290 episodes

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

Very Bad Wizards Tamler Sommers & David Pizarro

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.8 • 2.6K Ratings

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

    Episode 286: Laugh and the World Laughs With You

    Episode 286: Laugh and the World Laughs With You

    David and Tamler dive into the mysteries at the heart of Park Chan-wook’s deeply disturbing masterpiece "Oldboy" (2003). An ordinary man, Oh Dae-su, is imprisoned for 15 years in an old, windowless hotel room. After being abruptly released Oh Dae-su embarks on a mission to discover why he was imprisoned and to get revenge on the man who did it. But does Oh Dae-su really want to know the answers? And is he asking the right questions? (SPOILER HEAVY EPISODE! See this movie before you listen! Available on Netflix in the US.)

    Plus, how familiar are you with words the words azimuth and espadrille? Turns out that the answer may depend on your gender. 
    Brysbaert, M., Mandera, P., McCormick, S. F., & Keuleers, E. (2019). Word prevalence norms for 62,000 English lemmas. Behavior research methods, 51, 467-479.
    Oldboy (2003 film) [wikipedia.org]

    • 2 hr 12 min
    Episode 285: On Culture and Agriculture

    Episode 285: On Culture and Agriculture

    It’s an old-school episode as David and Tamler dive into some intriguing research on the origins of cultural differences. Two neighboring communities in communist China were assigned to be wheat farmers and rice farmers. Seventy years later, the people in the rice farming communities showed signs of being more collectivist, relational, and holistic than the people in the wheat farming communities. Plus, we have some questions about a new study on censorship and self-censorship among social psychologists.
    Links:
    Clark CJ, Fjeldmark M, Lu L, Baumeister RF, Ceci S, Frey K, Miller G, Reilly W, Tice D, von Hippel W, Williams WM, Winegard BM, Tetlock PE. (2024) Taboos and Self-Censorship Among U.S. Psychology Professors. Perspectives on Psychological Science [pubmed]
    A fascinating theory about the cultural influence of rice farming now has evidence of causality by Eric Dolan [psypost.org]
    Talhelm, T., & Dong, X. (2024). People quasi-randomly assigned to farm rice are more collectivistic than people assigned to farm wheat. Nature Communications, 15(1), 1782.[nature.com]
    Talhelm, T., Zhang, X., Oishi, S., Shimin, C., Duan, D., Lan, X., & Kitayama, S. (2014). Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture. Science, 344(6184), 603-608. [science.org]

    • 1 hr 25 min
    Episode 284: Reel Choices

    Episode 284: Reel Choices

    David and Tamler choose an episode topic that will define the identity and meaning of the Very Bad Wizards podcast going forward – our top 3 existentialist movies. Plus, you’re gonna be shocked to hear this, you might want to sit down, but there has been surprisingly little research on the metaphysics of puns. We look at a recent paper that remedies this appalling gap in the literature – and maybe the biggest surprise of all, Tamler has some nice things to say about it.

    • 1 hr 22 min
    Episode 283: When Elephants Podcast

    Episode 283: When Elephants Podcast

    David and Tamler talk about Caitrin Keiper’s wonderful sprawling essay on elephant life and society and the many philosophical questions surrounding these extraordinary creatures. What kind of mental states can we attribute to them? Do they have a kind of language? Are they moral? What are our moral duties to them? What accounts for the long-standing taboo against ‘anthropomorphizing’ elephants and other complex non-human animals? And lots more.
    Plus, a new segment “there should be a German word for this” - we come up with new German words for common phenomena or experiences. And a big announcement in the promo segment about the podcast going forward.
    Please consider supporting a long-time listener’s attempt to get their family out of Gaza.[gofundme.com]
    Links:
    Do Elephants Have Souls? by Caitrin Keiper [thenewatlantis.com]

    • 1 hr 23 min
    Episode 282: Fearful Symmetry (Borges' "Death and the Compass")

    Episode 282: Fearful Symmetry (Borges' "Death and the Compass")

    A Rabbi is found dead in a hotel room, stabbed in the chest. The room is filled with Kabbalah texts and a single page in an typewriter that reads “The first letter of the name has been written.” The celebrated detective and “reasoning machine” Erik Lönnrot suspects a rabbinical explanation but is he seeing patterns that may not be there? David and Tamler get out their pipes, magnifying glasses, and deerstalker hats to unravel another Borges mystery: “Death and the Compass.”

    Plus a new study on why men make errors about whether women are flirting with them, the latest in our series on studies that employ erotic fiction.

    Links:
    A Dress Is Not a Yes: Towards an Indirect Mouse-Tracking Measure of Men’s Overreliance on Global Cues in the Context of Sexual Flirting
    Pinpointing the psychological factors linked to men's misjudgments of women's sexual interest
    Death and the Compass by Jorge Luis Borges [wikipedia.org]

    • 1 hr 25 min
    Episode 281: Choose Your Fighter

    Episode 281: Choose Your Fighter

    We dig into the biggest rivalry in Tamler’s profession, analytic vs. continental philosophy. Are analytic philosophers truly the rigorous, precise, clear thinkers they take themselves to be? And is continental philosophy really just a bunch pretentious charlatans spouting French and German gibberish and writing obscure prose to mask the incoherence of their ideas? We look at a nice paper by Neil Levy that goes beyond the stereotypes and tries to describe and explain the differences between the two schools.

    Plus, The University of Austin (sic) is back in the news and we have a report from someone who attended one of their Forbidden Courses. This should be so easy but the article has us deeply conflicted about what to make fun of.

    [Important update: Trixie is on a 5 day streak of no accidents and is a perfect little sweet girl.]

    Links:
    An American Education: Notes from UATX by Noah Rawlings
    Levy, N. (2003). Analytic and continental philosophy: Explaining the differences. Metaphilosophy, 34(3), 284-304.

    • 1 hr 22 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
2.6K Ratings

2.6K Ratings

Coren David William ,

Old Boy’s The Odyssey, you idiots

It’s The Odyssey, you idiots

s0nky ,

Best podcast ever

Insightful and hilarious

Nndl ,

“Calm the f—k down Camus”

Serious subjects handled without self-seriousness. The way the hosts handle the material and each other is refreshing and at least as instructive as the material itself.

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