Cover image of In Our Time: Philosophy
(413)

Rank #46 in History category

History

In Our Time: Philosophy

Updated 3 days ago

Rank #46 in History category

History
Read more

From Altruism to Wittgenstein, philosophers, theories and key themes.

Read more

From Altruism to Wittgenstein, philosophers, theories and key themes.

iTunes Ratings

413 Ratings
Average Ratings
324
47
19
11
12

Excellent

By nataliedoesyoga - Nov 03 2019
Read more
Quite dry, but stays on-topic, covers the various topics extensively, and is easy to follow.

Amazing!

By newton314159 - Mar 10 2019
Read more
What a gift to listen to discussions of classic works by eminent scholars of philosophy!

iTunes Ratings

413 Ratings
Average Ratings
324
47
19
11
12

Excellent

By nataliedoesyoga - Nov 03 2019
Read more
Quite dry, but stays on-topic, covers the various topics extensively, and is easy to follow.

Amazing!

By newton314159 - Mar 10 2019
Read more
What a gift to listen to discussions of classic works by eminent scholars of philosophy!

Listen to:

Cover image of In Our Time: Philosophy

In Our Time: Philosophy

Updated 3 days ago

Read more

From Altruism to Wittgenstein, philosophers, theories and key themes.

Stoicism

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Stoicism, the third great philosophy of the Ancient World. It was founded by Zeno in the fourth century BC and flourished in Greece and then in Rome. Its ideals of inner solitude, forbearance in adversity and the acceptance of fate won many brilliant adherents and made it the dominant philosophy across the whole of the Ancient World. The ex-slave Epictetus said "Man is troubled not by events, but by the meaning he gives them". Seneca, the politician, declared that "Life without the courage for death is slavery". The stoic thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor, provided a rallying point for empire builders into the modern age.Stoicism influenced the Christian church, had a big effect on Shakespeare and Renaissance drama and may even have given the British their 'stiff upper lip', but it's a philosophy that was almost forgotten in the 20th century. Does it still have a legacy for us today?With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Warwick; Jonathan Rée, philosopher and historian; David Sedley, Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy, University of Cambridge.

Mar 04 2005

28mins

Play

Wittgenstein

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, work and legacy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. There is little doubt that he was a towering figure of the twentieth century; on his return to Cambridge in 1929 Maynard Keynes wrote, “Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5:15 train”.Wittgenstein is credited with being the greatest philosopher of the modern age, a thinker who left not one but two philosophies for his descendents to argue over: The early Wittgenstein said, “the limits of my mind mean the limits of my world”; the later Wittgenstein replied, “If God looked into our minds he would not have been able to see there whom we were speaking of”. Language was at the heart of both. Wittgenstein stated that his purpose was to finally free humanity from the pointless and neurotic philosophical questing that plagues us all. As he put it, “To show the fly the way out of the fly bottle”.How did he think language could solve all the problems of philosophy? How have his ideas influenced contemporary culture? And could his thought ever achieve the release for us that he hoped it would?With Ray Monk, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton and author of Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius; Barry Smith, Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London; Marie McGinn, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of York.

Dec 04 2003

42mins

Play

Marx

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Karl Marx. "Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains", "Religion is the opium of the people", and "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". That should be enough for most of you to work out whom Radio 4 listeners have voted as their favourite philosopher: the winner of the In Our Time Greatest Philosopher Vote, chosen from 20 philosophers nominated by listeners and carried through on an electoral tidal wave of 28% of our 'first-past-the-post' vote is the communist theoretician, Karl Marx.So, when you strip away the Marxist-Leninism, the Soviet era and later Marxist theory, who was Karl Marx? Where does he stand in the history of philosophy? He wrote in his Theses on Feuerbach, "Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point, however, is to change it" - which begs the question, is he really a philosopher at all?With Anthony Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Francis Wheen, journalist and author of a biography of Karl Marx; Gareth Stedman Jones, Professor of Political Science at Cambridge University.

Jul 14 2005

42mins

Play

Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morality - A Polemic, which he published in 1887 towards the end of his working life and in which he considered the price humans have paid, and were still paying, to become civilised. In three essays, he argued that having a guilty conscience was the price of living in society with other humans. He suggested that Christian morality, with its consideration for others, grew as an act of revenge by the weak against their masters, 'the blond beasts of prey', as he calls them, and the price for that slaves' revolt was endless self-loathing. These and other ideas were picked up by later thinkers, perhaps most significantly by Sigmund Freud who further explored the tensions between civilisation and the individual.

