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Jordan Magill on 14 April 2023

A GAP?!?!

Any note to y’all would be remiss if I didn’t start with many thanks.  You have produced something truly remarkable (and terribly punny).  The podcasts remain, for me, an intellectual highlight.

 

You did however “miss” (or at least reduced to background status) one of the most important African American political thinkers (and my personal hero).  Sure, you mention Rustin, but his uniqueness and impact in the Civil Rights movement is almost impossible to overlook.  Here is a pacifist who went to jail rather than serve in even a support position in WWII (his letter to the draft board is, as all Rustin’s writing cogent, piercing, and well reasoned).  As AP Randolph’s right hand, he was also a man at the center of political power.  Not only did this include planning the cancelled March on Washington, through which he and Randolph won concessions from the FDR, but also the principle organizer of the more famous one in 1963.  He was also the man who pushed Randolph to push Robeson out of the movement for fear of the damage he might do.

 

Here is a thinker who stood astride the whole of 20th century African American politics, pushed to the background because of his sexuality (though in his later years his strong zionism also doubtless played a role).  If there is a figure who should be included to fill in tragic gaps, I can’t imagine a more important figure to include.  Rustin is long overdue.  Perhaps a later filler episode?  

 

Again, all my thanks.

In reply to by Jordan Magill

Peter Adamson on 16 April 2023

Rustin

Actually we wrestled with that - I remember Chike wondering whether to give him his own episode or cover him in the ones you mentioned, and he opted for the latter simply because we were trying to keep the total number of episodes down. But you are right, he was  an important figure and maybe we should do more on him in the book version.

Andrew on 20 March 2023

Two things

Hey Peter, I was wondering - are you going to cover Thomas Sankara? He was another African revolutionary and Pan-African. I looked and I don't think there has been any mention of him anywhere on the website. Is there nothing interesting to cover with him? I would be surprised if that was true.

The other thing is that the comments link at the bottom of the home page of the blog leads to 404 page.

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 21 March 2023

Sankara

Thanks for the question! I'll run the idea about Sankara past Chike, who may already have that on his radar (I tend to find that he usually does). And we'll fix the broken link, thanks.

Brad R on 4 March 2023

British Renaissance/Reformation - Francis Bacon

I would like to hear in particular about Bacon's distinction between active Hebraic inquiry and passive Aristotelian receptivity, a distinction I heard he has made. If my information is incorrect, I would be happy to be corrected. At a minimum, I would like to know where in Bacon this distinction can be found, if indeed he makes it. I would be happy to learn about that in a reply to this comment, if you know the answer. Thank you for your work on this podcast. 

Jan Reinecke on 25 February 2023

philosophy

Thank you for a most impressive web-site! 

I live in South Africa and had no idea that that Africa boasts such an impressive gallery of philosophers. Not to mention Indian & Byzantine philosophers!  

Is it the sheer volume of your work that has kept you from going beyond the Reformation or are there other reasons why your website does not seem to include post-Reformation philosophers?

In reply to by Jan Reinecke

Peter Adamson on 25 February 2023

Post-Reformation

Don't worry, I'm getting there! The most recent episodes have been on the Renaissance/Reformation but after that I'll move on to the 17th century. Glad you are excited by the range of the project!

Karl Young on 6 January 2023

Hey Peter, Not to saddle you…

Hey Peter,

Not to saddle you anything more than all the great stuff you already provide but I was wondering if there might ever be the possibility of posting a super index for the books on the website. When you refer to a thinker you’ve discussed in the past in one of the episodes, it’s easy to find the volume and section for the big names. But sometimes you mention an idea associated with a less well known  thinker and don’t have time to mention their dates. I know it’s easy to look them up re. the podcast index. But (as a geezer) I sometimes find it easier (and faster) to grab one of the books and skim there for a little more on that idea. No worries if that seems unreasonable; just wanted to float the idea…

In reply to by Karl Young

Peter Adamson on 6 January 2023

Index

Hm, interesting idea. I think it would be more useful for topics than figures (I mean, you know which volume to find Thomas Aquinas in, or whoever). Would be a lot of work to compile it all though...

Dave Ewanchuk on 21 December 2022

Popular culture and Descartes

Thought you might enjoy this, from Mad Magazine, late 60’s

Stuck with me all these years..

 

Lowell on 18 December 2022

Islamic Jurisprudence

Peter,

Good evening - long time listener to your series here, and have enjoyed it immensely. I tend to drop in on specific episodes, and often revisit those that delve specifically into areas of interest of mine. There is of course so much to consume. I certainly applaud the time, and detail that you take to this process. 

 

My question concerns the meeting point of Jurisprudence and theology with that of philosophy proper, specifically within the Arabic and Islamic traditions. I should mention that I am a student in history more so than philosophy - but the two topics have many fascinating points of overlap. In any case, I have long been fascinated by the divergent ways in which the major figures of Christian theological history have been treated philosophically - be it Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, Scotus and so forth - as opposed to those within the Islamic sphere. For instance, within the Islamic intellectual sphere Abu Hanifa, Malik ibn Anas, Al-Shari’s, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal assume a position of greater reverence over most anyone, the prophet aside. Yet scant mention is made of any of these figures within most overviews of Islamic philosophy. Later predominant theologians, such as Al-Ghazali, Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi and others to warrant more consideration. I suppose I am this curious as to whether these four Imams, and originators of jurisprudence in Islam, indeed have any connection to philosophy, or whether their efforts were somewhat aside. I have tried, without success, to determine for instance, was Malik ibn Ana’s familiar with Aristotle - or centuries later did Al-Farabi or Ibn Sina draw any knowledge forth from Al-Shari’i. I have also attempted to discern whether later Latin theologians, specifically those operating within such matters as law - such as Aquinas - were familiar with any of these early Muslim jurists. Would be very curious as to any thoughts you may have.

 

One additional thought - I have wondered why the jurisprudence transition within Islam is so much greater than that of Christianity. As well as why theology seems to be less of a focus by Muslim’s during the medieval period than Christians. At some point I came across the perspective that Islam was itself such a comprehensive, complete faith - one that through the Qur’an already attempted to address most every concern of life - and those that were missed, the Hadith would take up the task. Whereas, even from the outset, Christianity had a more perhaps patchy, approach to things. Thus, within Islam theologians who carry the proverbial water of explaining entire concepts within the faith were less necessary - but what was needed were interpreters of law. Whereas in Christianity, a less thorough screed opened the door for Augustine, Aquinas and many others to have greater say and influence on the direction of the religion. I have come around to that perhaps too-simplistic interpretation but again would love for someone of your knowledge to weigh in on its veracity.

 

thank you

In reply to by Lowell

Peter Adamson on 18 December 2022

Jurisprudence

Yes, couldn't agree more about the philosophical interest of Islamic law. You might have noticed I had an episode on it (number 147) and also I edited a book with de Gruyter called Philosophy and Jurisprudence in the Islamic World. However my impression is that there is not much influence on jurists from what we more narrowly call "philosophy," at least until after Avicenna when his terminology and especially his logical ideas start to infect pretty much all areas of Islamic intellectual activity. So earlier jurists like al-Shafi'i would not, as far as I know, have been thinking about Aristotelianism or anything like that.

As for the point in the last paragraph, I am not so clear on what the purported phenomenon is that we are trying to explain. There was a heck of a lot of theology in the classical period of Islam - we call it kalām, and it was a far more dominant feature of the intellectual scene than philosophy (falsafa) which was quite a marginal phenomenon, culturally speaking. So if the question is "why was there more theological reflection in medieval Christianity than medieval Islam?" I would deny the premise of the question. Actually Muslim theologians have a spur to reflection and argument that medieval European Christians mostly didn't, which is that they were in close contact with Jewish and Christian communities so there was a lot of need for arguments to be used in interreligious debate; and of course there were plenty of debates within Islam between mutakallimūn as well. On the other hand you're right that jurisprudence is very dominant in Islam. Not sure it is more dominant than in Christianity - think of the massive tradition of canon law, legal theory going back to Justinian, etc. (We had an episode on this too in the Medieval series.) But since Islam, like Judaism, is a law-based religion it was always going to have a lot of room for legal reflection and writing.

Kevin Street on 16 December 2022

Your Podcast

Hi there! I recently discovered your podcast on Spotify and I love it! I'm only up to Episode #38 so far, but it's been really fascinating and I'm so glad to see you're still doing it. Thank you for all the philosophy!

In reply to by Kevin Street

Peter Adamson on 16 December 2022

Up your street

Great, glad you are enjoying it! You have a long way to go before you catch up with me...

Andrew Maclaren on 28 November 2022

Brixton Black Women's Group

Hey Peter. I have recently found out myself about a group called the Brixton Black Women's Group, and they seem really fascinating, being that some of the founding members were previously active in the British Black Panthers. After reading a pdf of one of their works, I really want to learn some more about them. Do you plan to cover them? I'm guessing that if you are, it would be just a mention in the Black Feminism episode though.

In reply to by Andrew Maclaren

Peter Adamson on 28 November 2022

Brixton

Oh that's new to me, too. I'll look into it, thanks!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Andrew Maclaren on 29 November 2022

Brixton

Ooh this is exciting! Hope you cover them!

Kai Gerbi on 28 November 2022

Philosophy of Music

Hi Peter,

Thank you so much for this podcast! I have enjoyed it immensely so far! I joined relatively recently and am not yet up-to-date but I have just reached the end of your coverage of the Italian Renaissance (Episode 370). Where I’m up to you’ve been discussing Galileo and I’m wondering if there will be any coverage of the developments in music and aesthetics soon. Particularly I think Gioseffo Zarlino’s first book of Le institutioni (recently translated by Lucille Corwin) might be of interest as he explicitly uses ideas of form and matter in his conception of music. Zarlino was involved in the church and worked at st marks in Venice. He also studied philosophy and logic under Ligname as well as Greek and son Hebrew. He is a fascinating figure in the history of music and a wonderful blend of music theory and philosophy. His work was based upon antique readings as well as the humanist writings of H Glareanus. Also he was an influential teacher and Vincenzo Galilei was a student of his, who also made important contributions. Anyway, I’m getting a little carried away but I just wanted to put a good word in for some excellent musical philosophers and philosophers who wrote of music (Descartes comes to mind). Alright, thank you so much for the wonderful work you are doing!

