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 Yotam Schremer

Peter Adamson on 18 June 2020

Reading on mind

Yes, in Avicenna you would need to read the sections on Psychology of the Shifa, Najat, and so on. The Najat psychology is translated into English as Avicenna's Psychology by Rahman. Tommaso Alpina has a book coming out soon on the longer treatment of psychology in the Shifa with substantial chunks translated in English, there is also an older French trans. by Bakos. For Farabi you should read his Epistle on the Intellect which is in the old Hyman and Walsh collection of texts on medieval philosophy (somewhat abridged if I remember right). And for Averroes of course the Long Commentary on On the Soul, translated by Richard Taylor, which also has a very long and informative introduction.

Lee Grixit on 17 June 2020

Academic lineage

Hi. Great series! I downloaded it last fall and i've been listening to it while doing chores. It really helps pass the time. I just finished episode 278, so i've got a ways to go.

Anyway, i was wondering if Peter has ever tried tracing his own mentor/student lineage? It would be cool if he could go back to Plato, but i don't expect it.

In reply to by Lee Grixit

Peter Adamson on 17 June 2020


Ooh, nice question! Well the first thing that leaps to mind is that one of my graduate advisors was Stephen Gersh (he has appeared here on the podcast) and he studied to some extent with the pioneering German Neoplatonism scholar Werner Beierwaltes. Who, as it happens, taught where I now work, LMU Munich. When I was a grad student I came to Munich a few times to sit at his feet and discuss Neoplatonism; a wonderful man. He would discourse at length in a mixture of Latin, Greek, and German which at the time I think I understood all equally well. I should look into tracing his teachers, and their teachers, etc...

Jay Sherman on 22 June 2020

Often overlooked

Jews as both a religious group and a culture/ethnicity have made many contributions to philosophy, logic, and related disciplines. Jews are known by some other cultures as People of the Book. But it was not limited to just one "book"; Jews have valued literacy, scholastics, and analysis, throughout modern history (CE) at least.  One might call them People of the Mind or People of Ideas. Anyway, please have a look at these and see if there are some you might want to include.…

Note: In the seven college courses I had in philosophy & political philosophy, I don't remember learning about any of these except Spinoza and Marx.  Aquinas, yes, Maimonides, no. I suspect Christian-centric Western education simply doesn't know about many of these.

In reply to by Jay Sherman

Peter Adamson on 23 June 2020

Jewish philosophers

Thanks - just to make sure you haven't missed them, there are about 20 episodes in the series so far on Jewish philosophers (Philo, Saadia, about 15 episodes in the series on Andalusia, and more recently Jewish Renaissance thought). So plenty to dive into and of course more to come as we move forward chronologically!

Dustin Zozaya on 23 June 2020

Medieval basque philosophers

Hello! I'm interested in how philosophical concepts made their way to the people through the sermons of medieval masters like Aquinas. Can anyone recommend any medieval masters who may have had contact with the Basque community in places like Navarre?  

Lee Grixit on 29 June 2020

Several things

1. Will you be doing a series on China? I'm intrigued especially about the mohists, who apparently did propositional logic using full sentences. You could call the episode "Not Minding Your Ps and Qs".

2. What about Persia? You've barely mentioned the zoroastrians at all, let alone the mazdaists before Zoroaster.

3. Will you be doing anything on the effect of printing before Gutenberg? I've often wondered why wood block printers never bothered to do whole pages of classic works that were in high demand, or failing that, simple texts for beginning readers.

4. You spoke of the process of copying and the problem of errors. Will you be refering to the technique devised by jewish scribes for copying Torahs? I mean the one where each page is regarded as a fixed matrix of letters and the copyist can get a quick accuracy check by counting the letters in each row and column. I've seen articles that extol the method but i've never heard of it being used for any other work.

5. Also, you've mentioned philology a few times, but rarely numerology. Were there any philosophers who used numerical equivalence of words as a basis for theories?


In reply to by Lee Grixit

Peter Adamson on 29 June 2020

Several things

Thanks for the questions! I'll just take them in turn:

1. Yes, I already have a co-author lined up. See the link "FAQ" below for more information on this.

2. True, I didn't really do much with Persian culture prior to the coming of Islam and ideally I should have found somewhere to talk about Zoroastrianism. Of course one could argue this would be more urgent for a history of religion than a history of philosophy. But with my broad approach, it would have made sense to cover it, maybe I should have done that early in the Islamic world series as background.

3. Yes when I get to the Reformation series, coming right after Italian Renaissance, I expect to have a whole episode about printing.

4. Actually I didn't know about that scribal technique among Jewish scholars, that is interesting! That makes sense because also pagan literature in Greek etc was written in blocks of text in antiquity. I do discuss this in more general terms in episode 317.

