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In reply to by Peter Adamson

Xaratustrah on 19 May 2018

wow Peter thanks! This be

wow Peter thanks! This be real old skool! Wouldn't ever find it without your hint. impressive has even Al-Munjid in it. I remember its print version as a kid, could hardly pick it up so heavy it was. Used it as a weight with other heavy books to keep broken pieces of things together while glue dried!

Karl Young on 19 May 2018


Hey Peter,

Just curious; have you ever seen Rene Magritte's The cut-glass bath ?

In reply to by Karl Young

Peter Adamson on 19 May 2018

Giraffe cocktail

I have now! Thanks, I had never seen that before.

Actually rather disturbing.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Karl Young on 19 May 2018

disturbing spirits

My sense is that Magritte would have appreciated your reaction in terms of what he was after. As I viewed a recent exhibit of his work I got the feeling that the unease viewers felt was directly correlated with their engagement with the subjects of the work.

Acarya on 21 May 2018

Future podcast episodes

I recently heard you mention Machiavelli in passing (The HPI episode on politics), and I would love a future episode (or even better a series of episodes) on Niccolo Machiavelli. I am one of those people who are annoyed by the general misunderstanding of his writings and the reduction of his work to the adjective "machivellian". Just something to keep in mind for the future. Thanks, and keep up the great work. 

In reply to by Acarya

Peter Adamson on 21 May 2018


Oh don't worry, he will certainly get covered in the upcoming Renaissance series. Probably one scripted episode plus an interview.

Michael J Wehr on 21 May 2018

Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism & Confucianism

There are 62 entries under India so I was hoping someone might narrow my search for Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism & Confucianism,  I only saw Buddha mentioned so perhaps my ignorance keeps me from knowing the possible contents of the other titles.  I am under the impression that Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism & Confucianism are philosophy not religions even though they are often referenced as religion.   

In reply to by Michael J Wehr

Peter Adamson on 22 May 2018

Eastern traditions

Well, that whole series is basically about philosophy in the context of Buddhism and Hinduism - also Jainism. As you'll see if you go through the series there is a lot of philosophical material in those traditions. As for Taoism and Confucianism those are of course Chinese, so not covered yet though I hope to get on to China in due course.

sam jaffe on 8 July 2018

Mystics or Anti-Mystics?

Thank you very much Dr. Adamson for the enlightening peek into the thought of many ancient philosophers like Plato, Plotinus, and Ibn Sina that you cover in this series. I am commenting today however because, having listened to numerous episodes on these and other figures, I am very curious to better understand your interpretation of many of these figures, as it is an interpretation that "mystifies" (pun-intended) me in some ways. Mainly, I am curious about the way that you seem to consistently seek to de-emphasize what you say are "mystical" aspects of these figures thoughts or doctrines. On the podcast on Ibn Sina for instance - traditionally viewed as something of a mystic par-excellence in the Islamic world - I noticed that you and Dr. Gutas seemed to agree that Ibn Sina wasn't really a mystic and that his treatment of mysticism was simply to subsume it into his philosophical system and in so doing, rationalize and de-mystify it. I worry however that this interpretation somewhat anachronistically projects a modern sense of what it means to be "rational" - a very secular, material scienticism - onto figures whom, from what I can tell, understood the hight of rationality to be achieving what strikes me as an exceptionally mystical state of union with what is literally the Divine's Intellect itself. This same issue extends in my view as far back as philosophers like Aristotle and Plato, who with their conception of unmoved-movers who rotate the spheres by merely inspiring them or of transcendant principles of "The Good" that emenate perfection unto the world, seem to me to be full of ideas that do not pass at all as strictly "rational" in the modern sense but rather strike me as deeply permeated with religious, otherworldly and, yes, "mystical" thought. How in your view does this state of union with the world intellect differs in essence from, for instance, the Sufis objective of union with the Divine itself in order to have access to what they term "haqiqah/haqa'iq", the unveiled reality of all things, essences, and objects? How is it you are defining the idea of "mysticism" when you say that you feel that figures like Plato, Plotinus, and Ibn Sina have had in your view the "mystical" aspects of their doctrine exaggerated or interpolated, in spite of the remarkable otherworldliness of their doctrines? I think this is a very important question to examine, as in my view mysticism in the classical period used to simply be part and partial to the standard world view of thinkers like all of these philosophers and more, and I worry that in projecting what strikes me as a more modern tension between scientific and mystical knowledge backwards in time onto these ancient figures may in fact do a great disservice to the proper understanding of them. After all, mysticism as a word and as a movement has far greater implications than simply ectsatic experiences and utterances.


In reply to by sam jaffe

Peter Adamson on 9 July 2018


Thanks for your comment here and on the page with the Gutas interview - I will just try to answer it here. You are raising an important question that has come up on many episodes of the series; if you look at the "Themes" links below under "Mysticism" you'll see I've tagged 20 episodes as covering mysticism, so it has come up a lot and in several different cultures, including Islam, ancient India, late ancient Europe, and medieval Europe. So it is not easy to generalize. Obviously I am in agreement with you that the study of mysticism needs to be integrated into the history of philosophy (I guess Gutas would tend to disagree with this). I do think it can be useful to oppose "mystical" to "rational" - many mystics in history have done so, the point being not necessarily that mysticism is anti- or ir-rational, but that it involves transcending reason. So I would even say that a rough working definition of mysticism might be that it has to do with cognitive or experiential states that cannot be expressed in rational terms, especially language - at least not fully expressed. But such states are often held to be the culmination of a reasoning process or of philosophical progress, like in Plotinus; yet they can also be held to be an alternative, like the idea that a simple mystic could, e.g. through ascetic practices, come to grasp God whereas the learned scholastic thinkers cannot. One reason that historians of philosophy should take mysticism seriously is precisely that mystics are making an epistemological claim about the best way to have knowledge, and what knowledge does or could consist in.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Karl Young on 16 July 2018

Mysticism and Ineffability

Sam and Peter,

Sorry, couldn't help adding my 2 cents though not sure if it sheds any light. I think Sam brings up a good point re. discussing mysticism, though I'd also argue that Peter has done an excellent job discussing it within the confines of what I take to be the scope of the podcast (e.g. the discussion of Pseudo-Dionysius and negative theology). I.e. it seems like in the podcast you're happy to mention and basically describe some of the ideas of various philosophers that lean towards mysticism but tend to spend less time on those ideas than the ideas constituting rational debates. That seems fine to me, as I think the podcast is fantastic, and I can get, e.g., more detailed disucssion of Mahayana metaphysical  theory elsewhere (not to say that those uniformly lack any rational basis, e.g. some of the arguments you covered in the Indian philosophy podcast). If and when you get to contemporary philosophy, I'll be curious to see how you handle what I would consider analytic philosophers who seem to me perfectly respectable mystics, e.g. David Cooper and his ineffability arguments (and some would argue Wittgenstein's position in the Tractatus).   


PFra on 11 July 2018


Where are the Chinese & Japanese traditions?

In reply to by PFra

Peter Adamson on 14 July 2018


Working on it! My hope/plan is to do ancient China after the Africana series and then move on to either later India, later China and Japan/Korea, or possibly something else in the "non-Western" category. But this is all on my longterm agenda, don't worry.

John Mossman on 16 July 2018


Hi Peter, I love your podcast and books.  Thanks for all of your excellent work!  Do you think you will ever open a site store, with shirts, mugs, etc?  It would help support your show, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who would love a HOP shirt to show off.  Thanks!


In reply to by John Mossman

Peter Adamson on 17 July 2018


Actually, I have thought about that - I am pretty committed to the idea of not making any money off the podcast (apart from royalties from the book version), but I had wondered whether I could do this to raise money for some good philosophy cause. But then I thought probably the amount of money that would be raised would be too small to be worth the undertaking. But I will ponder again now that you have reminded me to think about it. Thanks anyway for your enthusiasm!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Karl Young on 18 July 2018

T-Shirts and T-Shirt sales as complementary variables

Well, in addition to making you immeasurably richer (i.e. I don't know by how much) re. royalties on book sales, I'd certainly by willing to spring for the arrogant pleasure of being in the exclusive club sporting HOP T-shirts. But I fear, ala Heisenberg, that the certainty of that pleasure, threatens the certainty of that situation ever coming to pass.  

Karl Young on 18 July 2018


Hey Peter,

Sorry for flooding the comments lately; I'll try to exhibit more restraint. But I just listened to the podcast on Marguerite Porete and was really struck by what seemed like similarities between her ideas and the teachings of the Buddha. I know this sounds like cherry picking ideas from mystical traditions and making facile claims that they amount to the same teaching, but the cherries you picked re. Marguerite's ideas and those that constitute my minimal understanding of Buddhist teaching seem to line up a little more than I would have expected. E.g. the distrust of book learnin' has had many sagacious advocates (many extremely learned) in the Buddhist tradition, e.g. most advocates of Zen, that trace this tendency back to the Buddha. The annihilation of soul sounds eerily like many descriptions of nirvana and the union of soul with that of god sounds like a slightly different description of the non-existence of individual soul. There were other ideas that seemed similar but I'll refrain from belaboring the point. I assume there are no suggestions, similar to Alison Gopnik's regarding Hume's contact with Buddhist ideas, of such contact for Marguerite, but I found what I perceived as similarities a little surprising.

