Comments Page

Please leave any general comments here, or if your comment relates to a particular podcast, please post it on the relevant podcast page. You can also leave comments on Peter's blog.

For any technical issues concerning the website please use this form or email



In reply to by Adam

Peter Adamson on 12 March 2012


Hi Adam,

You'll have a long wait until I get to Wittgenstein! I think probably the more obvious work to start with is the "Philosophical Investigations" though that is in many ways a reaction to his own "Tractatus" -- and that's really hard. I've heard it said that the later work "On Certainty" is a bit more feasible if you want a text to begin with but he is not at all within my expertise so I'm not the best source of advice here. If you are really keen to look into him then I can ask expert colleagues for a tip.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Adam on 13 March 2012

Thanks, Peter! I'm not

Thanks, Peter! I'm not really that keen on taking up Wittgenstein again, at the moment, so no need to call the cavalry. And honestly, I'm looking more forward to Boethius right now than anything else.

In reply to by Adam

Peter Adamson on 14 March 2012


Hi Adam,

In that case you don't have so long to wait -- Boethius is scheduled for episode 110. Thanks for listening!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Malcolm on 28 April 2012

Kenny on the above...

I've just finished reading Sir Anthony Kenny's "A New History of Western Philosophy" and I thought he was very good on most of the philosophers mentioned in this thread. He made me want to run out and buy Boethius!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Malcolm on 28 April 2012

Why not finish with Hadot and late Foucault?

As the work of Pierre Hadot, and late Michael Foucault, is heavily influenced by the Ancient Philosophers, why not "finish" there, at the beginning...

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Felix on 2 March 2012

The Present

I hope that you will go all the way through to Sartre, Derida, post-modernism, Plantinga ('cos I've heard of him!), and others.

Matthew on 1 March 2012


This is a truly wonderful work you are doing. Thank you! Perhaps someone has already asked you this in the comments but supposing, despite your efforts, that you do find a gap or would like to add an interview that fills out the picture even more, do you have a way of adding new episodes that address topics treated at an earlier time? Thanks.

Matthew Miller

In reply to by Matthew

Peter Adamson on 2 March 2012

Retrospective gap-filling

Hi Matthew,

Actually no one has asked me that before but I have given it some thought. It would be no problem to put it up on the website here, and it could go onto the RSS feed like other podcasts albeit that it would come out of order. It would need to be numbered something like "episode 66a", which is not an insurmountable problem of course. I tend to think I will not do it though, unless I've missed out something that really should have been covered. (Given that people keep saying that they are looking forward to the 19th century and stuff like that, I suspect a lot of listeners would be happier if I just keep pressing on!)

By the way there will also, I hope, be a book version in which I could address themes or figures that didn't get enough attention.



Cristina on 7 March 2012


Dear Peter.

I am deep into your fascinating programs on Plato. Perusing in my library, we don't have the book you recommend, but instead A. E. Taylor, Plato: the Man and His Work. Has it been supersede or is it still a good introduction?



In reply to by Cristina

Peter Adamson on 8 March 2012

A.E. Taylor

Dear Cristina,

I've had to look it up because I don't own a copy myself. This is from the early 20th century so it is certainly dated, I have a soft spot for scholarship from this era and of course it's deeply grounded in a classicist education such as hardly anyone gets nowadays (in fact I think he's presenting Plato more from a classicist rather than philosophical point of view, which I say in the full knowledge that this is a false dichotomy). Probably not the best thing you can read but it might not be a bad start.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Cristina on 9 March 2012

Dear Peter: Thank you very

Dear Peter:
Thank you very much for looking up the book. I will tap into interlibrary loan, so I can get your recommendations.

Thanks again!

Ken is thinking on 10 March 2012

Many Thanks

Hi Peter,
Thanks for the podcast. I can only imagine the amount effort you put into this project. Your work has rekindled my love of thinking.
Many thanks.

eugenia_dg on 12 March 2012

Pearls one stumbles upon in the world wide web

Before my grandchildren are born and come of age to enjoy listening to the MP3s I've downloaded, I'm taking delight myself in your special style. Hopefully it won't sound void if I say that the world is a better place with you (and your podcast) around.

Now, I know what you're thinking (smiles): that I must be listening to them from time to time! Well no, actually I listen to an episode a day, and then again and again; and every time there's a new aspect, a new idea popping up from among the layers of your argumentative discourse: Antiquity revived.

Receive my most heartfelt thanks,


In reply to by Peter Adamson

eugenia_dg on 15 March 2012

Spreading the word

Dear Peter,

There's a bit more to enjoying your series (I've managed to download them all), and I feel you must know about it: I pasted the page link into my educational blog for all my students to have access to the real thing.

Would you say yes to my transcribing one of your episodes (Thaetetus would be just right for the time being)and so use it as a basis for an entry on knowledge and belief?

Sincerely yours,


JKE on 16 March 2012

So, would I be correct in

So, would I be correct in supposing that Middle Platonism/ Neo-Pythagoreanism is soon to follow upon the skepticism episodes?

In reply to by JKE

Peter Adamson on 16 March 2012

Middle Platonism

You bet! Episode 78 (which is already written). I'm just working now on episodes on Philo of Alexandria (79) and Plutarch (80) and there will also be an interview with an expert on Middle Platonism, namely Jan Opsomer. Glad you are curious about these subjects, I have been finding these scripts really interesting to write.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

JKE on 17 March 2012

Sounds great! As I'm sure you

Sounds great! As I'm sure you can imagine, we didn't spend much time (like, any...) on the Middle Platonists in my undergrad history of philosophy course, the little I do know about them has been in my own readings, so I'm looking forward to hearing a couple professionals discuss the matter.

David on 20 March 2012

Time Line

Hi Peter,
Just seen the timeline section. Thankyou for putting this up there I think it will be a great reference point. Enjoyed the last two episodes on Cicero very much.

Kind Regards


Mark on 21 March 2012


Hi Peter,
I wonder if Apuleius, author of "The Golden Ass" and "The God Of Socrates", would figure in your podcast as a "Middle" Platonist? I'm looking forward to your discussion of these intermediary figures, since most studies tend to skip over them in a quick, dismissive paragraph!

In reply to by Mark

Peter Adamson on 21 March 2012


Hi there -- yes, I will cover him somehow. I think probably not in the general episode on Middle Platonism, but rather later on when I talk about Platonism in Latin (the territory covered in Gersh's "Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism: the Latin Tradition") along with Macrobius, for instance. I will probably not do this for a long time though since I will go through Greek Middle and Neo- Platonism first! Thanks, Peter
isaac dumiel on 27 March 2012

short compliment

Hi Peter. I'm looking forward to the interview with A. A. Long, and agree that there couldn't be a more impressive finale for a series of talks on Hellenistic philosophy. I must add however, that I enjoyed your podcasts on Plato more than those on Epictetus and Seneca, where you gave us little of their philosophy in their own words and instead spent the entire time summarizing. I felt we lost some insight into the personality and genius of both Hellenistic authors, as well as their lasting appeal over so many centuries. I'm also looking forward to your presentations of Arab philosophy, as it seems to be an area you know something about. Is this due to a focus on neo-Platonism? That continuity of thought seems important to you. This observation is based only on having heard you on both your own podcast and 'In Our Time', rather than looking at say, your published work, so perhaps it's misguided, but that's my sense anyway. Thanks for reading this far, and for a wonderful podcast. Not that it matters, but since you don't know what kind of audience your effort has attracted, I'll just mention I'm a currently unemployed cancer patient who is largely housebound (I'm sure my situation enhances my interest in Stoicism and Epictetus in particular), and your podcasts help me stay in an intellectually stimulating world rather than one filled with the drudgery of endless medical procedures, etc. Thanks for that. best wishes isaac dumiel (some yahoo formerly at large but now housebound in Seattle WA USA)

In reply to by isaac dumiel

Peter Adamson on 27 March 2012


Thanks very much for the message -- you are right that continuity is important for me, in fact in a way it is the goal of the whole project ("without any gaps") and that is no doubt in part because I work especially on topics that tend to get skipped, namely Neoplatonism and philosophy in the Islamic world. 

