Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Should philosophy be "in your face"?

This is the monologue for the most recent episode of Why? Radio: "Why Philosophy Won't Go Away” with guest Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. Click here to listen to the episode.

Philosophy tends to be invisible. We don’t look at Luke Skywalker and shout “metaphysics!” when he tries to feel The Force and we don’t refer to Downtown Abby as our Aristotelean Virtue Ethics soap opera. We can label these things after the fact. We can also argue about whether The Force is real or whether Lord Grantham is a person of character. But these acts feel, to most people, like artifice. A nerdy sport for the select few.

That’s why my approach to public philosophy is almost always to try to slip the explicit philosophical themes in through the back door. I like to get my audience interested in the topic first and then bring out the more subtle stuff once they’re hooked. I like to show them that they are doing philosophy after they start doing it, because otherwise, they get self-conscious. Too many people think philosophy is not for them. They don’t understand that they do philosophy naturally, as part of their daily lives.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

10 episodes of Why? Radio to help you celebrate International Women's Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, here are 10 episodes of Why? Radio featuring some of the remarkable women we’ve had as guests. We have worked very hard to be inclusive on the show, although we have not yet reached the point at which 50% of our guests are women.

Philosophy is an overwhelmingly male discipline and we at Why? Radio are proud of our small contribution to making philosophy closer to egalitarian. (There's still lots of work to do.) We will continue to make every effort to broadcast women’s philosophical voices and ideas, while celebrating a wide range of topics women research.

If you have any suggestions for guests for our show, please email as at And please do consider donating to Why? Radio. Click here for more information.

Friday, March 4, 2016

What would mass deportation of illegal aliens look like? Let’s take Trump seriously.

During last night’s debate, Donald Trump doubled down on his intention to build a wall on the Southern American border. He wants to kick all illegal aliens out of the country and then keep them out using a physical barrier paid for by Mexico. Most of the responses to his plan have either involved expressing disbelief that he could actually do it, or condemning him morally for the idea itself. These are legitimate criticisms, but I would like to suggest that we take another approach. Let’s imagine what the process of mass deportation would look like. Following Plato and Kant, I think that the way to respect someone is to take his or her ideas seriously. Let’s stop dismissing Trump and do just this.

Let’s imagine the process begins by President Trump announcing that the forced deportations will begin one month later and orders everyone who is in the US illegally to leave before then. There are anywhere from 11 to 20 million illegal immigrants in the US right now and most will stay where they are. They are, after all, already breaking the law. Let’s assume, generously, that 10% leave of their own free will. This means that there will be a mass exodus of one to two million people leaving their homes—poor people who can’t afford plane tickets, many of whom don’t have cars—people, in fact, with no other place to go back to. We would have to commandeer every city bus and even then, we probably have to pack up the migrants in trains like Holocaust victims. But first, we’d have to dispose of all the train cargo to make room for the people. Millions of dollars’ worth of goods wasted. Millions of businesses not getting what they need.