5. I think the closest I have come to discussing that is when I talked about Kabbalah, it may come up again soon since we are going to talk about Renaissance magic.

Thanks for listening!

Kayla Kassandra on 31 July 2020

Any possibility of reconsidering your policy?

Hi, thanks for the information in this podcast, especially the Africana philosophy section.

You may have heard the news already, but YouTube is now getting rid of their community captions feature, which was a feature where volunteers could add captions to videos for non-native speakers, Deaf people, and hard of hearing people. The reason they are doing this is because they'd like to transition to relying on third parties which do captioning for a fee, which will mean profit for Google. They are essentially creating a disability fee, which while shocking in how brazen it is, is sadly a very common experience for disabled people.

There has been a lot of discussion about this everywhere, and my social circles are no exception. These conversations have naturally led to discussion of your podcast and its policy on transcripts. Your policy, as I understand it from your FAQ, is against circulating transcripts as that would decrease demand for your books.

I'm writing to you now because twice now, I've spoken about your podcast, citing it for certain things I came to learn, and someone Deaf asked where they could find the transcripts so they can access it too. They discovered that the only place where it's written down is in the books, and furthermore that there is a policy against any transcripts, which usually ruins their week. This is to some extent their interest in the podcast, I'm sure. But as exciting as the premise of your podcast may be, it's usually more a reaction to yet another instance of something like this in their lives.

Having lost job and academic opportunities because I'm a woman (and a woman in philosophy at that), I sympathize deeply with their experience and psychological toll of having to pay for being who they are. This sort of disadvantage existing no matter where you look can really wear you down. This is (at least partially) why I am making this appeal.

My hope is that you'll find that there's plenty of reason to want the books even with the transcripts provided, and that you'll sympathize with the experience I've described enough to reconsider your policy on transcripts as well. If you no longer have the scripts yourself, I'm sure that plenty of your fans would be willing to create the transcripts provided your encouragement.

Hope to hear from you soon.

In reply to by Kayla Kassandra

Peter Adamson on 1 August 2020


OK, that's a good point. My reluctance to release transcripts is only in part because it would undermine the books, it's also just because they are a bit of a mess before I go through the revision process of getting them to the stage of book manuscript. So I really don't want to just, like, put them up on the website publicly. But I would be happy to be contacted directly by people who have a special need for typescripts because of deafness or hearing problems, and would like to see scripts of special interest to them before the relevant book comes out.

You can perhaps just let people know they can email me at

Thanks for bringing this issue to my attention!

Joseph Edmondson on 3 August 2020

Promoting you

Hi, I'm going to publish content online and will use you as a resource. I plan to drive traffic your way as much as possible. Are there any permissions necessary when linking to your content? Please let me know and thank you for what you do for philosophy. 

In reply to by Joseph Edmondson

Peter Adamson on 4 August 2020


Thanks, that's very kind of you! No restrictions or permissions needed, it is a free podcast so anyone can listen or link to it as they like.

Ajith kumar on 19 August 2020

non inclusion of Sree Narayana Guru , among Indian philosophers

Hi, I am surprised that the name of Sree Narayana Guru of Kerala(1856-1928) is not finding a place among the philosophers of India in your list.  


      Ajith Kumar

In reply to by Ajith kumar

Peter Adamson on 20 August 2020

Indian timeline

So you mean on the timeline of Indian philosophers, is that right? That is probably pretty far from complete actually, for everything after the period we covered in the podcast so far (up to Dignaga) we just reproduced the timeline from a book Jonardon had edited. So it will presumably be filled out quite a bit when we return to later Indian philosophy for the podcast, as I hope to do. Thanks for the suggestion!

Ammar on 22 August 2020

classification of islamic period


thank so much for your podcast which has been a savior through quarantine! I realize it's not the standard in HoP to classify philosophy in Arabic as Western philosophy, but wondering why you also made that choice in this podcast. if anything, the narrative in the podcast seems to emphasize the continuity of philosophy in Arabic with Greek and Roman philosophy before and philosophy in Latin after. Arabic philosophy seems to fill the 'gaps' in Western philosophy in the 10th through the 12th centuries. do you think the Arabic philosophy covered could've competed for e.g. the 'Early Medieval' header in the podcast? or is Western philosophy tied to Christianity in a way that doesn't allow for neatly fitting philosophy incubated in an Islamic context directly in the timeline? (or something else?) would love to hear your thoughts!

