666 episodes

The Gray Area with Sean Illing takes a philosophy-minded look at culture, technology, politics, and the world of ideas. Each week, we invite a guest to explore a question or topic that matters. From the the state of democracy, to the struggle with depression and anxiety, to the nature of identity in the digital age, each episode looks for nuance and honesty in the most important conversations of our time. New episodes drop every Monday.

The Gray Area with Sean Illing Vox Media Podcast Network

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 422 Ratings

The Gray Area with Sean Illing takes a philosophy-minded look at culture, technology, politics, and the world of ideas. Each week, we invite a guest to explore a question or topic that matters. From the the state of democracy, to the struggle with depression and anxiety, to the nature of identity in the digital age, each episode looks for nuance and honesty in the most important conversations of our time. New episodes drop every Monday.

    Swear like a linguist

    Swear like a linguist

    You can’t drop an f-bomb on the radio, but fortunately for this week’s guest, you can say anything you want in a podcast. This week, host Sean Illing talks to philosopher Rebecca Roache, author of 'For F*ck’s Sake: Why Swearing is Shocking, Rude, and Fun.’ Roache explores why certain four-letter words hold the magical power to offend and delight.
    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Rebecca Roache (@rebecca_roache)
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    • 44 min
    Taking Nietzsche seriously

    Taking Nietzsche seriously

    Sean Illing talks with political science professor Matt McManus about the political thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th-century German philosopher with a complicated legacy, despite his crossover into popular culture. They discuss how Nietzsche's work has been interpreted — and misinterpreted — since his death in 1900, how his radical political views emerge from his body of work, and how we can use Nietzsche's philosophy in order to interpret some key features of our contemporary politics.
    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Matt McManus.
    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
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    This episode was made by: 


    Producer: Jon Ehrens 


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


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    • 1 hr 2 min
    What India teaches us about liberalism — and its decline

    What India teaches us about liberalism — and its decline

    Authoritarian tendencies have been on the rise globally and the liberal world order is on the decline. One hotspot of this tension lies in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi employs autocratic language and tactics to maintain power. But a recent election may indicate that voters are losing interest in this style of rule. Guest host Zack Beauchamp talks with scholar Pratap Bhanu Mehta about the past of the Indian liberal tradition and what the current politics of the world’s largest democracy say about the state of global politics. 

    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Pratap Bhanu Mehta
    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
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    Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts
    This episode was made by: 


    Producer: Jon Ehrens 


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


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    • 46 min
    1992: The year politics broke

    1992: The year politics broke

    We’re living in an era of extreme partisan politics, rising resentment, and fractured news media. Writer John Ganz believes that we can trace the dysfunction to the 1990s, when right-wing populists like Pat Buchanan and white supremacist David Duke transformed Republican politics. He joins Sean to talk about the 1990s and how it laid the groundwork for Trump. His book is When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s.

    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: John Ganz (@lionel_trolling). His book is When the Clock Broke. 
    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
    Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area
    Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts
    This episode was made by: 


    Producer: Jon Ehrens 


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


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    • 44 min
    The existential struggle of being Black

    The existential struggle of being Black

    Nathalie Etoke joins The Gray Area to talk about existentialism, the Black experience, and the legacy of dehumanization. 
    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Nathalie Etoke. Her book is Black Existential Freedom.
    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
    Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area
    Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts
    This episode was made by: 


    Producer: Jon Ehrens 


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


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    • 55 min
    The world after nuclear war

    The world after nuclear war

    A mile of pure fire. A flash that melts everything — titanium, steel, lead, people. A blast that mows down every structure in its path, 3 miles out in every direction. Journalist Annie Jacobsen spent years interviewing scientists, high-ranking military officials, politicians, and other experts to find out how a nuclear attack would be triggered, the devastation it would cause, the ruptures it would create in the social fabric, and how likely it is to happen today. She wrote about all of this in her new book Nuclear War: A Scenario. Jacobsen spends the hour clearly laying out the horrifying yet captivating specifics for Sean, and the prospects for avoiding catastrophe. 

    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Annie Jacobsen. Her book is Nuclear War: A Scenario
    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
    Be the first to hear new episodes of The Gray Area by following us in your favorite podcast app. Links here: https://www.vox.com/the-gray-area
    Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts
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    • 57 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
422 Ratings

422 Ratings

TigRussell ,

Deep Issues Need this Calm and Measured Channel

Sean makes it easy to, not just hear a podcast, but also learn something’s important in the deep issues he curates for us ✅

MAIGRET JNR ,

Hands down my favourite podcast

Hi from Devon, England…

Genuinely, I treasure this pod and anticipate each ep with much glee! Its not just that I chime personally with Sean’s outlook and values, but that the generosity and magnanimous spirit he approaches each guest (esp one’s he has disagreement with) fills a much needed gap in today’s far-too-combative discourse. He doesn’t suffer “fools” but doesn’t dwell on this (looking at you Sam Harris) - rather the attention is fully focused on the understanding of difficult issues and exploration of possible explanations / solutions. It’s a joy, well done all involved.

My only quibble: would love a Twitter / FB group or similar for exploring the topics more with other listeners after each ep. Thoughts?

Ru D

cazda69 ,

Matt Desmond

Another great discussion, thanks Sean

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