With

Stephen Mulhall
Professor of Philosophy and a Fellow and Tutor at New College, University of Oxford

Fiona Hughes
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

And

Keith Ansell-Pearson
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jan 12 2017

48mins

Play

Kierkegaard

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rich and radical ideas of Soren Kierkegaard, often called the father of Existentialism.In 1840 a young Danish girl called Regine Olsen got engaged to her sweetheart – a modish and clever young man called Søren Kierkegaard. The two were deeply in love but soon the husband to be began to have doubts. He worried that he couldn’t make Regine happy and stay true to himself and his dreams of philosophy. It was a terrible dilemma, but Kierkegaard broke off the engagement – a decision from which neither he nor his fiancée fully recovered. This unhappy episode has become emblematic of the life and thought of Søren Kierkegaard - a philosopher who confronted the painful choices in life and who understood the darker modes of human existence. Yet Kierkegaard is much more than the gloomy Dane of reputation. A thinker of wit and elegance, his ability to live with paradox and his desire to think about individuals as free have given him great purchase in the modern world and he is known as the father of Existentialism.With Jonathan Rée, Visiting Professor at Roehampton University and the Royal College of Art; Clare Carlisle, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Liverpool; John Lippitt, Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Hertfordshire.

Mar 20 2008

42mins

Play

Existentialism

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss existentialism. Imagine being back inside the bustling cafes on the Left Bank of Paris in the 1930s, cigarette smoke, strong coffee and the buzz of continental voices philosophising about human responsibility and freedom. This kind of talk gave utterance to Existentialism. A twentieth century philosophy of everyday life concerned with the individual, and his or her place within the world. In novels, plays and philosophy, Existentialists try to work out the nature of our existence. As Roquentin says in Sartre’s novel ‘Nausea’, “To exist is simply to be there; what exists appears, lets itself be encountered, but you can never deduce it”.But where did these ideas come from? What do they really mean? And how have they impacted on our lives? With Dr A. C. Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Christina Howells, Professor of French at the University of Oxford, fellow of Wadham College; Simon Critchley, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex and author of A Companion to Continental Philosophy.

Jun 28 2001

27mins

Play

Nihilism

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Nihilism. The nineteenth-century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote, “There can be no doubt that morality will gradually perish: this is the great spectacle in a hundred acts reserved for the next two centuries in Europe”. And, with chilling predictions like these, ‘Nihilism’ was born. The hard view that morals are pointless, loyalty is a weakness and ‘truths’ are illusory, has excited, confused and appalled western thinkers ever since. But what happened to Nietzsche’s revolutionary ideas about truth, morality and a life without meaning? Existentialism can claim lineage to Nietzsche, as can Post Modernism, but then so can Nazism. With so many interpretations, and claims of ownership from the left and the right, has anything positive come out of the great philosopher of ‘nothing’?With Rob Hopkins, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Birmingham; Professor Raymond Tallis, Doctor and Philosopher; Professor Catherine Belsey, University of Cardiff.

Nov 16 2000

28mins

Play

Schopenhauer

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests AC Grayling, Beatrice Han-Pile and Christopher Janaway discuss the dark, pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer.As a radical young thinker in Germany in the early 19th century, Schopenhauer railed against the dominant ideas of the day. He dismissed the pre-eminent German philosopher Georg Hegel as a pompous charlatan, and turned instead to the Enlightenment thinking of Immanuel Kant for inspiration. Schopenhauer's central idea was that everything in the world was driven by the Will - broadly, the ceaseless desire to live. But this, he argued, left us swinging pointlessly between suffering and boredom. The only escape from the tyranny of the Will was to be found in art, and particularly in music. Schopenhauer was influenced by Eastern philosophy, and in turn his own work had an impact well beyond the philosophical tradition in the West, helping to shape the work of artists and writers from Richard Wagner to Marcel Proust, and Albert Camus to Sigmund Freud.AC Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Beatrice Han-Pile is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex; Christopher Janaway is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton.

