“On the Separation of Church and State” with guest Andrew Seidel

The first amendment guarantees that one religion is not privileged over another, so why does it feel like personal beliefs dominate the public sphere? Private conviction is supposed to guide our moral lives, so why is the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade? On this episode of Why? Radio we ask about these issues and more. We explore the nature and limits of the US constitution and examine the democratic justification for toleration. Ultimately, we come face to face with one of the great questions of the moment: is the first amendment obsolete?Continue reading “On the Separation of Church and State” with guest Andrew Seidel

Heather Augustyn

“A Philosophical Look at Ska and Jamaican Music” with guest Heather Augustyn

Jamaica is the home of a great musical tradition. Most people know about reggae, but before that, there was dancehall, rocksteady, and our host’s personal favorite, ska. It’s a rich and diverse dance music that mixes Caribbean sounds with jazz, R&B, and punk rock, to explore politics, history, and the legacy of slavery. Join Why? Radio and our guest Heather Augstyn as we explore how this little-known genre spread around the world, racking up hit, after hit, after hit.Continue reading “A Philosophical Look at Ska and Jamaican Music” with guest Heather Augustyn

“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

“What’s the difference between a religion and a cult” with guest Susan Palmer

We throw the words ‘religion’ and ‘cult’ around, like we know what they mean, but do we? Sure, Judaism and Buddhism are religions, but why not the Branch Dividians or Scientology? And, why should we trust the charismatic pastor of a mega-church, but not quirky but powerful spokesman who is selling his faith on a street corner? Why do new religions make us so uncomfortable? These are important questions, not just because they help us understand the human experience, but because we use them to approve or condemn others’ choices.Continue reading “What’s the difference between a religion and a cult” with guest Susan Palmer

“What is the role of philosophy during a global crisis?” with guest Susan Neiman

We are all preoccupied with the Covid-19 global pandemic and justly so. Everyone in the world has lots of little decisions to make, and many are facing life and death situations. What is the use of philosophy in all of this? Is it helpful? Is it a distraction? Can philosophy solve problems or even make a better world? In this wide-ranging discussion, our host Jack Russell Weinstein and guest Susan Neiman explore the absurdity of “trolley problems,” whether we should use the term “evil” to to describe a pandemic, and how we can best support Amazon employees. This episode is both a compelling and accessible philosophical exploration, and a historical artifact that records a unique moment in time. It has been described by one listener as “our most human of episodes.”Continue reading “What is the role of philosophy during a global crisis?” with guest Susan Neiman

“Does accepting the theory of evolution mean there is no meaning of life?” with guest Michael Ruse

What is the meaning of life? Believe it or not, after more than ten years on the air, we at Why? Radio have never asked this question. But to make it more complicated, we want to know not just what it is, but how we can discover it in the age of evolution. If science gives us answers instead of religion, where do we look for meaning? Can Darwin provide us with what the holy scriptures have not? On this episode we will ask these very questions, while exploring the limits of science and going head to head with the most ineffable aspects of the human experience. Continue reading “Does accepting the theory of evolution mean there is no meaning of life?” with guest Michael Ruse

“How Does Misinformation Spread?” with guests Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall

The term fake news is so ubiquitous, that sometimes it seems like we should be labeling the true stuff instead of the lies. But misinformation doesn’t just come from politics. It is found in science, in marketing, and even in fourteenth-century memoirs. Why do we believe obvious falsities and how do these alternative facts gain such momentum? On this episode, we look going to look at the networks of knowledge and trust that we rely on to arbitrate between fact and fiction, and examine how they are manipulated, both consciously and not.Continue reading “How Does Misinformation Spread?” with guests Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall

“The Logic of Jazz” with guest Mark Weinstein

This episode celebrates Why? Radio’s tenth birthday with a musical exploration of the origins, meaning, experience, and, of course, music of jazz. How do newcomers start listening to the music? How do musicians discover new ways to play? And, what makes the best jazz tracks important and enjoyable? Join us as Mark Weinstein, jazz flutist, philosopher, and our host’s father, explores America’s music, explaining music theory, improvisation, and whether music is discovered or invented.Continue reading “The Logic of Jazz” with guest Mark Weinstein

