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The simplest questions often have the most complex answers. The Philosopher's Zone is your guide through the strange thickets of logic, metaphysics and ethics.
1 day ago
PRESENTS — Ideas
Ideas is a program from CBC Canada and it's about... well, ideas. Each episode takes a concept and dives deep into its past, present and possible future. Whether you're interested in the meaning of community, the history of the saxophone, the environmental downside to jean manufacturing, the lure of political authoritarianism or our cultural obsession with serial killers, Ideas has an idea that's going to keep you listening. Pulling apart concepts, seeing how they work, and discovering why they still matter today: check out Ideas for a fresh take on contemporary thought and intellectual history.
3 days ago
Progressive Muslim thought seeks to establish an Islam that's equipped for the modern world - and still embedded within the Islamic intellectual tradition.
Sep 13, 2020
The abominable heretic
In July 1656, the young philosopher Baruch Spinoza was cast out of his Jewish community for "abominable heresies". We don't know what those crimes were, but we do know that Spinoza has remained a polarising figure within Judaism ever since.
Sep 6, 2020
Shifting the frame on COVID-19
When we think about COVID-19 as a medical issue first and foremost, what are we missing? This week we explore the ways in which legal, economic, cultural and ethical perspectives on COVID-19 could be just as important as the medical.
Aug 30, 2020
Lev Shestov: staying awake in the dark
Lev Shestov is one of the great forgotten modern philosophers, and now could be the time to rediscover him. His was a philosophy of hope in the face of hopelessness, and the parallels between his time and our own are compelling.
Aug 23, 2020
Moral grandstanding is not a harmless pastime. It’s insidious and corrosive, eating away at the foundations of public discourse and deepening the divisions between us. But how to stop it?
Aug 16, 2020
AI home devices: A feminist perspective
Smart home devices make life easier, and they're increasingly popular. But are they gender-neutral entities, or "smart wives"?
Aug 9, 2020
Our capacity to do terrible things to each other seems boundless. But we'd find it a lot more difficult without recourse to a neat conceptual trick: dehumanisation.
Aug 2, 2020
What are we doing when we argue?
Argument and debate don’t need to be blood sports. Done properly, argument can be about beneficial mutual exchange and trust.
Jul 26, 2020
Nihilism and utopia
COVID-19 has exposed a streak of nihilism in 21st century capitalist societies. How do we move forward without succumbing to despair on one hand, or utopian thinking on the other?
Jul 19, 2020
Mind, matter and motherhood
When Nicola Redhouse had each of her two children, she experienced shattering post-natal anxiety that sent her deep into the mystery of the self, and the relationship between mind and body. A long standing participant in psychoanalysis, she found herself up against the practical limits of Freudian theory - but would science provide more useful insight?
Jul 12, 2020
Montesquieu and despotism
Montesquieu was the 18th century French philosopher who introduced the term "despotism" into our political vocabulary. Today, his analysis is as relevant as ever.
Jul 5, 2020
The digital dead
When we die, our digital selves sometimes live on. The line between death and life — already blurred by medical technology — is even blurrier in the digital domain. How should we prepare for our electronic afterlives?
Jun 28, 2020
Philosophy by postcard
A fascinating public philosophy project, celebrating a major figure whose work deserves greater recognition — not just as a philosopher, but as a pioneering woman in a very male world.
Jun 21, 2020
The ethics of uterus transplantation
If a woman wants to experience pregnancy but can't, the answer could be a uterus transplant. The technology is promising, if still very new — but how ethically sound is it?
Jun 14, 2020
Race in America pt 2: Lewis Gordon
Any conversation about racial justice has to go back to basics: questions about the nature of humanity and the meaning of freedom. Philosopher Lewis Gordon explores these questions in the light of COVID-19 and America's current upheavals.
Jun 7, 2020
Race in America pt 1: George Yancy
Speaking out against racism by insisting on the collusion of white people — even well-meaning ones — in a system that's racist to the core can bring serious consequences. George Yancy knows this well.