Sincerely,

Kai

In reply to by Kai Gerbi

Peter Adamson on 28 November 2022

Music

Thanks for the suggestion! I am actually coming back to the Italian Renaissance as part of the Counter-Reformation but I am not sure whether this would fit in there, I will think about it. In general we have done some stuff on music in the past, like episode 133 in the Islamic World series; actually in the Africana series there are some episodes coming up where we talk about Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Sun Ra, etc.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Alexander Johnson on 6 December 2022

17th century

If you can't fit them in for Reformation, you could still get them in under the series on the 1600's, as the most famous works to be influenced by said writings were operas from the 1600's, so would we well appropriate to have them lead off a wider musical aesthetic episode during that series.

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 6 December 2022

17th century music

Oh that's a nice idea - I think I like that better actually, because I had been thinking about a special episode towards the end of the Reformation series about visual art, so I could save music for the later series. Thanks!

Warren Wagner on 14 September 2022

Thanks!

I've immensely enjoyed your podcast and just received Classical Philosophy.  Thank you sincerely for your work and attention to detail.  Your clever presentation makes me wish I could actually meet your sister.  I'm sure she'd have tales to tell. 

xaratustrah on 16 July 2022

Franz Xaver

Hi Peter, just wondering, is Franz Xaver missing from the timeline?

In reply to by xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 17 July 2022

Xavier

Oh yes, I guess I will discuss him when I talk about the Jesuits. I add names to the timeline as I go along, probably there are a number of people missing from the Iberian Counter-reformation.

Alexander Johnson on 16 July 2022

Ethics Shift

I noticed the focus early on for ethics was built around ethics as the study of the best way to live one's life.  But now, the general case is taken to be what is acceptable in society.  When and why did this transition take place?  

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 16 July 2022

Ethics shift

That's a long story but I guess the short version would be the rise of utilitarianism, which is the ethical theory that has come to dominate public policy thinking. So, 18th or 19th century, I'd say.

Fr. John Rickert on 28 June 2022

Searchable website

+JMJ

Greetings --  Have been enjoying the podcast immensely and learning a lot.  I especially enjoy the puns and wordplay!  I just delved into this website today -- have been aware of it but not really looked into it.  Is there a Search capability?  That would be very helpful.  

Thanks for all the outstanding work.

Best wishes.

In reply to by Fr. John Rickert

Peter Adamson on 29 June 2022

Search

I have a search function but I think it is restricted to me as a user (i.e. comes with editorial control over the website). But I don't use it much myself... between the menus and the linked list of "themes" (see the bottom of the page) it should be pretty navigable. What would you be searching for, like, keywords in comments maybe?

Dave of Sarasota on 25 June 2022

A Gap

Peter, 

Enormously educational and entertaining series - have enjoyed every episode and have almost caught up to the current releases. I have also been using the ebook versions for the full text search and hyperlinked index features. Here, there seems to be a “gap” - the Kindle version of volume 2 is not available, will it be released at some point?

In reply to by Dave of Sarasota

Peter Adamson on 25 June 2022

Kindle version

Yes this has been pointed out before to me - I flagged the issue for OUP on Twitter but maybe stronger measures are required! I will look into it, thanks. PS I think maybe it is available in some regions (UK?) on Kindle but not others (USA?). I don't use Kindle myself so this is a bit of a mystery to me.

Andrew Maclaren on 18 June 2022

Controversal traditions?

Hey Peter,

I was wondering how far you are going to take your expansive view on philosophy, especially as you get to modern times? So far, most of what you done hasn't attracted controversy as far as I know, outside of maybe the eastern traditions in the islamic world with the whole Persian thing with the Iranian revolution maybe. But I was thinking, if you are going to tackle Marx eventually, what to say for an episode on Lenin or Mao? For Mao, he would be important for Alain Badiou, and there were philosophers in the soviet union (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_in_the_Soviet_Union). How willing would you be to tackle these, despite the definite controversy they would attract? Or what about Nazi philosophers? I am mainly thinking of Carl Schmitt, but there are probably other examples. I am sure there is something to find in Gaddafi as well.



I am putting this more so as a interest in how far the boundries for "without any gaps" is going to go, but also there is (potentially perverse, depending on your perspective) curiosity of you actually covering these people, despite the controvery. I feel the need to say this before I get weird eyes from people.

In reply to by Andrew Maclaren

Peter Adamson on 19 June 2022

Marx

Oh yes I would obviously need to cover Marx; I think you can't even do the rest of political philosophy without having covered him. And certainly would do Schmitt too - actually here in Germany he is a pretty standard figure to cover in courses on the history of political philosophy, interestingly enough.

I have occasionally entertained the idea of a mini-series at some point on Russian philosophy and Lenin could certainly go there.

Anyway I agree covering figures who were also responsible for many deaths, like Mao and Lenin, is tricky but they need to be understood both as emerging from the history of philosophy and as influencing it, so I wouldn't shy away.

Andrew Maclaren on 11 June 2022

Playing with audio

Hi Peter, just a random thing that popped in my head.



You should find ways to take advantage of the fact that this is a audio medium. You have to some level, like the music video in the islamic world, and that random law and order clip I can't remember which episode it is from, but it has been extraneous to the philosophy so far. To be fair, I don't really know how you could for some of the philosophy you are currently doing but one example in my head would be when explaining the Phenomenological tradition (if you ever get there). I think leverging the medium can help get across (especially Phenomenology) the philosophy in a way that the philosophy isn't usually presented, since most philosophy people encounter is via books.



Just a random thought.

In reply to by Andrew Maclaren

Peter Adamson on 11 June 2022

Audio

Yes, that is an excellent point. Actually a wonderful example of what you're thinking about is this episode of the brilliant podcast Hi-Phi Nation. I love the series as a whole and this is one of my favorite episodes.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Andrew Maclaren on 11 June 2022

Maybe you could do something…

Maybe you could do something with Frantz Fanon? I don't know too much about him, just that he is related to existentialism, which is somewhat related to phenomenology (I know, very airtight right?) and psychoanalysis, which may be more amenable to my suggestion although not as much as phenomenology (don't really know psychoanalysis either).



Will have a listen to that episode. Thanks!

Jon on 11 May 2022

Reformation podcast series

Thanks for this ambitious podcast series.  I just noticed that the Reformation series is skipped in the "All Episodes" tab.  You may want to add it!

In reply to by Jon

Peter Adamson on 11 May 2022

Reformation

Hi - thanks but I think it is there. If you scrolled all the way down to the bottom you'd miss it because the Indian and Africana series follow it.

Simeon on 20 March 2022

Frantz Fanon

Just interested when episodes on Frantz Fanon will appear, and if you will be covering Angela Davis and Kimberlé Crenshaw. 

In reply to by Simeon

Peter Adamson on 20 March 2022

Fanon etc

We'll get to Fanon this summer! Three episodes will be devoted to him, which will run on either side of the summer break: these will be episodes 105-7, with the last of these an interview with Lewis Gordon (we already did it, and it's great!).

And yes we have an episode on Angela Davis planned (#125 or so) and one on Critical Race Theory that will include Crenshaw (#130 or so).

These numbers are obviously subject to change as we add/subtract topics and shift things around but they should be approximately right.

John Briggs on 17 March 2022

Missing Episodes or Misnumbered Episode?

What happened to Episodes 392 to 395?

In reply to by John Briggs

Peter Adamson on 17 March 2022

Oops!

That was a mistake! I put up 395 ahead of time, the sound file is ready but it is not supposed to publish until May 8. It will reappear then, thanks for letting me know.

Roy G Albin on 16 March 2022

Trying to remember A particular philosopher

My recollection is that 1 of the Islamic philosophers  Believes that God-created the universe  And it and everything it can continues to exist simply because God continues to will it.  Should GodCease to willSomething or someone's existenceIt would cease to exist instantly.

 I thought it was  Al razi But I  Re listened to that episode and I see that he was the one who believed in the 5 Eternal substances...

 

No is a great answer but do you happen to recall Who might have Held that unique theory I would love to be reminded.

In reply to by Roy G Albin

Peter Adamson on 16 March 2022

Dependent on God's will

That's a tricky question because the position you're describing was held by so many figures; basically anyone who allows for a "voluntarist" God who creates by arbitrary will rather than necessity. It would fit al-Kindi for instance and I wonder if you are thinking of this passage in the podcast on him:

"Al-Kindī, by contrast, wrote a little treatise defending Aristotle’s conception of the heavens as being made from a unique, indestructible material. This at first seems inexplicable, until we get to a little caveat towards the end of that treatise. Indeed, al-Kindī says, the heavenly spheres are indestructible. So they will exist forever… so long as God wants them to. Here he’s changed the rules, by implying that even a body whose nature is not subject to destruction will vanish if God stops making it exist. This is perhaps why al-Kindī thinks the universe’s eternity is a matter for metaphysical theology, and not physics. It is not the nature of the universe that determines how long it exists, but the will of God."

So that's my guess as to what you're thinking but it would apply to other thinkers too like al-Ghazali for example; it's far from "unique."

In reply to by Roy G Albin

Jordan Magill on 14 April 2023

This view was also widely…

This view was also widely held in Medeval Judaism, most famously by Nachmainidies of Spain.  The idea was further developed by Issac Luria and It continues to the present day in many Jewish circles.  

Alan D Bent on 19 February 2022

Spinoza

I am hoping that you will spend some time on Spinoza soon.

In reply to by Alan D Bent

Peter Adamson on 19 February 2022

Spinoza

Spinoza will certainly get multiple episodes including an interview, but you'll have to be patient: my plan is to cover the Reformation era around Europe, and then Spinoza will be part of a series of episodes on 17-18th century France and the Netherlands. So, maybe in 2024?

James Scheuermann on 16 February 2022

Rhetoric and hermeneutics

Professor Adamson -- Great job on the podcasts.  I'm working my way through them (mostly by subject matter, not in chronological order) with enthusiasm.

At the appropriate place in your historical timeline, I hope you do one or more podcasts on Friederich Schleiermacher, Dilthey, and the other early German originators of hermeneutics.  In particular, it would be of great interest to hear the historical reasons why rhetoric (but not the theory of interpretation, hermeneutics) assumed a dominant place in the trivium and why the theory of interpretation did not gain footing as a separate discipline until Schleiermacher (or maybe Herder).  My guess is that this is in some large measure a function of Aristotle's treatment of interpretation (in On Interpretation) as a matter of the logical form and the logical relations of individual propositions, as contrasted to his far broader characterization of rhetoric as applying to complete texts (speeches, written works, etc.).  It's only a guess, and I would welcome your informed views on this.  (Apologies if you have covered this turf already, as I've said, I've not heard all of the podcasts.)

