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James Miller on 14 June 2011

Splendid Podcasts

Dear Professor Adamson,

May I say how much I have been enjoying your podcasts and how useful I have found them. As well as refreshing my knowledge of Plato and introducing some of the dialogues I don't know as I ought, it promises some exciting new avenues into areas of which I am wholly ignorant. 

I thought you might like to know that alongside Nigel Warburton's Philosophy Bites  your podcasts are also becoming part of my A-Level teaching and that my students are making use of them to get insights and opinions I have not offered. I merely provide a sheet of timed questions and some headphones and set them off. Happily several have then gone on to listen to all those others not immediately relevant. 

Keep up the good work.



In reply to by James Miller

Peter Adamson on 14 June 2011

A Level philosophy

Dear James,

Wow, that's amazing! I actually had in mind that A level students doing philosophy might get something out of the podcasts, so it's great to hear that this is coming to fruition. Thanks for getting in touch to let me know about this... and if you get a chance to tell other teachers about it, please do!



Derik on 9 June 2011

Philosophy online course

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your wonderful podcasts on philosophy.

Have you considered starting an online philosophy course that could organise our

thinking and enjoyment of philosophy, and study for a certificate or diploma?

Studying for a qualification helps to focus reading, thinking and exploration of ideas,

and a systamatic study would be so enjoyable.

Would you please consider an online course, as some of us may be home based,

and there are so few and inaccessable philosophy courses to study.


Thank you. I will enjoy all your podcasts.


In reply to by Derik

Peter Adamson on 10 June 2011

Online degrees

Hi Derik,

Glad you are enjoying the podcasts. Actually in London there is already an external Philosophy course, see:…

And that is for students who wish to study from afar. I have to admit I don't have much to do with this external course, it is run out of Birkbeck College. (I do a bit of marking for it.) There is also the Open University which offers similar degrees, I think.

Still, it's something to consider! Though I am finding the podcast plenty to keep me busy just at the moment.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Felix on 10 June 2011

Details of philosophy modules

Details of philosophy modules available from the Open University are here:

I must say that the course linked to by Peter has a much better selection. Plato and the pre-Socractics. Yay!

However it does not seem to have any pupil - teacher or pupil - pupil interaction.

Joni on 5 June 2011

Thank You

I just discovered this podcast as I was reading the Meno in preparation for an online seminar. I, like many in my age group, received a more specialized, career-focused higher education which neglected much of the liberal arts curriculum. I was introduced to the "Great Books" several years ago when I uncovered some of Mortimer Adler's great books study guides at the bottom of a pile of sale books at a used book shop.

Listening to your podcast has added much enjoyment to my daily walks with my dogs. They are informative and entertaining, yet have enough depth to encourage one to reflect on the content and, at least in my case, generate enough interest in the content to seek out the selections and read them for myself.

I own a small independent bookstore and I appreciate your suggestions for further reading. I also have been wanting to start a discussion group on some of these classic texts and your podcast will certainly be helpful.

Furthermore, I am excited about the thoroughness of your coverage of the History of Philosophy, the concept of "without any gaps", helps to put the ongoing conversation of man in greater perspective. I am especially looking forward to your discussion of Islamic thought.

So, thank you for taking the time and effort to provide this wonderful resource. I have become and will remain a faithful listener.

Joni Montover

In reply to by Joni

Felix on 5 June 2011

Discussion Group


I, too, have been encouraged to go beyond the podcast and seek out the originals and further resources relating to them.

However, it seems that what one really needs for the study of Plato is discussion partners.  So far I haven't found any real or virtual location where I could discuss these with other interested people. (I am in the UK)

Therefore your mention of an online seminar catches my attention. Can you tell me more?

Also, If anybody knows of such places or where they may be searched for, I would be most interested.



