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On June 24, the US Supreme court overruled a landmark decision: Roe v Wade. For nearly 50 years, abortion was a constitutional right in the Unites States. No more. “The constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” Read the decision. But quite apart from the legal argument, everyone knew this was at heart deeply political decision. Three of the judges in the majority opinion were appointed by the previous president, Donald Trump, who had explicitly promised his voters he would appoint pro-life judges when given the chance. So how should we understand this political decision? Why is the right, always brandishing liberty as its central value, so happy to restrict the freedoms of millions of women? Why does the party who wants a small state, and is averse to government regulation, so happy for the state to intervene in the private lives of citizens, and regulate one of the most personal choices one can make: whether to have a child or not? Is the Republican party simply riddled with internal contradictions when it comes to freedom? Or do they simply understand freedom in an altogether different way? Toby Buckle is the producer and host of The Political Philosophy Podcast, and the editor of a new collection of essays entitled What is Freedom? Conversations with Historians, Philosophers, and Activists, from Oxford University Press. Pease leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts.This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the spring issue of the philosopher, and its spring online lecture series: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
On May 2nd, Politico leaked a draft opinion of the US Supreme Court that suggested the court had voted to overrule Roe v Wade, the previous high court decision from 1973 that guaranteed the right to early term abortion in all of the US. This ruling by the Supreme Court seemingly passes the power to decide on the legality of abortion to individual States, though this essentially amounts to an immediate ban on abortions in several states. So was the Supreme Court right in allowing individual States to decide on the legality of abortion, given the strong moral disagreement on the issue? Should the law on abortion reflect the morality of the matter? And what does the moral status of abortion depend on? If so many parents direct love and care towards young foetuses, does that mean they matter morally, and therefore it would be wrong to kill them? Does the foetus have a moral status merely in virtue of it being a potential person? Or is the matter a lot more complicated than that? Elizabeth Harman is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy at the Philosophy department and the University Center for Human Values, at the University of Princeton. One of her many longstanding research projects is about moral status, harm, and the ethics of procreation. Pease leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts.This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the spring issue of the philosopher, and its spring online lecture series: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
We don’t often think of animals as war casualties, but animals die in large numbers in every war. Sometimes as specific targets, to deprive the enemy of a food source, sometimes trapped in zoos and shelters, and other times as wildlife. But their deaths are never officially counted, and the senseless killing animals, unlike the killing of innocent civilians, is not considered a war crime. So do we have special moral duties towards animals in war, given that they have no conception of what war is, and it is something imposed on them by humans?  To what extent does our treatment of animals during war reflect our treatment of animals, particularly those raised for industrial farming, during peace time?  And why, despite the clarity of the moral arguments against the mistreatment of animals in industrial farming and the mass consumption of their meat, do so many of us keep eating animals? Lori Gruen is William Griffin Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University, and a leading scholar in Animal studies and feminist philosophy. She is the author and editor of over a dozen books, including Ethics and Animals: An Introduction, Entangled Empathy (Lantern, 2015) and the forthcoming Animal Crisis (Polity, 2022) co-authored with the philosopher Alice Crary. Pease leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts.This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the spring issue of the philosopher, and its spring online lecture series: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
On March 16th the UN’s International Court of Justice asked Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine. It had found no evidence to support Russia’s claim that Ukraine was conducting genocide against Russia Speakers in the East of the country, which has been Russia’s justification for the war. A day later Russia rejected the ruling. So, is international law completely impotent in preventing countries from going to war?  And why has the law been more effective in constraining the way that countries fight even illegal wars? Has the way that the US and other great powers defied international law undermined its effectiveness, and allowed countries like Russia to ignore it? And was Leo Tolstoy right in thinking that making war less brutal, and more humane, would in fact end up in causing more suffering and destruction, by perpetuating war into the future? Samuel Moyn is the Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at the Yale Law School and a Professor of History at Yale University. He has written several books on European intellectual history and human rights history, including Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (2018). His latest book is Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. Pease leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts.This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the spring issue of the philosopher, and its spring online lecture series: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
