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
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
Revisiting the "father of capitalism"
What we get wrong about moral philosopher Adam Smith
48 min
Can effective altruism be redeemed?
How trying to do the most good went wrong
58 min
The roots of homelessness
What do we owe our fellow Americans when it comes to shelter?
48 min
Can race be transcended?
Is it possible to move beyond racial identity? Or is that naive?
41 min
Is ethical AI possible?
The biggest problem with AI is humans
42 min
What do we owe animals?
Philosopher and author Martha Nussbaum talks with Vox's Sigal Samuel about how humans should treat other animals, and why we haven't gotten it right
43 min
Best of: America's philosophy, with Cornel West
Sean Illing talks with Dr. Cornel West about the roots of American pragmatism, and what it means to be a blues man of the life of the mind
56 min
Best of: The necessity — and danger — of free s...
Free speech is essential for democracy. It may also be democracy's downfall.
50 min
The church of celebrity
Vox's Alissa Wilkinson talks with author Katelyn Beaty about how fame, celebrity, and influence make Christianity popular — while threatening its values
55 min
Men and boys are struggling. Should we care?
Sean Illing talks with Brookings fellow Richard V. Reeves about why men and boys all over the industrialized world are struggling — and what we should do about it
52 min
The power of attention in a world of distraction
Sean Illing talks with L.M. Sacasas, whose writing on technology and society highlights how much we've been changed by the digital revolution — and reminds us: we're still in control
43 min
A veteran reporter on how to fix the news
Sean Illing talks with James Fallows, former White House speechwriter and longtime reporter & editor, on what's wrong with the political press in America — and how to fix it
50 min
The end of social media
Sean Illing talks with technology writer and philosopher Ian Bogost about the state of social media — and what Elon's Twitter takeover has revealed
49 min
If society is making us sick, how can we heal?
Sean Illing talks with Dr. Gabor Maté, who argues that Western culture is making us sick, and the Western paradigm of health has gotten some very important things wrong
52 min
The free-market century is over
Sean Illing is joined by economist and author Brad DeLong, whose new book tells the economic history of mankind's most consequential era — and explains how and why it just ended
51 min