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Mitchell on 15 May 2012

I love your podcast so much.

I love your podcast so much. So much that I needed to comment just to say that. Please keep up the subtle humor and thoughtful analysis.

avi chaim on 7 May 2012

Many thanks!!!

Hello Prof Adamson

Many thanks for your excellent podcasts.

With my very best wishes and kind regards,


I am interested in Maimonides and the Islamic Philosophy.

swallerstein on 5 May 2012

great podcasts!!


I haven't reached the Neoplatonisms yet, but I just wanted to thank you for such interesting podcasts.

Actually, I skip some and I've only reached Aristotle. I guess I'll have to go back and read his ethics. Also Plato's Republic.

At this rate, it will take you years and years to reach the 21th century, which is too bad.

Maybe you could just cheat a bit and dash through the Middle Ages and begin again with Descartes.

I doubt that you will do that. You seem like a very conscientious person.

I prefer the Greeks myself. I have the theory that the Greeks lied to themselves less than we do today and much much less than the thinkers of the Middle Ages.

James Woods on 2 May 2012

Platonic dialogues


I am on a mission to acquire all of the Platonic dialogues so I can ease my mind in between stressful bouts of MCAT studying this summer. What translations or collections do you recommend to get my collection started? Thanks much.

In reply to by James Woods

Peter Adamson on 2 May 2012

Plato's dialogues

I'd go with the Hackett collected works volume edited by Cooper; it and some other things are listed here on the top page for Plato and Socrates.

Ben on 28 April 2012

Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou

I listen to these on my iPhone on the drive to & from work.
They are the best thing since
Thank you SO SO much for making them.
I can't tell you how much I look forward to my 25min drive now- I'm often gutted when I actually get home & end up sitting in the car outside my flat for 10mins till you've finished the episode! 8-D

In reply to by Ben

Peter Adamson on 28 April 2012

...and thanks for listening

Gosh, you're welcome! Glad you are enjoying them so much. I seem to be getting less disciplined and letting the episodes get slightly longer (partially because people recommended I should talk slower). So maybe that's why you wind up waiting in your car for me to get through it!


Linda on 22 April 2012

Hello Peter, do you think

Hello Peter, do you think you'll be taking on philosophers from different cultures? It would be trail-blazing if you did that via this podcast series.

In reply to by Linda

Peter Adamson on 22 April 2012

Different cultures


I'll definitely be doing Islamic philosophy at great length (that's actually my main area of expertise). Not really planning to do Indian and Chinese philosophy, but you never know... I realize it would be better to include them but I know almost nothing about them so it's daunting.

Thanks for listening!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Linda on 23 April 2012

I was actually thinking about

I was actually thinking about Islamic philosophy, since I was just reading about Al-Andalus, and some other bits and pieces. I didn't want to put any pressure though!

I'll be looking forward to it then. Oh and thank you for the quick reply.


Max on 20 April 2012

Thanks so much for doing this

Thanks so much for doing this podcast, it's been incredibly interesting and informative.

One question though - what do you think of Xenophon? I know you briefly address him in a Socrates episode, and you kind of write him off as a philosopher but say he's great for other things. But you never really address what that is! Anyhow, if you have any time to elaborate, that'd be great.

In reply to by Max

Peter Adamson on 20 April 2012



Thanks to you and the previous poster for the encouragement! As far as Xenophon goes I'm not really an expert on him, but he is definitely an important source on Greek history. For what it's worth I do think that his portrayal of Socrates is interesting and provides an interesting corrective or balance to Plato's: if we are interested in the real historical Socrates I reckon that Xenophon's version is likely to be at least as close to accuracy as Plato's.


Dave Macher on 19 April 2012

History of Philosophy Podcasts

Thanks for the podcast series. I appreciate the time and effort you invest in each episode. Your exposition is clear and easy to follow. I very much appreciate the sly humor and puns that help to enliven the series.
I discovered your podcasts while searching for the subject of philosophy. I majored in philosophy many years ago. Your podcasts help to refresh my recollection.
Please keep up the great work. I hope to live long enough to listen to the entire series, which will no doubt total several hundred episodes. WOW! What a huge project to take on.
Best wishes,

Dave Macher

Matthew on 9 April 2012

Thanks so much for these

Thanks so much for these podcasts. It's been awesome learning about the history of philosophy, and the origins of a subject that I think is great. I was just curious because you said in the first episode concerning the sceptics that you'll finally be up to Descartes in five years. Will you actually continue up to Descartes, and how long would it take? I would love to hear a podcast on the more contemporary thinkers(relative to the ones being discussed), especially Kant.

In reply to by Matthew

Peter Adamson on 9 April 2012

The far-off moderns

Hi there - glad you are enjoying the podcasts. I was kind of kidding about 5 years until Descartes but, to do some more serious reckoning, I am planning on reaching medieval philosophy at somewhere around episode 115. I will do Islamic medieval first, then Jewish, then Latin Christian medieval. That seems to me like it would take me up to episode 200, though I haven't planned all of it out in detail. Since I do almost 50 episode per year that therefore means at least two more years until I arrive at the Renaissance. At the moment I do plan to keep going from there, though, well into modernity -- at least as far as Kant and perhaps further. Once I get past medieval my competence starts to tail off, so it would be harder, but also a real learning experience and challenge for me, plus it seems silly to stop before reaching such greats as Descartes, Hume, Kant etc. I may need to slow down to one episode every two weeks once I get past medieval, just to make the project manageable, since I'd need to do more background research at that point.

Thanks again!


Enas on 8 April 2012

Ancient Medicine!

Really so talented work,Thanks so much for your efforts,but can you make an episode just about the history of ancient Greek medicine?!
Thanks in advance!

In reply to by Enas

Peter Adamson on 8 April 2012

Ancient medicine

Hi -- do you mean something more than the episode that went up today? I don't think I'll get more into the topic than that, but I hope that this episode (plus next week's interview about Galen) cover the subject pretty well in its own right, as well as the relation between medicine and philosophy.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Enas on 8 April 2012

Ancient Medicine!

Yes,I mean to get into the history of ancient Greek medicine as I am interested more in that part! Anyway am waiting for the next(Galen is very important source),Thanks so much for your efforts!

In reply to by Enas

Peter Adamson on 8 April 2012

Even more ancient medicine

Ah, I see. Well, this is after all a podcast about philosophy, so I think I will not branch out into other fields for their own sake. But apart from these two episodes I would highly recommend V. Nutton's book listed in the "further reading" on today's episode, that is a comprehensive look at the topic in its own right rather than with a philosophical slant.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Enas on 8 April 2012


Okay then,I got your point! Thanks for your recommendation for this book and am gonna search for it!

JKE on 1 April 2012


Peter, would you happen to know where I can find any scholarly information on the Megarians? I've decided to reread the Theaetetus and I figured it might be helpful to know a little about them. The most information I have on them right now is from Cornford's commentary, but he doesn't have a lot to say about their doctrines. Or have their ideas more or less been lost in the mists of time?

In reply to by JKE

Peter Adamson on 2 April 2012


There's a useful section on them in the Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy, so I would point you to that in the first instance. There are also studies of them/collections of testimonia in French (R. Muller) and German (Döring).

In reply to by Anonymous

Anonymous on 28 March 2012

Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for starting this series! I've been following since the beginning and have shared them with my fellow philosophers at Western Connecticut State University. I hope you can keep on going through the Medieval period, the Renaissance, and beyond.

Anonymous on 28 March 2012

Philosophy podcasts

I just wanted to say thank you so much for creating this fantastic resource; your podcasts are hugely enjoyable and informative!

isaac dumiel on 27 March 2012

short compliment

Hi Peter. I'm looking forward to the interview with A. A. Long, and agree that there couldn't be a more impressive finale for a series of talks on Hellenistic philosophy. I must add however, that I enjoyed your podcasts on Plato more than those on Epictetus and Seneca, where you gave us little of their philosophy in their own words and instead spent the entire time summarizing. I felt we lost some insight into the personality and genius of both Hellenistic authors, as well as their lasting appeal over so many centuries. I'm also looking forward to your presentations of Arab philosophy, as it seems to be an area you know something about. Is this due to a focus on neo-Platonism? That continuity of thought seems important to you. This observation is based only on having heard you on both your own podcast and 'In Our Time', rather than looking at say, your published work, so perhaps it's misguided, but that's my sense anyway. Thanks for reading this far, and for a wonderful podcast. Not that it matters, but since you don't know what kind of audience your effort has attracted, I'll just mention I'm a currently unemployed cancer patient who is largely housebound (I'm sure my situation enhances my interest in Stoicism and Epictetus in particular), and your podcasts help me stay in an intellectually stimulating world rather than one filled with the drudgery of endless medical procedures, etc. Thanks for that. best wishes isaac dumiel (some yahoo formerly at large but now housebound in Seattle WA USA)

In reply to by isaac dumiel

Peter Adamson on 27 March 2012


Thanks very much for the message -- you are right that continuity is important for me, in fact in a way it is the goal of the whole project ("without any gaps") and that is no doubt in part because I work especially on topics that tend to get skipped, namely Neoplatonism and philosophy in the Islamic world. 

