57 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 Podcasts

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.8 • 443 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.

    Cannibals

    Cannibals

    In our final episode on monsters, we investigate why people who eat people are the funkiest people in the afterlife. We talk to a man who has actually eaten parts of other people, many times, about why he thinks consuming human flesh should be normalized. We then consider the age-old question of how God is supposed to resurrect a cannibal and all of his victims when most of the flesh of the victims would also be a part of the cannibal. Some of the best minds in Western philosophy and Christian theology thought about this question, including Leibniz, Aquinas, and Augustine. Co-hosted by Christina van Dyke, featuring artist and cannibal Rick Gibson and philosopher Dean Zimmerman.
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    • 37 min
    Zombies

    Zombies

    The second in a three-part series on monsters in philosophy. We trace the cultural history of zombies from voodoo folklore, George Romero films, and the zombies used in philosophical thought experiments. Folklore, film and philosophy seem to converge on the idea that consciousness above all else is what a creature needs to have to be worthy of moral concern, something a zombie lacks. But we have no idea when something crosses over from being a zombie to being conscious, particularly current AI systems. What happens then? Guest speakers are Christina van Dyke (Columbia), David Chalmers (NYU), and John Edgar Browning (Savannah College of Art and Design), and Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside).
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    • 37 min
    Vampires

    Vampires

    The first in a three-part series on monsters in philosophy. We trace the cultural history of vampires from Eastern European folklore to Twilight, and even look at the practices of real vampires, people who seek out and consume blood or psychic energy. The vampire went from demon to attractive monster in the course of a few centuries and raises a deep question for us about how different we can be, the limits of human imagination, and whether we can ever reasonably choose to have a transformative experience. Guest speakers include Christina van Dyke (Columbia), Laurie Paul (Yale), and John Edgar Browning (Savannah College of Art and Design).

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    • 41 min
    Memorials

    Memorials

    When tragedy strikes an individual, a nation, or an entire people, artists and architects are tasked with designing a public display that memorializes the event and its victims. But how do you do that? In this episode, art historian and podcaster Tamar Avishai examines the Denkmal Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, the Vietnam War Memorial in DC, and others to look at how respecting and remembering loss collides with the demands of history and politics. We look at why abstract rather than representational memorials resonate better with people in recent years, and whether memorials, no matter how well done, might lose their impact after a single generation. Guest voices include Karen Krolak, James Young, and Michael Hays.
    Links
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    Are you a philosopher interested in a summer seminar on God and Time at Rutgers University? Apply at godandtime.rutgers.edu.
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    • 53 min
    Life, Edited

    Life, Edited

    The first two gene-edited species meant to be introduced into the wild are currently in their final stages of approval, with trials already underway for the Oxitec mosquito, and the ESF American Chestnut. In this episode, we examine what these gene-edited species are, what they do, and how they are the beginnings of bio-engineering in the era of massive anthropocentric ecological change. We then look at the ethics of bioengineered wild species and whether they can be the solution to an imminent era of mass extinction. Guest voices include Chairman of the Florida Mosquito Control District Phil Goodman, ESF scientist Andrew Newhouse, and philosophers Evelyn Brister (RIT) and Ron Sandler (Northeastern).
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    Are you a philosopher interested in a summer seminar on God and Time at Rutgers University? Apply at godandtime.rutgers.edu.
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    • 44 min
    Hi-Phi Nation Presents: Decoder Ring, The Alberta Rat War

    Hi-Phi Nation Presents: Decoder Ring, The Alberta Rat War

    Barry invites Willa Paskin of Slate's Decoder Ring podcast to talk about their recent episode, The Alberta Rat War, as a set up to next week's Hi-Phi Nation episode on genetic engineering. We then proceed to that episode.
    Rats live wherever people live, with one exception: the Canadian province of Alberta. A rat sighting in Alberta is a major event that mobilizes the local government to identify and eliminate any hint of infestation. Rat sightings makes the local news. Alberta prides itself on being the world’s sole rat-free territory, but in order to achieve this feat, it had to go to war with the rat. On this episode of Decoder Ring, we recount the story of how Alberta won this war, through accidents of history and geography, advances in poison technology, interventionist government policy, mass education programs, rat patrols, killing zones, and more. The explanation tells us a lot about rats and a lot about humans, two species that are more alike than we like to think.
    Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include Karen Wickerson, rat and pest program specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry; Robert Sullivan, author of Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants; Phil Merrill, former rat and pest specialist; George Colpitts, historian at the University of Calgary; and John Bourne, former manager of Alberta’s rat control program.
    Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode, host Willa Paskin takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.
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    • 44 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
443 Ratings

443 Ratings

dyrbrm1 ,

Amazing

Fascinating topics and the stories are told so well. Can’t wait for next season

iFoundMolly ,

Top tier

Introduced to Barry from the Very Bad Wizards podcast. Look forward to diving into the back catalog, listened to the Cannibal episode and jumped back to the pop music episode from the first season. Well made, thoughtful, such a treat.

Peanuts2222222 ,

Great!

The David Lewis mini-series is especially good!

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