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The Moral Imagination

Michael Matheson Miller

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Welcome to the Moral Imagination Podcast. The overarching theme of my podcast is what it means to be a human person and what makes for a meaningful and good life. We will discuss philosophy of the human person, culture, religion, social philosophy, and many other related topics, like education, learning, economics, food, technology, artificial intelligence, and intellectual history. My goal is to interact with ideas and people whose work I find challenging, and intellectually and socially im ...
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Photo Credit: Tyler Follon - Wingman Visuals In this episode of the Moral Imagination Podcast, I speak with Professor William Easterly of New York University about his work in development economics, and the problems of technocracy and social engineering of the poor. Easterly worked at the World Bank from 1985-2001 and began to be troubled by a numb…
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This episode of the Moral Imagination Podcast is a talk I gave at AmPhil’s Center for Civil Society conference in November, 2023 on the “Rise of the Nones.” According to Pew Research, those who declare no religious affiliation - None - are now the largest religious category in the United States. In this talk I address several overarching reasons fo…
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In this episode of the Moral Imagination Podcast I speak with Hungarian Ambassador to the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta, Ambassador Eduard Habsburg, about his book The Habsburg Way: Seven Rules for Turbulent Times. We discuss a number of themes including some history of the Habsburg Dynasty, the life and death of Blessed Charles of Aust…
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In this episode of the Moral Imagination Podcast I speak with Seth Kaplan about his book Fragile Neighborhoods: Repairing American Society One Zip Code at a Time. Seth has spent his career working in fragile states around the world — countries that are unstable and prone to violence, war, and political problems. About 10 years ago Seth was increasi…
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In this episode I speak with Fr. Cajetan Cuddy O.P. about Thomistic Psychology: A Philosophic Analysis of the Nature of Man, by Fr. Robert Edward Brennan, O.P., edited and with an introduction by Fr. Cuddy. Aristotle wrote that “to attain any assured knowledge about the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world.” We often read psycholog…
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In this episode I speak with Professor Vigen Gurioan about the revised and expanded edition of his book Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Imagination. We discuss the power of stories, how they help can us develop self-knowledge, and how fairy tales and classic stories are essential for education and moral formation f…
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In this episode I speak with heart surgeon, Dr. Philip Ovadia MD, about metabolic health, diet, science, cholesterol, insulin resistance, the US government food pyramid, Ancel Keys and the cholesterol - saturated fat -heart disease hypothesis. We discuss medical education, health insurance, scientism, and some of the obstacles doctors and scientist…
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In this episode I speak with Titus Techera about Dune, Bladerunner, science fiction, dystopian film, technocratic view of humanity, and the formative power of science fiction on the imagination. We discuss contemporary technological society, social breakdown, loneliness, men and women and decline in marriage, technology and trans-humanism/ transgen…
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Pope Benedict XVI / Joseph Ratzinger passed away on December 31 at the age of 95 years old. His writing and teaching have been a major influence on my thinking. So in honor of his memory and gratitude for his example, this episode is a talk I gave on Pope Benedict XVI on Five Crises of Culture and the Intellectual sources of Secularism and the New …
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In this episode I speak with Flagg Taylor about the life and writing of Vaclav Benda, and his idea of the parallel polis, decentralization, and creating space in society for culture, the family, charity, education, and human flourishing. Though he was writing under communist regimes, Benda’s writings are very relevant today in light democratic pres…
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In this episode I speak with Jonathan Bi about the ideas of Rene Girard, social pressure, authentic and false desires, victims and scapegoats, persecution, and Girardian theories on imitation and violence. We also discuss how Girard’s work sheds light on woke capitalism, right and left totalitarianism, Max Scheler, Hannah Arendt, Alexis de Tocquevi…
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In this episode I speak with Rachel Ferguson about her book Black Liberation Through the Marketplace: Hope, Heartbreak, and the Promise of America, co-authored with Marcus Witcher. The book address issues of social justice, exclusion, opportunity, race and discrimination, classical liberalism, and the economic history of African Americans since the…
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peak with Bill Rivers about this novel, Last Summer Boys. The novel is about a rural Pennsylvania family and the adventures of three boys and a cousin and set in the tumultuous summer of 1968 with the Vietnam war, the assignations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. “Summer 1968. When thirteen-year-old Jack Elliot overhears the barbershop men…
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In this episode I speak with two psychologists, Paul McLaughlin PsyD and Mark R. McMinn PhD, about their book A Time for Wisdom. The provide a unique perspective by examining wisdom from a psychological viewpoint. They divide it into 4 categories, both to explain and provide a guide to develop wisdom in our lives. Knowledge Factual Knowledge,Know-H…
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In this episode of The Moral Imagination Podcast I speak with Deion Kathawa about his essays at Public Discourse Technology and Dignity. We discuss a number of topics including digital technology social media biotech genetic engineering CRISPR post and trans-humanism transgenderism technology and power how tech effects the rich and the poor and mid…
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In this episode I speak with Jeffrey Bloom and Rabbi Jeremy Kagan about the book Spinoza, Strauss, and Sinai: Orthodox Judaism and Modern Questions of Faith published by Kodesh Press . The book is a collection of essays edited by Jeffrey Bloom, Alec Goldstein, and Gil Student. Jeffrey Bloom grew up secular, Jewish family and the idea of actually pr…