A few things I have found useful are:

Audio book of The Republic

Yale lectures on Socrates and Plato's Apology, Crito & Republic

Simon Blackburn's short book on The Republic

There also seems to be a fair bit of Plato in this Yale lecture series on Death which I haven't yet watched

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 7 June 2011

Further reading

Just to say to both Felix and Joni how pleased I am if the podcasts inspire you to read the actual texts. That would definitely be mission accomplished! I hope that the "further readings" will be of some help. When we get into more obscure topics, I'll try to remember to indicate where you can find translations of the works of these thinkers, not just secondary literature. But I've already put suggestions for the best things to borrow/buy/steal (just kidding about the stealing!) for Plato, Aristotle and so on.

In reply to by Felix

Otter Bob on 20 November 2020

discussion group

I came very late to noticing this post, but if you are still interested in an online seminar or in-depth discussion group you may contact me at otterbob44@gmail. com for the details.

Sybantcho on 2 June 2011

Thanks for doing this excellent podcast

Dear Peter,

Just thought I would write in and thank you for your podcast. Its something I really look forward to each week.


I studied classics at school way back (did a summer school in greek at Kings) and still like to read around in the subject. That is how I initially stumbled upon your great series. However I am looking forward to other periods - I am guessing that the classical and late-antiquity periods will take a while.

By the way does no gaps mean that you will be wandering into theological history pagan v christian thought..and will Aristotle or at least his philosophical ghost be popping up now and then at least as far as the late Middle Ages/Renaissance?

Thanks for the podcasts and my only quibble is that the sound could be improved by some basic soundproofing of the rooms you are in...eggboxes or even a sweater fixed to the wall?!!

Top marks for this stimulating and entertaining podcast - a real delight!


In reply to by Sybantcho

Peter Adamson on 7 June 2011

Later periods

Hi, and thanks for the positive feedback! The audio quality is indeed a problem, though I hope it has only been an issue with some of the interviews (which I occasionally have to do "in the field"). But I am trying to take more care to do the interviews in total silence or as close to that as can be had in London, and the future ones should, I hope, sound better. (The ones with Frisbee Sheffield and Fiona Leigh were unfortunately particularly bad.)

I will certainly be covering late antique thought, including pagans vs. Christians, in some detail. My main area of expertise actually starts then, since my research mostly concerns Neoplatonism and medieval philosophy (especially Islamic). Aristotle will be a constant presence for sure, especially once we get past Hellenistic philosophy where his influence is minor.

Thanks again!


Felix on 23 May 2011

Philosophy Audio books

I recently found this podcast / audio book of The Republic:…

It's 12 hours long but probably a good way for many of your listeners to be exposed to the full text. The narration is excellent, however I don't know which translation it is. I was amused when it was stated that in the transition from the small ideal society to the larger model one of the extra requirements would be 'call girls'!

Do you know of any other similar recordings of philosophical works that have the advantage of being either free or particularly good?

p.s. I recently left a new comment of which I am quite pleased on the Facebook discussion re Zeno :-)

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 24 May 2011

Audiobooks Philosophy

Hi Felix,

That's a good question. I know there is Nigel Warburton's podcast "Philosophy: the Classics" which is free on iTunes but I believe that isn't reading the works out but instead giving an introduction to them. I think I would find it frustrating to listen to a primary text, I'd want to keep slowing down and rewinding, I suspect. I did notice a while back that the service "Audible" which is advertised on some podcasts (like "History of Rome" and "This American Life") has some philosophy offerings, like Aristotle and the like. Not sure how good the reading is though.

I'll check out the Zeno comment...


P. J. O'Brien on 18 May 2011

Getting Started

Hello, Peter.

I'm 19 years old and have recently developed a passing interest in philosophy. Before I go ahead and start to learn on a more in-depth level about particular philosophers, I'm trying to develop a good core knowledge of the whole subject. That way, I can choose which aspects appeal to me the most and find some more specialised material on them.

Your podcast series is a brilliant starting point for me, since you talk in a way that even somebody, like me, who is not a student in the subject can understand. You don't assume that the person listening to the podcast is already educated in philsosphy like some of the other resources that I have found do.

I cannot thank you enough for taking time out of your day to record this series week, after week, after week. Please continue with this ambitious project and don't leave it unfinished. You genuinley are helping a lot of people. Not all of them may let it be known, but you definitely have a big audience there.

