As the Black Lives Matter movement spreads across the globe in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Monty shares his perspective on systemic racism and Tim looks at the role that he and others like him can play to confront racism and make real change. This was a powerful and emotional episode for us to record, and we hope that it can help others find clarity and hope around an immensely important topic. Note: some strong language.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has shattered normality and created strange and unsettling times. But it's also an opportunity to reflect on what really matters and what we take for granted. In this special episode, Monty talks about how we use ritual and symbols to make sense of the pandemic, and Tim looks at how COVID is revealing the fundamental tension between individual and community.
It's hard to reconcile the tremendous diversity of moral views in the world with our conviction that our own moral views are the right ones. Does this mean morality is relative? If so, what is it relative to? In this episode, Monty looks at what anthropology has to say about morality, and Tim talks about his own work in philosophy on using evolution to understand moral diversity.
It often feels like play is a frivolous waste of time, that it's good for kids but inappropriate for adults. But play is how we learn to interact with others, how to create and abide by rules, how to explore our world and ourselves. Play allows any of us - whether kid or adult - to use our imagination, to innovate and create. Even games like Fortnite can be more than just fun. In this episode we talk about the various dimensions of play, from its evolutionary origins to how it affects your brain.
It's no secret that both of us are old school Star Wars and Star Trek nuts (we even first bonded watching Star Trek: The Next Generation together back in the 1990s). But we think that science fiction is more than just action and fluff (although there's plenty of that too). In this episode we talk about how science fiction draws on the same mythological themes that appear across cultures throughout history, how it sparks the imagination and encourages us to imagine a better world.
One of the certainties of life is that it will end. Yet we don't often talk about death, what it means, why many of us fear it, and how it can bring meaning to our lives. In this episode, Monty talks about the importance of funeral and mortuary rituals from cultures throughout history, Tim shares Epicurus' insights on how to stop fearing death, and both chuckle at the futurists who seek to escape it.
Given that Tim is a philosopher who researches how biology informs morality, and Monty is an anthropologist who researchers how culture shapes who we are, you won't be surprised to hear that in this episode, Tim and Monty disagree (quite a lot) about whether there is such a thing as "human nature". They in turn draw on evolutionary biology, cultural observations, twin studies, philosophy (Chinese and western) and psychology to make their points, and even find a couple of points to agree about in the end.
Boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. Or will they? A lot of people think that if you're born with a certain set of chromosomes and particular genitalia, then your gender is set for life. But things aren't that simple. They never are.
So how does sex relate to gender? Tim and Monty discuss what the latest science, anthropology and philosophy have to say about gender, and look at how sex and gender inform who we are.
Are we naturally violent creatures that are tempered by culture? Or are we naturally peaceful and it's our culture that turns some of us violent? Tim and Monty discuss this (perhaps false) dichotomy and talk about what evolution and anthropology can tell us about the origins of violence.
Sex is everywhere. It shapes our biology, it steers our behaviour, it permeates our society. It's not only about reproduction, sex serves an important social function too. Tim and Monty go back to the roots, if you will, looking at the evolution of sex - including why humans have bigger penises than gorillas and smaller testicles than chimpanzees - to understand what sex means for us today.
There has been a spate of incidents recently where people have been prevented from speaking, or "disinvited" from speaking events, because what they say is perceived to cause harm or even just offence. What does this mean for free speech? What even is speech? Tim and Monty talk (and disagree) about different theories of how language reflects and/or creates reality, and whether there are any places where free speech truly does, or should, exist.
The #metoo movement has already had a momentous impact, and many people are still parsing what it means for them. We think meaningful change will ultimately come from men, so it's something men should be thinking and talking about more. In this episode Monty talks about his experience working with men and boys on combating toxic masculinity and Tim talks about the difficulties in even talking about #metoo.
It's the holiday season, where many of us engage in religious holidays and festivals. But can we celebrate Diwali, Christmas or Hanukkah if we don't believe in supernatural forces (or Santa Claus)? Why is belief in a god or gods so common throughout history and across cultures? What role does god and religion play in providing meaning in our lives?
From hoop earrings to yoga to rock and roll, people from one culture often "appropriate" elements from other cultures. But is this a case of exploitation? Should people ask permission before drawing from another culture? Are there times when another culture is off limits?
In many ways, race is an outdated concept that refers to biological differences among human populations that don't really exist in the way many people think they do. But race is also a social phenomenon that is deeply significant to many people's sense of meaning. So how should we think about, and use the term, "race"?
Why is love such a potent experience? Is it just down to a biological imperative to mate, or is there something transcendental about it? In this episode, we discuss love from the perspectives of philosophy, anthropology and science.
Business is the new Rolex watch. It seems to signal our importance. But are we "spending" our time effectively? Or wasting it keeping busy and not doing the things that mean the most?
Birds can sing, dogs can bark, but only we compose symphonies or dance until the wee hours. Why? Where does music come from? How did it evolve? And what function does it serve today?
The election of Donald Trump to be President of the United States came a shock to many. Why? And what can be done about the polarisation of views that makes it so hard for those who support and oppose Trump to even talk to each other constructively?
There's how we are and how we think we are. But what happens when they get out of synch?
Join us for a special live recorded episode held at Sydney Contemporary art expo hosted by The School of Life at the Glenfiddich whisky bar. We talk about the evolution of art, the role it plays in in our lives and how we use it to create and explore meaning.
The Meaning of Life explores where we find meaning in our lives, whether through work, family, love, religion, death etc. But we appear to live in a vast uncaring universe. So can there even be any meaning to be found?