Best regards,

Jim Scheuermann   

Sebastian on 9 February 2022

I LOVE IT!

I've been reading the first book and I'm so happy to finally have a comprehensive guide of philosohpy through history.



Already bought the whole series but kind of bummed out that all of them except the second are available for Kindle. What's up with that?

In reply to by Sebastian

Peter Adamson on 9 February 2022

Kindle

Yes, someone else pointed this out, I think it is not available on the US site but is on the UK site, or vice-versa? You might see whether you can get it directly from Oxford University Press rather than Amazon. Anyway glad you like the series!

R. Schleyer on 22 January 2022

JB

To notice Valentin Weigel and not Jacob Boehme (d. 1624) is fairly disorderly. In fact, to notice any part of idealism without a competent conspectus of JB is like discussing the world without the Triune God who, as Hegel said, is the only thing worth thinking about.

In reply to by R. Schleyer

Peter Adamson on 22 January 2022

Boehme

Actually I have struggled a bit with Boehme, I mean, knowing where to put him. It goes without saying that I will cover him in due course (no gaps, after all!), but like many of the thinkers who were active around 1600 it was not so clear to me whether it would be better to cover him as part of the current Reformation series, or later when I get to 17th-18th c German philosophy. But I decided on the latter, basically because of what you are suggesting, namely that he seems to be important as background for figures like Hegel who I will be covering in that future series.

Maria on 26 December 2021

Origins of Philosophy

Hi Peter,

I’m exploring the wonderful world of Ancient Greece and your podcast is one branch that is helping put the puzzle together.  I’m neither a scholar or philosopher but listening to the first few episodes I have a question eating away at me and hopefully it isn’t to stupid. You speak of Thales as the first philosopher.  If philosophy is understanding the world around us or at least it seemed that way back then before becoming so complex. Wouldn’t the people or person who created the original Greek Gods be considered the first philosopher(s)?  Each deity had purpose and explained happenings in the world around them.  Also, the ancient Greeks worshipped the Iliad almost as a holy text, who’s to say their wasn’t an old Bard or wise man wandering around making sense of the world and sharing tales of how they believed things worked to the point where it went from story to religion.

In reply to by Maria

Peter Adamson on 26 December 2021

First philosophers

Actually, if you have a listen to the early Africana episodes you'll hear that we actually significantly revised this idea of Thales as the beginning of philosophy: not only do we talk about much older philosophical works from ancient Egypt but we even have an episode on the idea of associating philosophical ideas with things like prehistoric cave paintings.

Adam Wadley on 2 December 2021

Looking for specific Neoplatonist reference

Dear Peter,

I remember listening to an episode where one of the Neoplatonists was mentioning how we are always connected to “the source” even though it appears we are not (I am muddling the terms for sure). Then another neoplatonist disagreed, saying that if this were true there would be no point in doing philosophy.

I’ve listened back through many episodes but haven’t yet tracked down that moment. Do you by any chance happen to remember which thinker thought we were perhaps always in a state of henosis or something similar?

thanks,

adam

In reply to by Adam Wadley

Peter Adamson on 2 December 2021

Undescended soul

I think you are thinking of Plotinus' doctrine of the undescended soul: that the soul maintains a connection to Intellect at all times, but may be unaware of it. This was then rejected by Iamblichus, Proclus, and other later Neoplatonists. The classic study of this is Carlos Steel's The Changing Self.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Adam on 4 December 2021

THANK YOU

Thank you so much Peter. I am running to get this book as quickly as possible!

Ineffable gratitude!

Adam

Tihamer T. Tot… on 22 November 2021

Absolutely Great Series!! I love it! except...

I want to congratulate you on an absolutely great series, Peter. It made me look forward to my long commute twice a week.

I just got through the Islamic part, so I'm *way* behind, but I guess that's ok; I'll catch up eventually. :-)

There is some truth to your claim that to a large extent the History of Philosophy *is* Philosophy.

However, there is a slight but important difference: i.e. the main purpose of the entire enterprise.

Maybe it's because I'm a practical engineer; maybe it's because my parents suffered through WWII as teenagers and spent the rest of their lives wondering, "Why did this happen?"

I don't know for sure about WWII (there are lots of good answers to my parent's question), but I am pretty certain that ideas have consequences.

So it was with great interest that I listened to your broadcast on Ibn Khaldun and his theories about the rise and fall of civilizations. He had some great ideas, especially in terms of using empirical evidence to prove his theories, though I think that Islamic fatalism may have tripped him up a bit. As a Catholic Transhumanist, I ask: Why can't the cycle be broken?

The thing is, people are pretty much the same everywhere. Granted, a harsh environment will generate a harsh religion (e.g. Norse and Islam), but incorrect ideas can also lead to fatal behaviors (for the latter, I'm thinking of the Azteks in particular).

My point is this: What is the essence and purpose of philosophy?

It is not to record who came up with which interesting idea, and who was able to criticize that idea in new and different ways.  Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Nothing more, nothing less.

Knowing who came up with some idea, and interplay of different aspects of that idea, and what the context all this played out in--i.e. what you talk about a lot in your podcasts is useful because it helps us keep track of the ideas themselves. And now that we know whose idea it was, we know how to look it up. So it's ok.

I just wish (now that it's too late) that you would have put a wee bit more emphasis on the ideas themselves, and a little less on the people.

Oh well, maybe next time around.

OTOH, you have *great* puns! I hope you keep them!

Sincerely.

Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel

In reply to by Tihamer T. Tot…

Peter Adamson on 22 November 2021

What's the point?

Thanks, glad you like the series so much! I think my answer to your question is that there is no further point or external purpose to philosophy, but that philosophical reflection can be and maybe should be a purpose unto itself. This is of course inspired by Aristotle. My idea here is that if you are reflecting on the most fundamental questions there are, i.e. doing philosophy, it is kind of strange if I come ask you "why are you bothering to do that, and what are you going to get out of it?" I mean, it might have some further purpose (to get/keep a job, in my case, or impress your friends, or more seriously, to achieve some political objective) but it doesn't need to.

alexis dedpland on 21 November 2021

hugonauts

where and when are the Hugonaughts from what happened to them. why don't they  exist anymore at  some point you should probably do a wrap-up episode the quickly talks about  the dead forms of Protestantism 

In reply to by alexis dedpland

Peter Adamson on 22 November 2021

Huguenots

Oh they are still coming; we are going to cover Protestantism in France later, as I move through Europe geographically (so far we have been in central Europe and the Low Countries).

Eric on 20 November 2021

Indigenous critique

David graebers book dawn of everything makes interesting argument that the criticism of european philosophy on the part of north american indigenous thinkers was an impetus for enlightenment philosophy in europe

Kristian Poscic on 2 November 2021

great podcast

Hi,

I discovered this podcast series recently (July of this year) and I enjoy it very much. Very clear presentation and easy for me to understand. 

I'm an engineer (at least in my heart), I'm 53 years old, lost my religion (Catholic) about 10 years ago (thanks to Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris) and started to wonder more deeply about what we are doing on this planet. If someone told me that I would be interested in philosophy 30yrs ago, I would laugh. I feel that I missed so much in the meantime but at the same time I'm very excited to discover that this huge void in me that I wasn't ever aware existed, can be filled to a great satisfaction with philosophy, amongst other branches of knowledge. 

I listened to every of your episodes since July, but my goal is to also start from the beginning and eventually catch up completely  in a year of so.  

I also started to read the Bertrand Russell's book 'History of Western Philosophy' a few years ago but that stalled due to my time constraints. I will return to it, after I finish your podcast :). 

dan on 24 October 2021

podcast suggestion

Please make a podcast of the history of western modern philosophy, from Descartes, Hume, Kant to modern philosophers such as Ayer, Wittgenstein and Nietzsche ... even up to more recent philosophers in the 80s and 90s.

I guess that might also be called contemporary philosophy.

In reply to by dan

Peter Adamson on 24 October 2021

Modern philosophy

That's the plan! Well, not sure if I will tackle 20th century philosophy but I certainly hope to cover "modern" philosophy up to the 19th century, if all goes well. But since I go chronologically and don't skip anything, it will take me a while to get to everything you mention here.

john john on 18 October 2021

add 2x option

please add a 2x audio option as I can't even listen to your podcast on your website on account of how slow you talk

In reply to by john john

Peter Adamson on 18 October 2021

Need for speed

Really! I'm amazed, because I always thought that I was if anything talking too fast. I don't know whether this is technically possible, maybe you can do it at your end?

Jeffrey Allen on 7 October 2021

Peripatetic podcast

I have been listening to your wonderful podcast on my daily walks. Walking and philosophy are natural companions. I was a philosophy major in my undergraduate days (the late 70s), and back then, I got the history of philosophy with the near two millennium gap. So nice to fill it in! Besides your lucid expositions, Peter, I appreciate the disinguished guests you bring on board to go deeper with selected philosophers. Also love the humor, and references to giraffes and Buster Keaton. Keep up the great work!!

In reply to by Jeffrey Allen

Peter Adamson on 8 October 2021

Coming back to philosophy

Thanks, that's great! I really enjoy hearing about listeners who came back to philosophy in part because of the podcast. Glad you are enjoying it!

Zen on 7 October 2021

Re: Episode 002 - The Soul as Breath

Hi there,

Just started listening to your show and I've been enjoying it a great deal. Your comment on Anaximander's notion reminded me of Adriana Cavarero's work in For More than One Voice, where she links these notions to a translation of ancient Hebrew theology that describes the breath of God as what creates the world instead of the word of God.

Thanks for your work,

Zen

In reply to by Zen

Peter Adamson on 8 October 2021

Soul as breath

You should definitely check out the Indian philosophy series too then, especially the episodes about the Upanisads and Tantra, which explore the idea of breath as being somehow constitutive of the perosn.

Jeff J. Edelbrock on 7 October 2021

Enjoying the Podcast

Sir,

     Been listening to your podcast during my daily lunch walks for several weeks now & am truly enjoying it.  The length of the episodes is perfect for an hour long walk away from my desk.  The questions raised & the answers provided are enlightening for someone whose education & profession is as a software engineer.

