Why We Argue

Hosted by political philosopher and Vanderbilt University professor Robert Talisse, Why We Argue is an interview podcast that brings in academics, philosophers, historians, journalists, politicians, and other notable public figures to think about the state of American political discourse and the roll intellectual humility can play in public conversation. Created by Humility & Conviction in Public Life a project of the University of Connecticut's Humanities Institute and funded by the John Templeton Foundation.
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Why We Argue


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Feb 22, 2018

Myisha Cherry is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and next year will be Assistant Professor of Philosophy at University of California, Riverside. She is co-editor of the volume, The Moral Psychology of Anger.  Her work is focused on the nature of anger and forgiveness, especially in the context of racial injustice.  Cherry is also the host and creator of the UnMute Podcast.

Feb 8, 2018

Quassim Cassam is Professor of Philosophy at University of Warwick in the UK.  His academic work resides at the intersection of epistemology and philosophy of mind, where he explores topics pertaining to self-knowledge, self-deception, and epistemic virtue and vice.  His forthcoming book is titled Vices of the Mind, and it will be published this year with Oxford University Press.

Jan 25, 2018

John Corvino is  Professor of Philosophy at the Wayne State University in Detroit.  His academic work focuses on topics in moral, social, and legal philosophy surrounding sexuality, gender, marriage, religious conviction, and discrimination.  But John is also an active public philosopher who frequently participates in public debates over these topics. He produces and appears in a popular YouTube series of short videos devoted to the philosophical discussion of controversial topics.  He is the author of What’s Wrong with Homosexuality?, co-author (with Maggie Ghallagher) of Debating Same Sex Marriage, (with Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis) of Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, all published with Oxford University Press.

Jan 11, 2018

Jon Olafsson is Professor in the n the department of Comparative and Cultural Studies at the University of Iceland.  His research is focused on democracy, political participation, dissent, reconciliation, and social criticism.  Jon has written extensively about the efforts in Iceland – from roughly 2010 to 2013 - to revise the nation’s constitution.

Dec 28, 2017

Sandy Goldberg is Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University.  He specializes in epistemology and philosophy of language, with particular interest in the social aspects of knowledge and speech; these foci converge in his ongoing work on testimony.  Sandy has written several books including Relying on Others (Oxford 2010) and, more recently, Assertion (Oxford 2015); his forthcoming book is titled To the Best of Our Knowledge, and is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

Dec 14, 2017

Kate Manne is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University.  She specializes in moral and social philosophy and feminist philosophy.  her new book is titled Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Oxford 2018).

Nov 30, 2017

Tommie Shelby is Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African-American Studies, and Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University.  His research focuses on political equality and problems of economic, social, and criminal justice.  His most recent book is Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform, which is published by Harvard University Press. 

Nov 16, 2017

Can we change minds about Confederate monuments? Kevin Levin is a historian and educator studying the American Civil War and memory. His book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), was just released in paperback and he is the author of a recent article in the Atlantic Why I Changed My Mind About Confederate Monuments.

Nov 2, 2017

How does corporate misinformation and partisan skepticism effect what we know about climate change? Lawrence Torcello is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Philosophy. His research focuses on social and political philosophy, democratic theory, and climate justice. 

Oct 19, 2017

Seana Shiffrin is Professor of Philosophy and Pete Kameron Professor of Law and Social Justice at UCLA.  She defends the “thinker theory” of freedom of speech, which holds that a central reason for upholding a moral and legal system of free speech is that such a system is necessary for free thought and reflective action.  This view is articulated in her book, Speech Matters:On Lying, Morality, and the Law (Princeton 2014).

Aug 10, 2017

Helene Landemore is Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at Yale University. She defends the idea that democracy succeeds at harnessing the collective wisdom of the citizenry. This view is spelled out in her 2013 book Democratic Reason (Princeton University Press 2013). Landemore is currently completing a new book about the institutional design of a smart democracy.


Jul 27, 2017

Nigel Warburton holds a PhD in Philosophy from Cambridge and has held academic positions at University of Nottingham and the Open University.  But he is today a freelance public philosopher. He has offered philosophy courses at the Tate Modern gallery, he conducts monthly philosophical discussions at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford, and co-hosts with David Edmonds the wildly popular podcast series Philosophy Bites.  Nigel is the author of several books of philosophy, including The Art Question (Routledge 2002), Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2009), and A Little History of Philosophy (Yale 2012).

