Episodes

Episode 121: The Beauty of Illusion - David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"  

Guest Yoel Inbar joins David and Tamler to break down David Lynch’s dreamy masterpiece Mulholland Drive. (FULL SPOILERS – watch before you listen!) What’s real and what’s illusion? What happens when our illusions unravel? How do expectations affect our experience? How can artists use our expectations to manipulate our emotions? Come for the questions, stay for the answers – or at least for more questions. Special Guest: Yoel Inbar.

Episode 120: Clap Your Hand for Robert Wright  

Special guest Robert Wright joins the podcast to discuss his latest book "Why Buddhism is True." What is the Buddhist conception of not-self? When we become aware that the boundaries between us and the world are fluid, what is the “we” that arrives at this insight? Can daily meditation make you less of a dick? How does evolutionary psychology bear on these questions? Plus, Dave horrifies Tamler with his new hipster habit. Special Guest: Robert Wright.

Episode 119: A Brief History of Values  

What happens when we discover why we believe the things we believe? What if we discover that our values are the product of our cultural tradition, or personal experience, or natural selection? Should we be more skeptical of our values once we learn their history? Plus, data on Google porn searches reveal that you're all a bunch of sick fucks.

Episode 118: We Don't Love Them Hoax  

David and Tamler try to put the topic of campus politics to bed once and for all – with limited success. First, we get into a big fight about the prevalence and danger of political correctness in American universities. We junked that recording, and tried to distill our best points into a new one. (Trust us – it was for the best.) We also narrow down all the topic recommendations from our beloved Patreon supporters to five finalists. In the second segment, James Lindsay (co-author of the "Conceptual Penis" hoax) joins us to talk about why he thinks the hoax was more successful in exposing gender studies than some of their critics (including us) have suggested.

Episode 117: Extended Minds, Extended Foreskins  

David and Tamler break down a recent classic in the philosophy of mind: "The Extended Mind" by Andy Clark and David Chalmers. What is boundary of your mind? Is it contained with your body, or does it extend to the external environment--to your laptop, notebook, smartphone and more? Is this a purely terminological question, or one with practical and moral significance? And what is the role of intuition in providing an answer? Plus, Dave shares an email alerting him to the psychological trauma of male circumcision along with an exciting all-natural method for restoring the foreskin (that was stolen from us as infants).

Episode 116: Pain, Pleasure, and Peer-Reviewed Penises  

David and Tamler break down the latest small-stakes academic controversy--yes the one about conceptual penises. Does the recent "Sokal-like" hoax expose the ideological extremism of gender studies? Or does it show that certain portions of the "skeptic" community are susceptible to the same biases as their opponents? In the main segment they discuss the problems with measuring pain, pleasure, and happiness. When your doctor asks you to rate your pain between 1 and 10 and you say a 7, does your '7' reflect the same subjective experience as another person's '7'? (That depends--have you experienced childbirth?) How can we get more accurate readings of pain and pleasure across different people with different experiences? Most importantly, which number gets you the Vicodin?

Episode 115: Which Field is More Fu@%ed: Philosophy or Psychology?  

David and Tamler go ambulance chasing for scandals in their own fields. Inspired by a tweet from Jay Van Bavel, they argue about which of their disciplines--philosophy or psychology--is more completely and irredeemably fucked. Is the recent controversy at the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia diagnostic of larger problems in philosophy? Can the replication crisis ever be solved? Can philosophy return to studying the big questions? What can psychologists actually discover about the human mind? Warning: this episode features a more respectful and mature dialogue than some VBW listeners may be comfortable with.

Episode 114: Great Vengeance and Furious Anger (Top 5 Movies About Revenge)  

Somehow, after 113 episodes David and Tamler have never done a top 5 movie episode about revenge (so unbelievable that we had to double-check). That changes today. Among the things we learned: good revenge movies are harder to find than we thought, revenge (at least, movie revenge) is messy, and David knows at least one movie that Tamler has never heard of. Plus, should Jews be celebrating the killing of Egyptian first borns? Or atoning for it? (Or perhaps just pouring out a little more wine at Passover?)

Episode 113: Pascal, Probability, and Pitchforks  

David and Tamler break down what may be the best argument that it's rational to believe in God: Pascal's Wager. (No, we're not just trolling our Sam Harris listeners.) Does the expected value of believing in God outweigh the probability that you're wrong? How does belief work--can you just turn it on and off? What if you believe in the wrong God? This leads to a wide-ranging discussion on decision theory, instrumental rationality, artificial intelligence, transformative experiences, and whether David should drop acid. Your brain AND your future self will love this episode!

Episode 112: Gettier Goggles  

For four years Tamler has been bitching about Gettier cases without even explaining what they are or why he hates them. That ends today. David and Tamler talk about the famous paper that challenged the (widespread? non-existent?) notion that knowledge is, and only is, justified true belief. We talk about the so-called skeptics about knowledge that Gettier inspired, then discuss the real skepticism that Descartes examined with his evil demon thought experiment. Plus, you know how you're in a monogamous relationship because of science? Well, turns out that science may be flawed....