In reply to by Ammar

Peter Adamson on 23 August 2020

Classifying Arabic philosophy

Well, basically what I wanted to do is just have philosophy in the Islamic world be treated as its own thing, hence it is a separate book in the series and item in the dropdown menu here on the website. It obviously connects to European philosophy in various ways, indeed to some extent it is European philosophy since a big chunk was about Islamic Spain; on the other hand thinking of, say, Avicenna as part of Western/European philosophy is clearly untenable in geographical terms, since he lived in central Asia. Then also I wanted to reject the idea that Islamic/Arabic philosophy is part of "medieval" philosophy even though it greatly influenced medieval scholastic philosophy in Latin Christendom, since I covered the history of philosophy in the Islamic world all the way up to the 20th century. So what I would say is that you have a lot of connections to European thought but it is better not to define philosophy in the Islamic world solely in terms of those connections. Does that makes sense?

bevin on 6 September 2020

How do you subscribe to emails

I am having trouble subscribing to get alerts for new episodes

In reply to by bevin

Peter Adamson on 7 September 2020

Email alerts

You should be able to do that by clicking on the blue button on the right sidebar of the home page. That should take you to the subscribe page. We just tested this and it works so perhaps try again; if that still doesn't work my guess is that your junk filter is catching it.

We publish new episodes every Sunday morning European time, apart from the annual August summer break, with Africana and Renaissance episodes in alternating weeks.

Brandon on 13 September 2020

Sound quality of podcast

HoP 355 sound quality was poor.  I was able to hear it but I had to turn up the volume too high to everything else I do on my computer.  Something you and your team need to pay attention to.  Other than that... great podcast and episode.

In reply to by Brandon

Peter Adamson on 13 September 2020


Hi, thanks for the feedback. I noticed when listening back before uploading that this one was a tad quie, but on my desktop if I listen to it at only half of maximum volume it is perfectly fine. Is it only the volume that is giving you trouble?

Anyway I'll ask my audio editor to make sure the episodes are not too quiet. Of course they vary a little from one recording session to another, just because of micro-changes in the room and so on (though the interviews are of course more variable than the scripted ones which I always record in the same place and with the same equipment).

UPDATE: We actually uploaded a new file for that episode with the volume turned up, and the next few should also be louder now.

MajoraZ on 17 September 2020

Precolumbian Intellectualism

Do you plan on covering philosophy, theology, and intellectualism among Indigenous societies in the Americas? You've done a commendable job trying to stretch out into non-western philosophy, but unless I'm missing it (and I might be!) you haven't seem to have covered it in the Precolumbian Americas yet (or Indigenous American societies post-Columbus)

I realize that the relative lack of written records makes this difficult, but there's a lot more sources available then I think people realize: A good starting place might be with Aztec/Nahua philosophy, which is probably some of the most documented and written about. For some basic context, for the below text; Nahua is the broader Aztec culture, "Aztec" as a term variously refers to either it or the specific Mexica subgroup, who were the denizens of Tenochtitlan, the most powerful of an alliance of 3 city-states (it, Texcoco, and Tlacopan), with that alliance and their subjects states (of various Nahua and non-Nahua groups) making up the "Aztec Empire".

In terms of primary sources, The Florentine Codex is a series of 13 volumes written by the Spanish Friar Bernardino de Sahagún collaborating with Mexica scribes, elders, and nobles, documenting various facets of their history and society in great detail, with one of the volumes (Book 6) being focused on their ethical and moral concepts, adages and epithets, etc. Meanwhile, the "Cantares Mexicans" and "Romances de los señores de Neva España" are collections of Nahuatl songs and poetry also from the 16th century. There's dozens of other surviving sources of various subjects from direct, known Nahua individuals from the early colonial period, such as Domingo Chimalpahin, Fernando Ixtlilxóchitl (who is notably from Texcoco and the Acolhua Nahua-subgrou rather then Mexica, giving a different perspective from most), and Fernando Tezozómoc, etc.

In terms of modern texts on the subject, "The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics" is a text on the king of Texcoco of the same name, who is acclaimed in much of the above sources as a poet, patron of the arts, and legal reformer, and seeks to act both as a biography of him as well as cut through some of the revisionism and romanticism about him present in such sources, such as from the aforementioned Fernando Ixtlilxóchitl, who was a descendant of his. Miguel Leon-Portilla has made a dozens of academic texts on Nahua thougt, two notable examples (the former probably being the single most notable) "Aztec Thought and Culture" and "Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World". James Maffie is another modern researcher focusing on the subject, having published "Aztec Philosophy: Understanding a World in Motion".

It is however worth noting that some of both "Aztec Thought and Culture" and "Understanding a World in Motion" has been criticized, the former for proposing the existence of a singular primordial diety (Ometeotl) in Nahua thought which some dispute, and the latter for taking an overly metaphysical interpretation of Aztec theology where gods don't really exist, just natural processes that then got misinterpreted as deities in Spanish sources, which some (Such as David Bowles, who has made many translations of Nahuatl sources, including Poetry itself, whose works are also worth checking out) have disputed as being inconsistent with actual Nahuatl writing. So both of those texts are perhaps, at least based on my understanding, best approached as more interpretative lenses to view the primary sources they cover through then anything else; but are still definitely worth covering as they are widely referenced as some of the most major texts on the subject of Nahua intellectualism and thought.