In reply to by Karl Young

Peter Adamson on 19 July 2018

Marguerite and Buddhism

Hm, I hadn't considered that. I guess the strongest parallel would be the exhortation to give up on desire, but that is pretty pervasive in renouncer/ascetic/mystical movements in many cultures. I suspect the parallels you are seeing there are more like the ones we see between e.g. European and Indian epistemology: once you start thinking like this, there are certain themes that are just bound to come to the fore.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Karl Young on 19 July 2018

More Marguerite and Buddhism

Well, just to continue with the pile up of percieved similarities, I hadn't heard about any other Christian mystics taking such a strong stand on what seems extremely akin to the middle way (which obviously isn't to say that such doesn't exist; just that I'm unaware of it). The whole Buddhist "creation myth" (so to speak) centers on the Buddha trying and rejecting extreme asceticism, ergo eventually becoming an advocate of the middle way. It seems that even the Christian mystics that mat not have actually practiced extreme asceticism (e.g. Hildegard or the anchorites) never criticisized it's practice to the extent Marguerite seems to have. 

Inanna on 16 August 2018

A Thank You from the Dutch/German border

The distance between my flat on the German side of the border and my office building in the Netherlands is 14.25 kilometers or 8.85 miles. This is relevant because it takes about 45 minutes for me to cover this distance by bicycle... just enough time for 2 Episodes of your Podcast.

I would like to thank you so, so much for your podcast project and for making available online - it has been a great enrichment of my daily life in the last few weeks, and since I have just reached Episode 83, I still have ways to go until I'm caught up.

You have improved my life in body, mind and soul, actually: In body, because I tended to find excuses for taking the train or the car to work, rather than the more healthy choice... but listening to the podcasts makes the cycling less boring and I do it more often now.

In mind, because there's so much new to learn and discover - I'm enjoying this so much!

And in soul, because it helps me to get away from the "on the job" mindset as soon as I leave the office building, and enjoy my free time more fully.

So it's a win-win-win situation for me, and I would just like to express my gratitude and let you know that you're really making a difference in some peoples lifes with your project!


Best regards


(and yes, that's my official first name... my parents like ancient history)

In reply to by Inanna

Peter Adamson on 16 August 2018

Virtuous cycling

Thanks so much for getting in touch! I'm glad the podcast enlivens your cycling trips and hope you continue enjoying the series. At two episodes each way you will catch up in no time...

Ryan Cooper on 25 August 2018

Where it all began


I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the efforts you've put forth here. I took a logic class for one of my gen eds and wound up intruiged by philosophy. Luckily, your podcast was the first result on the iTunes podcast section, and I've now made it all the way up to Medieval philosophy. That's not all though, It's thanks to you that I settled on Philsophy as my new major, and now that classes have begun I'm overwhelmed by how my classes can be both stimulating and fun at the same time. One of my classes is Ancient Greek Philosophy, and I've already cited the podcast in my first assignment on Thales. Thank you!

In reply to by Ryan Cooper

Peter Adamson on 25 August 2018

Intrigued by philosophy

Wow, that's great! Mission accomplished. I wish you the best of success with the degree.

Emily on 12 September 2018

Native American Philosophy

Hi, Peter. Can you recommend any books or articles on Native American philosophical traditions? I realize it will be quite a while until you get to covering these in the podcast, and I would like to have some references to inform my discussions with my daughter as we cover Native American history and culture. Thanks, Emily.

In reply to by Emily

Peter Adamson on 12 September 2018

Native American philosophy

Hi there - to be honest I don't know anything about this, yet! But I do hope to cover it at some point. There is an article on it in the Oxford Handbook to World Philosophy which would probably be a good place to start.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Emily on 13 September 2018

Shintoism and Native American Traditions

Thank you. We will look for that.

I found this blog entry - by no means an academic reference - in which the author draws parallels between Native American ideas, Buddhism and Hinduism. Strikes me that a parallel could also be drawn between Shintoism and Native American traditions, with regard to the emphasis/importance both place on nature.


Looking forward to your discussion of Native American philosophy down the road ...

In reply to by Emily

Peter Adamson on 13 September 2018

Shinto and more

I'm looking forward to it too! And thanks for the link. The Shinto comparison is interesting - my usual gut reaction to cross-cultural comparisons is usually that apparent large scale similarities will crumble upon closer inspection of both traditions and what I like is studying each tradition from the inside so to speak (I am hence not a big fan of comparative philosophy: I'm more a tree person than a forest person). But of course in this case I am way too ignorant to say whether your parallel is a fruitful one.

I do hope to get to Shinto philosophy too someday by the way... so much philosophy, so little time!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Emily on 13 September 2018

Tree of Knowledge

I hope that doesn't mean you can't see the forest for the trees - or that you are averse to forest bathing! In all seriousness, thank you for sharing your insights and your endlessly fascinating podcasts.

In reply to by Emily

Bob K on 14 September 2018

I suggest it means that if

I suggest it means that if you don't know the individual trees, their kinds and interactions you'll never understand the forest.  Or maybe that is what understanding the forest is.  I'm much given to forest bathing but I prefer next to a lake.

Otter (Bob)

In reply to by Bob K

Emily on 14 September 2018

Forest Play

I can see how that would be significant for an otter such as yourself. Splash on!

Alexander Johnson on 14 September 2018

School of Athens

Is there a reason why School of Athens is not in the art rotation on the main page?

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 14 September 2018

School of Athens

I think I just thought it was too obvious, back when we first chose the images, though we are using it here on the comment page. Maybe also it isn't the right format, we need wide and not very tall to get it onto that banner shape. But we could crop it of course... Somewhere in these podcasts I tell a story about going to the Vatican and finding that this painting was not on display because it was being restored; I was really annoyed.

Xaratustrah on 19 September 2018

Philosophy in the third person

Hi Peter,

I noticed that in many episodes you use female third person pronouns, an example would be like in the sentence "the philosopher is rearranging her thoughts." Is this a common practice in philosophical academic writings?

If that is the case, I am also curious to know whether there is a general tendency in the literature to use female third person pronouns only with "positive" attributes, but fall back to male pronouns whenever the described person has "negative" attributes?

In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 19 September 2018


Yeah, I do that intentionally to avoid the implicit suggestion that humans are, like, male by default. Actually more recently I've become convinced that it is ok (and also becoming increasingly common) to say e.g. "the philosopher is rearranging their thoughts." So in other words to use "they" as a gender neutral singular pronoun. There is a recent episode of the excellent Lexicon Valley podcast on this.

Of course sometimes I also do it so I can clearly demarcate two hypothetical people, like a determinist and an anti-determinist: it is handy to make them be different genders, to keep clear who is who.

Not sure about your second question; looking back on my own practice you might be right that I would be less likely to use "she" if the hypothetical person were going to be committing a crime or something in an imaginary scenario.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Otter Bob on 19 September 2018

Come on y'all

The use of words does change, but most of us, no doubt, are going to have trouble treating "they" as a singular pronoun.  Let's not forget our place in Nature.  We refer to most other animals as "it," as in, "That otter is mightily angry.  It is as ill-mannered as a wolverine."  "The philosopher is rearranging its thoughts" sounds just right to me.  Otherwise, my English teacher is going to be rolling over in its grave.

In reply to by Otter Bob

Peter Adamson on 20 September 2018


I disagree actually. Consider the following sentence: "if anyone from work finds out they are going to be so angry." I submit that this is not only tolerable English but even what any normal English speaker would say (can you imagine saying "if anyone from work finds out he or she is going to be so angry" or even using "he" if the workplace has both male and female employees?). In fact native speakers use "they" for singular cases all the time.

As I say I highly recommend the episode of Lexicon Valley on this, it also points out that pronouns in general are constantly changing and have been used in very different ways in the past (e.g. the story of how "you" got to mean what it means now).

By contrast no one would ever use "it" for a non-gender-specific human, I don't think.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Xaratustrah on 20 September 2018


Indeed, while it sounds perfectly fine to say e.g. "the criminal will be punished for his deeds" it sounds rather discomforting to use the female pronoun, maybe because historically criminals were rather men than women. So in a philosophy paper, one can not stick with using female pronouns everywhere.

On the other hand using male pronouns everywhere in the same paper may not be considered gender neutral from the modern perspective.

Alternating between female and male pronouns for "positive" and "negative" attributes inside the same paper respectively is rather awkward too, eventually causing distraction for the reader whether or not the author is presenting an underlying hidden point or is this just a gender neutral manoeuvre.

While I agree with the use of "they" in the example you provided, I have the feeling that that example might be one of the few places it actually works. "the criminal will be punished for their deeds" is rather confusing; is the criminal being punished for the wrong doings of a distinct and separate group of people?

"It" is also not a solution as was discussed earlier in the comments. "his/her", "he/she" are neither, it makes a paper difficult to read.

There seems to be no way out. English is not a gender neutral language, and probably will never be. Nor are most other languages in which philosophy has been and is being published. I wonder how philosophy can profoundly help enhance truth seeking above existing horizons, while its main tool, the language, has such shortcomings.


In reply to by Xaratustrah

Otter Bob on 20 September 2018

C'mon You Two

'It' was a joke.  I was the one who began my noting that language was subject to change.  If you want to use 'they' as a singular pronoun, fine with me--just so it doesn't confuse who you are talking about.  As far as we non-English speaking otters go, we will continue to think and treat you as the dangerous environmental objects you are.  Thanks Peter for the link to Lexicon Valley.  What a hoot Prof. McWhorter is and very informative too.  Another podcast to subscribe to.

