Philosophy Talk

Program Schedule

KSFC 91.9
Wednesday 9pm - 10pm

Philosophy Talk is radio that celebrates the value of the examined life.  Week after week, our two philosopher-hosts invite listeners to join them in conversations about a wide variety of issues-- ranging from popular culture to our most deeply held beliefs about science, morality, and the human condition.  Philosophy Talk challenges listeners to identify and question their assumptions and to think about things in new ways.   We are dedicated to reasoned conversation driven by human curiousity.  Philosophy Talks is  broadly accessible, intellectually stimulating and, most of all, fun!  

Philosophy talk is hosted by Ken Taylor, P
rofessor of Philosophy at Stanford University, and John Perry, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Riverside and  Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Stanford University.

Program Listings:
July 16, 2014
What Are Leaders Made of?

There seems to be a paradox in leadership: the qualities of ruthlessness and opportunism necessary to attain power and become a leader are not necessarily the qualities of morality and a sense of justice that make for a good leader. Do the traits that make it likely that someone will become a leader correlate positively or negatively with the traits that make a good and effective leader? Do our democratic institutions lead to better leaders than, say, a lottery like the Athenians used? Ken and John ask what leaders are – and should be – made of with Stanford Law Professor Deborah Rhode, co-author of Moral Leadership: The Theory and Practice of Power, Judgment, and Policy. This program was recorded live at the Marsh Theatre in Berkeley.

July 23, 2014
Tainted by the Sins of Our Fathers?

Imagine discovering that your grandfather was a serial killer. Would you feel guilty about it? Would you be at all tempted to contact the families of his victims? Philosophers have long thought that we can only be responsible for what is under our voluntary control, but sometimes we feel guilty about events we didn’t bring about, simply because we are connected in some way to those who did. Many Germans, for instance, feel guilty about their ancestors' participation in the Nazi regime. Can we really be responsible for things outside of our control? Or are these feelings just vestiges of a more primitive moral outlook? John and Ken play innocent with Larry May from Vanderbilt University, author of Sharing Responsiblity.

July 30, 2014
The New Surveillance Society - Big Brother Grows Up

Recent revelations confirm what many already suspected: not only is Big Brother watching you, he is also potentially reading your emails, listening to your phone calls, mapping your personal networks, and tracking your every move. While many see whistleblowers as heroes, others see them as criminals who ought to be severely punished. So, how should we treat whistleblowers who break the law for moral or political ends? How do we adjudicate between national or corporate security and individual rights? And what kind of rights and responsibilities does a proactive citizenry have when confronted with injustices committed by the state? John and Ken blow the whistle on Christopher McKnight Nichols from Oregon State University, author of Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age. This program was recorded live at OSU in Corvallis.

August 6, 2014
Summer Reading List 2014

What philosophers, philosophies, or philosophical issues would you like to read up on over the summer? John and Ken discuss one of this year's most talked-about books, Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, with political scientist Shannon Stimson. They also get summer reading suggestions from author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, whose new book is Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away, and Yale University philosopher Jason Stanley, author of the forthcoming Why Propaganda Matters. Plus more suggestions from members of our Community of Thinkers.

August 13, 2014
Captivity

Whether it's people incarcerated in prisons, or animals confined in zoos, aquariums, laboratories, farms, and in our own homes, millions of upon millions of sentient creatures live in captivity. To be held captive, some might say, is to be denied basic rights of autonomy. But physical captivity, others might say, can have significant social benefits. So under what conditions could it be morally justified to hold a creature in captivity? Should we think of humans and animals differently? And in a civil society, is captivity a necessary harm, or should we work towards eradicating it? John and Ken have a captivating conversation with Lori Gruen from Wesleyan University, author of The Ethics of Captivity.

