The WFMT Radio Network

WFMT Radio Network

Philosophy Talk

The WFMT Radio Network and Stanford University welcome you to Philosophy Talk as our partnership enters its second year.  This on-going 52-week, 1-hour series is NPR News-friendly, with a 5-minute "hole" at the beginning of each program.  Those 5 minutes will be silent for stations not wishing to broadcast NPR News.

Over the last eight years, Philosophy Talk has demonstrated that there is a large audience hungry for a deeper grasp of issues and concepts presented relatively unreflectively in the media.  Mainstream media operates in a narrow space: column inches and airtime are limited, and a thorough-going attempt to separate the strands of opposing viewpoints, and clarify conceptual confusions, is in large part cost-prohibitive.  Philosophy Talk serves as an antidote to the naïve deference to pseudo-experts and uncritical appeals to tradition, routinely employed by mainstream media.

Too often, public conversation concerning topics of utmost importance is reduced to deceptive rhetoric or hidden fallacy.  Critical thinking, a precondition of good citizenship, is vital to democracy, and it has been part of Philosophy Talk's mission to restore some of the dialectic too sorely lacking in current public debate.  Philosophy Talk never shrinks from the 'Big Questions' beneath everyday assumptions about our lives, and the meaning of our activities.

Praised in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation and the San Francisco Chronicle, Philosophy Talk is radio for people who think (and like to have fun while doing it!).

"In this celebrity-soaked era, when Americans seem to spend more time pondering whether Britney Spears' underwear exists than whether God does, these two Stanford philosophy professors take on everything from the weighty to the winsome."
-- Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times

"Philosophy Talk has proven that it can do what public radio does at its best: reach a wide audience with material that's intellectually challenging and at the same time accessible and entertaining."
--Matt Martin, General Manager, KALW 91.7 FM, San Francisco, CA

Philosophy Talk's motto is:  "the program that questions everything - except your intelligence."  Our intention is to create a talk radio forum that is unlike any other.  A forum that sheds light, not heat, on important topics of the day.  Our other objective is to demonstrate to listeners that the discipline can be fun, and above all, useful in the 21st century.

This program is available free of charge to all stations… do not have to be a WFMT Affiliate to broadcast.  Philosophy Talk is available via ContentDepot, FTP and CD (please contact me for the FTP information), and stations may broadcast either as an on-going, weekly program or on an occasional basis.

For more information or to schedule this series, please contact Tony Macaluso at (773) 279-2114, email:, Carol Martinez at (773) 279-2112, email: or Dave Millar, Philosophy Talk, (650) 724-7193, email:

Broadcast Schedule - Fall/Winter **rev 12/17

PROGRAM #:  PHT 12-51
RELEASE:  September 22, 2013

Today, the term 'cynic' brings to mind a person who has little or no faith in the goodness of the human race.  In ancient Athens, however, it meant something quite different: one who rejects all social conventions in order to live in accordance with nature.  The Cynics believed that such a life was necessary for freedom and virtue.  Why did they think so? What are the most important tenets of Cynic philosophy?  And are there any reasons to live now as the Cynics once did?  John and Ken sincerely welcome Luis Navia from the New York Institute of Technology, author of Diogenes the Cynic: The War Against the World.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 12-52
RELEASE:  September 29, 2013

Latin-American Philosophy
Latin American Philosophy began centuries before anything of much philosophical consequence happened in North America.  Yet in our own time, Latin American Philosophy is undergoing a protracted identity crisis. Is it just transplanted European philosophy?  A reaction to analytical philosophy?  A reflection of the themes of liberation theology?  John and Ken explore Latin America's philosophical traditions with Joseph Orosco from Oregon State University, author of Cesar Chavez and the Common Sense of Nonviolence.  This program was recorded live at OSU in Corvallis.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-01
RELEASE:  October 6, 2013

The Limits of Self-Knowledge
Descartes considered the mind to be fully self-transparent; that is, he thought that we need only introspect to know what goes on inside our own minds. More recently, social psychology has shown that a great deal of high-level cognition takes place at an unconscious level, inaccessible to introspection. How then do we gain insight into ourselves? How reliable are the narratives that we construct about ourselves and our internal lives? Are there other reliable routes to self-knowledge, or are we condemned to being forever deluded about who we truly are? John and Ken look inward with Timothy Wilson from the University of Virginia, author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-02
RELEASE:  October 13, 2013