     I never realized that philosophers & engineers are similar in that they both use systematic processes to work towards an answer, i.e. asking/answering a series of simpler questions until a more complex idea is developed.  A difference being that as an engineer I do in the end need to provide a distinct final answer as opposed to providing material for yet another question.

     I do somewhat feel like I’m missing a lot of the concepts simply because there is just so much information, though I know some of it is sticking because I find myself going over some of the ideas in my head on my drive home in the evenings.

     Keep up the good work.  I’m currently at episode 140 & am looking forward to the rest of the series. 

Jeff J. Edelbrock

p.s. in the past 57 years, I have not heard the word giraffe or the name Buster Keaton as many times as I have in the past several weeks.

In reply to by Jeff J. Edelbrock

Peter Adamson on 7 October 2021

Philosophy for engineers

Thanks, that's great that you have found it rewarding. I listen to a lot of podcasts myself, especially about history, so I know what you mean about the challenge of retaining so much information. But if a general overall idea sticks, that is something. Plus of course you will always have Buster and Hiawatha.

Carl on 6 October 2021

“Music”

Peter, I salute your undertaking of this ambitious project. I am approaching the end of what you now have on offer.

The content has been interesting on the whole.  I would like to take exception with two points where I find the

presentations fall short. 

 

The interviews with colleagues are most often too long and more lecture than discussion.

Your intro and closing “ music “  is cringe worthy for most of the segments. An exception, the Islamic World.

More melodious music would improve the enjoyment. 

 

 

 

Again, thank you for this educational, ambitious and entertaining work.

Carl

 

 

 

In reply to by Carl

Peter Adamson on 6 October 2021

Music

Oh really? I'm surprised you say that, for example I think the Renaissance clip is very beautiful and a lot of people have told me they like the music choices more generally. Well, taste differs. (By the way also bear in mind I am restricted to what I can find copyright free, plus it has to be chronologically appropriate.)

As for the interviews they vary of course but they usually clock in at about 30 minutes and we get through about 7-8 questions (I know this because I give them the questions in advance) so they are actually only speaking for about 4 minutes per answer. Just to make the point that it isn't usually like a lecture.

But I can imagine that some people might like the scripted ones better than the interviews; others vice-versa.

Anyway glad you like the series despite these aspects you aren't so crazy about!

Andrew Messmer on 4 October 2021

Martin Luther and the Bondage of the Will

Hi Peter. I just listened to your Erasmus–Luther episode. You did a good job treating it from a philosophical background, but I thought you might be interested to have a theological perspective. Luther’s point in talking about the bondage of the will is that we can choose whatever we want, but that every choice will be “turned inward”, that is, selfish and proud. Thus, there is no chance that we would ever, as you put it, choose the things that really matter, but the perspective is different: everything, big and small, has been infected by sin, and thus all decisions are sinful, or, to use the language of the Erasmus–Luther debate, “bound”. What God’s grace does is allow us to recover what we lost in the Garden of Eden: to love God and neighbor. Kind regards.

Alexander Johnson on 14 September 2021

4 Classical Virtues

I was having a discussion with one of my friends on if the 4 classical virtues (temperance, courage, piety, and justice) are held as such now-a-days.  During said discussion, I tried to play around with the definitions a little bit as we may hold the same virtues in other terms, or hold similar virtues still.  While I was doing this i noticed that they could be set up in an interesting pair of parallels.

Temperance is resisting pleasures that are bad for us

Courage is enduring pains that are good for us

Piety (or Reverence is the term i had switched it to at the time) is respect for that which is greater than us

Justice is respect for that which is lesser than us (the idea being that it is of greatest concern when one side has the power to enforce an unfair situation).

While these parallels line up nicely, I doubt they came up at the time, but I was wondering if there is prior president for some of these, or the relations between temperance/courage or piety/justice

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 14 September 2021

four virtues

That's clever! It doesn't really ring a bell for me, though your definition of courage there looks a lot like Aristotle's. Maybe someone else can connect it to a historical precedent.

Amelie on 29 August 2021

What a great discovery

I randomly came across your podcasts on the history of philosophy a few hours ago, and am now deep into episode 7. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful wealth of knowledge!

In reply to by Amelie

Peter Adamson on 29 August 2021

Discoveries

Great, glad you are enjoying it! Plenty of episodes still to come if you are only up to 7. (I think the series actually gets better as it goes along, there was a learning curve.)

Xaratustrah on 24 August 2021

Perennial philosophy

Hi Peter,

a couple of times we got very close to the topic of perennial philosophy (Pico, Ficino, Nasr, ...) but I am not sure (although I am a long time listener and have listened to all episodes so far), did you cover it separately somewhere in any of the episodes?

thanks!

In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 24 August 2021

Perennial philosophy

No, there is no separate treatment of it; you are right though about it coming up in those episodes. Maybe also worth revisiting on this would be some of the late ancient stuff, like on Iamblichus.

Andrei Miculita on 7 August 2021

Spotify

This podcast seems like exactly what I needed to build an understanding of philosophy, starting from the very base.

However, I was wondering, do you maintain the Spotify version or is it unofficial? It would be much more convenient for me (and probably for other people who don't use Apple software as well) to listen to that. But there is no mention of it on this website, which is a reason why I hesitate to use it.

In reply to by Andrei Miculita

Peter Adamson on 8 August 2021

Spotify

That should be the same feed as the normal RSS feed, so you can listen to it that way just as you would on any other podcast interface. Enjoy!

Notice the Classical India and Africana series are on a separate feed so on Spotify or any other interface you need to look for the separate series.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Andrei Miculita on 8 August 2021

Thank you for the answer!…

Thank you for the answer! And I appreciate your work.

Zachary on 2 August 2021

Hussites

I'm guessing that Jan Hus and the Hussite's aren't getting an episode? I can't recall if you mentioned them when you did an episode on Wycliff or not.

In reply to by Zachary

Peter Adamson on 2 August 2021

The Hussites

That's right, I touched on them in the Medieval series - actually in the episode right after the one on Wyclif, where I talked about scholasticism across Europe, while talking about Prague.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Zachary on 3 August 2021

Right, my mistake. I couldn…

Right, my mistake. I couldn't find Hus on any of the timelines so I couldn't recall if you had or not.

Hugh Duffy on 21 July 2021

HoP - the early years.

Peter:

I've been listening to this podcast on Spotify for some months - I'm up to HoP 067. It is one of the best podcasts I've followed in the last 10 years. Brilliant!

 

Harish Goel on 20 July 2021

History of Indian philosophy

I have been listening to your podcast on Indian philosophy lately. While overall it’s a nice effort, one can’t help but sense a constant undertone of a subtle bias and mockery against the Indian thinkers in your voice. Your efforts to play them down are a put off from time to time.

In reply to by Harish Goel

Peter Adamson on 21 July 2021

Bias and mockery

Really? That would be very surprising because I loved the classical Indian philosophers and was totally blown away by how amazing they were in every single way. Plus, to state the obvious, I devoted numerous hours of my life every week to producing a podcast about them for several years, not something one would do if one were not enthusiastic about the topic. So you are clearly picking up on something that isn't there; maybe it is just my attempt at a "light" delivery? Anyway I don't think my speaking style would be any different in the Indian series than in the other series, except insofar perhaps as I am sometimes reading Jonardon's words and not my own (we wrote about 50/50 split) so having a harder time getting it to sound natural.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Harish Goel on 23 July 2021

Hello Peter,  Thanks for…

Hello Peter, 

Thanks for your reply - maybe I didn't take the humour and assessment in the right spirit. 

First of all, it was surely wrong of me to call your podcast a "nice effort" when it's so interesting - considering I have finished more than 36 episodes in 12 days. 

In fact, your series has kindled an interest in me for the Hindu philosophy that I hope to pursue for years to come. 

And the best parts were the interviews with the experts. 

It's just that I somehow couldn't appreciate references like that of tiger's growl on the tape recorder and how philosopher X or philosopher Y didn't anticipate/ accommodate the possibility of tape recorder playing the tiger's sound. 

Thanks again for your podcast and the coverage it offers!!

Regards

Harish

In reply to by Harish Goel

Peter Adamson on 24 July 2021

Tiger's growl

Oh I see. Yes that is just a general feature of the podcast - amusing examples and witty asides (or, depending on your sense of humor, "dad jokes"). Actually I think there are probably fewer such jokes in the India series than in other parts of the podcast.

Xaratustrah on 14 July 2021

Africana

Hi Peter,

among the 20th century topics, are you planing to consider NOI / MalcolmX and figures like Fanon in the Africana series?

In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 14 July 2021

Afrciana topics

Indeed! Actually funny you ask about Fanon, I just taught a class on him today and to prepare for that I wrote a draft script already on "Wretched of the Earth"; Chike will be writing one on "Black Skin White Masks" and we're planning an interview on him as well. And we will do Malcolm X as well; in general the coverage will go up to about the 1980s I think.

Andrew Messmer on 13 July 2021

Aristotle, Demonstration, and Plato’s “ancient quarrel”

Greetings once again. I believe it was in episode 373 where you briefly alluded to Aristotle’s definition of a “demonstration” in his Posterior Analytics. If I understood you correctly, you said that Aristotle says that it is different that a dialectical argument, but actually just a really good one, so good that it couldn’t be questioned. Is that correct? If so, then my question is: what is the relationship between a demonstration and poetry, that is, poetry as understood by Plato in his “ancient quarrel” between poetry and philosophy. In other words, if philosophers used dialectical arguments, then does this imply a relationship between poets and demonstration? Thanks in advance.

In reply to by Andrew Messmer

Peter Adamson on 13 July 2021

Poetry and demonstration

That's a complicated question. To start with the relation between dialectic and demonstration, the idea there is that dialectical arguments proceed from "accepted" premises (this too is complicated but basically it means, premises you can get your interlocutor to accept - they don't even need to be true) whereas demonstrative arguments have rock solid foundational principles as their ultimate basis. And also meet some other criteria, e.g. have to be universal, necessary, and always true.