I'd be interested to know more what you would have liked to hear in the Roman Stoics episodes -- obviously I had to cover a lot of ground in each episode (true in pretty much every episode of course) but if anything I was more worried about summarizing in Plato than with these guys, because with Plato I had to go over what happens in each dialogue whereas the Roman Stoic episodes were, I thought, more about the main themes that emerge. Or maybe you just want more detail? (After all I did 19 on Socrates and Plato, only one on Seneca!)

Thanks for listening! And I wish you all the best for a speedy recovery.


Anonymous on 28 March 2012

Philosophy podcasts

I just wanted to say thank you so much for creating this fantastic resource; your podcasts are hugely enjoyable and informative!

In reply to by Anonymous

Anonymous on 28 March 2012

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for starting this series! I've been following since the beginning and have shared them with my fellow philosophers at Western Connecticut State University. I hope you can keep on going through the Medieval period, the Renaissance, and beyond.

JKE on 1 April 2012


Peter, would you happen to know where I can find any scholarly information on the Megarians? I've decided to reread the Theaetetus and I figured it might be helpful to know a little about them. The most information I have on them right now is from Cornford's commentary, but he doesn't have a lot to say about their doctrines. Or have their ideas more or less been lost in the mists of time?

In reply to by JKE

Peter Adamson on 2 April 2012


There's a useful section on them in the Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy, so I would point you to that in the first instance. There are also studies of them/collections of testimonia in French (R. Muller) and German (Döring).

Enas on 8 April 2012

Ancient Medicine!

Really so talented work,Thanks so much for your efforts,but can you make an episode just about the history of ancient Greek medicine?!
Thanks in advance!

In reply to by Enas

Peter Adamson on 8 April 2012

Ancient medicine

Hi -- do you mean something more than the episode that went up today? I don't think I'll get more into the topic than that, but I hope that this episode (plus next week's interview about Galen) cover the subject pretty well in its own right, as well as the relation between medicine and philosophy.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Enas on 8 April 2012

Ancient Medicine!

Yes,I mean to get into the history of ancient Greek medicine as I am interested more in that part! Anyway am waiting for the next(Galen is very important source),Thanks so much for your efforts!

In reply to by Enas

Peter Adamson on 8 April 2012

Even more ancient medicine

Ah, I see. Well, this is after all a podcast about philosophy, so I think I will not branch out into other fields for their own sake. But apart from these two episodes I would highly recommend V. Nutton's book listed in the "further reading" on today's episode, that is a comprehensive look at the topic in its own right rather than with a philosophical slant.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Enas on 8 April 2012


Okay then,I got your point! Thanks for your recommendation for this book and am gonna search for it!

Matthew on 9 April 2012

Thanks so much for these

Thanks so much for these podcasts. It's been awesome learning about the history of philosophy, and the origins of a subject that I think is great. I was just curious because you said in the first episode concerning the sceptics that you'll finally be up to Descartes in five years. Will you actually continue up to Descartes, and how long would it take? I would love to hear a podcast on the more contemporary thinkers(relative to the ones being discussed), especially Kant.

In reply to by Matthew

Peter Adamson on 9 April 2012

The far-off moderns

Hi there - glad you are enjoying the podcasts. I was kind of kidding about 5 years until Descartes but, to do some more serious reckoning, I am planning on reaching medieval philosophy at somewhere around episode 115. I will do Islamic medieval first, then Jewish, then Latin Christian medieval. That seems to me like it would take me up to episode 200, though I haven't planned all of it out in detail. Since I do almost 50 episode per year that therefore means at least two more years until I arrive at the Renaissance. At the moment I do plan to keep going from there, though, well into modernity -- at least as far as Kant and perhaps further. Once I get past medieval my competence starts to tail off, so it would be harder, but also a real learning experience and challenge for me, plus it seems silly to stop before reaching such greats as Descartes, Hume, Kant etc. I may need to slow down to one episode every two weeks once I get past medieval, just to make the project manageable, since I'd need to do more background research at that point.

Thanks again!


Dave Macher on 19 April 2012

History of Philosophy Podcasts

Thanks for the podcast series. I appreciate the time and effort you invest in each episode. Your exposition is clear and easy to follow. I very much appreciate the sly humor and puns that help to enliven the series.
I discovered your podcasts while searching for the subject of philosophy. I majored in philosophy many years ago. Your podcasts help to refresh my recollection.
Please keep up the great work. I hope to live long enough to listen to the entire series, which will no doubt total several hundred episodes. WOW! What a huge project to take on.
Best wishes,

Dave Macher

Max on 20 April 2012

Thanks so much for doing this

Thanks so much for doing this podcast, it's been incredibly interesting and informative.

One question though - what do you think of Xenophon? I know you briefly address him in a Socrates episode, and you kind of write him off as a philosopher but say he's great for other things. But you never really address what that is! Anyhow, if you have any time to elaborate, that'd be great.

In reply to by Max

Peter Adamson on 20 April 2012



Thanks to you and the previous poster for the encouragement! As far as Xenophon goes I'm not really an expert on him, but he is definitely an important source on Greek history. For what it's worth I do think that his portrayal of Socrates is interesting and provides an interesting corrective or balance to Plato's: if we are interested in the real historical Socrates I reckon that Xenophon's version is likely to be at least as close to accuracy as Plato's.


Linda on 22 April 2012

Hello Peter, do you think

Hello Peter, do you think you'll be taking on philosophers from different cultures? It would be trail-blazing if you did that via this podcast series.

In reply to by Linda

Peter Adamson on 22 April 2012

Different cultures


I'll definitely be doing Islamic philosophy at great length (that's actually my main area of expertise). Not really planning to do Indian and Chinese philosophy, but you never know... I realize it would be better to include them but I know almost nothing about them so it's daunting.

Thanks for listening!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Linda on 23 April 2012

I was actually thinking about

I was actually thinking about Islamic philosophy, since I was just reading about Al-Andalus, and some other bits and pieces. I didn't want to put any pressure though!

I'll be looking forward to it then. Oh and thank you for the quick reply.


Ben on 28 April 2012

Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou

I listen to these on my iPhone on the drive to & from work.
They are the best thing since
Thank you SO SO much for making them.
I can't tell you how much I look forward to my 25min drive now- I'm often gutted when I actually get home & end up sitting in the car outside my flat for 10mins till you've finished the episode! 8-D

In reply to by Ben

Peter Adamson on 28 April 2012

...and thanks for listening

Gosh, you're welcome! Glad you are enjoying them so much. I seem to be getting less disciplined and letting the episodes get slightly longer (partially because people recommended I should talk slower). So maybe that's why you wind up waiting in your car for me to get through it!


James Woods on 2 May 2012

Platonic dialogues


I am on a mission to acquire all of the Platonic dialogues so I can ease my mind in between stressful bouts of MCAT studying this summer. What translations or collections do you recommend to get my collection started? Thanks much.

In reply to by James Woods

Peter Adamson on 2 May 2012

Plato's dialogues

I'd go with the Hackett collected works volume edited by Cooper; it and some other things are listed here on the top page for Plato and Socrates.

swallerstein on 5 May 2012

great podcasts!!


I haven't reached the Neoplatonisms yet, but I just wanted to thank you for such interesting podcasts.

