Philosophy For Our Times

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Philosophy for our Times features debates and talks with the world’s leading thinkers on today’s biggest ideas. This live recording podcast is brought to you by the Institute of Art and Ideas – described by Total Politics as “Europe’s answer to TED” and host to the annual philosophy and music festival HowTheLightGetsIn.Visit for more.
Updated: 5 min 49 sec ago

E135 | What Is Justice? | Sarah Langford

February 19, 2019 - 17:21
Sarah Langford is a barrister. Her job is to stand in court representing the mad and the bad, the vulnerable, the heartbroken and the hopeful. She must become their voice: weave their story around the black and white of the law and tell it to the courtroom. These stories may not make headlines but they will change the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary ways. They are stories which, but for a twist of luck, might have been yours. Can our legal system ever keep its promise of justice? Author of ‘In Your Defence’ Sarah Langford tells her story of a life in the courtroom, and shows us how our attitudes and actions can shape not only the outcome of a case, but the legal system itself. In association with the New College of the Humanities.

E134 | Do we need romance to be happy? | Bella DePaulo, Anders Sandberg, Heidi Rice

February 12, 2019 - 11:33
From medieval legends to Hollywood endings to the horoscope, we are led to believe that lifelong love means happiness. But a recent survey of 814 separate studies showed single people to be happier, more fulfilled and less stressed. Is it time to stop seeing romantic love as all-important? Could living by and for ourselves be radically liberating? Or is it the search for love that makes us human? Psychologist and author of Singled Out Bella DePaulo, Oxford transhumanist Anders Sandberg and romance author Heidi Rice challenge our ideas about the narratives of love. In association with the New College of the Humanities.

E133 | Truth, Science and the Universe | Peter Atkins, Sophia Roosth, Tim Lewens

February 5, 2019 - 10:17
Where once we made sense of the world using the idea of God, most of us now believe in a more scientific story, of an unfolding universe and evolution. Yet scientists increasingly see their theories as useful models rather than ultimate accounts. Is science then just another human description limited by language, culture and circumstance? Or are we right to assume that science can uncover eternal truths about the universe? Author of Conjuring the Universe Peter Atkins, Harvard historian of science Sophie Roosth and Cambridge philosopher and author of the Meaning of Science Tim Lewens scrutinise the limits and possibilities of science. In association with the New College of the Humanities:

E132 | The Morality of the Tribe | David Miller, Natalie Cargill, Peter Tatchell

January 29, 2019 - 11:53
We think everyone should be treated equally. Yet we also think we are right to care most about our family, our friends and our lovers, and 82% of charitable donations in the UK are given to the causes closest to home. Should we just accept that our ethics are in practice tribal? Or is a universal concern for humanity the bedrock of a civilised culture? Barrister and founder of Effective Giving UK Natalie Cargill, Oxford political theorist and author of On Nationality David Miller and human rights activist Peter Tatchell examine the tribal nature of morality.

E131 | Fires of Progress | Steven Pinker, Tariq Ali, Elif Sarican

January 22, 2019 - 10:15
Most think that social progress should be driven by ideas and persuasion not force. Yet from the French and Russian Revolutions to the Suffragettes, violent action has been instrumental to generating change. Is violence ever justified as a political strategy? Or should we always venerate Gandhi over Guevara? Enlightenment Now author Steven Pinker, filmmaker and author of The Clash of Fundamentalisms Tariq Ali and Kurdish Women's Movement activist Elif Sarican grapple with the forces of history. In association with the New College of the Humanities:

Bonus Episode: The Struggle for Social Justice | Angela Eagle

January 17, 2019 - 10:12
Britain is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, so why do so many feel short-changed? Labour MP and former minister Angela Eagle sees an urgent need to protect social cohesion and makes a case for radical economic reform. In association with the New College of the Humanities:

E129 | Big Bang Creation Myths | Sean Carroll, Roger Penrose, Laura Mersini-Houghton

January 15, 2019 - 10:50
The big bang theory won out over the Steady State alternative 50 years ago because we discovered the universe was expanding. But now we know that the universe is in fact accelerating away from us. Might the whole big bang theory be mistaken? Is the theory of the universe's origin just another creation myth, or is it still the best account we've got? Eminent mathematician Roger Penrose, CalTech physicist and author of From Eternity to Here Sean Carroll and multiverse cosmologist Laura Mersini-Houghton look at the story of creation once again. In association with the New College of the Humanities:

E128 | Innocence and Punishment | Ritula Shah, Emma Sulkowicz, David Aaronovitch, Sarah Langford

January 8, 2019 - 12:42
'Innocent until proven guilty' is a core principle of our democracy. Yet from the BBC's coverage of the Cliff Richard raid to the social media storms around MeToo, it seems we are increasingly happy to destroy reputations and careers before the proof is in. Can trial by media be more effective than the legal system? Is the individual less important than the common good? Or is the presumption of innocence a cornerstone of a free society? Times columnist David Aaronovitch, performance artist dubbed as 'Mattress Girl' Emma Sulkowicz and criminal barrister and author of In Your Defence Sarah Langford debate how justice gets made. In association with the New College of the Humanities.

E127 | Reality in the Digital World | Laurence Scott

January 2, 2019 - 15:33
Our worlds were once human and solid, but now our lives are increasingly virtual. What place has reality in this fantasy world? ‘Picnic Comma Lightning’ author Laurence Scott explores the challenges of finding meaning amidst the digital noise. In association with the New College of the Humanities.

E126 | The Promise of Psychedelics | David Nutt, Amanda Fielding, Stephen Reid

December 18, 2018 - 10:28
Besides being illegal, LSD has not had good press, associated with bad trips and psychological breakdown. But with a new craze for microdosing acid amongst Silicon Valley whizz kids and management gurus, and respected scientists claiming antidepressant benefits, might we have been too quick to ban psychedelics? Could they be a means to deepen experience and enhance our lives? Or is this all dangerous hippy nonsense? Pharmacologist and former Home Office drugs advisor David Nutt, drugs reformer and director of the Beckley Foundation Amanda Fielding and founder of the Psychedelic Society Stephen Reid. In association with the New College of the Humanities.

E125 | Does Universal Morality Exist? | Roger Bolton, Stanley Fish, Myriam Francois, Phillip Collins

December 11, 2018 - 11:08
Is there a universal morality, and if not, are moral beliefs actually the cause of some of the greatest human suffering? To debate this issue, we have on our panel literary theorist Stanley Fish, writer, broadcaster and SOAS researcher Myriam Francois, and journalist and former speech-writer to Tony Blair Phillip Collins. In association with the New College of the Humanities.

E124 | How We Came To MeToo | Linda Woodhead

December 4, 2018 - 10:34
Sexual abuse accusations have reached an unprecedented high. How have we come here, and why is this happening now? Leading British sociologist Linda Woodhead investigates.

E123 | Minds, Madness And Medicine | Lucy Johnstone, David Nutt, David Healy

November 27, 2018 - 10:38
Deaths from heart disease have fallen by almost two thirds since the 1960s, yet outcomes for those with mental illness have not improved for decades. Is this because we have the wrong categories and the wrong diagnoses? Might neuroscience enable more precise descriptions and more effective treatment? Or is it a mistake to think that biological accounts of mental illness will ever provide the answers? Users and Abusers of Psychiatry author Lucy Johnstone, psychiatrist David Nutt and author of The Antidepressant Era David Healy consider plausible alternatives to diagnosis.

E122 | Who We Are | Diane Abbott, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Kemi Badenoch, Richard Reeves

November 20, 2018 - 11:30
Ten years ago, the US elected its first black president. Yet race-related hate crime has increased 216% in the last year. Are we wrong to suppose that racial prejudice will be overcome by equal opportunity? Should we dream of a world where race is not a basis for social identity? Or are social groupings inevitable and equality the only possible solution?

E121 | The Evolution of Suicide | Nicholas Humphreys

November 13, 2018 - 12:41
Suicide is a terrible but commonplace event amongst all societies within the human race. But at what point in our evolution did suicide come into being, and for what purpose? Can suicide be explained, and if so, can we provide an answer to those who become so desperate? Neuropsychologist and author of A History of the Mind Nicholas Humphrey answers these questions.

E120 | A Tale of Love and Hate | Rowan Williams, Renata Salecl, Robert Rowland Smith

November 6, 2018 - 11:29
We think love an indisputable force for good. Yet from Jihadi John to Anders Breivik, extremists often cite love of creed or country to justify atrocities. Might love of a person or group also be the origin of prejudice and hatred towards others? Are love and hatred forever entwined, as Freud suggested? Or can we imagine a society built on love but free from tribalism? Former Archbishop of Cantebury Rowan Williams, sociologist and author of Perversions of Love and Hate Renata Salecl and philosopher Robert Rowland Smith debate the dark side of love. Michael Crick hosts.