Oct 29 2009

42mins

Play

Spinoza

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg discusses the Dutch Jewish Philosopher Spinoza. For the radical thinkers of the Enlightenment, he was the first man to have lived and died as a true atheist. For others, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he provides perhaps the most profound conception of God to be found in Western philosophy. He was bold enough to defy the thinking of his time, yet too modest to accept the fame of public office and he died, along with Socrates and Seneca, one of the three great deaths in philosophy. Baruch Spinoza can claim influence on both the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century and great minds of the 19th, notably Hegel, and his ideas were so radical that they could only be fully published after his death. But what were the ideas that caused such controversy in Spinoza’s lifetime, how did they influence the generations after, and can Spinoza really be seen as the first philosopher of the rational Enlightenment?With Jonathan Rée, historian and philosopher and Visiting Professor at Roehampton University; Sarah Hutton, Professor of English at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth; John Cottingham, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading.

May 03 2007

28mins

Play

Zen

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zen. It's often thought of as a form of Buddhism that emphasises the practice of meditation over any particular set of beliefs. In fact Zen belongs to a particular intellectual tradition within Buddhism that took root in China in the 6th century AD. It spread to Japan in the early Middle Ages, where Zen practitioners set up religious institutions like temples, monasteries and universities that remain important today.

GUESTS

Tim Barrett, Emeritus Professor in the Department of the Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London

Lucia Dolce, Numata Reader in Japanese Buddhism at SOAS, University of London

Eric Greene, Lecturer in East Asian Religions at the University of Bristol

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

Dec 04 2014

45mins

Play

David Hume

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the philosopher David Hume. A key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, Hume was an empiricist who believed that humans can only have knowledge of things they have themselves experienced. Hume made a number of significant contributions to philosophy. He saw human nature as a manifestation of the natural world, rather than something above and beyond it. He gave a sceptical account of religion, which caused many to suspect him of atheism. He was also the author of a bestselling History of England. His works, beginning in 1740 with A Treatise of Human Nature, have influenced thinkers from Adam Smith to Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin, and today he is regarded by some scholars as the most important philosopher ever to write in English.With:Peter MillicanProfessor of Philosophy at the University of OxfordHelen BeebeeProfessor of Philosophy at the University of BirminghamJames HarrisSenior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Thomas Morris.

Oct 06 2011

42mins

Play

Sartre

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Jean-Paul Sartre, the French novelist, playwright, and philosopher who became the king of intellectual Paris and a focus of post war politics and morals. Sartre's own life was coloured by jazz, affairs, Simone de Beauvoir and the intellectual camaraderie of Left Bank cafes. He maintained an extraordinary output of plays, novels, biographies, and philosophical treatises as well as membership of the communist party and a role in many political controversies. He produced some wonderful statements: "my heart is on the left, like everyone else's", and "a human person is what he is not, not what he is", and, most famously "we are condemned to be free". Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how Sartre's novels and plays express his ideas and what light Sartre's life brings to bear on his philosophy and his philosphy on his life. With Jonathan Rée, philosopher and historia; Benedict O'Donohoe, Principal Lecturer in French at the University of the West of England and Secretary of the UK Society for Sartrean Studies; Christina Howells, Professor of French at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Wadham College.

Oct 07 2004

42mins

Play

Jung

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the extraordinary mind of the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. In 1907 Sigmund Freud met a young man and fell into a conversation that is reputed to have lasted for 13 hours. That man was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. Freud is celebrated as the great pioneer of the 20th century mind, but the idea that personality types can be 'introverted' or 'extroverted', that certain archetypal images and stories repeat themselves constantly across the collective history of mankind, and that personal individuation is the goal of life, all belong to Jung: "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart... Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens", he declared. And he also said "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you".Who was Jung? What is the essence and influence of his thought? And how did he become such a controversial and, for many, such a beguiling figure?With Brett Kahr, Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Psychotherapy and Mental Health at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London and a practising Freudian; Ronald Hayman, writer and biographer of Jung; Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology at the University of Essex and a Jungian analyst in clinical practice.