Thanks again.


~ Paul


P.S. Do you think that 'A History of Western Philisophy' by Russell Bertrand is a decent book for somebody wanting to get a general solid understanding of the whole history of western philsophy, like me? If not, do you know of any other books that may be suitable? Thanks.

In reply to by P. J. O'Brien

Peter Adamson on 20 May 2011

Histories of philosophy

Dear Paul,

Thanks, I'm really glad you are finding the podcast rewarding. It's good to know people are actually listening to it! As for your last question, I think the consensus on Russell's history is that it's interesting because he wrote it, and he's an interesting person, but it's pretty far from being a reliable source on the history of philosophy. (His remarks about Islamic philosophy, which is my main field, are particularly dire.) The usual single-author work on the whole history of philosophy is by Frederick Copleston, which is rather out-of-date now but still sells copies I think and is in print. To be honest though I would steer you towards series which cover the subject in multiple volumes by various authors. The Cambridge Companion series is good for this, both on periods and individual thinkers; more in depth is the "Cambridge History" series (e.g. the new "Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy," but they have volumes on various periods). There are also Blackwell Companions and Oxford Handbooks to various figures and periods. In fact just about every academic publisher has some sort of series along these lines. So I would more recommend a recent series like that rather than Russell or Copleston.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Felix on 19 June 2011

Do you have any opinion on

Do you have any opinion on Anthony Kenny's A New History of Western Philosophy?

It is approximately twice the length of Rusell, and yet a quarter of the length of Coppleston, and could (if it is well thought of) be a suitable replacement for the general reader.

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 19 June 2011

Kenny's History

Unfortunately I haven't managed to read it yet, though Kenny certainly knows his stuff especially when it comes to Aristotle and Aquinas. Anyone else want to give a view?

MIke K on 13 May 2011

Intro Book to Presocratics


I've recently found your podcast and have been trying to catch up. I'm on the Hippocrates podcast now. They really are wonderful. Thank you for doing this!

I have a question. I noticed on the webpages for the Presocratics you recommended a few books. I was wondering if you have any opinion on one book that I used for my Ancient Greek philosophy class in the early 90's: An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy by Robinson. I'm a bit disappointed that he doesn't consider Thales to be the first true Presocratic. It was written around 1970-do you think that it is still a good resource or should I look into one of the newer books?

In reply to by MIke K

Peter Adamson on 13 May 2011

Robinson on the Presocratics

Hi there - I have to confess I don't know the Robinson book, looked it up online and it is from 1968. Quite a bit has happened then, in terms of scholarship. (Out of curiosity who does he think is the first true Presocratic?) To me the main thing to read has to be Kirk Raven and Schofield, since it gives you the fragments (in both Greek and English!) and helpful commentary. Jonathan Barnes is probably the place to turn for a really hardcore analytic analysis of the fragments. And for a general introduction I would strongly recommend James Warren's book on the Presocratics, that is probably the best general survey out there.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Mike K on 13 May 2011

Poor Thales!

Wow thanks for the quick response!

I actually have Warren's book in the cart on Amazon along with the Cambridge Companion to the Presocratics and Waterfield's The First Philosophers (Oxford World Classics). I was trying to decide between the three (now 4-I'll take a look at Kirk Raven Schofield as well).

As for Robinson-he has Anaximander as the first one. Interestingly enough he actually has a chapter on Hesiod to contrast the Presocratics with the "old school" Greeks, and in an Appendix he talks about Thales. He felt that Thales was more interested in explaining particular natural phenomena, not general questions that Anaximander and Anaximenes were trying to figure out.

Shoo Rayner on 11 May 2011


Hi Peter,


Thanks for these podcasts. I listen to them if I wake up in the middle of the night. It would be cruel to say they send me to sleep, but they often do, having satisfied some question that is ringing around my head.

I don't think I'd ever have the time to catch up with all this stuff myself. Your style leads us gently along, and having them as podcasts means that I can replay bits I didn't quite get.