Actually, I skip some and I've only reached Aristotle. I guess I'll have to go back and read his ethics. Also Plato's Republic.

At this rate, it will take you years and years to reach the 21th century, which is too bad.

Maybe you could just cheat a bit and dash through the Middle Ages and begin again with Descartes.

I doubt that you will do that. You seem like a very conscientious person.

I prefer the Greeks myself. I have the theory that the Greeks lied to themselves less than we do today and much much less than the thinkers of the Middle Ages.

avi chaim on 7 May 2012

Many thanks!!!

Hello Prof Adamson

Many thanks for your excellent podcasts.

With my very best wishes and kind regards,


I am interested in Maimonides and the Islamic Philosophy.

Mitchell on 15 May 2012

I love your podcast so much.

I love your podcast so much. So much that I needed to comment just to say that. Please keep up the subtle humor and thoughtful analysis.

David on 20 May 2012


Hi Peter,

I like the time line you have put up on the site maybe you could put a summary / dictionary of philosophy terms and meanings as a reference point while listening to your podcast . As always I am enjoying this weeks podcast.



In reply to by David

Peter Adamson on 20 May 2012


Hi David,

Hm, that's an interesting idea. Do you or anyone else have suggestions about what it should/could cover? Technical terms (with Greek/Latin/etc. originals listed)? Names of historical movements? It sounds like a useful addition but equally somewhat daunting!



In reply to by Peter Adamson

swallerstein on 20 May 2012


Hello Peter:

For me, the most useful dictionary would be of Greek philosophical terms, using the original Greek word.

I already know a bit of Latin, but Latin would be useful too.

You could show how the meaning of a word, say, happiness (in Greek or Latin), varies from one philosopher to another.

It would be easier on you and probably, a good teaching device if with each new lesson, you featured a new word, instead of drawing up one long list.

In reply to by swallerstein

Peter Adamson on 21 May 2012


Ok, thanks for the advice -- I'll see what I can do. I like the idea of a technical term for each episode (when I was a grad student I used to do "word of the day" in my intro to philosophy class!).

I actually am trying to avoid using technical terminology in the podcast scripts insofar as is possible, and to explain them when I do (like if I say "epistemology" I'll usually add, "that is, the study of knowledge"). But if unfamiliar terms are being left unexplained people should let me know.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Baptiste on 21 May 2012


Hello Peter,

Although I have been studying Greek for 4 years, and Latin for over 7 years, I support this suggestion of a dictionary. It surely is a good way to avoid getting lost in all the different meanings philosophers give to a single word, but it also allows us to remember more easily of these philosophers - by associating a word or a concept with their names.

Also, I wanted to know if any particular knowledge in philosophy, or any readings, were recommended before starting a philosophy course (undergrade)? Be that as it may, I would be delighted to read philosophy at KCL next year.

And of course, congratulations for this wonderful podcast!


In reply to by Baptiste

Peter Adamson on 21 May 2012

Readings before embarking on an undergrad degree

Hi Baptiste,

Actually the KCL Philosophy Dept has suggestions about preparatory reading here. Just to warn you and anyone else who is thinking of coming to King's I am going to be moving to Munich, the LMU, to take up a professorship there, as of this summer. I'll still be connected to the KCL Dept but won't be teaching undergrads anymore. The podcast will continue though! And KCL is with or without me an incredible Department (one of the best in the world for history of philosophy, among other things), so I would have no hesitation in encouraging anyone to apply to any of the degrees.



In reply to by Peter Adamson

Baptiste on 22 May 2012

Good luck

Hi Peter,

Thank you for your prompt answer and for having shared the link.

I have to admit I am disappointed of your leaving. Indeed, I really enjoy your podcast and, having had a look at some of your lecture notes, I think I would have been really pleased to attend these lectures.

However, I wish you all the best in Munich, and good luck with the podcast!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

David on 12 June 2012

Move to Munich

Hi Peter,
I was wondering when you do move will the podcast be still done with Kings or will it be done in conjunction with your new college?Also way back in March you promised to put up the talk you did with sildes .Any news on when that will be up?

Kind Regards


In reply to by Peter Adamson

David Jones on 3 July 2012

Congratulations on appointment

Congrats on the Munich appointment and thanks very, very much for this wonderful series so far. It's always interesting and often rather funny. Keep up with the giraffes.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

David on 21 May 2012


Hi Peter,
I was thinking of the technical terms as there are so many It would be nice while listening if you need to be reminded of a term you could look it up and then if required you could maybe link to wikeapedia or we could and look it up further .


Hermit on 28 May 2012

Important names not to forget

*Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
*Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
*Johann Gottfried Herder
*Gottlob Ernst Schulze (very important critic of Kant)
*Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Antoine Arnauld
Christian Wolff
Heinrich Heine
Friedrich Hölderlin
Friedrich Schiller
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Peter Kropotkin
Max Stirner
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Friedrich Schelling
Jakob Böhme
Karl Leonhard Reinhold
Moses Mendelssohn
Salomon Maimon
Friedrich Schleiermacher
Johann Georg Hamann
Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Some lesser known names you might consider:
Ernst Platner
Johann Augustus Eberhard
Christian Garve
Johann Georg Heinrich Feder

In reply to by Hermit

Hermit on 28 May 2012

Also: Hashdai Crescas When


Hashdai Crescas

When you cover Leibniz, don't forget the great importance of the NEW ESSAYS.
When you cover Spinoza, don't forget his earlier texts, the SHORT TREATISE, the TREATISE ON THE EMENDATION OF THE INTELLECT, and his very important LETTERS. Spinoza's views on duration, time, and eternity (vs. infinity) are very important. Also, his views on the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

In reply to by Hermit

Ben on 28 May 2012



Thanks for all these names!! I’m going to start supplementing my HOPWAG podcasts with a little Wikipedia research from the names you've mentioned. I particularly like the idea of there being a difference between eternity & infinity. I really enjoyed hearing William Lane Craig & Arif Ahmed discuss the difference between an infinite in (set) theory and a bounded infinity occurring in reality... this seems like it might be going down a similar route. I enjoy pulling at definitions for example "soul" & "mind" and seeing where the differences lie - I mean why have two words if they mean the same thing?

As a teacher myself I’m sure that Peter has a bit of an idea about where he wants the series to go and who he wants to include. I teach ICT at secondary school & I often get parents who work in IT giving me long lists of topics that I absolutely MUST include in the children’s education for risk of missing important information. Im just saying that I think the title of the series/podcast leaves itself wide open to a reductio ad absurdum attack - Peter obviously can’t include EVERY philosophical notion ever put to paper.

I'm very grateful for the list - it'll help give me something to google in the morning with my espresso! 8-D

In reply to by Ben

Ben on 28 May 2012

And I’ve just learned who to credit my terrifying Existential Nihilism to. Thanks!

In reply to by Hermit

Peter Adamson on 28 May 2012


Hi there -- thanks very much for this, very useful! I already have episodes on Crescas and Gersonides planned but as most of these names are from much later, I hadn't even thought about them yet (so in this case I definitely didn't know what you were thinking!). Your list includes numerous people who I would have certainly expected to cover with episodes of their own (e.g. Mendelssohn or Fichte) and, I'm not proud to say, some people I've never even heard of. I'll be learning along with everyone else, it seems.

If anyone else has suggestions about people to cover please do post them here; I will be keeping a list of possible topics. Can't promise to cover everything of course but I'll do my best.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Hermit on 29 May 2012

Ferderick C. Beiser is a good

Ferderick C. Beiser is a good source. Many of these original texts are available on

In reply to by Peter Adamson

avi on 5 June 2012


Hello Peter and many thanks.
The podcasts are truly excellent.

