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Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience. Rationally Speaking was co-created with Massimo Pigliucci, is produced by Benny Pollak and recorded in the heart of Greenwich Village.

Current Episodes


RS140 - Kenny Easwaran on, "Newcomb's Paradox and the tragedy of rationality"

Release date: August 9, 2015

Kenny EaswaranThis episode of Rationally Speaking features philosopher Kenny Easwaran, who delves into the notorious "Newcomb's Paradox" -- the puzzle about which it was once said, "To almost everyone it is perfectly clear and obvious what should be done. The difficulty is that these people seem to divide almost evenly on the problem, with large numbers thinking that the opposing half is just being silly." Kenny and Julia explore how Newcomb's Paradox is related to other puzzles in decision theory, like the Prisoners' Dilemma; what its implications are for free will; and what Kenny calls the "deep tragedy" at the heart of rationality.

Kenny Easwaran is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at Texas A&M University. He works on several topics relating to epistemology and decision theory, and the role of probability in helping to understand these and related concepts. 

Kenny's pick:  "Thinking, Fast and Slow" 


 Full Transcripts 


RS139 - Eric Schwitzgebel on "Moral hypocrisy: why doesn't knowing about ethics make people more ethical?"

Release date: July 26, 2015

Eric SchwitzgebelYou might expect that professional ethicists -- people whose job it is to determine which behaviors are ethical and why -- would behave more ethically than other people. You'd be wrong! This episode features philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel , who is well known for his work studying whether experts in ethics live up to their own standards. He and Julia discuss why the answer is "no," and explore questions like, "How do you decide how moral you're going to try to be?" 

Eric Schwitzgebel is a Professor of Philosophy at University of California at Riverside. He is the co-author (with Russell T. Hurlburt) of Describing Inner Experience?: Proponent Meets Skeptic and blogs at The splintered Mind.

Eric's pick:  "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion" 



Full Transcripts 


RS138 - Ian Morris on, "Why the West rules -- for now"

Release date: July 12, 2015

Ian Morris For several centuries, historians have tried to answer the question: "Why is Western Europe (and later, North America) the dominant world power?" Past explanations cited culture, or "great men" who influenced the course of history. Stanford historian Prof. Ian Morris casts doubt on those explanations, instead taking a data-driven approach to the question that attempts to measure "social development" over history and find explanations for it. In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia delves into Morris' method and conclusions, and asks: can we make causal inferences about history?

Ian Morris is Willard Professor of Classics and Fellow of the Archaeology Center, Stanford University. He is a historian and archaeologist. He has excavated in Britain, Greece, and Italy, most recently as director of Stanford's dig at Monte Polizzo, a native Sicilian site from the age of Greek colonization. He is also the author of a number of books, among them: "Why the West Rules--for Now". "War! What Is It Good For?", and "Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels."

Ian's pick:  "Violence: A Modern Obsession" 

 Full Transcripts