I'd be interested to know more what you would have liked to hear in the Roman Stoics episodes -- obviously I had to cover a lot of ground in each episode (true in pretty much every episode of course) but if anything I was more worried about summarizing in Plato than with these guys, because with Plato I had to go over what happens in each dialogue whereas the Roman Stoic episodes were, I thought, more about the main themes that emerge. Or maybe you just want more detail? (After all I did 19 on Socrates and Plato, only one on Seneca!)

Thanks for listening! And I wish you all the best for a speedy recovery.


Mark on 21 March 2012


Hi Peter,
I wonder if Apuleius, author of "The Golden Ass" and "The God Of Socrates", would figure in your podcast as a "Middle" Platonist? I'm looking forward to your discussion of these intermediary figures, since most studies tend to skip over them in a quick, dismissive paragraph!

In reply to by Mark

Peter Adamson on 21 March 2012


Hi there -- yes, I will cover him somehow. I think probably not in the general episode on Middle Platonism, but rather later on when I talk about Platonism in Latin (the territory covered in Gersh's "Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism: the Latin Tradition") along with Macrobius, for instance. I will probably not do this for a long time though since I will go through Greek Middle and Neo- Platonism first! Thanks, Peter
David on 20 March 2012

Time Line

Hi Peter,
Just seen the timeline section. Thankyou for putting this up there I think it will be a great reference point. Enjoyed the last two episodes on Cicero very much.

Kind Regards


JKE on 16 March 2012

So, would I be correct in

So, would I be correct in supposing that Middle Platonism/ Neo-Pythagoreanism is soon to follow upon the skepticism episodes?

In reply to by JKE

Peter Adamson on 16 March 2012

Middle Platonism

You bet! Episode 78 (which is already written). I'm just working now on episodes on Philo of Alexandria (79) and Plutarch (80) and there will also be an interview with an expert on Middle Platonism, namely Jan Opsomer. Glad you are curious about these subjects, I have been finding these scripts really interesting to write.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

JKE on 17 March 2012

Sounds great! As I'm sure you

Sounds great! As I'm sure you can imagine, we didn't spend much time (like, any...) on the Middle Platonists in my undergrad history of philosophy course, the little I do know about them has been in my own readings, so I'm looking forward to hearing a couple professionals discuss the matter.

eugenia_dg on 12 March 2012

Pearls one stumbles upon in the world wide web

Before my grandchildren are born and come of age to enjoy listening to the MP3s I've downloaded, I'm taking delight myself in your special style. Hopefully it won't sound void if I say that the world is a better place with you (and your podcast) around.

Now, I know what you're thinking (smiles): that I must be listening to them from time to time! Well no, actually I listen to an episode a day, and then again and again; and every time there's a new aspect, a new idea popping up from among the layers of your argumentative discourse: Antiquity revived.

Receive my most heartfelt thanks,


In reply to by Peter Adamson

eugenia_dg on 15 March 2012

Spreading the word

Dear Peter,

There's a bit more to enjoying your series (I've managed to download them all), and I feel you must know about it: I pasted the page link into my educational blog for all my students to have access to the real thing.

Would you say yes to my transcribing one of your episodes (Thaetetus would be just right for the time being)and so use it as a basis for an entry on knowledge and belief?

Sincerely yours,


Ken is thinking on 10 March 2012

Many Thanks

Hi Peter,
Thanks for the podcast. I can only imagine the amount effort you put into this project. Your work has rekindled my love of thinking.
Many thanks.

Cristina on 7 March 2012


Dear Peter.

I am deep into your fascinating programs on Plato. Perusing in my library, we don't have the book you recommend, but instead A. E. Taylor, Plato: the Man and His Work. Has it been supersede or is it still a good introduction?



In reply to by Cristina

Peter Adamson on 8 March 2012

A.E. Taylor

Dear Cristina,

I've had to look it up because I don't own a copy myself. This is from the early 20th century so it is certainly dated, I have a soft spot for scholarship from this era and of course it's deeply grounded in a classicist education such as hardly anyone gets nowadays (in fact I think he's presenting Plato more from a classicist rather than philosophical point of view, which I say in the full knowledge that this is a false dichotomy). Probably not the best thing you can read but it might not be a bad start.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Cristina on 9 March 2012

Dear Peter: Thank you very

Dear Peter:
Thank you very much for looking up the book. I will tap into interlibrary loan, so I can get your recommendations.

Thanks again!

Matthew on 1 March 2012


This is a truly wonderful work you are doing. Thank you! Perhaps someone has already asked you this in the comments but supposing, despite your efforts, that you do find a gap or would like to add an interview that fills out the picture even more, do you have a way of adding new episodes that address topics treated at an earlier time? Thanks.

Matthew Miller

In reply to by Matthew

Peter Adamson on 2 March 2012

Retrospective gap-filling

Hi Matthew,

Actually no one has asked me that before but I have given it some thought. It would be no problem to put it up on the website here, and it could go onto the RSS feed like other podcasts albeit that it would come out of order. It would need to be numbered something like "episode 66a", which is not an insurmountable problem of course. I tend to think I will not do it though, unless I've missed out something that really should have been covered. (Given that people keep saying that they are looking forward to the 19th century and stuff like that, I suspect a lot of listeners would be happier if I just keep pressing on!)

By the way there will also, I hope, be a book version in which I could address themes or figures that didn't get enough attention.



Adam on 29 February 2012

The end?

Hi Peter,

Thanks for these podcasts; I enjoy them on my long commute! One question though, can you ever post the last podcast? When does the history of philosophy end? Xeno may have his revenge after all!


In reply to by Adam

Peter Adamson on 29 February 2012

The end

Hi Adam,

Yes, that's a fair point! I have imagined myself saying, "this week on the history of philosophy our topic is... this week in the history of philosophy." But seriously, I will probably try to choose some kind of ending point that makes sense, I've thought about Kant as a good stopping point but I would love to cover Hegel, Nietzsche, Frege, etc. So perhaps I will go to the end of the 19th century or something. Anyway this isn't a problem I need to solve any time soon!

Thanks for listening,


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Adam on 2 March 2012

Perhaps Kierkegaard's

Perhaps Kierkegaard's diatribe against the Hegelians finally writing the final chapter?

In reply to by Adam

Peter Adamson on 2 March 2012

Ending topics

Or the later Wittgenstein, who wanted everyone to be cured of doing philosophy -- that would be an appropriate place to finish!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Adam on 12 March 2012


Peter, if you could make any Wittgenstein, early or later, intelligible, that would be amazing! I had a great deal of trouble with him; I went to him expecting the linguistic turn, but got the Brown and Blue books instead. Wrong work to start with? I couldn't even tell you one sentence of what I read.

In reply to by Adam

Peter Adamson on 12 March 2012


Hi Adam,

You'll have a long wait until I get to Wittgenstein! I think probably the more obvious work to start with is the "Philosophical Investigations" though that is in many ways a reaction to his own "Tractatus" -- and that's really hard. I've heard it said that the later work "On Certainty" is a bit more feasible if you want a text to begin with but he is not at all within my expertise so I'm not the best source of advice here. If you are really keen to look into him then I can ask expert colleagues for a tip.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Adam on 13 March 2012

Thanks, Peter! I'm not

Thanks, Peter! I'm not really that keen on taking up Wittgenstein again, at the moment, so no need to call the cavalry. And honestly, I'm looking more forward to Boethius right now than anything else.

In reply to by Adam

Peter Adamson on 14 March 2012


Hi Adam,

In that case you don't have so long to wait -- Boethius is scheduled for episode 110. Thanks for listening!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Malcolm on 28 April 2012

Kenny on the above...

I've just finished reading Sir Anthony Kenny's "A New History of Western Philosophy" and I thought he was very good on most of the philosophers mentioned in this thread. He made me want to run out and buy Boethius!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Malcolm on 28 April 2012

Why not finish with Hadot and late Foucault?

As the work of Pierre Hadot, and late Michael Foucault, is heavily influenced by the Ancient Philosophers, why not "finish" there, at the beginning...

