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Hi-Phi Nation Podcast by Barry Lam

Hi-Phi Nation Podcast

by Barry Lam

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Hi-Phi Nation is the first story-driven, narrative podcast on contemporary philosophy. Every week we begin with compelling stories of ordinary and extraordinary human experiences, and transform them into an examination of philosophical ideas. We profile stories from war, crime, politics, religion, public health and policy, science, and history that raise philosophical questions, and we answer them with the help of contemporary academic philosophers. The aim of the show is to bring fans of the best narrative, story-driven podcasts into philosophy. The show is completely independently produced by Barry Lam, Professor at Vassar College.


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http://hiphination.org/

  • A Night of Philosophy
    Tue, Jun 19, 2018


    Hi-Phi Nation stays overnight at the Brooklyn Public Library during the 2018 Night of Philosophy. From 7pm to 7am on a Saturday night, thousands of New Yorkers swarmed the central library for acrobats, musicians, and philosophy. Meanwhile, we present philosophy shorts about the definition of life, the nature of good and the morality of revenge, and moral relativism. At the event, producer Sandra Bertin confronts some white privilege, while Barry wanders the floors trying to get people to differentiate between philosophy and bullshit. Guest voices include George Yancy, Cian Dorr, Kieran Setiya, Ian Olasov, with philosophy by Emily Parke, Joshua Gert, and David Wong. This episode brought to you by The Great Courses Plus.

  • Willful Acts
    Wed, May 30, 2018


    Army veteran Jim McKelvey applied for his VA benefits and was denied for willful misconduct. Thirty years later, Julie Eldred was sent to prison for a willful violation of probation. Both challenged, both got to a Supreme Court with the promise to change the law of the land. The disease model of addiction has been litigated a handful of times in the history of American law. Every time the same issue has come up; free will. We examine this week how the issues of free will and moral responsibility for addiction play out in the U.S. legal system. Guest voices include Sue McKelvey, Deborah Pearman, James McKelvey, Lisa Newman-Polk, and philosopher Hanna Pickard.


    This episode was brought you by the Great Courses Plus, where you can learn more philosophy. Visit to get one month free. http://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/hiphi

  • Creed and Credences
    Tue, May 01, 2018


    Dave has been hunting for the one decisive piece of scientific evidence that will settle one of Christianity's most challenging questions. On this episode we look at two stories of people trying to reconcile their religious and empirical beliefs about the world, and hear from a philosopher whose theory says that their attempts may be futile. Guest voices include Dave Woetzel, Laura Jean Truman, and philosopher Neil Van Leeuwen. This episode is brought to you by The Great Courses Plus. Visit http://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/hiphi to sign up for one month free.

  • The Self and Survival
    Tue, Mar 27, 2018


    In ordinary life, it is usually not hard to know who you are and who you used to be. For a small group of children around the world, their knowledge seems to conflict with what modern science believes is possible. On this episode, we tell stories of unusual childhood memories to examine the nature of the self, and what needs to survive in order for a person to survive. We delve into the strange philosophy and science of personal identity, quantum physics, and belief in the afterlife. Guest voices include Barbro Karlen, Dr. Jim Tucker, and philosophers Alyssa Ney and Yuval Avnur. This episode is sponsored by Warby Parker. Visit warbyparker.com/hiphi to support the show.

  • Cover Me Softly
    Wed, Feb 28, 2018


    When Lori Lieberman was 19 years old, she went to a concert of a singer she didn't know, and ended up writing a poem that would become one of the greatest cover songs of all time. This week we are going to look at the art of covering in popular music, and how that art marked the conversion from a classical model of musical aesthetics to a contemporary one. Popular music in the modern era is metaphysically complex due to the fact that its listeners make very fine-grained judgments about artistic merit and quality. We are going to talk about the stories behind some of the most iconic cover songs in the rock era, analyze an iconic song with Switched on Pop podcast host Nate Sloan, and transform all of it into the philosophy of music. Guests include Ray Padgett, Nate Sloan, Cristyn Magnus, and P.D. Magnus.

  • Freedom and Hostile Design
    Tue, Jan 23, 2018


    Some acts of expression are awesome, while others suck, and one philosopher has a new theory about the difference. Using this theory as a guide, we look at some of the suckiest things that ever sucked in urban design, and the street artists and compassionate vandals who are trying to fight them. We use these stories to investigate how public spaces are becoming less free and more coercive. Guest voices include Nick Riggle, Leah Borromeo, Rowland Atkinson, Victor Callister, and Richard Rowland.