I know Maffie has done some interviews with people online before, and David Bowles is quite active on twitter and I've interacted with him a number of times (I'm not a researcher, just a hobbyist: I also only read English, so that limits my sources, there's MUCH more then what I mentioned that are obscure and are only really well-known in the Spanish academic community or are still only in Nahuatl that I'm unaware of), both or either may be willing to assist (some sort of assistance with primary sources would probably be helpful: I know that the english translation of Book 6 of the Florentine Codex I own just translates the moral adages literally with no context for the symbolism and metaphors they are trying to convey in the original nahuatl, for example) or be guests if you ask (and if your podcast features guests).

I apologize if this comment is overly detailed or comes off as condescending with all the suggestions: It's a fairly obscure subject so I'm used to having to provide a lot of contextual information! As a bonus/extra thing that might entice you, here's a short excerpt from Matthew Restall's "1491" where it covers some of the symbolic metaphors in two Nahua poems:

In reply to by MajoraZ

Peter Adamson on 17 September 2020

Philosophy in the Americas

Wow, thanks, that is super helpful! Actually I do have this on my to-do list: thanks mostly to seeing a paper a while back by Alexis McLeod, I have been thinking about this for a couple of years and I even have a file on my computer with notes on the potential series - to which I have added these very helpful suggestions! I actually had two ideas, one was to have a series looking at indigenous philosophies around the world (apart from African, which we already did). But then I had what I think is a better idea, which is to do a big series on "Philosophy in the Americas" which would cover Native American, Inuit, Incan, Aztec, Mayan, etc and then also Latin American philosophy during and after colonialism. The exact boundaries would need careful thought but tenatively, this is the plan and I am pretty excited to do it at some point. But it will be a while, since I at a minimum will be finishing Africana with Chike, then doing classical China with Karyn Lai. Anyway thanks again! (If you could email me at so I have your name and a way to contact you with further questions down the line that would also be appreciated, since you clearly know more about this than most.)

In reply to by Peter Adamson

MajoraZ on 25 October 2020

Hey, sorry for the late…

Hey, sorry for the late reply, my living situation is sort of crazy, even putting aside the craziness of 2020 in general.

I'll shoot you an email, but if you do have more questions, other ways to reach me which I check more frequently would be my twitter (@Majora__Z) and Discord (MajoraZ#7023) if you use either service: I check both daily (though I don't always have time to reply to things daily), wheras my email is a bit more of an ordeal for me to keep up with.

Also, I realized I forgot to mention another potential source and researcher you could read from/reach out to, which is Sebastian Purcell: He's done a few pieces for on Aztec/Nahua (See my original comment for Aztec vs Nahua vs Mexica as terms) ethical and moral philsophy, as well as some Medium blog posts on similar topics, such as Maya views on time or Aztec views on anger. I don't know if he's put out any actual books or scholarly papers, but if he has then those are probably worth checking out, as all of the pieces i've read from him have been excellent. 

Lastly, Kurly Tlapoyawa has two books on Nahua intellectualism as well. I can't personally vouch for them or his writings, but a friend of mine (@Zotzcomic on twitter) who is as or more informed then I am on Mesoamerican history/culture has said that his videos and comments online are good, though Zotz has also not personally read his books... so his content may also be worth looking into, but, again, I can't personally "endorse" it (though again, I'm just a hobbyist myself not an academic, so i'm not sure how much my endorsement really matters!) it, unlike everything else I've mentioned (though even then I gave some caveats for "Aztec Thought and Culture" and "Aztec Philsophy: Understanding a World in Motion": Again, both are very important books in the context of Aztec intellecualism, but both also have critics)


Niklas on 29 September 2020

Looking for a specific episode

Hi! I'm writing a masters thesis on a subject relating to history of philosophy and I would love to quote the podcast in the introduction but I'm unable to find the epsiode I'm looking for. In one episode that I thought related to medieval mysticism, prof. Adamson states something in vain of that while history of philosophy is often justified through what it can contribute to current philosophy, it is often most fruitful when it challenges us by being nothing like current philosophy. This thought was very close to the reasons I have for writing about my subject, so I wanted to quote it, but despite my best efforts I have been unable to find the episode it was said in.

I'm sorry if this is not the proper channel, or if the question is unreasonable. Thank you!