Dec 02 2004

28mins

Play

Free Will

Podcast cover
Read more
In the 500th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophical idea of free will.Free will - the extent to which we are free to choose our own actions - is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by almost every great thinker of the last two thousand years. In a universe apparently governed by physical laws, is it possible for individuals to be responsible for their own actions? Or are our lives simply proceeding along preordained paths? Determinism - the doctrine that every event is the inevitable consequence of what goes before - seems to suggest so.Many intellectuals have concluded that free will is logically impossible. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza regarded it as a delusion. Albert Einstein wrote: "Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free agents but are as causally bound as the stars in their motion." But in the Enlightenment, philosophers including David Hume found ways in which free will and determinism could be reconciled. Recent scientific developments mean that this debate remains as lively today as it was in the ancient world.With: Simon BlackburnBertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of CambridgeHelen BeebeeProfessor of Philosophy at the University of BirminghamGalen StrawsonProfessor of Philosophy at the University of ReadingProducer: Thomas Morris.

Mar 10 2011

42mins

Play

Socrates

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Greek philosopher Socrates, acknowledged as one of the founders of Western philosophy. Born in 469 BC into the golden age of the city of Athens, he has profoundly influenced philosophy ever since. In fact, his impact is so profound that all the thinkers who went before are simply known as pre-Socratic.In person Socrates was deliberately irritating, he was funny and he was rude; he didn’t like democracy very much and spent quite a lot of time in shoe shops. He claimed he was on a mission from God to educate his fellow Athenians but has left us nothing in his own hand because he refused to write anything down. With Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Warwick University; David Sedley, Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Cambridge University; Paul Millett, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge.

Sep 27 2007

42mins

Play

Bertrand Russell

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Born in 1872 into an aristocratic family, Russell is widely regarded as one of the founders of Analytic philosophy, which is today the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world. In his important book The Principles of Mathematics, he sought to reduce mathematics to logic. Its revolutionary ideas include Russell's Paradox, a problem which inspired Ludwig Wittgenstein to pursue philosophy. Russell's most significant and famous idea, the theory of descriptions, had profound consequences for the discipline.

In addition to his academic work, Russell played an active role in many social and political campaigns. He supported women's suffrage, was imprisoned for his pacifism during World War I and was a founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He wrote a number of books aimed at the general public, including The History of Western Philosophy which became enormously popular, and in 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Russell's many appearances on the BBC also helped to promote the public understanding of ideas.

With:

AC Grayling
Master of the New College of the Humanities and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford

Mike Beaney
Professor of Philosophy at the University of York

Hilary Greaves
Lecturer in Philosophy and Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

Dec 06 2012

42mins

Play

Camus

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Algerian-French writer and Existentialist philosopher Albert Camus. Shortly after the new year of 1960, a powerful sports car crashed in the French town of Villeblevin in Burgundy, killing two of its occupants. One was the publisher Michel Gallimard; the other was the writer Albert Camus. In Camus’ pocket was an unused train ticket and in the boot of the car his unfinished autobiography The First Man. Camus was 46. Born in Algeria in 1913, Camus became a working class hero and icon of the French Resistance. His friendship with Sartre has been well documented, as has their falling out; and although Camus has been dubbed both an Absurdist and Existentialist philosopher, he denied he was even a philosopher at all, preferring to think of himself as a writer who expressed the realities of human existence. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, Camus’ legacy is a rich one, as an author of plays, novels and essays, and as a political thinker who desperately sought a peaceful solution to the War for Independence in his native Algeria. With Peter Dunwoodie, Professor of French Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London; David Walker, Professor of French at the University of Sheffield; Christina Howells, Professor of French at Wadham College, University of Oxford.

Jan 03 2008

42mins

Play

Daoism

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daoism. An ancient Chinese tradition of philosophy and religious belief, Daoism first appeared more than two thousand years ago. For centuries it was the most popular religion in China; in the West its religious aspects are not as well known as its practices, which include meditation and Feng Shui, and for its most celebrated text, the Daodejing.The central aim in Daoism is to follow the 'Dao', a word which roughly translates as 'The Way'. Daoists believe in following life in its natural flow, what they refer to as an 'effortless action'. This transcendence can be linked to Buddhism, the Indian religion that came to China in the 2nd century BC and influenced Daoism - an exchange which went both ways. Daoism is closely related to, but has also at times conflicted with, the religion of the Chinese Imperial court, Confucianism. The spirit world is of great significance in Daoism, and its hierarchy and power often take precedence over events and people in real life. But how did this ancient and complex religion come to be so influential?With:Tim Barrett Professor of East Asian History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of LondonMartin PalmerDirector of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and CultureHilde De WeerdtFellow and Tutor in Chinese History at Pembroke College, University of Oxford Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Dec 15 2010

