The Gray Area with Sean Illing

The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do offer a space for real dialogue. Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity, and get some cool takes on a very hot world. Formerly the Vox Conversations podcast. New episodes drop every Monday.

News Commentary
A philosopher's psychedelic encounter with reality
Justin Smith-Ruiu's experimentation with psychedelic drugs led him to fundamentally reevaluate his understanding of time, death, his job — and the nature of reality.
48 min
The project of Socratic love with Agnes Callard
Philosopher Agnes Callard on the benefits of making your personal life public
49 min
The chemistry of connection
Sean talks with a psychiatrist about how our brain chemistry — and psychedelics — can help take on the "loneliness epidemic"
49 min
What a slow civil war looks like
What if January 6th was only the beginning?
52 min
How to listen
The essential art of listening and how it’s different from simply hearing.
51 min
Why we can't give up on persuasion
Democracy depends on persuasion
50 min
Rep. Katie Porter's working-class politics
Why Rep. Katie Porter thinks we need fewer millionaires in Congress
41 min
The climate apocalypse will be televised
A writer/producer of Apple TV+'s "Extrapolations" on the challenges and imperatives of dramatizing the climate crisis, and imagining a bleak future
55 min
A philosopher takes on religious life
A philosophy professor gave up her career and all her possessions to join a religious community, and her new book explores the value of living a life of faith
48 min
Your brain isn't so private anymore
Brain-scanning technology is here, and already available to consumers. This law professor says we're not ready for the consequences.
59 min
Brian Stelter thinks the news has a reliability...
Examining the relationship between news, entertainment, and politics with media reporter Brian Stelter.
51 min
How corporations got all your data
Sean talks with a Columbia professor whose new book tells the history of how corporations and governments became so interested in collecting our personal data — and how they got away with it
49 min
The case for failure
How to embrace failure and gain humility
43 min
Poetry as religion
The paradoxes of living a meaningful life are worth exploring... even if there's no God
51 min
Revisiting the American Dream
“Going it alone” has run its course
37 min
The cost of saving pandas
We protected pandas as the rest of nature collapsed
40 min
Breaking our family patterns
How our "origin wounds" from childhood hold us back, according to an acclaimed marriage and family therapist
58 min
For Black horror fans, fact is scarier than fic...
Black horror and the roots of social inequity in Hollywood
45 min
Taking Nietzsche seriously
The 19th-century German philosopher has a history of being misread, misunderstood, and misinterpreted. And yet his insights can still have resonance today — but we have to grapple with the unsettling things in his work.
59 min
The dark history of Silicon Valley
How Palo Alto influenced capitalism within Silicon Valley, the US, and around the world
54 min
The value of being a "hater"
There's power in the subversive, reactionary act of spreading a little targeted negativity on the internet
49 min
Behind the blue wall
A former cop on how to fix policing in America
56 min
Best of: Imagine a future with no police
Vox's Fabiola Cineas speaks with author and activist Derecka Purnell about a radical new vision of policing in America
58 min
Is America broken?
An exploration of our deepest political divide.
45 min
The creator of Fargo is done with good guys vs....
Noah Hawley, novelist and showrunner of Fargo on FX, talks with Sean Illing about the enduring power of old American myths
49 min