In reply to by Niklas

Peter Adamson on 29 September 2020

Why to do history of philosophy

No, perfectly fair question! I am guessing you actually mean the episode on Averroes on Intellect (151), with the relevant part reading as follows: "Certainly, historical texts have contributed to contemporary debates, as with Aristotle's ethics. Others seem almost to transcend the time they were written. No one can read Epictetus, for instance, without considering how his teachings might apply to their own lives. But to me much of the fascination of the historical figures is how far they are from our ways of thinking, rather than how up-to-date we can make them seem. Indeed I’ve always been drawn to thinkers whose views seem a bit far out, at least from today’s vantage point. I find it fascinating that long-dead philosophers assumed certain things to be obviously true, which now seem obviously false, and that they built elaborate systems on these exotic foundations. To be useful, historical ideas don’t always need to fit neatly into our ways of thinking. They can shake us out of those ways of thinking, helping us to see that our assumptions too are a product of our time and place."

Is that what you were looking for?

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Niklas on 1 October 2020

Thank you

Yes, this is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you for you for the answer and your amazing podcast!

tachyon on 3 October 2020

Han Kitab

Dear Dr. Adamson,

Will you be discussing the reception of Islam in China? I think that would be fascinating.

In reply to by tachyon

Peter Adamson on 4 October 2020

Islam in China

Yes! I actually learned a little bit about that in the last few years - enough to know that it is a worthwhile topic - and regret not getting it into the Islamic world series. But I would definitely like to do an episode on this when covering China, if we get as far as that chronologically. The initial series planned on China will probably not go that far but I do hope to cover both later Indian and later Chinese philosophy in further series. So many plans, so little time...

Hi on 7 October 2020

Hello, Mr. Adamson,

Hello, Mr. Adamson,

I'm interested in East Asian philosophy. So, could you let me know when Chinese philosophy series start? and also I'm curious about how deep you would touch Korea and Japan and how much volume they would take.

In reply to by Hi

Peter Adamson on 8 October 2020


The plan is to cover classical China with Karyn Lai straight after covering 20th century Africana thought with Chike Jeffers. I think that series will take a couple of years or so, so I would imagine we will get to China around late 2022 or early 2023. My plan would be to do Japan and Korea alongside later Chinese philosophy, but I don't know whether that would be right after the series with Karyn or not. Assuming I do get to Japan and Korea at some point though, as I hope, I would give them pretty extensive treatment. I'm guessing (without knowing enough about it to be really sure, yet) that the two together might get 20 episodes or so.

Otterlex on 19 October 2020


Congratulations on 10 years!

Emily on 19 October 2020

Happy Anniversary!

And thanks for teaching us dang kids a thing or two along the way!


In reply to by Emily

Peter Adamson on 19 October 2020

Ha! Brilliant, thanks so…

Ha! Brilliant, thanks so much.

Gernot Ernst on 29 October 2020

Dear Peter,Thank you for…

Dear Peter,

Thank you for the first 10 years. You make my world more beautiful (I mean it). I have learned, I was inspired, I read some sources. Thank you so much. We should have a possibility to give you a gift. If you ever need a time in the woods of Norway (where I live) you are invited to stay in our sidehouse. It is calm and beautiful. You would make me even more happy if you initiate a bilingual introduction to Arabic philosophy with original texts and Arabic main terms...



Aaron on 2 November 2020

I noticed recently the…

I noticed recently the timelines have gone. Would it be possible to bring them back? I found them very useful and better than other timelines available on other websites. Thanks.

In reply to by Aaron

Peter Adamson on 2 November 2020

Oh yes, sorry about that -…

Oh yes, sorry about that - these will come back, as you can see from the appearance of the website we've been updating it so there are still some kinks to work out.

UPDATE: they're back!

Andrew on 14 November 2020

Meno’s paradox, and being and non-being

Greetings. First off, great podcast. I am a bit late to the game, and have gone back to the beginning episodes (hence the question about a topic from several years ago). I just listened to Episode 21 on Plato’s Meno, and I am wondering if Meno’s paradox actually is an extension of the “being vs non-being” debate from the previous century. Is Meno actually talking about the problem of partial knowledge (as I understood you to explain in the podcast), or rather of the problem of how one would acquire knowledge (= being) of something that they don’t know (= non-being). In other words, if something doesn’t “exist” in someone’s mind, then how would they acquire it? This would make sense historically, and is a much more interesting interpretation of the dilemma, but I don’t know if it is correct or not. I look forward to your reply. Kind regards.

Andrew on 14 November 2020

Meno and being and non-being

Greetings. I am not sure if my previous comment went through or not, so I will just give a real quick summary here. I just listened to Episode 21 on Plato’s Meno. If I understood you correctly, then you claim that the paradox had to do with partial knowledge, which doesn’t seem to be much of a paradox at all, as your explanation made clear. I am wondering, however, if the paradox is somewhat different: could it be that Meno is applying the whole “being vs non-being” debate to the issue of knowledge? In other words, if someone doesn’t know something (= non-being), then how could he or she know it (= being)? Not sure if my question is clear or not, but I hope you get the gist. I look forward to your answer. Kind regards.