42mins

Play

Kant's Categorical Imperative

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason, looking at the intention behind actions rather than at consequences. He was inspired to find moral laws by natural philosophers such as Newton and Leibniz, who had used reason rather than emotion to analyse the world around them and had identified laws of nature. Kant argued that when someone was doing the right thing, that person was doing what was the universal law for everyone, a formulation that has been influential on moral philosophy ever since and is known as the Categorical Imperative. Arguably even more influential was one of his reformulations, echoed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which he asserted that humanity has a value of an entirely different kind from that placed on commodities. Kant argued that simply existing as a human being was valuable in itself, so that every human owed moral responsibilities to other humans and was owed responsibilities in turn.

With

Alison Hills
Professor of Philosophy at St John's College, Oxford

David Oderberg
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading

and

John Callanan
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College, London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Sep 21 2017

49mins

Play

Consciousness

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the problems of consciousness, one of the greatest mysteries facing science and philosophy today. The frustrations, the stubborn facts and the curiosities of today’s thinkers, philosophers, physicists and psychologists, demonstrate the elusiveness, and the utter impenetrability of consciousness. Can we explain our perception of colour, smell or what it is like to be in love in purely physical terms? Can memory, conviction and reason be explained primarily in terms of neural firing sequences in the brain? Three centuries ago Descartes famously believed that the problem was best solved by being ignored. Was he right? Could it be that the human mind is just not built to understand its own basis?With Ted Honderich, philosopher and former Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University College, London; Sir Roger Penrose eminent physicist, mathematician and author of The Large, The Small, and the Human Mind.

Nov 25 1999

27mins

Play

Rousseau on Education

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) on the education of children, as set out in his novel or treatise Emile, published in 1762. He held that children are born with natural goodness, which he sought to protect as they developed, allowing each to form their own conclusions from experience, avoiding the domineering influence of others. In particular, he was keen to stop infants forming the view that human relations were based on domination and subordination. Rousseau viewed Emile as his most imporant work, and it became very influential. It was also banned and burned, and Rousseau was attacked for not following these principles with his own children, who he abandoned, and for proposing a subordinate role for women in this scheme.

The image above is of Emile playing with a mask on his mother's lap, from a Milanese edition published in 1805.

With

Richard Whatmore
Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History

Caroline Warman
Professor of French Literature and Thought at Jesus College, Oxford

and

Denis McManus
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Oct 10 2019

51mins

Play

Bergson and Time

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and his ideas about human experience of time passing and how that differs from a scientific measurement of time, set out in his thesis on 'Time and Free Will' in 1889. He became famous in France and abroad for decades, rivalled only by Einstein and, in the years after the Dreyfus Affair, was the first ever Jewish member of the Académie Française. It's thought his work influenced Proust and Woolf, and the Cubists. He died in 1941 from a cold which, reputedly, he caught while queuing to register as a Jew, refusing the Vichy government's offer of exemption.

With

Keith Ansell-Pearson
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick

Emily Thomas
Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Durham University

And

Mark Sinclair
Reader in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson

May 09 2019

51mins

Play

Authenticity

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests dicuss what it means to be oneself, a question explored by philosophers from Aristotle to the present day, including St Augustine, Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre. In Hamlet, Polonius said 'To thine own self be true', but what is the self, and what does it mean to be true to it, and why should you be true? To Polonius, if you are true to yourself, ‘thou canst not be false to any man’ - but with the rise of the individual, authenticity became a goal in itself, regardless of how that affected others. Is authenticity about creating yourself throughout your life, or fulfilling the potential with which you were born, connecting with your inner child, or something else entirely? What are the risks to society if people value authenticity more than morality - that is, if the two are incompatible?

The image above is of Sartre, aged 8 months, perhaps still connected to his inner child.

With

Sarah Richmond
Associate Professor in Philosophy at University College London

Denis McManus
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton

and

Irene McMullin
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Mar 14 2019

50mins

Play

Aristotle's Biology

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable achievement of Aristotle (384-322BC) in the realm of biological investigation, for which he has been called the originator of the scientific study of life. Known mainly as a philosopher and the tutor for Alexander the Great, who reportedly sent him animal specimens from his conquests, Aristotle examined a wide range of life forms while by the Sea of Marmara and then on the island of Lesbos. Some ideas, such as the the spontaneous generation of flies, did not survive later scrutiny, yet his influence was extraordinary and his work was unequalled until the early modern period.