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Felix on 2 March 2012

The Present

I hope that you will go all the way through to Sartre, Derida, post-modernism, Plantinga ('cos I've heard of him!), and others.

Mark on 24 February 2012

Neoplatonist texts

Hi Peter,

I realize that, once again, I'm getting way ahead of things, but you seem to be the individual who'd know about the availability of Neoplatonist texts. I've read Plotinus, as well as the recent Paulist Press edition of the "pseudo"-Dionysius, but would very much like to move on to Proclus and later writers such as (in particular) Scotus Erigena. Problem: can't find texts! Or, at least, texts that aren't selling for $100+. 

Doing some web research, I discovered a site called The Thomas Taylor Trust, which is dedicated to republishing works of Proclus, Iamblichus, etc., which were translated by Thomas Taylor in the later 18th century. They seem to be priced relatively reasonably, and in excellent, leather bound edition as well. Question: have you ever come across any of these, and is the quality of translation adequate? I know that Stephen MacKenna famously disparaged Taylor's Plotinus translations, but this may well have been due to professional jealousy.

Any light you could shed on the matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.


In reply to by Mark

Peter Adamson on 24 February 2012

Neoplatonists in (English) translation

Hi Mark,

Well you've come to the right place. As a good point to start from I'd recommend Dillon and Gerson's "Neoplatonist Philosophy: Introductory Readings," which is from Hackett and in paperback so not expensive. It has some Plotinus but also later figures like Iamblichus and Proclus are included. Also very useful are the three volumes of Sourcebooks edited by Sorabji for Duckworth, called "The Philosophy of the Commentators"; when I teach Neoplatonism I draw on these two things to cover all of late antiquity.

In terms of single authors, the Prometheus Trust has been reissuing affordable reprints of books by authors like Iamblichus, Proclus and Damascius. You should also be able to get Proclus' "Elements of Theology" in paperback from Oxford, the Dodds translation and commentary. There are also paperback translations of Proclus' commentaries on the Elements of Euclid and on the Parmenides.

All of these would be better than the Thomas Taylor which is, as you can imagine somewhat out of date and not based on such reliable editions though this is of course to take nothing away from his achievement which was astonishing in its day! I'd say his translations are still useful in terms of getting a broad understanding of what happens in the texts but if you want details the above recommendations would be better.


Ulli on 22 February 2012

Part 000

Hi Peter,

1) your podcasts are really great!!!

2) but I miss an introduction to the Presocratics. Their philosophy didn't emerge out of nothing. Is it possible to add something about the influences of their philosophy and perhaps something about the "Achsenzeit" (China, India, Greece). [There is place for the number 000  :) ]


In reply to by Ulli

Peter Adamson on 23 February 2012

Episode 000

Dear Ulli,

That's not a bad idea! Actually if I were doing it over again perhaps I would do a first episode that was a general introduction to the Presocratics, like the one I did introducing Hellenistic philosophy. But on the other hand there is not that much to say about Thales so I did spend most of episode 1 talking generally about the Presocratics (e.g. that we read them as fragments and testimonia).

Anyway I think I don't want to go more into "pre-philosophical" culture more than I already have; I'd rather press on with the rest of the history of philosophy, plus I think that talking about possible influences from earlier on the Presocratics is a bit speculative apart from Homer and Hesiod (cf episode 3 on Xenophanes).

I really ought to do Indian philosophy though, I am feeling increasingly bad about that. (Chinese philosophy too.) Maybe I will return to it someday but it would be a steep learning curve for me to deal with it at all adequately.

Thanks for listening!


Cristina on 15 February 2012

Dear Peter:  I have just

Dear Peter: 

I have just started listening to your series from the beginning, and I find all the podcast magnificent! Listening to the program on Heraclitus while doing the dishes really lights up that menial task. The program of Xenophanes was brilliant.

I am just perusing and downloading further episodes, and I see that you are currently with Marcus Aurelius (one of my favourites). But, what about Cicero? I know that many scholars do not regard him as a "true" philosopher, rather just a transmissor of knowledge from Greece to Rome, but many of his views are quite interesting, especially in that mixture of Roman customs and Greek philosophy.


Please, keep up this good work! And thanks!



In reply to by Cristina

Peter Adamson on 15 February 2012


Dear Cristina,

Never fear, Cicero is coming soon: episode 71 followed by an interview episode (72) about him which I'm actually recording tomorrow, if all goes well. The idea is to cover him as part of the series of episodes about the ancient skeptics, which will be episodes 69-73.

Glad you're enjoying the series!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Cristina on 6 March 2012

Dear Peter: Thanks for not

Dear Peter:
Thanks for not missing Cicero. I'm progressing on the series and I like it more with every episode. Don't stop!


David on 11 February 2012

What's the answer

Hi Peter

I enoy your podcasts very much indeed. They are really well delivered, and without exception are both jam packed with information and at the same time you manage to prevent the whole thing from getting turgid. So congratulations, and thanks.

I am struggling a bit though, with the point of it all. I am (as you will clearly be able to tell) completely unversed in philosophy, but as far as I can tell we seem to be still struggling with the same questions as we were in the days of Plato (I am thinking here about the episode about whether truth is relative or absolute). have we solved any anything over the last few thousand years? Or am I asking the wrong question, and is philosophy a skill, how to think?

Anyway, whatever the answer to that is, the journey itself is fun, so thanks for all your time and effort, it's all worth it (or it is from my point of view anyway!)

In reply to by David

Peter Adamson on 11 February 2012

The point of it all

Hi David,

Well, a while ago Philosophy Bites did an episode where they asked a bunch of philosophers "what is philosophy?" and you get to hear dozens of answers. (It's here, episode 139.) My answer there, which kind of explains why I do history of philosophy, is that philosophy is the study of the trade-offs, the costs and benefits if you will, of making certain claims about certain kinds of questions. Which kind of questions? To oversimplify, it is the kind of question that can't just be answered by empirical investigation (so for instance the question, "how many moons does Jupiter have" is not a philosophical question).

To illustrate what I mean by "trade-offs", here's an example from what we've already covered: if you reject the possibility of non-being, you wind up with Parmenides' view; if you accept it, then you can be an ancient atomist. Both views have their problems, and what these Pre-Socratics were doing was exploring the costs and benefits of believing that there is or isn't such a thing as non-being. So for me the history of philosophy is the story of (very intelligent) people making moves and counter-moves, exploring these costs and benefits.

I don't think we necessarily get closer and closer to the truth - because philosophy moves in fads and cycles, so that what is happening now is just the most recent part of the history of philosophy. But the more we study the whole history of philosophy, the better we understand the possible moves than can be made.

It's not quite as simple as that, because for instance philosophy is also affected by increasing knowledge of empirical facts, especially through science. And of course there is a lot to say about philosophy as a cultural phenomenon, how it interacted with historical events, and so on -- something I'm trying to include as I go along, rather than talking only about the ideas in the abstract. But that's my short answer to your difficult question!

Glad you are enjoying the series!


David on 10 February 2012

spilt soup

Hi Peter,

Just listening  to an old in our time episode. Did yo miss out Zeno and spilt soup.


Looking foroward to Sundays Episode.



Taco on 7 February 2012


Have you read H. A. Wolfson's book on Spinoza? It's the best out there.

Bahman on 7 February 2012

Histories of philosophy

Hi Peter,

Your podcasts are magnificent and I look forward to every new one you post on your site..

I wanted to know if you recommend any specific author or work dedicated to the History of Philolosophy.  I apologize in advance if this question is inappropropriate to ask of a professor and scholar of ancient and medieval philosophy such as yourself, who has dedicated considerable time and effort in analazing the primary sources of ancient thought.  But have your read tomes such as Bertrand Russell's "The History of Western Philosophy" or Fr. Copleston's series?  Another popular one is Will Durant's "The Story of Philosophy".  Durant's monumental "The Story of Civilization", though a single man's rendition of the encycopedia of history, has so much energy and richness of prose, that it has increased my interest in the study of history as I have read it over many years.  In a lot of ways, your podcasts in philosophy remind me of this work, in your unwavering ability to make the subject riveting and fresh. I know these works are often not true "histories", but one person's interpretation of the ideas behind these ancient writers.  Listening to your podcasts piqued my interest in reading Russell's work,  though I find it again more an editorial than a true history.  In sum, I think you have done a far better job than Bertrand Russell at keeping your history podcasts unbiased, with many guest speakers to give additional points of view!

