“What Does it Mean to be African?” with guest Firoze Manji

African has always been regarded two-dimensionally by Europe and the U.S. It’s been called “the dark continent” and described as primitive, consisting only of small villages without technology. It’s people are said to be unable to care from themselves, portrayed only as the recipients of charity. It’s countries are always called “developing.” It’s time to get past all of this. On this episode of Why? we explore Africa’s philosophy of liberation and ask whether there is a pan-African perspective. We move past the geography lessons and try to figure out how Africa and Africans can create their own unique identities while, at the same time, resisting the legacy of colonialism.Continue reading “What Does it Mean to be African?” with guest Firoze Manji

“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

“The Politics of Crisis: How Police Reform, Covid-19, and Climate Change are all Related” with Guest Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

We are not living in a calm time. Coronavirus, police violence and protest, and climate change: they all seem to be coming from different directions, but are they? Might there be a common thread that unifies all of our current crises and is there a way of understanding them that helps us change things for the better? In this episode we explore the nature of radical ideas and consider what changes can be made to cultivate justice, and improve everyone’s quality of life before crises happen. Continue reading “The Politics of Crisis: How Police Reform, Covid-19, and Climate Change are all Related” with Guest Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

“How Does Propaganda Work?” with Guest Jason Stanley

There is a fine line between political speech and propaganda, but where do we draw it, and are we always wrong to propagandize? Is there a natural division between spin and lies, and when is it acceptable to appeal to political emotions? On this episode, we cap off a tumultuous election by exploring the nature and morality of political speech, and ask how far is too far.Continue reading “How Does Propaganda Work?” with Guest Jason Stanley

“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

“Why does income equality make society stronger?” with guests Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

Income inequality is bad for the poor, sure. But did you know that it’s also bad for the well-off? Did you also know that unequal societies have less trust, more violence, and more illness than egalitarian ones? In fact, it turns out that more equal societies are stronger, healthier, and happier across the board. Although inequality affects the poor most, even the better-off benefit from greater equality. On this episode, we explore why this is and look at the global data that explains it.Continue reading “Why does income equality make society stronger?” with guests Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

“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 it make sense to blame the system” with guest Lisa Herzog

We live in a world with such complicated corporations and organizations, that it’s hard to even start talking about making them ethical. Verizon, Microsoft, Facebook, they’re all so big, How can we expect them to be moral? And then there are so many rules, the pressure of culture, the overwhelming nature of living in a democracy where everyone else seems to find self-interested loopholes. How can we be good when we have so little control?Continue reading “Does it make sense to blame the system” with guest Lisa Herzog

“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

“How do the arts contribute to capitalism and economic development?” with guest Patrick Kabanda

Famous paintings sell for hundreds of millions of dollars. The most popular musicians become rich off of their fame. Is the only way to value art as investments or commodities, or can they be useful on other ways? Is art a product to sell, or are the arts as a whole, a way of developing human capabilities, skills, and even empathy? Can the arts promote equality, help developing countries, or bring about peace and social cohesion? On this episode, we examine these and other questions, looking at creativity through the lenses of economics and public policy.Continue reading “How do the arts contribute to capitalism and economic development?” with guest Patrick Kabanda

“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

“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

“Who is Responsible for War Crimes?” with guests Matthew Talbert and Jessica Wolfendale

War is a tragedy and an exercise in brutality, but it still has rules. It is a crime to attack non-combatants, to rape, and to torture prisoners. But what happens when soldiers do these and other heinous acts? And, how do you hold someone accountable for breaking the laws of war if they were following orders at the time? On this episode of Why? we ask about war crimes, who should be held responsible, and how we prevent them.Continue reading “Who is Responsible for War Crimes?” with guests Matthew Talbert and Jessica Wolfendale

“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

“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

“The Urbanization of Happiness” with Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman

Think about those that work and those that are falling apart. What influences their character, and, perhaps, more importantly, why do some succeed and others fail? On today’s episode of Why? we are going to ask these question and take a special look at how design creates urban problems, how what and where they build encourages violence, poverty, and unhappiness. Continue reading “The Urbanization of Happiness” with Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman

“WHY? Goes to China: The View from a Private High School” with Yuyan Liu

Is Chinese education a mindless brainwashing free of critical thinking or is it a modern, pragmatic, well-rounded experience preparing world leaders for the future? Is it a single-monolithic entity treating all citizens alike, or is it more like America where people can choose their own way? Join WHY? and our guest Dr. Yuyan Liu, principal of the Camford Royal School in Beijing, China, as we look at Chinese education from the perspective of the reformer.Continue reading “WHY? Goes to China: The View from a Private High School” with Yuyan Liu

“WHY? Goes to China: Young, Female, and Upwardly Mobile in Shanghai.” with Catherine Gao and Sheryl Jiang

Catherine and Sheryl are in the early twenties, studying at a major university, and are ready to take on the world. They are two Chinese women with every opportunity in the world, and they, like everyone their age, want to know how to proceed. How does it feel to be the hope of a nation, the first generation to experience economic security and freedom of movement? Join WHY? as we ask what it’s like to grow up amidst the fastest changes in Chinese history.Continue reading “WHY? Goes to China: Young, Female, and Upwardly Mobile in Shanghai.” with Catherine Gao and Sheryl Jiang

“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

“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

“Philosophy of Violence” with Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker argues that the world is less violent today than it has ever been before. For some of his critics, this claim is more than false, it’s bizarre. What is Pinker’s argument, what does it tell us about human nature, and how should we think about violence in general? Join WHY? as we explore Steven’s newest book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, and come face to face with one of the contemporary world’s most important questions: is there moral progress? Continue reading “Philosophy of Violence” with Steven Pinker

“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

“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

“Exporting Democracy Revisited: A Report From Romainia” with Paul Sum

Last year, Paul Sum joined us to talk about the possibilities of exporting the American model of democracy to other countries. He was about to embark on a one-year trip to Romania to examine their transition to democracy. Now he’s back and ready to share what he learned. Join us for a conversation about what democracy looks like in Eastern Europe now, at this very moment, and how the reality compares to our hopes and theories. Continue reading “Exporting Democracy Revisited: A Report From Romainia” with Paul Sum

“The Other Economics: Welfare, Development, and Justice” with Amartya Sen

It is easy to think that all economists believe the free market solves every problem and that government assistance is a detriment to distributive justice. Nobel Prize winning economist and philosopher Amartya Sen argues otherwise. His groundbreaking work on famine, human capabilities, gender equality, and justice are found at the core of “development economics.” In this episode of Why?, Sen will discuss all these issues and their connection to philosophy. How are human capabilities related to democracy? Why is famine a political problem rather than simply one of food supply? How does all of this stem from a misunderstanding of Adam Smith and the connections between morality and commercial structures? Join Amartya Sen for an exciting and timely discussion about justice and the economic structures that help bring it to everyone in the world. Continue reading “The Other Economics: Welfare, Development, and Justice” with Amartya Sen

“Exporting Democracy” with Paul E. Sum

“Democracy assistance” has become ever more important to U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Its goal is to help usher in or encourage democratic practices amongst the world. But these attempts raise many philosophical questions including whether it is possible to “export” democracy at all. Paul E. Sum is a political scientist whose research explores the effectiveness of such democracy assistance programs in the post-communist world. In late July, he will travel to Romania for one year to investigate that country’s transition to democracy. With this episode of WHY?, we will catch up with him before he goes and ask a range of preliminary but related questions: What is a democracy? What conditions are necessary for a transition to this form of government? What method most effectively delivers democracy assistance? And, what has the track record of the US attempt to foster democracy been so far? We hope, when he returns, to revisit these questions and discover what new information he can provide about the process of democratization in Romania and around the world. Continue reading “Exporting Democracy” with Paul E. Sum