In reply to by Otter Bob

Peter Adamson on 20 September 2018


Yeah he's amazing. As a podcaster I am also in awe of his apparently unscripted yet flawless delivery. I genuinely don't know how he does that.

Xaratustrah on 4 October 2018

Searching non-western philosophers by topic

Hi Peter,

me again! :-) While it might be more accessible to find out the opinions of say Kant on a topic, I was wondering what is the proper way of actually searching the literature to find out which non-western (India, Africa, China, Islamic) philosophers had something to say on a specific topic? For example, I might be lucky to know what Miskawayh said about "Pleasure" thanks to your work which I noticed on your page, but generally how can one do a proper search?

In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 4 October 2018

Searching by topic

Yeah, that's a good question. Basically the answer is that it's hard. One effective way might be to go to a more academic interface than just Google, for instance JSTOR and put in the search terms. That will not turn up primary texts but would lead you to secondary literature that focuses on, or mentions the relevant name and topic.

Andrei L on 2 December 2018

About the works of Avicenna


Hello Peter, I wasn’t sure where the best place to ask this was, but I hope here is alright. First of all many thanks for continuing to put out the show, I’ve been following it from the start and it’s always an excellent listen. I have a simple question, I’ve been looking at getting something like a complete works version of Avicenna, but I’m not sure such a thing exists as it does for Plato for example. Any idea if such a collection does exist, or if not, what separate editions/translations of two or three major works are the best?

Best wishes and keep up the good work.


In reply to by Andrei L

Peter Adamson on 2 December 2018

Avicenna's works

If only that did exist! If we are talking about Avicenna in English, then the best you can do is cobble together individual volumes for instance Brigham Young Univ Press has done both the Physics and Metaphysics of his Healing (with facing page Arabic) and the whole of the Pointers and Reminders has been translated by Shams Inati; also there is part of the Deliverance (Najat) translated, the part on logic. A single volume reader based on selections his most important works would be an amazing thing, though, someone should really do that. (It wouldn't be possible to fit all his works into a single volume, that would be more like a 10 or 20 volume set.)

David Armstrong on 21 December 2018

Pneumatic Physics

Hi, Peter,

I want to say first: thanks for such a wonderful podcast and such excellent books! Your work probably more than any other has helped me to get a sense of my bearings in both the history and content of philosophy. I have an MA in Religious Studies (emphasis in biblical studies, with a focus on Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity) and am working on an MA in Classics at the moment, so, as a philosophical amateur, having such great resources as these is invaluable.

I'm wondering/hoping if you could field a question that a friend who teaches philosophy here in St. Louis and I have been debating after Liturgy at Church the last few Sundays. Increasingly in New Testament studies, the running assumption is that the NT authors (especially, if not preeminently, Paul) have an essentially Stoic physics in mind when they use the word pneuma: pneuma is fiery star stuff, it's what the celestial bodies are made of, it's what the resurrected body of Christ is made out of, it's what the eucharist is made out of, and it's what the resurrected body at the end of the age will be made of, too (e.g., 1 Cor 15). This has been my assumption in reading Paul and it's actually undergirded some of the work I've done (that bit about Paul's eucharist and pneuma is more my observation than anything I've seen in mainstream publications. However, this would clearly imply that, for the NT authors, God, who is pneuma (e.g., John 4:24), is somehow material. This makes good sense from a strictly biblical-theological and historical-critical perspective: many passages in the OT, pseudepigrapha, and NT seem to envision God enthroned in a basically anthropomorphic body of Glory in heaven, and Origen and Augustine seem to inadvertently witness to the fact that apparently many early Christians thought of God in a corporeal way (it seems odd that Origen would start his On First Principles with the rejection of this concept if it did not have some considerable assent). 

None of this particularly bothered me until I started talking with my friend the philosophy professor, who pointed out that a.) the majority of the Patristic tradition has been Platonic in its philosophical assumptions and b.) that the metaphysics inherent in particularly Nicene Christianity somewhat forbid the idea that God or the Holy Spirit are "material." Pneuma in patristic and later Christian writings seems to be, for the most part, decidedly immaterial in its physical aspect with regard to the Holy Spirit and immaterial, or at least as nearly as it possibly can be, with regard to created spirits (since, as Nathan Jacobs has pointed out, for the Fathers "creaturehood" is hylomorphic materiality on some level, even when talking about things like angels or the human soul). Theologically, this is not as comfy as I would like it, since it seems to suggest that there's a discontinuity in early Christianity's philosophical trajectory from a more Stoic physics to a more Platonic one.  But as a scholar, this raises real questions for me: at what point did early Christians clearly and definitively say that pneuma was an immaterial reality? 

So, I've attempted to search out the role that pneuma plays in non-Stoic physics. (This has been a convenient quest, since my seminar this semester was on Plutarch, and thus I've had ample excuse to dive into Middle Platonism.) As I've searched, though, two things have become apparent to me. First, pneuma plays a role in Classical and Hellenistic philosophy beyond the Stoics, but in none of those cases is it clear to me (probably because I'm just too materially dense) a.) what it is (immaterial? material?) or b.) what it has to do with God/gods. Second, pneuma makes appearances in the Middle Platonist philosophers--Philo and Plutarch especially--and, at least if John Dillon is to be believed, pneuma is an immaterial reality for these philosophers. But I'm lost on how, when, and where the transition was made between pneuma as a kind of material stuff and pneuma as a kind of immaterial stuff. Is there a locus classicus for this shift in physics before the Christian era? Was there a particularly important thinker who at some point clarified, "No, pneuma is not material?" This quest has morphed somewhat, retaining its original theological interests but also wondering, in a somewhat challenging manner, whether or not the emerging "consensus" of some NT scholars that Paul's pneumatic physics are fundamentally Stoic is totally correct. 

Anyway, just wondering if you had any hunches of a direction in which to point me. Sorry this was so long, and thanks again,


In reply to by David Armstrong

Peter Adamson on 21 December 2018


This is a great question, and it sounds like you already know much more about it in the Patristic context than I do. I've been interested in the Arabic context in which pneuma (rūḥ) is also important, and one lesson I take from there is that pneuma is often thought of as a kind of transitional substance between the material and immaterial. That sounds odd - like, either something is material or not, right? But you often see emphasis on the subtlety of pneuma, which makes it all but immaterial. Something else worth your while would be a look at medical literature of the time: pneuma (here understood obviously in very material terms) was a key element in anatomical theories like those of Erasistratus and Galen. You could check out the old episodes on ancient medicine for this idea. I would also have a look at Tertullian whose work on the soul also emphasizes spirit and may be quasi-materialist (I mention this in the episode on early Latin patristics). Finally for the Middle Platonists I would recommend George Boys-Stones' recent sourcebook on them, that has a big section on soul that may help.

Otterlex on 26 December 2018

D&D Philosophy

Just thought I'd share a project I have been working on.  Way back when i was listening to the presocratics, i thought "these ideas are cool, too bad I can't think about the plausibility of the ideas not clouded by known physical properties.  If only I had a world where our physical laws don't exist..."  Then i remembered that I play D&D every week, where vital things like conservation of matter/energy do not apply.  And so I made my new character a philosopher.  My rule is that all physical laws she comes up with must be consistent with the rules, and have been writing speculation and counter speculation every week. 

Some fun conclusions:  Zeno's paradox works!  if you are traveling slow enough (slower than 5 feet per 6 seconds), you can continue doing that as much as you'd like, but you will never leave your 5' by 5' square.  All objects do have 'souls' which bound the object into a binary "fixed" vs "broken" state.  and Plato's theory of Knowledge in the Meno seems to be true (someone who goes into dangerous underground caves all the time will know more about forests than someone who lives a peaceful life in the forest, as your knowledge is tied to your character level).

Just thought this would be a fun thing to share!

In reply to by Otterlex

Peter Adamson on 26 December 2018

D&D Philosophy

There should really be a book about D&D and philosophy (well, there probably is one already?). Like, the idea that all moral outlooks can be classified into 9 categories (Lawful Good etc) or that there is a small set of character traits (Intelligence, Charisma etc) that make one apt for certain endeavors or careers in life (Fighter, Thief...) which is very Aristotelian.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

tachyon on 3 October 2020

I stumbled on this old

I stumbled on this old exchange and was reminded irresistably of this old and very silly comic, which perhaps will amuse, if indeed it wasn't the inspiration for Otterlex's concept.

Robert M. Kelly on 19 January 2019

a bouquet

Hello Peter,

I have little to say: a boast, a confession, and a rah rah rah.

Boast: I have successfully absorbed 1-300, twice. Yay for me! I'm not sure how well.

Confession: I feel like I owe you money. Where else could I take the equivalent of several semesters, if not years, of top-notch content - for free?

The rah rah rah: There are so many things I enjoy about your work. The skillful melding of theology and philosopy; the revelations of why the 13th and 14 century are still astonishly relevant; the bias-free and authoritative voice and attitude; your committment to your task; and last but not least your great sense of humor. My favorite moments are when I get your puns belatedly - that "oh!" moment. Godspeed with all you do and thanks again.