I'm thrilled with the Plato's vision of Winged Horses pulling chariots - very left/right brain and will be using the analogy in one of my youtube drawing videos soon - I'll give you a mention, for what it's worth.

Keep up the good work, and could you ask for an extra microphone on interviews? They sound like they are done in the room next door!


All the best


Shoo Rayner

In reply to by Shoo Rayner

Peter Adamson on 13 May 2011

Bedtime philosophy

Hi -- actually you are not the first person to tell me they fall asleep to the podcasts. Better than smoking in bed, I guess. Anyway I'm glad you enjoy them! I agree the last two interviews didn't sound too good but it's not really the microphone, it was the background noise... I will be careful about this in the future. (Or, as they say in the UK, "in future." Very strange, that.)


Felix on 7 May 2011

Best introductory philosophy text for children

I have recently heard A.C. Grayling say that he found philosophy via the Charmides, and also that Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics could be read by a 12 year old.

Since my daughters 12th birthday is coming up, and I can occasionally persuade her to read 'serious' books, I was wondering what would be the 'best' text to give her.

Obviously it should be able to catch her interest and not to long.


In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 7 May 2011

Philosophy for kids

I think you can't go wrong with Plato, like maybe the Euthyphro which is quite short (the Charmides is rather challenging, I'd say, despite what Anthony Grayling experienced!). Alternatively there are good books for introducing philosophy to kids now. There is "Sophie's World," a novelized version of the history of philosophy; and also check out Peter Worley's "The If Machine" which is a how-to guide for introducing philosophy to kids. He runs a program called the Philosophy Shop, and they send people into schools here in the UK to teach philosophy to kids, even kids much younger than your daughter. Their website is:

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Felix on 7 May 2011

Thanks Peter. I recently

Thanks Peter.

I recently read Sophie's World and am saving that one for when my daughter is the same age as Sophie (15th birthday?)

I will go with the Euthyphro, and also check out philosophy Shop.

Peter Halliday on 23 April 2011

This series

Just wanted to say how immensely enjoyable and thought-provoking this series has been; many thanks to Peter and all who make it possible. I particularly value the contributions from MM McCabe. If there is a philosophy equivalent to the Oscars, this series deserves to win every award.

In reply to by Peter Halliday

Peter Adamson on 23 April 2011

And the Oscar goes to...

Thanks very much! I'll tell MM that she has another fan (there has been a lot of good feedback on her episodes, unsurprisingly; she will return!).

Anonymous on 19 April 2011

Virtue as in being in our own best interest.

Hi Peter

Thank you for your excellent podcasts, they've been very helpful with my greek philosophy revision.

It seems to me that a key part of Plato's argument that virtue=knowledge, is the idea that with true knowledge we would see the virtuous action is always the best course for us.

I was wondering if you could advise on the best place to look for a good account of Plato's arguments for this claim?


In reply to by Anonymous

Peter Adamson on 19 April 2011

The benefit of virtue

Hi, glad the podcasts have been helpful. For the general claim that virtue (which is knowledge) would benefit us, one can look at numerous Socratic dialogues -- sometimes he suggests that knowledge is a necessary condition for all benefit, as in the Euthydemus, for instance. But I think for what you're after the Gorgias might be the best dialogue to look at, since he argues for the thesis at length there.

Anonymous on 30 March 2011

But what about King's

Dear Professor Adamson,

May I use your comments page to request that the Department of Philosophy breaks its silence about recent developments at King's College London, the attempt to sack Professor Lappin and his colleagues., and the whole process of 'consultation'? How many members of your Department have taken early retirement? Was it the decision of members of the Department to take early retirement which saved Professor Lappin, or was there a real change of policy? Did the saving of Professor Lappin and his colleagues ensure that other posts in other Departments at King's had to be cut? Is it an accident that Sir Richard Trainor is on the Council of the AHRC at the time when they make 'The Big Society' a funding project?

I know that Departments rarely discuss this sort of thing. But surely philosophers, and Professors of Ethics, are best placed to guide the rest of us. Despite your efforts to teach the history of philosophy, it is for arbitrary cuts that King's College London is best known worldwide. The UK journalist Iain Pears has provided cogent arguments that these cuts do not save money, and reveal how far King's is run by managers with a very strange agenda. King's refuses to enter into dialogue with Pears, presumably hoping he will go away. But to an outsider like myself he seems to be reasonable. 

