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.


Finding hope in a world on the brink

Sean Illing talks with Jonathan Lear, a psychoanalyst and philosopher, about his new book Imagining the End: Mourning and Ethical Life. How can we continue to live a good life in a world beset by catastrophe, crisis, and chaos? Sean and Jonathan discuss the role of imagination and culture in the ways we make meaning in the world, the idea of mourning as a confrontation with our uniquely human ability to love, and how to turn away from the path of despair, towards hope — and to what Lear calls "committed living towards the future."

Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

Guest: Jonathan Lear, author; professor, Committee on Social Thought & Dept. of Philosophy, University of Chicago


  • Imagining the End: Mourning and Ethical Life by Jonathan Lear (Harvard; Nov. 15, 2022)
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death (1849; published under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus)
  • Sigmund Freud, Mourning and Melancholia (1917)
  • "The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy" by Cora Diamond (2003)
  • Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation by Jonathan Lear (Harvard; 2008)
  • "Envy and Gratitude" by Melanie Klein (1957; published in The Writings of Melanie Klein, Volume III, Hogarth Press; 1975)
  • "A Lecture on Ethics" by Ludwig Wittgenstein (lecture notes from 1929-1930, published in The Philosophical Review v. 74 no. 1, 1965)


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This episode was made by: 

  • Producer: Erikk Geannikis
  • Editor: Amy Drozdowska
  • Engineer: Patrick Boyd
  • Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall

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 2022-10-27  58m