May 31, 2020
Choosing a personal philosophy: Existentialism
Tired of having a casual, abstract flirtation with philosophy? It might be time to commit. A personal philosophy of life can be hugely helpful — but which one to choose?
May 24, 2020
Driverless cars, inequality and the 'trolley problem' in a high-tech world
The road has always been a great social leveller — we all get stuck in the same traffic jams. But with the advent of driverless cars, that could all be about to change, with troubling ethical consequences.
May 17, 2020
Citizens and urban planning
Consensus among citizens in the development of cities is always the goal — but it's rarely achieved. This week we explore the philosophical foundations of a more realistic model for citizen participation in urban planning.
May 10, 2020
The big snore
Boredom hasn't received a lot of philosophical attention — which isn't surprising, given that it suggests a radical absence of anything to talk about. But even the most tedious things can prove on inspection to be complex, multi-layered and... well, interesting.
May 3, 2020
What can genes tell us?
Can our genes tell us if we're gay? Or intelligent? Science says the answer is complex, and that genetic determinism — the idea that we're genetically hardwired for certain outcomes — shouldn't be taken seriously. But genetic determinism has taken hold of the public imagination.
Apr 26, 2020
Refugees are often spoken and written about as victims: people on the far side of a border that separates them from all the things we citizens know and love about our homeland. But what if the refugee actually knows things about Australia that we don't?
Apr 19, 2020
Thinking a pandemic
We're told that COVID-19 is an unprecedented event, one that's upended all our old certainties — so it's perhaps strange that we're thinking about it in very familiar ways. Considering the history, the politics and the ethics of COVID-19 can reveal fascinating and uncomfortable insights about ourselves and our society.
Apr 12, 2020
Time in a time of excess time
Many of us have extra time on our hands at the moment, and for many of us that time can feel like a burden. But what is this mysterious relationship between what time feels like and what it really is?
Apr 5, 2020
Honour in the institution
Institutions shape every aspect of our lives, yet they can be strangely amorphous things, operating according to norms and conventions that often undermine each other. For women, this can result in institutional discrimination – in workplaces and public organisations, but also in less tangible institutions like the family and the law. This week we’re talking feminist institutionalism, and the need for a women’s honour code.
Mar 29, 2020
AI and moral intuition: use it or lose it?
Artificial intelligence is helping us to make all sorts of decisions these days, and this can be hugely useful. But if we outsource our moral intuition to AI, do we risk becoming morally de-skilled?
Mar 22, 2020
LGBT elders, isolation and loneliness
As LGBT people grow old, they can become particularly vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness. Simone de Beauvoir had a keen appreciation of the challenges of ageing – “old age exposes the failure of our entire civilisation” – so can we find resources in her brand of existentialism that address some of the issues raised by LGBT elders?
Mar 15, 2020
Heidegger was an unrepentant Nazi. Nietzsche's later work contains passages that openly advocate slavery and genocide. Today, with far-right extremism on the rise around the world, how concerned should we be when reading – and teaching – the work of these canonical figures?
Mar 8, 2020
The many and the one
We casually talk about "Australia" as though it were a single entity. But what exactly is such a collective? And how can it be held responsible for its deeds - or misdeeds? This week we're talking group duties - and for International Women's Day, a conversation about gender and progress in philosophy.
Mar 1, 2020
The why of philosophy
Is philosophy experiencing an unprecedented crisis? And are universities becoming a hostile environment for philosophers?
Feb 23, 2020
Is reason enough?
These days it seems that critical thinking could be failing us – and we’re not sure why. Have too many people strayed from the path of reason? Or is reason insufficient – ever overrated – as an ingredient in the formation of good citizens?
Feb 16, 2020
Plato's woman problem
In The Republic, Plato outlines a role for women in his ideal society that seems revolutionary, i.e. that they should occupy the highest position in public life. In Athenian society at the time, women were completely excluded from politics, so this is a radical proposal. But elsewhere, Plato expresses doubt about women’s natural abilities. What did he really think? And how does this tension persist today for women in philosophy?