Lastly, I wanted to thank you for taking on the challenge of making this podcast one that will be "without any gaps."  I have listened to your talks on the internet about Averroes and I know you are a foremost scholar on Avicenna.  Being Persian myself, I have a particular fondness for this latter and can't wait until I hear your story.  I see so many echoes of Epicurus in poets like Omar Khayyam, and even Plato in Rumi.  I look forward to learning about all of these "gaps" that are all-too-frequently omitted from so many compendia and syllabi on the topic.

Best wishes,


In reply to by Bahman

Peter Adamson on 8 February 2012

Histories of philosophy

Hi Bahman,

Thanks very much! I'm also looking forward to reaching Avicenna of course (and Islamic philosophy in general). A ways to go until then though!

I agree about Russell; a better (though certainly outdated) single-author history is Copleston's which you also mention. More recently Anthony Kenny has written a sweeping history of philosophy. But in general I think (slightly hypocritically, given what I'm doing here!) that if you want to get into this material more deeply than I'm doing in the podcast it's better to choose multi-author volumes, like in the Cambridge Companion series which has a lot of good volumes in it.



S.D. on 29 January 2012


Hi Peter,

First of all, thanks for the fantastic podcast! I can't tell you how much I really appreciate your efforts. 

Second, without jumping too far ahead, when it comes to the age of Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus, etc., will you be including all of these individuals in the podcast? Or will there be a distinction made in the case of some of these individuals (Pseduo-Dionysius springs to mind) between clear cut philosophy and the nebulous realm of theology? 

In reply to by S.D.

Peter Adamson on 29 January 2012


Hi - As it turns out Neoplatonism is one of my primary research interests. So there will be quite a lot on the Neoplatonists in the podcast, with numerous episodes on Plotinus, individual episodes on Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, several Neoplatonist commentators and, yes, Pseudo-Dionysius (actually that one is already written). The trickier thing is actually early Christianity but I'll be devoting episodes to both Greek and Latin church fathers, and the Cappadocians, as well as a bunch of episodes on Augustine, for instance (also Philo of Alexandria will get his own episode). I basically take the view that you can't disentangle theology and philosophy starting in late antiquity and running through the medievals, a lot of the most interesting philosophy in fact arises in discussions of things like the Trinity and the Incarnation (and similar points apply in Judaism and Islam).

Hope you enjoy it when we get there!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Felix on 29 January 2012

Sounds terrible!  :-)I

Sounds terrible!  :-)

I consider theology to be pretend philosophy, in that it is grounded in baseless assumptions.

However, I will approach it as a history lesson rather than an attempt to say anything accurate about existence.

Maybe you can cure me of my bias!

In reply to by Felix

Felix on 9 April 2012


Peter, will you be doing an episode of the teachings of Jesus? I have just been reading 'Jesus, interrupted' by Bart Ehrman on the results of up to 300 years of historical consideration of the bible. It suddenly struck me that right about now in your timeline, you should be covering this important philosopher. I'd be hoping that you would, based on the currently historico-critical, widely accepted, picture of the man, be telling us what he is thought to have preached and be relating that to ideas of other thinkers to state was was (or was not) new or interesting. Maybe you included Jesus in your comment above when you mention your intention to talk about the church fathers? (You most probably were since it would be a peculiar oversight to omit the founder of the religion!) Thanks

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 9 April 2012


I've actually thought about that a bit, especially because there was another philosophy podcast -- I think it was the Australian "Philosopher's Zone" -- that did an episode on him as a philosopher. To be honest I think I won't devote an episode to him as a philosopher per se but I am going to do numerous episodes on late ancient Christianity so I will presumably say something about this towards the beginning. Mostly though I feel that the teachings of Jesus are a bit above my pay grade.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Edwin on 28 March 2014

Historical Jesus

Peter I've just darted to you lecture on Hellenism and the one on Cynics and was hoping that the Jesus before the Christians swallowed him up and changed his teaching might have got a look in. The smart-arse turn of phrase that is so charasteric of him in the quips in the Gospel of Thomas and in the early Jesus Movements identified by scholars as the Q document sugest that Jesus was a practiced Cynic or Stoic or was playing whit his own theme in Greek philosophy.

The Pauline Christians yoked the Greek and Jewish lore together and giving him the status of Plato's demiurge. Christian apology and writing seems to be a different thing to Yesua/Joshua/Jesus's philosophy.

David on 22 January 2012

Time line

Hi Peter ,
I was wondering if you could put a time line of People and events so we can keep tabs of who is who and era's so us laymen can keep up and not get to confused.
Great podcast this week by the way.


In reply to by David

Peter Adamson on 24 January 2012

Time line

Hi David,

Yes, that's actually an idea that Julian, who designed the website, suggested at some point too. I'll talk to him about it and we'll see if it's feasible.



keith on 19 January 2012


Hi Peter - thanks for the excellently accessible podcasts - combined with Librivox audio versions of the primary texts they open up a whole new world.  All power to you. 

Andrew on 17 January 2012


Hi Peter,

Thanks very much for your wonderful podcast.  It's very accessible.  I began listening to it with little interest of the subject, now I head straight to the philosophy section when I walk into a bookstore.  I've bought the 'The Presocratic Philosophers' as recommended and the 'Complete Works of Plato'.

Rather than read through Plato like a novel, my girlfriend and I are going to take a few hours out each week to dress up in togas and sandals and perform each dialogue in my flat, followed by a discussion of the dialogue.  Last week we did 'Euphythro' which was very successful, although we had no audience to confirm that.

My question is - are we historically accurate in wearing togas (white bedsheets), sandals and fake beards, if not can you recommend suitable alternative attire?

Many thanks,


In reply to by Andrew

Peter Adamson on 17 January 2012

Historically authentic dress

Hi Andrew,

That's wonderful, thanks! Sadly I have to inform you that the toga is a purely Roman phenomenon, so it is not what you want to wear to be a Greek philosopher. Needless to say sartorial issues are not my main expertise but you probably want to shoot for a "himation" which is an ancient Greek cloak. This hangs over one shoulder and sort of wraps horizontally around the body. If you Google Image the word "himation" you'll see some examples (I just tried it). A good point of reference would be the fantastic Parthenon marbles since many of the gods etc are wearing these cloaks.

I think bedsheets are still legit as long as you wrap them the right way!

By the way when you are done you can decide whether or not to cut up the cloak, because Aristotle's gives "this cloak will be cut" as an example of a possibly-true proposition.

Thanks for listening,


Monad on 17 January 2012


Dear Peter Adamson, I'm just messaging you to make sure not to forget Cicero!


Also, I'm just wondering whether you will later be giving any attention in future to Crescas and Gersonides?

In reply to by Monad

Peter Adamson on 17 January 2012


As it happens the Cicero episode is the one I am writing now. If all goes according to plan there will also be an interview episode about him so there will be 2 devoted to him.

My tentative list of topics in the future includes a long list on Jewish medieval thought and I have an episode planned on post-Maimonidean developments which would include Crescas and Gersonides; actually Crescas may get his own episodes. But yes, they will be covered. ("Without any gaps"!)

Thanks for listening!


Brad Beach on 15 January 2012


Hi All

I thought it was time I made a posting to this forum. I have been listening for a year or more and I finally thought I should say something. The only thing is that I have had a few drinks, however I have heard that doing philosophy when you are drunk is the best time , yet I do remember a pre-socratic saying something along the lines of "if you are drunk your soul is going out and therefore not thinking straight." or something like that. (I have a feeling that it was Heraclitus - which is strange given the later part of this posting).

The more I listen to this podcast the more I am thinking that we don't have an answer to anything. Every time you think you are heading in the right direction it turns out that you were not. I am guessing the best example of this is "Frankenstein" ( I know this was not his name, but he was a philosopher who had a view early in his life and then did a 180 and thought he was wrong. In fact I think he is referred to as old and new Frankenstein.) Hopefully you know who I am talking about he lived sometime in the 1800 - 1900's.

Anyway as I said the more I listen to this podcast the more I am thinking that we don't have an answer to anything (you will notice that I don't say "I don't know anything") and I am starting to think the reason why I don't have any answer is because there is no one answer. Or more to the point there is no one answer which is standing still which I can learn. It just won't stand still like a2 + b2 = c2. It just seems to keep moving.

I want to know the answer but it looks like I will not because no one has in the last 3000 years so its not likely that I will find the answer. Why does this happen … could it be because things never stop changing …. including the answer (if in fact there is one …. or maybe there are many for each moment in time)? Maybe the whole thing is to listen to the Logos?

