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.


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.

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.

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