In reply to by Robert M. Kelly

Peter Adamson on 19 January 2019

Rah x3

Thanks so much! Glad that you like the series - listening to 300 episodes twice is really amazing commitment on your part and beats my own: I only listen to them once, when I am checking them one last time before uploading!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Robert M. Kelly on 20 January 2019

rah x 3

Yeah, I don't know what to make of that. I guess I'm making up for a misspent youth without major doses (or any doses, come to think of it) of philosophy. I was in a Catholic seminary for four years. Many of the college-level seminarians talked about Aquinas and Augustine like they were Best Friends Forever but I never understood what the shouting was about until now. Hey I have two weak connections to your career path.....I spent over a year in the lovely town of Landshut, former home of LMU, and I live only a few miles from Williams College. Best of luck again and again thanks for all your work, I find it hugely enjoyable and interesting. 

Jay on 24 January 2019


Hi Peter, your work here is outstanding, fascinating and amazing, so wise and humble at the same time. Please keep on going till the f*@king 21st century. 

Alexander Johnson on 7 February 2019

Maximus on the Byzantine History Timeline

I think you should probably put Maximus on the Byzantine timeline in the same way you did for Augustine and Boethius on the medieval timeline, since the arguements on the trinity are so heavily intertwined with early Byzantine medieval thought, and that he, like A&B, strattles the line between the antique and medieval era.

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 8 February 2019


Right, good idea, thank you! I'll do that next time I adjust the Byzantium timeline which I have to do regularly anyway to add links to the relevant episodes.

Tom on 8 February 2019


This site/project/enterprise is magnificent. It makes the rubbish strewn underground car park of the internet worthwhile. Please carry it on and bring it up to the present day.

Aquib Khan on 19 February 2019


I would like to thank everyone who is associated with these series of podcasts. And especially Peter, I feel indebted to you. I am a beginner, and am finding these to be very informative. I really appreciate the succint and to-the-point style of these podcasts. Please keep up the good work.

Lars Östh on 15 March 2019

Comming books

Thanks for great podcasts. Are you planning to make a bok about philosophy in India and africa? If so, when?


In reply to by Lars Östh

Peter Adamson on 15 March 2019


Glad you like them! Yes, the India book is already with the press and should come out about a year from now. The Africana one will obviously not be for a while since we aren't even halfway through that series yet. My guess would be that the book version might appear in 2022.

Also the Medieval Philosophy one will be out in September of this year.

Tyler on 20 March 2019

Early Christian Debates

First, I appreciate you taking the time to create the podcast and books. I have learned a lot and have added several of the texts mentioned in the show to my to read list.

I am on episode 108. Maybe I'm just impatient or missed it due to other drivers wanting to test metaphysical beliefs about the soul, but I have a few questions about the early Christian debates.

It sounds like most of the strife was due to disagreements about the metaphysical nature of Jesus and the trinity. Were there every any major ethical conflicts? If I understand the gospels correctly, Jesus makes it clear that the old testament laws still apply. In Luke, Jesus seems to contradict the 5th commandment about honoring ones parents by saying anyone that does not hate their parents cannot be his disciple. Were there any debates between early Christians on such matters? Are any of these apparent contradictions in the English translations due to language differences?


In reply to by Tyler

Peter Adamson on 24 March 2019

Ethics and early Christianity

I am not a huge expert here but according to my understanding tensions in the church were more to do with theological considerations, especially the incarnation and Trinity, and also liturgical issues e.g. whether to use unleavened bread in the mass. It was not about Christian ethics, though that was of course a matter of debate within Christian philosophy as you'll see especially in the medieval episodes.

Emily on 28 March 2019

Book Review

Hi Peter,

When Googling the phrase "the cudgel of religion," I came across this latest work from David Farrell Krell - The Cudgel and the Caress: Reflections on Cruelty and Tenderness.…

I thought he might be a philosopher with whom you would be familiar and wondered if you had any comments on his latest endeavor. Do you think his work would be accessible reading for a non-academic like me? It ain't cheap and I would hate to spend money on an exercise in self-perplexion (unless it was Maimonides' guide!).

Thank you,


In reply to by Emily

Peter Adamson on 28 March 2019


To be honest I have never heard of him, so I can't really advise you on that. The book looks pretty high concept!

Peter Adamson on 29 March 2019


Oh yes, we actually discuss Gopnik's original article on that in episode 60 of the India series.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Emily on 29 March 2019


I will go back and listen - thanks!

Daniel Ahlsén on 30 March 2019

Philosophy of mathematics

Hi Peter!

First off: your podcast is great. To do a history of philosophy without any gaps in such an accessible way is very impressive.

I have a question/suggestion. Will you be doing any work on the philosophy of mathematics in the future?

What springs to mind is the Grundlagenkreise in the early 20th century, culminating in Gödel's incompleteness theorem and intuitionism (a long time away). But both Kant and Mill developed interesting takes on mathematics. Frege developed predicate logic primarily to complete his, ultimately failed, attempt to reduce mathematics to pure logic. There is also the debate over the status of infinitesimals (infinitely small numbers), the arithimetization of analysis, and the new role of mathematics in natural philosophy, starting in the Renaissance.

The reason I ask is that it would be interesting to hear about these issues in a larger philosophical context: a historical take on them, so to say.


In reply to by Daniel Ahlsén

Peter Adamson on 30 March 2019

Philosophy of mathematics

Thanks, glad you like the podcast! Yes, I would certainly do that when (if) I get that far, you can't really understand Frege, Russell and early analytic philosophy without getting into mathematics quite a bit. It might be worth flagging that I've discussed mathematics already a number of times here on the podcast, e.g. in the episodes on the Pythagoreans, late ancient science, Islamic musical theory, the various treatments of astronomy/astrology, and especially the episode on the 14th century Calculators. Of course this was more about what was seen as "mathematics" in these earlier periods but my point is that it is already an abiding theme of the podcast and will continue to be so.

Bruce Clark on 4 April 2019


Just want to compliment you on this. What a wonderful resource. THe podcasts are so well written and, for those of us with less of a background , are clear and concise. Can't believe you're allowing us access for free. Congratulations and all the best.

Bruce from NZ

ps have heard Prof Adamson on "In Our Time" and found his explanations to be of the same order.

Emily on 12 April 2019

Research Implications

Hi Peter,

One of the many things I enjoy about your podcasts is they get me thinking about ideas I normally wouldn't come across in my daily life. Having recently familiarized myself with basic research terminology for an exam - P value, null hypothesis, independent and dependent variables, confidence intervals and the like - I began wondering how scientists today, both hard and soft, reconcile the existence and/or involvement of God in their research. I realize this may be more of a theology question than a philosophy question, but so much of what you have covered in the evolution of philosophy seems to involve humankind developing a system to investigate/justify/explain the ineffable.

Recently, there have been interesting comments left by mathematicians and other scholarly listeners, and I'm curious how God factors into modern day research, if at all, for those involved. In my limited academic endeavors, I've run across beautifully designed studies that yielded results no one could have anticipated, as well as unethically funded, poorly designed studies rife with sampling bias, that still would not yield the researchers' desired results. Do modern scientists who believe in the existence of God characterize God in the vein of Teilhard de Chardin, with human scientific advances moving us higher and higher to an Omega point, or do some see God as "tri-personally" involved directly in their research? Could God be considered the ultimate confounding variable in our perpetual randomized clinical trial? And is there a current school of philosophy or a particular philosopher who is focusing on that area of inquiry today?

Full disclosure, I am no longer a religious person (although I do enjoy the occasional ritual and the smell of burning incense from time-to-time), but I am truly fascinated by the metaphysical world and open to the possibility of God's involvement at both the micro and macro level in our messy, complicated little lives.

Thank you for your time and patience. I always enjoy reading your responses, as well as those from your listeners, to comments from people like myself - those of us tentatively unfurling our philosophical tendrils - as well as to the deeply-rooted philosophical sequoias with whom you engage in sophisticated technical and analytical discussions. I never fail to learn something!



In reply to by Emily

Peter Adamson on 13 April 2019

God and science

Hi Emily,

Thanks for your very kind words about the podcast! That's a great question though I don't have a correspondingly great answer. I guess two familiar approaches would be the scientist who is religious on Sunday, as it were, but doesn't try to bring together faith and research; or the "God of the gaps" model where the divine is used to explain whatever science doesn't cover. Obviously one could start there with things that empirical science doesn't address, e.g. morality or whatever. I'd guess a lot of scientist theists just think of themselves as studying the majesty of God's creation using reason - which is for instance exactly what a figure like Averroes thought of himself as doing so they would be in good company.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Emily on 15 April 2019

The God Cell

Thank you, Peter. I think that was a great answer - and very helpful!
I will let Averroes and Aristotle inform my thinking on the relationship between God and science.

"Some think that the soul pervades the whole universe, whence perhaps came Thales's view that everything is full of gods [and water]." -- Aristotle

Eric Kaplan on 18 April 2019

aphorisms, proverbs, parables

 What are your favorite cross-cultural works of aphorism, proverb, and parable?

I am wanting to read up on this.  Also -- do you have any thoughts or have you read anything on what is behind these genres, and what makes the good ones good?  Obviously, memorizability is part of it -- but why are some things easy to memorize?

In reply to by Eric Kaplan

Peter Adamson on 19 April 2019


Great question because it is something philosophers don't think about a lot but has been very important in the history of philosophy. One of my favorite examples was the text "Secundus the Silent Philosopher" which we covered in episode 8 of the Africana series, but I've also worked on Kindi's report of the aphorisms of Socrates, and one might also think of Nietzsche for a more recent example of a thinker who writes aphoristically. I agree that memorability is really important but I don't really have a theory about this to offer - except maybe that a good aphorism often has the features of a good joke, like striking reversal or contrast. Maybe others would like to pitch in with their own favorite examples.