Do you think to podcast about S. Augustine and his relation with the neoplatonic tradition?

I am researching now about Epistemology.

My other interest is Maimonides and his relation with Ibn Sina and Al-Farabi about the Intellect.

My best wishes and again thanks,


In reply to by avi

Peter Adamson on 5 June 2012


Hi Avi,

Glad you like the podcasts. Yes, Augustine will get a very thorough treatment, I'm planning 5 episodes on him (currently scheduled as 107-111, I think he'd enjoy our finishing him on that rather Trinitarian number). And of course I will certainly cover al-Farabi, Avicenna and Maimonides!


eugenia_dg on 3 June 2012

Atemporal thanks

My comments today focus on the soothing belief (or relief, if you will) that for years and years the RSS feed will present me with your Sunday episode! Thank you again for the routine you developed, as well as for the dedication, and the enthusiasm you show in every podcast.

Not writing on a regular basis doesn't mean I'm not 'there' - as is all the rest, of course!

Your Theaetetus is doing well; every new discoverer of my blog systematically visits both entries, and the counts are promising!

All my best wishes,
Eugenia DG
Madrid - Spain

In reply to by eugenia_dg

Peter Adamson on 5 June 2012


Epicurus says that happiness lies in wanting for nothing and having an expectation that one will continue to avoid suffering in the future. So if it helps I can confirm I plan to keep going for quite some time! ("Years and years" sounds like a good start, anyway.)


In reply to by Peter Adamson

eugenia_dg on 5 June 2012


It does help, Peter, and thank you.

It's just that I could hardly adhere to Epicurianism, and in fact I haven't even tried.
'I wanna know
I wanna know
I-wan-na know'(Amos Lee music in the background).

I want to know what makes humans human, and how much of that is left for them to be humane (I'm not joking).

But then again I want to know what happened to the philosophical thought when it got entangled in religious speculations.

And you have quite a few things to say to help (me, and others) disentangle the conundrum!


Philosopher on 9 June 2012

Real philosophy

I can't wait until you cover Schleiermacher and Schulze. Thank you so much for this podcast!

JKE on 9 June 2012


Hi Peter, once again, thanks for all your hard work on this podcast. I recently recommended it to a friend of mine with a casual interesting in philosophy and (I think) he's enjoying it.

I just noticed that in the comments section of the Pythagoras episode you mentioned doing an interview with a Serafina Cuomo on the subject of ancient mathematics. Might this ever come to pass, especially with Platonism coming back into the fore?

In reply to by JKE

Peter Adamson on 9 June 2012

Serafina Cuomo

Hi, thanks for recommending the podcast! Yes, the interview with her has already been recorded and will be released in a few weeks as episode 86, I think it is.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

JKE on 9 June 2012

Cool, looking forward to it!

Cool, looking forward to it!

Marty on 11 June 2012

Intro to Philosophy

I've finished through podcast #84, as many as there are so far. It's really quite good. What books can I get that might serve as a mini-library devoted to what you cover here?

In reply to by Marty

Peter Adamson on 11 June 2012


Hi there,

Glad you are enjoying the series. Have you had a look at the bibliography recommended on the top pages of each section? (That is, click on e.g. "Aristotle" at the top of the drop-down menu here on the website.) That should give you plenty to choose from, but regarding what we've looked at so far if you want primary texts the things to get are:

Presocratics: Kirk, Raven and Schofield

Plato: The Complete Dialogues from Hackett

Aristotle: the two volume Complete Works edited by Barnes

Hellenistic: Long and Sedley

Neoplatonism: Gerson and Dillon reader from Hackett


Hope that helps,


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Marty on 11 June 2012


I went from podcast to podcast and didn't see that there was a top page for each section. Everything is there.

Jamie Churcher on 12 June 2012

Keep up the good work

Hi Peter

I wanted to let you know that what you are doing is great because for a non philosophy student like myself, but who has spent my University time on other disciplines, your podcasts are covering what would take me years in my spare time to read in books.

Keep up the good work and I'm looking forward to the Renaissance period and beyond....but I appreciate that could be a while yet:-)

Thanks for all your hard work that must go into the Podcast series.

Jo on 16 June 2012

Alan Saunders - The Philosopher's Zone

Dear Peter and other HOF-WAGs

I just wanted to let those of you outside Australia know that our own brilliant public philosophy broadcaster, Dr Alan Saunders, sadly died suddenly yesterday. Some of you might have heard him via The Philosopher's Zone podcasts on ABC Radio National.

Alan's work, although with an entirely different remit, had a similar tone and approach to Peter's work here. He too had a PhD in philosophy, and did much to spread a love of this pursuit amongst the general population.

In case anyone is interested, there is a tribute to him on the following website. The material presented is from his other show 'By Design' - which looked at issues of architecture and design. But is one last chance to see the man and to hear his beautiful dulcet voice.…

In reply to by Jo

Peter Adamson on 16 June 2012

Alan Saunders

Thanks for the link. As I mentioned on Twitter and Facebook I was a big fan of the Philosopher's Zone, and enjoyed being on it a couple of times. It's terrible news.

Angie on 26 June 2012

Thanks and congratulations!


Thank you for the podcast. Each episode is engaging and I've been inspired to further study many of the philosophers and movements you cover. I imagine it's quite a bit of work and I really do appreciate it. I saw on the King's College website that you will be starting as a Chair at the University of Munich in September. Congratulations on the new position. Will you continue to record the podcasts in Germany? I hope you'll be able to complete this ambitious, important project.


In reply to by Angie

Peter Adamson on 27 June 2012

Service as usual from Munich

Hi Angie,

Thanks, I'm glad you are enjoying the series. Yes, I will continue to do the podcast from Munich (and in English still!), although as last year there will be a month-long break in August.

Vielen Dank,


Thomas Scarpelli on 27 June 2012

Wasted College Tuition

Excellent podcast Peter. Had I discovered this in January 2012 I could haved save a bundle of cash and listened to your teaching rather than my Philosophy 101 class. Of course if I hadn't taken the class, my love of philosophy may have remained unexplored so perhaps it wasn't a total waste :)

Thank you for the effort and no doubt the philosophers of history are smiling on you.


In reply to by Thomas Scarpelli

Peter Adamson on 27 June 2012

Philosophy 101

Hi Thomas,

Thanks very much! My own love of philosophy was first kindled in a Philosophy 101 class (Williams College, taught by Plato expert Rachel Rue) so we have something in common.

Thanks for listening,


Anders K Németh on 8 July 2012

Dear Peter, Wonderfull show,

Dear Peter,

Wonderfull show, I look forward to every new episode, and recommends it to anyone I know in Denmark who listens to podcasts.

Anders K Németh
Copenhagen, Denmark

In reply to by Anders K Németh

Peter Adamson on 8 July 2012


Thanks very much! I went to Copenhagen to give a talk last year, it's a really beautiful city. Nice to think of the podcast being listened to there.

EugeniaDG on 8 July 2012

HoP sleep-teaching lessons

Dear Peter,

Strange as this might seem, I've been sleep-learning quite a lot since I stumbled upon your podcast. Why sleep-learning? Well, because I discovered that, better than music, the contents of your podcasts and the modulations of your voice diminish the intensity of, or even chase away, the nagging tinnitus I suffer from.

Contrary to what Huxley might have believed, sleep-learning through your episodes is far from inculcating dogmatic thoughts - not into my mind, anyway. What they actually made me recover was an invaluable dimension: synchronization between here and now. Isn't this what scientists say about the space-time continuum?

The ideas carried by your voice have recently stepped into my dreams as lessons to learn, books that I must read, people with whom I share the same beliefs, revelations about truths, and the surprise of re-discovering that everything has already been there before.