Now, the tradition of commentary on Aristotle tried to fit rhetorical and poetic discourse into the framework of logical "arguments," but it's far from clear that this makes sense, especially with poetry. So for instance you'll find later commentators saying that poetry involves "arguments" whose premises are metaphorical. But Aristotle's Poetics does not present poetry (which means, basically, tragedy since that is what he covers in the text as we have it) in this way, really. He doesn't, in other words, present poetry as an attempt to convince the audience of something, as he does with dialectic, demonstration, and also rhetoric.

Joseph Byrnes on 2 June 2021

Question about a point in the Sorabji interview, 042

I’ve finished the series up to present but I went back to episode 42 because there’s a point Sorabji makes that really bugs me and I wondering if I’ve missed something about the argument. 

Sorabji says that a golden mountain won’t exist at any point in infinite time even though it’s conceptually and physically possible, and adds it’s like how that monkey’s typing randomly over infinite time won’t produce the works of Shakespear. 

But he seems wrong on both points. On the monkeys, the probablity of typing shakespear is simply (1/(27*numbers of letters in shakespear)) ie greater than zero, for 26 letters and a space bar (assuming the probability of striking each key is the same but unless they always skip a key the probability still won’t be zero). Given an infinite number of key strokes then the probability of occurence is 1. I’m extremely confused why he says otherwise, but he says it with such confidence.

That’s fine but the mountain example might say something more interesting about Aristotle. The conceptually and physically possible mountain implies that there is a finite probability of stocastic geological processes accumlating gold in one spot and eroding it, etc, and so again the probability is definently 1 if you integrate over infinite time - if geological processes are stocastic. But I might be missing an aristotlean point here instead of a statistical one. A counter example, Aristotle doesn’t seem to think that all forms of animal that are conceptually and physically possible will come into being based on what is said in the episode, but based on other episodes I assume that’s because animal forms are teleologically, not stocastically, determined. But still Aristotle talks about mountains deforming around eruptions, etc, so the particular form of the Earth doesn’t seem to a strict teleologically determined thing. I don’t see any reason the gold mountain won’t appear in infinite time - but I’de love to know if I’m missing something. I presume has Sorabji thought abot this more than me.

In reply to by Joseph Byrnes

Peter Adamson on 3 June 2021

Golden mountain

I seem to recall that there is a long discussion thread about this golden mountain example on the page for the Sorabji episode, so you might check that out. I'm not a statistician but one thing he might be thinking is this: suppose you roll a 6 sided die 6 times. The probability of rolling a 3 at least once might seem to be 100%, since it is a 1 in 6 chance and you rolled 6 times - but of course it isn't. Instead the more you roll the die, the closer the probability of the three gets to 100%. However it will never be 100%, it only approaches that like an asymptote in geometry.

Still if this is the only problem then it seems you are effectively right: over an infinite number of trials the probability of getting Shakespeare will get at least infinitely close to 100%, if not actually to 100%, which is more or less the same thing in practical terms. So, I tend to agree that Sorabji was wrong too but he's smarter than me, so...

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Alexander Johnson on 3 June 2021

Statistics

One thing I haven't seen brought up in the discussion here is also that the golden mountain and the monkey aren't all the similar.  To make the mountain example work, the point seems to be stressing that it was possible that the universe would align to make a golden mountain, but given that it did not, there is no probability it will ever reconfigure in such a way as to make a golden mountain, no matter how much time. Or in other words, a golden mountain may be impossible GIVEN the current conditions, even if it were possible previously.

For the infinite time monkey on the typewriter, we can't use this example, however, because nothing about what a monkey has typed should rule out the possibility of the monkey typing something in the future.  Therefore, the golden mountain example doesn't really apply here.  Instead, to prevent the monkey from ever typing the words of Shakespeare, we'd need to find an impossible combination.  For example, we would need to argue that a monkey, having typed "wheref" will never next type an o, no matter how many iterations we go through, making "wheref" possible, and "ore" possible, but making "wherefore" impossible, (given monkey behaviour). 

Although both these examples operate on "probability B not = 0, but probability B given A =0", they are different in that the golden mountain was but no longer is possible, but the monkey can only have never been possible.  (note, the method of the monkey, however, could possibly apply to the golden mountain example, just not the other way around)

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Joseph Byrnes on 4 June 2021

comment boards, whoa

I had no idea there were boards for each episode page! This is terrible news, I have work to do but lots I want to dig into for many episodes.....

Andy Wasserman on 15 May 2021

Lesson Plans?

I am a big fan of your podcast! Just a quick question...I am a public school teacher of World History at an IB (International Baccalaureate) school. Part of the school's diploma program is a course called Theory of Knowledge in which students must examine how they know what they know (examining both different types of knowers and different ways of knowing, and solving knowledge problems).

Ok...the question...are there any thoughts about developing lesson plans for teachers around the podcasts, especially for a course like my World History and/or the Theory of Knowledge course?

Just a thought! 

In reply to by Andy Wasserman

Peter Adamson on 15 May 2021

Lesson plans

Thanks for the question! No, not really but of course I would be very happy for teachers to use episodes in their teaching - actually I run a course remotely at King's College London that works in some of the podcasts. One tip might be to look under "Themes" (the link at the bottom of the page) and go to the list of episodes on Epistemology, that would take you to installments that are relevant for the course you describe.

Alexander Johnson on 12 May 2021

Comparison to a Minor

So I noticed there are now roughly as much podcast material as there is classroom hours spent by people who have a minor in philosophy.  So I was just curious, given that you also teach, how do you think the two compare?  (obviously, being history of pre-modern philosophy, the scope will be different at the very least, but it still might be interesting to hear if the range of issues discussed is comparable as well)

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 12 May 2021

Minor in HoPWaG

Wow, that is a great question! Well obviously it would only be a minor in pre-modern, Indian and Africana philosophy. But actually I think someone who has listened to the whole podcast thus far would probably be served reasonably well, at least in thematic terms. We've seen a huge range of positions on every major topic within philosophy (see the list of "themes" with episodes for each theme, at the bottom of the page) albeit that we haven't looked at all these things the way modern day philosophers do (Augustine's philosophy of language is not like what they do nowadays for instance). To be honest I think that, if given a choice between giving a student only what HoPWaG has covered, and only 21st century analytic style philosophy while ignoring non-western thought completely, the student would have a more profound understanding of the subject the first way than the second. Though both would be terribly partial.

On the other hand, I hasten to add, the podcast is no substitute for classroom learning; I think it can supplement that but students really need to be in a room with each other and an instructor to learn how to develop their own ideas, sharpen their argumentative skills, etc.

dukeofethereal on 10 May 2021

On Later India and Classical Chinese Philosophy mini series

Regarding Classical Chinese Philosophy/Indian series, I have some question.

1. Where do you and Karyn Lai both intend to stop with the series? is it with the introduction of Buddhism in China? is it before the arrival of the Tang Dyansty?

2. is Karyn Lai willing to work on after Classical Chinese given her expertise seems to be classical Chinese? where as Jonardon Ganeri is well versed in later Indian works well after Dignaga given his research and has released more Scholarly works for example.

3. If Karyn Lai won't be doing after Classical Chinese, has there been any other collaborator that at this moment of time you're aware of that might be willing to do work after Classical Chinese that will tackle the  Neo-Confucianism period/Modern Era, Islam in China and the influence of Chinese philosophy and Buddhism in Korea and Japan 

4. Given the extensive Materials of Japan and Korea, one would assume they would be separate series as opposed to being lumped with Medieval/Modern Chinese Philosophy ?

5. Have you thought about tackling Tibetan tradition? they have a rich history of Buddhism and have enough material. Also continues the tradition of Buddhism that would eventually die out from India. 

6. Regarding Post Dignaga India, I believe it would best for you and Ganeri (if he is willing to) tackle this tradition once you have concluded Classical Chinese Philosophy. Having listened to episode 61 on Later Indian Philosophy, there is that sense of cliffhanger looming about lol. Given that you and Chike are wrapping up the entirety of Africana philosophy in the next 2 or so years it would be a shame if Indian philosophy did not get that sense of closure. Post Dignaga India is extremely under-appreciated and unknown to many people. 

 

In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 11 May 2021

Later Asian philosophy

Yes, Karyn and I were planning to go up to the introduction of Buddhism for classical Chinese philosophy. Not sure what will come after that but I guess I was thinking that Tibetan philosophy could be covered either alongside later China, or India. I once thought that Korea and Japan could be covered together with later China but that would probably be too much material, so yes that would probably be its own series/book. Gosh, lots to do!

Anyway I don't have co-authors lined up securely for any of this though Jonardon and I did talk about picking up the story again at a future date.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

dukeofethereal on 13 May 2021

I hope Karyn will cover 'Xuanxue' (Neo-Daoism) + sources

Neo Daoism, the 3rd intellectual development of Daosim took place during the Jin-Sui Dynastic era (220-420 CE) which runs parallel to the introduction of the various forms of Buddhism that arrived in China (Chan Buddhism, Three Treatise/Sun Lu, Wei-Shi Buddhism, Tian Tai Buddhism and Hua Yun Buddhism).  Think of your 3rd part of Classical Indian Philosophy ('Buddhists and Jains'). 

 

Perhaps the order to this classical Chinese series could be;

 

1. Origins= Pre Imperial Philosophy (I.e Pre Qin Dynasty)

 

2. Early Imperial Philosophy (Qin-Han Dynasty)

 

3. Early Buddhism + Neo-Daosim  (Eastern Han Dynasty - Sui Dynasty) which will correspond at the same time as you stopped Classical India (6th century being Dignaga era). You can then do in the future Tang Dynasty (7th century Chinese Philosophy) - Modern Chinese thought in the future. Just like with Post Diganga - Modern India.

 

 

Sources;

Dao Companions to Daoist Philosophy edited by Liu Xiaogan, etc.. Springer)

Dao Companion to Xuanxue by Chai, David (Springer)

 

Reading Ji Kang's Essays Xuanxue in Early-Medieval China by Chai, David (Routledge, forthcoming)

 

 

Philosophy and Religion in Early Medieval China by Alan Chan (SUNY press)

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/neo-daoism/

 

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-metaphysics/

 

https://www.earlymedievalchinagroup.org/journal/latest-articles/

 

https://www.earlymedievalchinagroup.org/resources/bibliography/    

 

That bibliography page (early medieval china page) has extensive sources !! on Early Economic, Political and religious thoughts which would be handy for your mini series on Chinese Philosophy. 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerard David on 10 May 2021

Suggestion: African geanology of computing

The European development of modern computing is well-established, but would you cover the African genealogy of modern computing, as presented by Ron Eglash in the latter part of his "The fractals at the heart of African designs" TED talk (although the entire presentation may be of pertinence)? Surely its implications would significantly locate the role of Africa and expand deliberations in issues of epistemology, science and technology, philosophy of science, and African philosophy itself. In other words, filling in a gap.