In reply to by Eric Kaplan

Emily on 25 April 2019

Truth Be Told

I think a good aphorism - like a good joke - works because it's based in truth, pleasant or otherwise. Memorability is also strongly linked to emotional resonance. We easily remember - and have difficulty forgetting - words and phrases that evoke emotional responses.

Voltaire produced several perennially pithy aphorisms, some politically poignant presently:

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

"It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong."

"Common sense is not so common."

And then just a nice, happy, hopeful one:

"Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world."

And let us not forget Confucius ...

"Silence is a true friend who never betrays."

Matthew O Weber on 26 April 2019

Putting the Podcast on Google Play

Hello Mr. Adamson et al.,

I have really loved listening to your podcast. Unfortunately, I am currently using Google play to listen (as opposed to different methods that I have used in the past) to podcasts, but I cannot find yours there. I believe the process of adding your podcast to their system is pretty quick and easy by going here:

I tried to add it, but it also requires a verification via email, so you may have already received an email (it uses whatever is embedded in the RSS feed).



In reply to by Matthew O Weber

Peter Adamson on 28 April 2019

Google play

Many thanks for this suggestion, which I would like to follow up. I did get the link in an email but it told me the service is not available from Germany. I'll see if I can figure something out.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Peter Adamson on 29 April 2019

More Playing with Google

Update: thanks to web support master Julian it looks like we are probably going to be able to get both feeds on Google Play. Please keep an eye out let me know if it turns up! It is still being approved by Google now, I think.

Dan on 1 May 2019


Hi Prof. Adamson, I'm not sure if you've gotten this far with the series on Chinese philosophy, but I was wondering if there's a tentative list of episode topics yet. If so, will the Confucian philosopher Xunzi get his own episode?

In reply to by Dan

Peter Adamson on 1 May 2019


Hi there! Karyn and I don't have a list yet but we will put one up once the series is closer to launch. I am pretty confident that we will cover Xunzi extensively but I don't know yet whether we'll do Confucianism by theme, covering the contributions of Xunzi and others on each theme in every episode, or go figure by figure. My sense is that Karyn has approached things more thematically in the past but that in itself could be a reason to go figure by figure.

Andrew on 11 May 2019

First 30 Episodes

Greetings!  I was introduced to this podcast from the interview on The History of Byzantium podcast.  I'd like to get started in the series, but I notice the first 30 episodes are missing on the Apple podcast library.  It begins with episode 31.  Why is that?  I realize I can download directly from the website, but I like to keep all the podcasts in one place and it's more convenient for me to listen to it on the Podcast app.

Thanks for your consideration and all you do!

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 11 May 2019

iTunes limit

Yes, this is a lamentable but unavoidable consequence of the rules at iTunes, who only allow 300 episodes to be visible on the iTunes store for any podcast. So it just shows the most recent 300 episodes (of course we only learned this once we posted our 301st episode!). But if you subscribe via iTunes rather than clicking on individual episodes, that will give you access to the whole feed.

Gavin on 6 June 2019

Philosophy of Quantum Physics

Is this a thing?  I mean colloquially it seems to be.  But it should be a thing.  How is this not a thing?  Quantum physics or study of the nature of reality at fine detail brings up the nature of reality itself.  That's pretty heavy philosophy.  Eat your heart out Brian Green, Feynman had his day.  Let's get on this one.  Also what if ..... such a small question had big implications?  

In reply to by Gavin

Peter Adamson on 6 June 2019

Philosophy of quantum physics

Oh my, yes, this is most definitely a thing. There is a major field of contemporary philosophy usually just called philosophy of physics and they do a lot of thinking about quantum theory; also it is routinely discussed in more general philosophy of science. But of course it won't come up on this podcast for a long time! For a primer on this you could look at the page on quantum mechanics on the Stanford Encyclopedia:

In reply to by Gavin

Emily on 7 June 2019

Meet Me In the Middle

There is a wonderful book by Professor Karen Barad (PhD in Particle Physics) entitled Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. It deals with this topic in an accessible and exciting manner (if I can understand it, you can, too!). Her chapter on Agential Realism addresses some of Feynman's work.

Side note: Dr. Barad has written extensively on LGBT issues. As this is Pride Month here in the US, I am proud to recommend this excellent work from a member of our LGBTQIA community.

C Kheser-John on 20 June 2019

Renaissance Timeline

Minor point - Marsilio Ficino is listed twice -

Looking forward to podcasts!

In reply to by C Kheser-John

Peter Adamson on 20 June 2019

Double Cap-Ficino

Right! Someone else pointed it out on Twitter too, already fixed it. Glad you are excited about the series!

Roy Albin on 30 June 2019

Yay we made it

I've listened to all of the episodes in this European Focus track and I'm excited we finally hit the Renaissance and really like the way you laid out what you're going to do for the next year or two along these lines. I know this is a bigger project than what you originally thought of but I have enjoyed it today and I'm really looking forward to what new understandings you're going to bring to the Renaissance thinkers

Xaratustrah on 4 July 2019


Hi Peter,

I am not sure if we discussed the idea of "privation" anywhere in Aristotle or Thomas. Would love to finally understand it, or at least to make sure they all use it in the same way. It seems that Cusa also did say something about it, not sure. Do you plan to cover that?


In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 4 July 2019


I probably talked about it in episodes 38-39 on the basics of Aristotle on substance and change; maybe I didn't use the word "privation" but it definitely came up. Of course I have also talked a lot about non-existence. I guess with Cusa I will talk about it under the heading of learned ignorance.

Dean on 25 July 2019

Philosophy Major

Hey Peter I'd just like to say thank you so much for your wonderful work on the podcast. I started getting into philosophy a little over a year ago when I was 17 and did som very basic research on my own which mostly included watching videos, reading wikipedia entries, and reading a few books. I started to listen to your podcast around February of this year and I am only up to episode 250, but your podcast has partly inspired me to try and become a philosophy professor and I am heading off to my first year of undergraduate school this September. I plan on majoring in philosophy and then attempting to get my masters and PhD. Although I am more interested in modern philosophy I still find your podcast episodes very interesting and it has shown me that ancient and medieval philosophy can be very interesting. I especially liked the episodes on Abelard. This summer I have read De Anima and I am reading Fear and Trembling as the existential philosophers interest me very much.Thanks for making such a great impact on me and maybe if you're not done with the podcast by the time I receive my PhD and get a position at a university in 12 years or so I will be able to come on the podcast.

In reply to by Dean

Peter Adamson on 26 July 2019

Major success

Thanks, that's amazing! Exceeds my wildest hopes and expectations in terms of the podcast's impact. If you haven't seen it you might want to check out this blog post I did on working towards a career in philosophy.

Dan on 1 August 2019

Second book dedication

Hi Prof. Adamson,


I just picked up the second book in the HoPwaG series. I noticed you dedicated it to your brother, and was curious as to why? Why that particular book rather than any of the others in the series? Does he have a particular attraction to the Hellenistic and Roman periods?

In reply to by Dan

Peter Adamson on 1 August 2019


Oh no, not particularly - it was mostly because he was really into listening to the podcast, so I thought he would appreciate it. More generally I am kind of dedicating the books to one family member at a time as I go along. Hopefully the number of family members and number of books will line up in the end!

Xaratustrah on 12 August 2019


Hi Peter, do you plan to cover Paracelsus?

In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 12 August 2019


Oh definitely, he will be part of the northern Renaissance and Reformation series.

H on 13 August 2019

Dear Peter,

Dear Peter,

Having listened to almost every episode of the podcast, I just want to extend my deepest gratitude for your outstanding work – to call it a pinnacle of the digital age is not an overstatement, I believe, especially in these times of misguided thought and frailty of reason. Not only have you reinvigorated my personal interest in philosophical inquiry and opened my eyes (or ears, rather) to areas of thought I had yet not come across, but these series have led me to further studies, guiding me to works I had otherwise probably not learned about.

For this I am ever so grateful.



In reply to by Stephen Reid

Peter Adamson on 26 August 2019

Broken link

Ok thanks for letting us know! We'll try to fix it.

Karl Young on 28 August 2019

Suggested interview for philosophy in China

Hi Peter,

I know this is a little premature but figured I'd float it anyway (given the extra time I'm afforded by the summer break !). I'm reading The Fifth Corner of Four by Graham Priest which has a pretty narrow focus re. Buddhist Metaphysics but a rather broad historical scope. It occured to me that when you get to the Buddhist section in the Chinese philosophy podcasts, an interview with him might be a great way to connect your excellent podcasts on Mahayana metaphysics in India to later developments in China re. setting some context.

In any case, I'm sure whatever you choose to do in those podcasts will be edifying; e.g. I'm really anxious to learn more about some of the areas with which I'm not very familiar like Mohism and Legalism (of course I'm sure I'll also learn a ton about the areas that I kid myself that I'm somewhat familiar with, like Confuniacinism and Taoism).


In reply to by Karl Young

Peter Adamson on 28 August 2019


Yes, that is indeed getting a bit ahead but thanks for the idea! You did see we interviewed Priest in the India series, right? Episode 54.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Karl Young on 29 August 2019


Yes, I enjoyed that episode and was just hoping there were no rules against reprieves ! :-)

In reply to by Karl Young

Peter Adamson on 29 August 2019

Repeat offenders

No, we have actually had a number of people on more than once, like MM McCabe or John Marenbon, and in fact the next guest will be Jill Kraye who has been on before. With Priest I was lucky that he passed through Munich, with any luck maybe he will again.