Hopefully you won't feel I've written too often, or that what I say is somehow out of the way. Be as it may, it's the plain truth.

Yours sincerely,

Eugenia DG

Adam on 12 July 2012


Since you mention them so much, might I suggest you visit Natural Bridge Zoo if you are ever stateside again. You can feed the giraffes there! It's pretty lax for a zoo; the giraffes reach over the fence and eat from your hand. I scratched a chin--I tried to touch an ossicone, but I suppose to all things a limit.

In reply to by Adam

Peter Adamson on 12 July 2012


I didn't even know the term "ossicone," but thanks to you it is my new favorite word. (For the benefit of those not in the know it means those little horns on the giraffes' heads.) I will try to work this into an episode script.

I was at the London Zoo recently and a giraffe came right up to a platform I was standing on so that its head was about 2 meters away, perhaps. Very exciting. They are unsettlingly big animals; I imagine feeding one would be quite an adventure!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Adam on 16 July 2012

expanding vocabulary

Glad I could do my small part in introducing new words, Peter. Feeding the giraffes was incredibly fun; since their tongues reach you well before any teeth, it's much less fraught with peril than feeding, say, a horse.

Grea on 14 July 2012

Love the podcasat - small suggestion

hey long time listener to this fabulous podcast, just wanted to say thanks so much for keeping it going AND make a small suggestion.

I'd be really cool and convenient if we could download all the episodes on a given period as a single archive or something. That way if i want to brush up on the presocratics this week before going out on a date with the girl who's studying philosophy down the road (true story! lol), well it makes it that much easier.

Overall i love the podcast and thank you so much for it!!

In reply to by Grea

Peter Adamson on 16 July 2012

The dating game, and downloading

Hi there -- I hadn't realized that the podcast might be useful in the dating arena, but am very pleased to hear about it! Hope that it worked out (if there is still time, let me especially suggest Empedocles since he claims that Love is a principle that rules the universe... you can leave out the part about Strife).

Downloading each section all at once is an interesting idea. I'll look into whether it's feasible. In the meantime you could subscribe to the RSS feed at this link here. And that would allow you simply to download all the episodes in one go, albeit not one "section" at a time.


Erik Holkers on 15 July 2012

On the podcast

Hi Peter

Thank you so much for making this Podcast.
Philosophy is one of the things I Always wanted to do before dying, but of course never got to it and never would. Even bought the Copleston's books about 25 years ago, but left them unread. Daily live is keeping me busy with all sorts of things, work and family etc. I am listening now to your podcasts when travelling (every day).

What's more, I never found Philosophy explained in such a clear and understandable way.

Please keep on doing it.


In reply to by Erik Holkers

Peter Adamson on 16 July 2012

Commuting with the podcast

Hi there,

We actually turned up the volume on the podcasts in recent months, with commuters in mind (though we turned it back down a bit more recently, since it was causing the sound to go a bit fuzzy). I sometimes listen to podcasts on the way to work too. Glad you are enjoying it. But if you really listen every day you'll catch up with me before long and have to wait a week for the new ones!


David Tanner on 24 July 2012

podcast music?

Hi Peter,

I discovered your podcast a week or two ago and I am listening ravenously, if ravenously is a way you can listen to something. I'm new to philosophy and I've been listening to the "back catalog" here, starting with the Presocratics, and I'm now halfway through Plato.

My question is, what is the music you're using to open and close the podcast? It's starting to have an almost Pavlovian effect on me. I guess listening "ravenously" might be a product of mentally "salivating"?

Dave Tanner

In reply to by David Tanner

Peter Adamson on 24 July 2012

The music

Hi Dave -- the music is by Stefan Hagel, an expert on classical music. His website ( is the source for both clips I've been using. As you'll see when you get there I start with a new clip when I get to Hellenistic philosophy. I'm still looking for a good clip for Islamic philosophy if anyone has any suggestions! Thanks, Peter

In reply to by David Tanner

Peter Adamson on 18 September 2012

Music from the Islamic world

Thanks for the tip! I see what you mean, track 5 is especially good. But I have actually been in touch with some musicians directly about this now because I can get permission from them to use their tracks, so no need for copyright worries. And I've got some really good music I think, I'm excited about it.

Next thing I need would be gregorian chant I guess...

Thanks again,


JKE on 24 July 2012

The Logos?

Hi Peter,

I was just reading Ennead I.3 (On Dialectic), and I see that in the MacKenna translation the word “Term“ is used quite a bit. Does this translate ′logos′, or some other word?

In reply to by JKE

Peter Adamson on 24 July 2012

"The term"


Hi -- you're right, this is used in MacKenna's translation of chapter 1. Checking this against the Greek, I don't think it actually corresponds to any technical term Plotinus is using. In the second sentence of the translation ("The Term at which we must arrive we may take as agreed: we have established elsewhere, by many considerations, that our journey is to the Good, to the Primal-Principle; and, indeed, the very reasoning which discovered the Term was itself something like an initiation") the Greek just speaks of "where" (hopou) we are trying to go, following on from the first sentence. (Armstrong translates accurately: "What art is there, what method or practice, which will take us up there where we must go? Where that is... we can take as agreed...") So basically MacKenna is misleading here, which to be frank is not that uncommon. If you want to get a closer sense of what the Greek is and when there are technical terms in play Armstrong is a far better guide, albeit not one available for free on the internet!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

JKE on 25 July 2012

First, thanks for the

First, thanks for the thoughtful reply, I realize you're probably busy with moving right now (as am I, incidentally), so thanks for taking the time.

But anyway, looking at the Armstrong against the MacKenna is certainly inclining me towards the Loeb edition. I really am interested in learning more about Plotinus (and in particular his rationalism), but sometimes the MacKenna translations is so flowery as to be practically unreadable. I might pick up the Loeb Ennead V, but it's a shame that Hackett or some such publisher hasn't made a better translation more available.

In reply to by JKE

Peter Adamson on 25 July 2012

Loeb vs MacKenna

Yes, the only real problem with the Loeb volumes is the cost -- especially if you buy all 7. (You could do what I did and ask for it for Christmas from your parents some year. Thanks Mom and Dad!) But seriously, I believe that Lloyd Gerson is leading a team to re-translate the Enneads into English without facing-page Greek, and that should be more affordable. Parmenides publishing is launching a new series of translations of single volumes with commentary and these should also be reasonably priced.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

JKE on 25 July 2012

New Enneads

Oh really? That sounds great! Any idea when these new translations might be out?

In reply to by JKE

Peter Adamson on 25 July 2012

New Enneads

I'm not sure, but I believe that they are pretty advanced with it, so possibly 2013? I'll try to remember to post about it in facebook and/or Twitter when it is out.

Max White on 30 July 2012

Damnit I've nearly caught up

I have so much love for this podcast, I've never ever felt the need to message feedback as fan for anything else before but this has truely been phenominial!

I've always enjoyed the occasional listen to IOT but I just now listened to you on there and you really outclass with you concise, easy to understand and getting the actual important part, way of explaining :) Superb!

My knowledge of philosophy outside this podcast stopped at Aristotle and jumped straight to Descartes so I have now idea how many philosophers you going to have to cover, do you even know? How many have you got planned or is that a secret?

In reply to by Max White

Peter Adamson on 30 July 2012

Future episodes

Thanks very much, I'm glad you are enjoying the podcast! The future planned episodes are not a secret, but on the other hand the plan gets increasingly sketchy into the future. Basically I think that late antiquity, including Christian thinkers (the Church Fathers, Cappadocians, a glance at early Byzantine philosophy, and finally Augustine and Boethius) will take me until episode 113 or so. Then it's Islamic and Jewish medieval philosophy, which I hope to finish as of episode 150 exactly. After that, Latin medieval and the Renaissance, I'd imagine that's got to be at least another 30. So, we are not getting to Descartes any time soon I'm afraid! Early Modern might be happening as we get up towards episode 200. Ridiculous, I know.