“What is Sharia Law?” with guest Robert Gleave

What is sharia law? You’d think we’d all be able to answer that question, given how much we hear the name. But most non-Muslims known almost nothing about it. Is it the Muslim version of a catechism? Is it a legal system that directs Islamic politicians and the courts? And, how does it manage interpretive disagreements? Are its precepts obvious or does it inspire deep controversies even among its adherents? These are the questions that will guide this episode of Why? Radio.Continue reading “What is Sharia Law?” with guest Robert Gleave

“What is Literacy?” with guest Kim Donehower

When people think of literacy, they usually refer to simple reading and writing. They regard it as a mechanical skill that is mostly about deciphering letters on a page. But, in fact, literacy is a lot more complicated than that. It involves culture, power, and the opinion of others. It is defined by communities and can be used as a weapon to disregard the marginalized. On this episode of Why? Radio, we’ll discuss what literacy means, investigate it’s many competing definitions, and explore how it plays into stereotypes. Continue reading “What is Literacy?” with guest Kim Donehower

“Is Shakespeare Still Relevant?” with guest Adam Kitzes

Should we still read Shakespeare? That is a harder question than one might think. As universities focus on diversity, marginalized writers, and widening literary traditions, the so-called “dead-white man” becomes the symbol of everything unjust. Is this fair in Shakespeare’s case and does he still have stuff to teach us? And, how should we read him anyway? How do we approach someone whose work is so vast and so intimidating?Continue reading “Is Shakespeare Still Relevant?” with guest Adam Kitzes

“Living Authentically in an Inauthentic Age” with guest Gordon Marino

One in six Americans take psychiatric drugs, yet the country is becoming less happy. As a people, we are angry, suspicious, and alienated, but we are not the first generation to feel this way. The existentialists got there first. On this episode of Why? Radio, we look at this 19th and 20th century philosophical movement to consider what its adherents might have to say about Facebook, happiness, and integrity. We consider the meaning of freedom, agency, success, and even boxing, to explore what it means to live full, honest lives in an age of social networks and materialism. Continue reading “Living Authentically in an Inauthentic Age” with guest Gordon Marino

“What Does Science Policy Have to do With Democracy?” with guest Heather Douglas

Every day we hear politicians make scientific claims that support their policies, but many of them contradict each other. Our lives are full of images of people in lab coats who are above politics, but we know they also make choices about what to study and which conclusions to call attention to. Does this mean that science and politics are enemies? And, does government policy tell citizens what to believe or do citizens’ convictions determine the government’s positions? On this episode of Why? we look at the claim that science is objective, examine the values that make it successful, and ask whether there should be absolutely free inquiry in a modern democracy. Continue reading “What Does Science Policy Have to do With Democracy?” with guest Heather Douglas

“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 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

“What Animals Can Teach Us about Free Will” with guest Helen Steward

For millennia, human beings have believed that we have free will-that we are agents who can choose our own paths. But what does this mean in the age of antidepressants and identity politics? Perhaps more intriguing, does this imply that people are unique, that we are the only animals that are undetermined? Our guest on this episode says “no,” asking not what it means to be a free person, but what it means to be a free animal. This conversation combines a classical philosophical debate with new insights in cognitive science to rethink what it means to choose an action. Continue reading “What Animals Can Teach Us about Free Will” with guest Helen Steward

“Can ordinary people understand advanced logic?” with guest Otávio Bueno

Formal logic is complicated, abstract and daunting. Its precise language makes it virtually impossible to read without significant training. Yet, it’s also tremendously important and at its best, it provides a focused framework for understanding the most human of abilities: rational thought. Is it really out of the reach of the general public? On this episode we find out that it isn’t. We ask what logic is, how it works, and investigate how it holds the key to good and bad thinking.Continue reading “Can ordinary people understand advanced logic?” with guest Otávio Bueno

