The Gray Area with Sean Illing

The Gray Area with Sean Illing takes a philosophy-minded look at culture, technology, politics, and the world of ideas. Each week, we invite a guest to explore a question or topic that matters. From the the state of democracy, to the struggle with depression and anxiety, to the nature of identity in the digital age, each episode looks for nuance and honesty in the most important conversations of our time. New episodes drop every Monday.

News Commentary
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
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