Thanks again,


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Max White on 3 August 2012

Ridiculous Indeed

Thanks, I'm now going away to wikipedia as much as I can so I've got a better perspective, I looked up Avicenna because you mention him on the homepage but now I see even he'll be awhile yet...Keep up the good work.


David O'Reilly on 3 August 2012

Thank you Peter!

I'd like to say many thanks Peter for these amazing podcasts. I'm pretty new to the subject and had been reading a few 'intro to philosophy' type books and then I found these.

I'm flying through them at a great rate and didn't even realise that the series is on-going - cool! Although I'm not looking forward to having to wait for each episode ;(

It's incredibly thought provoking stuff (haha, that comment alone is showing how much I don't know about this subject!) and I plan on searching out the actual texts produced by these incredible/wierd minds, but what a daunting prospect - theres so many!

Anyway, many, many thanks :)


In reply to by David O'Reilly

Peter Adamson on 3 August 2012

Provoking of thought

Thanks David for that very encouraging feedback! I guess if you are moved to turn to the texts I'm discussing, you can't do better than Plato; he's not only the source of what comes later but also about as good as it gets in terms of depth, philosophical insight, and also being a fairly enjoyable read for the most part. But I should also say that if you go to the top page in each category you will find suggestions for further reading (with more specific stuff on each podcast episode site).

Happy listening!


Bertrand on 4 August 2012


Hi Peter,
Thank you so much for your work, this is absolutely awesome! Good luck with your move to Germany.

Adam on 6 August 2012


Thank you for the podcasts! Also, I was wondering if you could tell me what instrument is played at the beginning and end of the presocratic ones?

In reply to by Adam

Peter Adamson on 6 August 2012

First music clip

Thanks! It's an "aulos" which is a double flute. If you page down these comments you'll see the link to the website where I found it. The second clip, used as of the episodes on Late Antiquity, is a zither.


Alexis on 7 August 2012

thank you for this wonderful podcast

Hello Peter,
I just wanted to take the time to thank you deeply for this amazing podcast! I am currently studying law in Toulouse and was introduced to philosophy via philosophy of law. I was immediately fascinated by the subject and, alongside writing many books, have been searching for good podcasts to listen to. Yours are truly the best.

At the moment i am juggling between the complete works of Plato (the desert island book) and your podcasts on Plato. As you said, i see many ideas of more recent philosophers in these dialogues. For example the sophist distinction between custom and nature reminds me greatly of the works of Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau and the distinction of the natural state and the societal state.

I thank you very much for this immense source of interest and intellectual treasure. I hope you can carry this on in Germany and wish you good luck.

In reply to by Alexis

Peter Adamson on 7 August 2012

Philosophy of law

Hi there -- thanks for getting in touch! I'm glad that you are enjoying the podcast. I agree with you that the history of philosophy is extremely relevant to theory of law, and in fact this is something that will be tackled in a future episode because in the special 100th episode one of my guests will be an expert on ancient law. This should air in late October or so, I guess.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Alexis on 8 August 2012

Philosophie and Law

Exactly, in fact this coming year we are going to be introduced to pure theory of law, although i have read quite a bit on it and, as you said, it is linked to philosophy. For example Kelsen uses Kant´s transcendental norme i believe.
The 100th episode sounds very interesting as we have only studied ancient roman law, will you be tackling ancient greek law and it´s link with philosophers? I seem to recall you saying that some laws were drafted by various sophistes.
I am almost at episode 30 of your podcast and, as always, it makes me regret not having taken up philosophy!

In reply to by Alexis

Peter Adamson on 17 August 2012

more on law

Sorry, I should have responded to this comment more promptly -- anyway episode 100 is really in part about the transition from Greek to Roman culture but as I recall (it was recorded a couple of months ago already) we mostly talked only about Roman law, not Greek. But that's a very good point, that philosophers and sophists have throughout antiquity actually been involved in devising laws and other political institutions, both in reality and as an abstract project (e.g. Plato's Laws). Plotinus' attempt to found "Platonopolis" comes to mind.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Alexis on 27 August 2012

Philosophy and specialisation

I am not yet at episode 100 but am very interested to see ancient law discussed from a philosophical point of view.
It's interesting that those ancient philosophers were involved in the legal creations. I actually find fascinating how for them, at least that's how i understand it, everything can be studied together. One wouldn't be scorned for applying oneself to philosophy, mathematics, law and politics. It's frustrating that nowadays we are forced quite early on into over specialisation and have to choose a particular branch of a particular subject, so that we can become an "expert" in our choosen domain.
Having finished Plato and having already read beforehand quite a bit of Nietzsche, i have decided to move on to Heraclitus who, was mentionned by both and whom i found quite interesting thanks to your podcasts.
I thank you once again for this work and hope you can acheive immortality to complete this work or immortality by completing it!

Luke De Smet on 9 August 2012

Thank you!

The podcasts are truly fantastic-- I've burned through the first 50 and I'm looking forward to exploring ancient philosophy after Aristotle, which is a definite blind spot.

I graduated with a degree in philosophy in 2009 and, as I'm sure is true of most philosophy graduates, I now live a life where opportunities to discuss (let alone "do") philosophy are rare. These podcasts are just the thing I needed to keep the topics fresh in my mind, and keep me encouraged to continue my study, if only informally.

Also, even at the undergraduate level academic philosophy encourages specialization to such an extent that I was left with more than a few "gaps" that required closing.

In reply to by Luke De Smet

Peter Adamson on 12 August 2012


Thanks very much! Yes, in fact I think it would be simply impossible to pack the whole history of philosophy into any undergraduate degree course. In fact after spending my whole adult life learning about history of philosophy I am having to fill quite few gaps in my own knowledge as I go along -- reading up on the antique Christian thinkers now, for instance. I'm glad that the podcasts are supplementing your previous studies!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Adam on 30 September 2012

Agreement, and Christian antiquity

I must say I agree with Luke both about the gaps left in an undergraduate philosophy degree and the paucity of philosophical discourse left to us who haven't made our way back to the academy afterwards. Also, Peter, while you're reading up on your Antique Christians, can I suggest my own teacher's book "Augustine's Invention of the Inner Self" (Phil Cary)? I think it is a well-argued work from a brilliant man; he has more on Augustine's semiotics, but I haven't been able to get to them yet.

Adam on 17 August 2012

Crooked timber

Peter, "The Decorated Corpse" brought to mind a quote I attempted to use in my philosophy/theology major days; I couldn't recall who wrote it then, either. "Out of the crooked timber of matter (humanity?) no straight thing was ever made." Ring a bell?

In reply to by Adam

Peter Adamson on 17 August 2012

Crooked timber

Yes, definitely -- apparently's it was said by no less a person than Kant, "Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden." But maybe made famous in this English version by Isaiah Berlin.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Adam on 21 August 2012

Ahh, Kant. What's he doing

Ahh, Kant. What's he doing sounding like a neo-platonist? I guess the good will that is good, even when it can do no good action, is non-material?

Opa Schmidt on 20 August 2012

Love the podcast

Just wanted to say that I am working my way through all the podcasts and am really enjoying them.

Thank you for your work.

Eric Evans on 27 August 2012

Thanks for a giant task well done...


