that you’d live to be 1,000 years old. Would that be scary? Would it be perverse? Aubrey de Grey doesn’t think so. He believes that medical technology will soon help people live indefinitely, and that we should welcome it. He also believes that calling the search for a cure unrealistic is short sighted and a betrayal of the next generation. On this episode we discuss these issues, examine the the science behind anti-aging research, and address concerns about global warming, overpopulation and other effects of living longer.Continue reading “Is Aging a Disease that Can be Cured?” with guest Aubrey de Grey

“Is a Universal Basic Income too Utopian to Work?” with guest Rutger Bregman

Politicians agree that there is something wrong with the welfare system; they all suggest that we should give less public assistance with stricter rules. But what if they have it backwards? What if the solution is not to limit entitlements’ help but expand them? This is the solution offered by those who advocate for a Universal Basic Income, the government program that gives the poor the money they need to rise above the poverty level, every year, no strings attached. This episode’s guest is one of the most compelling advocates for this position.Continue reading “Is a Universal Basic Income too Utopian to Work?” with guest Rutger Bregman

“Should Prostitution Be Legal?” with Peter de Marneffe

We can all agree that forced prostitution is morally repugnant, but does it become more acceptable when it is voluntary? Many countries have legalized prostitution and many people think that the freedom to do what one wants with one’s own body should include the freedom to sell sex. But many others don’t, suggesting that no one can consent to sell their body, no matter how it might seem. Join Why? Radio for this controversial and interesting discussion.
Continue reading “Should Prostitution Be Legal?” with Peter de Marneffe

“The Moral Argument for Revenge” with Thane Rosenbaum

We’ve been told time and time again that revenge is wrong, but is it? We’ve been taught that it’s savage, but if so, why do people turn to it so frequently? And, we’ve been encouraged to demand justice, even though most of us can’t tell the difference between it and vengeance. On this episode of Why? we’ll take a fresh look at one of the oldest practices in history, asking about the nature of revenge, honor, and the emotions that surround them both.Continue reading “The Moral Argument for Revenge” with Thane Rosenbaum

“Are Indian Tribes Sovereign Nations?” with George Tinker

It is no secret that there are strained relations between Native American tribes and the U.S. Government. In fact, many tribes want to be considered sovereign nations, free from US law and expectations. Even more so, most Americans understand little about American Indian life, traditions, and history. How are we to have a serious conversation about Indian liberation if we don’t know the basic facts? On this episode, we look not only at political question of tribal sovereignty, but delve deeply into its relationship to Native American culture, theology and history. Continue reading “Are Indian Tribes Sovereign Nations?” with George Tinker

“Can there be a world without borders?” with Seyla Benhabib

Our world is getting smaller and people are migrating from place to place. It feels like the old ideas of ethnicity and national origin just don’t hold the same power that they used to. Instead, the real question may turn out to be, how can we all be world citizens? On this episode we investigate cosmopolitanism and ask what it means to live without national boundaries and travel restrictions. Continue reading “Can there be a world without borders?” with Seyla Benhabib

“Holding the Police Accountable” with Guest Samuel Walker

Samuel Walker has spent his career asking who polices the police. His books and paper titles read like a laundry list of horror stories – police abuse of teenage girls, the unsuccessful nature of police “sweeps” – but he also expresses an optimism about community influence and citizen involvement. On today’s episode, we will dive headfirst into the controversial and complicated world of law enforcement. Continue reading “Holding the Police Accountable” with Guest Samuel Walker

“A Secular Theory of Evil” with Claudia Card

Years ago, Alan Bloom wrote that Hitler was the worst thing that ever happened to ethics classes, because when philosophers asked their students for an example of evil, they would just say “Hitler” and never actually have to think about the question. He may have had a point. We all use the word evil as if we know what it means, and more often than not, we use it in a religious context. On this episode of WHY? we’ll examine the concept of evil and ask, not just what how to define it, but how we think about it as philosophers and outside religion. Continue reading “A Secular Theory of Evil” with Claudia Card