Eglash traces the roots of modern computing from binary geomantic algorithms from sub-Saharan African into Andalusia, eventually passing through Leibniz, Boole and von Neumann. The particular binary nature facilitating emergence of computational calculus is stressed because eight-factored geomancy predominated in other areas of the world.

Graham Sanders on 23 April 2021

Repairing myths (greek term?)

Hello Peter,

I am a recent fan of the monumental work you have undertaken. I'm listening to every episode sequentially--without any gaps--and I'm up to #81 now. In an episode before #81 (which I can't locate now) you mentioned a greek term that translates as "repairing/healing myths" and I was wondering if you could remind me what the term is and whether there is any academic work on it. My spouse is a scholar of postcolonial literature, and many of the authors she is studying are doing something similar in their work: repurposing indigenous mythology in a postcolonial context.

With thanks,

Graham

P.S. I, myself, am a specialist in classical Chinese literature, and I was also wondering if you have any plans to venture into East Asian philosophy with the podcast--not that you need more on your plate!

In reply to by Graham Sanders

Peter Adamson on 23 April 2021

Repairing myths

The original is "therapeia muthon" which is nice because you don't even need to know classical languages to see what it means.

A good reference for this is George Boys-Stones' book on Post-Hellenistic Philosophy.

As for East Asia, yes! After Africana is over, I will tackle Classical Chinese Philosophy with co-author Karyn Lai.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Graham Sanders on 24 April 2021

Thank you, Peter, for the…

Thank you, Peter, for the prompt and helpful response. And I'm excited to hear that Chinese Philosophy with Prof. Lai as your co-host is on tap! I've been struck by some of the resonances between the pre-Socratics and the Daoists. (Although, for my money, Heidegger is the most thoroughly Daoist of the European philosophers.) I look forward to many more hours of enjoyable listening, and continue to be amazed at how you manage to keep up your level of output!

Jorge on 14 April 2021

How does making an episode work?

Hi Peter,

I would like to ask you how you go about researching, scripting, and recording the episodes on a given week. In the Q&A episode, you said that you don't like thinking about how much time you spend writing the podcast. I'm hoping that it was mostly a funny way of saying that it really does take quite some time, and you won't find my question too annoying. 

My question is not how long you take to write an episode but rather, how you go about it on a given week, and how do you make time for this project while also having to make time for research, teaching, being a parent, husband, and football fan? I truly appreciate that you also seem to manage to make time to read and thoughtfully react to the comments posted here on this website.

I'm especially curious when it comes to making episodes about philosophers like Saint Augustin whose work seems so extensive and the subjects touched in these texts are (at least for me) not the easiest to grasp, much less summarize into something approaching a coherent and entertaining narrative. This conceptual difficulty seems only to be compounded with the need to familiarize one's self with the cultural, religious, historical, and (obviously) philosophical environment in which a particular work, idea, or author developed as well as being familiar with the language and the specific meanings of terms in relation to a specific author, time and place.*

Your output sometimes makes me think that "speed reading" is actually a thing and not the hoax I always thought it was. Is there's something magical about Ph.D.'s that makes your reading comprehension beyond that of us mere mortals? Then again, you did say that it took you one summer to try and figure out what Kant was saying in the critique of pure reason, so how do you manage? Is it rather that you just constantly read (I remember that in a previous episode you said that you got yourself into trouble by trying to read while doing something else like walking)? Or is there something else that can explain it, barring fictitious basement-dwelling sisters?  

I'm asking this a person who struggles with time management and procrastination (I'm procrastinating right now by writing this question), and who is very slow at reading and writing. I would like to know just what is it that makes it possible for you to release something which I consider of such high quality in terms of content and entertainment so consistently. How does your week look like regarding the process of making an episode and how does it fit in relation to the rest of your responsibilities?

How do you go about collecting and structuring the information that goes into creating something coherent and engaging and not getting lost in the weeds while keeping this deadline? Do you start from an outline, a central idea, clever title, or do you write the silent movie star jokes first and make the philosophical ideas fit around them? Does it change and depend on the particular philosopher or episode? Is it even a weekly process or do you write the scripts at one stretch of time and record them later?

More particularly, what are the specific ways in which you go about making an episode? Do you write it down by hand or type them out on a computer? How many revisions do you make? Do you read it out loud to see how it sounds before recording? When do you consider an episode finished? Is there a particular day of the week when you read the sources, another when you write, and another when you record? And how do you choose what to read? Is there a time of day allotted to this task?

If you already answered this in some blog post or comment, please feel free to redirect me to it.

As always, thank you for your podcast,

Jorge.

* The initial reason I fell through the rabbit hole that is listening to your podcast was to get a bit of historical background about the idea of substance after multiple failed attempts to read Spinoza's Ethics. As you might expect, this greatly backfired since I found myself sidetracked by getting interested in philosophers I didn't even know existed before!

In reply to by Jorge

Peter Adamson on 14 April 2021

The process

Dear Jorge,

Thanks for the question! Actually someone else did ask me this recently but via email, so I'll reproduce here what I said to them, with some alteration.

So actually the first problem is not even to write an episode, it is to map out a whole "season," like, the Italian Renaissance. Here my approach is basically to read up a bit on the subject in general works (the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Companion and Handbook style volumes etc), then on that basis I write a list of episodes. I then send this to people I know in the field who are more expert and ask what I may have missed out. So when I started, e.g. the Renaissance I already had several dozen episodes mapped out, meaning that while reading I took notes for future episodes too to some extent.

Then for each episode I of course do read lots of stuff and take notes on it, and maybe this is the hardest part to explain - all I can really say is that I read, mark places that are useful, and then sit down and transcribe the notes. I'm not sure if I "speed read" but I definitely read faster for this than I do when doing, like, proper research for my day job. It's more like hunting for points I might want to get into the episode, and also to get a general impression of the works. I read a mix of secondary and primary literature - usually the "further reading" on each page is pretty much what I read to prepare the episode, though I may add things I couldn't find time to look at, or get my hands on, if it's clear that people should consult these texts. By now I have a pretty good sense of how much I need to have read to be ready to do the script, but of course how much I have to read varies depending on the complexity of the figure or topic. I'd say on average I read, say, 2-4 books and 5-10 articles per topic.

It's really while transcribing my notes into a Word file that the episode starts to come together in my head, because I'm seeing the points I want to hit. When I write the script I have a bullet point list at the top, listing these themes, sometimes already with references to my notes so that I can go immediately to the notes as I'm writing without having to look. I recently started putting the notes in a second window to refer to as I write, which helps. The writing I do very fast, like, I listen to loud music while doing it and go on momentum, hoping to get a more spontaneous feel for the prose that way. Then I revise it more calmly, and look through one last time before recording. The jokes come in while I am writing, but sometimes if it feels too dry I go back in and add one or two as I revise. I revise at least twice before recording, and then of course there are more rounds of revision for the book version.

So I guess that does sound like a lot of work but I enjoy it so it doesn't bother me too much!

Peter

Marcus on 27 March 2021

About Islamic World's philosophers

Hello. First of all, I love your site and your podcasts so much. Thank you so much for your efforts. My question is why there is no Omar Khayyam in the Islamic World's phiolosophers He is one of the most important one. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Omar_Khayyam . I know the site owner already have education about Islamic World philosophers so this why I a little puzzled.

Best regards

In reply to by Marcus

Peter Adamson on 27 March 2021

Omar Khayyam

Yes, that's something I regret actually - since working on that part of the podcast I actually have read some of his metaphysical works, and I could have mentioned him in the episode on the reception of Avicenna's theory of existence. Quite a multifaceted thinker.

Steven Hartman on 6 March 2021

Really looking forward to Kant

I have listened to many episodes and love your podcast, I really can't wait to hear the episodes on Kant and Hume. I felt like I knew a great deal about Plato and Aristotle and your podcast simply added so much context and did a great job weaving together their ideas throughout from piece to piece. My undergrad experience with philosophy was wonderfully focused on two or three pieces but the way you have these philosophical ideas evolve or expand from piece to piece does such a better job exploiting all there is understand about simply "one idea". I think I will experience something similar when you get to Kant and Hume. I am very much looking forward to it and appreciate the books you've released as well, they have made my academic endeavors so much more fulfilling. Thank you.

In reply to by Steven Hartman

Peter Adamson on 7 March 2021

Hume and Kant

Yes, I agree, I am looking forward to them too! Though tackling Kant does seem a bit daunting... but it will be a while until we get to him.

Andrew on 5 March 2021

The mic in the top left.

This may be petty but it's annoying me. In the top left corner, the mic is off centre from its "swing" or whatever you would call it.

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 6 March 2021

The mic

Oh true, now that I look at it. Could we say it's on purpose to test how observant you are?

Doug German on 14 February 2021

website

Your website does not scroll correctly.

DKG

In reply to by Doug German

Peter Adamson on 15 February 2021

Scrolling

You mean the dropdown menus right? Yes, we noticed, and are working on fixing it.

Doug Shenson on 11 February 2021

Medieval Philosophy

Will your 2019 OUP book on Medieval Philosophy become available in paperback and if so, when?

Keep up the great work! Doug Shenson 

In reply to by Doug Shenson

Peter Adamson on 11 February 2021

Paperback of medieval

Oh good question! Yes, it will; OUP says probably at the start of 2022. Thanks for asking!

Andrew on 4 February 2021

Greek and Indian shifts in philosophy

Greetings again. Still enjoying your podcast. Quick question. As you know, Greek and Indian religion/philosophy shifted from sacrifice, ritual, external, etc., to philosophy, internal, etc., and both did so about the same time (c. 8th–6th cent. BC, correct?). What are the best works that address the reasons for this shift, perhaps comparing and contrasting them? Thanks in advance.