I first heard you on In Our Time and looked you up and found this. As with many people, I've been burning through the podcasts and am just at the end of Plato. I'm a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in Toronto and after many years of reading about the always-already illogical, the contradictory, the unsaid, unthought, unsayable, it is a huge relief to listen to how philosophy does indeed try to see the world as making some sense - or at least in the trying, we make sense of ourselves. I was not trained in philosophy - although I have read a great deal of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty who seem to lend themselves well to an existential view of psychotherapy (Sarte and Camus notwithstanding!) and I wish now that I had taken more time with it. Earlier, I was a musician and have a degree in it - a discipline that did not encourage much close reading - unless it was Beethoven or Bach! So thank you for this. It's an incredibly ambitious task you have set yourself and I find it inspiring that you are prevailing - and enjoying yourself along the way!

In reply to by Eric Evans

Peter Adamson on 27 August 2012


Thanks, that's very encouraging! Music, psychology, and now philosophy -- you would have made a good Neoplatonist! Actually a lot of the action these days in contemporary philosophy is in the relation between psychology/psychotherapy and philosophy of mind. King's is actually very strong in this area, you could have a look at the KCL Philosophy website and check out the publications of colleagues of mine like David Papineau and Matteo Mameli -- you might find them interesting.

Thanks again,


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Eric Evans on 27 August 2012


Hi Peter,

Thanks so much for the suggestions, I'll have a look. I never thought of myself as a Neoplatonist, and in fact, hadn't thought there was a another name for being easily distracted! I wonder if I could ask you for a recommendation for reading: I have heard a lot about the Stoics in psychotherapeutic circles, but no one has been able to give me any direction on who/what to read of them - is there something I might start with?

Again, thanks for your podcast and your work.


In reply to by Eric Evans

Peter Adamson on 2 September 2012

Stoic psychology

Hi Eric,

Sorry, I posted a response but it seems to have gone missing! What I said was that you might want to check out Christopher Gill's work, for instance his book on "The Structured Self." And for primary texts you can't go wrong with Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations," and Epictetus "Discourses" or for something shorter, the "Handbook." Happy reading!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Eric Evans on 3 September 2012


Thanks much! I will add them to the ever-growing pile on my desk...


David Tanner on 4 September 2012

two questions, mostly about knowledge

Hi Peter,

So I have listened through to the end of the Hellenistic period while simultaneously reading Anthony Kenny's _New History of Western Philosophy_.

My first question is the following. It seems to me that as we move from the Presocratics to the Hellenistic period, the overall scope of inquiry shifts from the nature of the universe (Thales, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Democritus) to knowledge (Socrates, Plato) to how to live free from disturbance (Epicurus, Stoics, Skeptics). If this is accurate, the scope of inquiry seems to be drawing inward (ontology -> epistemology -> ethics), with the life of the individual coming more and more into focus. Would you agree? If you agree, do you think there is a correlation with changes in the societies where philosophy was practiced (Athenian colonies -> classical Athens -> Alexandrian empire -> Roman Republic -> Roman Empire)?

Here's the second question, which has a few subquestions. With Socrates and Plato, it seems urgent to establish what real knowledge is, distinguishing knowledge from true belief. The urgency seems to come from Socrates' and Plato's desire to know what virtue is. As philosophy evolves to the Stoics and Skeptics it seems that the theory of knowledge becomes more and more subtle but also much more cautious, with the Stoics falling back to the cognitive impression and the Skeptics falling back even further to provisional belief. Would you agree that the hopeful goal of epistemological inquiry becomes more and more provisional in these eras (Knowledge -> True Belief -> Cogitive Impression -> Provisional Belief)?

The next subquestion is something I find amusing and puzzling. While all the philosophers seem to be very interested in ascertaing how someone might know something, no one seems to be interested in specifying a particular known thing, or even in defining what form a known thing might take. Democritus postulates the atom as the indivisible unit of the physical stuff of the universe, and describes the different properties that different types of atoms might have. But I am still unsure what the basic unit of knowledge might be. Would it take the form of a proposition, that is, a sentence with a subject and predicate that is either true or untrue? Are there philosophers who attempted to compile lists of "knowledge atoms," known propositions? Are there philosophers who attempted to create systems for generating known propositions, like Whitehead and Russell did for true statements in the domain of number theory (_Principia Mathematica_)?

I apologize for the density of subquestions in here.

Thanks very much,


Dave Tanner

In reply to by David Tanner

Peter Adamson on 4 September 2012

Two or more questions

Dear Dave,

Wow, those are some good and difficult questions. I'll do my best:

1. I certainly agree that there is a turn towards ethics and actually even a turn towards increasingly "interior" approaches to ethics and psychology (in Epictetus and Neoplatonism, especially). The shift in the direction of ethics though seems to me to start more with Socrates. I think the linear story you tell is perhaps too simple because Socrates actually seems to have been more interested in "how to live" and at most secondarily worried about knowledge and metaphysics, which however are just as important as ethics for Plato and Aristotle. The historical context question is more difficult but it's frequently said that the "freedom from disturbance" goal pursued in Hellenistic philosophy, in place of the political engagement suggested by Plato and Aristotle, is a reaction to the political emasculation of the aristocracy in the wake of Alexander’s conquests. I think I mentioned this in one episode – it might be true to some extent. But it’s notable that Hellenistic philosophy is successful in Roman culture already during the republic, when the aristocracy is certainly not emasculated. And Socrates, who begins this “inward turn,” lived in still-democratic Athens. So that historical story is at least too simple.

2. I think I disagree on your second point because I don’t see the Stoic epistemological position as in any way cautious. To the contrary I think it is an extreme view: the cognitive impression is one that gives us guaranteed certainty because it cannot be wrong. The Skeptics, at least the Academics, are also extreme but in the other direction: they deny the possibility of knowledge. Only the Pyrrhonian skeptics and maybe the Epicureans display the kind of caution you are talking about here (albeit in different ways). I think it’s also notable that the Middle and Neo- Platonists retain the extreme views of both Skeptics and Stoics, in that they outline areas where knowledge fails (the First Principle, matter), and where knowledge is free from all possible doubt (intellection). And that happens too in the ancient Christians. So broadly I would if anything see the post-Aristotelian period as a free-for-all followed by the triumph of extreme views at the expense of the pragmatism we find in the Epicureans and Pyrrhonians.

3. This point about the items of knowledge is a really difficult but important question. I think it is probably different depending on the authors we are talking about. The clearest case is probably the Stoics: they think that knowledge relates closely to “sayables (lekta)” and thus there should be a pretty easy translation of the contents of knowledge into something like linguistically structured propositions, if not actual items of language (sentences). Aristotle, as a pioneer of logic, also seems to think that knowledge can at least be captured in language or in propositional form. But he hints in On Interpretation that what is in the soul is not actually language, but is something that is rendered differently in various natural languages. Still, it is probably propositional in form, hence the ability of logic to analyze it. The Platonists are tricky, there is a big debate about whether Plotinus thinks that intellection is propositional or something more unified like a “pure seeing”; but I lean towards the former view. As I say, though, this is a deep issue and would call for detailed discussion about each author or school. If you want to get into the details of any particular thinker I'd be happy to do that, of course.

Thanks for writing in!




In reply to by Peter Adamson

Peter Adamson on 4 September 2012

...and incidentally

By the way I've avoided reading other single-author histories of philosophy, for fear of unintentionally imitating them. So I'd be curious to know how Kenny differs from me in terms of approach or emphasis, if anything struck you. I do know his work on Aristotle and Aquinas of course but I haven't read the History.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

David Tanner on 5 September 2012

Kenny's _New History_

In his introduction, Kenny says there is a tension between writing a coherent history of something and mining philosophical history for its ideas. He notes that most philosophers (starting with Aristotle) write about philosophical history in order to call attention to something imperfect or incomplete, which they then propose to remedy. Many historians, on the other hand, may be more attuned to events than ideas. He proposes to attend to both. He does it by first presenting a historical narrative with the philosophers' lives front and center, then presenting a series of topics, each covering the same historical era -- for example, logic, epistemology, physics, metaphysics, ethics, and God.

