Episode: Larissa MacFarquhar on Getting Inside Someone's Head


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Larissa MacFarquhar on Getting Inside Someone's Head

As a writer of profiles, Larissa MacFarquhar is granted the privilege of listening to, learning from, and sharing the stories of extraordinary thinkers like Derik Parfit, Noam Chomsky, Hilary Mantel, and Paul Krugman. And she’s often drawn to write about the individual thinking behind extreme altruism, dementia care, and whether to stay in a small town. Motivating her is a desire to place readers inside someone’s head: to see what they see and to think how they think.

In their dialogue, Larissa and Tyler discuss the thinking and thinkers behind her profiles, essays, and books, including notions of moral luck, exit vs voice, the prose of Kenneth Tynan, why altruistic heroes are mainly found in genre fiction, why she avoids describing physical appearances in her writing, the circumstances that push humans to live more extraordinary lives, what today has in common with the 1890s, and more.

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