About Us

Philosophy Talk celebrates the value of the examined life. Each week, our two host philosophers invite you to join them in conversation on a wide variety of issues ranging from popular culture to our most deeply-held beliefs about science, morality, and the human condition. Philosophy Talk challenges listeners to identify and question their assumptions and to think about things in new ways. We are dedicated to reasoned conversation driven by human curiosity. Philosophy Talk is accessible, intellectually stimulating, and most of all, fun!  

Philosophy Talk is produced by Ben Manilla Productions, Inc. on behalf of Stanford University, as part of its Humanities Outreach Initiative


Ken Taylor is the current Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University.  He is also director of Stanford's interdisciplinary program in Symbolic Systems. 

His work lies at the intersection of the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind, with an occasional foray into the history of philosophy.

He is the author of many books and articles, including Truth and Meaning, Reference and the Rational Mind, and the forthcoming Referring to the World.  He is hard at work on  his magnum opus book long in the making called  A Natural History of Normativity  in which he reduces all things normative to something merely natural.  



John Perry is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Riverside, and Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Stanford University.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of many honors and awards, including the Nicod and Humboldt Prizes. A popular lecturer, in 1990 he was awarded the Dinkelspiel Award for undergraduate teaching. 

He is the author of over 100 articles and books, including A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, Knowledge, Possibility, and Consciousness, and Reference and Reflexivity

He also has the internet’s most popular essay on procrastination.

Roving Philosophical Reporter

Shuka Kalantari is a Bay Area journalist who was born in Iran and raised in Northern California. Her reports have taken her to Turkey, Cambodia, and across U.S. She has a Master's Degree in multimedia health reporting from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and Bachelor's in Philosophy and Latin American studies from UC Santa Cruz. Shuka's stories regularly appear on PRI's The World and KQED.


Sixty-Second Philosopher

Merle Kessler is a writer, humorist, and performer, best known perhaps by his pen name, Ian Shoales. As Ian Shoales he has been churning out cranky yet strangely humorous commentaries since 1979. First heard on NPR's All Things Considered, he has been featured on Morning Edition, ABC's Nightline, and the online magazine, Salon. In addition, his pieces have been published in the New York Times, LA Times, the San Francisco Examiner, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Minneapolis Tribune, among other publications. Merle (as Ian Shoales) recently co-starred in, and co-wrote (with composer partner J. Raoul Brody) Slouching Towards Disneyland, a wild story of the history of the world.

Kessler is also a founding member of Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre, the legendary yet obscure sketch comedy group. He co-created, with Dan Coffey, the character of Dr. Science, he of Ask Dr. Science. He is the author or co-author of five books. Despite this, he was actively employed in the nineties at various videogame and dotcom industries - until everything went kerflooey. He is thrilled to be working in radio again, because it is more fun than anything. As a bonus, on the radio nobody knows if you've shaved or not.

He is also writing a web-based comedy series, called KollegeTV, which should baffle many when it launches, and writing the scripts for a video documentary series called Great Libraries of the World. Look for it next year on a public radio station near you.

He is married to Amy Kessler, who likes bad movies almost as much as he does. He speaks no languages. None.

Listen to The Ian Shoales Story.

Research & Production Team

Ben Manilla, Senior Producer

 A pioneer of contemporary audio production, Ben has been at the vanguard of creative radio since the mid ’70s. Recognized by professionals around the world for his award-winning programming and innovative production style, he has held executive positions at Radio Today, RKO Radio Networks, WOR Radio, WLIR Radio, and the Progressive Radio Network. Beginning with his work as a Top Ten metro market production director and morning man, Ben has initiated programming for virtually every format. He has directed or produced hundreds of features, specials, documentaries, ongoing series, commercials, and audio presentations. Ben teaches Radio Journalism at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.



Devon Strolovitch, Producer

Born and raised in Montreal, Devon studied medieval Judeo-Portuguese manuscripts and earned a PhD in Linguistics from Cornell University before pursuing radio professionally. Since then he has been the primary studio producer for Philosophy Talk, while also contributing as a writer, editor, occasional Roving Philosophical Reporter, and manager of the program's day-to-day operations. Devon has helped produce other national radio features including The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger, Woodstock 40 Years On, and in association with the Library of Congress, the Peabody Award-winning Inside the National Recording Registry. He also contributes regularly to the nationally-syndicated The Bluesmobile with Elwood Blues and hosts his own weekly blues show, Fog City Blues, on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco.



Laura Maguire, Director of Research

Laura originally hails from Ireland, but has called San Francisco home for many years. After graduating with distinction in Philosophy from Trinity College Dublin, she moved to the Bay Area to pursue her doctoral studies at Stanford University. After completing her PhD in 2005, she taught in the Department of Philosophy, and the Introduction to the Humanities (IHUM) and Structured Liberal Education (SLE) programs at Stanford. Her philosophical interests are situated at the intersection of philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and psychology. When not deep in thought, Laura is either dancing, or listening to live music in small local venues. She has co-produced several multidisciplinary dance performances, both in San Francisco and in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Laura was a founding member of the performance collective Avy K Productions, co-founder/co-director of the SF Offside Festival, and she promotes innovative local music as Live ‘n’ Local SF. She also enjoys writing about music, dance, and other experiments.


Crack Research Team

Or Gozal

Truman Chen

Spencer Giel

Mohit Mookim

James Hanley


Mark Stone, Board Operator



Get Philosophy Talk


Sunday at 10am (pacific) on KALW 91.7 FM Local Public Radio, San Francisco


Individual downloads via CDBaby and iTunes. Multipacks and The Complete Philosophy Talk via iAamplify

John Perry and Ken Taylor

Continue the Conversation

Sidebar Menu

Upcoming Shows

  • October 23 : The Mystery of the Multiverse
    At the foundation of modern theoretical physics lie the equations that define our universe, telling us of its beginnings, evolution, and future. Make...
  • October 30 : Memory and the Self
    Ever since John Locke, philosophers have wondered about memory and its connection to the self. Locke believed that a continuity of consciousness and...
  • November 6 : Election Special 2016
    John and Ken look beyond the horse race at some of the bigger questions raised by this year’s campaign: • Do we always have a duty...
  • November 13 : The Legacy of Freud
    Did you really want to eat that last piece of cake, or were you secretly thinking about your mother? Sigmund Freud, who might have suggested the...

Would you like to be a caller on Philosophy Talk?

Please contact Ken & John by email at ideas@philosophytalk.org if you have an angle to add to any of the upcoming topics on Philosophy Talk, or if you have suggestions for future topics. You could be a guest caller on the air!