Philosophy for our times

Philosophy for our times

United States

The Institute of Art and Ideas takes philosophy and critical thinking out of the classroom and into the heart of public life -- building philosophy for our times. Described by Total Politics as "Europe's answer to TED", the IAI hosts the world’s largest philosophy and music festival, HowTheLightGetsIn and curates hundreds of debates and talks a year with the world’s leading thinkers. For over 1000 free debates and talks, visit or subscribe and review our podcasts on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher and Acast.


E44 | Love Me Tinder| Christopher Hamilton, Steve Carter, Anders Sandberg  

At 10 billion matches, Tinder has made more connections than there are people. But neuroscience reveals that too much choice can increase expectations and reduce desire. Is choice actually a bad thing? Have dating apps democratised intimacy, or are they warping our relationships beyond repair? KCL philosopher Christopher Hamilton, eHarmony’s Chief Scientist Steve Carter, and Oxford neuroscientist Anders Sandberg tackle technology’s impact on our relationships.

E43 | Blind Data | Steve Carter  

Mathematics is rarely seen as a romantic discipline. But 30% of couples now meet using online algorithms. Could big data be the key to making love last? And if so what makes for the perfect match? eHarmony's Chief Scientist Steve Carter unveils new research into the science of love and compatibility. (Supported by eHarmony)

E42 | Space Hacks | Patricia Lewis  

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

E41 | After the Higgs Boson | John Ellis  

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

E40 | A Politics of Hope | Owen Jones  

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

E39 | Gravity | Laura Mersini-Houghton, Erik Verlinde, Frank Wilczek  

We all think we know what gravity is. But where gravity comes from stumped Newton, and 300 years later we are no closer to an explanation. We don't even have a mathematical account of gravity that applies in all situations. Why is a force so central to the universe so elusive in its character? Theoretical physicist Laura Mersini Houghton, Nobel Prize-winner Frank Wilczek and string theorist Eric Verlinde examine the enigma of gravity.

E38 | Beyond Experience | Tara Shears, Hilary Lawson, Alison Milbank  

We think we know what is real and what is not. Yet strangely we can't even agree what reality is made of - everyday things, particles and energy, or language and thought. Is reality essentially incomprehensible because it is beyond us? Or do we just need time and patience to uncover the truth? CERN physicist Tara Shears, author of Closure and post-postmodern metaphysician Hilary Lawson, and theologian Alison Milbank question reality beyond experience. In assocation with Philosophy Now.

E37 | The Emperor's New Genes | Dennis Noble, Anne Bowcock, Rupert Sheldrake  

The $3bn Human Genome project to uncover the genetic cause of disease was billed as ground breaking. Despite frequent positive newspaper headlines, critics argue we have uncovered almost nothing about disease. Will it eventually prove useful or are genes not the blueprint for life we had imagined? Author of The Science Delusion, Rupert Sheldrake, Imperial College geneticist Anne Bowcock, and author of The Music Of Life, Denis Noble, look beyond the genome.

E36 | The Limits of Freedom | Claire Fox, Julian Le Grand, Theodore Dalrymple  

Freedom is a goal we all endorse. Yes as neuroscience shows and history suggests, we are less content when we have more choice. Is too much freedom paradoxically debilitating? Do we need constraints to thrive, and might our chains be key to our freedom? Or is this a dangerous conceit of the privileged and free? Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, Blair's former Senior Policy Advisor Julian Le Grand and author of I find that offensive Claire Fox interrogate choice.

E35 | The Illusion of Sense | Hilary Lawson, Rupert Read, Ophelia Deroy  

From bats to beetles, animals sense the world differently in order to survive. Yet we think seeing and feeling tell us how things really are. Might our senses be radically limited? Are science and logic routes to escape our sensory limitations, or is feeling the rain on our skin the closest we get to truth? Cognitive neuroscientist Ophelia Deroy, philosopher and author of Philosophy for Life Rupert Read, and closure theorist Hilary Lawson confront the limits of perception.

E34 | A Tribal World | Julie Bindel, Brendan O'Neill, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Simon Glendinning  

We see community and society as good. Yet communities are also fortresses of privilege and conformity, as migrants know only too well. Is the tribe, from the football team to the nation, to be feared and contained? Or is finding our place in a larger group the core of what it is to be human? Author of Exotic England Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, editor of Spiked Brendan O'Neill, journalist Julie Bindel and director of the Forum for European Philosophy Simon Glendinning seek the truth about the tribe.