When I first listened to the early episode on Heraclitus I thought … yes the road up and down are one in the same (so what) and I also thought sea water is healthy for fish and poison for men (again so what) and finally yep the river has water flowing through it so what? However I am now thinking …… actually things are changing all the time and in fact no one can tell me or predict the direction of the flow, which is ok because all you have to do it listen to the logos. (By the way my example of Logos is that my wife sometimes knows thatI really need to talk and get things off my chest .... but now is not the time …. she knows that because she is listening to the logos.)

I suspect this is not making much sense mainly because of the level of vodka in my body, damping my soul. The point is that I wanted to say please keep this podcast going. I have never officially studied philosophy and this podcast is giving me a huge amount of joy (not in a strong hellenistic manner ) but please keep it going.



In reply to by Brad Beach

Peter Adamson on 17 January 2012


Dear Brad,

Thanks for that rather entertaining comment! The philosopher you have in mind is Wittgenstein, I think.

As for whether there is an answer I tend to think that it depends on the question; not all philosophical questions are the same in this regard. Some may have discoverable answers, some non-discoverable answers, and some no answer at all (but the last group are probably just badly formed questions).


In reply to by Brad Beach

James on 16 February 2012

I know exactly how you feel

I know exactly how you feel Brad. It's like there's an unexplored world out there and it's impossible to decipher. Peter, thank you for your podcast, your parental guidance is essential to my questioning of the given truth.



Rosario on 6 January 2012

Do you include escepticism?

Hi I'am a mexican student and I am excited with your blog¡

My english is no good but I want to ask you, do you have a place in the blog dedicated to the ancient scepticism? I think in Pirron, Enesidemo, Arcesilao, like instances of this philosophý view. I don't see it.

The best for you blog¡

In reply to by Rosario

Peter Adamson on 6 January 2012


Hi - yes indeed, Scepticism is starting in just a couple of weeks. I decided it was better to put them after the Stoics since they respond to the Stoics. There will be three episodes on them, numbers 69, 70 and 73, with 71 and 72 devoted to Cicero (that's the plan anyway).


David on 3 January 2012

In Our Time


Just to let everybody know in our time is doing a week long series on the wrttien word on BBC Radio 4 at 9 am Mon- Friday this week.


In reply to by David

Peter Adamson on 5 January 2012

In Our Time: "Written Word"

Yes, just listened to the first episode this morning. Really good. Bragg remarked that writing is the "most important idea in the history of mankind" or something to that effect. So much for sliced bread!

More seriously, I was struck by the fact that the first extant writing is about 5-6K years ago, and the first philosophy 2.5K years ago. So philosophy has existed for almost half as long as writing itself!

Abhinav Arneja on 3 January 2012

Question on pythagoras

Dear Peter,

I have just started listening to your podcast and it is amazing. I have been meaning to systemacially go through philosophy and this is a great place to start. Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this podcast. I have just finished episode 4 about pythagoras and had a question if you don't mind.

I have encountered the idea that pythagoras believed in re-incarnation in a greek religion class I took in undergrad. Both the idea of re-incarnation and the fact that certain spiritual mystics possess memories of past life is central in hinduism, buddhism, and mysticism in general, as I am sure you are aware. I was wondering if you could comment on any similarities between pythagorianism and the hindu/buddhist ideas on re-incarnation? Also, was there any known contact between these regions at this period in time?

Thanks so much,


In reply to by Abhinav Arneja

Peter Adamson on 3 January 2012


Hi Abhinav,

Thanks for the kind comments (also to the previous poster, that was a very nice first comment of the year!).I think there's reasonably good evidence for belief in reincarnation among the ancient Pythagoreans -- if not for Pythagoras himself (about whom there is very little strong evidence anyway) then definitely Empedocles, for instance. He was influenced by the Pythagorean tradition and you may still be getting to my episode on him, but there's a great fragment which makes it clear he believes in human-animal reincarnation.

The question of influence from the Indian tradition is trickier; this is a question that recurs throughout the Greek tradition. More plausible, I think, when we get a bit later -- for instance there is actual evidence from the ancient world linking Pyrrho, the founder of Skepticism, to India. And Plotinus (3rd c AD) is sometimes alleged to have been brought into contact with Eastern ideas while on a military expedition. It's very hard to believe that there would have been influence prior to Alexander the Great, because of the huge distances involved and the lack of trade between the two spheres.

I have to admit that I'm broadly pretty skeptical about connections of this kind anyway. I've never seen a piece of smoking gun evidence for influence of Indian thought on Greek philosophy, and several things I've read on the subject reached negative or inconclusive conclusions (if a conclusion can be inconclusive). This is incidentally one reason I don't feel too guilty (though I do feel somewhat guilty!) for not being in a position to cover Indian thought in this series of podcasts. To me it is a different story, and although the Indian tradition is clearly "philosophical" in the sense that it covers a lot of the same issues, sometimes with striking parallels, it is not part of the continuous historical development that starts with the Pre-Socratics.

By the way once we get to philosophy in the Islamic world we do have solid evidence of intellectual contacts between a Greek-influenced tradition and the Indian philosophical tradition, but even there the influence seems to be pretty minimal as far as any impact on actual philosophical ideas. Al-Biruni, a contemporary of Avcienna (10th c AD) wrote a work called "al-Hind" ("India") in which he clearly saw himself as bringing Indian ideas and information about India to an Arabic-speaking populace, pretty much for the first time in any detail.

Thanks again,


ML on 1 January 2012

Great Podcast

Wow - I've become a fan. HoP is comprehensive yet presented in a very listener friendly and pedagogical way (for even the more slow-witted of us). The permeating tone and the present day cultural references and allusions all makes for an attentive, non-elitist - albeit highly informative - and liberating listen.

Thank you! - ML

Don on 29 December 2011

The Whole and its Parts

Dear Peter

This is the best rendition on a history of Philosophy "ever" especialy when you have someone in to sum up, and we all hear the questions you ask, that we would like to ask. We catch the unity of ideas It sort of puts it all togrther, I wish you could insert  a litle more of that, but I realize that might be asking a bit much.

I'v been a practioner of your methods for forty two years (history), but using books, as you can imagine I am unable to ask qustions, I am not a Philosopher but have reviewed many of the ancients you discuss, as a result the podcasts prortray a  splendid picture (fill in the gaps for me).

If it were up to me I'd have in on every nite, right after the shocking news we have to bear on TV.

Akolouthos of the ancients


PS. Could I ask who is your favourite.


In reply to by Don

Peter Adamson on 29 December 2011

Favorite philosopher

Hi Don,

Thanks very much!

My favorite (I'll stick with American spelling) philosopher is probably Plato, to be honest, in terms of how much I enjoy reading him and how much I get out of him. Like Aristotle he is a thinker whose works have such density that you can literally spend hours thinking about individual sentences; that's relatively rare. Plus you get the amazing ability to produce characters, the complex relationship with the previous tradition, and the beautiful Greek style (the sentences are simply put together wonderfully, something I can appreciate to some extent). And to all that you have to add that the rest of philosophy is, as I've argued in the podcast, pretty much just picking up on themes he was the first to explore. My admiration and love for Plato had a lot to do with getting me into philosophy in the first place (not unusual). This is why I haven't really tried to publish on him, I find him too awe-inspiring.

I should add that I have a special place in my heart too for Avicenna, who for me is the most interesting and important philosopher between, say, Plotinus (another favorite) and Descartes. I like the fact that he was so aware he was a genius, his entirely justified self-regard is rather amusing.

Thanks again!


David on 8 December 2011

In Our Time

Hi Peter,

Just finished listening to in our time .Can not belive you left the story of how Heraclitus died out of your podcast, although if you were to include everything you would be doing a pod cast per day instead of per week. I too think you should go up to the present day. I think it is a good idea about the books though because most of the history of Philosophy books I have read or skimmed do seem a bit dry as apposed to your podcast which of cause is most definatly not. (include the death story in your book).


In reply to by David

Peter Adamson on 8 December 2011

Heraclitus' death

Dear David,

Good point, I'm not sure how I left it out either -- my only excuse is that I was an inexperienced podcaster at the time! I'll add it to the book version for sure.



Peterr Burns on 7 December 2011


Have you read Stephen Greenblatt's book 'The Swerve: How the world became modern?'  It is the story of the discovery of a copy of Lucretius's 'On the Nature of Things,' by Poggio Bracciolini in 1417, and how that event helped changed the world.  Greenblatt is well know for his books on Shakespeare, and this new one is getting a lot of press here.  Just another cosmic coincidence as you take up Lucretius when he is perhaps more visible than he has been in decades.

In reply to by Peterr Burns

Peter Adamson on 7 December 2011

Greenblatt on Lucretius

Funny you should mention that, I just saw an ad for that book last night. Looks interesting, I wish I had read it in time for writing next week's script. I did read a piece on Lucretius in the "New Yorker" a few months back, which was by him. It seems to be available here.