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 15 November 2020

Being and knowledge

That is a great question! (Both your comments worked by the way, I will leave them both up.) I think there is at least a structural similarity with the two issues, in that we have problems arising from an "all or nothing" approach to being/knowledge: so Parmenides says that being would have to exclude all non-being, the Paradox has it that knowledge excludes all lack of knowledge, and in each case we exclude possibilities in between. However if you want a text that makes this connection more explicitly then what you want is the Theaetetus, because in that dialogue Plato actually has the characters discuss the problem that false belief seems to be a grasping of "what is not," which is not grasping at all. I think that this is not only Plato making the connection, he's responding to a debate that was going on among the sophists, as we can see from Gorgias' On Non-Being.

Karl Young on 14 November 2020


Hey Peter,

Maybe this is mostly just a chance to express my deep gratitude for your perseverance re. sticking with the podcast and continuing to make it fresh and captivating for all these years - and my perseverance - I don’t know if I’ve ever stuck with anything for 10 years but have been on the edge of my seat for every episode - though  as a geezer my retention isn’t what it used to be so we need get on OUP re. the paperback release schedule! :-) For some of us geezers reaching for a book is easier than searching a list of podcasts.

But I digress; the original purpose of writing was to say that I just listened to and greatly enjoyed your interview of a couple of years ago on the Secret History of Western Esotericism podcast. As a retired physicist I’ve strayed pretty far from my naturalist grant writing persona and am taking a lot more things “seriously if not literally” and as such have enjoyed that podcast as a kind of complement to yours. And as a quintessential peripatetic type (as well as Buddhist type) negotiating the Scylla and Charybdis of your and Earl Fontanelle’s approaches allows me to get ever closer to that middle way Dedekind cut.

In reply to by Karl Young

Peter Adamson on 15 November 2020


Thanks so much, for your kind words and for sticking with me over the last decade! It's funny you mention that old interview because just at the moment I am working on a script about magic and astrology in the Renaissance. I find this sort of topic really fascinating, it's a great chance to be confronted with the differences between our worldview and the views of the past.

Xaratustrah on 16 November 2020


Hi Peter,

I was checking your theme list about "Soul and the Self" there are many episodes. I was wondering if you have a recommendation of whom to check regarding the topic of self-awareness specifically (all traditions are welcome!).


In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 17 November 2020


Yes, I would check out the interview with Therese Cory in the Medieval series (242), also Avicenna on soul which covers the flying man (141), and then there is a lot about that in the India series but perhaps most on topic would be 55, Dignana on Consciousness. Maybe also Plotinus on intellect (88), Augustine on Mind (115 and the following interview with Brittain). Hope that helps!

Andrew on 27 November 2020

Aristotle, God, and the revolution of the spheres

Thanks for getting back with me on my question regarding Meno’s paradox. I have another question from antiquity. I am not sure if I have understood Aristotle correctly, but he seems to affirm 1) that the heavenly spheres revolve around “God”, and 2) that the universe is geocentric. Is this correct? If so, does this suggest that Aristotle somehow thought that “God” was present on earth? Or that humanity’s participation on the divine nous was enough to make the heavenly spheres revolve around the earth?

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 28 November 2020

Rotation of spheres in Aristotle

I think you must have been led astray on point (1) there, God causes the rotation of the spheres but they do not rotate around him, rather as you say, around the earth, or to be more specific, the midpoint of the earth which is also the midpoint of the whole cosmos. There is only one passage where Aristotle says anything about God's location, which is at the end of Book 8 of the Physics and there he seems to be suggesting that God is at the edge (circumference) of the heavenly sphere, though there was an ancient dispute about what exactly this passage meant. Possibly just that God is "there" in the sense of exercising causation primarily upon the motion of the outermost celestial sphere.

Michael Barr on 28 November 2020

Paperback editions?

Is there any chance you’ve a date for paperback editions of Medieval Philosophy and Indian Philosophy? I’ve asked OUP without reply. Cheers, MB

In reply to by Michael Barr

Peter Adamson on 29 November 2020


Yes, those should come out next year I guess. Thanks for being patient!

Andrea Furberg on 9 December 2020


Hi! I wish you teached us about old Egypts mythology and philisophy.

thank you!

