578 episodes

The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do offer a space for real dialogue. Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity, and get some cool takes on a very hot world. Formerly the Vox Conversations podcast. New episodes drop every Monday and Thursday.

The Gray Area with Sean Illing Vox

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.5 • 9.9K Ratings

The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do offer a space for real dialogue. Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity, and get some cool takes on a very hot world. Formerly the Vox Conversations podcast. New episodes drop every Monday and Thursday.

    Is America broken?

    Is America broken?

    Sean Illing speaks with Alana Newhouse, the editor-in-chief of Tablet magazine. They discuss her recent essay on "brokenism," a term she coined in an effort to redefine political divisions in America. Newhouse argues that the most salient divide right now is between those who want to fix the institutions we have and those who want to burn it all down and start fresh.

    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Alana Newhouse (@alananewhouse) editor-in-chief, Tablet
    References: 


    “Brokenism” by Alana Newhouse (Tablet, Nov. 21, 2022)


    “Everything is Broken” by Alana Newhouse (Tablet, Jan. 14, 2021)


    "See Workers as Workers, Not as a College Credential" by The New York Times Editorial Board (Jan. 28)


    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
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    This episode was made by: 


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


    Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall


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    • 50 min
    The creator of Fargo is done with good guys vs. bad guys

    The creator of Fargo is done with good guys vs. bad guys

    Sean Illing talks with Noah Hawley, the creator and showrunner of the anthology drama Fargo on FX, as well as a celebrated novelist whose newest book is Anthem (2022). They discuss themes stemming from Hawley's recent piece in the Atlantic about myths, stories, and tropes from the Old West (and Hollywood) that are still powerful and active in shaping American society. Hawley also talks about why we're drawn to shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, what to expect on the forthcoming fifth season of Fargo, and what his new novel says about the future.

    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Noah Hawley (@noahhawley), novelist; tv/film director
    References: 


    "It's High Noon in America" by Noah Hawley (The Atlantic; Dec. 19, 2022)


    Anthem by Noah Hawley (Grand Central; 2022)


    Slaughterhouse-Five, or, The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)


    "'Duck Dynasty' vs. 'Modern Family': 50 Maps of the U.S. Cultural Divide" by Josh Katz (New York Times; Dec. 27, 2016)


    "The sex-trafficking investigation of Matt Gaetz, explained" by Amber Phillips (Washington Post; Jan. 27, 2022)


    The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925)

     
    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: Erikk Geannikis


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


    Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall


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    • 55 min
    Revisiting the "father of capitalism"

    Revisiting the "father of capitalism"

    Sean Illing talks with Glory Liu, the author of Adam Smith’s America: How a Scottish Philosopher became an Icon of American Capitalism. Smith is most well-known for being the “father of capitalism,” but as Liu points out in her book, his legacy has been misappropriated — especially in America. They discuss his original intentions and what we can take away from his work today.

    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Glory Liu (@miss_glory), author; lecturer, Harvard University
    References: 


    Adam Smith’s America: How a Scottish Philosopher became an Icon of American Capitalism by Glory Liu (Princeton; 2022)


    Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life by Nicholas Phillipson (Yale; 2012)



    Free to Choose: A Personal Statement by Milton & Rose Friedman (Harcourt; 1980)


    “Adam Smith’s ‘History of Astronomy’ and view of science” by Kwangsu Kim (Cambridge Journal of Economics v. 36; 2012)


    Works by Adam Smith:


    The Wealth of Nations (1776)


    Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)


    Lectures on Jurisprudence (1763)

     
    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: Erikk Geannikis


    Editor: Amy Drozdowska


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


    Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall


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    • 53 min
    Can effective altruism be redeemed?

    Can effective altruism be redeemed?

    Guest host Sigal Samuel talks with Holden Karnofsky about effective altruism, a movement flung into public scrutiny with the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried and his crypto exchange, FTX. They discuss EA’s approach to charitable giving, the relationship between effective altruism and the moral philosophy of utilitarianism, and what reforms might be needed for the future of the movement.
    Note: In August 2022, Bankman-Fried’s philanthropic family foundation, Building a Stronger Future, awarded Vox’s Future Perfect a grant for a 2023 reporting project. That project is now on pause.