CarolA on 7 December 2011

Getting right into this history thing!

For many years I have had a passing interest in the history of philosophy but I am afraid your podcasts have now got me well and truly hooked!  I have now started assembling as much reading material and the SEP articles for each period on my ebook reader and listening again to all the podcasts, doing the readings and getting right into the whole thing. 

Luckily my university library has a lot of material, most of which has been slumbering peacefully in the lower basement area for years and is now being taken out and actually read.  My home library is also getting a lot of additions.  

I just hope I last long enough to get to at least the 18th century!  

Kevin on 6 December 2011


I'm loving this podcast and check iTunes way too much lo see if the next episode is in.

Is there any chance we can get access to the transcripts? I often want to quote you on Twittter but listening and typing/writing is too much like lecture note-taking which I am sworn against.

In reply to by Kevin

Peter Adamson on 6 December 2011


Hi Kevin,

Glad you are enjoying it! I actually thought about putting up transcripts but decided against it for two reasons. First I am worried about students all over the world using them as plagiarized essays (I know they can plagiarize from other sources, but still). Second and perhaps more decisively I am hoping to publish the scripts in revised form as a book. Or rather a series of books. Obviously I'll say when and if this project comes to fruition! But I think for this reason I need to avoid putting a written version out into the public domain.

Thanks again!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Kevin on 6 December 2011

Fair enough

Fair enough. Good luck with the books. I'm sure it'll be popular. I'll bite the bullet and take some ntoes

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Felix on 9 December 2011



I'd be interested to know how many pages a 20 minute epsiode would become when transcribed in to a book. Alternatively, how many pages all your episodes on the Presocratics would generate.

I would imagine that you'll have a fair bit of work to do converting from the podcast genre to the book genre.

Best of luck!

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 9 December 2011

Book version

Hi again Felix,

The scripts are each between 3K and 3.5K words long, which means the first volume of the book version, if there is one, would be about 200K (so from Thales to Galen, or so). I've started rewriting scripts as book chapters; not easy, exactly, but I am trying to keep the conversational tone.


Spinoza on 18 November 2011

Substance, Modality, Essence and Existence, Monads

This is amazing! Thank you.

I can't wait until you get to Avicenna, and then Spinoza and Leibniz. Can you also do one on H.L. Mencken?

In reply to by Spinoza

Peter Adamson on 19 November 2011

Avicenna and the gang

I can't wait until I get to Avicenna either! Is HL Mencken really a philosopher? I think of him more as a critic and essayist... but maybe you're right. Anyway I suspect that however far I wind up getting I will stop before the 20th century.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Ornitarinca on 22 November 2011

No stopping now ...

Dear Professor Adamson - sorry to tell you this but there is no way you can stop before the 20th Century. We know all know your area of specialiation, but you now have a whole world of followers who are addicted to this program, and there is no way you will be able to sign off before you get to Bourdieu, Rorty, Foucault, Derrida, Lacan or Irigaray (to name a few). Seriously though, no gaps means no gaps, and we are depening on you to lead us through the entire maze! Now about the 21st Century ...

In reply to by Ornitarinca

Spinoza on 22 November 2011

Mencken also, no gaps means

Mencken also, no gaps means no gaps. Mencken is easily the most important American thinker ever. He brought Nietzsche to America also.

Andrew Taggart on 16 November 2011

Thanks very much for these

Thanks very much for these philosophical lectures addressed to the general reader. An excellent public service. I'll certainly be referring individuals to your site in the future. Best to you, Andrew

Anonymous on 14 November 2011

Thank you

You are doing a great thing.

Thank you!

David on 10 November 2011

A breif history of nothing

Hi Peter,

Thankyou for putting your lecture up for listening. I enjoyed it very much. Any chance of putting it on itunes as I like to relisten while I commute home from work.

Keep up the good work on the podcast it has become one of my highlights of the week along with the history of rome podcast.


In reply to by David

Peter Adamson on 10 November 2011

Downloading the void lecture

Hi David,

Glad you enjoyed it (and the podcast in general). I think I won't put it on iTunes -- since it doesn't exactly fit into the series really. But you can get it into your iTunes easily enough, just right click on the episode (or on a Mac control-click) and hit "save the link" and then you will download it as an .mp3 which you can just move into your iTunes.


Peter Burns on 24 October 2011

Essential Reading

I am a faithful listener, but I do not have the time or even the inclination to read all your suggested readings. I know this might be difficult, but how about giving one or maybe two essential readings for each of the major philosophers you cover? Maybe this recommendation could be part of the first podcast you give for each of the major figures you cover. Something like, if you can only read one book by or about Aristotle, read this one. I think that I could read one book by Plato, one by Aristotle, etc. This is less than an ideal way to understand the history of philosophy, but better than nothing.

In reply to by Peter Burns

Peter Adamson on 24 October 2011

Essential reading

That's an interesting thought. Here's what I'd say for what has been covered so far:

For the Pre-Socratics I'd say the thing to read is:

G.S. Kirk, J.E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983)

For Plato, if you had to read one dialogue I guess the obvious choice is the Republic but my personal favorite dialogue (insofar as that makes sense) is the Theaetetus, and the Gorgias is also wonderful and maybe more appealing as a first encounter.

For Aristotle I would go with the Nicomachean Ethics, probably.

The next big section is Hellenistic Philosophy (starts next Sunday). For that I'd recommend Long and Sedley's "The Hellenistic Philosophers" which gathers evidence for all the main schools of the period.

And of course I hope that these will draw you into reading more of the writings. Last thing: I would always say that it's better to read the original works several times before delving into secondary literature. You want to try to understand it yourself and on its own terms, rather than getting someone's take on it (as I've said before the podcast too is intended to inspire people to find and read this stuff, not as a substitute for reading it).

By the way the "key texts" I recommend for each major thinker or period can always be found under the top page for that part of the series (so, if you click on "Aristotle" at the top of this page for instance).

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Felix on 9 December 2011

In a perfect world

"I would always say that it's better to read the original works several times before delving into secondary literature. You want to try to understand it yourself and on its own terms, rather than getting someone's take on it"

That sounds like good advice but is it ever followed?

Most people (99% ?) come to philosophy via secondary sources don't they? And your wonderfull series is a secondary source!

When you are teaching, do your students read the texts before you discuss them?

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 9 December 2011

Primary text reading

Dear Felix,

Yes, ideally at least students do read the texts before we teach, I think that's important. Of course you're right, and especially as I am moving on to the more exotic corners of the history of philosophy I wouldn't expect people to chase down primary texts for everything I cover. But I still hope people will be moved to seek out some things if an episode takes their fancy!

Thanks as ever for your enthusiasm for this project.



David on 23 October 2011

Lecture/ talk

I enjoyed your teaser on the talk you gave any chance of posting the whole lecture for those of us who could not attend.


In reply to by David

Peter Adamson on 23 October 2011

Filling the Gaps

Hi David,

Actually you're not the first person to suggest that... I think I will record it as I speak and then see whether the results are worth putting online (in terms of both content and sound quality).



Debora on 21 October 2011

Thank you!

Dear Prof. Adamson,

I am a student from Germany (still in high school though) and luckily philosophy can be chosen as a bilingual subject at my school. So far, we have 'only' dealt with English philosophers, such as Bertrand Russell (no offense), and thus left out most of the ancient philosophers, who I do regard as very crucial to modern-day philosophy. With that being said, your podcast has saved me innumerable and exhausting hours in the library doing research on the roots of philosophy. Therefore, I am more than happy that you have put a lot of effort and time in creating this amaizing podcast and given me an equally amaizing train ride.

Best regards


In reply to by Debora

Peter Adamson on 27 October 2011

Philosophy in Germany

Dear Deborah,

Thanks for writing, I'm glad that the podcast is helpful. Strange that they aren't exposing you at least to some German philosophers, but maybe it makes sense if they are teaching this option in English.

Thanks and happy listening,


Stacey Goguen on 19 October 2011

"without any gaps"

This is an ambitious project, and it looks like it's well on its way to being successful in its goals. 

After browsing your website and reading your about section, I'm curious about what this project is trying to accomplish by emphasizing "without any gaps," especially since it is focusing on the "major" (Western) philosophers in history.

1) What does it mean to have no gaps when you've already truncated your project down to just Western philosophy and left out Eastern philosophy?

2) What does it mean to have no gaps when you're focusing on the "major" philosophers and off-handedly mention the lesser-known philosophers when it is precisely these 'lesser-known' ones that would be filling the gaps between the 'giants'?