Jul 13, 2017

Thom Brooks is Dean of Durham Law School, Professor of Law and Government, and Associate in the Department of Philosophy in the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University. His academic work focuses on issues in Ethics, Criminal Law, and Public Policy. But he is widely known as an outspoken critic of the UK Citizenship Test. His most recent book is Becoming British: UK Citizenship Examined (Biteback Publishing 2016).

Jun 28, 2017

Trudy Govier is Emerita Professor of Philosophy at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Her research is focused on the nature of argumentation and questions concerning social trust, forgiveness, and reconciliation. She is also the author of a highly influential informal logic text,  A Practical Study of Argument (7th edition, Cengage), as well as Forgiveness and Revenge (Routledge 2002) and Victims and Victimhood (Broadview 2015).

Jun 15, 2017

Akeel Bilgrami is Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, and a member of Columbia’s Committee on Global Thought.  Bilgrami’s research spans issues in Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language, Moral Philosophy, and Political Philosophy.  His most recent book is titled Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment(Harvard 2014). And he is the author of the forthcoming book, What is a Muslim?(Princeton UP).

Jun 1, 2017

Does voter ignorance undermine democracy? Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School of George Mason University and regular contributor to the Volokh Conspiracy blog at the Washington Post. Somin’s research focuses on issues concerning constitutional law, property law, and public political participation. He is the author of The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain (University of Chicago Press, 2015) and Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter (revised edition, Stanford University Press, 2016) .

May 18, 2017

How can we as consumers distinguish between the many different political medias? Eric Alterman is CUNY Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College.  Eric is also a columnist for The Nation, and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington and the World Policy Institute in New York. He is the author of several books, including When Presidents Lie (Penguin 2004),  Kabuki Democracy (Nation Books 2011), and most recently, Inequality and One City (Nation Books 2015).

May 4, 2017

Don't discuss politics at the dinner table? Why not? Karen Stohr is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University. Stohr’s research focuses on Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy and virtue theory. She is the author of academic articles dealing with topics such as beneficence, modesty, and friendship. In her recent book, On Manners (Routledge 2012), Stohr argues that the social niceties commonly characterized as manners have distinctively moral content.

Apr 20, 2017

Joshua Cohen is a faculty member of Apple University, and is Distinguished Senior Fellow at the School of Law, the Department of Philosophy, and the Department of Political Science at Berkeley.  He is the author of several influential academic articles, many of which are collected in Philosophy, Politics, Democracy(Harvard 2009), and The Arc of the Moral Universe and Other Essays (Harvard, 2011). Since 1991, Cohen has edited the Boston Review


Apr 5, 2017

Donald Trump won the election largely by making grand promises of radical change. William Galston argues that, ultimately, talk is cheap and results are what counts. William Galston is Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program.  He is also a former Deputy Assistant to President Clinton for Domestic Policy. Additionally, he writes a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal. Galston’s academic work focuses on value pluralism and civic renewal. 

Apr 5, 2017
As US politics becomes increasingly driven by divisions, we need some way of sustaining a shared civic life. Paul Taylor makes the case for democratic virtues. Paul C. Taylor is Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of the Liberal Arts and Associate Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies at Penn State. His research focuses on philosophy of race, social and political philosophy, Africana philosophy, and aesthetics. 
Apr 5, 2017
The ‘ideological odd couple’ of Robert George and Cornel West jointly authored a statement defending free speech on campus and elsewhere. Find out why. Robert George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of Politics at Princeton University, and the founding director of Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.  His research focuses on issues in ethics, political philosophy, and philosophy of law.
Apr 5, 2017

Contemporary democracy is becoming increasingly populist. Elizabeth Anderson explains what populism is, why many find it appealing, and what makes it dangerous. Elizabeth Anderson is John Dewey Distinguished University Professor, John Rawls Collegiate Professor, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and Department Chair at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  She specializes in Ethics and Political Philosophy, writing on issues of social justice, equality, race, and gender. 

Apr 5, 2017
Social Media rewards snap judgments and blind conviction. Michael Lynch finds this troubling. Michael P. Lynch is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Humanities Institute a University of Connecticut. His research concerns truth, public discourse, and the impact of technology on democratic society.  


Apr 5, 2017

Donald Trump won the election largely by making grand promises of radical change. William Galston argues that, ultimately, talk is cheap and results are what counts. William Galston is Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program.  He is also a former Deputy Assistant to President Clinton for Domestic Policy. Additionally, he writes a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal. Galston’s academic work focuses on value pluralism and civic renewal. 

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