“Can we know things better?” with guest Ernest Sosa

We live in the days of “alternative facts,” what does this say about human knowledge? People think that climate change is a myth, even though most scientists claim the evidence for it is overwhelming. What does this tell us about our ability to know what we know? To answer these questions, Why? Radio looks past the facts and the disagreements to examine the human faculty of knowledge itself. In today’s episode we introduce and explore epistemology–the philosophical investigation into the nature and limits of knowledge Continue reading “Can we know things better?” with guest Ernest Sosa

“Do We Still Need The Eighteenth Century?” with Ryan Patrick Hanley

The 18th century was a time of great change, both philosophically and politically. Yet many people reject its ideals, calling out the hypocrisy of Thomas Jefferson and the oppression that comes from being committed to Truth rather than the downtrodden. On this episode of Why?, we take another look at this exciting period of time and ask whether the enlightenment and its philosophers still have a place in today’s intellectual and political debate.Continue reading “Do We Still Need The Eighteenth Century?” with Ryan Patrick Hanley

“Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away” with Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

2500 years ago, Plato wrote the central texts of the discipline we call philosophy. He asked the questions that people still ask today and set the tone for a conversation that has continued, unabated, for two and a half millennia. On this episode we look at Plato’s work and ask why, despite all the threats, violence, censorship, and even the marginalization, philosophy still exists, why Plato is still at the center of it all, and what it would look like if he were still here, walking among us. Continue reading “Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away” with Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

“What does Buddhism Offer an African-American Woman?” with Jan Willis

Jan Willis was raised in the Jim Crow south and had crosses burnt on her lawn when she received a scholarship for Cornell University. But her life didn’t just take her through the civil rights movement and the Ivy League, it also took her to India which led her to become a professor of Buddhism and a practicing Buddhist. How did her new religion fit with her Baptist upbringing? How does being a religious scholar relate to being a practitioner? Should we think of Buddhism as an “Eastern” religion with little to do with Western philosophy? On this next episode of Why?, we’ll ask these and other related questions, as we talk memoir, belief, and religious experience with a foremost scholar of Tibetan Buddhism. Continue reading “What does Buddhism Offer an African-American Woman?” with Jan Willis

“Metaphors We Live By: A Classic Revisited” with George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

We use metaphors all the time, from describing friends as two peas in a pod, to old age as a chapter in someone’s life. We think of argument as war and move forward into the future. Would our understanding of friendship, argument and the future change if we used different metaphors? Could we even talk about them if we didn’t use metaphors at all? On this episode, we ask these questions and consider how deeply metaphors influence our understanding.Continue reading “Metaphors We Live By: A Classic Revisited” with George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

“What is courage?” with Ryan Balot

We describe people as brave all the time, but what do we really mean? Does the bravery of a firefighter have anything in common with the courage of reading books that challenge our deepest beliefs? Is there a specific kind of courage that comes from living in a democracy? What do we learn from looking at the Greek roots of the word and how is their experience relevant to ours? On this episode of Why? we’re going to look at the classical roots of courage and examine its meaning in modern democracies.Continue reading “What is courage?” with Ryan Balot

“Why Don’t People Believe Science?” with guest Dan M. Kahan

Every day, people reject evolution and climate change, arguing instead for their personal beliefs over evidence. Despite years of education and more access to information than any time in history, people are rejecting vaccinations and forsaking personal savings for the lottery. On this episode of Why? Radio we look at the science of science communication and the patterns behind why people reject science.Continue reading “Why Don’t People Believe Science?” with guest Dan M. Kahan

“How do Muslims, Christians, and Jews See Each Other?” David Nirenberg

Muslims, Jews, Christians: they’ve been fighting for millennia and living next to each other for just as long. They share the same prophet—Abraham—and have many of the same beliefs. Yet, they define themselves in opposition to one another, demonizing and even killing each other along the way. Is this intrinsic to who they are or is this something that can be changed? Can they coexist or must they be enemies? These questions are the focus of this episode of Why? Radio.Continue reading “How do Muslims, Christians, and Jews See Each Other?” David Nirenberg