3) What does it mean to have no gaps when there is no mention of filling the gaps left by the Western tradition itself insofar as it has drawn  from a narrow set of groups of people (mostly men of above average socio-economic status who are identified as or associated with being white (to cover the ancients))?

If you do address any of these points in your project, an expanded "about" section could be worthwhile since, as it stands, the non-mention of these issues suggests that they will not be addressed.

As a woman in philsophy myself, it's...hard to see the normal list of men in the past doing philosophy and to see this described as our tradition of philosophy "without any gaps." This implies that the lack of people who share my social idenity isn't a significant gap, which implies that my social group being discouraged or outright excluded from philosophy would not have a significant impact on the quality of philosophy, since it would not create any "gaps".  And since my social group is still systamtically discouraged from philosophy ( this implies that I don't have anything too important to contribute to philosophy, since if lots of people like me were not in philosophy, our absence would leave no gap. 

I in no way mean to imply you intended to imply all this. The project probably was not thinking about what having "gaps" would mean in this context. So I encourage the project to consider the various historical and cultural ways in which the history of Western philosophy has "gaps". 

In reply to by Stacey Goguen

Peter Adamson on 19 October 2011

No gaps?

Dear Stacey,

Thanks for this thoughtful message. There are three potential gaps you identify:

1. Minor philosophers: I'm not sure where you got the impression I am only doing major thinkers; to the contrary the whole point is to look at major thinkers but also minor ones. (That's the meaning of the "no gaps" slogan.) For instance next week I'm doing Xenocrates, Speusippus and Theophrastus. Perhaps you read too quickly an overview of the podcast saying that I do the major thinkers _but also_ the minor ones?

2. Non-Western traditions: Here I plead guilty. As I say in episode 1, ideally one should cover Indian, Chinese, African philosophy and no doubt other areas as well, but that is just way beyond the bounds of my competence. If someone else does a similar podcast on non-Western philosophy I will be the first to listen to it! By the way I will be devoting lots of attention to the Islamic world, which is actually my main area of speciality. That tradition, unlike some other world philosophical traditions, is intimately connected to Greek philosophy so it will be part of the sustained narrative I'm trying to create here.

3. Women and other historically disadvantaged groups: Couldn't agree more. A sad fact about the history of philosophy is that only privileged men have done it in the Western tradition, until very recently, with a few exceptions like Hypatia the Neoplatonist or Mary Wollstonecraft. I will certainly cover women authors when they come along in the history, but ultimately we're stuck with the fact that the history of philosophy is a history of ideas in surviving texts, and very few surviving texts from before a couple of centuries ago were written by women -- in any field, never mind philosophy. The same goes for other disadvantaged groups, for instance non-rich people, though again there are exceptions (Epictetus was a slave).

Thanks again,


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Stacey Goguen on 19 October 2011

Point #1

Thank you for the response.  Sorry if #1 was unclear.  My point was that while the well-known giants of philosophy are referred to by name in your short "about" section, the lesser-known philosophers are presented as a much less-significant part of your project, since they are tacked onto the end and no specific ones are mentioned by name. That's what I meant by saying the project "focuses" on major philosophers and only off-handedly refers to lesser-known ones. If the "no gaps" slogan refers primarily to the presence of lesser-known philosophers, that doesn't come across in the "about" section. It might be worth puting some of your discussion about "no gaps" in the first episode in text on the website.

Also, if you haven't already heard of Anne Conway, she's an interesting lesser-known philosopher from the 1600s. Sadly, although we do have some of her work, she is rarely mentioned among the 'giants' of Descartes, Leibnitz, etc.

There is also Christine de Pizan, an author from the 15th century.  While she is not labeled a philosopher, one of her works is a dialogue with "reason", "justice", and "rectitude" that she uses to talk about gender and society. (Tthe fact that she may be one of the first European proto-feminist authors makes her work philosophically interesting.)

You're certainly right that a lack of texts from under-represented thinkers is problem.  Another aspect of the problem, however, is what you mentioned in response to #2.  Very few philosophers know about them, so very few philosophers are adept at talking about their philosophy in depth, so they continued to not get mentioned, or studied, or discussed.  Hopefully projects like this one will begin to break this cycle. 

In reply to by Stacey Goguen

Peter Adamson on 21 October 2011

Women in philosophy

Yes, those are good examples of women philosophers from the early modern period -- which is, I guess, when we first start getting numerous female philosophers who have left surviving texts (though one might also think of theological-mystical authors from the medieval period, if one has a generous definition of what counts as "philosophy," as I tend to). So perhaps I was being too pessimistic in talking of women only coming in very recently. Anyway this is certainly something I will try to cover in the podcast as I go along -- the podcast's goal of covering the whole history of Western thought actually gives me a good opportunity to focus on the contribution of some of these unjustly forgotten figures.

I should have mentioned that, although I myself am not an expert on Eastern traditions, at King's we do offer courses on Indian Philosophy taught by my colleague Will Rasmussen.

Randall Teal on 17 October 2011

Intuition in Aristotle?


Hi Peter,

First of all I wanted to say what a pleasure it is to have access to your podcast – well done! Your focus, particular perspective, and delivery make the episodes both enjoyable and enlightening. I love the mix of erudition and humor and well as the inclusion of outside experts.

Secondly, I have a specific question for you and would love to hear your thoughts if you have a spare moment. I teach beginning design at University of Idaho. Recently, I have been thinking about and drawing upon Aristotle’s discussion of the five ways of knowing truth in the NicomacheanEthics as a means of encouraging students to envision a richer and more complex notion of thinking.  I do this in part to counteract what seems to be a common tendency among students to count linear logic alone as thought and the memorization of facts as knowledge. Not only are these tendencies problematic generally, but in design  specifically, where there is usually a wide range of  potential solutions to the single problem (i.e. there is no “answer”), it  becomes critical that young designers grasp other modes of processing, modes that will allow them to more effectively engage the inherent ambiguity of the design problem. One of the modes of processing that we talk about a lot is intuition. Herein lies my question: I have been wondering what (if anything) in Aristotle might be termed intuition? It seems that nous might be related, although from what you have said it seems a very particular means of grasping the universal in the particular—perhaps a bit like Husserl’s categorical intuition?  It also strikes me that there is something in Aristotle’s focus on ‘habits of excellence’ that might also draw upon intuitive capacities. If you have time, I would love to hear your thoughts about the notion/role of intuition in Aristotle.  

In any case, thanks again for all your work on the podcast – it is a fantastic resource.

Kind Regards,

Randall Teal

In reply to by Randall Teal

Peter Adamson on 17 October 2011


Dear Randall,

Thanks for your kind remarks! The question is a really interesting one. As you say, the word "nous" in Posterior Analytics II.19 in particular has often been translated as "intuition," though it is the same word as is used for "intellect" in other works like the De Anima. I am a bit skeptical of this. In a paper I published on that chapter (see the further reading for episode 36), and which I mention in episode 50, I argue that Aristotle is just using the word "nous" because of its Platonic associations. So he doesn't really mean much by it there, on my reading, beyond "I'm happy to call this highest state of cognition 'nous' if you want to call it that, Plato."

Another place to look would be Aristotle's invocation of "acumen" in Post An I.34, which is talent for finding the middle term in a syllogism. One could describe this as seeing (perhaps all of a sudden, as in intuition, even if it is after thinking about it for a while) the missing link in a chain of reasoning. Avicenna develops this in his epistemology and uses the word ḥads for it, which is often translated as "intuition." But it's worth stressing that in both cases the role of intuition or acumen would be finding a way to complete a rational sequence of thought, so it wouldn't be anything mystical or irrational.

Hope that helps,


Felix on 16 October 2011

Malmesbury Philosophy Town

Went to this fabulous event yesterday:

Malmesbury is the birth place of Thomas Hobbes and residents have instigated an annual philosophy weekend.

This is about the 3rd year and my first visit. The talks were at varying levels from beginner to more scholarly and were all very well presented.

I got to meet Professor Angie Hobbs and and discuss reading material for 12 year old girls (since we each have one). Also, myself and another chap both mentioned that we listened to Peter's podcast and she was really pleased since apparently she knows Peter.

Stayed up till 2am talking with other amateur philosophers. Great fun!

For anybody in England or Wales this is an event that you should really visit if you can!

In reply to by Felix

Peter Adamson on 16 October 2011

Me vs Angie Hobbs

Hi Felix,

Sounds like a great event! I do indeed know Angie, who is the queen of "In Our Time" -- she's on it frequently and is always excellent. In fact I have played football against Angie, in a charity philosophers' football match! I was a fullback (they put me there so that I could do as little harm as possible to our own team) and she came on as a striker so I got to tackle her at one point.

