Very Bad Wizards

Very Bad Wizards

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.... Show More

Episodes

October 20, 2020 99 min
David and Tamler check out some recent work in metaphysics and applied ethics. Does playing a Nina Simone song sideways show that Einstein was wrong about spacetime? Does a Dali painting nailed to the wall backwards have intrinsic value (see figure 1)? Is childhood bad for children? Do you have to be a child before you're an adult? Are we kidding? Is this a joke? We don't know but don't play this podcast sideways or it ...
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David and Tamler explore Thomas Szasz’s provocative and still relevant 1961 book “The Myth of Mental Illness,” the topic selected by our beloved Patreon supporters. When we think of mental disorders as “diseases,” are we making a category mistake? Are we turning ordinary “problems in living” into pathologies that must be treated (with pills or psychoanalysis)? Does this model rob us of our autonomy in direct or indirect ways? Plus,...
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September 22, 2020 112 min
The psychologist Yoel Inbar has always tried to imbue his work with a sort of interiority, and now he joins us for a deep dive into Charlie Kaufman’s baffling and distressing new film “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” Why does Jessie Buckley’s name and career keep changing? What’s going on with the dog? Why are the parents unstuck in time? Don’t worry you’ll get home, we have tire chains in the trunk. Plus, aliens, open science, and...
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She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and head over heels in love with you. There’s only one problem – she’s from a possible world, not the actual one. What we thought would be a funny opening segment idea turns into a semi-serious discussion of Neil Sinhababu’s 2008 article “Possible Girls.” Plus David and Tamler share some thoughts on teaching in normal times and today.   
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David and Tamler dive into the most celebrated and philosophically rich scenes in Dostoevsky’s masterpiece "The Brothers Karamazov." Alyosha gets in the middle of a rock-fight, Ivan Karamazov makes a devastating moral case against God, and the Grand Inquisitor convicts Jesus Christ of heresy against the church. (Note: this segment is the second of an upcoming five episode VBW miniseries on The Brothers Karamazov – more in...
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David and Tamler welcome special guest Chris Matheson - co-writer of the "Bill and Ted" movies and author of "The Story of God" and "The Buddha’s Story" - to talk about religion, immortality, comedy, Freud, and why the secret ingredient to good satire is love.  Plus David and Tamler do a conceptual analysis of stoner movies and discuss their favorites.  Special Guest: Chris Matheson.
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David and Tamler want to go old school and discuss a classic Frankfurt paper on free will. But do they want to want that? Are they free to want what they want to want? Are they free to will what they want to will or to have the will they want? And if that’s not Dr. Seuss enough for you, shouting “FUCK” increases pain tolerance but what about shouting “TWIZPIPE”?
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David and Tamler dive into “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” a very funny Borges story that also raises deep questions about authorship, reading, and interpretation. What would it mean for the same text to be written by two different authors more than three hundred years apart? Is this story the post-modernist manifesto that literary critics like Roland Barthes believed it to be? Or is the narrator in the story just a delusio...
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June 23, 2020 96 min
A lotta anger out there right now, but does it do more harm than good? Is anger counterproductive, an obstacle to progress? And even when it is, can anger be appropriate anway? We talk about two excellent articles by the philosopher Amia Srinivasan criticizing anger's critics. Plus we express some counterproductive anger of our own at the IDWs response to the protests.  
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David and Tamler talk about police violence, the protests, and Harry Frankfurt's journal article turned bestseller ”On Bullshit." Plus we dive into a comic masterpiece of late capitalism: the University of Oregon's brand guidelines.
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David and Tamler dive into Sigmund Freud’s world of unconscious drives, death instincts, and thwarted incestuous urges in his classic text “Civilization and its Discontents.” If society has made so much progress, why are human beings perpetually dissatisfied? Can religion help us or is it a big part of the problem? What’s really going on when you piss on a fire to put it out? Also: how seriously should we take Freud today given som...
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Socrates was ugly and tired of life, so he made a tyrant of reason. Philosophers are mummies who hate the body and the senses. Reason is a tricky old woman. Morality is a misunderstanding. Kant is a sneaky Christian. And don't even get Nietzsche started on "free will" or the "self" - just excuse for priests to punish people, a hangman's metaphysics. David and Tamler dive into Friedrich Nietzsche's Twil...
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April 21, 2020 100 min
With a global pandemic and a collapsing economy upon us, it's time to ask ourselves some tough questions. Sex robots or platonic love robots - what are you more excited for? If you walked in on your partner with one of them, which would make you more jealous? Are you male or female? Can evolutionary psychology explain sex-linked preferences for sensitive, empathetic Alexas? We then dive into the shadowy echo-filled streets of p...
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The legendary Peter Singer joins us to talk about effective altruism, AI, animal welfare, esoteric morality, future Tuesday indifference, and more. I mean, it’s Peter freakin’ Singer - what more do we need to say? Plus, the explosive ‘one or two spaces after a period' debate: has science resolved it? Special Guest: Peter Singer.
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March 24, 2020 84 min
David and Tamler begin by talking about the question on everyone’s mind right now – are we obligated to be pansexual? Then, since many of us have more free time on our hands these days, we thought it might be a good idea to revisit Bertrand Russell’s essay (published in Harper’s Magazine) “In Praise of Idleness.” How did workaholism become the norm? Why do we see working insanely long hours as a virtue, a moral duty rather than a n...
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Here's something that might help with the Coronavirus blues: we're releasing our latest Patreon bonus episode for everyone. In this (unedited) episode, Tamler and David talk about their Top 5 Deadwood characters. If you've seen the show, let us know if you agree or disagree, or if we should go fuck ourselves. And if you haven’t watched it yet, you might have some time on your hands for the next month or two - there’s al...
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March 10, 2020 85 min
David and Tamler start off talking about the infamous Richard Dawkins eugenics tweet. What does it mean for eugenics to “work”? And given the sensitive nature and horrific history of eugenics, is it wrong to raise the topic even if you’re just focused on the science? Hey we’re just asking questions, man… Then, huge baseball fan that he is, David insists that we talk about the massive Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal and cheatin...
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VBW favorite Paul Bloom takes a short break from his Sam Harris duties to help us break down the Coen Brothers' ode to uncertainty, A Serious Man. Does inaction have consequences? Can you understand the cat but not the math? Why are there Hebrew letters carved into the back of a goy's teeth? Dybbuk or no Dybbuk? Why does God make us feel the questions if he’s not gonna give us any answers? Plus, Paul defends the psych estab...
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Podcasting legend Yoel Inbar (from Two Psychologists Four Beers (https://fourbeers.fireside.fm)) joins us to break down Tal Yarkoni's "The Generalizability Crisis,” the paper that launched a thousand Twitter wars. Psychologists make verbal claims about the world, then conduct studies to test these claims - but are the studies actually providing evidence for those claims? Do psychological experiments generalize beyond the th...
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Our whole lives we’ve been frauds. We’re not exaggerating. Pretty much all we’ve ever done is try to create a certain impression of us in other people. Mostly to be liked or admired. This episode is a perfect example, Tamler pretending to be a cinephile (check out his four favorite pieces of 2019 “pop culture” in the first segment), David trying to connect with the people (Baby Yoda, Keanu Reeves etc.) – and of course what could be...
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