Very Bad Wizards

a philosopher and a psychologist ponder human morality

About the show

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.


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    Episode 200: Our 200th Episode Spectactular

    November 3rd, 2020  |  1 hr 44 mins
    gender, holes, sexism, toobin, toys, zoom

    David and Tamler celebrate their 200th episode with bourbon and a return to their potty humor roots. First we talk about holes, zoom dicks, and the election. Then we relitigate our bitter debate (from episode 45) over gender, toys, and balanced play diets. Have we matured over all these years? Well it’s not for us to say…

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    Episode 199: When Philosophy Goes Sideways

    October 20th, 2020  |  1 hr 39 mins
    aesthetics, art, childhood, metaphysics, spacetime, well being

    David and Tamler check out some recent work in metaphysics and applied ethics. Does playing a Nina Simone song sideways show that Einstein was wrong about spacetime? Does a Dali painting nailed to the wall backwards have intrinsic value (see figure 1)? Is childhood bad for children? Do you have to be a child before you're an adult? Are we kidding? Is this a joke? We don't know but don't play this podcast sideways or it may lose its aesthetic value.

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    Episode 198: Is Mental Illness a Myth? (Thomas Szasz's "The Myth of Mental Illness")

    October 6th, 2020  |  1 hr 32 mins
    mental illness, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, thomas szasz

    David and Tamler explore Thomas Szasz’s provocative and still relevant 1961 book “The Myth of Mental Illness,” the topic selected by our beloved Patreon supporters. When we think of mental disorders as “diseases,” are we making a category mistake? Are we turning ordinary “problems in living” into pathologies that must be treated (with pills or psychoanalysis)? Does this model rob us of our autonomy in direct or indirect ways? Plus, with VBW 200 only 2 episodes away we give our top 3 dream guests, and David dons his punditry cap to break down the first presidential debate, which already seems like six months ago.   

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    Episode 197: The Long Slow Death That Is Life

    September 22nd, 2020  |  1 hr 52 mins
    aliens, charlie kaufman, i'm thinking of ending things, open science

    The psychologist Yoel Inbar has always tried to imbue his work with a sort of interiority, and now he joins us for a deep dive into Charlie Kaufman’s baffling and distressing new film “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” Why does Jessie Buckley’s name and career keep changing? What’s going on with the dog? Why are the parents unstuck in time? Don’t worry you’ll get home, we have tire chains in the trunk. Plus, aliens, open science, and the illuminati. It’s all connected.

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    Episode 196: The Loneliest Paper in Philosophy

    September 8th, 2020  |  1 hr 49 mins
    david lewis, modal realism, neil sinhababu, pedagogy, possible girls, possible worlds, teaching

    She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and head over heels in love with you. There’s only one problem – she’s from a possible world, not the actual one. What we thought would be a funny opening segment idea turns into a semi-serious discussion of Neil Sinhababu’s 2008 article “Possible Girls.” Plus David and Tamler share some thoughts on teaching in normal times and today.   

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    Episode 195: Jesus on Trial (Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov")

    August 25th, 2020  |  1 hr 55 mins
    dostoevsky, tamler's birthday spectacular, the brothers karamazov, the grand inquisitor, the problem of evil

    David and Tamler dive into the most celebrated and philosophically rich scenes in Dostoevsky’s masterpiece "The Brother’s Karamozov." Alyosha gets in the middle of a rock-fight, Ivan Karamazov makes a devastating moral case against God, and the Grand Inquisitor convicts Jesus Christ of heresy against the church. (Note: this segment is the second of an upcoming five episode VBW miniseries on The Brothers Karamozov – more info on that to come very soon!) Plus one of us has a milestone birthday...

    [Special note from Peez: Stick around after the closing music to hear VBWs most frequent guests Paul Bloom and Yoel Inbar talk to David about Tamler behind his back.]

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    Episode 194: God Has No Mother (with Chris Matheson)

    August 11th, 2020  |  1 hr 53 mins
    atheism, chris matheson, comedy, movies

    David and Tamler welcome special guest Chris Matheson - co-writer of the "Bill and Ted" movies and author of "The Story of God" and "The Buddha’s Story" - to talk about religion, immortality, comedy, Freud, and why the secret ingrediet to good satire is love.  Plus David and Tamler do a conceptual analysis of stoner movies and discuss their favorites. 

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    Episode 193: Free Wanting (Frankfurt's "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person")

    July 21st, 2020  |  1 hr 28 mins
    frankfurt, free will, fuck, pain

    David and Tamler want to go old school and discuss a classic Frankfurt paper on free will. But do they want to want that?

    Are they free to want
    what they want to want?
    Are they free to will what they want to will
    or to have the will they want?

