Like Podcasts? Like Philosophy? Like History?

Then I think I know something you might enjoy! The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps.

'Philosophy' by xkcd

'Philosophy' from xkcd

Following my recent posts endorsing some SpecFic podcasts I’ve gotten into recently, someone asked whether there are any philosophy podcasts I listen to and could recommend. Until recently, the answer would have simply been ‘No’. That might seem odd. In my other life, philosophy is what I do, so why wouldn’t I want to listen to podcasts of philosophy? The easy answer is a familiar one: it’s easy to make a podcast, but not all podcasts are worth listening too. And whilst it would be easy for me to get on the old hobby-horse about ‘real’ philosophy being a lot more rigorous than most people realise, that’s not the real reason. There are real philosophers doing real podcasts. I’m told Daniel Dennett has one, but a casual Google couldn’t find it. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, Dennett is a tech-engaged sort of a man. Here he is on YouTube.

The real reason I don’t listen to philosophy podcasts is that, although I do have free time walking to work in the morning etc., I wouldn’t use it listening to a philosophy podcast. I love philosophy, but if I’m going to do it, I need to think about it carefully, and, for me, that requires reading. If I’m not using my walk to work to read something relevant to my thesis, or think about my thesis, it’s because I’d rather use that walk to have a break from doing philosophy*.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to use those times to learn. I’ve learned a lot about the history of ancient Egypt whilst walking to and from work. Most of it went in one ear and out the other, but that’s OK, I’m not a historian. What I do remember is pretty cool. Moreover, there is more philosophy out there than any person could become familiar with in one lifetime, and I’m very conscious of the gaps in my knowledge. I’m familiar with stuff that is relevant to my interests, stuff I learnt as an undergrad, and stuff I’ve taught, and that’s about it. I may not have the time to do much philosophy that lies outside the scope of my research, at the moment, but I’m all for knowing a bit more of the context of the discipline that I work in. The history of philosophy. And, to be honest, as a writer I think this stuff is really important to know, too. This is our cultural heritage. These are the world views that shaped ours.

So, when I was recently given a link to Peter Adamson’s History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, I was very much interested. It’s incredibly ambitious. He’s starting with the Presocratics, and appears to have the aim of traversing the entire history of western philosophy from there on out. Frankly, I don’t know how he’s going to do it, but it should be interesting. Adamson is an expert in ancient and medieval philosophy, neither of which I know nearly enough about, and, judging on the first few episodes, he’s an engaging speaker. Any philosopher who can follow up a philosophical quote with a comment like ‘… which, I think we can all agree, is pretty cool’ [sic], is alright by me.

I have already learned things. Previously, I had ‘known’ that Thales held that everything is made of water. Now I have context for that thought, and a few more facts to help me understand that enigmatic report as something that is a trifle less absurd to the modern ear. If you’d like to know a bit more about that, and other things, I recommend you check this out, too: The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps – fun, and educational!

*I can’t stress enough that all this just relates to me and how I function/the current presses on my time. It in no way indicates anything about what I think other people might enjoy with regards to podcasts and philosophy.

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