December 22, 2017: Einstein & Gravity
On this program, my guest is Marcia Bartusiak, Professor of the Practice of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, and award-winning author of many books. We ‘ll be talking about her most recent, a revised, updated classic Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony: The Story of a Gamble, Two Black Holes, and a New Age of Astronomy, which recounts the search for and discovery of Einstein’s predicted gravitational waves.
December 8, 2017: How Language Began
My guest on this program is linguist Daniel Everett, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He is the author of many books, including Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes; and Language: The Cultural Tool; and his life and work is also the subject of a documentary film, The Grammar of Happiness. I interviewed him last May for his book, Dark Matter of the Mind: The Culturally Articulated Unconscious, and we have him back for his new book, How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention. He argues that we are not born with an instinct for language, and that the near seven thousand languages that exist today—the product of one million years of evolution—are the very basis of our own consciousness.
November 10, 2017: The Meaning of Belief
My guest on this program is philosopher Tim Crane. He is the author of many books, including The Objects of Thought (2013), Aspects of Psychologism (2014). His most recent one is The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist's Point of View, in which he takes a markedly different approach from that of the so-called New Atheists, and argues that atheists like himself should attempt to understand religion and-as far as possible--attempt to tolerate it. He is professor of philosophy at Central European University.
October 27, 2017: The Human Predicament
My guest on this program is David Benatar, professor of philosophy at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. His research interests are in moral and social philosophy, and applied ethics. His most recent book is The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life's Biggest Questions, in which he invites us to take a clear-eyed view of such questions as "Are human lives ultimately meaningless?" "Is our inevitable death bad?" He argues that while our lives can have some meaning, cosmically speaking we are ultimately the insignificant beings we fear we are.
October 6, 2017: How Emotions Are Made
My guest on this program is Lisa Feldman Barrett, University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, with appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in psychiatry and radiology. She received a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award for her groundbreaking research on emotion in the brain. She is the author most recently of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, in which she disputes the prevailing view that emotion and reason are at odds. She argues that emotion is not hardwired, but is constructed by our brains and our bodies as we go along. In addition, emotions are not cross-culturally universal—e.g. fear does not live in the amygdala—and there are no body patterns or changes, or patterns of brain activity that specifically and solely identify any one emotion. Her work in this area has been termed a revolution on par with the discovery of relativity in physics, and natural selection in biology. The book reveals the latest research and intriguing practical applications of the new science of emotion, mind, and brain.
September 29, 2017: The Unhealthy Politics of Medicine
My guest on this program is Eric Patashnik, Julis-Rabinowitz Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Brown University. He is one of three co-authors of Unhealthy Politics: The Battle over Evidence-Based Medicine. The authors argue that many common medical treatments in the U.S. are not based on sound science, and shed light on why the government’s response to that troubling situation has been so inadequate, and why efforts to improve the evidence base of U.S. medicine continue to cause so much political controversy and public trepidation.
September 15, 2017: Doughnut Economics
My guest on this program is renegade economist Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. She is senior visiting research associate and advisory board member at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute, and educator in Oxford's masters program for Environmental Change and Management. In addition, she is senior research associate of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and a member of the Club of Rome, a global think tank focusing on international issues. Her work has appeared in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, New Statesman, CNN, Al-Jazeera and numerous academic journals. Her internationally acclaimed idea of Doughnut Economics re-frames and re-envisions economic thinking in service to life.
September 1, 2017: Climate Change Conversations
My guest on this program is Columbia University philosophy professor Philip Kitcher. He is the author of numerous books, including Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism and Philosophy of Science: A New Introduction. Most recently, he and is co-author, Evelyn Fox Keller, have written The Seasons Alter: How to Save Our Planet in Six Acts, in which they present the realities of global warming in the most human terms—everyday conversation—showing us how to convince skeptics why we need to act now.
