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.


E24 | The Good, Bad, & Controversial | Naomi Goulder, Brendan O'Neill, Sameer Rahim, Sam Roddick  

We all want to do the right thing. But from suicide bombers to Catholic priests, we have never been able to agree on what the right thing is. Should we give up on morality and see it as a fiction designed to justify beliefs? Or, despite our disagreements, is it still the most important tool we have to measure human behaviour? The Panel Spiked Online Editor Brendan O'Neill joins NCH philosopher Naomi Goulder, journalist Sameer Rahim, and Coco de Mer founder Sam Roddick to seek answers. In association with Prospect.

E23 | Dancing With The Devil | Simon Baron-Cohen, Rebecca Roache, Peter Dews  

We think we've grown out of the belief in evil. It's not in our genes and people don't get possessed. But across media and culture, from Star Wars to Isis, evil still holds us strangely captive. Why does the devil seem to have the best tunes? Is the battle between good and evil an essential part of being human after all? The Panel Cambridge Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen joins philosopher Rebecca Roache and The Idea of Evil author Peter Dews to investigate the strangeness of evil. In association with the British Humanist Association

E22 | Is objective news an illusion? | John Lloyd, Hilary Lawson, Jonathan Calvert  

We want news to accurately reflect the real world. But in an age when competing channels with different perspectives are instantly available should we recognise this goal as an illusion? Should we accept that journalists set the world's agenda with their own fictions and fantasies, or is there a framework of objectivity we should require and demand? The Panel Editor of the Sunday Times Insight team Jonathan Calvert, founder of the Reuters Journalism Institute John Lloyd and philosopher and former editor of The World This Week Hilary Lawson examine truth in news. In Association with Huffington Post UK.

E21 | Missing Evidence | Tara Shears, Rupert Sheldrake, Massimo Pigliucci  

We think science is based on facts and evidence. But from gravity to dark matter, string theory to parallel universes, its theories are curiously bereft of hard evidence. Is evidence less important than we think and conjecture alone capable of leading to greater understanding? Or has science dangerously drifted into fantasy? The Panel New York philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, CERN physicist Tara Shears and author of The Science Delusion Rupert Sheldrake seek answers. Watch the full debate here:

E20 | How Men And Women Think | Gina Rippon, Simon Baron-Cohen, Helena Cronin  

Many neuroscientists believe disorders of the mind will be solved when we understand the differences between the male and female brain. Yet is is frequently argued that men and women are not born but made. Are mental differences between the sexes real? Or is this just sexism dressed up as science? The Panel Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, Darwinian philosopher Helena Cronin and eminent neuroscientist Gina Rippon investigate.

E19 | March Of The Machines | Roger Penrose, Nigel Shadbolt, Warren Ellis  

Evil artificial intelligences are luckily confined to fiction. Yet leading scientists claim that intelligent machines are 'the most serious threat facing mankind'. Are they right or could a mind free from human prejudices create a better world? Or is all talk of artificial intelligence a deluded fantasy? The Panel Physicist Roger Penrose, computer scientist Nigel Shadbolt and novelist and digital age icon Warren Ellis consider the threat of intelligent machines. Gabrielle Walker hosts. Sponsored by Wired. You can watch the full debate, as well as over 1000 others, here:

E18 | Love Incorporated | Catherine Hakim, Mark Salter, Richard Coles  

As Romeo and Juliet showed, love is a wild and unpredictable force even when faced with reason and control. But we join online dating sites to increase our probability of finding it. Are emotions and intimacy rational choices that can be measured and explained, or is this the sort of reductionist thinking that love seeks to escape? The Panel Broadcaster and priest Richard Coles, Erotic Capital theorist Catherine Hakim and consultant psychiatrist Mark Salter investigate love. Watch the debate here:

E17 | The Dark Side of the Universe | Erik Verlinde, Michael Duff, Massimo Pigliucci  

Nearly twenty years have passed since scientists first proposed a mysterious force, Dark Energy, pushing our universe apart. Yet there is no direct evidence for it or any idea what it might be. Might our theories of the universe be profoundly mistaken or is an explanation of Dark Energy around the corner? The Panel M-Theorist Michael Duff, Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci and String Theorist Erik Verlinde chase shadows in the cosmos.

E16 | Eternal Tales | Stanley Fish, Joanna Kavenna, Barry Smith  

While the world turns we think ideas, right or wrong, are eternal. Yet meaning changes over time and context. Should we conclude that, like the material world, ideas are transient and knowledge and morality passing stories? Or is the eternal in our grasp after all? The Panel New York Times columnist and author of 'The Trouble with Principle' Stanley Fish, philosopher of language Barry C. Smith and award-winning novelist Joanna Kavenna seek out the eternal.

E15 | Everything We Know Is Wrong | Lawrence Krauss, Kenneth Cukier, Steve Fuller  

At a time of uncertainty and doubt, we often suppose that science alone can uncover the truth. Yet a recent paper found that 90% of scientific studies are not reproducible. Should we see science as a flawed method and look elsewhere for our truths, or is it the only direct line to reality we’ve got? The Panel Outspoken philosopher of science Steve Fuller, Economist Data Editor Kenneth Cukier and bestselling theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss tell Gabrielle Walker why so much of what we think we know is wrong.

