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
The new crisis of masculinity
How to redefine what it means to be a man.
58 min
How we all became a brand
A brief history of how self-invention became personal branding.
49 min
The therapeutic potential of MDMA
How did MDMA go from club drug to breakthrough therapy?
44 min
Is the journey to self-discovery pointless?
What does it mean to know ourselves, and are modern methods like personality tests helping?
49 min
Parenting through the climate crisis
If we owe our children a safe and healthy future, what are parents supposed to do about our rapidly warming world?
43 min
Seeing ourselves through darkness
A philosopher's new book on dark moods aims to help us escape the damage of our culture's most pervasive metaphor
52 min
Best of: A new philosophy of love
55 min
The future of tribalism
An evolutionary anthropologist's new book aims to explore mankind's tribal past — and foresee our tribal future
49 min
When you can't separate art from artist
How to reckon with consuming the art of someone who’s done something terrible.
49 min
The case for not killing yourself
Clancy Martin's new book is a portrait of the suicidal mind — his own
54 min
What comes after Black Lives Matter?
Three summers after the death of George Floyd, what is the future of the racial justice movement in America?
54 min
Clickbait’s destructive legacy
How the media’s pursuit of traffic dented democracy.
49 min
Simone Weil’s radical philosophy of love and at...
How 20th-century philosopher Simone Weil built a legacy of caring for others.
53 min
Peter Singer on his ethical legacy
The world's most famous utilitarian talks about the state of animal liberation and effective altruism — two movements he helped found
61 min
Why the poor in America stay poor
We’ve built a society that shields us from a lot of the cruelties we participate in. Here’s what we can do to change that.
51 min
The spiritual roots of our strange relationship...
Revisiting the German thinker whose narrative of the origin of capitalism explains some of the weird ways we think about jobs
49 min
Mysteries of the mind
Do you understand your own mind? Does anybody?
49 min
Why we can’t just blame capitalism for everything
Exploring the big divide on the American left
45 min
Being human in the age of AI
As machines start to get more intelligent, do we need to rethink what it means to be human?
49 min
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