An Eye For An Eye
We are often taught that vengeance is a reprehensible or unworthy motivation and that, as a result, pursuing revenge should not be the method of choice when meting out punishment for crimes. Incarceration and other penalties, according to this view, can only be justified in as much as they protect society, rehabilitate criminals, or deter further crime. But are these approaches to punishment really more just than the retributive or vengeance model? Don't the victims of crime deserve some kind of payback for their suffering? Are justice and revenge in conflict with one another, or do they actually go hand in hand? John and Ken trade favors with Thane Rosenbaum from the Fordham Law School, author of Payback: The Case For Revenge.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-03
RELEASE:  October 20, 2013

When Is It Wrong to Save a Life? or Lessons From The Trolley Problem
A trolley is approaching a track junction, and you happen to be standing by the switch. If you do nothing, the trolley will kill a number of innocent children playing on the tracks.  If you throw the switch, it will kill only one fat man, who is sleeping on the tracks. The so-called Trolley Problem sheds light on many claims in moral philosophy: utilitarian positions (doing what's best for the greatest number), the difference between doing and letting happen (being more obliged to not cause harm than to prevent harm), and issues of "collateral damage" (killing one person to save others). John and Ken ride the trolley with Thomas Cathart, (Cathcart? With a c?), author of The Trolley Problem, or Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off the Bridge: A Philosophical Conundrum.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-04
RELEASE:  October 27, 2013

The Dark Side of Science
Science aims to tell us something about nearly everything, from the atoms in our cells to the motions of the stars. It assumes that knowledge is good for its own sake, and therefore takes as its sole purpose the acquisition of knowledge. But shouldn't knowledge serve practical and ethical concerns, like ending conflict and feeding the hungry? Could some knowledge be interesting, but ultimately irrelevant? And isn't there some knowledge we might be better without, such as how to build nuclear weapons? John and Ken test their claims with UC Berkeley anthropologist Paul Rabinow. This program was recorded live at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-05
RELEASE:  November 3, 2013

Morality and the Self
Social psychologists have discovered that our self-images play a surprising role in our thinking about everyday moral matters. People who feel they have already proven themselves to be morally good feel less pressure to do the right thing than someone whose moral credentials are still in question. And people often resent, rather than applaud, the morally admirable actions of others if those actions threaten their own sense of moral adequacy. John and Ken take the moral high ground with Stanford psychologist Benoît Monin, in a program recorded live at the Marsh Theatre in San Francisco.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-06
RELEASE:  November 10, 2013

Deconstructing the College Admissions Rat Race
America's elite colleges and universities spend millions of dollars to generate thousands of applicants, the vast majority of whom they reject. High school students - and their parents - work hard to gain entry to such institutions, and can be devastated by the rejection. Is there a purpose to this rat race?  What values are implicit in the American college admissions process? John and Ken offer admission to Mitchell Stevens from the Stanford School of Education, author of Creating A Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites, for a program recorded with an audience of high school students in Palo Alto, California.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-07
RELEASE:  November 17, 2013

Time, Space, and Quantum Mechanics
Quantum physics is regarded by many as the most powerful predictive theory science has produced.  But there is no interpretation of what the theory means that all knowledgeable scientists and philosophers agree on.  For example, quantum mechanics delivers no very clear message about the difference between past, present and future. What are the implications for our everyday experience of space and time?  John and Ken welcome back Jenann Ismael from the University of Arizona, author of The Situated Self and many essays on the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-08
RELEASE:  November24, 2013

Dangerous Demographics: The Challenges of an Aging Population
All over the world, people are living longer and having fewer children than ever before. In less than two decades, one fifth of the US population will be over 65 years old. So what do these radically changed demographics mean for how we re-imagine the shape of a human life? Should we think of the rapidly increasing older population as a blessing or a burden? And what kinds of changes should we make - both individually and as a society - to adjust to this new world awash with old folks? John and Ken remain young at heart with Laura Carstensen, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, in a program recorded live as part of the Bay Area Science Festival.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-09
RELEASE:  December 1, 2013

Philosophy is the love of wisdom - or is it? Is this traditional definition outmoded? Is wisdom an anachronism, an elitist concept deployed by old learned people with nothing of practical value to say? Do the professors of philosophy around the world (or on this program) love wisdom any more or less than anyone else? John and Ken wise up with Valerie Tiberius from the University of Minnesota, author of The Reflective Life: Living Wisely With Our Limits.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-10
RELEASE:  December 8, 2013

Cooperation and Conflict
The Prisoner's Dilemma is a problem studied in game theory that shows how two people might not cooperate even if it's in both their best interests to do so. It highlights the inherent tension between individual interests and a larger society. Should you pick up your trash at the lunch table? Should you push in your chair after getting up? Should you take performance-enhancing drugs? Should you preserve the earth for the next generation?  John and Ken find their mutual interests with Cristina Bicchieri from the University of Pennsylvania, author of The Grammar of Society: The Nature and Dynamics of Social Norms.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-11
RELEASE:  December 15, 2013