The image above is of the egg and embryo of a dogfish, one of the animals Aristotle described accurately as he recorded their development.

With

Armand Leroi
Professor of Evolutionary Development Biology at Imperial College London

Myrto Hatzimichali
Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge

And

Sophia Connell
Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Feb 07 2019

50mins

Play

Hope

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophy of hope. To the ancient Greeks, hope was closer to self-deception, one of the evils left in Pandora's box or jar, in Hesiod's story. In Christian tradition, hope became one of the theological virtues, the desire for divine union and the expectation of receiving it, an action of the will rather than the intellect. To Kant, 'what may I hope' was one of the three basic questions which human reason asks, while Nietzsche echoed Hesiod, arguing that leaving hope in the box was a deception by the gods, reflecting human inability to face the demands of existence. Yet even those critical of hope, like Camus, conceded that life was nearly impossible without it.

With

Beatrice Han-Pile
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex

Robert Stern
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

And

Judith Wolfe
Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of St Andrews

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Nov 22 2018

53mins

Play

The Fable of the Bees

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) and his critique of the economy as he found it in London, where private vices were condemned without acknowledging their public benefit. In his poem The Grumbling Hive (1705), he presented an allegory in which the economy collapsed once knavish bees turned honest. When republished with a commentary, The Fable of the Bees was seen as a scandalous attack on Christian values and Mandeville was recommended for prosecution for his tendency to corrupt all morals. He kept writing, and his ideas went on to influence David Hume and Adam Smith, as well as Keynes and Hayek.

With

David Wootton
Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York

Helen Paul
Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton

And

John Callanan
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College London
Producer: Simon Tillotson

Oct 25 2018

50mins

Play

Montesquieu

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755) whose works on liberty, monarchism, despotism, republicanism and the separation of powers were devoured by intellectuals across Europe and New England in the eighteenth century, transforming political philosophy and influencing the American Constitution. He argued that an individual's liberty needed protection from the arm of power, checking that by another power; where judicial, executive and legislative power were concentrated in the hands of one figure, there could be no personal liberty.

With

Richard Bourke
Professor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary, University of London

Rachel Hammersley
Senior Lecturer in Intellectual History at Newcastle University

And

Richard Whatmore
Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jun 14 2018

49mins

Play

Tocqueville: Democracy in America

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and his examination of the American democratic system. He wrote De La Démocratie en Amérique in two parts, published in 1835 and 1840, when France was ruled by the July Monarchy of Louis-Philippe. Tocqueville was interested in how aspects of American democracy, in the age of President Andrew Jackson, could be applied to Europe as it moved away from rule by monarchs and aristocrats. His work has been revisited by politicians ever since, particularly in America, with its analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of direct democracy and its warnings of mediocrity and the tyranny of the majority.

With

Robert Gildea
Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford

Susan-Mary Grant
Professor of American History at Newcastle University

and

Jeremy Jennings
Professor of Political Theory and Head of the School of Politics & Economics at King's College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Mar 22 2018

50mins

Play

Augustine's Confessions

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss St Augustine of Hippo's account of his conversion to Christianity and his life up to that point. Written c397AD, it has many elements of autobiography with his scrutiny of his earlier life, his long relationship with a concubine, his theft of pears as a child, his work as an orator and his embrace of other philosophies and Manichaeism. Significantly for the development of Christianity, he explores the idea of original sin in the context of his own experience. The work is often seen as an argument for his Roman Catholicism, a less powerful force where he was living in North Africa where another form of Christianity was dominant, Donatism. While Augustine retells many episodes from his own life, the greater strength of his Confessions has come to be seen as his examination of his own emotional development, and the growth of his soul.

With

Kate Cooper
Professor of History at the University of London and Head of History at Royal Holloway

Morwenna Ludlow
Professor of Christian History and Theology at the University of Exeter

and

Martin Palmer
Visiting Professor in Religion, History and Nature at the University of Winchester

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Mar 15 2018

47mins

Play

Sun Tzu and The Art of War

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas attributed to Sun Tzu (544-496BC, according to tradition), a legendary figure from the beginning of the Iron Age in China, around the time of Confucius. He may have been the historical figure Sun Wu, a military adviser at the court of King Helu of Wu (who reigned between about 514 and 496 BC), one of the kings in power in the Warring States period of Chinese history (6th - 5th century BC). Sun Tzu was credited as the author of The Art of War, a work on military strategy that soon became influential in China and then Japan both for its guidance on conducting and avoiding war and for its approach to strategy generally. After The Art of War was translated into European languages in C18th, its influence spread to military academies around the world.

