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Science & Medicine
Society & Culture
Social Sciences
Philosophy

Very Bad Wizards

Updated 13 days ago

Science & Medicine
Society & Culture
Social Sciences
Philosophy
Read more

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

Read more

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

iTunes Ratings

1618 Ratings
Average Ratings
1517
51
18
10
22

Best philosophy podcast

By Kayne0202 - Jul 25 2019
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Such an amazing podcast, I constantly listen to them. They make me want to become a philosopher :)

Binge it all and pretend to be well read - it works!

By Heffayyyyyy - Jun 15 2019
Read more
Somehow the most repugnant thing on the show involved elephants and wasn’t even from Tamler or Dave

iTunes Ratings

1618 Ratings
Average Ratings
1517
51
18
10
22

Best philosophy podcast

By Kayne0202 - Jul 25 2019
Read more
Such an amazing podcast, I constantly listen to them. They make me want to become a philosopher :)

Binge it all and pretend to be well read - it works!

By Heffayyyyyy - Jun 15 2019
Read more
Somehow the most repugnant thing on the show involved elephants and wasn’t even from Tamler or Dave
Cover image of Very Bad Wizards

Very Bad Wizards

Updated 13 days ago

Read more

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

Rank #1: Episode 59: Tumors All the Way Down (With Sam Harris)

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Bestselling author and friend of the podcast Sam Harris joins Tamler and Dave for a marathon podcast. (Seriously, pack two pairs of astronaut diapers for this one). We  talk about the costs and benefits of religion, dropping acid in India, and the illusory nature of (a certain kind of) free will. Then we go at it on blame, moral responsibility, hatred, guilt, retribution, and vengeance. Sam thinks these are antiquated responses based on a belief in spooky metaphysics, Tamler thinks they are important components of human morality, and Dave just wants everyone to get along and be reasonable (like that nice Kant fellow). 

Time markers (roughly)

0:00-47:00 Intro and costs and benefits of religion

47:00-77:30 Drugs, the self, free will

77:30-- Blame, guilt, vengeance, moral responsibility, desert. 

Links

Special Guest: Sam Harris.

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Dec 16 2014
2 hours 32 mins
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Rank #2: Episode 63: Stalemates and Closets (with Sam Harris)

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Sam Harris gets back in the VBW ring for another round on moral responsibility, ethical theories, and the grounds for our obligations to other people. Are we at a genuine stalemate when it comes to blame and desert? Is Tamler a closet consequentialist? Is Sam a closet pluralist? Why is Dave such a big Wagner fan? Plus, Twitter shaming: what is it good for? Settle in, get comfortable, pour yourself a drink, you’re in for the long haul on this one.

Links

Special Guest: Sam Harris.

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Feb 28 2015
2 hours 46 mins
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Rank #3: Episode 1: Brains, Robots, and Free Will (Free Will and Morality Pt. 1)

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Dave and Tamler start out talking about the new wave of skepticism about free will and moral responsibility in the popular press from people like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne.  

Neuroscience figures heavily in their arguments, but Dave and Tamler agree that neuroscientific data adds little of substance to the case other than telling us what we already know: human beings are natural biological entities.  Dave also accuses Tamler of being a hipster philosopher for abandoning a view once it got popular. 

Next, we talk about what kind freedom we need to have in order to deserve blame and punishment. Do we need to create ourselves out of the swamps of nothingness? Dave comes out as a Star Trek nerd and asks whether we're all, in the end, like Data the android.  They also wonder whether a belief in free will is all that's keeping us from having sex with our dogs.  

Finally,  Dave grills Tamler about his new book on the differences in attitudes about free will and moral responsibility across cultures. After seeing how long they've been carrying on, they then agree to talk about all the stuff they left out in the next episode.    

Links

Coyne, J.  “Why You Don’t Really Have Free Will.”

Sam Harris. “Free Will.”

Eddy Nahmias.  "Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?"

Galen Strawson "Luck Swallows Everything."

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Aug 30 2012
1 hour 10 mins
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Rank #4: Episode 84: Lifting the Veil

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David and Tamler talk about the perils of trying to step outside of your own perspective in ethics, science, and politics. What do Rawls' "original position" thought experiment, Pascal's Wager, and Moral Foundations Theory have in common? (Hint: it involves baking.) Plus, what movies (and other things) would serve as a litmus test when deciding on a potential life partner? What might liking or not liking a certain film, book, or TV series tell you about a person, and whether or not the relationship would work? And what sexual position is it rational to choose under the veil of ignorance? (It's a night episode...)

Links

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Feb 23 2016
1 hour 33 mins
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Rank #5: Episode 138: Memory, Pain, and Relationships (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

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Award-winning screenwriter and medieval philosophy scholar Yoel Inbar joins us for a deep dive on the Charlie Kaufman/Michel GondREY masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When relationships go bad is it better to believe they never happened? What is the nature of memory, how is it constructed, and is it possible to zap them out existence with an Apple IIe? Will Tamler have a more optimistic take on the ending of the movie than David? (Hint: yes)

Also--only two more weeks to preorder Why Honor Matters and get your free bonus episode! Upload your receipt here

Special Guest: Yoel Inbar.