Tenth Anniversary Special
Philosophy Talk debuted on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco in August 2003, with regular broadcasts beginning in early 2004. Over the course of a decade the Philosophers, their guests, and their listeners have discussed and debated everything from the meaning of life to pre-emptive military strikes and baseball. To celebrate ten years on the air, John and Ken listen back to some of their favorite conversations with the writers and thinkers who have joined them on the program, and they look ahead to the ongoing challenges of thinking hard on the radio.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-12
RELEASE:  December 22, 2013

Do Religions Deserve Special Status?
In most Western democracies, religions are exempt from certain rules and regulations that most other organizations have to follow. For example, in the US, religious organizations are not required to pay taxes or follow non-discrimination employment laws. Some faithful go so far as to argue that their religious freedom means they shouldn't have to provide birth control to their employees. But does religion truly deserve this preferential treatment? Should the demands for legal exemption based on religious freedom be treated any differently than those based on moral conscience? What special status, if any, should religion have in the eyes of the law? Jon and Ken grant guest status to Brian Leiter from the University of Chicago, author of Why Tolerate Religions?

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-13
RELEASE:  December 29, 2013

Trust and Mistrust
If we couldn't trust each other, our lives would be very different. We trust strangers not to harm us, we trust our friends to take care of our most prized possessions, we even trust politicians (sometimes) to come through on their campaign promises. But trust may also come at a high cost: it can leave us vulnerable to lies, deception, and blackmail. So is it reasonable for us to be so trusting? And how should we treat those who trust us? John and Ken put their trust in Stanford philosopher Jorah Dannenberg, in a program recorded live at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco.

PROGRAM #: PHT 13-14
RELEASE:  January 5, 2014

The Examined Year: 2013
Each new year offers the opportunity to reflect on the significant events of the previous 365 days.  But what ideas and events took shape over the past twelve months that have prompted us to question our assumptions and to think about things in new ways?  What significant events - in politics, in society, and in philosophy itself - have called into question our most deeply-held beliefs?  Join John, Ken, and their special guests as they celebrate "The Examined Year" with a philosophical look back at the year that was 2013.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-15
RELEASE:  January 12, 2014

Moral Luck
It seems reasonable to believe that we can only be blamed or praised for actions that are under our control.  Nevertheless, in many concrete scenarios, we're inclined to base our moral assessment of people on circumstances that are ultimately beyond their control. Blind chance, or "moral luck," as philosophers call it, may determine the difference between, say, murder and attempted murder.  But do we think that a would-be murderer whose attempts are foiled by chance is really less morally culpable than someone who happens to succeed?  How should moral luck affect our judgments of responsibility?  John and Ken welcome back Susan Wolf from UNC Chapel Hill, author of The Moral of Moral Luck.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-16
RELEASE:  January 19, 2014

Religions rely on miracles to demonstrate the authenticity of figures thought to have supernatural powers.  Lots of people feel that key events in their lives were literally miracles.  Many even claim to have witnessed miracles.  But what counts as a miracle?  Is it true, as Hume argued, that it's always more rational to disbelieve the testimony of a miracle than to believe in the miracle itself?  John and Ken explore what miracles are, and what would constitute good reasons for believing in them, with Peter Graham from the University of California Riverside.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-17
RELEASE:  January 26, 2014

Memory and the Self
Ever since John Locke, philosophers have wondered about memory and its connection to the self.  Locke believed that a continuity of consciousness and memory establish a "self" over time.  Now psychology is weighing in with new research suggesting that the relationship between memory and the self is even more complicated than that.  But what's the connection between memory and the self?  Can the self be explained strictly in terms of memory?  Or might the self be something over and above what memory suggests? John and Ken remember to welcome Stan Klein from UC Santa Barbara, author of The Two Selves: Their Metaphysical Commitments and Functional Independence.

PROGRAM #:   PHT 13-18
RELEASE:  February 2, 2014

Black Solidarity
From the abolition of slavery to the Black Power movement, African-American unity has been considered a powerful method to achieve freedom and equality.  But does Black solidarity still make sense in a supposedly post-racial era?  And how should we think about racial solidarity versus class or gender solidarity?  In honor of Black History Month, John and Ken join forces with Tommie Shelby from Harvard University, author of We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity.

