Peter Adamson's Blog

Boy there's a lot of philosophy

I am usually about 10 scripts ahead of the podcasts you're hearing, in terms of what I'm writing. (At least, that's the plan...) So at the moment I am writing about philosophy in the Islamic world in the 18th-20th centuries. As you might imagine there is quite a lot of it, and "no gaps" is not really on the cards. But I hope I will be able to give at least a representative survey of some interesting trends.

What's to come

Just so you know what to look forward to, here is a list of the remaining episodes on philosophy in the Islamic world. I posted a list before but have substantially revised it upon further reflection. After this (so at 196) will begin coverage of Latin Christendom.

Collingwood and the history of philosophy

I just came across a passage I really like, from the London Review of Books (19 June 2014), in an article describing the attitude of R.G. Collingwood towards history. This sums up how I think about the history of philosophy quite well:

Giraffes? Giraffes!

A huge thank you to listener Mohammed Tariq who kindly sent me a copy of the hilarious Giraffes? Giraffes!, a rather insane book that tells you everything you always wanted to know about our long-necked friends, but were afraid to believe. For instance did you know that giraffes originally came to earth from outer space on a huge conveyor belt?

Indian Philosophy! And the book and collage.

I just posted an announcement on the podcast feed. Here is the text in case you missed it:


See me in this german documentary

Here is a link to "Morgenland and Abendland" which is a German language documentary on Islamic culture. I appear in this episode pretending to look at a manuscript of Euclid translated into Arabic. My friend and colleague Charles Burnett also features. I actually did this interview years ago and never knew what had become of it so I was surprised that it just turned up on German TV! (The series is airing on the television channel ARTE.)

Childrens' book philosophy 18: Retributive justice in Lord of the Rings

[Frodo:] "I can't understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let [Gollum] live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death."

[Gandalf:] "Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."

- From JRR Tolkien, "Fellowship of the Ring"

I discuss Machiavelli in Terrible Leaders, part 2

Can't wait for me to get to Machiavelli? Well you don't have to: I discuss him (and whether he really thought the best ruler would be a terrible one) in the first segment of this installment of the History Podcasters collage: "Terrible Rulers, Part 2" (of 3 parts). Also a good chance to discover other history podcasts.


I received my advance copy of the first book based on the podcast, covering "Classical Philosophy." It is a revised version of the scripts for episodes 1-51 (without interviews but with two added chapters, on Plato's Sophist and women in ancient philosophy). You can order it here.

Childrens' book philosophy 17: Causal determinism in "The House that Jack Built"

This is the house that Jack built.
This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cat that killed the rat
That ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.