I'm not sure if it's this style of presentation or his assumption that his readers would already be familiar with the material, but I found it somewhat difficult to grasp the first time through. Then I discovered your podcast, and many things clicked in to place. I'm re-reading the first book (Antiquity) now and it's much clearer for having listened to the podcasts. I plan to listen to specific podcasts again as I delve deeper into specific philosophers.

Thanks again for an amazing resource.

In reply to by David Tanner

Peter Adamson on 5 September 2012

new histories

Ok, thanks -- that's also interesting. I think that one has to look at both the historical narrative and the ideas but also to show how these interrelate. Of course that can be a lot of balls to have in the air at one time so I do often find that my scripts (or parts of scfripts) are more "philosophical" or more "historical" -- ideally the goal is to have both going on at the same time though!

Certainly it's good to complement the podcasts with other sources if you have the time, since my take on this material will be inevitably partial and affected by my own interests etc.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

David Tanner on 5 September 2012

items of knowledge

I will definitely follow up as I start reading specific philosophers. I plan on starting with Plato in the near future. One reason I'm interested in this topic is that I am a visual artist, among other things, and I intuit a relationship -- some kind of relationship -- between epistemology and representation. In epistemology you might say there is a "mapping" between the "set" of thoughts and the "set" of existing things.…

Likewise, in visual representation there is a mapping between the image or form depicted and the existing thing or things. So knowing what a canonical item of knowledge in the domain of propositional thought is, I might be able to identify what an item of knowledge in the domain of representational art or aesthetics might be.

In reply to by David Tanner

Peter Adamson on 5 September 2012


That's interesting. For this topic you'd probably find more recent philosophy (like, since the Empiricists) more relevant; contemporary epistemologists talk about representations all the time, and if you pick up any basic textbook on Epistemology you'll see a lot about this topic. There's a lot of relevant stuff on the online Stanford Encyclopedia for instance this page.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

David Tanner on 8 November 2012

items of knowledge -- greek word?

Hi Peter,

As a follow-on to the question about items of knowledge, I was wondering if there was a Greek word, or if it was possible to coin a Greek word, that has "episteme" as its root but means a particle of such. Given that I have no knowledge of Greek whatsoever, I thought maybe "epistemon" might fit this description, but apparently it means "someone who has knowledge" and not "an item of knowledge." Any suggestions you might have would be appreciated.


In reply to by David Tanner

Peter Adamson on 10 November 2012

An object of knowledge

That's a nice question, thanks. The verb that underlies episteme is epistamai (ἐπίσταμαι) and you can form a noun on the basis of this verb, to episteton (τὸ ἐπιστητόν). This would mean "that which is known" or perhaps "such as to be known." I had a check and Aristotle does use this in Posterior Analytics (so checking quickly I found  a case in Posterior Analytics I.4). It's worth stressing though that the word episteme itself can mean not only the mental condition or attainment of knowledge, but also that which is known. In this sense episteme is often translated as "science," for instance geometry would be a science (an episteme). I guess though that to episteton would be closer to what you have in mind, i.e. a particular item of knowledge.

jim keogh on 24 September 2012


Hi Peter, i'm loving these pod cast. can you tell me how long they will be on here as i cannot down load them ..... jim

In reply to by jim keogh

Peter Adamson on 24 September 2012


Hi Jim,

Well, the site should be here pretty much forever, I hope (or until they invent something better to replace the internet). However it should be pretty easy to download the episodes; have you tried going straight to the RSS feed which is here?



In reply to by jim keogh

David Tanner on 24 September 2012

history of philosophy on itunes

Hey Jim,

If you go to the iTunes store and into the Podcast area, you'll find the History of Philosophy podcast there. You can download all the episodes.


In reply to by jim keogh

jim keogh on 25 September 2012


Thanks Dave i will do that.. i am enjoying them so much..... Jim

Nooj on 25 September 2012

Peter, will you talk about

Peter, will you talk about al-Ghazali as well?

In reply to by Nooj

Peter Adamson on 25 September 2012


Will I! You bet, I am planning quite a few episodes on Islamic philosophy including one on Ash'arism and then two on Ghazali himself. Might roll around in spring 2013, I would say.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Nooj on 26 September 2012

Awesome. I can't wait (no

Awesome. I can't wait (no really, this will be worse than waiting for the next ASOIAF book).

Joshua on 29 September 2012


Hi Peter,
I am 12 years of age (getting 13 in dec. 16. 2012). I loved philosophy, even before I heard from my uncle, about your podcast. Everywher I looked, I read about Thales, as being recognised the first philosopher ever. But, if you have ever read a bible, I will bring you a few philosophical books from there.


In reply to by Joshua

Peter Adamson on 29 September 2012

Bible as philosophy

Thanks for writing -- you must be one of the youngest listeners! I'm really glad that you get something out of the podcast.

I have pondered this question about how to handle scriptural texts -- not only the Hebrew Bible but also the New Testament and later the Koran. My feeling is that it is stretching the concept of "philosophy" too far to include such texts as direct contributions to the history of philosophy (this could also be disrespectful: if you think that God revealed such texts then treating them as if they were on a par with human works of philosophy would be problematic to say the least). Actually the same issue arose right at the start when I looked at Homer and Hesiod and discussed what is different between them and the Pre-Socratics.

To me philosophy is about drawing conceptual distinctions, giving arguments, and so on, which is not really what we find in the Bible, mostly at least. You are right to draw attention to some partial exceptions, such as Job which is clearly reflecting on the problem of evil, albeit not quite as philosophical text would; and some of Jesus' statements in the NT are arguably philosophical. In any event I decided not to include these texts (or Jesus, whom some see as a philosopher) directly; the Biblical inheritance is instead going to be covered in exhaustive (maybe exhausting) detail, starting in episode 101 when I begin to do late ancient Christian philosophy. Also relevant is the already appeared episode on Philo of Alexandria, though.

Thanks again for writing!


Joshua on 30 September 2012


Hi Peter,
It is me again.
Your young listener from Canada, Toronto, Scarborough.
I wander, what can you say about the Bible. Well, I am sure you have read it. And do you recognise this book as the only book of the books? I look forward to your answer.
Thank you for answering my questions.

In reply to by Joshua

Peter Adamson on 1 October 2012

Book of books

Hi again Joshua,

Well, as should become clear as the series goes along, I am very interested in the history of philosophy in Christianity, and for that matter Islam and Judaism, so I'll be saying a lot about it and trying to approach it sympathetically as I do with other parts of the history of philosophy. As for whether the Bible is the "book of books" I think that is more a matter of personal religious conviction than an issue I can discuss with my historian of philosophy hat on.



Saad B. on 1 October 2012

Where to study Arabic philosophy?

Ciao Peter,

I have recently completed my undergraduate studies in philosophy in the US, and I am applying to graduate school this fall. My interests in philosophy are multifarious to say the least, but one area that has intrigued me is Arabic philosophy. Accessing the original texts of Arab philosophers has been easier since the second language that I grew up with is Arabic.

My question to you is: What are some good graduate programs in philosophy that specialize in Arabic philosophy or would at least facilitate such studies? I know you went to Notre Dame, but are there other schools in the states or abroad that you would recommend?

As far as the states go, Vanderbilt seems to be my top choice with professor Lenn E. Goodman and Idit Dobbs-Weinstein championing the Arabic tradition. I appreciate your time and take care!

Sincerely Saad B.