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 5 February 2021

Ritual to internal reflection

Hm, I'm not sure I really buy the premise of the question - real ritual continues to be important in both European and Indian antiquity right up to the late ancient period, I would say. But this isn't really my area of competence, to be honest; my colleague here in Munich, Robert Yelle, has done interesting work on ritual in India so you could look up his publications.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Andrew on 9 February 2021

Thanks for the…

Thanks for the recommendation. I will have to try and get in touch with Prof. Yelle. Perhaps I could state the question another way, and see if it makes more sense? The pre-Socratics, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all had a major force in “undoing” the religious worldview of Homer and Herodotus. Similarly, the Upanishads, Buddha, etc., all had a major force in “undoing” the religious worldview of the Vedas. My question is: Are there any studies done on this “undoing” or “shift” in religious and philosophical thinking, especially since they happened at roughly the same time? Were these independent shifts that just happened to occur at the same time? Was there any borrowing from one to the other? Or were each of the old systems (represented in the Vedas and Homer/Herodotus) set up in such a way that a shift would necessarily work itself out? Does my question make any more sense now?

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 9 February 2021

Undoing

Yes, that is definitely a clear question but to be honest I don't know the answer! There is this old idea about the "axial age" and how the ancient cultures of Greece, China, and India all transformed around the same time but I don't know of whether there is a really convincing explanation given by cultural historians. Maybe others will have suggestions though.

Victoria Blanck on 23 January 2021

Thank you!

About 3 months ago, I searched "philosophy" on Spotify in hopes of finding some drab lecture to listen to while painting. 237ish episodes later, I find myself mixing paint just to let it dry out while listening to episode after episode. If you did the math, the answer is, no, I don't have a life. Anyway, I just wanted to reach out to say Danke! Ich habe keine beine! My German is a little dishonest.. I love your podcast, especially the puns, my world is so much bigger thanks to you! Sorry, this would be easier to read if you had made a grammar podcast instead..

Thank you, thank you, thank you Peter Adamson, I will always cherish our time together (even though you are more like your sister in this scenario)

Victoria

 

One last thing.. your voice has joined my inner dialogue and holy guacamole do I sound smart in here now!

Kayla Kassandra on 22 January 2021

Update on request to revise policy

Hello again, Dr. Adamson.

You may remember that a little under a year ago, I made a comment asking about the possibility of revising your policy on transcripts. For reference, it was on July 31st of 2020. I'd link it, but whenever I go to the link that says it is to that comment, it simply takes me to the final page of the comments--very peculiar behavior!

Anyway, I wanted to update you on that with the intention of hopefully persuading you to change your policies in a way that my peers and I would be very grateful for--you did change it somewhat, saying that I could let my disabled peers know that you would be willing to give them transcripts if they contacted you directly via email. Unfortunately, invariably, this has caused a reaction of frustration, anger, and disappointment. I'd like to try and explain this as diplomatically as I can, at which point you're free to make whatever decision you feel is best.

The problem that has been made clear is that the solution that has been described, insofar as I and they have understood it, is overburdening for someone who fairly constantly has to deal with several extra barriers for access across many different domains. In other words, the solution that's been described is to email you for any scripts of interest. So for me, a hearing person, if I want to go through your podcast episode by episode, I need only click on the episodes I want, and then click on the next episode I want, etc. For them, they must type up a message for the transcript of each episode. As well, I don't think this was clear, but I believe you were implying that they could only do this until the book was released, in which case they'd have to pay for the books where a hearing person would not need to to listen to these episodes. Having these extra barriers to accessibility also has other invisible effects too--sometimes, because certain things are required to include you in some group event, the group must either exclude you or simply not do the event. Someone might silently think "Oh, we should do a group listen to Peter's series! Oh, but so-and-so is hard of hearing, and so I'd have to email for transcripts for each episode--eh, forget it."

When you multiply this across a wide variety of domains in their lives, this burden becomes quite unreasonable and unmanageable, and then of course there are domains of interest that are simply wholly inaccessible.

I confess that I have my own disabilities--I have a nose that doesn't work, which causes my central sleep apnea, which throughout most of my life (unbeknownst to me until recently) caused severe depression among other problems. And this has led to a similar sort of pervasive burdening that I have to deal with, but I won't claim to understand the experiences of people with completely different disabilities than I do. But I can at least back up what they say about disabilities causing this exhausting ubiquitous overburdening effect.

I hope this won't offend you or decrease the likelihood of persuading you, but I do feel some obligation to include this to make sure the voices of my disabled peers are heard even if the consequences aren't optimific. So I'd like to include that at least part of the frustration that invariably came from my peers was your explanation that the reason you didn't want to put the transcripts up was because you felt they were a bit too messy and embarrassing to put in public.

Anyway, I hope none of this came off in any way as coercive or anything like that, and more importantly that I've done my best to represent my peers and make sure their feelings on the matter were heard. Thank you for your previous offer. All the same I hope you'd consider publishing the transcripts somewhere without the need to contact you for particular transcripts of interest, and I know a lot of people would be very, very grateful if you did.

Hope to hear from you soon.

In reply to by Kayla Kassandra

Peter Adamson on 22 January 2021

Transcripts

Yes, I remember this and actually I was surprised that no one got in touch to take up the offer to get transcripts, so I'm glad you are following up. Just to clarify, I did mean that I would be happy to provide transcripts on request even before the books are out, e.g. if someone wanted the scripts for the Renaissance now I would be happy to email them individual episodes or even the whole Renaissance series in one go. So that offer still stands (even if the scripts are still a bit "messy"). The very fact that no one has asked for transcripts means, though, that the hurdle of sending a request by email is apparently too high. (Just in case: the email address is peter.adamson@lrz.uni-muenchen.de.)

As for simply putting up transcripts publicly online, I wish there were some practical way to do that only for people with disabilities, without publishing what would be in effect unofficial advance copies of the books and that would be used by just anyone who doesn't want to wait for the books, or pay for them. That clearly does threaten to undermine the book series - why buy a book when the text is freely available online? - so I am still somewhat reluctant to do it. On the other hand I do take this very seriously, in part I guess because I have a close family member who is completely deaf.

I can imagine having somewhere here on the site a way to get at the transcripts that is labeled as being specifically meant for people with hearing disabilities, and asking others not to make use of these without buying the books - so, sort of an honor system. I have to admit I am a little doubtful that this would not be abused, though maybe it has a better chance with fans of philosophy!

But this is not something I could do without first checking with Oxford University Press, my publisher. I need to check whether that is even permitted under the terms of my publishing contract with them. I'll post another reply here once I know more.

Another possibility for now would be, since you are evidently in touch with hearing-disabled people who would like to have the transcripts, that you and I could be in touch by email and I could give you the scripts to disseminate to people who need them. That would just be an easier version of my original suggestion, so I'd be happy to do this straightaway.

Thanks again for your enthusiasm for improving access to the series!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Kayla Kassandra on 7 February 2021

Transcripts

Sorry for the latest response, I've been very occupied with trying to get a paper of mine published with the little energy I have in pandemic times. It's actually my first paper, so I am feeling a sense of urgency.

I look forward to hearing what your publisher has to say and hope you do manage to convince them that putting the transcripts online is compatible with your contract. As for getting us in contact, I wouldn't mind doing that. I should say that as far as disseminating to people who need them go, because the people who need them (as well as, to be open and honest, myself) do believe in increasing the accessibility of audio-based media, there's a good chance it would effectively end up being distributed in the way you described anyway--the transcripts would end up being posted somewhere for accessibility and whether people grab those transcripts or end up grabbing a book would just be down to the honor system. I would honestly be very unmotivated to stop anyone who needed these transcripts from going on and also distributing them freely themselves.

We can talk more about this in private and you can let me know if that information constitutes a breach in contract in even sharing the transcripts privately, but in any case, I appreciate the genuine concern on the issue.

Xaratustrah on 18 January 2021

Ancient women philosophers

Hi Peter,

I was reading E. Pagels' 'The Gnostic Gospels'. There she writes that Clement of Alexandria has mentioned the names of some women philosophers in his works. Like Theano of Crotone, Arignote the Pythagorean, Themisto the Epicurean and apparently two women who studied with Plato and one trained by Socrates.

I was wondering whether any evidences can be found of their philosophical activities?

 

 

In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 19 January 2021

Ancient women philosophers

There are some letters that are preserved under the names of ancient Pythagorean women, but these are thought on linguistic grounds to be later productions with these famous names taken as pseudonyms, for whatever reason. I discuss these in my series of video lectures on women thinkers in antiquity and the middle ages.

Olle on 3 January 2021

Relationship between Logic and Teleology

 

Hello professor, i hope you had a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.

 

There is a question that has stirred up in my rational soul and has caused some debate among me and my friend. It concerns the nature of teleology and its relation to logic.

 

What is teleology? Ie purpose, final cause, whatever one might call it. Is it an aspect or logic or is it more like aesthetics or even ethics? Or all of those things?

 

The most interesting implication here for me is whether teleological arguments can be properly called logical arguments. If so, the implication would bridge the gap between prescriptive and descriptive and overcome the fact/value distinction?

 

Surely i cannot be the first to ponder this issue. Can you recommend works and thinkers who have dealt with this issue? It feels like something that ought to be relevant to religious thinkes, a field of philosophy i have so far not explored. I know the logical positivists dealt with this issue from their view but to me it seems more like they were starting from the presumption of a distinction rather than going back to the beginning.

 

The closest i have come is perhaps Aristotle who in many places seems to imply that Final Cause and Formal Cause is identical, i.e a things purpose its defined by its essence. A man ought to philosophize because man is a rational animal. What we call analytical knowledge is thus inherently prescriptive. But does he ever prove or justify this assumption?

Plato also certainly must have thought the two were connected, because The Good is both the supremely Good and the Real, the Truth which is desired for its own sake, source of both Truth and Desire.

Best regards. 

In reply to by Olle

Peter Adamson on 3 January 2021

Teleology

Big question but I'll do my best! So firstly, the word "teleology" comes from the Greek telos, which means "goal" or "purpose." So "teleology" just means believing that some domain involves goals or purposes; like, everyone thinks there is teleology in chess (the purpose is to checkmate the king), but it is controversial whether there is teleology in nature.

I think a common misconception is that with his his/ought contrast, Hume somehow unmasked a mistake or confusion at the heart of teleological thinking. But in fact teleology, in Aristotle for instance, is always going to involve the explicit claim that there is no "is" without "ought," so for instance "to be a giraffe" comes along with certain norms, like that the giraffe "ought" to be healthy or able to reproduce.