Richard on 11 September 2019

This podcast is was the

This podcast was the catalyst that got me reading philosophy again and now also studying it in the university. Just letting you know that you got that on your conscience now. ;)

In reply to by Richard

Peter Adamson on 11 September 2019


Wow, amazing! I think I can live with that on my conscience. Best of luck with your studies!

Matthew Pradichith on 24 September 2019


Hello! I absolutely love your podcast and have been listening to it for the last few months (still not caught up yet, but I'll get there!). I'm really interested in the influences that the Timaeus has had through late antiquity and even into medieval philosophy. Could you recommend some further reading in regards to this? It seems like there's absolutely no love for it today...

somedogs on 30 September 2019

Album Cover

I made this Album cover for your podcasts I downloaded.

I thought I'd make it available to everyone, at your discretion.

In reply to by somedogs

Peter Adamson on 30 September 2019

Album cover

Thanks but I think the uploading of the image didn't work, can you try again? Maybe send a URL link to it instead.

In reply to by gary

Peter Adamson on 2 December 2019

Young Peter with old philosophers

Thanks so much! Boy, that picture of me is from a long time ago, I had a lot less gray in my beard then...

David Montgomery on 14 October 2019

Fellow podcaster looking ahead to Positivism

Hello —

My name's David Montgomery; I'm a longtime fan, and also host the podcast The Siècle, covering France 1814-1914. In addition to covering the political narrative I also try to cover the social, economic and intellectual currents at the time. As such, as I plot out future episodes, I'm hoping to do an interview episode about Comte and Positivism. As a longtime listener of the "History of Philosophy" my first thought was to reach out to you to see if — though Positivism is many years away for you yet! — you could recommend any experts in Positivism who I might be able to reach out to about possible interviews. (I will also recommend any reading suggestions, especially books or articles aimed at a lay audience.)

Thank you!

In reply to by David Montgomery

Peter Adamson on 15 October 2019

Comte and Positivism

Wow, cool, I will have to check out your podcast! I'm afraid positivism is not my area and you're right that it will be a long time until I get there. You might check out the Stanford Encyclopedia page on Comte: and consider asking the author of that entry or the authors of more recent publications in the bibliography.

Elliot on 22 October 2019

Book feedback?

Hi Peter,
This might come to you as a fairly unusual request. My name’s Elliot and I’m a 22-year-old officer in the US Army. I’ll start by saying that ever since I started listening to your podcast, it’s changed my life. It’s done so much, in fact, that it’s inspired me to try my hand at philosophical writing of my own. The discipline that has always interested me the most, even before I started listening, is philosophy of religion, and that’s what I’ve decided to write about. Earlier this year, I began writing a book on that topic in dialogue form (drawing on Plato’s literary style), and I just completed it. My dialogue pits an atheist (who is a representative of my own ideas as the author) against a devout religious person (although the specific religion abided by is never revealed). Some of the particular issues I touched on in the conversation were heavily inspired by your discussions on theological philosophy of the Islamic world. I was fascinated by your explanation of the divide between Mutazilism and Asharism, in terms of trying to understand God’s power, and either the potential limitations or boundless nature of it. I also incorporated elements of Avicenna’s theories on existence, such as God’s knowledge of particulars or universals, as well as the problem of arbitrary creation of the universe. This all, of course, is in conjunction with the household issues such as the problem of evil, and free will vs. determinism. I self-identity as an existentialist, and for that reason I attempt to clash these problems with the more contemporary views of Sartre and Heidegger, with the intention of drawing on their explanations of how we can have morals without God. Although I never mention any of these particular thinkers by name, my ultimate goal is to bring back their age-old ideas to attack modern problems, in a format that’s attractive to a wider readership, not just philosophical academics. I’d love to try and get my work published someday, and for that reason, I’d like for it to be the best it can be. I know you’re a busy guy, but I was wondering if you’d be interested in reading a short excerpt or two from my work and sharing some of your thoughts on it. It would honestly mean the world to me, and then some, since your show is essentially what motivated me to do any of this in the first place. Thanks for your time and keep making those incredible podcasts!

In reply to by Elliot

Peter Adamson on 22 October 2019

Book feedback

Hi there, and thanks for your kind words about the podcast! Glad it has been so helpful to you. Maybe just email me about this and send me a couple of extracts from the book? My email is

Frank Michael Bowman on 6 November 2019

The ‘so what?’ question...

I’m a former child & adolescent neuropsychiatrist broadening my horizons In early retirement by, amongst other things, listening to your podcast series; currently at #099.
OK so it’s a HISTORY of philosophy series, but... here’s my ‘so what?’
This-opolis stated that the world is a pool table supported by five giraffes whereas that-opolis disagreed, stating that there were in fact seven giraffes. The commentators argued about how the balls were racked in the triangle and if chalk was truly necessary or even really blue.
We now know (or currently think we do) that the earth is sphere of accreted matter orbiting a rather non-descript star. Hence my question: so what does it matter what a bunch of ancients mistakenly thought?
I recall in training in psychiatry having to present an analysis of one of Sigmund Freud’s writings to a seminar group. I did a great job - you could say my presentation had no gaps - but, in the end, the substance of what had been written was archaic and meaningless; it was pool tables, giraffes and blue chalk.
Help me out here!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Frank Michael Bowman on 7 November 2019

Will keep listening...

Thanks for taking the time to reply. 

I've followed the link and enjoyed reading  the interview. Not sure I'm any further forward. For some perverse reason I enjoy engaging with subjects that seem beyond my understanding so will keep listening and perhaps update you on my progress @ #199! 

JW on 11 November 2019

Expanding horizons!

Any plans to explore East Asian philosophy? Rather large gap. :)

In reply to by JW

Peter Adamson on 11 November 2019

East Asian

Yes indeed, this is actually covered in FAQ below but the short answer is, I have a co-author lined up to do classical China and hope to do later China and Korea and Japan at some point.

Xaratustrah on 25 November 2019

Philosophy Magazines

Hi Peter,

what are your favourite philosophy magazines, like not academic journals but normal magazines (those with colorful pages)?

In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 25 November 2019


Well, I write a regular column for Philosophy Now so I feel honor-bound to direct you towards them! The online forum Aeon is also worth checking out, they have a lot of philosophy content curated by Nigel Warburton.

Anonymous Comm… on 2 January 2020

Religious figures as philosophers

Dear Peter,

Thank you so much for all your great work, I have been a regular listener to the podcast since 2012 and always look forward to new epsidoes being posted. 

I wondered whether you ever considered doing episodes on the religious scriptures of the Abrahamic faiths as philosophical texts? This would certainly seem to be in keeping both with your inclusion of things like mysticism in your history of philosophy, and with your treatment of similar sources in non-western traditions.

It would be interesting to know how the thought of, say, the historical Jesus fit into the intellectual trends of the time. I have heard from popular sources that, for example, the teachings of the new testament may have been inspired by contemporary eastern thought. Does modern scholarship back this up?

I understand that such historicization of religious figures could be seen as disrespectful and/or offensive, which may be why you chose to stay clear.

I also wondered specifically whether you considered covering the thought of St Paul, who seems to fit the bill even more closely for the kind of figure you would cover.

Interested to hear your thoughts



In reply to by Anonymous Comm…

Peter Adamson on 3 January 2020

Religious figures

Your guess is right: I shied away from that feeling that it would be very contentious to include texts like the Bible or Quran in a history of philosophy podcast. Also difficult, given the mountains of scholarship on these texts. Insofar as I had a good reason, as opposed to cowardice, it would be that the philosophical themes in such texts wound up getting covered anyway when looking at the various figures who interpreted them.

Still I think you are right that this could be done, and St Paul is a good example; people often pick up on themes in his thought that remind them of ancient philosophy, especially Stoicism.

Grace Hibshman on 10 January 2020

Modern Philosophy Podcast?

Hi Peter!


Thank you so much for this wonderful gift to the world!


I am a philosophy graduate student at Notre Dame. I am very grateful for this podcast. It's wonderful for filling in the gaps I have in my philosophy education. Do you know of any podcasts that might be able to fill in my gaps in more modern philosophy?


Thank you!


In reply to by Grace Hibshman

Peter Adamson on 10 January 2020

Modern philosophy podcast

Hi there, nice to hear from a fellow ND philosophy grad student! Got my PhD there in 2000, as you might know.

Re. your question there isn't one that goes through that in bewildering detail like I am planning to do. But you could look at relevant episodes of other podcasts like Examined Life, In Our Time, Philosopher's Zone, and Philosophy Bites. There is a list of other such podcasts under Links below.

Or if you wait... um, 5-10 years I will have covered it all by then with any luck!

Xaratustrah on 15 January 2020


Hi Peter, Have you ever thought of writing a philosophically themed fiction / novel? Like bringing back to life philosophers of different epochs and traditions into a nice story line where they interact? Like Ficino discussing with Nagarjuna and Averoes on reincarnation and world soul on a banquet where Nietzsche was not invited!? I would be the first to buy the book!

Btw. whom would you choose as your main protagonist?



In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 15 January 2020


Funny you should ask because when I was young, like, a teenager, I wanted to write fiction when I grew up. But I'm not sure my talents really lie in that direction and I guess if I were going to write a novel I would pick a topic that got my head out of philosophy for a bit!

Also my first choice would be Avicenna and there is already a novel about him, called The Road to Isfahan (also the movie, Der Medicus).