The image above is of a terracotta warrior from the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor, who unified China after the Warring States period.

With

Hilde De Weerdt
Professor of Chinese History at Leiden University

Tim Barrett
Professor Emeritus of East Asian History at SOAS, University of London

And

Imre Galambos
Reader in Chinese Studies at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Mar 01 2018

48mins

Play

Cicero

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas developed by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43BC) to support and reinvigorate the Roman Republic when, as it transpired, it was in its final years, threatened by civil wars, the rule of Julius Caesar and the triumvirates that followed. As Consul he had suppressed a revolt by Catiline, putting the conspirators to death summarily as he believed the Republic was in danger and that this danger trumped the right to a fair trial, a decision that rebounded on him. While in exile he began works on duty, laws, the orator and the republic. Although left out of the conspiracy to kill Caesar, he later defended that murder in the interests of the Republic, only to be murdered himself soon after.

With

Melissa Lane
The Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University
and 2018 Carlyle Lecturer at the University of Oxford

Catherine Steel
Professor of Classics at the University of Glasgow

And

Valentina Arena
Reader in Roman History at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jan 25 2018

49mins

Play

Kant's Categorical Imperative

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason, looking at the intention behind actions rather than at consequences. He was inspired to find moral laws by natural philosophers such as Newton and Leibniz, who had used reason rather than emotion to analyse the world around them and had identified laws of nature. Kant argued that when someone was doing the right thing, that person was doing what was the universal law for everyone, a formulation that has been influential on moral philosophy ever since and is known as the Categorical Imperative. Arguably even more influential was one of his reformulations, echoed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which he asserted that humanity has a value of an entirely different kind from that placed on commodities. Kant argued that simply existing as a human being was valuable in itself, so that every human owed moral responsibilities to other humans and was owed responsibilities in turn.

With

Alison Hills
Professor of Philosophy at St John's College, Oxford

David Oderberg
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading

and

John Callanan
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College, London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Sep 21 2017

49mins

Play

Plato's Republic

Podcast cover
Read more
Is it always better to be just than unjust? That is the central question of Plato's Republic, discussed here by Melvyn Bragg and guests. Writing in c380BC, Plato applied this question both to the individual and the city-state, considering earlier and current forms of government in Athens and potential forms, in which the ideal city might be ruled by philosophers. The Republic is arguably Plato's best known and greatest work, a dialogue between Socrates and his companions, featuring the allegory of the cave and ideas about immortality of the soul, the value of poetry to society, and democracy's vulnerability to a clever demagogue seeking tyranny.

With

Angie Hobbs
Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

MM McCabe
Professor of Ancient Philosophy Emerita at King's College London

and

James Warren
Fellow of Corpus Christi College and a Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jun 29 2017

48mins

Play

Roger Bacon

Podcast cover
Read more
The 13th-century English philosopher Roger Bacon is perhaps best known for his major work the Opus Maius. Commissioned by Pope Clement IV, this extensive text covered a multitude of topics from mathematics and optics to religion and moral philosophy. He is also regarded by some as an early pioneer of the modern scientific method. Bacon's erudition was so highly regarded that he came to be known as 'Doctor Mirabilis' or 'wonderful doctor'. However, he is a man shrouded in mystery. Little is known about much of his life and he became the subject of a number of strange legends, including one in which he allegedly constructed a mechanical brazen head that would predict the future.

With:

Jack Cunningham
Academic Coordinator for Theology at Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln

Amanda Power
Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford

Elly Truitt
Associate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr College

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

Apr 20 2017

50mins

Play

Seneca the Younger

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Seneca the Younger, who was one of the first great writers to live his entire life in the world of the new Roman empire, after the fall of the Republic. He was a Stoic philosopher, he wrote blood-soaked tragedies, he was an orator, and he navigated his way through the reigns of Caligula, Claudius and Nero, sometimes exercising power at the highest level and at others spending years in exile. Agrippina the Younger was the one who called for him to tutor Nero, and it is thought Seneca helped curb some of Nero's excesses. He was later revered within the Christian church, partly for what he did and partly for what he was said to have done in forged letters to St Paul. His tragedies, with their ghosts and high body count, influenced Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Hamlet, and Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. The image above is the so-called bust of Seneca, a detail from Four Philosophers by Peter Paul Rubens.