In reply to by Andrea Furberg

Peter Adamson on 9 December 2020


Ask and you shall receive! There are four episodes on that already in the Africana series, starting with this one:

Can Valid Kohen on 23 December 2020

Personal request

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

Respectfully, Can

In reply to by Can Valid Kohen

Peter Adamson on 23 December 2020

The Phrustrations of Philosophy

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Can Valid Kohen on 23 December 2020

Well the issues I find with…

Well the issues I find with philosophy are these:(1)philosophers have divided all fields of study within the original scope of the field into the scientific fields therefore a philosopher that isn’t a scientist is like a scientist without any knowledge because if the scientist had sufficient knowledge of anything the man would no longer be a philosopher but a scientist of the field of that knowledge. I know this isn’t strictly true but I present this argument to highlight a point that ,if disregarding the study of ethics, history and epistemology which is exempt from this argument anyways because no one can know anything about epistemology, philosophy doesn’t seem to have a general focus. Biology envisions to map out and understand life, physics plans to find the theory of everything yet philosophy ,for all I know, doesn’t have an agreed upon or unified goal. If the goal of philosophy is to argue then of course to conclude any argument is out of the question and without concluding any argument there can never be development in the field or more advanced and complex discoveries. Is there a concretely described focus of philosophy? I believe I know of a trick to finding answers to all of philosophy’s questions but that’s only if philosophy has goals that are based on truth. Before judgement, I know I sound immature but know that I have a duty to myself to get this off my chest. 

Can Valid Kohen on 23 December 2020

Unanswerable questions

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

In reply to by Can Valid Kohen

Peter Adamson on 24 December 2020

What is the point of philosophy?

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

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

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Can Valid Kohen on 24 December 2020

Alright, that makes sense…

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

Rainer Fassnacht on 27 December 2020

Missing chapter in the history of philosophy

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

In reply to by Rainer Fassnacht

Peter Adamson on 27 December 2020


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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Rainer Fassnacht on 28 December 2020

Hamburg Interpretation of Praxeology

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

Olle on 3 January 2021

Relationship between Logic and Teleology


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

Best regards. 

In reply to by Olle

Peter Adamson on 3 January 2021


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

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

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

Hope that helps as a start, at least!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Olle on 3 January 2021

Re Logic and Teleology

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

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

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

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

In reply to by Olle

Peter Adamson on 3 January 2021

More on teleology

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

Xaratustrah on 18 January 2021

Ancient women philosophers

Hi Peter,

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

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



In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 19 January 2021

Ancient women philosophers

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

Kayla Kassandra on 22 January 2021

Update on request to revise policy

Hello again, Dr. Adamson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to hear from you soon.

In reply to by Kayla Kassandra

Peter Adamson on 22 January 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Kayla Kassandra on 7 February 2021


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

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

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

Victoria Blanck on 23 January 2021

Thank you!

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

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



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

Andrew on 4 February 2021

Greek and Indian shifts in philosophy

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

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 5 February 2021

Ritual to internal reflection

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Andrew on 9 February 2021

Thanks for the…

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

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 9 February 2021


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

Doug Shenson on 11 February 2021

Medieval Philosophy

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

Keep up the great work! Doug Shenson 

In reply to by Doug Shenson

Peter Adamson on 11 February 2021

Paperback of medieval

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

Doug German on 14 February 2021


Your website does not scroll correctly.


In reply to by Doug German

Peter Adamson on 15 February 2021


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

Andrew on 5 March 2021

The mic in the top left.

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

In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 6 March 2021

The mic

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

Steven Hartman on 6 March 2021

Really looking forward to Kant

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

In reply to by Steven Hartman

Peter Adamson on 7 March 2021

Hume and Kant

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

Marcus on 27 March 2021

About Islamic World's philosophers

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

Best regards

In reply to by Marcus

Peter Adamson on 27 March 2021

Omar Khayyam

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

Jorge on 14 April 2021

How does making an episode work?

Hi Peter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thank you for your podcast,


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

In reply to by Jorge

Peter Adamson on 14 April 2021

The process

Dear Jorge,

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

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

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

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

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


Graham Sanders on 23 April 2021

Repairing myths (greek term?)

Hello Peter,

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

With thanks,


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

In reply to by Graham Sanders

Peter Adamson on 23 April 2021

Repairing myths

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

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

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Graham Sanders on 24 April 2021

Thank you, Peter, for the…

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

Gerard David on 10 May 2021

Suggestion: African geanology of computing

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

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

dukeofethereal on 10 May 2021

On Later India and Classical Chinese Philosophy mini series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 11 May 2021

Later Asian philosophy

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

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

dukeofethereal on 13 May 2021

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

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


Perhaps the order to this classical Chinese series could be;


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


2. Early Imperial Philosophy (Qin-Han Dynasty)


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




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

Dao Companion to Xuanxue by Chai, David (Springer)


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



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


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






Alexander Johnson on 12 May 2021

Comparison to a Minor

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

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 12 May 2021

Minor in HoPWaG

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

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

Andy Wasserman on 15 May 2021

Lesson Plans?