Alexander Johnson on 24 January 2020


As long as you are in Neo-Platonic philosophy, I was wondering.  You refer to a lot of the Scholastic and Islamic philosophers as "neo-platonic" from time to time, but it seems like some of them are obvious (Eriugena, for example), and others are seem more straight forwards Aristotilian (Averroes, though i'm not sure you have ever refered to him as neo-platonic).  So I was wondering if you see...  al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Avicenna, Abelard, Aquinas, Maimonedes, Scotus, and Ockham as neo-platonists, or a more fushion of neoplatonism with Aristotilianism? or Aristotilians with neo-platonic influences?  or is it more of a spectrum?

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 25 January 2020


It's definitely a spectrum. Averroes, I would say, is about as un-Neoplatonic as it gets in the medieval period, whereas for instance Kindi or Aquinas have clearly been strongly influenced by Neoplatonism. But it isn't a yes or no question in any case: Neoplatonism was so dominant in late antiquity that in a sense all medieval philosophy was inevitably colored by it. So it makes more sense to think in terms of particular doctrines, e.g. does God emanate necessarily, is the soul only accidentally related to its body, etc, and then you can discuss more usefully whether a given thinker adopts that particular bit of Neoplatonic doctrine. Of course we should also remember that late ancient Neoplatonists strongly disagreed on many topics, e.g. whether the soul descends completely from the intelligible realm. So that is an additional complication.

Liam on 4 February 2020

Many thanks

Mr. Adamson,

I live a pretty good life and listening to your podcast ranks among my favorite activities. Your lectures and conversations are both richly pleasurable and deeply nourishing. Thank you very much for doing this work, and more thanks to you and your sponsors for making it freely available. The world is better for your efforts.


Emily on 14 February 2020

For Valentine's Day

"We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Smith George on 17 February 2020


This is really wonderful to be here, glad to know the philosophy behind it., thanks for sharing with us.

Daniel Young on 17 March 2020


Dear Professor Adamson,

I thought you would be pleased to know that your titanic philosophical podcast is one of the things that consoles and sustains me here in New York City as we face an indeterminate period of "social distancing." I am rationing myself 2 to 4 a day. As a small token of thanks I invite you to go to my website, and select any items you and your collaborators would like. I will be happy to send them to you as a gift if you give me a mailing address. Do not hesitate to choose as much as you would like.

Paul Lee on 22 March 2020

No Chinese & Japanese philosophy?

The tagline is "A history of philosophy without any gaps".  While I understand why Indian, Islam, and African philosophies are included because they interacted with Western philosophies, I would hope you would include Chinese & Japanese philosophies despite roughly progressing on a parallel track.

In reply to by Paul Lee

Peter Adamson on 22 March 2020

China and Japan

Yes, this is actually covered under FAQ below. The plan is to do classical Chinese philosophy with Karyn Lai once the current series on Africana is over. After that, not sure but I do hope to get to Japan and Korea as well. (I hope to get to everything!)

In reply to by Paul Lee

Samer Darwiche on 12 April 2020

Japanese and Chinese phlisophy

Yes couldn't agree more. We need more about Chinese and Japanese culture.

In reply to by Mirza Beglerov…

Peter Adamson on 23 March 2020


Funny you should mention that. I actually did have the idea that eventually ("once I finish" sounds like far in the future) I could do an all-interview series looking at the history of some contemporary areas of philosophy. I wasn't expecting this to be as detailed as, say, supervenience, more like branches such as Philosophy of Mind. Would be a cool series, right? Every episode could focus on what has happened over the last, say, 30 years.

Samer Darwiche on 12 April 2020

Islamic culture

I wonder why there is no mention about Ali ibn Abi Talib in the Islamic World? 



In reply to by Samer Darwiche

Peter Adamson on 13 April 2020


Well of course he is mentioned a lot in the historical sense, I mean, I talk a lot about Ismailism and other forms of Shiism and members of the Shiite intellectual traditions. I guess you mean treating Ali himself as a philosopher though? The answer to that is that, in general, I made a decision early on not to include historical figures who are also major religious founders or teachers, e.g. there is no episode on Jesus or on Muhammad himself. Nor do I have episodes on the Bible or the Quran. I have been asked about this before, regarding Jesus, and my explanation of the decision is that in part I was just nervous about tackling such figures -- the potential for offending people is very high -- and in part I just didn't know how to go about it, even if I had wanted to. Like, a single episode about philosophy and (or in) the Quran, or the New Testament? Seems daunting. So anyway I considered Ali to fall into that category. You might by the way pull me up here on the example of the Buddha, who of course was covered, so that was arguably inconsistent. But I think it was possible to do the Islamic world and Christian philosophy without doing special episodes on religious founders, whereas I don't think we could have done that with Buddhism.

Matthew Breneau on 18 April 2020

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

Hi Peter:

I'm a regular listener and lover of the podcast from Detroit, MI. During the the Coronavirus shutdown, the cinema for which I work is offering an "at home" series of films that includes a title which right interest you. The link is below. I hope you and Hiawatha will be willing to devote a little of your time to it.…

Stoically yours,

Matthew Breneau

Xaratustrah on 9 June 2020


Hi Peter,

Usually Kant is associated with "Vernunft" and "Verstand". Do you know, which one of the figures mentioned in your podcast (Western / Islamic / Africana / India) discussed "reason" and "mind"? Avicenna in Shifa? Abelard? Nagarjuna?



In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 10 June 2020


These topics come up a lot, probably the best way to see where it has come up is to go to the "themes" page:

and go through the episodes on the topic "Mind."

Alexander Johnson on 14 June 2020

Finally Caught Up

Finally caught up after more than 2 years (I have about 30 podcasts I split my time between, so I only did 3-5 per week).  and I guess it felt appropriate to give feedback now that I have heard all of it.  First, I'll start with letting you know what type of audience I am, cover the sections, then let you know what I thought of the podcast so far as a whole.

Audience:  Demographically, I am a white male in my 30's from the USA with a math and economics degree who loves history as well.  My background in philosophy before this was that I learned about the cliff notes version of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in high school.  I knew Descartes, Pascal, and Leibniz existed through math.  I heard "I think therefore I am" with no idea what he was trying to say.  I also knew about the political theory of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, and the economic theory of Smith, Marx, and the Austrians.  In my non-western history class I learned about Confucius, Taoism (which I really don't like), and Legalism (Han Fei!), and the Buddha.  And I read the Bhagavad-Gita in humanities.  And my impression of philosophy was largely shaped by the one person I knew who talked about it being the type of person who would say "what if what you see as red is what my green looks like?"  Which made me have no interest in learning about it.  I got into your podcast because an entertainer I watch mentioned that he took philosophy and it was totally different than what he was expecting.  Then you were the only review on the back of Mike Duncan’s book I didn’t know about, and history of japan podcast mentioned liking Philosophize This, so I figured I’d give both of you a try.

Classical:  I actually really liked that the podcast started with what I would describe as largely natural philosophers, because I had been wondering what scientists did before they had access to our array of scientific tools.  I also liked that you covered what modern philosophy talked about in Parmenides.  Finally, I think the investment in Plato and Aristotle early on was well worth it, as I learned a ton and got to hear a little baseline about most of the topics talked about.  Further, this showed that “without any gaps” could be extended to a major philosopher’s lesser known works in the same way that it could for covering minor philosophers.  I kind of hoped that we’d see 1 last deep dive covering something like “Hume, Kant, and Hegel (1 section with the 3 of them sharing it).” or something like that, but I’m sure however they get covered it will be good.

Later Antiquity:  I knew the name of 3 of the schools off the bat, so I looked forwards to this as well, I was surprised when the Epicureans (who I didn’t know the name of prior) were my favourite.  I thought that was a great section overall and was glad we saw something similar pop up in the India section.  Late Antiquity didn’t make much of an impact positively or negatively, and I was uncertain about Early Christianity but thought it was good, though Augustine maybe got too much attention for my liking. 

Islamic World:  I came in not knowing what to expect, but I knew of the great work of Al-Khwarizmi, so I was hoping we’d see that the golden age of Islam was also a golden age of philosophy.  I have to say that balance wise, this felt like the best era of the podcast.  You struck a great balance between talking about topics, and talking about minor philosophers, talking about major philosophers, and background.  The balance was also good in Medieval, though with less minor figures by themselves and more topics.  (In both cases the major figures got about 27% of the episodes, though late antiquity was closer to 37% depending on how the schools were counted, which was also good.  I think the major philosophers make for nice sign-posts for getting caught up on topics I may have somewhat zoned out on, or seeing how sections of seemingly unrelated topics may hang together).  The one trend that started her that I liked was that the default for the major figures was 2 scripted episodes plus one interview, with more for the major major figures.  Andalusia was surprising because barely any Muslim philosophers showed up, but if most of Andalusian philosophy was done by Jews, I don’t think that would be a problem.  Eastern Tradition I got the impression in the introduction that we were going to get a treatment closer to the way Hellenistic was covered, so then not having it covered that was a bit jarring.  Mulla Sadra was great, but the historical wrap up lasted too long.