    And if that’s not Dr. Seuss enough for you, shouting “FUCK” increases pain tolerance but what about shouting “TWIZPIPE”?

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    Episode 192: Postmodern Wet Dreams (Borges' "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote")

    July 7th, 2020  |  1 hr 36 mins
    borges, my little pony, nazis, postmodernism, short story

    David and Tamler dive into “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” a very funny Borges story that also raises deep questions about authorship, reading, and interpretation. What would it mean for the same text to be written by two different authors more than three hundred years apart? Is this story the post-modernist manifesto that literary critics like Roland Barthes believed it to be? Or is the narrator in the story just a delusional sycophant, a victim of Menard’s practical joke – and by extension, a practical joke by Borges on the post-modernist movement to come? Plus, My Little Pony fans finally confront their Nazi problem. 

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    Episode 191: All the Rage

    June 23rd, 2020  |  1 hr 36 mins
    amia srinivasan, anger, idw, philosophy of emotion, protests

    A lotta anger out there right now, but does it do more harm than good? Is anger counterproductive, an obstacle to progress? And even if it is, can anger still be appropriate? We talk about two excellent articles on anger by the philosopher Amia Srinivasan. Plus we express some counterproductive anger of our own at the IDWs response to the protests.  

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    Episode 190: We Pod. We Pod-Cast. We Podcast. (Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit”)

    June 9th, 2020  |  2 hrs 1 min
    black lives matter, branding, frankfurt, on bullshit, university of oregon

    David and Tamler talk about police violence, the protests, and Harry Frankfurt's journal article turned bestseller ”On Bullshit." Plus we dive into a comic masterpiece of late capitalism: the University of Oregon's brand guidelines.

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    Episode 189: The Anality of Evil (Freud's "Civilization and its Discontents")

    May 26th, 2020  |  1 hr 37 mins

    David and Tamler dive into Sigmund Freud’s world of unconscious drives, death instincts, and thwarted incestuous urges in his classic text “Civilization and its Discontents.” If society has made so much progress, why are human beings perpetually dissatisfied? Can religion help us or is it a big part of the problem? What’s really going on when you piss on a fire to put it out? Also: how seriously should we take Freud today given some of his wackier ideas? And is he a psychologist, a philosopher, or something else entirely?

    Plus we select the finalists from a huge list of suggested topics for the Patreon listener-selected episode!

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    Episode 188: Conceptual Mummies (Nietzsche's "Twilight of the Idols")

    May 12th, 2020  |  1 hr 42 mins

    Socrates was ugly and tired of life, his dialectic was a weapon of revenge against the nobility. Philosophers are mummies who hate the body and the senses. Reason is a tricky old woman. Morality is a misunderstanding. Kant is a sneaky Christian. And don't even get Nietzsche started on "free will" or the "self" - both are just excuses for priests to punish people. David and Tamler tackle Friedrich Nietzsche's “Twilight of the Idols,” a set of aphorisms full of passion, provocation, and questions without answers. Do they make sense? Plus, a professor is sanctioned for talking dirty with his students - another case of censorship from a coddled generation?

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    Episode 187: More Zither

    April 21st, 2020  |  1 hr 40 mins

    With a global pandemic and a collapsing economy upon us, it's time to ask ourselves some tough questions. Sex robots or platonic love robots - what are you more excited for? If you walked in on your partner with one of them, which would make you more jealous? Are you male or female? Can evolutionary psychology explain sex-linked preferences for sensitive, empathetic Alexas? We then dive into the shadowy echo-filled streets of post-war Vienna - and talk about one of our favorite movies, a true noir classic: The Third Man.

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    Episode 186: The One with Peter Singer

    April 7th, 2020  |  1 hr 29 mins

    The legendary Peter Singer joins us to talk about effective altruism, AI, animal welfare, esoteric morality, future Tuesday indifference, and more. I mean, it’s Peter freakin’ Singer - what more do we need to say? Plus, the explosive ‘one or two spaces after a period' debate: has science resolved it?

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    Episode 185: The Devil's Playground

    March 24th, 2020  |  1 hr 24 mins

    David and Tamler begin by talking about the question on everyone’s mind right now – are we obligated to be pansexual? Then, since many of us have more free time on our hands these days, we thought it might be a good idea to revisit Bertrand Russell’s essay (published in Harper’s Magazine) “In Praise of Idleness.” How did workaholism become the norm? Why do we see working insanely long hours as a virtue, a moral duty rather than a necessity? Would more leisure make us more fulfilled and creative or just bored? We also discuss Daniel Markovits’ book "The Meritocracy Trap" - when life is a non-stop hyper-competitive grind from preschool to retirement even among the elites, is anyone happy?