E14 | The Crisis of the West | Gita Sahgal, Philip Collins, Kwasi Kwarteng  

Western values have been extraordinarily successful. Yet now we seem on the back foot, unsure of ourselves and sometimes embarraseed at our own past. Beset with postmodern doubts, do we need to revive belief in the values and importance of our ideals? Or is the age of the West at an end? The Panel Eminent Indian activist Gita Sahgal, Tony Blair's former Chief Speechwriter Philip Collins, and Conservative politician and author of Ghosts of Empire Kwasi Kwarteng dispute the world's future.

E13 | Doing Right And Feeling Good | Anders Sandberg, Simon Baron-Cohen, Peter Dews  

We think empathising with others is the route to a better world. But studies show that empathy encourages us to help one named child over ten anonymous others. Is morality perhaps not about empathy at all? Does the moral way to act have more to do with thinking than feeling, or is empathy a vital force for good? The Panel 'Zero Degrees of Empathy' author Simon Baron-Cohen, philosopher Peter Dews and Oxford Transhumanist Anders Sadnberg dispute how to be good. Watch the debate here:

E12 | Playing Dice With The Universe | Chiara Marletto, Michael Duff, Peter Cameron  

'God does not play dice with the universe' Einstein famously argued. Yet contemporary physics embeds just such dice playing at the core of its account. Is the universe really unknowable even to itself? Or as Einstein implied is this misguided and its secrets remain to be uncovered? The Panel Oxford Constructor theorist Chiara Marletto, mathematician Peter Cameron and string theorist Michael Duff untangle cause and effect.

E11 | The Dance Of Life | David Chalmers, Susana Martinez-Conde, Peter Hacker  

Our life is made up of experiences. But what experience is remains a mystery. Heidegger thought it inexplicable and neuroscientists cannot find its location. Do we just need a better theory to uncover its secrets? Or is experience somehow both all that we have and yet not part of this world? The Panel Formulator of the hard problem of consciousness David Chalmers, Oxford philosopher Peter Hacker and New York neuroscientist Susana Martinez-Conde debate the mystery of experience. In association with New Philosopher Watch the debate here:

E10 | Capitalism And Anarchy | Aaron Bastani, Stephen King, Deirdre McCloskey  

Few take anarchism and the abandonment of organised government as a viable political goal.  Yet in economics, capitalism is just such a leaderless anarchic system.  Might a radically decentralised political system be more credible than we think?  Or is centralised government necessary in politics if anything is to be achieved? The Panel Senior economic advisor at HSBC Stephen King, author of Bourgeois Dignity Deirdre McClosky and cofounder of Novara Media Aaron Bastani take anarchy seriously. Watch the debate here:

E08 | Unnatural Laws | Nancy Cartwright, John Ellis, Rupert Sheldrake  

From Newton's laws to E=mc2, we think we have uncovered the secrets of the universe. But some claim these laws evolve and others point to their human and cultural origins. Might eternal natural laws be human hubris? Or is the mind of God in our grasp? The Panel CERN physicist and coiner of the term "Theory of Everything" John Ellis, author of The Science Delusion Rupert Sheldrake and American philosopher of physics Nancy Cartwright debate the sacred assumptions of science. Watch the debate here:

E09 | The People's Champion | Owen Jones, Michael Howard, Phillip Blond  

We believe democracy leads to a fairer world. Yet almost all governments claim to be democratic including China, Russia and Syria. And 50 years after the abolition of hanging, UK polls still show a majority in favour. Is democracy illusory and troublingly incoherent? Or is an ideal democracy yet to be fully realised? The Panel Author of The Establishment Owen Jones, ResPublica director and author of Radical Republic Phillip Blond, and former leader of the Conservative party Michael Howard examine the strange perils of democracy. Watch the debate here:

E07 | Rethinking Capital | Paul Krugman, Stephen Dorrell, Alex Callinicos  

As China and Russia adopt their own variants, the reign of capitalism seems absolute. Yet there are many who wish for an alternative and some who claim a final crisis is in the making. Is there a radical alternative that we have not yet discovered? Or is the reality that capitalism is the only viable economic system? The Panel Former Secretary of State for Health Stephen Dorrell, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and Marxist political theorist Alex Callinicos reimagine capitalism and the current economic system. Watch the debate here:

E06 | Time, Space And Being | Michela Massimi, Julian Barbour, Huw Price  

We think space and time are the structure of the universe. Yet Einstein argued 'space and time are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live'. And philosophers, Kant and Heidegger, saw space and time as the framework of thought not the world. Are space and time just a human fantasy? The Panel Physicist and author of The End of Time Julian Barbour, Cambridge metaphysician Huw Price and philosopher of science Michela Massimi think outside space and time. Watch the debate here:

E05 | The Word And The World | Paul Boghossian, Joanna Kavenna, Ray Monk  

The power of words is a wonder, and language perhaps our greatest skill. Yet the gap between the sound of a bell and its description is huge. Are the limits to language so profound that the big questions of science and philosophy are beyond us? Or can everything be said if we try hard enough? The Panel Director of the New York Institute of Philosophy Paul Boghossian, Wittgenstein biographer and philosopher Ray Monk, and award winning novelist Joanna Kavenna debate the limits of language. Watch the debate here:

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