August 18, 2017: The Story of American Utopianism
My guest on this program is writer Chris Jennings, author of Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism, which tells the story of five interrelated utopian movements following the Enlightenment, revealing their relevance to both their time and our own.
July 21, 2017: Moral Failure & Moral Dilemmas
My guest on this program is Lisa Tessman, professor of philosophy at Binghampton University. She teaches and does research in ethics, moral psychology, feminist philosophy, and related areas. Her work focuses on understanding how real human beings construct morality and experience moral demands, especially under difficult conditions. She is the author of Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality, and most recently When Doing the Right Thing is Impossible, in which she provides examples, both real and fictional, of situations that will make us wonder whether we can be required to do the impossible, and how and why human beings have constructed moral requirements to be binding even when they are impossible to fulfill.
July 7, 2017: The Knowledge Illusion
My guest on this program is professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown University, Steven Sloman. He is the editor in chief of the journal Cognition, and his recent book is The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. In this book, he and his co-author Philip Fernbach, argue that intelligence and knowledge are fundamentally communal in nature, and despite how well we might be individually educated, none of us is as smart as we think we are.
June 23, 2017: Slow Philosophy
My guest on this program is Michelle Boulous Walker, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Queensland, Australia. Dr. Walker's research interests span the fields of European philosophy, aesthetics, ethics, and feminist philosophy. Her teaching interests in philosophy include intersections with politics, film, and literature. Her most recent book is Slow Philosophy: Reading against the Institution, in which she argues that philosophy involves the patient work of thought; in this it resembles the work of art, which invites and implores us to take our time and to engage with the world. At its best, philosophy teaches us to read slowly; in fact, philosophy is the art of reading slowly – and this inevitably clashes with many of our current institutional practices and demands.
May 26, 2017: Learning to Learn
My guest on this program is best-selling author Ulrich Boser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Before the Center, he was a contributing editor for U.S. News & World Report. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. His recent book is Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything, in which he shows that how we learn can matter just as much as what we learn.
May 12, 2017: Mind & Human Nature
My guest on this program is Daniel Everett, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He is the author of many books, including Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes; Language: The Cultural Tool; and Linguistic Fieldwork: A Student Guide. His life and work is also the subject of a documentary film, The Grammar of Happiness. His most recent book is Dark Matter of the Mind: The Culturally Articulated Unconscious, in which he argues that human nature as normally conceived does not exist. Flying in the face of major trends in evolutionary psychology and related fields, he offers a provocative and compelling argument that the only thing humans are hardwired for is freedom: freedom from evolutionary instinct and freedom to adapt to a variety of environmental and cultural contexts.
Dan's next book:
How Language Began: The Story of Humanity's Greatest Invention (To be released November 7, 2017)
April 28, 2017: Memory and the Self
This program features University of Miami philosopher Mark Rowlands. He is the author of eighteen books, and over a hundred journal articles, chapters and reviews, and his work has been translated into more than twenty languages. His memoir, The Philosopher and the Wolf, became an international bestseller. His most recent book is Memory and the Self: Phenomenology, Science and Autobiography, in which he explores the role of memory in maintaining a sense of personal identity over time.
April 14, 2017: A Slave History:
My guest on this program is Erica Armstrong Dunbar. She is the Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Black Studies and History at the University of Delaware. She has been the recipient of Ford, Mellon, and Social Science Research Council fellowships, and is an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. She is the author most recently of Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, in which she chronicles the story of Martha Washington’s chief attendant who fled to freedom, and George Washington’s determination to recapture his property by whatever means necessary.
March 31, 2017: Anger and Forgiveness:
My guest on this program is Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed in the Law School and the Philosophy Department at the University of Chicago. She is the author of many books, and was recently named the 2017 Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities, the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. Her most recent book is Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice, in which she analyzes the roots of both anger, finding it conceptually confused and normatively pernicious, and forgiveness, as potentially the best way to respond to injury, shedding new light on both.