46 episodes

Hi-Phi Nation is philosophy in story-form, integrating narrative journalism with big ideas. We look at stories from everyday life, law, science, popular culture, and strange corners of human experiences that raise thought-provoking questions about things like justice, knowledge, the self, morality, and existence. We then seek answers with the help of academics and philosophers. The show is produced and hosted by Barry Lam of Vassar College.

Hi-Phi Nation Slate Magazine

    • Philosophy
    • 4.8 • 386 Ratings

Hi-Phi Nation is philosophy in story-form, integrating narrative journalism with big ideas. We look at stories from everyday life, law, science, popular culture, and strange corners of human experiences that raise thought-provoking questions about things like justice, knowledge, the self, morality, and existence. We then seek answers with the help of academics and philosophers. The show is produced and hosted by Barry Lam of Vassar College.

    Hi-Phi Nation Presents: Into the Zone (When We Were Cyber)

    Hi-Phi Nation Presents: Into the Zone (When We Were Cyber)

    Barry updates listeners on what to expect in Season 5 of the show, currently in production. In the meantime, he introduces you to Into the Zone, a Pushkin podcast by writer Hari Kunzru. This episode is about the time Hari was in philosophy graduate school in the 90s and attended an early conference about cyberculture that leads him to visit philosopher Manuel DeLanda. Subscribe to Into the Zone on Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
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    • 49 min
    Justice and Retribution

    Justice and Retribution

    A woman spends 40 years in and out of prison for shoplifting and finally gets a break from a judge in her late 50s. She uses the opportunity to abolish a jail and transform her city. This week we look at prison abolition and the arguments for eliminating all punishment from the system. From the denial that we have free will, to the view that perpetuating injustice disqualifies the state from punishing, we look at whether any of us have the right to punish anyone else, and question the very purpose of the criminal justice system.
    Guest voices include Marilynn Winn, Gregg Caruso, Michael S. Moore, Erin Kelly, and Kimberly Kessler Ferzan.
    In Slate Plus, Barry speaks to Kimberly Kessler Ferzan about separating the criminal justice system into two distinct institutions, one dedicated to retributive punishment, and one dedicated to crime prevention. Why should there be two systems and what would be involved in separating them?
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    • 55 min
    The Loophole

    The Loophole

    Two men committed a double murder in rural Maine in 1990. Only one pulled the trigger. The state prosecutor decided to try them separately, but that was a mistake, and both were acquitted. Then the Feds came in, and sentenced one man to life in prison for a crime he was already acquitted of doing. How is this possible in America? The answer is a loophole in criminal law. Today we examine that loophole by looking at the Thanksgiving Day murders in Maine, and the constitutional challenges this loophole has survived over the years. Guest voices include Sharon Mack, Gerald Leonard of Boston University Law, Judge Frederic Block, State Senator Todd Kaminsky, and Matthew Noah Smith of Northeastern University.
    In Slate Plus, Barry talks to Matthew Noah Smith of Northeastern University and Mark Schroeder of USC on whether John Rawl's distinction between procedural and substantive justice can help tell us whether and why the practice of sentencing on unconvicted conduct is just or unjust.
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    • 43 min
    Punishment without End

    Punishment without End

    A teen-aged girl gets caught with a suitcase stuffed with powdered cocaine, and she comes before a federal judge. That judge learns that a felony conviction carries punishments for life for her. He embarks on a mission to get all other judges to shorten prison sentences in light of this. Meanwhile, a researcher learns of a pervasive but secretive practice where prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges skirt the truth to protect defendants from unjust harsh punishments imposed on them from lawmakers. This week we look at collateral consequences, the thousands of laws restricting the freedoms and opportunities of the formerly convicted, like voting, housing, job opportunities, government benefits, and deportation. One philosophers believes many of these are permanent punishments, not civil measures for reducing risk. Guest voices include Judge Frederic Block, philosopher Zachary Hoskins, and legal scholar Thea Johnson.
    In Slate Plus, Judge Block gives his opinions about mandatory minimum sentencing and prosecutorial immunity. Zachary Hoskins distinguishes between two different principles of proportionality in sentencing, and Thea Johnson talks about why fictional pleas give prosecutors more power, even though they benefit defendants. To get the full bonus episode of Hi-Phi Nation, sign up for Slate Plus at slate.com/hiphiplus.
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    • 56 min
    Redemption in the DDU

    Redemption in the DDU

    Erick Williams tells the story of how one bad night in the chow hall got him into solitary confinement at Walpole. The path out of solitary, and eventually out of prison, took another decade.  On this episode, we look at the unique power of the Department of Corrections to do with prisoners what they will at their discretion. Philosopher Lisa Guenther tells the history of solitary in America, and the conceptions of the self that drive its continued use. We end with an examination of what the experiences of solitary say about the nature of human experiences of time, purpose, and connection with other humans. Guest voices include Erick Williams, Lisa Guenther, Lisa Newman-Polk, and Jamie Eldridge.
    In Slate Plus, Barry and Lisa Newman-Polk tell the story of Eugene Ivey, who spent 13 years is solitary, was paroled, but is still locked up on charges inside the Massachusetts prison system. To get the bonus episode and an ad-free feed of all Slate podcast, sign up at www.slate.com/hiphiplus.
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    • 51 min
    Gender Justice

    Gender Justice

    On this episode, we look at feminist and progressive prosecution; how does a prosecutor balance the aims of prosecuting more gender-based crimes while also being sensitive to the problems of mass incarceration? We look at the story of one Maine prosecutor who is winning victories in sexual assault cases that were once deemed unwinnable, and whether this lowers the bar of burden of proof to unjust levels for gender crimes. Finally, we look at how one study in 1984 started a 40-year trend in mandatory arrest policies for domestic violence, and how these policies have backfired for the communities those policies were meant to protect. Guest voices include Natasha Irving, Michelle Madden Dempsey, Aya Gruber, and Lawrence Sherman.
    In Slate Plus, Sarah Lustbader and Barry talk about whether the adversarial system of prosecution and defense makes the criminal justice system a bad way to pursue improvements in gender relations and reduce gender-based crime. Get the Slate Plus bonus episode by signing up at www.slate.com/hiphiplus
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    • 57 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
386 Ratings

386 Ratings

Knickknock ,

Smart, entertaining, diverse

This is my new favorite podcast. The stories are highly relevant, thoughtful, engaging and cover a range of topics. I am about halfway through the previous episodes and have thoroughly enjoyed every one so far.

___lauren---- ,

One of the best podcasts out there

I am SO excited for this season! I adore this show. A show that teaches you complex philosophical arguments, without talking down to you, and also while yelling entertaining stories. It makes me think deeply about issues I encounter in daily life - and it helps me understand other people’s arguments too, even those I disagree with politically. The sound editing is also great, and I love Barry Lam’s voice - in additional to all of the insightful questions he brings us. I wish I was a student in one of Professor Lam’s classes, after every episode I just want to keep discussing. I can’t recommend Hi-Phi Nation enough

Rmm mm ,

Love this show - keep it coming!

Barry, as a Vassar grad and philosophy major (say hi to Prof Church for me) I can’t tell you awesome it is to have a podcast like this coming out of Poughkeepsie. It’s great storytelling and you find great entry points into philosophical issues, which you explore wonderfully. So why nothing new since June? Keep it coming!

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