May I urge you to ask your colleagues in the Department of Philosophy to think about this aspect of their public interaction? 

In reply to by Anonymous

Peter Adamson on 30 March 2011


I saw you were also asking about this on facebook. The Department did put a remark about it up on our website last year, after the issue was resolved, which you may have seen. As for further discussion, I don't think it is really my place to speak for the whole Department on such a sensitive issue, especially not here. There is still the other facebook page about Philosophy cuts at King's, and that might be a more relevant forum.

Nick Fallows on 23 March 2011


This is seriously brilliant and so generous of you. What is the good? I'll tell you. This is the good.

Felix on 21 March 2011

Have any philosophical problems been finally solved?

Have any philosophical problems been finally solved?

I saw this question here today: but it has been concerning me for a while :-)

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 30 March 2011


Dear Felix, I thought about this one for a while since it's quite difficult. Some questions that once counted as "philosophical" have arguably been solved -- e.g. how does motion through space work, a topic discussed by Aristotle and now covered in classical physics. Of course such issues are no longer thought of as philosophical given the narrowing definition of "philosophy" in recent centuries.

Part of the problem is what "finding a solution" means. If it is a non-empirical question then the discovery of a solution is probably going to mean something like "everyone agreeing on a certain view" but even that is always subject to revision. I think that at least in the English-language tradition there is broad agreement on a few key issues, for instance most analytic philosophers believe the mind cannot exist separate from the body, and are compatibilists about free will and determinism. Also I get the impression that a large majority are atheists. But of course there are many exceptions; these are just majority viewpoints and it would be silly to say that the problem of God's existence has been "solved" just because a majority of philosophers become atheists (any more than it was "solved" in the medieval period because all of them were theists).

A final thought would be that there are certain distinctions and tools that get developed that do seem to be clear steps forward, e.g. the distinction between sense and reference, or the contrast between necessary and sufficient conditions. Even if these distinctions were implicitly made earlier, being able to make them explicitly is a big advantage. But this isn't the same as solving a problem.

Anyone else have any candidates to suggest?

Bryan Keniry on 17 March 2011


Hi Peter

I am really loving the podcasts so far.

It is a really ambitious project you have set yourself but I think it absolutely needs to be done.

I have so far especially appreciated the podcasts on the pre-socratics. I know a fair bit about Plato and Aristotle but haven't really had much occasion to study the pre-socratics except in passing.

While I will listen with interest to the coming podcasts on Plato and Aristotle, since there are many of their works I'm not familiar with, I am especially looking forward to when you get to the Hellenistic period and Late antiquity.

Hope to hear many more podcasts from you, and I hope the project continues (it will take years I think).

Rob Loftis on 4 March 2011

Request for podcast on Plato's academy

Hi Peter,

Thanks so much for these podcasts. They make my driving time so much more interesting.

Do you take requests? While you are on Plato, I’d like to know more about the other denizens of his Academy. The nice thing about these podcasts is learning about all the second tier figures and people who don’t make it into regular surveys. (I’d somehow missed Xenophanes until now.) So I’m wondering now about the second tier figures who were right there with Plato, interacting with him on a daily basis.

Just a suggestion. Thanks


In reply to by Rob Loftis

Peter Adamson on 4 March 2011


Hi Rob,

My plan is actually to devote an episode to Plato's and Aristotle's students (basically, Xenocrates, Speusippus, and Theophrastus) when I am done with Plato and Aristotle. Sadly you'll have to wait: by my reckoning that will be episode 51! (Lots of Aristotle to get through.) Another figure one could mention here is Eudoxus, a mathematician who worked in the academy, and I may mention him briefly when I talk about Aristotle's cosmology. So, I'll get there ("without any gaps") but you'll have to be a bit patient! Thanks for listening.

Natalia Doran on 2 March 2011

four elements allegorical?

