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Sunday > YPR Program Guide > Program Listings > Philosophy Talk

Philosophy Talk

Thursdays, 9pm

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Philosophy Talk is a weekly, one-hour radio series hosted by Ken Taylor, Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, and John Perry, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Riverside. The program is not a lecture or college course—it's philosophy in action! Philosophy Talk is a fun opportunity to explore issues of importance in a thoughtful, friendly fashion.


July 16
The Ethics of Whistleblowing with Edward Snowden
You might think we each have a moral duty to expose any serious misconduct, dishonesty, or illegal activity we discover in an organization, especially when such conduct directly threatens the public interest. However, increasingly we are seeing whistleblowers punished more harshly than the alleged wrongdoers, who often seem to get off scot-free. Given the possibility of harsh retaliation, how should we understand our moral duty to tell the truth and reveal wrongdoing? Should we think of whistleblowers as selfless martyrs, as traitors, or as something else? Do we need to change the laws to provide greater protection for whistleblowers? John and Ken welcome our era's most renowned whistleblower, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, for a program recorded as part of the Stanford Symbolic Systems Program Distinguished Speaker series.

July 23
Neuroscience and Free Will
We like to think of ourselves as rational agents who exercise conscious control over most of our actions and decisions. Yet in recent years neuroscientists have claimed to prove that free will is simply an illusion, that our brains decide for us before our conscious minds even become aware. But what kind of evidence do these scientists rely on to support their sweeping conclusions? Is the "free will" they talk about the same kind of free will that philosophers have puzzled about for millennia? And could science ever prove that we lack the kind of freedom needed for moral responsibility? John and Ken free their minds with Daniel Dennett from Tufts University, author of Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.

July 30
The Power and Perils of Satire
Satire is everywhere – in conversations with friends, in books, on television, and online. When used effectively, it can be a very powerful form of social commentary. But what happens when someone goes too far, or even worse, when some publication repeatedly goes too far? Aside from taking offense, can we reasonably demand that they pull their article from publication or issue an apology? Are there topics we should never satirize? Is there a well-defined line between satire and hate speech? John and Ken resist parody with Jane Kirtley, Director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota.

August 6
Summer Reading List 2015
What philosophers, philosophies, or philosophical issues do you want to read up on this summer? Leibniz's Monadology not be the obvious choice to take on vacation, but there are lots of readable, beach-friendly classics and non-classics to add philosophical depth to your summer reading. John and Ken take suggestions from listeners and special guests: Berit Brogaard, author of On Romantic Love; Lars Iyer, author of Wittgenstein Jr (A Novel); and Jane Hirshfield, author of Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World.

 August 13
The Technology of Immortality
Some futurists believe we are not far from a time when technology and medicine will be so advanced that humans need no longer die of old age or other natural causes. Eventually, not only will we be able to replace our natural body parts, but we might even be able to “download” our selves into a new cybernetic body. But is this a realistic possibility or just a confused fantasy? Is the self the kind of thing that can be downloaded and persist through radical changes in its “hardware”? And if it were possible for people to indefinitely extend their biological lives, what would the moral implications be for social inequality and distribution of the planet’s finite resources? John and Ken look beyond the mortal coil with Kevin O'Neill from the University of Redlands.

August 20
The intellectual domain of Gottfried Leibniz cannot be captured in a single adjective. For most of his life, he was a jurist, a courtier, a diplomat and a librarian; he also made huge contributions to the study of logic, geometry, physics, botany, physiology, linguistics, and of course, the infinitesimal calculus. And yet, many of his ideas remain obscure to the modern reader. What in the world is a Monad? Why does Leibniz care so much about the so-called Principle of Sufficient Reason? And how could he claim that this is the Best of all Possible Worlds? John and Ken discuss the most important philosopher you know the least about with Daniel Garber from Princeton University, author of Leibniz: Body, Substance, Monad.

August 27
Are Some People Better Than Others?

Egalitarian principles play an important role in our moral and political discourse. Yet there’s no doubt that some people are smarter, stronger, or more talented in certain respects than others. So was Thomas Jefferson wrong to think that all men are created equal? Might we reasonably think that some people are better than others? If so, should the “elite” be treated differently? Should we, for example, find immoral acts committed by a great artist less reprehensible than the same acts committed by a common person? John and Ken level the playing field with Thomas Hurka from the University of Toronto, author of The Best Things In Life: A Guide To What Really Matters.

September 3
Education and the Culture Wars

In contemporary democracies, the state is responsible for providing children with an education. But parents surely have both the right and responsibility for instilling appropriate morals and values in their children. How should we reconcile conflicts between the state’s responsibility to properly educate minors and the parents’ rights to influence their children's values and ideals? Should the government’s approach to education in areas such as history and science always trump that of the child’s most direct guardians? Or should parents hold some veto power when it comes to education about evolution, sex, and other issues that bear on religious and personal values? John and Ken do their homework with Stanford political scientist Rob Reich, co-editor of Education, Justice, and Democracy, for a program recorded live at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco.

September 10
Has Science Replaced Philosophy?

Modern science has made astounding progress in our understanding of ourselves and the universe. Physics, neuroscience, and psychology now tackle questions that a few decades ago could only be explored through philosophical speculation. So some vocal members of the scientific community, and even members of the general public, have suggested that philosophy itself has become a superfluous, archaic practice. Is philosophy useful and applicable today? Or has it been reduced to a dissociated game of mental aerobics, a mere ping-pong game of arguments and counter-arguments? John and Ken question the modern-day viability of philosophy with Massimo Pigliucci from the City University of New York, author of Answers to Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life.

September 17
The Ethics of Drone Warfare
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, aka ‘drone,’ is increasingly the weapon of choice in America's military operations. Many laud its ability to maintain our global power while reducing human and financial costs. By the same token, however, this safe and secretive weapon may in turn cause civilians to disengage ever more from the politics of war. Are drones the herald of a more sanitized and efficient form of war, or do they represent the dystopian reign of uncaring technologies? What are the responsibilities of civilians in the face of this 'Revolution in Military Affairs'? And how have drones transformed the face of battles for soldiers themselves? John and Ken avoid droning on about war in the age of intelligent machines with Bradley Strawser from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, editor of Killing By Remote Control: The Ethics of an Unmanned Military.

September 24
The Changing Face of Feminism
Reactions to the word ‘feminist’ today range from staunch rejection or ambivalence to fervent endorsement and activism. While many young women claim not to need feminism in their lives, others believe these women are simply confused about the meaning of the term. So is feminism as we knew it dead? Have women already achieved equal rights? What are the basic tenets of the most recent wave of feminism, and how does it differ from the previous waves? And given current reactions to the term ‘feminism,’ how can we create greater unity in defending women’s rights? John and Ken look beyond the glass ceiling with Christina Sommers from the American Enterprise Institute.

October 1
A teenage girl decides, on a whim, to conceive a child. Even though we might say that this decision was irrational, she cannot regret it later because raising the child eventually becomes the most important part of her life. Cases like this show how complicated regret is: that an action was irrational or wrong doesn’t necessarily imply that we should regret it. When, then, should we regret? For that matter, why should we regret anything at all? Doesn’t the feeling of regret just add more pain to circumstances that are already unfortunate? How can it possibly be rational to affirm actions that one knows were wrong? John and Ken don't regret agreeing to talk to Jay Wallace from UC Berkeley, author of The View From Here: On Affirmation, Attachment, and the Limits of Regret.

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