On February 24th, Russia invaded the country of Ukraine, in an unexpected escalation of a conflict that began in 2014. It is the largest conventional military attack in Europe since World War II.According to an influential analysis of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, this is all down to NATO’s overreach in the region, and Russia is simply defending itself from being encircled by Western power. But, pay closer attention to what Putin is actually saying, and a very different explanation emerges. Putin believes it’s his destiny to restore Russia to its former glory. So how should we interpret the actions of states like Russia? Are they merely driver by power and security concerns, like the realist school of thought claims? Or are the beliefs and worldviews of political leaders, like Putin, as well as the national identities of people like those of Ukraine, the real driving force of events? Is necessity and structural issues the motor of history, or is it contingency and uncertainty at the steering wheel? Stathis Kalyvas  is the Gladstone Professor of Government at the University of Oxford, and a fellow of All Souls College. He is a political scientist who’s written extensively on civil wars, ethnicity, and political violence. and is the author of, among other books,  The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Our conversation was based on an article Kalyvas wrote for the Institute of Art and Ideas, entitled “How we got Putin so wrong”. Pease leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts.This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the spring issue of the philosopher, and order a copy: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
On February 1st a national vaccine mandate took effect in Austria. Those over the age of 18 who haven’t been vaccinated could face fines of over €3,000. Several other countries have introduced similar mandates for the elderly, medical staff and care home workers. Those resisting vaccination say it should be their choice whether to get the jab, not the state’s. Others argue that in liberal societies, it’s the state’s a right to limit the freedom of individuals when their behaviour harms others.So are those resisting vaccination right in saying it’s a matter of their personal freedom? Or does the harm they might be causing others justify state intervention? Would mandating vaccines an act of paternalism by the state? And could ending the pandemic be a good enough reason for overriding other ethical concerns? Stephen John is the Hatton Trust lecturer in philosophy of public health at the University of Cambridge, and works on the intersection of philosophy of science, applied ethics, and political philosophy. He is author of the book Objectivity in Science, and is a regular contributor  to publications like The Conversation, and the online magazine of The Institute of Art and Ideas. Our conversation is based on an article Stephen wrote for the latter, asking “Are mandatory vaccines justified?”. Pease leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the spring issue of the philosopher, and order a copy: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
It’s been a year since the end Trump’s presidency, and the beginning of Biden’s. And while Biden pleaded for unity, and the healing of bitter political divisions in his inaugural speech, the country remains as divided as ever. 40% of Americans say in polls that they don’t believe Joe Biden is the legitimate president, and the International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy Report now classifies the United States a “backsliding democracy” sighting “runaway polarization” as one of the key threats. So is there still hope for American democracy to recover? How exactly should we understand polarization? Is it possible to overcome it by engaging more with the opposite side? And how might reading old philosophy books, about different political realities help? Robert Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vandrbilt University, and author of a number of books on the nature of democracy, liberalism and the American pragmatist tradition. His most recent book is called Sustaining Democracy: What we Owe to the Other Side, by Oxford University Press. Talisse is also himself the host of two podcasts: New Books in Philosophy podcast as well as the Why We Argue podcast.The Institute of Art and Ideas article discussed in the episode can be found here: Democracy and the Polarization Trap.This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Music by Pataphysical: https://soundcloud.com/pataphysicaltransmissionArtwork by Nick Halliday: https://www.hallidaybooks.com/design
On November 24th,  27 migrants died trying to cross the Channel to the UK in an inflatable dinghy. This was one of the deadliest incidents of this kind.  The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson blamed France for not taking stricter measures to prevent those who enable such journeys. People trafficking gangs were “literally getting away with murder”, he said.  But are the people smugglers really the ones to blame for these deaths? Would tougher sentences on those who offer such services be warranted? Are tougher measures likely to benefit migrants in any way? Or would they end up putting them in situations of even greater danger? Mollie Gerver is an assistant professor in the Department of Government at the University of Essex. From January 2022 she will be an assistant professor in the Department of Political Economy at King's College London. Her philosophical research focuses on two main topics: consent, and immigration ethics.  She is the author of the book The Ethics and Practice of Refugee Repatriation and a number of papers on the Ethics of Immigration, one of which we discuss on the podcast: Decriminalizing People Smuggling. 