As you requested in your very generous and very prompt response to my email, I will repeat my question in this format:

Kant - admittedly as a complete one-off throw-away remark in the Critique of Pure Reason - offers an allegorical interpretation of the classical four elements. Earth is the principle of permanence, stability, fire of influence, interaction, air and water media, respectively inaccessible and accessible, where the interaction takes place. How justified is such an interpretation, does it have any pedigree at all, maybe in late antiquity .?..  

You did not request it, but I will also repeat my complements: wonderfully informative and listenable-to podcasts, cannot wait for more.

In reply to by Natalia Doran

Peter Adamson on 3 March 2011

Kant on the elements

Thanks Natalia, this is interesting. Well, I don't know the Kant passage (I could check with my colleague John Callanan at KCL who is a Kant expert). But there is a fairly long tradition of this, going back at least to Plato, who says (as we'll see in the Timaeus episode) that earth is responsible for solidity, whereas water and fire are fast moving or flowing. That isn't actually meant to be an allegory, it's just a physical explanation. Then later authors do bring in more "symbolic" or Pythagorean interpretations of the elements. One author I know well, the Muslim thinker al-Kindi, has a treatise on "Why the Ancients Ascribed the Five Geometrical Shapes to the Elements." And he does talk about numerical relations, certain shapes as "in between" others and so on. More generally, though, Aristotle lays out a theory where the four elements would naturally form concentric circles: fire at the top, earth at the bottom (a sphere), and air and water in between. So that idea that air and water are a kind of medium between fire and earth is just basic Aristotelian (hence ancient/medieval) cosmological doctrine. The elements must then somehow be mixed or combined, and it's traditionally thought that this is done by celestial motion.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Natalia Doran on 4 March 2011

Kant on the elements

Thank you, Timaeus is the perfect next step, cannot wait for the podcast! The added benefit for me will be learning to pronounce the title of the dialogue - as an autodidact (though, I promise you, not of the Sartrian variety), I only read things and do not know how they are supposed to sound.

The Kant passage I was referring to comes just before the Transcendental Doctrine of Method part of the Critique, in the Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic Of the Regulative Use of the Ideas of Pure Reason, A646, B674.

Andre on 1 March 2011




Great podcast!  With all the turmoil in Africa and Middle East these days, can you talk about in one of your podcast, what you think Plato/Socrates would say about these new regimes?  


In reply to by Andre

Peter Adamson on 1 March 2011

Modern tyranny

Hi Andre,

Well, I don't think I'll stray very far into current events in the podcasts; not really my strong point. But I guess Plato might think that what is going on in Libya right now illustrates his points about tyranny rather well (especially what he says in the Republic, which I'll be talking about in a few weeks).

Thanks for listening!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Andre on 7 March 2011

Modern tyranny



Thank you very much for the quick response.  I look forward to hearing podcast on Republic in next few weeks.  

Anonymous on 28 February 2011

Great Podcast


thank you so much for your efforts and for sharing your extensive knowledge.  Your podcasts are very well prepared, articulated and entertaining.  I look forward to each new episode with zeal.

Felix on 22 February 2011

Comment Formatting

no doubt you have noticed that all line breaks are removed when posing comments.
Do you have somebody you can ask to fix this?

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 24 February 2011

Line Breaks

Ok, thanks for pointing this out.

If this shows as a new line then it's been fixed... looks like it works! Thanks Julian (the HoP web wizard).

Felix on 14 February 2011

Can't get enough!


I love the podcast and can't wait for the next episode to come out. I would say that once a week isn't often enough. How about Monday and Thursday releases?

Also, a little niggle, after checking the website three times a day for a week, today (14th Feb) the latest episode 20 says that it was posted on the 6th Feb. This leads to self-doubt!

Keep up the good work! (Just work even harder!)

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 14 February 2011

Twice a week?

And here I thought once a week was possibly too ambitious! Anyway, glad you are enjoying the podcasts. Well spotted on the posting date. The page for this most recent podcast was in fact created Feb 6, but I didn't add the actual podcast file until yesterday, and then "published" it this morning.