105 minutes | Dec 9th 2019

The moral philosophy of The Good Place (with Mike Schur and Pamela Hieronymi)

After creating and running Parks and Recreation and writing for The Office, Michael Schur decided he wanted to create a sitcom about one of the most fundamental questions of human existence: What does it mean to be a good person? That’s how The Good Place was born.

Soon into the show’s writing, Schur realized he was in way over his head. The question of human morality is one of the most complicated and hotly contested subjects of all time. He needed someone to help him out. So, he recruited Pamela Hieronymi, a professor at UCLA specializing in the subjects of moral responsibility, psychology, and free will, to join the show as a “consulting philosopher” — surely a first in sitcom history.

I wanted to bring Shur and Hieronymi onto the show because The Good Place should not exist. Moral philosophy is traditionally the stuff of obscure academic journals and undergraduate seminars, not popular television. Yet, three-and-a-half seasons on, The Good Place is not only one of the funniest sitcoms on TV, it has popularized academic philosophy in an unprecedented fashion and put forward its own highly sophisticated moral vision.

This is a conversation about how and why The Good Place exists and what it reflects about The Odd Place in which we actually live. Unlike a lot of conversations about moral philosophy, this one is a lot of fun.


References:

Dylan Matthews' brilliant profile on The Good Place

Dylan Matthews on why he donated his kidney

Book recommendations:

Michael Schur:

Ordinary Vices by Judith N. Shklar

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré 

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Pamela Hieronymi:

What We Owe to Each Other by T.M. Scanlon

Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre

Mortal Questions by Thomas Nagel


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Researcher - Roge Karma

Engineer - Cynthia Gil

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