August 20, 2014
Remixing Reality: Art and Literature for the 21st Century

For decades, literary critics have been questioning the relevance of the novel as a literary form, with some going so far as to declare its death. But if the novel is dead, it’s not clear what new form can take its place. Should we treat the popularity of the memoir as a sign that what readers want is more truth, less fiction? Or is the memoir, like ‘reality TV,’ mostly just fiction dressed up as fact? In these fragmented times, when everything has already been said or done before, can there be any truly original innovations in literature? Or is the demand for originality itself an antiquated idea? John and Ken mix it up with David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto. This program was recorded live at the First Congregational Church in Portland, Oregon.

August 27, 2014
What Might Have Been

When we make claims about things that could have been—what philosophers call counterfactual statements—we are, in some sense, sliding between different worlds. We all use counterfactual statements frequently. But what would make our speculations about what might have been in a different scenario true or false? When I say things could have gone differently than they did, I am speaking of a possible world in which things did, in fact, go differently. But how do we make sense of this talk of possible worlds? How can there be facts other than facts about the actual world? John and Ken consider the possibilities with Laurie Paul from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, co-author of Causation: A User's Guide.

September 3, 2014
Is Intuition a Guide to Truth?

Turns out that Galileo was right and Aristotle was wrong: in a vacuum, a feather and a bowling ball will fall from a tall building at exactly the same speed. This is not to say that Aristotle wasn’t a brilliant thinker; empirical evidence shows he just had a wrong intuition. Even the most powerful intuitions we have can be misleading. Why is it, then, that many philosophers treat them as crucial when arguing for a conclusion? Can intuitions lead us to important truths about the world, or do they merely teach us about ourselves? John and Ken trust their instincts with Alvin Goldman from Rutgers University, author of Knowledge in a Social World.

September 10, 2014
Corporations and the Future of Democracy

The US prides itself on the strength of its democratic institutions and considers itself a leader in the promotion of democratic values around the globe. But can we consistently maintain this self-image in the face of the growing power of corporations? How are capitalism and globalization subverting the interests of democracy at home and abroad? Does the problem stem from fundamental inconsistencies between global capitalism and national democracy? Can regulations provide a solution, and if so, who has the authority to create and enforce these regulations? John and Ken welcome former US Senator Russell Feingold, author of While America Sleeps: A Wake-up Call for the Post-9/11 Era, for a program recorded live on the Stanford campus.

September 17, 2014
Babies: The Birth of Morality?

Doing the right thing is often an extremely difficult task. Yet psychological research indicates that infants as young as 21 months old have a crude sense of what is right and wrong. This capacity is reflected by infants' decisions to reward or punish characters in social scenarios. But surely a genuine, robust, mature moral compass is much more complicated than that. So what can babies tell us about adult morality? How much of morality is innate, and how much must we develop as moral thinkers? John and Ken talk infant morality with Paul Bloom from Yale University, author of Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil.

September 24, 2014
Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli is best known for arguing that people in power should use deception, force, and manipulation if those tactics are necessary to achieve their ends. In an age of unscrupulous politics and ruthless business practice, shouldn't we be encouraging a move away from Machiavellian thinking? Then again, are we even sure that those "Machiavellian" views were really Machiavelli's? If not, what did he really think, and what might we learn from him? John and Ken scheme with Maurizio Viroli from Princeton University, author of Redeeming the Prince: The Meaning of Machiavelli's Masterpiece.

October 1, 2014
Second-Guessing Ourselves

We like to think of ourselves as self-aware, reflective beings, but psychological studies demonstrate that we’re usually overconfident in the accuracy of our own beliefs. Memory, for example, can be extremely unreliable, even when we feel certain we know what happened. Surprisingly, when we’re made aware of this, we adjust our level of confidence in ourselves only slightly. How, then, can we doubt ourselves in a rational and efficient manner to bring our beliefs closer to reality? And, just as importantly, how do we prevent ourselves from falling into the other extreme of constant second guessing? John and Ken don't think twice with Sherri Roush from UC Berkeley, author of Tracking Truth: Knowledge, Evidence, and Science.

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