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Related Readings
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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


Saturday
Jun112011

RS37 - The Science and Philosophy of Happiness

Release date: June 16, 2011


Debates over what’s important to happiness — Money? Children? Love? Achievement? — are ancient and universal, but attempts to study the subject empirically are much newer. What have psychologists learned about which factors have a strong effect on people’s happiness and which don’t? Are parents really less happy than non-parents, and do people return to their happiness “set point” even after extreme events like winning the lottery or becoming paralyzed? We also tackle some of the philosophical questions regarding happiness, such as whether some kinds of happiness are “better” than others, and whether people can be mistaken about their own happiness. But, perhaps the hardest question is: can happiness really be measured?

Comment on the episode teaser.

NOTE: Our reply to the accusations made by Jennifer Michael Hecht regarding this episode may be found here.

Wednesday
Jun012011

RS36 - Why Should We Care About Teaching the Humanities?

Release date: June 5, 2011


Universities all around the country are closing programs in the humanities, at least in part because of the increasing widespread attitude that higher education should be treated as a business, and that programs that bring in money in the form of high tuitions from students and external grants are to be prioritized. SUNY Albany, for example, announced in the Fall of 2010 that the departments of French, Italian, Classics, Russian and Theater Arts were being eliminated. So, what is the point of studying languages, literature, history or philosophy? Can we, and perhaps more importantly, should we quantify their value? Can we have universities that focus only on science and marketable skills?

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Julia's pick:  Givewell.org

Massimo's pick: "The Philosophers' Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding"

Friday
May202011

RS35 - What is Philosophy of Science Good For?

Release date: May 22, 2011


In this episode we explore philosophy of science: What is it about, and should it matter to scientists? Massimo and Julia also discuss some of the most important questions in philosophy of science now, and some historical debates between leading philosophers of science, like Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper, over how science should or does work.  

So is philosophy of science, as Richard Feynman famously quipped, "as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds?" Or was philosopher Daniel Dennett closer to the truth when he said, "There is no such thing as philosophy-free science, only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on-board unexamined?"

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "The End of Discovery: Are We Approaching the Boundaries of the Knowable?"

Massimo's pick: The blog entry 10 Important Differences Between Brains and Computers