Mark Zuckerberg wants us to believe that soon enough, we’ll be connecting to each otehr in the metaverse,  a virtual reality in which our avatars will be able to meet in virtual space, have virtual meetings and share virtual experiences. It will seem to us as though we’re really there present  in virtual space, and our experience will feel real, even though they won’t be. But should we believe the hype? And even if virtual reality ends up being as exciting as Zuckerberg wants us to think, should we really trust him and his company to curate a whole new internet for us? If Facebook’s products proved to be masterful distraction machines, designed to keep us online and mine our private data, will the metaverse end up being a version of that on steroids? What is the value and significance of virtual experiences, compared to real ones? And what will be the moral status of virtual acts – like murdering someone’s avatar in the metaverse? Rami Ali is an assistant professor of philosophy at Lebanese American University in Beirut.And holds a PhD from the University of Miami in Florida.  He works on the phenomenological movement, the philosophy of technology and the philosophy of mind and perception. He is also an avid proponent of virtual reality technology. Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the autumn issue on Thinking Otherwise: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
Insulate Britain, a new climate change campaign group, has been blocking major motorways around London in recent weeks. Its demands are simple: The UK government should fund the insulation of all social housing by 2025, as well as put forward a "legally-binding national plan" for insulating all homes in Britain by 2030. But is this form of civil disobedience an effective way to gain the public’s sympathy and bring about public policy change? Or are the role models of non-violent resistance like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi over-romanticized and impossible to emulate? Is more direct and violent action, like the blowing up of gas pipes, a more effective form of activism, one that gets to point? Or is the contempt for liberal democracy and its processes that such acts imply a dangerous authoritarian streak that requires caution. And is it possible to respond to the climate emergency we are facing, while upholding our loyalty to our sluggish democratic processes?William Scheuerman, James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at the University of Indiana, Bloomington and author of many books, including Civil Disobedience. Bill's  paper "Political Disobedience and the Climate Emergency". Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the autumn season of online philosophy webinars: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
Just as the new James Bond has hit the screen, the chatter about who is going to replace Daniel Craig has begun. Some are adamant that it should absolutely not be another white, straight, macho man - the times have moved on from all that. But would changing the character into a woman or a person of colour or with a different sexual orientation be doing violence to the very concept of who James Bond is? And why does it matter who James Bond, a fictional character, is portrayed by? Do the norms of the real world always manage to creep in into the world of fantasy? And was Plato right when he worried about the potential corrupting influence of art?Adriana Clavel-Vázquez British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Philosophy, at the University of Oxford, working on the ethics of imagination. Adriana's article for the Institute of Art and Ideas, It's time to let James Bond Die, can be found here.  Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the autumn season of online philosophy webinars: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick Halliday
Back in May, the UK government introduced a bill that according to its description would aim to strengthen the legal duties on higher education institutions to protect freedom of speech on campuses for students, academics and visiting speakers.This month, the Higher Education Committee has been hearing oral evidence by academics, activists and students on their views on the bill, before its put before the commons for a vote.  So is this a bill  trying to solve a real free speech problem on campuses around the country? Or is the government joining the culture wars, exaggerating the degree of cancel culture on campuses, and attempting to help promote the conservative views of its voters, generally unpopular with students and academics?Are the current legal protections of free speech not enough to ensure that academics and students are able to express themselves freely, and have those who direct threats and abusive messages towards them punished accordingly? And is John Stuart Mill’s argument that free speech ensures the dissemination of truth and knowledge still fit for the 21st century? Arif Ahmed is a reader in philosophy at the University of Cambridge, and a specialist in the philosophy of language, having written books on Wittgenstein and Kripke, among others. Arif is also a passionate defender of free speech, and was one of the academics giving oral evidence to the Higher education committee this month. As you will hear, Arif is broadly in favour of the bill, and despite our disagreement, makes a forceful and passionate case for why he thinks  the protection of free speech by the government has become  necessary. 
This month marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the day two planes, hijacked by members of Al Qaeda, flew into the world trade centre in New York City, killing thousands. A third plane hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon that day, the headquarters of the US military, while a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania, after its passengers managed to divert it from its original target.  A 20-year war in Afghanistan was supposed to have eradicated Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism, but last month, as the United States army was evacuating its personnel and allies from Kabul airport, ISIS K, a different Islamist terrorist  organisation, attacked the airport with suicide bombers, killing at least 60 civilians and 13 US troops.  Is it the willingness to use violence what defines an extremist? Or is it perhaps their extreme ideas, occupying the far ends of the ideological spectrums of politics and religion? Can the status quo ever be considered extremist? And what do people mean when they say that extremes meet - that extremists of all political orientations and religions have something deep in common? Quassim Cassam is professor of philosophy at the University of Warwick, and author of the just published book Extremism: A Philosophical Analysis. Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the autumn season of online philosophy webinars: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