“Cuisine and Empire: What does food tell us about culture?” with Rachel Laudan

Do you know anyone who is following the paleo diet? How much do they really know about what people ate in our early history? Do you know people who are carb free? If so, what would they say to about the fact that grains have been the centerpiece of almost all human diets? Do you know anyone who loves Chinese food? Well, what makes food Chinese in the first place and why do the Chinese eat so little meat compared to Europeans? This episode loos at the history of cooking and examines its political and, of course, philosophical implications. Continue reading “Cuisine and Empire: What does food tell us about culture?” with Rachel Laudan

“Why not socialism?” with Robert Paul Wolff

Anyone who lived through the 20th century will have a complex relationship with Karl Marx; some will see socialism as the glorious road not traveled and others will see him as the folly we defeated. Those who came to political consciousness in the 21st century, though, will have virtually no notion of him at all, he’s a relic, a demon from the past, and socialism is simply an epithet used during political debate. Continue reading “Why not socialism?” with Robert Paul Wolff

“Can A Philosopher Govern the United States? The Case of F.A. Hayek” with Bruce Caldwell

If you’ve paid any attention to politics, you’ll know that libertarians are convinced they have a better way to govern. Much of their philosophy is built on the work of Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian philosopher and economist who saw the free market as an antidote to Nazism and the Soviet Union. Those threats are gone, does that mean Hayek is no longer relevant? On this episode we ask about Hayek, about the nature of economics, and whether specialized researchers have a duty to be relevant. Continue reading “Can A Philosopher Govern the United States? The Case of F.A. Hayek” with Bruce Caldwell

“Do we live in a commercial republic? A Discussion about American Government and its Economy” with Mike O’Connor

If you believed the pundits, you’d think that America has always had one kind of economy; that our democracy has always relied upon the same kind of free market. But this isn’t the case. If you believe the politicians, you’d think capitalism and democracy are pretty much identical, that when you talk about one, you are really talking about the other. Are this episode of Why? Radio we are going take a journey through American history and examine the actual arguments that helped determine just what kind of economy America should have.Continue reading “Do we live in a commercial republic? A Discussion about American Government and its Economy” with Mike O’Connor

“How to Tell the Story of Art” with Guest Ross King

When Ross Kind decided to tell the story of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, he didn’t start with the paint colors or brushes; he started with politics, gossip, power and intrigue. When he told the story of Brunelleschi’s dome for the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, he started with competition and rivalry. Is this how we should tell the story or art? Is one painting or one building so complex, that he needs hundreds of pages to prepare the audience? Ross King thinks so and we’re going to find out why. Continue reading “How to Tell the Story of Art” with Guest Ross King

“The Unity of the Sciences: Is All Knowledge Connected?” with guest Joseph Margolis

WHY? Radio is, of course, a philosophy show, but our guests aren’t just philosophers. They are historians, artists, scientists, musicians, sociologists and specialists from many different fields. Are we doing something wrong? Aren’t all these disciplines different? On this episode of WHY? we are going to tackle these questions. We will ask about the classic “unity of the sciences,” look at the relationship between how cultures describe knowledge and how they describe themselves.Continue reading “The Unity of the Sciences: Is All Knowledge Connected?” with guest Joseph Margolis

“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 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: Confucius and Today’s China” with Daniel Bell

Confucian philosophy plays an important role in the Chinese family, but what role does it play in politics? Chinese is a traditional society, but modern China is built on a break from the past. China holds dearly to its own past, but is experiencing more change than ever before. Join us for a discussion about how tradition works in a changing China and the importance of cities in moral life. This interview was recorded at The American Culture Center at The University of Shanghai for Science and Technology before a live audience. Continue reading “WHY? Goes to China: Confucius and Today’s China” with Daniel Bell

“Lies My Teacher Told Me” with James W. Loewen

In 1995, James Lowen published Lies My Teacher Told Me, a powerful critique of how American history is taught in schools. He surveyed twelve leading textbooks and found, in his words, ”an embarrassing amalgam of bland optimism, blind patriotism, and misinformation pure and simple, weighing in at an average of four-and-a-half pounds and 888 pages.” His book won the American Book Award, the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship, and the AESA Critics’ Choice Award. The book has sold over 1,250,000 copies. Continue reading “Lies My Teacher Told Me” with James W. Loewen