Medieval:  As I said above, this also had a wonderful balance, and I liked the lead in segment that all the time spent on various little topics like Individuation and Transcendentals.  I was really sold on the Scholastics being serious philosophers worth paying attention to.  The treatment of Aquinas was really strange though.  You didn’t cover any metaphysics from Aquinas during the Aquinas segment, which made it feel like something was missing, in addition thanks to the interview on self-awareness, the episode on soul knowledge, and the interview on human knowledge, I felt like a lot of what was talked about instead was repetition.  Then you also repeatedly said that Aquinas was not that important in the medieval era and kind of odd man out, but innovative individuals do stand out from the pack, and I hear in way more episodes than I expected people responding to Aquinas, which makes him feel more important than Scotus and Ockham (who I got the impression you were trying to make the case that were more important than Aquinas?).  Overall I felt the treatment of him was full of mixed/muddled messages and overconcentration on one aspect at the expense of the rest, as well as the first time I felt like the podcast was being addressed to one specific type of audience in such a way that made it harder for me, a non-academic philosopher, to follow.  However, this did not spoil the rest of the series.  This series also have several that would make a list of my favourite episodes, such as the Angels episode, and I think these deep dives into one very narrow topic was a nice trend.

Byzantine/Renaissance:  Byzantine was hard to categorize.  I enjoyed all of it, but I also struggle to say what I really learned from it.  Some religious stuff was at the beginning and end, but otherwise, it was mostly rhetoric and advice for emperors?  One omission I thought was notable was that the great schism came and went without much attention, which I thought might have had things to talk about given the earlier attention given to the trinity debate as background where philosophy was used by both sides, but you’d know better what actually is out there.  For the Renaissance, I am very unimpressed with the humanists, but I am pretty sure that has nothing to do with you.  So far it is an interesting section. 

India:  I was pleasantly surprised by India as well.  I knew The Buddha and the Bhagavad-Gita were going to be cool, but the Age of Sutra was one of my favourite sections in all of the podcasts.  I especially liked the Nyayas, but every group in the age of sutra, even the ones I thought I wouldn’t like, were interesting.  It was here I was sold that Indian philosophy was every bit as interesting as Greek philosophy.  The Buddhists and Jains were almost as good as well, but I thought tracking which sect of Buddhism was which, and what they branched off from was hard to keep track of.  I also thought Dignaga section could have been more clear, as you spoke a lot about Idealism and Phenomenology, but I don’t think I had a very good idea what those two meant in relation to these two.  And was more confused when I tried to research it and found that Idealism and Phenomenology have multiple branches and so which sub-branch you were relating both Dignaga and Dharmakirti to could change the message.  I also didn’t get a good impression of how Dignaga actually improved upon Nyaya logic, but I know logic can be hard to get into detail with via podcast form. 

Africana:  I know there are a lot of naysayers on this part, so I will try to keep it to things I don’t think I heard others say.   I guess the precolonial bounced off of me because I didn’t really hear many arguments for the things they were arguing for, so I ended up being no more convinced than I am with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.  And because I couldn’t see why anything couldn’t reasonably been independent of one another, the idea of “Africaness” linking them didn’t feel convincing.  Slavery/Diaspora has been a bit more interesting, but for a lot of it, I am just hearing them make the case for “slavery bad,” but that is my default position.  So if I’m not hearing the “slavery is not bad” side they are arguing against, and I’m not seeing people influenced by the arguments, it gives the impression that people from Jefferson to Davis just heard the arguments on why slavery is bad and went “yeah, but so what?” and then weren’t really impacted by it.  The topic of if violence is justified has been more interesting, but since most of the people were of two minds about it, that part too came out muddled.  I’ll keep sticking with it though

Overall:  This is one of my favourite podcasts, and has really gotten me into philosophy, and gotten me to read Aristotle and Plato, and indirectly got me to read Montesquieu, and Han Fei.  Overall, I am very happy with the podcast you have put out, and I look forwards to seeing where you go, especially when you cover China, India part 2, China part 2, and the enlightenment.  I would be worried about how you cover the continentals, but I think your rules essentially forbids you from the empty dismissals I’m used to seeing from them, so I doubt you’d end up not covering the properly due to priors.  And I hope you keep going for the long time it takes to find out!

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 14 June 2020

Story so far

Wow, thanks for taking the time to write all this out! I don't think I've ever seen such a detailed reaction to the entire series; it's actually amazing that you have such detailed recall of each section and how you felt about it all. Of course I'm not surprised that you didn't find it all equally successful, probably that is inevitable, but I'm glad that you got so much out of the series overall.

Yotam Schremer on 16 June 2020

Mind, Soul and Matter: Aristotle to Descarts

Dear Prof. Adamson,

First of all, I would like to dearly thank you for your rigorous work on the podcast. I am a first year undergraduate Israeli student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, at the department of philosophy, Jewish thought and Talmud. For me, a student of philosophy who approches the study from a deeply historical perspective, your podcast has been nothing short of spectacular and most valuable to me. In terms of method, our department is not unlike the majority of the english speaking ones, in the sense that it is mainly comitted to methodical courses and research from a contemporary ananlytic approach; as such, historical courses are scarce, especially ones concerning the less-than-canonical parts of the history of philosophy, most noteworthy Arabic and Islamic philosophy. The study of such matters is essential especially for me, as I am interested namely in Maimonides in his non-jewish context (in order, naturally, to understand that very jewish context of his!). And so, it can be said of HOPWAG: "Like cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a distant land" (Proverbs 25, 25) [in hebrew it would sound somthing like this: mayim kareem 'al nefesh 'ayeffa ushmua tova me'ertz merhak].


I am concerened today with a wide-scope matter in the history of philosophy. I have just learned Aristotles Physics 1-2 and de Anima for the second time, and upon finishing de Anima at my class, my teacher compared Descarts' dualistic theory of mind to Aristotle's heliomorphic world view. It can be said that Descarts' view is one that fits harmonically within the scientific revolution that took place at his age, as it emphasises a distinctions between the mechanistic view of the world of matter and a non-mechanistic one for the mind. Contrarywise, mind for arsitotle is a part of the living creature as much as the body (soma) is. Aristotle's mind the the form of the living creature - and as such, its' actuality (entelecheia), while its' material aspect is its' matter or potentiality (dunamis). Both the actuality and potentiality are natural aspects for Aristotle, of any Ousia. Thus, and correct me if my analysis is wrong sofar, it can be said the mind, for Aristotle, belongs to the same ontological category that any other scientific term concerning the world belongs.

Now, this view is quite different from our way of understanding the mind, following descarts' cogito. On the other hand, I am not sure what would  the Neo-Aristotleanism in its' medival Arabic-Islamic iteration would have to say about that. Furthermore, what can be said of these philosophers treatment of the soul and it's relation to the physical world as they have come to know it through the traditional Islamic prism, that is saying - views concerning the Nafs, is to be thought of. I predict that the answer may be complicated and most likely is to vary from each thinker to another. I am mainly interested in pre-Maimonidean thinkers, such as al-Kindi (although I wouldn't classify him as a Neo-Aristotelean), al-Razi, al-Farabi, Ibn-Bajja, Al-Ghazali (who very clearly was aquainted with the Aristotlean tradition), Ibn-Sina, and Averroes; and, if relevant, on even earlier late-antiquity interpretations of Aristotle that influenced them, and even Neo-Platonic sources, following all the way back to Plato and his discussion of the soul in Phadeo.

This subject is especially interesting in the Maimonidean context beacuse many of the disagreement in modern research of Maimonides circles around the question of 'Olam ha-Ba', the jewish version of the afterlife, or another version of it: "T'hiyat ha-Metim", meaning the rising of the dead (come Judgment day) -  both of which are terms that coincide culturally with ideas such as 'الجَنَّة' in their Religious and Philosophical contexts. I am interested in figuring out what how Maimonides' refrences of the soul or the mind should be read in light of these questions. The consequences of this inquiry may be remarkable, as far as perhaps revealing philological evidence of a non-ontological understanding of the eternality of the soul according to Maimonides, rather eternality akin to the eternality of Aristotelean forms or numbers (that is to say, eternality of the soul only in virtue of actualizing its' potential fully, and intelectualizing itself or God) - not even a so-called 'spiritual' one.


Many thanks and the very best regards - and a sincere apology for the probable many inaccurate points I may have laid out throughout this letter.

Yotam Schremer.

In reply to by Yotam Schremer

Peter Adamson on 17 June 2020

Aristotle vs Descartes on the mind

Thanks for your kind words about the podcast! That's obviously a big issue you are raising in your question there. I guess the first thing I'd say is that, while I largely agree with the contrast you draw between Descartes (one could mention Plato here too) and Aristotle, there are resources in Aristotle for a more dualist account of the mind. In particular, in De Anima 3 he argues that the  mind has no bodily organ, plus we have the treatment of thinking as divine in Nic Eth 10 and Metaph 12. So taking up these hints, already in late antiquity the Platonist tradition had been pretty successful in integrating Aristotle's account of soul into a dualist, Platonist framework, the idea being that the bodily functions of life are powers projected by a separate soul into the body. We see this also in al-Kindi, Avicenna, etc. Averroes has, I would say, a more faithfully Aristotelian account since he ties each individual soul closely to its body, with intellect as universal and not individual. Maimonides though has a more traditional view here, with an immaterial soul that can survive the death of the body, and he would have seen that as at least compatible with the tradition of Platonized Aristotelianism that came down to him.

Does that help?

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Yotam Schremer on 17 June 2020

Mind, Soul and Matter: Aristotle to Descarts

Yes, that it indeed a very helpful account and analysis. What is left for me is further inquiry into the specifics. Would you happen to know where exactly in Avicenna I could find the relveant discussions? Same goes for Averroes, and if any relveant Farabian writing comes to mind that would complete the picture.