PROGRAM #: PHT 13-19
RELEASE:  February 9, 2014

The Legacy of Freud
Did you really want to eat that last piece of cake, or were you secretly thinking about your mother?  Sigmund Freud, who might have suggested the latter, established the unconscious mind as a legitimate domain for scientific research.  He was the first to seriously study dreams and slips of the tongue, and he proposed that neurotic behavior could be explained by beliefs and desires that we repress.  However, many of Freud's theories have been rejected as unscientific, and his particular brand of psychoanalysis is all but obsolete.  So why is Freud still worth remembering?  John and Ken get Oedipal with Stanford historian Paul Robinson, author of Freud and His Critics, for a program recorded live at the Marsh Theater in Berkeley.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-20
RELEASE:  February 16, 2014

The Military: What Is It Good For?
Is the military draft a natural expression of democratic values, or a challenge to our most basic concepts of individual rights and liberties?  Are the values that make for an effective military consistent with the values that make for a free and democratic republic? If the government must have the power to defend the nation, does it follow that it must have the power to control events around the entire world?  John and Ken enlist Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Kennedy in a discussion of the military and its role in public life, recorded live at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-21
RELEASE:  February 23, 2014

Forgive and Forget
At least forgive OR forget. Get things behind you. All good advice for those who don't want their life dominated by the bad things that have happened to them at the hands of others. This advice has also been applied to aggrieved populations following liberating reforms and revolutions, as in South Africa. But what is forgiveness? What are its limits? Does it make sense to forgive those who attempt genocide, for example? Does forgiveness entail a sacrifice of pride and dignity? John and Ken let bygones be bygones with their guest, Paul Hughes from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-22
RELEASE: March 2, 2014

Science and Gender
What does gender have to do with science? The obvious answer is 'nothing.' Science is the epitome of an objective, rational, and disinterested enterprise. But given the history of systemic under-representation of women in science, what does it mean that science answers almost exclusively to the methodologies of men?  Has male domination contributed certain unfounded assumptions or cognitive biases to the 'objectivity' of scientific inquiry? Is there any possibility of achieving a gender-neutral science, and if so, what would that look like? John and Ken make room at the table for Stanford historian Londa Schiebinger, author of Nature's Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science.

PROGRAM #:   PHT 13-23
RELEASE:  March 9, 2014

Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir is often cast as only a novelist or a mere echo of Jean-Paul Sartre. But she authored many philosophical texts beyond The Second Sex, and the letters between her and Sartre reveal that both were equally concerned with existentialist questions of radical ontological freedom, the issue of self-deception, and the dynamics of desire.  This episode explores the evolution of de Beauvoir's existential-ethical thinking. In what sense did she find that we are all radically free?  Are we always to blame for our self-deception or can social institutions be at fault?  John and Ken sit down at the café with Shannon Mussett from Utah Valley University, co-editor of Beauvoir and Western Thought from Plato to Butler.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-24
RELEASE:  March 16, 2014

Acting Together
Many goals are too complex for one person to accomplish alone.  Every day, we pool together our planning abilities with those around us to get things done.  It's clear that without shared agency, none of our familiar social institutions could exist.  However, philosophers are in disagreement about what shared agency actually entails.  What is it about collective action that's unique, and why does it come about?  How is acting together sometimes greater than the sum of its parts?  John and Ken join forces with Margaret Gilbert from UC Irvine, author of Living Together: Rationality, Sociality, and Obligation.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-25
RELEASE: March 23, 2014

Is Nothing Sacred Anymore?
Tribal societies lived in a world of the sacred and profane, ritual and taboo.  Is there anything left of this structure in the modern world?  Is anything really taboo, or are things just inadvisable, problematic, unhealthy, unwise, and less than optimal under the circumstances?  John and Ken consider what, if anything, is still sacred with Cora Diamond from the University of Virginia, author of The Realistic Spirit: Wittgenstein, Philosophy, and the Mind. This program was recorded live at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.

PROGRAM #:  PHT 13-26
RELEASE: March 30, 2014

Weapons of Mass Destruction
The United States recently threatened military action against Syria in response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons.  Similar threats have been made against states suspected of trying to develop nuclear arsenals such as North Korea and Iran.  Yet the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, and China have thousands of active nuclear weapons of their own.  Is there a morally significant difference between nuclear or chemical weapons and conventional weapons?  Should we work toward total disarmament, or do we need these weapons as a deterrent to rogue states?  What steps must we take to secure peace in a world rife with weapons of mass destruction?  John and Ken go nuclear with Stanford political scientist Scott Sagan, co-author of The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: An Enduring Debate, for a program recorded live at the Marsh Theater in Berkeley.