“The NCAA and its Universities” with Taylor Branch

The college sports industry is worth fifty to seventy billion dollars annually and is governed by a single organization, the National Collegiate Athletics Association. What happens if they’re not fair? What happens if there are deep systematic problems that no one has the power to fix and they won’t budge? Taylor Branch noted civil-rights historian, claims that the NCAA is immoral, that it’s racist, and that it has, the “unmistakable whiff of plantation on it.” On this episode of WHY? we’ll talk about the philosophy of college sports and the controversial agency that governs how college athletes live their lives. Continue reading “The NCAA and its Universities” with Taylor Branch

“The Moral Demands we Make On Others” with guest Stephen Darwall

What allows us to make moral demands on other people? How important are relationships in ethical decision-making and why should people act ethically in the first place? Join WHY?’s host Jack Russell Weinstein and his guest Yale professor Stephen Darwall, as they ask these and your questions during an important exploration into the very foundations of morality. Continue reading “The Moral Demands we Make On Others” with guest Stephen Darwall

“WHY? Goes to China: Environmentalism Without Protest” with Lynn King and Irving Steel

In the United States, when we think of environmentalism we thing of Greenpeace, demonstrations, and boycotts. But what would environmentalism look like without protests? How can people be inspired to change their ways without petitions and social pressure, and how do you clean up a massive, industrial, over-polluted nation where food safety is a neglected concern? Join WHY? as we continue our exploration of modern China with guests Lynn King and Irving Steel. This episode was recorded live before an audience at the American Culture Center at the University Shanghai for Science and Technology. Continue reading “WHY? Goes to China: Environmentalism Without Protest” with Lynn King and Irving Steel

“Should the Government Care About You?” with Virgina Held

Does the government have the responsibility to care about its citizens? Does it have an obligation to think of each of us as people, as individuals, and not just as interchangeable? Join WHY? as we talk with influential and ground-breaking philosopher Virginia Held about the ethics of care and how her approach change the way we think about the government, the law, and justice itself. Continue reading “Should the Government Care About You?” with Virgina Held

“The Philosophy of Water” with GUEST Clay Jenkinson

Water is a force for life and for destruction. We simultaneously take it for granted and infuse it with profound meanings. Some of the deepest political battles revolve around its access, yet for most of us, these debates are invisible or disregarded. What is the philosophy of water? How does it affect our lives, and what happens what we are denied it, face too much of it, and when it becomes our enemy? Join WHY? as we swim though these questions, asking about the legacy of Hurricane Katrina, the recent floods in Minot, North Dakota, and the struggle to supply clean, accessible water to the worldContinue reading “The Philosophy of Water” with GUEST Clay Jenkinson

“Are There Just Wars?” with guest Michael Walzer

The philosopher William James once remarked that those who think that war is inevitable suffer from a lack of imagination. What about those who think that war is never justified, do they suffer from a lack of imagination as well? Can war ever be the moral thing to do? Is it ever justified to be the attacker, or is war only a matter of defense? Given the modern nature of war, can we really distinguish between civilians and combatants, and, given the dangers of terrorism, is pre-emptive war now permissible? Join WHY? as we engage in the thousand-year old quest for a definition of just war with one of the most influential thinkers on the subject: Michael Walzer. Continue reading “Are There Just Wars?” with guest Michael Walzer

“Food and Sutainability” with Jay Basquiat

How much thought have you given to the idea of food? Why do we eat some things and not others, even though they are all edible? And, what exactly does it mean to be natural? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the philosophy of food and sustainability: What are the moral rules for manufacturing food, for farming, and for our agricultural priorities? Why does food play such important cultural and spiritual roles in virtually every society? What responsibilities do we have to provide food for other and to provide specific kinds of food for ourselves? And, to what extend is the creation of food – farming, baking, manufacturing, etc. – cultures in and of themselves, and how do those cultures effect the larger ones we live in? Continue reading “Food and Sutainability” with Jay Basquiat

