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 and Thursday.

Philosophy
Politics
News Commentary
1
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
2
Revisiting the "father of capitalism"
What we get wrong about moral philosopher Adam Smith
48 min
3
Can effective altruism be redeemed?
How trying to do the most good went wrong
58 min
4
The roots of homelessness
What do we owe our fellow Americans when it comes to shelter?
48 min
5
Can race be transcended?
Is it possible to move beyond racial identity? Or is that naive?
41 min
6
Is ethical AI possible?
The biggest problem with AI is humans
42 min
7
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
8
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
9
Best of: The necessity — and danger — of free s...
Free speech is essential for democracy. It may also be democracy's downfall.
50 min
10
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
11
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
12
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
13
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
14
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
15
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
16
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
17
Your identity is a story you tell yourself
Sean Illing talks with neuroscientist and author Gregory Berns, whose new book argues that the idea of a unified "self" is just a delusion
39 min
18
James Carville unpacks the midterms
Sean Illing is joined by political strategist James Carville to process the surprising outcomes in the midterm elections, and assess the state of both parties in the aftermath
43 min
19
Why are billionaires prepping for the apocalypse?
Sean Illing talks with Douglas Rushkoff about the apocalyptic mindset of Silicon Valley tech billionaires, and why the ultra-wealthy are preparing for the end times
49 min
20
Today's Republicans were made in the 1990s
Sean Ililing talks with author Nicole Hemmer, who shows how the GOP became what it is today
60 min
21
Yuval Noah Harari thinks humans are unstoppable
Sean is joined by Yuval Noah Harari, whose bestselling books take a zoomed-out view of the history of human beings — and a glimpse at what our future might hold
56 min
22
Dying with dignity
Sean Illing talks with journalist Katie Engelhart about the morality and legality of physician-assisted dying — asking what a death with dignity really looks like
54 min
23
Finding hope in a world on the brink
Sean talks with philosopher and psychoanalyst Jonathan Lear about how to keep flourishing as human beings in a world that feels like it's falling apart all around us
53 min
24
The new American Reconstruction
Sean Illing talks with author and historian Peniel Joseph about whether we're living in a new era of reconstruction, and the two warring ideas shaping American history
61 min
25
Is America losing its religion?
Sean is joined by religious scholar and bestselling author Reza Aslan to discuss the state of religion in America today
48 min
26
How we got to January 6th
Sean talks with reporter Luke Mogelson, who was amongst the rioters as they broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6, about how it happened, what led up to it, and what comes next
53 min
27
Neil deGrasse Tyson gets political
America's personal astrophysicist takes on our most vexing societal problems. But can science really make political struggles disappear?
53 min
28
Introducing The Gray Area
Embrace uncertainty
1 min
29
Best of: Why America's obsession with rights is...
54 min
30
A GOP insider on why the party went Trump
56 min
31
How do we fix the harm we cause?
45 min
32
A new philosophy of love
55 min
33
The politics of 'Yellowstone'
25 min
34
How society sexualizes us
51 min
35
The Parent Trap
How society is failing parents and children
55 min
36
40 Acres: Reaching reconciliation
28 min
37
40 Acres: The old Jim Crow
43 min
38
40 Acres: $14 trillion and no mules
44 min
39
40 Acres: The original promise
49 min
40
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
59 min
41
Even Better: Don't call it a budget
45 min
42
The quest for authenticity
Better living through the existentialism of Simone de Beauvoir
46 min
43
Even Better: Setting your boundaries
43 min
44
Your gut instinct is usually wrong
A data scientist on how to make decisions
49 min
45
Even Better: Workplace equality 2.0
51 min
46
Why we're still postmodern (whatever that means)
53 min
47
Even Better: Activism when you don't know where...
47 min
48
The Supreme Court's power grab
60 min
49
How middlemen took over the economy
60 min
50
The necessity — and danger — of free speech
Free speech is essential for democracy. It may also be democracy's downfall.
50 min
51
Hacking coral sex to save the reefs
49 min
52
The price of keeping secrets
47 min
53
Does China control Hollywood?
58 min
54
Steve Bannon is still at war
45 min
55
The Fortress of Solitude saw it all coming
Constance Grady talks with author Jonathan Lethem about his prescient 2003 novel
34 min
56
The Philosophers: Stoic revival
59 min
57
Station Eleven's creator on the end of the world
Showrunner Patrick Somerville on why hope is necessary for survival
47 min
58
The racist origins of fat phobia
49 min
59
The fight for Ukraine — and democracy
49 min
60
The war on trans people
49 min
61
Michael Ian Black on being a better man
50 min
62
Carmen Maria Machado's haunted feminine
36 min
63
The rise and fall of America's monuments
45 min
64
The Philosophers: America's philosophy, with Co...
55 min
65
Why accidents aren't accidental
47 min
66
Rethinking the "end of history"
56 min
67
Anita Hill finally gets even
55 min
68
Elites have captured identity politics
52 min
69
The moral dangers of dirty work
54 min
70
Did the sexual revolution go wrong?
53 min
71
Who decides how to conserve nature?
55 min
72
The Philosophers: Loneliness and totalitarianism
58 min
73
The War in Ukraine, Explained — Part 4: The fut...
59 min
74
Michael Lewis on why Americans distrust experts
52 min
75
The War in Ukraine, Explained — Part 3: The nuc...
51 min
76
The case for regret
45 min
77
The War in Ukraine, Explained — Part 2: Sanctions
56 min
78
The spirituality of parenting
43 min
79
The War in Ukraine, Explained — Part 1: Why did...
55 min
80
The Philosophers: Resisting despair
How can Albert Camus help us understand the war in Ukraine, post-pandemic life, and the absurdity of our modern world?
51 min
81
What happened to American conservatism?
55 min
82
The limits of forgiveness
46 min
83
The madness behind The Method
62 min
84
David Cross is disappointed in you guys
44 min
85
Author Kiley Reid on why we read novels
42 min
86
The conversation about guns we're not having
59 min
87
Why does middle school suck?
60 min
88
Russia's war with Ukraine — and reality
33 min
89
Robert Glasper on why Black Radio is back
The 4-time Grammy winner is creating a new genre of music
51 min
90
Could we lose delicious foods forever?
60 min
91
What Don't Look Up is really about
The film's co-writer doesn't think it was smug.
56 min
92
Democracy in crisis, part 2: The two-party problem
53 min
93
Why we can't pay attention anymore
59 min
94
Democracy in crisis, part 1: Ross Douthat isn't...
First in a two-part series on the dangers facing American democracy, hosted by Zack Beauchamp
60 min
95
Pod Save the Democrats
55 min
96
A Yellowjackets creator spills his guts
39 min
97
A scientist's case for "woo-woo"
55 min
98
Imagine a future with no police
59 min
99
Novelist Lauren Groff on the other Matrix
42 min
100
Are we living in a simulation?
Philosopher David Chalmers on the question: what is reality, anyway?
63 min