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In this episode, I speak with Jeremy Tate, the founder of the Classic Learning Test about school testing, curriculum, and the classical versus industrial models of education. Jeremy argues that the current testing regime of the SAT and ACT have a tremendous influence on the curriculum taught in public and private schools. They promote a utilitarian…
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In this episode, I speak with Michael Ward about his book, After Humanity: A Guide to C.S. Lewis The Abolition of Man. I think The Abolition of Man is of the most important books in the twentieth century. It addresses important issues that are relevant today — from what it means to be human, reason, passion, and the emotions, to how to think about …
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In the episode I speak with Mary Eberstadt about her latest book Primal Screams: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics. She argues that the revolutionary changes to family structure across the western world: fatherlessness, divorce, abortion, single parent homes, the shrinking of the family –have caused deep hurt in people and that ma…
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What is Justice? What do we owe to each other? The theme of justice is core issue of all human societies and pervades myth and philosophy. Plato’s Republic and Gorgias are reflections on justice and the right ordering of the soul and society. So is Aristotle’s Politics. The Hebrew Bible, the Tao Te Ching, the Analects of Confucius, the writings of …
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In the episode, I speak with Professor Margarita Mooney about her time in Nicaragua and how these experiences shaped her scholarly work and teaching at the intersection of sociology and philosophy. Margarita tells a story of her time in Nicaragua and how a weekend trip to a political rally in a small community where she almost was kidnapped challen…
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In this episode, I speak with James Poulos about his book, Human, Forever: The Digital Politics of Spiritual War. We discuss a wide variety of themes including technology, human memory, what it means to be an embodied person. James argues that instead of worrying about an impending crisis, we need to realize that it has already happened — Digital e…
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In this episode, I speak with Professor Carter Snead about his book, What it Means to be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics. We discuss how the dominant view of the human person forgets the body and ignores our social nature, and how this plays out in law which further shapes our moral lives and cultural attitudes. Snead argues that c…
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In this episode, I speak with Professor Jessica Hooten Wilson about her writing and research on literature and totalitarianism. We discuss how both violence and entertainment and distraction are used a tools of state control. We discuss Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, some of the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Julia Alvarez's novel, In the…
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What is education for? In the episode, I speak with Heidi White about classical education and human flourishing. We discuss why classical education is important to pass down a cultural memory and why reading good literature and classic texts matters on multiple levels. We discuss the difference between a modern, contemporary education and a classic…
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In this episode, I speak with Elizabeth Corey about life beyond politics, friendship, learning, and the work of Michael Oakeshott. We discuss a wide range of issues, including rationalism and politics, the value of the reading of classic texts, and Oakeshott's idea of different modes of engaging with the world: the practical, scientific, historical…
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In this episode, I speak with James Madden about his book, "Mind, Matter, and Nature", about philosophy of mind, and what it means to be an embodied and an embedded person. We discuss how the loss of a sense of ourselves as embodied and embedded leads to a loss of contact with the world and ultimately to nihilism. We discuss competing visions of th…
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In this episode, I speak with Titus Techera and Flagg Taylor about several films that address communism and the effects of tyranny and deceit on the human soul. We discuss themes of courage, freedom, privacy, shame, the purpose and role of art, and how we can become comprised over time by assenting to falsehood. We discuss how these films portray t…
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In this episode, I speak with Jay Richards about his book "Eat, Fast, Feast: Heal Your Body While Feeding your Soul". We discuss how modern science and ancient Christian tradition support a fasting lifestyle for healthy living and help us put food in its proper place. We discuss a number of issues including fasting, prayer, the ketogenic diet, and …
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In this episode, I speak with Noelle Mering about her new book, Awake Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology. Noelle analyzes the concept of "woke" and identifies four characteristics of the contemporary social justice movement and how they influence the way we think about justice and society: 1. Group over Person 2. Wil…
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In this episode, I talk with George Gilder about "Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data & The Rise of the Blockchain Economy" and his newest book on Gaming AI. We discuss blockchain technologies, cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and decentralized computing. We also discuss artificial intelligence, information theory, neuroscience, and the problems of mat…
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This episode features a lecture of mine from 2011 on the thought of Robert Nisbet. Nisbet is an important figure and his thought is very relevant to our time. I discuss the main themes of his work on community, authority, social change, and more. Visit https://www.themoralimagination.com/episodes/michael-matheson-miller-2-nisbet for show notes and …
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A British journalist asked Alexander Solzhenitsyn: can free people desire to be slaves? He answered Yes. The West is "full of such people". In this episode, I speak with David Deavel about the book he co-edited with Jessica Hooten Wilson, "Solzhensityn and American Culture: The Russian soul in the West". We discuss how some of the key themes of Sol…