With

Mary Beard
Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge

Catharine Edwards
Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London

and

Alessandro Schiesaro
Professor of Classics at the University of Manchester

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Feb 23 2017

51mins

Play

Hannah Arendt

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt. She developed many of her ideas in response to the rise of totalitarianism in the C20th, partly informed by her own experience as a Jew in Nazi Germany before her escape to France and then America. She wanted to understand how politics had taken such a disastrous turn and, drawing on ideas of Greek philosophers as well as her peers, what might be done to create a better political life. Often unsettling, she wrote of 'the banality of evil' when covering the trial of Eichmann, one of the organisers of the Holocaust.

With

Lyndsey Stonebridge
Professor of Modern Literature and History at the University of East Anglia

Frisbee Sheffield
Lecturer in Philosophy at Girton College, University of Cambridge

and

Robert Eaglestone
Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Feb 02 2017

47mins

Play

Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morality - A Polemic, which he published in 1887 towards the end of his working life and in which he considered the price humans have paid, and were still paying, to become civilised. In three essays, he argued that having a guilty conscience was the price of living in society with other humans. He suggested that Christian morality, with its consideration for others, grew as an act of revenge by the weak against their masters, 'the blond beasts of prey', as he calls them, and the price for that slaves' revolt was endless self-loathing. These and other ideas were picked up by later thinkers, perhaps most significantly by Sigmund Freud who further explored the tensions between civilisation and the individual.

With

Stephen Mulhall
Professor of Philosophy and a Fellow and Tutor at New College, University of Oxford

Fiona Hughes
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

And

Keith Ansell-Pearson
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jan 12 2017

48mins

Play

Zeno's Paradoxes

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zeno of Elea, a pre-Socratic philosopher from c490-430 BC whose paradoxes were described by Bertrand Russell as "immeasurably subtle and profound." The best known argue against motion, such as that of an arrow in flight which is at a series of different points but moving at none of them, or that of Achilles who, despite being the faster runner, will never catch up with a tortoise with a head start. Aristotle and Aquinas engaged with these, as did Russell, yet it is still debatable whether Zeno's Paradoxes have been resolved.

With

Marcus du Sautoy
Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford

Barbara Sattler
Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews

and

James Warren
Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Sep 22 2016

46mins

Play

Sovereignty

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the idea of Sovereignty, the authority of a state to govern itself and the relationship between the sovereign and the people. These ideas of external and internal sovereignty were imagined in various ways in ancient Greece and Rome, and given a name in 16th Century France by the philosopher and jurist Jean Bodin in his Six Books of the Commonwealth, where he said (in an early English translation) 'Maiestie or Soveraigntie is the most high, absolute, and perpetuall power over the citisens and subiects in a Commonweale: which the Latins cal Maiestatem, the Greeks akra exousia, kurion arche, and kurion politeuma; the Italians Segnoria, and the Hebrewes tomech shévet, that is to say, The greatest power to command.' Shakespeare also explored the concept through Richard II and the king's two bodies, Hobbes developed it in the 17th Century, and the idea of popular sovereignty was tested in the Revolutionary era in America and France.

With

Melissa Lane
Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University

Richard Bourke
Professor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary University of London

and

Tim Stanton
Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jun 30 2016

47mins

Play

The Muses

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Muses and their role in Greek mythology, when they were goddesses of poetry, song, music and dance: what the Greeks called mousike, 'the art of the Muses' from which we derive our word 'music.' While the number of Muses, their origin and their roles varied in different accounts and at different times, they were consistently linked with the nature of artistic inspiration. This raised a question for philosophers then and since: was a creative person an empty vessel into which the Muses poured their gifts, at their will, or could that person do something to make inspiration flow?

With

Paul Cartledge
Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

Angie Hobbs
Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of Sheffield

And

Penelope Murray
Founder member and retired Senior Lecturer, Department of Classics, University of Warwick
Producer: Simon Tillotson

Image: 'Apollo and the Muses (Parnassus)', 1631-1632. Oil on canvas. Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665).

May 19 2016

45mins

Play