Christian B. Miller

Our Moral Character – Ep 78 with Christian B. Miller

We like to think of ourselves, our friends, and our families as decent people. We may not be saints, but we are still honest, relatively kind, and mostly trustworthy. Author and philosopher Christian B. Miller argues in his new book, “The Character Gap: How Good Are We?” that we are badly mistaken in thinking this. Hundreds of recent studies in psychology tell a different story: that we all have serious character flaws that prevent us from being as good as we think we are – and that we do not even recognize that these flaws exist. But neither are most of us cruel or dishonest.

Instead, Miller argues, we are a mixed bag. On the one hand, most of us in a group of bystanders will do nothing as someone cries out for help in an emergency. Yet it is also true that there will be many times when we will selflessly come to the aid of a complete stranger – and resist the urge to lie, cheat, or steal even if we could get away with it. Much depends on cues in our social environment. Miller uses this recent psychological literature to explain what the notion of “character” really means today, and how we can use this new understanding to develop a character better in sync with the kind of people we want to be.

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Mike Reiss

The Simpsons and Springfield Confidential – Ep 41 with Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss has won four Emmys and a Peabody Award during his twenty-eight years writing for “The Simpsons”. He ran the show in Season 4, which Entertainment Weekly called “the greatest season of the greatest show in history.” Mike co-created the animated series “The Critic” and created Showtime’s hit cartoon “Queer Duck” (about a gay duck). In 2006, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Animation Writers Caucus. Mike has been a contributing writer to more than two dozen animated films — including four ICE AGEs, two DESPICABLE MEs, THE LORAX, RIO, KUNG FU PANDA 3, and THE SIMPSONS MOVIE – with a worldwide gross of $14 billion. He has been happily married for thirty years. Like most children’s book authors, he has no children.

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Florence Williams

The Nature Fix – Ep 38 with Florence Williams

From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to eucalyptus groves in California, Florence Williams investigates the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. Delving into brand-new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas―and the answers they yield―are more urgent than ever.

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Ken Miller

The Human Instinct – Ep 36 with Ken Miller

A radical, optimistic exploration of how humans evolved to develop reason, consciousness, and free will.

Lately, the most passionate advocates of the theory of evolution seem to present it as bad news. Scientists such as Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Sam Harris tell us that our most intimate actions, thoughts, and values are mere byproducts of thousands of generations of mindless adaptation. We are just one species among multitudes, and therefore no more significant than any other living creature.

Now comes Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller to make the case that this view betrays a gross misunderstanding of evolution. Natural selection surely explains how our bodies and brains were shaped, but Miller argues that it’s not a social or cultural theory of everything. In The Human Instinct, he rejects the idea that our biological heritage means that human thought, action, and imagination are pre-determined, describing instead the trajectory that ultimately gave us reason, consciousness and free will. A proper understanding of evolution, he says, reveals humankind in its glorious uniqueness—one foot planted firmly among all of the creatures we’ve evolved alongside, and the other in the special place of self-awareness and understanding that we alone occupy in the universe.

Equal parts natural science and philosophy, The Human Instinct is a moving and powerful celebration of what it means to be human.

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Kieran Setiya

Midlife: A Philosophical Guide – Ep 33 with Kieran Setiya

How can you reconcile yourself with the lives you will never lead, with possibilities foreclosed, and with nostalgia for lost youth? How can you accept the failings of the past, the sense of futility in the tasks that consume the present, and the prospect of death that blights the future? In this self-help book with a difference, Kieran Setiya confronts the inevitable challenges of adulthood and middle age, showing how philosophy can help you thrive.

You will learn why missing out might be a good thing, how options are overrated, and when you should be glad you made a mistake. You will be introduced to philosophical consolations for mortality. And you will learn what it would mean to live in the present, how it could solve your midlife crisis, and why meditation helps.

Ranging from Aristotle, Schopenhauer, and John Stuart Mill to Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as drawing on Setiya’s own experience, Midlife combines imaginative ideas, surprising insights, and practical advice. Writing with wisdom and wit, Setiya makes a wry but passionate case for philosophy as a guide to life.

Kieran teaches Philosophy at MIT, working mainly in ethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind. In addition to Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, he is the author of Practical Knowledge, Reasons without Rationalism, and Knowing Right From Wrong.

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How To Be A Stoic – Ep 13 with Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo is a philosopher of science and evolutionary biologist at the City College of New York. He holds PhDs in genetics, evolutionary biology, and philosophy. His areas of research include the nature of evolutionary theory and the phenomenon of pseudoscience. He has written for many outlets, including the New York Times, and has written or edited ten books. He blogs at and

Jon talks with Massimo about his book, How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy To Live A Modern Life.

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John Kaag

American Philosophy, A Love Story – Ep 8 with John Kaag

John Kaag is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and is the author of American Philosophy: A Love Story, published in October by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, that was recently named an New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the Best Books of 2016 by National Public Radio. His writing has been featured in the NYT, WSJ, Harper’s, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In this episode, Jon interviews John about his book American Philosophy, A Love Story.

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Bill Irwin Photo

Secessionist Movements and Libertarianism – Ep 4 with William Irwin

In this episode Jon speaks with William Irwin, author of Free Dakota.

William Irwin is Herve A. LeBlanc Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of Philosophy at King’s College and is the author of the Free Market Existentialist: Capitalism without Consumerism. He is also the author of Intentionalist Interpretation: A Philosophical Explanation and Defense. Irwin originated the philosophy and popular-culture genre of books with Seinfeld and Philosophy, The Simpsons and Philosophy, and The Matrix and Philosophy. Free Dakota is his first novel.

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Existentialism and Romantic Love – Ep 2 with Skye Cleary

In this episode Jon speaks with Skye Cleary.

Skye C. Cleary PhD MBA is a philosopher and author of Existentialism and Romantic Love published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. Skye teaches at Columbia University, Barnard College, the City University of New York, and the New York Public Library. She is also the managing editor of the American Philosophical Association’s blog, an advisory board member of Strategy of Mind, a co-founder of the Manhattan Love Salon, and a certified fellow with the American Philosophical Practitioners Association. Her work has been published with TED-Ed, LA Review of Books, The Huffington Post, The Conversation, Business Insider, New Republic, The Philosopher’s Zone, YourTango, Aeon and others.

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