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What is beauty? Does it have an objective character, or is it merely subjective and in the eye of the beholder? How do we experience beauty, and how do we communicate it to others. In this episode, I discuss the nature of beauty with David Clayton, a painter, iconographer, and author. We discuss the role of consensus and tradition, classical art, c…
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In the episode, I speak with Andreas Widmer about his work on principled entrepreneurship. Andreas argues that many of the challenges we are seeing in business and commerce today can be addressed by seeing business and entrepreneurship as a moral enterprise focused on the human person. We discuss Widmer's five principles for how businesses should b…
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In this episode, I speak with Flagg Taylor about the writing and life of Vaclav Havel. We discuss his essays, plays, and other works. We also discuss Havel's idea of dissent as living in the truth. Dissent for Havel is not primarily political, but existential dissent from ideology, politicization of life, and consumerism. Visit https://www.themoral…
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Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that the tyrant doesn't care if you love him, as long as you don't love one another. In this episode, I speak with Luke Sheahan about his book, "Why Associations Matter: The case for First Amendment Pluralism". Free associations are essential for political liberty, human flourishing, and for genuine community; but Sheaha…
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In this episode, I speak with Luke Burgis about Rene Girard, the mimetic cycle, imitation, desire, and scapegoating, and how these things play out in business, commerce and everyday life. We discuss his forthcoming book, Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life. Themes include how are desires our shaped by others, the leveling of desir…
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What is the moral imagination? Why is it important? In this episode, I discuss the concept of the moral imagination and 15 ways to develop it. I discuss the origin of the term in Edmund Burke's critique of the French Revolution and his worry that the reductionist Enlightenment view of reason would lead to what C.S. Lewis called "the abolition of ma…
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In this episode, I speak with the Carrie Gress about her book "Theology of Home". We discuss themes of the value of homemaking, the hearth, family, motherhood, and some of her critiques of dominant feminism. Carrie is a philosopher, an entrepreneur, a prolific writer, and the mother of five children that she homeschools. She is the online editor of…
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In this episode, I speak with Chris Arnade about his book "Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America". We discuss themes from his book including poverty, addiction, racism, and the value of home and place, the role of faith, and the role of McDonalds as a respite and community center. Visit https://www.themoralimagination.com/episodes/chris-arna…
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In this episode, I speak with Obianuju Ekeocha about the problem of ideological colonialism in Africa in the 21st Century. We discuss how Western governments, international aid agencies, and NGOs impose western, secularist ideas about life, family, and marriage on Africa. Obianuju argues that what we are seeing is a type of cultural annexation of A…
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Does neuroscience prove there is no free will? Is consciousness reducible to a neural network? Are we determined by our brains? In this episode, I speak again with neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Egnor. We discuss Sam Harris arguments against free will, and examine not only the philosophical problems with Harris' argument, but Dr. Egnor also argues that …
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In this episode, I speak with Professor Gary Saul Morson about the thought of Vladamir Lenin and how Lenin's ideas and way of seeing the world influences us today. We discuss his New Criterion essay, "Leninthink" and some of the key aspects of Lenin's thought, including Who-Whom: adherence to all politics and life as a win-lose, zero-sum game, the …
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In this episode, I speak with Professor Carlo Lancellotti about the late Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce and the Crisis of Modernity. Del Noce died in 1989, but his writings are very relevant and help explains much of our contemporary situation. In this wide ranging conversation, we talk about totalitarianism, the religious nature of revolutio…
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Does your brain think? Does your frontal lobe decide? Or do you think and you decide? What is the relationship between the brain and and the mind; between the brain and the person? Neuroscience has entered our everyday speech and increasingly shapes the way we think about ourselves and the world--including some serious conceptual errors. In this ep…
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In this episode, I speak with technologist, musician, and author, Jaron Lanier about technology, behavior modification, artificial intelligence and virtual reality and consciousness. We discuss the internet economics, his critique of free services, and how to re-think the internet, data collection, privacy, and paying people for their data. We also…
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In this episode, I speak with Brad Birzer about the American Sociologist Robert Nisbet and his critique of the Modern Nation State. Nisbet was a strong proponent of decentralization and a multiplicity of associations. We discuss some of his ideas, including developmentalism, the quest for community, and authority. We also discuss Nisbet's influence…
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In this episode, I speak with Diana Rodgers about nutrition, factory farming, subsidies, antibiotics, and why animals are good for the land. Diana is a Registered Nutritionist, a farmer, author, and the host of The Sustainable Dish Podcast. We also discuss why meat is good for you, why fat is healthy, cholesterol, and the Ancel Keys study, diabetes…
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In this episode, I speak with Dr. Anthony Bradley about his book, "Ending Overcriminalization and Mass Incarceration: Hope from Civil Society". Dr. Anthony Bradley is professor of religious studies and director of the Center for the Study of Human Flourishing at The King's College, Theologian-In-Residence at Redeemer Presbyterian Church—Lincoln Squ…
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