Cover image of In Our Time: Philosophy
(359)
Society & Culture
History

In Our Time: Philosophy

Updated 12 days ago

Society & Culture
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

359 Ratings
Average Ratings
289
37
17
8
8

Amazing!

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

Conversational

By Emmhutch - Oct 04 2018
Read more
Love the conversational format with multiple perspectives on one topic

iTunes Ratings

359 Ratings
Average Ratings
289
37
17
8
8

Amazing!

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

Conversational

By Emmhutch - Oct 04 2018
Read more
Love the conversational format with multiple perspectives on one topic
Cover image of In Our Time: Philosophy

In Our Time: Philosophy

Updated 12 days ago

Read more

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

Rank #1: 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
28 mins
Play

Rank #2: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #3: 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
27 mins
Play

Rank #4: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #5: 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
28 mins
Play

Rank #6: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #7: 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
48 mins
Play

Rank #8: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #9: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #10: 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
28 mins
Play

Rank #11: 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
45 mins
Play

Rank #12: Feminism

Podcast cover
Read more
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most important events of the 20th century - the rise of Feminism and the subsequent empowerment of women. What have been the most important and lasting changes for women in the last 100 years and what is there still left to achieve? Are the biological differences between men and women insuperable? Is the feminist movement therefore set on a course it is inevitably bound to lose? Is the ideology of feminism in other words, working against our natural inclinations?If a man were to say “men are by nature more competitive, ambitious, status-conscious, dedicated, single-minded and persevering than women” then you could be forgiven for calling him anti-diluvian, blinkered and worse. But this is the express view of Dr Helena Cronin from the London School of Economics - a philosopher who has concentrated on Darwinian theory which she claims has never seriously been applied to humans. Joining her is Dr Germaine Greer whose book The Female Eunuch is credited with changing the lives of a generation of women. With Dr Helena Cronin, Co-director of the Centre for the Philosophy of the Natural and Social Sciences, London School of Economics; Dr Germaine Greer, Professor of English and Comparative Studies, Warwick University.
Jan 07 1999
28 mins
Play

Rank #13: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #14: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #15: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #16: 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
28 mins
Play

Rank #17: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #18: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #19: 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
42 mins
Play

Rank #20: 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
49 mins
Play

Similar Podcasts