“Does science give us Truth?” with Jan Golinski

For thousands of years, people have looked to science to reveal the truth about nature – to conquer it or to discover its secrets. But there are others who think that this approach is deeply mistaken. Science, they say, tells us about our culture and reveals the ideas we bring to the laboratory. Is there such a thing as objectivity or does science just describe what we ourselves bring into the laboratory? On this episode of WHY? we are going to examine these questions and wade deep into what some philosophers call “the science wars.”Continue reading “Does science give us Truth?” with Jan Golinski

“A House Divided: Analytic vs. Continental Philosophy” with Gary Gutting

Should philosophy make things simpler or more complex? Should it describe the muddle of human emotions or simply give us the language to analyze them? The answers to these questions not only tell us what we can know, but also aligns us with of two very controversial philosophy camps. Join WHY? as we discuss one of philosophy’s deepest and most divisive controversies: the battle between the “continentals” and the “analytics.”Continue reading “A House Divided: Analytic vs. Continental Philosophy” with Gary Gutting

“In A Different Voice and After” with Carol Gilligan

Do men think differently than women? Is moral reasoning inherently male? Is psychology biased against relationships and the women who value them? Thirty years ago, Carol Gilligan asked these questions and shook the foundations of philosophy, psychology, and feminism. This month on WHY?, we revisit Gilligan’s classic study In A Different Voice and ask whether her answers still hold true. How was the classic text received? How is it viewed now? And, what does it (and Gilligan) still have to teach us? Join us for a challenging and important conversation that may be as powerful today as it was when the book was first released. Continue reading “In A Different Voice and After” with Carol Gilligan

“Art and Philosophy” with Arthur C. Danto

What is art? What is beauty? How are they related to truth? These questions lay at the core of philosophical inquiry, and few have been more baffling – and more enriching – to philosophers. Combine these issues with the fact that art is an inherently intimate experience for viewers and you get the recipe for deep controversy and exciting debate. Join WHY? as we delve deep into aesthetics, the philosophy of art, with one of its most respected and influential practitioners: Arthur Danto. Continue reading “Art and Philosophy” with Arthur C. Danto

“Fiction as Philosophy” with Rebecca Goldstein

Philosophy tries to discover Truth, but more often than not it tells stories, relying on allegories, parables, and dialogues at key moments. What happens when a professional philosopher decides to embrace this method, and how does it affect the philosophy at the core of the story? Join WHY? as we interview Rebecca Goldstein, author of such novels as 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, The Mind-Body Problem, Mazel, and Strange Attractors. How do truth and fiction relate? How does one move back and forth from scholarly research to popular fiction, and, most of all, how does fiction relate to discovery? Continue reading “Fiction as Philosophy” with Rebecca Goldstein

“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

“A Secular Age” with guest Charles Taylor

Even the most religious of people understand that their belief is only one option of many; a different attitude than those who lived 500 years ago when theological commitments were so automatic as to not be questioned. What caused this radical cultural shift? This is the question Charles Taylor seeks to answer in his new book A Secular Age. In doing so, he asks about the nature of religion, the meaning of secularism, and the history of how much of the world shifted from the former approach to the latter. Join WHY? as we ask about this innovative and important topic, and connect it to Taylor’s long career of influential philosophical study.Continue reading “A Secular Age” with guest Charles Taylor

“America’s So-Called Decline” with Mark Stephen Jendrysik

Today’s pundits and politicians love to tell us that America is in decline. Michael Moore, Bill O’Reilly, Patrick Buchanan, Bill Clinton, and even philosophers like Allan Bloom and Noam Chomsky work to persuade us that America has lost its way. But this message is nothing new. From the earliest moments of North American settlement people have been preaching American downfall, yet this “jeremiad” – the use of the theme of downfall named after the biblical Book of Jeremiah – “does not invite discussion. It is not designed to create debate. It preaches to the converted, or at best draws in those who have not considered the issues before and are ready to be converted.” So writes Mark Jendrysik, author of the book Modern Jeremiahs: Contemporary Visions of American Decline.” Continue reading “America’s So-Called Decline” with Mark Stephen Jendrysik