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Apr 24 2018
1 hour 45 mins
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Rank #6: Episode 75: A Golden Shower of Guests

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Dave and Tamler celebrate their 75th episode by welcoming six BFFs of the podcast and asking them to share the biggest thing they've changed their minds about in their professional careers. You'll hear Dan Ariely on our moral duty to take science into the real world, Laurie Santos on the the role of neuroscience in explaining psychological findings, Yoel Inbar on what it means to do good science as a psychologist, Eric Schwitzgebel on his metaphysical epiphany about materialism, Nina Strohminger on breaking-up with priming research, and Sam Harris on Artificial Intelligence and its perils, and his recently changed views about vegetarianism. (Sadly, we had a technical glitch with the audio when we recorded our most-frequent guest Paul Bloom, but we'll bring him on again soon.) Plus we play some hilarious mash-ups, raps, and voicemails sent in from listeners.

Links to info about our Guests

Listener-Created Music in this Episode


Special Guests: Dan Ariely, Eric Schwitzgebel, Laurie Santos, Nina Strohminger, Sam Harris, and Yoel Inbar.

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Oct 06 2015
2 hours 29 mins
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Rank #7: Episode 85: A Zoo with Only One Animal (with Paul Bloom)

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Philosophers can be funny and funny movies can be philosophical. David and Tamler welcome frequent VBW guest and arch-enemy of empathy Paul Bloom to discuss their five favorite comic films with philosophical/psychological themes. Groundhog Day was off-limits for our top five (we would've all chosen it) so we start by explaining why it's the quintessential movie for this topic.

Links

[all movie links are to imdb.com]

Special Guest: Paul Bloom.

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Mar 12 2016
1 hour 9 mins
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Rank #8: Episode 88: A Doobie for Elijah

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David and Tamler celebrate Passover with a high-spirited episode on guns, revenge, liberals, being offended, the fear of death, and whether kids have a right to be loved. Thanks to all you listeners for emailing your questions, comments, and complaints--this was a fun, energetic discussion. Plus, a blast from the past from an unusually alert Pizarro: Michael Shannon reading a sorority letter.  But won't somebody please think of the children???!! 

Links

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Apr 26 2016
1 hour 20 mins
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Rank #9: Episode 160: Everything is Meaningless: The Book of Ecclesiastes

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David and Tamler dive into the book of Ecclesiastes, an absurdist classic that is somehow also a book of the Bible. Is everything meaningless, vain, and a chasing after the wind? Are humans just the same as animals? Are wise people no better off than fools? Will God judge us after we die, rewarding the good people and punishing the shit-heels? What if there is no afterlife and this is all we get? How should we deal with our pointless, unjust existence? Plus we return to our opening-segment bible— Aeon—and talk about an argument for replacing jealousy with...wait for it…compersion.

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Mar 19 2019
1 hour 33 mins
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Rank #10: Episode 96: Memory and Meaning in "Memento" (with Paul Bloom)

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So where are you? You’re in some house. What am I listening to? Sounds like the radio. Is it the radio? No, you’re not allowed to use that language on the radio. What are they talking about? A movie, it’s called "Memento." Have I seen that? I think so, yeah. Who are these people? Hey I recognize that voice, that’s Paul Bloom! I took his Coursera course before the accident, it was awesome! What’s he doing talking to these guys? One of them sounds like he has a tampon down his throat. Hey wait, this is starting to get interesting. Personal identity, the search for purpose. All right, let’s settle in... So where are you? You're in some house. What am I listening to? Sounds like the radio...

Links

Special Guest: Paul Bloom.

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Aug 16 2016
1 hour 26 mins
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Rank #11: Episode 86: Guns, Shame, and the Meaning of Punishment

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We know that criminal punishment has consequences, both good and bad, and that many people think that offenders deserve it. But what does punishment mean? What is society trying to express in the way it punishes criminals? And since people from all sides of the political spectrum agree that the prison population is way too big, is there a way to convey that meaning with alternative forms of sanctions? David and Tamler discuss Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan's classic paper "What do alternative sanctions mean?" that addresses these questions. But first, Tamler gets sanctimonious about other people being sanctimonious about guns on campus. At the risk of angering "that student," we "go there."  

Links

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Mar 22 2016
1 hour 14 mins
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Rank #12: Episode 94: Buttery Friendships

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Dave and Tamler don’t agree about much, but one thing they do share is an affinity for character-based approaches to ethics. Using Tamler’s interview with Georgetown Philosopher Nancy Sherman as their guide (link to chapter included), they discuss two ancient perspectives on how to develop good character and live happy, virtuous lives: Aristotle's and that of the Stoics. Why did Aristotle focus so much on friendship and what happens when those friendships get too "watery"? Are emotions crucial for developing virtues or are they “so much mist on the windshield?” Are the stoics right that we shouldn’t get attached to things that are beyond our control? Plus, a new Twitter account has David and Tamler polishing their CVs, and a request for listener suggestions for our 100th episode.


