You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?

Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?

Each week, host Jason Gots surprises some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. Join us and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Maria Popova, Mary-Louise Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many more...

The philosophy of tragedy & the tragedy of philosophy - with Simon Critchley

Tragedy in art, from Ancient Greece to Breaking Bad, resists all our efforts to tie reality up in a neat bow, to draw some edifying lesson from it. Instead it confronts us with our own limitations, leaving us scrabbling in the rubble of certainty to figure out what's next.

Think Again Podcasts
  • Why democracy has been unpopular with philosophers
  • Tragedy's reminder that the past isn't finished with us
  • …and why we need art in the first place


Well into her 90's, my grandma Selma and I had this running conversation about the state of the world. She'd escaped Polish pogroms as a 5 year old, lived through the loss of half her relatives in World War II, and saw the founding of the UN in 1945 and NATO in 1949 as signs of a world sick of chaos and finally ready to be sensible and humane.

Well, that's not really how things turned out, is it. And I spent a lot of time trying and failing to reassure Selma that there was still hope in the world, just on a smaller, more localized scale.

But what if the real problem isn't the world but our obsessive tendency to systematize and sanitize it? My guest today, philosopher Simon Critchley, looks to the form of tragedy in theater—from Ancient Greece to Shakespeare and maybe also to Breaking Bad, as a possible antidote. In his new book TRAGEDY, THE GREEKS, AND US, he shows us how tragedy works, why Plato was scared of it, and how it answers the kind of deflated idealism my grandma Selma was dealing with.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Ashton Applewhite on happiness and aging

How to defeat moral grandstanders (and stay classy while doing it)

These effective strategies can minimize harmful moral grandstanding – in yourself and in others.

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • What is moral grandstanding? Here's a comprehensive explanation of the psychology that drives this disruptive and divisive online behavior.
  • Moral grandstanding may have very serious consequences for social discourse, but calling it out and shaming moral grandstanders is unproductive, says Brandon Warmke.
  • To defeat moral grandstanding, you can do several things. Before posting anything online, ask yourself: 'Am I doing this to do good or am I doing this to look good?'. You can deny attention and praise to moral grandstanders, and you can redirect your own impulse to signal morality into actual volunteer work instead of online posts.
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Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • For society to stay open and free, you don't need to eliminate prejudice. You need the opposite: All kinds of prejudice pitted against each other.
  • Intellectual diversity helps society as a whole learn the truth. And as long as society has rules that force ideas to be openly tested, the intolerant will not gain the upper hand.
  • "In America it's legal to be intolerant. It may not be right. It may not get you accepted or respected. But absolutely it's legal and it should be legal," says Jonathan Rauch.
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This incredibly rich machinery – with Antonio Damasio

Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
  • "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"



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Lisa Brennan-Jobs on growing up without, with, and in spite of her dad

How do you write away the personal hole in your heart when that hole was left by a man half the world idolizes? Steve Jobs' daughter, the writer Lisa Brennan-Jobs, on the process and effects of writing her beautiful memoir SMALL FRY.

Brigitte Lacombe
Think Again Podcasts
  • "If I hadn't gone back with a fine-toothed-comb, a lot of these assumptions I had would have just been the air I breathed into my future."
  • "There is something like theft in a memoir. If you want to write about yourself you have to write about other people who are unwitting and don't want to be written about…"
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Attention as an act of resistance – with Jenny Odell

Artist, "bird noticer", and concerned citizen of the digital state of the world Jenny Odell looks at many different ways of resisting the attention economy, sinking into the reality of our lives, and finding solidarity and agency with others.

Ryan Meyer
Think Again Podcasts
  • "Someone is defining the terms already by asking the question. And if you're not attentive, you will accept those terms."
  • "It's really hard to draw a hard line around an entity in any ecological system. And I think this is a great description of the self, too."
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