You're right that teleology in nature has been important in the history of religion, for instance in arguments for the existence of God (one of Aquinas' five ways is called the "teleological argument" by scholars) but there is no immediate inference from purposes in nature to a God who created things with purposes: Aristotle believed in the former but not the latter, for example. As you say the history of Platonism is deeply informed (pun intended) by the conviction that being correlates to goodness. So Hume was at best simply identifying this aspect of traditional philosophy and questioning it, not, like, pointing out something that philosophers had been assuming without noticing it.

Hope that helps as a start, at least!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Olle on 3 January 2021

Re Logic and Teleology

Great response. Appreciate the tie in with hume. Could it be argued that those who firmly held to a radical distinction between is and ought, such as our later logical positivists, did not so much deny that natural truths (as in Aristotles essence or Platos forms) if they indeed exist, could be logically prescriptive, ie, teleological at least in theory, but rather their rejection came from an enlightenment (nominalist?) view of nature and its relation to analytical knowledge. For Aristotle, "Man is a rational animal" is an ontological and metaphysical truth which is apriori to human description and has a metaphysical priority over other accidental predications, such as "man is a laughing animal" or "kangaroos come from Australia" .

For latter positivist thinkers this claim "Man is a rational animal" might certainly be deemed as true and correct, but only in the sense that it is an empirically correct description correlating with our sense deriven understanding of the world, and in the analytical sense of correct interpretation of language and concepts. Because they do not believe in natural essences they do not think that "man is a rational animal" has any ontological priority "over man is an animal capable of learning to swim" or "man may digest papaya".

The point im driving home here is that modern thinkers did not so much deny that traditional metaphysics could have valid teleological implications grounded in logic, rather they started from the point of denying that traditional metaphysics and its view of nature as de facto false. 

It seems then that the idea of natural law grounded in traditional logic might be worth revisiting, if traditional metaphysics and understanding of nature can be rescued.

In reply to by Olle

Peter Adamson on 3 January 2021

More on teleology

I would slow down there because I think you are running together a lot of issues that need to be kept separate. For example, whether or not someone is a logical positivist they should distinguish between empirical claims "there are kangaroos in Australia" and claims that are true by definition e.g. "two is a number" or "kangaroo is an animal." More importantly, you can be an essentialist without thinking that essences involve teleology: so for instance I could believe that there is such a thing as "what it is to be a carbon atom" (so, I think there are strict criteria according to which an object does or does not instantiate the essence of carbon atom) without thinking that carbon atoms have a purpose. And the same for kangaroos. This is important to see, because of the confusing fact that as you rightly say, essentialism and teleology were both put under pressure around the time of the Enlightenment. But these are two aspects of Aristotelianism that are, in principle, independent. (You could also believe in teleology without believing in essences by the way: like, be an occasionalist who thinks everything is produced directly by God as configurations of atoms or whatever, but God has purposes in doing so.) And then natural law is a whole other story, because that is a very specific way of cashing out what natural teleology involves, i.e. that you can actually articulate norms of moral and political life by appealing to natural principles, as Aquinas suggests. Aristotle had natural teleology but no concept of natural law. Finally, "logic" as such is nowadays usually taken to be independent of all these issues, since it is only the study of formal dependence and validity. That is less true of Aristotle but it would certainly be a controversial claim to say that Aristotle's logical writings commit him to the idea of teleology in any context, though they may (in my opinion, do) commit him to essentialism.

Rainer Fassnacht on 27 December 2020

Missing chapter in the history of philosophy

Unfortunately, a new chapter in the history of philosphy is missing: The "Hamburg Interpretation" by Dr. Michael Oliva Córodba and Prof. Dr. Rolf W. Puster (Universität Hamburg) based on Mises "Praxeoligie". It would be nice if this gap could be closed.

In reply to by Rainer Fassnacht

Peter Adamson on 27 December 2020

Praxiology

Ok, so I have to admit I have never heard of this, despite living in Germany. After some quick internet searching though it looks like a late 19th century and 20th century phenomenon? I am only up to the Renaissance so far!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Rainer Fassnacht on 28 December 2020

Hamburg Interpretation of Praxeology

Thanks for the information. I am pleased to know that the Hamburg Interpretation of Praxeologie is now on the waiting list. I wish you good progress in your valuable work!

Can Valid Kohen on 23 December 2020

Unanswerable questions

The goal is to identify all answerable questions and all unanswerable questions. So you start with every combination of every letter to some sufficient length, then you put a question mark at the end of all of them. The greatest percentage of these are unpronounceable so you ignore them. Then the of the remaining, the majority of them are so difficult to pronounce that they will never make up words. Then only some are formed of only words in the dictionary or words that can in the future hold meaning. Now these questions contain all the right questions we need to ask ourselves to get to the answers of the universe. But we aren’t done, we need to exclude all questions that aren’t in grammatical order as well because although every word in these sentences make sense they hold no more meaning than the unpronounceable questions even though some examples can be changed in interpretation to give an answer like “What your name”. Continuing on, we have questions that ask for opinions like the best colour. This question is unanswerable because the definition of best requires expectations and the question never sets them out. This questions is formed to allow for people to easily interpret a meaning but really it’s simply unanswerable. There are also questions that seem to make sense grammatically like “what does a banana often eat”  these questions are also unanswerable because a banana doesn’t have the property of eating, even though we can interpret the nutrition it absorb as that which it eats, the question must be changed in an interpretation so this unchanged question is unanswerable. What about what happens when an unstoppable force comes across an unstoppable object. For an object to be immovable, regardless of the definition of moving, forces etc. the object has to have the property that all forces in the universe that act upon it don’t move it. This is the only way it can be objectively immovable. Otherwise for a force that is unstoppable all objects in the universe that meet this force must move. Meaning, from the perspective of the unstoppable force, for the unstoppable force to be qualified as unstoppable and also move the immovable object, the immovable object has to both be in the set of all objects that are movable and immovable which is a contradiction. To conclude, the unstoppable force not only does not have the property of acting on the immovable object, but the unstoppable object does not have the property of existing in the same universe as an immovable object. The question is as meaningless as “what a banana eats?” and “vdieowkhwusowj?”. These mispropertising questions are all unanswerable. The remaining questions can further be vague/relative, insufficiently defining, incorrectly assuming and finally questions that are unanswerable because the knowledge they seek is unattainable like the exact height of something or what you ate . These final ones are excusable. Otherwise,this is the one thing I don’t understand: Why ask unanswerable questions when you can ask answerable questions. Surely unanswerable questions are improper and only inhibit academia except in the search of answerable questions. So why spend ages searching for meaning in meaningless scrambles like “is knowledge virtue” and why not trade it for an answerable question like “Did Socrates believe his definition of virtue was attainable through what he felt enough to describe as the path of knowledge” which is still unanswerable due to a lack of historical evidence? I think either the reason needs to be taught or the answer made available easily for children to get interested in philosophy. Otherwise surely there needs to be a platform other than debating where the sophists don’t win and the truth never looses. If my comments were misplaced I apologise.

In reply to by Can Valid Kohen

Peter Adamson on 24 December 2020

What is the point of philosophy?

Those are obviously important and difficult questions you are raising. Actually your thought experiment about starting with all strings of letters reminds me of Borges' short story about the infinite library; if you don't know that you should track it down.

I am actually sympathetic to the direction you are thinking in here, because I tend to be skeptical that getting "answers" is the goal of philosophy. To me it is more about exploring the costs and benefits of adopting certain positions/answers to philosophical questions, and seeing how the questions and possible answers are interconnected. So if you think about it more as understanding a field of concepts and possible moves, that is more how I conceive of philosophy: it will never issue in a set of answers, any more than there will ever be a "solution" to the game of chess. But this is not to say that the questions are "unanswerable," like, "do we have free will?" certainly does have an answer, namely yes or no, once you have defined "free will" with sufficient precision. It's just that the point of thinking about free will is not really to say "yes" or "no" (I mean, that is boring in and of itself) but to understand why one might want to say yes or no given certain definitions of freedom.

Also, to respond to your note below about science: I think you are making the unwarranted assumption that all knowledge is empirical and can be achieved through the scientific method. This is not just false but obviously false: like, you cannot use empirical science to understand, say, what modernism is and why James Joyce's Ulysses is a good example of that literary movement (to use a non-philosophical example). Furthermore, one can pose questions about science itself that science cannot answer, e.g. concerning scientific method and why it works, or about scientific realism. So there is no danger that science will, as it were, be the only kind of knowledge we can have.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Can Valid Kohen on 24 December 2020

Alright, that makes sense…

Alright, that makes sense. As a newcomer the fact that there is never a conclusion to the discussions seems incorrect. So I thought there a problem to solved. Thank you for hearing me out I find it difficult to move on from my thoughts unless I share them. On that note I have one final humerus argument. Say nothing in the universe is truly knowable: There is a limit of understanding which can never be surpassed. Then, a more accurate way of saying I know could be for example, from my senses and my perspective I have gathered enough evidence to not doubt that... Which we can say is more philosophically accurate. However, now we didn’t use the word know. Which I believe to be a perfectly nice and pleasant word. Instead of saying it is impossible to know which would make the word “know” obsolete, lower the definition of know to that limit so now, it is possible to know something and the word to “know” is useful. So to say it isn’t possible to know anything isn’t a productive statement because assuming it as truth leads to a lock of thoughts like the man who defined change so that it couldn’t happen and I doubt he made scientifically  correct or philosophically useful arguments afterwards. Anyways I’ll go back and listen to the whole library. Thank you so much for receiving me. 

Can Valid Kohen on 23 December 2020

Personal request

Hi I’m a curious teenager looking to vent my frustration. I started listening to this podcast from the start and so far, I’ve found it hugely helpful for the type of information I was looking for so I’m a happy customer. However, as a sceptic of the field of philosophy, listening to the first 25 episodes, I found why philosophy is practiced the way it is confusing. I believe I found a way to solve the nature of philosophy to never present a conclusion. I was wondering if I could somewhere, sometime discuss my ideas and alleviate my concerns with a benign conversation. I understand I’m asking for special treatment and risk wasting your time. 

Respectfully, Can

In reply to by Can Valid Kohen

Peter Adamson on 23 December 2020

The Phrustrations of Philosophy

Yes I can understand that reaction! Maybe you could spell out what your issues are here? I like talking to listeners here in writing on the website because then other people can jump in and join the conversation.