Note: We recorded this episode after the police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis but before the shootings of the police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. We talk a bit about the violence, but not about what happened after Minneapolis.

Links

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Jul 19 2016
1 hour 36 mins
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Rank #13: Episode 2: The "Dangerous Truth" about Free Will (Free Will and Morality, Pt. 2)

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Tamler and David discuss whether giving up our belief in free will makes us more likely to abandon our moral standards. 

Links

“You Can’t Handle the Truth!” 

Jesse Bering “Scientists
say free will probably doesn’t exist, but urge: “Don’t stop believing!”

 Excellent accessible description of the
Vohs and Schooler study that we discuss.

Tamler’s blog post in Psychology Today criticizing the pessimistic views of Smilansky and
Vohs and Schooler: "No Soul?  I can live with that.  No free will?  Aaahhhh!".  

“Eat the poo-poo.”  “Like ice cream…”

Josh Knobe on free will and experimental
philosophy
.  

Tamler's dialogue on some of the problems with current experimental work on free will: "Free Will and Experimental Philosophy: An Intervention."

“I want him dead!  I want his family dead!”

Uhlmann, Zhu, Pizarro & Bloom  “Blood
is Thicker: Moral Spillover Effects Based on Kinship”

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Sep 01 2012
1 hour 13 mins
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Rank #14: Episode 98: Mind the Gap

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David and Tamler break down the biggest question in moral philosophy -- can we derive value judgments from a set of purely factual claims? Like the Scottish Philosopher David Hume they're surprised when the usual copulation of propositions 'is' and 'is not' suddenly turn into conclusions in the form of 'ought' and 'ought not.' And what's the deal with all these copulating propositions anyway? Aren't they a little young for that?  Do propositions practice safe copulation?  Is proposition porn about to be the new fad? They also talk about Moore's Open Question Argument, which introduced the term "naturalist fallacy," and respond to angry criticism over last episode's Rationalia segment.     

Links

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Sep 13 2016
1 hour 22 mins
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Rank #15: Episode 122: Nothing but a "G" Thing (Intelligence Pt. 1)

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David and Tamler do their best to talk frankly about intelligence and IQ research. (It's our Patreon listener-selected topic! We probably would never have chosen this one on our own...). Is intelligence a meaningful, definable concept? Can we reliably test for it? How much of the variability in IQ across individuals is due to heritable factors? Are people with higher IQ happier, wealthier, or healthier than people with lower IQ? And why is this topic so controversial anyhow? Plus in the intro segment Tamler and David discuss why you probably don't need fMRI to know what your dog wants, and why cognitive neuroscience seems to confuse otherwise intelligent folks. (Note: This is Part 1 of our discussion on intelligence. In Part 2 will delve into the slightly more controversial topics of IQ, race, and gender).

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Aug 29 2017
1 hour 40 mins
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Rank #16: Episode 143: The Psychology of Personality

Jul 10 2018
1 hour 39 mins
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Rank #17: Episode 3: "We believe in nothing!" (Cultural diversity, relativism, and moral truth)

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Tamler and Dave discuss recent work in philosophy and psychology about the differences in moral values and practices across cultures. We talk about the implications of moral diversity: does  it mean that we cannot criticize that practices of other cultures? How should we regard moral disagreement? Are there objective “truths” in ethics? Somehow we need to play clips from The Big Lebowski and Pulp Fiction in order to resolve these questions.

Links

"No Donnie, these men are nihilists, nothing to be afraid of."

Interview with Jon Haidt.

"Pigs are filthy animals"

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Sep 08 2012
1 hour 1 min
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Rank #18: Episode 169: A Bug's Life (Kafka's "The Metamorphosis")

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David and Tamler try to control their emotions (with varying success) as they go deep into Franz Kafka's masterful novella "The Metamorphosis." What kind of a story is this? A Marxist or religious allegory? A work of weird fiction? A family drama? A dark comedy? Why does a story about a man who turns into a giant insect get under our skins so much?

Plus a study that links insomnia to our fear of death. What a cheerful summer episode! (Actually we're fairly proud of this one... As always we suggest reading the text before you listen or soon after).

This episode brought to you by Prolific.co, and by the support of our listeners.

Sponsored By:

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Jul 30 2019
1 hour 50 mins
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Rank #19: Episode 119: A Brief History of Values

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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.

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Jul 12 2017
1 hour 26 mins
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Rank #20: Episode 24: The Perils of Empathy (with Paul Bloom)

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Paul Bloom joins us in the second segment for a lively discussion about the value of  empathy as a guide our moral decisions.  And in our first scoop, we talk about Paul's new book (coming in November) Just Babies: The Origin of Good and Evil ,  racist babies, and how 80s sitcoms changed the world.  In the first segment, Dave and Tamler face the music and try to respond to a listener's criticisms of their episode on slurs and offensiveness (Episode 22) .  

Links

Special Guest: Paul Bloom.

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Jun 10 2013
1 hour 23 mins
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