Should We Separate the Art From the Artist? (NSQ Ep. 20)


Also: what is the meaning of life?

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Relevant Research & References

Question #1: Is it wrong to enjoy the art of “canceled” artists? 

  • One of the first “canceled” artists Stephen and Angela discuss is, of course, Michael Jackson. To learn more about the allegations against the pop star, read this New York Times article by Ben Sisario, or watch the 2019 Emmy-winning documentary, HBO’s Leaving Neverland
  • Angela wonders if it’s okay to enjoy Annie Hall, one of her all-time favorite movies. This 2018 New York Times piece offers a detailed timeline of Woody Allen’s controversial history.
  • Stephen references the Nazi sympathies of Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad. You can learn more about Kamprad’s relationship with facism in this 2018 piece from The Washington Post.  
  • Stephen says that the German auto industry was co-opted by Nazis. In this 2014 piece from The Atlantic outlines, Jeffery Goldberg discusses the industry’s problematic history.
  • Stephen mentions artist protests against a board member of the Whitney museum in New York City. The details of the controversy are outlined in this 2019 story from The New York Times
  • To learn more about the history of allegations against singer R. Kelly, check out the award-winning Lifetime documentary series Surviving R. Kelly, or read this 2020 piece from the BBC
  • Stephen uses Bill Clinton as an example of a public figure with a history of behavior to which many people turn a blind eye.  This 2017 story from Business Insider includes a list of sexual assault allegations against the former president.
  • Angela says that she often struggles with Francis Galton’s history as a eugenicist. To learn more about the scientist’s past, we recommend reading this comprehensive article from Nature
  • Stephen references racist ideologies held by William Vogt and other early leaders of the American environmentalist movement. 
  • Stephen argues that Jewish people should be able to choose whether or not they want to listen to the compositions of Wagner, in spite of the musician’s history of antisemitism
  • Stephen references literary critic Harold Bloom’s assessment of Shakesepare’s characterization of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.  
  • Stephen reads an argument against “cancel culture” from philosopher Janna Thompson. You can view Thompson’s full exploration of both sides of the cancelation debate here
  • Angela references psychologist Paul Rozin’s heuristic about Hilter’s sweater. The hypothetical was initially outlined in Rozin’s 1994 publication, The Contagion Concept in Adult Thinking in the United States: Transmission of Germs and Interpersonal Influence
  • Angela mentions psychologist Stephen Pinker’s theory of a global moral awakening. Stephen’s Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt, recently interviewed Pinker for his new podcast, People I (Mostly) Admire
  • Stephen and Angela end their conversation by discussing sexual assault accusations against Kevin Spacey. One of Spacey’s accusers, Anthony Rapp, filed a lawsuit against Spacey on September 9th of this year. 

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Question #2: How do you recover from feelings of meaninglessness?




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