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

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

Just a thought! 

In reply to by Andy Wasserman

Peter Adamson on 15 May 2021

Lesson plans

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

Joseph Byrnes on 2 June 2021

Question about a point in the Sorabji interview, 042

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

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

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

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

In reply to by Joseph Byrnes

Peter Adamson on 3 June 2021

Golden mountain

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

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Alexander Johnson on 3 June 2021


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

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

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Joseph Byrnes on 4 June 2021

comment boards, whoa

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

Andrew Messmer on 13 July 2021

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

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

In reply to by Andrew Messmer

Peter Adamson on 13 July 2021

Poetry and demonstration

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

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

Xaratustrah on 14 July 2021


Hi Peter,

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

In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 14 July 2021

Afrciana topics

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

Harish Goel on 20 July 2021

History of Indian philosophy

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

In reply to by Harish Goel

Peter Adamson on 21 July 2021

Bias and mockery

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Harish Goel on 23 July 2021

Hello Peter,  Thanks for…

Hello Peter, 

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

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

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

And the best parts were the interviews with the experts. 

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

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



In reply to by Harish Goel

Peter Adamson on 24 July 2021

Tiger's growl

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

Hugh Duffy on 21 July 2021

HoP - the early years.


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


Zachary on 2 August 2021


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

In reply to by Zachary

Peter Adamson on 2 August 2021

The Hussites

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Zachary on 3 August 2021

Right, my mistake. I couldn…

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

Andrei Miculita on 7 August 2021


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

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

In reply to by Andrei Miculita

Peter Adamson on 8 August 2021


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

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Andrei Miculita on 8 August 2021

Thank you for the answer!…

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

Xaratustrah on 24 August 2021

Perennial philosophy

Hi Peter,

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


In reply to by Xaratustrah

Peter Adamson on 24 August 2021

Perennial philosophy

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

Amelie on 29 August 2021

What a great discovery

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

In reply to by Amelie

Peter Adamson on 29 August 2021


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

Alexander Johnson on 14 September 2021

4 Classical Virtues

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

Temperance is resisting pleasures that are bad for us

Courage is enduring pains that are good for us

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

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

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

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 14 September 2021

four virtues

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

Andrew Messmer on 4 October 2021

Martin Luther and the Bondage of the Will

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

Carl on 6 October 2021


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

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

presentations fall short. 


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

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

More melodious music would improve the enjoyment. 




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





In reply to by Carl

Peter Adamson on 6 October 2021


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

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

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

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

Jeff J. Edelbrock on 7 October 2021

Enjoying the Podcast


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

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

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

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

Jeff J. Edelbrock

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

In reply to by Jeff J. Edelbrock

Peter Adamson on 7 October 2021

Philosophy for engineers

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

Zen on 7 October 2021

Re: Episode 002 - The Soul as Breath

Hi there,

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

Thanks for your work,


In reply to by Zen

Peter Adamson on 8 October 2021

Soul as breath

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

Jeffrey Allen on 7 October 2021

Peripatetic podcast

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

In reply to by Jeffrey Allen

Peter Adamson on 8 October 2021

Coming back to philosophy

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

john john on 18 October 2021

add 2x option

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

In reply to by john john

Peter Adamson on 18 October 2021

Need for speed

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

dan on 24 October 2021

podcast suggestion

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

I guess that might also be called contemporary philosophy.

In reply to by dan

Peter Adamson on 24 October 2021

Modern philosophy

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

Kristian Poscic on 2 November 2021

great podcast


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

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

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

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

Eric on 20 November 2021

Indigenous critique

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

alexis dedpland on 21 November 2021


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

In reply to by alexis dedpland

Peter Adamson on 22 November 2021


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

Tihamer T. Tot… on 22 November 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh well, maybe next time around.

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


Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel

In reply to by Tihamer T. Tot…

Peter Adamson on 22 November 2021

What's the point?

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

Adam Wadley on 2 December 2021

Looking for specific Neoplatonist reference

Dear Peter,

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

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



In reply to by Adam Wadley

Peter Adamson on 2 December 2021

Undescended soul

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

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Adam on 4 December 2021


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

Ineffable gratitude!


Maria on 26 December 2021

Origins of Philosophy

Hi Peter,

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

In reply to by Maria

Peter Adamson on 26 December 2021

First philosophers

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

R. Schleyer on 22 January 2022


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

In reply to by R. Schleyer

Peter Adamson on 22 January 2022


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

Sebastian on 9 February 2022


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

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

In reply to by Sebastian

Peter Adamson on 9 February 2022


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

James Scheuermann on 16 February 2022

Rhetoric and hermeneutics

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

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

Best regards,

Jim Scheuermann