Episode 111: Our Language Doesn't Have a Word For This Title (with Yoel Inbar)  

In Part 2 of our episode with film scholar Yoel Inbar (AOS: Quebecois New Wave Cinema), we break down the philosophy and psychology of the movie Arrival. [Note: Massive spoilers, see the movie first!] Does our language shape our perception of reality? Would you have a child that you knew had a short time to live? What color is 'fuschia'? Why does right-wing radio make you want to dynamite alien spacecrafts? For Part 1 of this episode, see https://verybadwizards.fireside.fm/110 Special Guest: Yoel Inbar.

Episode 110: Stepsisters and Neck Braces (with Yoel Inbar)  

Any time the topic is campus politics there's a good chance we'll have to record more than once. True to form, David and Tamler yelled at each other for most of the first attempt to discuss the Middlebury College incident while special guest Yoel Inbar wept quietly in the corner. We did a little better the second time but the whole recording session took so long that we have to release it in two parts. In part one we talk about the most popular porn search terms by U.S. State and then wade into the Charles Murray protest at Middlebury. In part two (coming next week) we do a deep dive on the movie Arrival (so if you haven't seen it yet you have one more week!) Special Guest: Yoel Inbar.

Episode 109: Moral Pluralism: Behind the Lube  

David and Tamler return to their repugnant roots to talk about Cornell's refusal to hire conservative faculty, Milo getting disinvited from CPAC, and a case in Canada involving child sex dolls and a bottle of lube. Then they launch into a discussion of moral pluralism. Do competing values ultimately reduce to a single set of moral principles? What defines and justifies the boundaries of pluralism? What should you do when your Amish friend is getting bullied? Plus, more lube.

Episode 108: The Gimp Exception  

Inspired by a recent article, David and Tamler try to figure out what's behind our aversion to moral hypocrisy. Why do we have such low opinions of people who don't practice what they preach? Shouldn't we be happy that they promote the views we agree with? Plus we respond to an email about how to come up with ideas for research. (Hint: ask Paul Bloom). Note: this episode was recorded before the greatest comeback and sporting event in human history. (Editor's Note: I'm sure Donald Trump is as happy as Tamler is about the Superbowl. Just sayin'.)

Episode 107: Winking Under Oppression (with Manuel Vargas)  

The philosopher and pride of Bakersfield, CA Manuel Vargas joins us to talk about culpability under conditions of oppression. How should we treat wrongdoers when their actions and character are shaped in part by their oppressive circumstances? Is it disrespectful not to blame oppressed people for their bad behavior? Can being oppressed make you more culpable in some circumstances? And what's the point of holding people culpable anyway? Plus, the differences between "Hispanic" and "Latino/Latina/Latinx" and an exciting announcement: VBW merch! Special Guest: Manuel Vargas.

Episode 106: American Grandstand  

David and Tamler take a break from moral grandstanding to talk about moral grandstanding. How often do we moralize to make us look respectable? Does grandstanding make us more cynical about ethical debates? Does it contribute to outrage exhaustion and increased polarization? Most importantly, who does it more, David or Tamler? Plus: some of our favorite answers to this year's Edge.org question. (You can read the paper by Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke on the links page.)

Episode 105: Wizards With (Reactive) Attitudes  

David and Tamler go back to basics--discussing a paper (Victoria McGeer on responsibilty and Strawson) and arguing about restorative justice. What is the function of attitudes like resentment and anger? Do they presume anything metaphysics of agency? Why is Josh Greene trying to erode the moral scaffolding of society? Plus we talk about the latest Aeon troll piece on why sexual desire is wrong.

Episode 104: Smelling Salts for Morality: Our Top 3 Movies About Empathy (with Paul Bloom)  

Paul Bloom takes some time away from his "Waking Up" appearances to join us for a very special movie episode: our top three films about empathy. Can movies help us understand the experiences of people who live completely different lives? Do serial killers need empathy to effectively torture their victims? Does empathy make you want to blow up the world, or lead naked men into black liquid-y voids? Plus Paul and David try to bully Tamler into watching "Westworld." Also, buy Paul's new book (link below) "Against Empathy"! [Note: this episode is heavy on the spoilers. If you're worried, check the links below--they contain the titles for each movie in the order discussed on the podcast]. Special Guest: Paul Bloom.

Episode 103: Very Bad Utopias  

It’s the Thanksgiving episode! David and Tamler give thanks to their listeners and Patreon supporters with an episode chosen by our top Patreon subscribers (it was the most enjoyable election we've had all month). It was close, we had a bunch of great suggestions (that we'll refer to for upcoming episodes), but the winner was this topic from Bryan Farrow: "In the vein of the Republic and Rationalia, I want to hear Peez and Tamler draft a constitution for "Oz", a sovereign state that maximizes whatever they cherish most. (Honor and porn, presumably.)" Bryan’s wish is our command. Welcome to “Honoraria” and “Puerto Rico”, currently at war over the five paragraph essay. Plus, Dave relates how it feels to get the bulk of the critical feedback for once. And we talk about a few other things we’re grateful for – including students who don’t try to bullshit us, “honeybuns”, academic PEDs -- and Tamler says a few words about his Mom.

Episode 102: Red, Black, and Blue  

David and Tamler stumble their way through talking about the election results, how Trump got elected, the role of racism, sexism, the liberal bubble, complacency, economic anxiety - and find they're just as confused as everyone else. In the second segment, we lighten things up a little (really!) and discuss the Black Mirror episode "San Junipero" (available on Netflix). Spoiler talk so try to see the episode before listening.

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