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 50: Keeping it Unreal

    July 14th, 2014  |  1 hr 27 mins

    We honestly can't believe we made it to 50 episodes, so we must be brains in a vat. But we play along and celebrate with...a movie episode! We list our five favorite films about the subjective or questionable nature of reality. Our only rule: we couldn't choose The Matrix.

  • Episode 49: Psychopaths and Contrastivizzzzzzzz (With Walter Sinnott-Armstrong)

    June 23rd, 2014  |  1 hr 43 mins

    Special guest Walter Sinnott-Armstrong joins the podcast to explain how his theory which desperately needs a new name ("contrastivism") can dissolve most of the fundamental problems and paradoxes in philosophy.

  • Episode 48: Restorative Circle Jerk

    June 9th, 2014  |  1 hr 8 mins

    Dave and Tamler take a mulligan and try to resolve their conflict about restorative justice. Do restorative processes lead to more just outcomes than other approaches? Is it more vulnerable to instances of prejudice and bias? Is revenge a form of restorative justice?

  • Episode 47: Schooled By Our Listeners

    May 22nd, 2014  |  1 hr 2 mins

    Tamler and David leech off of their listeners and dedicate an episode to their favorite comments, questions, and criticisms from the past few weeks (but not before Tamler goes on a rant about bicycle helmets).

  • Episode 46: The Real Josh Knobe

    May 4th, 2014  |  1 hr 4 mins

    May I have your attention please? Will the real Josh Knobe please stand up? Will the real... [you know what, screw this--we're just dating ourselves.] X-phi phenom Josh Knobe rejoins the podcast to talk about the true self, naked people, gay preachers, and the Talmud.

  • Episode 45: Rounded Brains and Balanced "Play Diets"

    April 20th, 2014  |  1 hr 8 mins

    A British tabloid article about kids, brains, and spatial skills somehow provokes the biggest argument ever on the podcast. Dave and Tamler get into it about gender, toys, properly rounded brains, and balanced "play diets."

  • Episode 44: Killer Robots

    April 5th, 2014  |  1 hr 8 mins
  • Episode 43: The Nature of Nudges

    March 17th, 2014  |  50 mins 3 secs

    Dave and Tamler talk about a recent study that seems to support the view that "justice is what the judge had for breakfast" (or at least how long ago the parole board had breakfast), and we discuss the ethics of "nudges" in government and consumer marketing.

  • Episode 42: Reason, Responsibility, and Roombas (With Paul Bloom)

    March 3rd, 2014  |  1 hr 7 mins

    Can a fully determined creature deliberate? How big a role does conscious reasoning play in moral judgment and everyday life? Are we responsible for our thoughts and actions? Paul Bloom rejoins us against his better judgment to discuss his book "Just Babies" and his recent article in "The Atlantic" that set the internet on the fire

  • Episode 41: Moral Dilemmas at the Movies

    February 18th, 2014  |  1 hr 37 mins

    Dave keeps trying to explain to Tamler that we're not a movie podcast, but somehow they're doing another podcast about movies. This time they each list their top 5 movies featuring moral dilemmas. Also, Tamler tries to rationalize the Woody Allen controversy, Ozymandias from Watchmen says "screw you Paul Bloom," Dave confuses Maggie Gyllenhaal with Droopy, and for the second time ever we have to censor something one of us (Tamler) says.

  • Episode 40: How Many Moralities Are There? Pt. 2 (with Jesse Graham)

    February 3rd, 2014  |  1 hr 19 mins

    Jesse Graham joins us for part 2 of our discussion on the nature of morality, and his recent paper on Moral Foundations Theory. He highlights the key components of MFT, defends himself against our accusations of weaseling out of the normative implications of MFT, champions "Synechdoche, New York" as one of the greatest films ever made, and comes out of the closet as a rationalist.

  • Episode 39: How Many Moralities Are There? (Pt.1)

    January 20th, 2014  |  59 mins 48 secs

    Dave and Tamler bounce back this week after having to trash the last episode. Does morality ultimately boil down to a single principle (such as harm or justice), or is there more to ethical life than is dreamt of in the minds of philosophers? We settle this question once and for all in the first of a 2-part episode in which we discuss Jesse Graham et al's recent paper on Moral Foundations Theory. (Jesse Graham himself joins us in Part 2).

  • Episode 38: The Greatest Movies Ever Made about Personal Identity

    December 30th, 2013  |  1 hr 21 mins

    Who is the real you? What happens to your identity when your body gets cloned or reconstituted with all the same memories and character traits? Does society construct our true selves or repress them? Can we ever escape our pasts and become different people? Dave thinks conceptual analysis and arousal measuring devices can solve all these problems but allows Tamler his dream of temporarily becoming the host of a movie podcast. They list their top 5 favorite movies about personal identity.

  • Episode 37: Porn, Poop, and Personal Identity (with Nina Strohminger)

    December 16th, 2013  |  45 mins 47 secs

    The guest we've been waiting for--Nina Strohminger--joins us to talk about the connection between disgust and humor, cheap laughs, moral character and personal identity, and the British opt-in plan for porn.

  • Episode 36: An Irresponsible Meta-Book Review of Joshua Greene's "Moral Tribes"

    November 25th, 2013  |  55 mins 12 secs

    Our most irresponsible episode ever! Dave and Tamler talk about two reviews of a book they haven't read--Joshua Greene's "Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them"--and feel only a little shame.

  • Episode 35: Douchebags and Desert

    November 11th, 2013  |  1 hr 1 min

    Dave and Tamler talk about the influence of character judgments on attributions of blame. What is the function of the blame--to assign responsibility or to judge a person's character? Is it fair that we blame douchebags more than good people who commit exactly the same act, or is it yet another cognitive bias that should be avoided?