  • Drowned at Sea
    Tue, Dec 19, 2017


    In the process of preparing to testify in a divorce case, Brian had to study one of the strangest books he had ever come across, where religion, mathematics, and the apocalypse intersect. This week, we look at how a religious cult of number worshipers on the Italian coast gave rise to modern science, mathematics, philosophy, and music. In the interim 2500 years, as we have increased our knowledge of the universe using mathematics, we have lost the ability to explain why math is so successful at describing nature. Guest voices include Brian Frye, Errol Morris, Monte Johnson, and Gideon Rosen.

  • The Ethics Bowl
    Tue, Nov 28, 2017


    High school students from around the country converge on the University of North Carolina for a weekend of moral dilemmas. We follow twenty-four of the nation's top ethics teams competing in the 2017 National High School Ethics Bowl, and take a whirlwind tour of moral philosophy in the process. Guest voices include Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Geoff Sayre-McCord, Jeff Sebo, and students from high schools across the country.

  • The Bottom of the Curve
    Tue, Oct 31, 2017


    At the beginning of their adult lives, millennials are trying to find out what it means to be happy in their 20s, not knowing that they have no where to go but down. Meanwhile, three highly successful people find themselves at the bottom of life's happiness curve, and try to find their way back up. The show today is about a demographic inevitability, the midlife crisis, and how we seek happiness in the face of our approaching death. Two mid-lifers leave their careers to gamble on fulfillment, and one philosopher seeks answers to life's most common existential crisis. Guest voices include recent graduates of Vassar College, Philosopher Kieran Setiya, Neil Hayward, and Diane Hope.

  • A Better Love
    Wed, May 03, 2017


    On our season finale, we follow a mother's love through the stages of life to seek wisdom about what love is, what love does, and why love happens. We follow five mothers at five different stages of motherhood, from the joys and anxieties of birth, letting go, coming back, being proud, and saying goodbye. We then turn to the philosophy of love and life, to figure out the role of love in the shape of a human life, and the significance of death in revealing the true value of our loved ones. Guest voices include Yael Goldstein Love, Tiffany Ward, Randy Scott Carroll, Diana Carroll, The J Family, Rachel Matlow, Elaine Mitchell, philosopher Susan Wolf, and philosopher Kieran Setiya. Special thanks to CBC radio's The Sunday Edition. 

  • The Ashes of Truth
    Tue, Apr 18, 2017


    Documentary film and science do not appear to have much in common, except that, philosophically, they have everything in common. Two men met in 1971 and had a disagreement, which turned into an assault, and then 45 years of disdain. One of them was the most cited philosopher of the 20th century, the other is one of the most influential documentary filmmakers of his generation. It was a disagreement that ran deep, right down to the nature of truth, history, reference, and the objects and limits of human inquiry.


    Guest voices include Errol Morris, Lydia Patton, Thomas Rankin, James Challey, and Dan Epstein.

  • Be a Man
    Tue, Mar 21, 2017


    Our ideas of manhood and womanhood determine the ways in which we raise and socialize our children, but how much does gender in a particular society depend on that society's relationship with violence? What happens when, all of a sudden, women are allowed to participate in a form of violence once reserved for men? This week, we investigate the effects and side effects of gender norms arising from militarism. Guest voices include two lieutenants in the US Army, LTC Naomi Mercer, Joshua Goldstein, Tom Digby, and Graham Parsons.

  • Hackademics II: The Hackers
    Tue, Mar 14, 2017


    One scientist decided to put the entire field of psychology to test to see how many of its findings hold up to scrutiny. At the same time, he had scientists bet on the success-rate of their own field. We look at the surprising paradoxes of humans being human, trying to learn about humans, and the elusive knowledge of human nature. Guest voices include Brian Nosek of the Center for Open Science, Andrew Gelman of Columbia University, Deborah Mayo of Virginia Tech, and Matthew Makel of Duke TiP. A philosophical take on the replication crisis in the sciences.

  • Hackademics I: The Control
    Tue, Mar 07, 2017


    After years of unusual episodes dating back to her childhood, Anita went to the doctor and was told there was nothing medically wrong with her. "She had a gift," she was told, and she was sent down the street to an ESP lab. Parapsychology is the scientific study of telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, precognition, and spirits. Or is it? The field has been pushed to the fringes of science for decades now. In two episodes, I first follow the study of psychics, and then the mainstream sciences of human nature, to see if they differ enough to make one worthy of belief, and the other scorn. Guest voices include Anita Woodley, John Kruth and Sally Rhine Feather of the Rhine Research Center, and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci.

  • The Cops of Pop
    Tue, Feb 21, 2017


    Two records from 1983 achieved minor novelty fame, and then faded away, only to emerge 20 years later as the originators of a curious genre of pop music in the age of social media. This peculiar genre raises questions about how we should think about genre, musical aesthetics, and artistry in the time of industrially-produced music and digital reproduction. Guest voices include Jordan Roseman, aka DJ Earworm, Steve Stein, aka Steinski, philosopher Chris Bartel, and musicologist Christine Boone.

