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
Is America getting meaner?
A discussion with David Brooks about his essay, “How America Got Mean.”
51 min
Naomi Klein on her doppelganger (and yours)
What it’s like to journey into the “Mirror World.”
53 min
Should we press pause on AI?
A discussion about AI and the issue of control.
53 min
Democracy’s existential crisis
A case for connecting democracy and the human condition.
47 min
Conservative socialism?
A conservative makes the case for democratic socialism.
52 min
The benefits of utopian thinking
Why it’s not unreasonable to imagine a better future.
50 min
What Clarence Thomas really thinks
And why he's the most misunderstood Supreme Court justice, according to the author of The Enigma of Clarence Thomas.
60 min
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