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Very Bad Wizards

Author: Tamler Sommers & David Pizarro

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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.
209 Episodes
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David and Tamler wander through the maze of Room 237, the great documentary by Rodney Ascher about five people and their views about what Stanley Kubrick’s "The Shining" is really about. When do interpretations become conspiracy theories? Why does Ascher never show us the faces of the interpreters? What is about Kubrick that invites obsessive and confident theorizing on the meaning of his movies? Sometimes a paper tray is just a paper tray. Or is it? Plus Tamler vents about the winter storm and mass power outages in Texas last week…
David and Tamler return to the TCU (Ted Chiang Universe) to talk about his short story “Hell is the Absence of God." How would we behave if we had unequivocal proof of God, heaven, hell, and angels? Would that answer our questions about meaning and purpose and justice? Or would those same questions reappear in a different guise? Plus, the hard problem of breakfast, Jewish Space Lasers, and more…
Ever wonder why you’re still listening to VBW all of these years? Or why you check your phone 50 times a day? Or why you put on your pants the same way every morning? (If you still wear pants these days.) David and Tamler talk about William James’ essay on habits, why they’re so powerful, and how you can make your nervous system your ally instead of your enemy. Plus, a shocking new neuroscience study reveals that we remember and share funny stories more than boring ones.
The legendary Houston Ballet dancer Lauren Anderson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Anderson_(dancer)) joins us to talk about the Atlanta Episode “Juneteenth” (Season 1, Episode 9), a hilarious exploration of race, class, identity, and carrying around your sister’s underwear. But first David and Tamler share some thoughts on the topic on everyone’s mind right now…Bean Dad. Oh yeah and the Capitol riot. Pour yourself a Hennessy or some Emancipation Eggnog and enjoy. Special Guest: Lauren Anderson.
Philosopher Agnes Callard joins us to talk about Plato and his dialogue the Gorgias. Why did Plato write dialogues – are they the best way of presenting arguments? Is Plato cheating when characters contradict themselves by making dumb concessions, or is this part of his method - inviting readers to participate in the debates? Why does the Gorgias end on such a sour note, with Socrates giving long speeches after saying that long speeches shouldn’t be allowed? Plus we talk about Agnes’ recent op-ed in the New York Times, and David and Tamler tackle a new construct: The Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood.
A phosphorescence casts a pale sickly glow on David and Tamler as talk only in verbs and pronouns about H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 story “The Colour Out of Space.” What is this creature or substance that has color only by analogy, that spreads through earth and water driving man, animal, and vegetation into a madness, not as they ought to be…? What gives the story its terrifying power and its avenues for endless interpretation? Plus, does meditation make you a spiritual narcissist? We talk about a new social psychology article that even David can’t defend.
David and Tamler dive deep into the psychology and epistemology of conspiracy theories. What makes people so prone to believe in complex malevolent plots that require meticulous organization and utter secrecy at the highest levels of power? Are some conspiracies like [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] more plausible than [REDACTED] give [REDACTED] for? And what about [REDACTED]? Do [REDACTED] mislead [REDACTED] by making us think [REDACTED]? How are we supposed to [REDACTED]? Plus, we do some navel gazing, reflecting on what we love and have struggled with over 200+ hundred episodes of [REDACTED].
David and Tamler celebrate their 200th episode with bourbon and a return to their potty humor roots. First we talk about holes, zoom dicks, and the election. Then we relitigate our bitter debate (from episode 45 (http://vbw.fm/45)) over gender, toys, and balanced play diets. Have we matured over all these years? Well it’s not for us to say…
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 may lose its aesthetic value.
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, with VBW 200 only 2 episodes away we give our top 3 dream guests, and David dons his punditry cap to break down the first presidential debate, which already seems like six months ago.
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 the illuminati. It’s all connected. Special Guest: Yoel Inbar.
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.
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 info on that to come very soon!) Plus one of us has a milestone birthday... [Special note from Peez: Stick around after the closing music to hear VBWs most frequent guests Paul Bloom and Yoel Inbar talk to David about Tamler behind his back.]
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.
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”?
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 delusional sycophant, a victim of Menard’s practical joke – and the story by extension, a practical joke by Borges on the post-modernist movement to come? Plus, My Little Pony fans finally confront their Nazi problem.
Episode 191: All the Rage

Episode 191: All the Rage

2020-06-2301:36:565

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.
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.
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 some of his wackier ideas? And is he a psychologist, a philosopher, or something else entirely? Plus we select the finalists from a huge list of suggested topics for the Patreon listener-selected episode!
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 Twilight of the Idols, a fascinating set of aphorisms brimming with passion, provocation, questions without answers. Plus, a professor is sanctioned for sex talk with his students - fair or coddling foul?
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Comments (64)

GoTo2 Podcast Review

https://castbox.fm/post/detail/5fc4d40e098d4352f7ecc349 bit like this podcast from the UK.

Nov 30th
Reply (1)

William McClellan

[REDACTED]

Nov 25th
Reply

Alan

amazing

Nov 2nd
Reply

Jason Gregory

Tamler rocks.

Aug 24th
Reply

Michael Pemulis

excited for this one, as always

Aug 13th
Reply

Worth Swearingen

Love these guys. This is almost unlistenable, though. Do not care about stoner movies.

Aug 13th
Reply

Adam Cook

Fucking hell. Tamler needs to quit politics

Jun 25th
Reply

Maitri

"Why are they so upset about the idea of abolishing the police?" you've got to be kidding guys... Maybe because they're aware that the communities who need the police most will suffer immensely if police determine to simply let these communities live as they please. I'm all for critiquing their ideas but please actually offer a critique rather than burning a straw man

Jun 24th
Reply

Maitri

I'm really hoping the protests brought about positive change. I worry that you have missed the point, have traded sober analysis for moral opinion. I hear Tamler stating consistently that there's a singular point to the movement, that being police reform. I haven't heard any of the IDE deny that. Maybe their emphasis isn't what you'd like, but it's curious to me that you believe your description of the point is characteristic of the entire movement. I've been hearing a discussion sadly lacking in nuance and facts that spans much wider than police reform

Jun 23rd
Reply (1)

ZB Fasih

What BS (pun).

Jun 12th
Reply

Michael Pemulis

spoilers start at 12:17 for anyone who would prefer to watch the show before

Mar 24th
Reply

Michael Pemulis

yay new episode!!!

Mar 24th
Reply

Joshua Solomon

Awesome episode. I just bought Infinite Jest, it should be arriving shortly. I listened to this just in time I just started reading about him because I watched a video of him talking about consumerism and am excited to witness Dave Wallace’s style and all the paradoxes and ironies awaiting me. I hope I’m driven crazy in a way that is most healthy for me.

Jan 29th
Reply

Michael Pemulis

so happy David foster Wallace made second. I would love to hear that

Nov 22nd
Reply

Michael Pemulis

do Spanish people refer to themselves as Hispanic?

Nov 10th
Reply

Johannes Ziegler

b1s 2mmmlm88o

Sep 29th
Reply

Adam Cook

Good chat

Aug 28th
Reply

Paul Morse

okay, the show is actually good.

Aug 28th
Reply

Paul Morse

p.s. I don't know how to spell deusche bag

Aug 28th
Reply (2)

Paul Morse

the Humian interpretation? who the fuck do you think your talking to? save your esoteric references for accodemia. Deuzcht bag deusch bag deuzcht bag

Aug 28th
Reply
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