283 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 • 2.5K 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 279: The Greenhouses We Burned Along the Way (Lee Chang-dong's "Burning" Pt. 2)

    Episode 279: The Greenhouses We Burned Along the Way (Lee Chang-dong's "Burning" Pt. 2)

    David and Tamler conclude their discussion of Lee Chang-dong’s "Burning" – we talk about the hunger dance at twilight, Ben’s greenhouse burning habit, Shin Hae-mi’s mysterious disappearance, Lee Jong-su’s clumsy and doomed quest to find out what really happened, and what to make of that final scene. Plus we choose the finalists for our Patreon listener selected episode.

    • 1 hr 9 min
    Episode 278: Schrödinger's Everything (Lee Chang-dong's "Burning" Pt. 1)

    Episode 278: Schrödinger's Everything (Lee Chang-dong's "Burning" Pt. 1)

    David and Tamler fall under the spell of Lee Chang-dong’s 2018 masterpiece Burning, a movie where nothing is what it seems, or maybe it is. An alienated young man meets what seems like his dream girl from his small town, but she’s about to leave for Africa. Will he take care of her cat? Is there a cat? When she comes back she’s attached (maybe) to a slick rich guy played by Steven Yeun and then she disappears. What happened? What’s real and what’s a pantomime? Adapted from a Murakami short story that’s adapted from a Faulkner short story, this movie warrants a true VBW deep dive, so we had to do it in two parts. This is part 1. Plus another segment of our pet peeves. “Updating my priors,” “Fixed it for you,” faculty governance, and more, these are the things that really grind our gears.
    Links:
    Burning (2018) [wikipedia.org]
    The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami (containing the short story "Barn Burning) [amazon.com affiliate link]
    Barn Burning by William Faulkner [wikipedia.org]
    Sponsored by:
    BetterHelp: You deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw. Promo Code: VBW Factor:  Chef-prepared, dietitian-approved meals, ready to eat. Sign up today and get restaurant-quality meals made by real chefs delivered to your door. Visit factormeals.com/vbw50 and use code VBW50 to get 50% off your order. 

    • 1 hr 32 min
    Episode 277: The Merits of Buggery (Nagel's "Sexual Perversion")

    Episode 277: The Merits of Buggery (Nagel's "Sexual Perversion")

    David and Tamler play the old hits – Thomas Nagel and sex robots. In the main segment we talk about Nagel’s essay “Sexual Perversion”, a surprising essay on many fronts (Sartre, erotic fiction, conceptual analysis, much more). What’s the nature of sexual desires? Can we say that some sexual interactions are perversions? Which ones? Can we have a perverse form of a hunger? Plus, a new study examines attitudes about sexual assault by probing for intuitions on assaulting sex robots. It gets more confusing from there.
    Links:
    Grigoreva, A. D., Rottman, J., & Tasimi, A. (2024). When does “no” mean no? Insights from sex robots. Cognition, 244, 105687.
    Nagel, T. (1969). Sexual perversion. The Journal of Philosophy, 5-17.
     
    Sponsored by:
    BetterHelp: You deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw. Promo Code: VBW Green Chef: Get great recipes made from organic produce and premium proteins of the highest quality delivered to your door. Visit Greenchef.com/60vbw, and use code 60VBW to get 60% off, plus 20% off your next two months.

    • 1 hr 35 min
    Episode 276: Attention Please

    Episode 276: Attention Please

    David and Tamler are back for the new year and one of our resolutions was to do more episodes on William James. Today we talk about his account of ‘Attention’ from his 1890 volume The Principles of Psychology – another remarkably prescient chapter that still feels more than relevant today. What is attention and how does it function in the mind? What accounts for the different ways that we attend to things? Does attention help to shape or construct our reality? What is attention’s connection to the will? Does James anticipate predictive coding theory?
    Plus we discuss the removal of the head of a renowned university for reasons that have nothing to do with the mission of higher learning.
    Episode Links
    Chancellor of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Fired [nbc.com]
    William James chapter on Attention from Principles of Psychology (1890) [yorku.ca]

    • 1 hr 27 min
    Episode 275: The Ineffable Center (Borges' "The Aleph")

    Episode 275: The Ineffable Center (Borges' "The Aleph")

    An episode interesting from every point of view, we train our eyes on Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Aleph.” The first segment wins the kudos of the learned, the academician, the Hellenist, as we talk about the favorite things we saw this year. The second segment — baroque? decadent? the purified and fanatical cult of form? — dives into the philosophy, comedy, satire, and poignancy of this classic story. Once again, we show our awareness that truly modern podcasting demands the balm of laughter, of scherzo. The finicky will want to excommunicate our discussion without benefit of clergy but the critic of more manly tastes will embrace this episode as he does his very life.
    "The Aleph" by Jorge Luis Borges [wikipedia.org]
    Version we read: Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Andrew Hurley) [amazon.com affiliate link]
    Sponsored by:
    BetterHelp: You deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw. Promo Code: VBW Listening.com: Save time by listening to academic papers on the go. Very Bad Wizards listeners get 3 weeks free when signing up at listening.com/vbw Givewell.org: Make your charitable donations as effective as possible. If you’ve never donated through GiveWell before, you can have your donation matched up to before the end of the year or as long as matching funds last. Just go to givewell.org, pick PODCAST, and enter VERY BAD WIZARDS at checkout. 

    • 1 hr 34 min
    Episode 274: Can I Get a Kidney Voucher? (with Vlad Chituc)

    Episode 274: Can I Get a Kidney Voucher? (with Vlad Chituc)

    RETURNING guest Vlad Chituc joins us for a wide-ranging discussion about donating his kidney to a stranger, the effective altruism movement, and his sexuality. Was EA’s turn to ‘long-termist’ goals like preventing evil AI inevitable?  Have they strayed too far from their Peter Singer/Jeremy Bentham inspired roots? And why won’t David and Tamler donate their kidneys?

    Plus a new article in Nature Climate Change argues that neuroscience can help the environment – can I interest you in some virtual trees?
    Doell, K. C., Berman, M. G., Bratman, G. N., Knutson, B., Kühn, S., Lamm, C., ... & Brosch, T. (2023). Leveraging neuroscience for climate change research. Nature Climate Change, 1-10.
    I spent a weekend at Google talking with nerds about charity. I came away … worried. by Dylan Matthews [vox.com]
    How effective altruism went from a niche movement to a billion-dollar force by Dylan Matthews [vox.com]
    Stop the Robot Apocalypse by Amia Srinivasan [lrb.co.uk]
    Sponsored by:
    BetterHelp: You deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw. Promo Code: VBW Listening.com: Save time by listening to academic papers on the go. Very Bad Wizards listeners get 3 weeks free when signing up at listening.com/vbw Givewell.org: Make your charitable donations as effective as possible. If you’ve never donated through GiveWell before, you can have your donation matched up to before the end of the year or as long as matching funds last. Just go to givewell.org, pick PODCAST, and enter VERY BAD WIZARDS at checkout.   

    • 1 hr 35 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
2.5K Ratings

2.5K Ratings

Brad Stulberg ,

Love this podcast

Great show. It’s serious and absurd and informative and entertaining and also a bit degenerative—which is to say it’s perfect.

ThisJus10 ,

A great show

I need a supercut of the debates w/ Christina Hoff Sommers and any instance of Paul Bloom

Hey that's pretty cool ,

Repugnant

These two are my favorites.

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