  • The Name of God
    Tue, Feb 14, 2017


    With a small gesture of good will toward Syrian refugees, one woman incurred the wrath of evangelical Christians on social media. The resulting chaos helped write the next chapter in a thousand year-old controversy concerning Christianity, Islam, their shared origins, and the nature of God. Guest voices include Larycia Hawkins, Michael Mangis, Karly Bothman, Paul Griffiths, and Amir Hussain.

  • Soldier Philosophers Part 2: The Morality of War
    Tue, Feb 07, 2017


    For some reason, when people kill others in wars, we do not judge them morally and legally in the same way as we judge them when they kill in civilian life. Is there a justification for this difference, or is it only a convenient myth? We go to West Point to see what soldiers themselves think and teach about the morality of killing in war. Just as the US winds down two major unconventional wars, philosophers, including many soldier philosophers, are trying to revise hundreds of years of thinking about the morality of warfare. Guest voices include Ian Fishback, Jeff McMahan, Helen Frowe, Steve Woodside, Graham Parsons, Scott Parsons, Courtney Morris, Timothy Leone, and Saythala Phonexyaphova.

  • Soldier Philosophers Part 1: Moral Exploitation
    Tue, Jan 31, 2017


    When one Army soldier discovered the propagation of torture tactics during the Iraq war, he engaged in a one-man mission inside the organization to learn about their origins, and the effect they had on lower-level soldiers who were implementing them. From there, he took on the Bush administration. Years later, he is training to be a philosopher.


    As a new U.S. administration takes hold, with talk of military action against ISIS and the reinstatement of Bush-era torture policies, we embark on a two-week exploration of the philosophy of war. We follow the story of soldier philosophers, the first generation who served in a large-scale American war since Vietnam, returning to bring new thinking about the morality of warfare. On this episode, we look at the side-effects of moral decision-making on the soldiers who are asked to carry-out a President's orders. Guest voices include Michael Robillard and Ian Fishback.

  • The Wishes of the Dead
    Tue, Jan 24, 2017


    Our lives are controlled by the invisible hand from the grave. Trillions of dollars of the economy are devoted to executing the wishes of people who died long ago, rather than satisfying the desires of the living. We follow the story of the Hershey fortune to show how a 19th century industrialist constructed the oddest business structure to ensure that his wishes would be fulfilled hundreds of years after his death. The story raises questions about why we give the dead so much power over our lives, and what this says about how we find meaning in our own lives given foreknowledge of our mortality. Guest voices include Ray Madoff, Jim Mcmahon, Bob Fernandez, Joe Berning, Carole Hite, James Stacey Taylor, Barbara Baum Levenbook, Russ Shaffer-Landau, and Samuel Scheffler.

  • (Preview) Hackademics
    Mon, Jan 16, 2017


    What happens when you play by all of the rules of science, and find something that could not possibly be there? Barry visits ESP research labs, once at the heart of elite mainstream universities, now at the fringes, to see whether parapsychology is as unscientific as it is reputed to be. It is what he finds out about mainstream science that surprises him.

  • (Preview) Soldier Philosophers
    Mon, Jan 09, 2017


    The current American laws outlawing torture in the war on terror trace back to the actions of one Army whistleblower over ten years ago. In a two-part series, we follow his story through four combat tours, leading up to his life today as a philosopher. We hear about moral injury, about ethics in the age of unconventional warfare, and we hear from leading philosophers seeking to overturn centuries of thinking about the morality of war.

  • (Preview) Wishes of the Dead
    Mon, Jan 02, 2017


    Trillions of dollars of the US economy are devoted to executing the wishesof people who died long ago, rather than satisfying the needs,preferences, and values of those living now. Barry investigates oneparticularly interesting case of this, and seeks out answers to thephilosophical question; do we really have obligations to continuehonoring the wishes of the dead at the expense of the needs of theliving?

  • Season One Trailer #1
    Sat, Dec 24, 2016


    A brand new show bringing storytelling together with philosophy, Hi-Phi Nation aims to do for philosophy what Freakonomics did for economics, what Invisibilia does for cognitive psychology, and what all of your favorite podcasts do for your entertainment and enlightenment. Our inaugural 10-episode season will launch in late January 2017. Hosted and produced completely independently by Barry Lam, professor at Vassar College and fellow at Duke University, season one will include just war theory, epistemology of science, the possibility of posthumous harm, semantics, philosophy of religion, music aesthetics, and metaphysics.

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