Mark Solomon headshot

“Incorrect beliefs impact the lives of others” – Street Epistemologist Mark Solomon – Sentientism Episode 109

Find our Sentientist Conversation here on the Sentientism YouTube and here on the Sentientism Podcast.

Dr. Mark Solomon is an author, neuropsychologist, musician and radio show/podcast host whose work touches on a wide range of topics. Mark produces a national Street Epistemology radio show/podcast called “Being Reasonable” (, @B_Reasonable_, @Being Reasonable).

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” In addition to the video above the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple and here elsewhere.

We discuss:

00:00 Welcome

01:25 Mark’s Intro

  • @Street Epistemology. Conversations about “what you know and how you know it” @Anthony Magnabosco , Reid Nicewonder @Cordial Curiosity

02:44 What’s Real?

  • Flat Earth
  • Backfire effect
  • Talking less about the belief & more about the reasons for the belief
  • Improving our epistemology, not just “correcting” beliefs
  • “I grew up in a Jewish household that didn’t discuss god”
  • Living with two separate epistemologies: naturalism / humanism but culturally Jewish
  • “I couldn’t even tell you that my rabbi believed in the supernatural”
  • SE as a tool anyone can use
  • Evidence & reason
  • Objectivity & subjectivity
  • Reality, truth, belief & opinion
  • Starting conversations with understanding how people think of truth

27:44 What Matters?

  • “I don’t know”
  • “I try to be a selfless person but sometimes I act selfishly”
  • “I just act – I don’t know if I have a choice”
  • Uncertainty, psychology & moral foundations
  • Suffering vs. flourishing (causing bad feelings in others is bad)
  • Moral origins in evolution & psychology
  • Determinism & free will
  • Pre & non-human morality
  • Compassion & co-operation as evolutionarily adaptive
  • Virtue, deontology, utility, feminist care, relational ethics
  • “If there were no sentient beings there would be no morality”
  • Internal (warm fuzzy feelings, reciprocity…) & external reasons to be good
  • True altruism & demandingness. “At least don’t needlessly cause suffering & death”
  • Emotional & intellectual routes to compassion
  • Alleviating suffering vs. enhancing flourishing
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights

48:15 Who Matters?

  • Nagel’s “What is it like to be a bat?”
  • Getting backyard chickens for eggs & as pets
  • “It’s become painfully obvious to us that they are really smart creatures with their own social order… they definitely feel suffering.”
  • “There are some really stark commonalities between humans & chickens”
  • Inferring sentience (evo, info proc architecture, behaviour/comms, contact & intuition)
  • “I’m not vegan but I get it”
  • Avoidance, deliberate ignorance (e.g. egg/dairy production) reassuring fabrications (“humane” farming), wishful thinking, cognitive dissonance, akrasia
  • “My father in law is a cattle farmer”
  • “I don’t really have a good reason [not to be vegan]”
  • Veganising meals
  • Vegan endurance athletes
  • “If theres’s two people in a marriage, & one decides to go vegan…”
  • For most atheists, humanists, sceptics, rationalists… animal ethics is like kryptonite
  • The best arguments against Sentientism?
  • “Whenever someone challenges sentiocentric moral consideration – it’s very hard to do that without excluding some humans”
  • What would reduce my confidence in Sentientism?
  • What reasons could there be for rejecting reasoning? 🙂
  • Insect sentience

01:20:36 How Can We Make a Better World?

  • “Having incorrect beliefs… can definitely impact the lives of other people” (e.g. Antivaxx)
  • Street Epistemology: if we have a better epistemology we’ll be in a much better place
  • Are all human-cased problems due to failures of compassion or epistemology?
  • “20 years from now this conversation will seem antiquated”
  • Is/ought vs. epistemology & ethics complementing each other
  • SE: “Taking the heat off the belief” and talking about how the belief was formed

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at

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Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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