Feb 9, 2020
In praise of mortality
Ever since we humans became conscious of the fact that we’re all going to die, we’ve dreamed of immortality. Life is good, so wouldn't eternal life be even better? Today's guest offers a robust critique of the ideal of immortality - and one that takes a fascinating turn to politics.
Feb 2, 2020
Remembering Roger Scruton
An avowed conservative of a kind mistrusted by both modern-day left and right, Scruton remained steadfast in his first principles. He pitted his intellect against what he saw as the encroachments of modernity on human life, including the overreach of science and technology. Wishful thinker, or beacon in a sea of error?
Jan 26, 2020
Uluru and the heart of the liberal state
The fundamental challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia are systemic, they run much deeper than any single issue – education, health, rates of incarceration – can capture. But the Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for a series of reforms that could address the key issue for all Indigenous Australians.
Jan 19, 2020
Disability and dignity
Philosophers have been slow to address disability - which is odd, because disability raises a host of fascinating and challenging issues around justice, rights and fairness.
Jan 12, 2020
Politics and the sacred
According to Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, modern secular politics is theological from the ground up – which may come as a nasty surprise to the many people who believe, often for very good reasons, that religion and politics should be kept as far from each other as possible.
Jan 5, 2020
Thinking the country
What constitutes a "philosophical" conversation? You might reasonably expect such a conversation to be conceptual, exploring abstract notions of self, time, being, ethics and so on. For indigenous Australian philosophers, the conversation gets real very fast.
Dec 29, 2019
Plato, Buddhism and storytelling
At a glance, Platonic philosophy and Buddhism might seem to have little in common. But their ideas on moral development and "turning the soul" towards reality have fascinating congruences.
Dec 22, 2019
Free speech crisis on campus?
With freedom of speech at Australian universities currently under governmental review, we explore the notion of free speech on campus. Should what gets said at universities - and who gets to say it - be regulated? And is the supposed "free speech crisis" just a front for the culture wars?
Dec 15, 2019
The Bonhoeffer moment
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian whose involvement in the plot to kill Hitler has given rise to the term "Bonhoeffer moment" - a crisis point where morally repugnant acts might be considered in order to head off greater evil. And these days, it seems everyone is having a Bonhoeffer moment.
Dec 8, 2019
What is happiness, and why are we incapable of getting a fix on it? Is the happiness industry really in the business of making us unhappy? And can philosophy help?
Dec 1, 2019
Philosophy in the wake of Empire part 5: Tracks of thought
As a young girl, Aileen Moreton-Robinson learned to track in the bush, and this was the beginning of her philosophical education, as she learned how all things are connected. Today she sees Western thought as disconnected, disjointed, and badly in need of a relational approach that might get us talking properly about race and power.
Nov 24, 2019
Philosophy in the wake of Empire part 4: Africa
Africa has a history of rich and ancient philosophical traditions. Those traditions were rendered invisible by European colonisers, who sought to overlay Africa's past with the values of the Enlightenment. Today, African philosophy is being uncovered and introduced to the West - but is the West listening?
Nov 17, 2019
Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 3: Missionary feminism
Feminist arguments in the West have been used to advance imperialist projects that inflict suffering on women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Western feminist focus on individual rights can be disastrous when played out in non-Western contexts. Is it time to rethink “missionary feminism”?
Nov 10, 2019
Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 2: Migrants and other Others
As refugees from the former colonies make their way to Europe, notions of “European life” and “European values” are facing unprecedented challenges. As postcolonial subjects, how should these migrants be received and understood?
Nov 3, 2019
Philosophy in the wake of Empire pt. 1: The white way to think
The West has a history of colonisation and empire-building. How has this shaped the discipline of philosophy? This week – first in a five-part series – we look at racism and the unfortunate legacy of Immanuel Kant, who believed the non-white races were incapable of philosophical reflection.
Oct 27, 2019
When individuals and communities today still suffer the consequences of past wrongs — slavery, dispossession, invasion, the theft of land and resources — what exactly is owed to them, and who should pay?
Oct 20, 2019
The problem with humanism
How well does humanism's account of itself hold up in philosophical terms?