E33 | Madness and Wisdom | Richard Bentall, Patricia Casey, Robert-Rowland Smith  

Madness is understood as the opposite of reason. Yet as Van Gogh and Nietzsche attest, madness can also be an inexplicable source of insight. Might madness be a strange form of wisdom rather than its diseased opposite? Or is this to make light of a condition that requires treatment? Author of Madness Explained Richard Bentall, psychiatrist Patricia Casey and philosopher and author of Death Drive Robert-Rowland Smith dispute meaning and madness.

E32| Love Story | Helen Croydon, Naomi Goulder and Anders Sandberg  

We want "I love you" to mean forever. But neuroscientists claim three years into a relationship and romantic activity in the brain has ceased.  Can love only be known in short doses? Should we accept romance as fleeting and abandon long term commitments, or can we outwit evolution and make love last? Screw the Fairytale author Helen Croydon joins Oxford transhumanist Anders Sandberg and Philosopher Naomi Goulder If you want to hear more on this topic we are hosting a weekend in Hay on Wye on love with debates, talks and workshops. We will be joined by Helen Croydon, Anders Sandberg and many more leading thinkers. The event will be held in partnership with New Philosopher and Relate. Check out our event page at

E31 | The Known, The Strange And The New | John Ellis, Robert Rowland-Smith, Janne Teller  

From Aristotle to Einstein humans have tried to make sense of the world.  Yet despite huge advances a final explanation looks ever distant.  What makes our lives and the world so puzzling and inexplicable? Is it the limitation of the human brain or is language not able to describe reality? Or is it too soon to give up on finding light in the darkness? Eminent CERN physicist John Ellis joins philosopher Robert Rowland-Smith and existential novelist of Why? Janne Tellar to confront the strangeness of reality.

E30 | Dreaming The Future | Natalie Bennett, Phillip Blond, Roger Scruton  

We all want a better world, and we seemingly make progress, with more technology and less prejudice. Yet ideals and utopias are strangely difficult to imagine, let alone achieve. Is it that we just lack imagination or are leaders inherently corrupt? Or is there something impossible in the very idea? Philosopher and author Roger Scruton, former Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett and MP and ResPublica Director Phillip Blond confront the future

E29 | Thinking Dangerously, Living Differently | Angie Hobbs, Adrian Moore, Mark Vernon  

Philosophy as therapy is an ancient idea. Endorsed by Wittgenstein and popularized by self-help books. But isn't philosophy about understanding even if the insights are uncomfortable? Can philosophy be a dynamic force changing how we think and what we can do? Or does it serve only as a guide to everyday life? Oxford philosopher Adrian Moore, former priest and author of Wellbeing Mark Vernon and Plato Scholar Angie Hobbs consider the purpose of philosophy.

E28 |Sisters and Sisterhood | Myriam Francois, Margaret Heffernan, Kimberlé Crenshaw  

More women MPs, more women CEOs, women it would seem are on the move. Yet the gap between successful women and the rest is growing. Might feminism's success paradoxically harbour the end of the sisterhood as we swap one inequality for another? Or are female care workers and CEOs still on the same side? American civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw joins Wilful Blindness author Margaret Heffernan and outspoken journalist Myriam Francoise-Cerrah to seek the truth about solidarity. In association with Unilever

E27 | The Future of Human Enhancement | Anders Sandberg, Richard Morgan, Nicky Ashwell  

Designer babies and human enhancement were once confined to fiction. Now biotechnology allows designer genetics, and many already choose the sex of their children. Where will this technology lead the human race? Should we be nervous of the ability to enhance ourselves or embrace an exciting new future for humankind? Science fiction author Richard Morgan, founder of Humanity+ David Pearce, and bebionic hand user Nicky Ashwell debate the future of humanity. In collaboration with Motherboard

E26 | Owning our Bodies | Anne Phillips, John Harris, Brooke Magnanti  

If we have rights and ownership of anything it is surely of our own body. Yet we cannot dispose of it as we please, intoxicants are outlawed, and selling our body for sexual pleasure or organ donation is restricted. Is our body strangely not our own after all?  Should we insist on our rights and freedom or do we need to be protected from ourselves? The Panel Belle de Jour blogger Brooke Magnanti, bioethicist John Harris, and author of Our Bodies, Whose Property? Anne Phillips interrogate ownership.

E25 | When Time Stands Still | Lee Smolin, Michael Duff, Eleanor Knox  

We structure our lives on the flow of time. Yet physicists since Einstein have argued that all time, past, present and future, is like space provided in a single block. Is the flow of time an illusion? Are we deceived when we feel time passing, or is it time to strike the strangeness from our science? The Panel Author of Time Reborn Lee Smolin, live from Ontario, joins Imperial theoretical physicist Michael Duff and KCL metaphysician Eleanor Knox to reunite science and experience.

Video player is in betaClose