On August 15, following the swift withdrawal of US military forces in Afghanistan, the city of Kabul was taken over by the Taliban. 20 years since the start of the American offensive against the Taliban, as a response to the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda, Joe Biden did what his two predecessors had promised, but failed to follow through: he ended America’s military involvement in Afghanistan. But the immediate collapse of the Afghan government and military that the US had spent years supporting, and the ominous return of the Taliban in power puts into question whether Biden’s decision was the right one. Is putting an end to war always the just thing to do? Should the costs and sacrifices suffered during a war determine whether the war should continue or end? Or should a war only end when its original aims have been achieved? Darrel Moellendorf holds the Chair for International Political Theory and Philosophy at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Mein, and is one of the few philosophers to engage not only with the question of what makes a war morally justifiable, but more importantly, under what conditions is ending a war the morally right thing to do.   Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic games are finally going ahead. But increasing concerns over the games turning into super-spreader event,  means that the athletes will be competing and performing without a live audience. The stadiums will be empty. But even without live spectators, the Olympic games will be watched by millions of people around the world. So what is it that gives many of us such a pleasure to watch athletes perform at the peak of their game? Is the pointlessness of sport, the absence of any life or death consequences, part of the reason we enjoy it? Is the ferociously competitive nature of sport, with winners and losers sometimes separated by only milliseconds apart, a good model for life itself?  And most importantly of all questions, why is parkour not a sport? Stephen Mumford is a professor of philosophy at the University of Durham, and although a metaphysics, he is also one of the most prolific philosophers of sport, and author of three books on the subject, Watching Sport: Aesthetics, Ethics and Emotion, Football: the philosophy behind the game, and more recently: A philosopher looks at sport. Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
On July 19th, all legal restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic are coming to an end in England. That includes things like social distancing, keeping 2-meters apart from strangers, and the wearing of facemasks on public transport and at airports. Instead, the prime minister said the government would be relying on the personal responsibility of individuals to take any necessary precautions. But is this move by the UK government guided by science or ideology? In a pandemic, when our health doesn’t depend only how responsible we are, but on how others behave around us, is personal responsibility an appropriate principle to appeal to? Is the function of the language of personal responsibility to merely shift the blame from government failure onto the public? And is the left’s tendency to resist acknowledgement of the role of personal responsibility in people’s life outcomes in danger of undermining our sense of autonomy and control over our lives?  Toby Buckle is the creator and host of The Political Philosophy Podcast This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride
On June 13 a new TV channel launched in the UK called GB News, dubbed by many as the UK’s answer to America’s Fox News. In an increasingly polarised political environment, is increasingly biased media all we can expect? Is this simply an honest acceptance of the fact that all journalists are biased, that, like all of us, they occupy non-neutral perspectives onto the world of politics? Or is this giving up too quickly on the value of impartiality, when it comes to news coverage? Is there in fact a way for journalists to give us “just the facts”, free of value-judgements and prejudices?  And do worries of journalistic bias conceal some of the bigger problems with our media landscape, and make us draw false equivalences between news organisations that embody very different journalistic standards? Joe Mazor is a Senior Lecturer in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Duke Kunshan University and a visitor at the LSE’s Centre for philosophy of the natural and social sciences. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2009 and was then a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton’s Center for Human Values and at Stanford’s Center for Ethics in Society. He is the author of a two part blog post for the LSE called Media Impartiality: What When and Why and Media Impartiality: How on which this conversation is based. Mazor has a very interesting and original proposal for how to achieve media impartiality, inspired by the adversarial trial model, so make sure you listen to the second part of our conversation when we come to discuss it.  This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick HallidayMusic by Rowan Mcilvride 
Why is the political right so riled up about Critical Race Theory? And what does the theory itself actually claim? Has Critical Race Theory simply become an umbrella term for all discourse to do with race and racism? And if so, are the accounts of racism as a systemic issue a watered-down account of Critical Race Theory’s more radical critique and diagnosis of the sources of racism?  Tommy Curry is professor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.  His book 2018  The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood  won the American Book Award. Curry pulls no punches in his account of how Critical Race Theory has been gentrified by institutional philosophy, and has purposefully forgotten its more radical roots in the work of people like Derrick Bell, who proclaimed that “racism is permanent” and that “black people will never gain full equality in this country." 
A year after George Floyd’s death, is America ready for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Why is equality against the law not enough for racism to be defeatted? And how will America’s self-image as a country that pulled itself up from its bootstraps have to change when it finally admits to the huge role slavery played in the wealth it enjoys today?  Olúfémi Táíwò is Professor of African Political Thought at the Africana Studies and Research Center, at Cornell University. Born in Nigeria, his work aims to expand the African reach in philosophy and, simultaneously, to indigenize the discipline, making it more relevant to Africa and African students.  He is the author of How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa, and last spring Taiwo wrote a powerful essay for The Philosopher journal entitled: “Does the United States need a truth and reconciliation commission?”, now being turned into a book. This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal.  The Spring Issue of The Philosopher is out,  tackling a timeless and timely topic, the relationship between Authority and Knowledge.  To order your copy visit: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick Halliday
What do we have to learn from the Ancient Greeks when it comes to thinking about the corruption of our own political system? Since corruption doesn’t seem to go away simply by electing different leaders, might it be fixed by rethinking our constitutional foundations? And what did Machiavelli mean when he said that  “an evil-disposed citizen cannot effect any changes for the worse in a republic, unless it be already corrupt”?Camila Vergara is a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University in New York, and the author of Systemic Corruption: Constitutional Ideas for an Anti-Oligarchic Society. In her book, Camila argues that our current understanding of corruption as a moral and legal failure that concerns individual bad actors is too narrow, obstructing a much richer understanding of the corruption of government as a systemic problem. This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal.  The Spring Issue of The Philosopher is out,  tackling a timeless and timely topic, the relationship between Authority and Knowledge.  To order your copy visit: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org Artwork by Nick Halliday
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