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
Life after death?
Journalist Sebastian Junger has never been a New Age mystic. But a brush with death forced him to question the fundamental nature of reality.
49 min
The world after Ozempic
Journalist Johann Hari breaks down the research surrounding the weight loss drug, his personal experience using it, and what he fears might happen to young women, the culture, and the people who need it most.
47 min
UFOs, God, and the edge of understanding
Religious studies professor Diana Pasulka joins Sean to talk about alleged alien encounters, how they parallel religious experiences, and how our current moment is shaping the discussion around extraterrestrial life.
42 min
How to listen
The essential art of listening and how it’s different from simply hearing
51 min
Everything's a cult now
Writer Derek Thompson on how absolutely everything feels like a cult. And why we’re never going back.
50 min
Fareed Zakaria on our revolutionary moment
Fareed Zakaria reflects on the modern history of revolution and explains why we’re living in a uniquely consequential period.
41 min
Life is hard. Can philosophy help?
MIT professor Kieran Satiya on how philosophy can help us understand and survive life’s most difficult times.
47 min
The American dream is a pyramid scheme
Journalist Jane Marie joins Sean to discuss the history and pervasiveness of multilevel marketing schemes and how they fit into the mythology of America.
42 min
The chaplain who doesn't believe in God
Devin Moss is a chaplain who doesn’t believe in God. He recently spent one year counseling a death row inmate through his final days.
45 min
Can a friend be our most significant other?
Guest host Sigal Samuel is joined by her friend and journalist Rhaina Cohen, author of The Other Significant Others: Reimagining Life with Friendship at the Center.
47 min
The power of climate fiction
Stephen Markley is the author of the novel, “The Deluge.”
43 min
The denial of death
Filmmaker Jef Sewell discusses his new documentary on the work and thought of anthropologist Ernest Becker.
42 min
A brief history of extinction panics
Tyler Austin Harper joins Sean to talk about who’s panicking about AI, what they actually believe, and how panics of the past compare to the current moment.
46 min
The new(ish) world order
Journalist Alex Ward describes how foreign policy consensus is beginning to crack.
38 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
Music and mysticism
New Age music pioneer Laraaji on the mysticism of music and the sanctity of laughter.
43 min
The case for banning...millionaires?
Sean talks with political philosopher Ingrid Robeyns, whose new book Limitarianism makes the case for imposing limits on personal wealth.
50 min
The joy of uncertainty
Maggie Jackson, author of Uncertainty: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure, explains why the feeling of uncertainty is actually a pathway to better understanding and empathy.
45 min
A pro-worker work ethic
Political philosopher Elizabeth Anderson explains how “the biggest killjoys in European history” hijacked the way we think about work.
37 min
How psychedelics can reinvent learning
Guest host Sigal Samuels interviews neuroscientist Gul Dolen about her groundbreaking research, which points to a future where psychedelics might be the master key that unlocks conditions from strokes and autism to deafness and blindness… while helping us all to learn like little kids again.
33 min
Seeing ourselves through the 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
Living Mindfully
Jon Kabat-Zinn has been a mindfulness pioneer since the 1970s. He joins us to reflect on its skyrocketing popularity.
37 min
Taking anarchism seriously
Philosopher Sophie Scott-Brown tells us why she is an anarchist
47 min
3,000 years of The Iliad
Emily Wilson on why the poem persists and what it teaches us about death
33 min
Late-stage liberalism
A discussion with political philosopher John Gray about his new book, The New Leviathans: Thoughts After Liberalism.
50 min