    Host: Sigal Samuel (@SigalSamuel), Senior Reporter, Vox
    Guest: Holden Karnofsky, co-founder of GiveWell; CEO of Open Philanthropy
    References: 


    "Effective altruism gave rise to Sam Bankman-Fried. Now it's facing a moral reckoning" by Sigal Samuel (Vox; Nov. 16, 2022)


    "The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altruism" by Gideon Lewis-Kraus (New Yorker; Aug. 8, 2022)


    "Sam Bankman-Fried tries to explain himself" by Kelsey Piper (Vox; Nov. 16, 2022)


    "EA is about maximization, and maximization is perilous" by Holden Karnofsky (Effective Altruism Forum; Sept. 2, 2022)


    "Defending One-Dimensional Ethics" by Holden Karnofsky (Cold Takes blog; Feb. 15, 2022)


    "Future-proof ethics" by Holden Karnofsky (Cold Takes blog; Feb. 2, 2022)


    "Bayesian mindset" by Holden Karnofsky (Cold Takes blog; Dec. 21, 2021)


    "EA Structural Reform Ideas" by Carla Zoe Cremer (Nov. 12, 2022)


    "Democratising Risk: In Search of a Methodology to Study Existential Risk" by Carla Cremer and Luke Kemp (SSRN; Dec. 28, 2021)

     
    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
    Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app.
    Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts
    This episode was made by: 


    Producer: Erikk Geannikis


    Editor: Amy Drozdowska


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


    Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall


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    • 1 hr 3 min
    The roots of homelessness

    The roots of homelessness

    Sean Illing talks with writer and reporter Jerusalem Demsas about the causes of homelessness in America. They discuss our ideas of home ownership, and how our country’s cultural expectations and policies are working against us. 

    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Jerusalem Demsas (@JerusalemDemsas) staff writer, The Atlantic
    References: 


    “The Homeownership Society Was a Mistake” by Jerusalem Demsas (The Atlantic; Dec. 20, 2022)


    “The Obvious Answer to Homelessness and Why Everyone’s Ignoring It” by Jerusalem Demsas (The Atlantic; Dec. 12, 2022)


    “The Billionaire’s Dilemma” by Jerusalem Demsas (The Atlantic; Aug. 4, 2022)


    “Stuck! The Law and Economics of Residential Stagnation” by David Schleicher (Yale Law Review; Oct. 2017)


    “Black Americans And The Racist Architecture of Homeownership” by Alisa Chang, Christopher Intagliata, and Jonaki Mehta (NPR; May 8, 2021)

     
    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
    Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app.
    Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts
    This episode was made by: 


    Producer: Erikk Geannikis


    Editor: Amy Drozdowska


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


    Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall


    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 53 min
    Can race be transcended?

    Can race be transcended?

    Sean Illing talks with author Thomas Chatterton Williams about race and identity in America. Thomas has analyzed racial identity through the lens of his own upbringing, and the performativity and pressures he experienced. In conversation with Sean, Thomas speaks about how he sees these identities as restrictive connections to the racial oppressions of the past, whether it's possible to achieve liberation without sacrificing solidarity, and on the complex interplay between race and class.

    Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area
    Guest: Thomas Chatterton Williams (@thomaschattwill), author; contributing writer, The Atlantic
    References: 


    Self-Portrait in Black and White: Family, Fatherhood, and Rethinking Race by Thomas Chatterton Williams (W.W. Norton; 2019)


    Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man's Escape from the Crowd by Thomas Chatterton Williams (Penguin; 2011)


    White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (Beacon; 2018)


    "Camus' Stance on Algeria Still Stokes Debate in France" by Eleanor Beardsley (NPR; Nov. 7, 2013)


    The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)


    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World; 2018)


    South to a Very Old Place by Albert Murray (Vintage; 1991)


    "The limits of anti-racism" by Adolph Reed (2009)

     
    Enjoyed this episode? Rate The Gray Area ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
    Subscribe for free. Be the first to hear the next episode of The Gray Area. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app.
    Support The Gray Area by making a financial contribution to Vox! bit.ly/givepodcasts
    This episode was made by: 


    Producer: Erikk Geannikis


    Editor: Amy Drozdowska


    Engineer: Patrick Boyd


    Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall


    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 46 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
9.9K Ratings

9.9K Ratings

olivejuice678 ,

Sean Illing

In the ep. “Of boys and men” - sean - “what is new or different today that is exasperating those differences?”
***Exacerbating
Not “exasperating”!
Very surprised to hear this error!

corby76 ,

Every episode encompasses a great conversation.

This has become my favorite podcast. I don’t remember how I stumbled across this one, but I find it’s the one I look forward to the most. The host is really good at giving his guest space to explain their views on the topic, and injecting enough questions to clarify their points, as opposed to the argumentative and combative approach I generally experience listening to similar programs.

Billybill1984 ,

Thank you

Excellent

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