“Honor Codes and Moral Revolutions” with K. Anthony Appiah

How does the concept of honor inspire moral revolutions? What is the ethical code at the core of dueling? How does dishonor lead to fundamental changes in behavior and shifts in entire moral systems? These questions lie at the core of a fascinating discussion about the nature and origin of ethical practices. Join WHY? as we interview K. Anthony Appiah, as he discusses his new book The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen. Talk with us as we draw lines between British aristocratic duels, “honor killings’ in Pakistan, the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, and foot-biding in turn-of-the-century China. As Appiah shows, by focusing on the age-old question of honor, we can see, more clearly than ever, why moral beliefs are what they are.
Continue reading “Honor Codes and Moral Revolutions” with K. Anthony Appiah

“Domestic Violence and the Law: China vs. the U.S.A.” with Robin Runge

In March of 2010, Robin Runge traveled to Beijing to train Chinese judges to better deal with issues of domestic violence in the law; this was her second such visit. In comparing the Chinese and American systems, she has able to see those areas in which American law better responds to the needs of the community and those areas in which the Chinese system does. In this episode of Why? we will discuss her experiences and address central questions in the philosophy of law. What counts as evidence? How ought the court deal with a he said/she said situation? In what ways can judges work with the police to promote better investigations? How do cultural differences affect legal frameworks, and to what extent is domestic violence a violation of human rights? Continue reading “Domestic Violence and the Law: China vs. the U.S.A.” with Robin Runge

“Empathy, the Constitution, and Sexual Orientation” with Martha Nussbaum

Should America allow gay marriage? Are demands for civil rights by homosexuals analogous to earlier movements for equality by black Americans, women, and others? How have personal attitudes – particularly disgust – shaped law in the United States? This episode of Why? will focus on the enlarging sphere of respect that American culture is cultivating for all of its members, as well as the role the humanities play in articulating political rights. Join us for a discussion about constitutional interpretation regarding same-sex relations, and the role that the ethical and sympathetic imagination plays in recognizing the humanity of others. Continue reading “Empathy, the Constitution, and Sexual Orientation” with Martha Nussbaum

“On Self-Deception” with Amelie Rorty

Amelie Rorty tells us that self-deception is useful, yet this belief runs counter to much that we hold dear. What of truth and integrity? What of self-knowledge? These question lie at the core of a wide-ranging discussion about who we are, how we relate to the world around us, and our relationship with knowledge. Join Why? for a discussion that helps distinguish self-deception from delusion, ambivalence from skepticism, and how we actually live from how we think we do.Continue reading “On Self-Deception” with Amelie Rorty

“The Morality (and Legality) of Universal Healthcare” with guest Sharona Hoffman

Very few issues are more on the American mind than health care right now. But what are the philosophical issues behind the politics? Does the state have a moral obligation to provide health care to others? Do citizens have the duty to pay for it? And given that the constitution is silent on the question of health care, what is the relationship between legality and morality? Sharona Hoffman will join us to ask these and other timely questions for what is bound to be a controversial but exciting show. Continue reading “The Morality (and Legality) of Universal Healthcare” with guest Sharona Hoffman

“Philosophy of Hunting” with Lawrence E. Cahoone

What happens when a philosopher raised outside of a culture that promotes hunting takes up the sport? What philosophical lessons can he learn from the experience and how can he describe them in existential terms? Lawrence Cahoone asks these questions and more. Growing up in the urban and suburban Northeast, he had no experience of hunting. But in middle-age, after moving to a rural area, he decided that if he was going to eat meat he ought to find some himself. It seemed only fair. So, he began to hunt. But as a philosophy professor, he was forced to reflect on the experience in a very particular way. Was it moral to shoot animals? What does it feel like to seek and to kill? What was involved in entering the “wild on wild” business? Philosophers have debated whether hunting is a violation of animal rights, a friend to the environment, or a sport. But what Larry ended up asking was something more basic. In the end, he wanted to know: what does hunting mean? Continue reading “Philosophy of Hunting” with Lawrence E. Cahoone