Thanks for mentioning the podcast!


Shiloh on 6 October 2011

The music

Dear Peter, 

Thank you for without any gaps. I'm glad I've only discovered your podcast now so that I don't (for a while, at least) wait a whole week for each podcast to be released! ;) I love the way you present this material. 

This isn't a question about philosophy, rather, what is that piece of music?? It's beautiful. Sorry if someone has already asked this question!


In reply to by Shiloh

Peter Adamson on 6 October 2011

The music

Hi Shiloh,

Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying the podcast. I agree the music is great -- someone did ask before, if you read down on this Comments page you'll see a post and link to it. It's by Stefan Hagel.

I'll be changing to a different music clip when I get to Hellenistic Philosophy but it is also by Hagel, playing on a zither rather than an aulos (Greek double flute).


Inés on 5 October 2011

Thank You!

Dear Prof. Adamson,

I wanted to take a few minutes to write you and thank you for your wonderful podcast. I am listening every day during my long commutes in and out of Brooklyn (NY), and I couldn't think of a better way to start and end my days. 

Thank you for all your hard work!


Bernard. on 24 September 2011



Dear Professor Adamson,

I just want to say how grateful I am for the huge amount of work you are doing. I am a horticulturalist from Melburne and have been consuming your podcasts voraciously since I discovered them, at work and in the evenings. Having now "caught up", the pleasure wil be made more exquisate as I will have to wait for each new episode!

It has been a pleasure to follow your consice, comprehensive, accessible yet rigorous, and very often amusing lectures so far. To a lowly autodidact from the antipodes, you podcasts are pure gold. They exemplify that which I value most highly in "this whole internet thing": the wide dissemination of, and access to, education and culture. It is through the hard work and dedication of people such as yourself that this potentiality is realised.

Now if we can just get the animated version for children up and running.. Starring Haiwatha the giraffe, of course, with commentary(!) by Buster Keaton and soundtrack by James Brown.

My thanks also to King's College: you should give professor Adamson a pay rise!

Kind regards,


In reply to by Bernard.

Peter Adamson on 24 September 2011

The animated version

Dear Bernard,

Thanks very much for your message! I like the idea of an animated version... perhaps people can submit some artwork and we'll be up and running. By the way if you are a horticulturalist you should look forward to episode 51, when we get to Theophrastus (author of "On Plants").

Really glad you are enjoying the episodes, it's always good to have feedback like this because it makes me feel like it is a worthwhile project (as opposed to a self-indulgent hobby... to be honest it's that as well!).

Best wishes,


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Bill Radcliffe on 26 September 2011

Of course its a worthwhile

Of course its a worthwhile project!!!!!

If only there weren't so many other worthwhile projects I want to attend to.

Keep up the good work.

Monte on 29 August 2011

composition and Ibn Sina's proof

Professor Adamson,


Ive listened to your concise exposition of Ibn Sina's cosmological argument at Philosophy bites - thank you for summarising the proof and the counterarguments so clearly.  You note that one of the replies to the proof accuses it of comitting the fallacy of composition.  Do you know of any works that explore this further?  It seems to me (from a little reading and thinking) that the fallacy of composition only holds if the attribute predicated is relative, or in some way dependant on external factors for its instantiation.  For example, the following all commit this fallacy:

1. All parts of this object are small, therefore the whole object is small.  [Small is relative to some standard]

2. All parts of this object are colourless, therefore the whole is colourless.  [Being colourful is dependent on the power of sense perception of the observer - an external factor]

3.  All parts of this object are square, therefore the object is square.  [Being square depends on how the objects are arranged, and arrangement is an external factor]


On the otherhand, being contingent or necessary is not a relative matter, and is not dependent on external factors, but is purely a function of the entities intrinsic makeup.  As I say Ive only done a little reading on this, so Im probably missing something obvious... I'd be interested to read what others have thought about this. 

Many thanks,


ps, do you personally find the proof to have any weight?

In reply to by Monte

Peter Adamson on 30 August 2011

Avicenna's proof

Hi Monte,

That's a very interesting comment, thanks. Well, to start with the PS I guess that I don't find the proof decisive but I do think it's the most impressive philosophical proof for the existence of God. (The ontological argument is impressive in a different way, perhaps, but I don't think it's very convincing -- just hard to pinpoint what is wrong with it.) Weak points in the proof: it invokes the impossibility of an infinite regress of causes, which stands in need of further argument; and above all it presupposes that a contingent thing is something that cannot exist without a cause. This is just true by definition on Avicenna's understanding of what "contingent" means but I think one could say, "look, the universe didn't have to exist, but it just happens to exist, without any further cause." Or at least, we need a story about why one _isn't_ allowed to say that, and he just rules it out by defining the modal concepts as he does. (To put it another way, Avicenna would say that the universe's having no cause would just mean it is necessary; but I wouldn't allow that inference to go through without some further discussion.)

As for the main question of whether modal properties (necessity/contingency) are passed from parts to whole, I tend to share your intuition that they would be. Given that if each part is contingent, then it could not exist, it's hard to see why it would be impossible for the whole thing not to exist. So the whole thing should be contingent. It's not clear to me that this is really about intrinsic vs extrinsic, though; for instance, to modify your example of small, take the predicate "one inch wide." That looks like an intrinsic feature: it is not relative to anything because it doesn't invoke comparison as "small" would do. But a whole made up of one-inch wide parts clearly will not be one inch wide. Or if you don't like that example, take the predicate "non-human": the parts of my body are not humans, and that is intrinsic to them. But together they form a human.

By the way I don't know of any literature directly on this question of the fallacy of composition in Avicenna's proof, I think probably most people just tend to agree the modal properties would be transferred from part to whole.

Thanks again!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Monte on 30 August 2011

Thanks for the detailed and

Thanks for the detailed and prompt reply, some very interesting points!  I need to do more thinking!


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Sarah on 16 September 2011

Dear Peter, Which podcast

Dear Peter,

Which podcast about Ibn Sina was Monte referring to?

Thank you


Dan on 28 August 2011

Blue Giraffes and Buster Keaton

Mr. (Dr.?) Adamson -

I have been greatly enjoying your very insightful and informative pod casts. As a Fedex driver, I probably take the "listening while driving" trend to the extreme. I love the mostly objective way you are handling Aristotle. He can be a rather divisive figure. I also wanted to let you know what a kick I get out of your running gags featuring Blue Giraffes and silent film superstars. Every time you add another tongue-in-cheek gag out of left field (for instance: Hiawatha) I chuckle most heartily. I am really looking forward to continued episodes.

           Thanks again,

            Dan, Montana, USA

In reply to by Dan

Peter Adamson on 29 August 2011

Giraffes and Keaton

Dear Dan,

Thanks so much! You'll be glad to know then that I've been busily writing more scripts over the past month, many of which feature giraffes or Keaton (sometimes both).

Happy listening and save driving!

(Professor) Peter

Louise on 26 August 2011


Hi Peter

Thank you so much for all the hard work you are putting into your podcasts. I've been listening to them mostly down at the allotment, while weeding my vegetables. If I get a bit distracted by a tough dandelion, I can always listen again! As an academic myself (in a completely unrelated area) I understand how much effort you must be putting into this and it's a joy to receive the gift of learning something new just for the pleasure of learning. I hope you're enjoying your break and you deserve plenty of impact factor when REF comes round.


Anonymous on 8 August 2011

Intro music

Hey, love your podcast! Very informative.

I'm just wondering, where does the music in the intro of your podcast come from?

- Kenneth, Norway

In reply to by Anonymous

Peter Adamson on 8 August 2011

Intro music

Hi Kenneth,

The music is by Stefan Hagel, an expert on ancient music who builds and performs on reconstructed ancient instruments. In this case an aulos (double flute). His website, where you can hear the whole clip from which this was drawn, is here:



Peter Adamson on 23 July 2011

August Break

Hi everyone,

Just to say that I will unfortunately be taking a podcasting break in August, while I write some more scripts. I'll return with episode 44 on September 4 or 5, and that will be the first of three episodes on Aristotle's ethics. 

Thanks for listening!


Peter Adamson on 22 July 2011

Thanks for thanks

Just want to thank everyone for the positive feedback, which definitely keeps me motivated! It's also nice to think about people listening all over the world. I'm beginning to think this "internet" thing isn't all bad.

Harlon on 21 July 2011


Just a note to say thanks, from a fairly new listener in Philadelphia. I first discovered these podcasts while on vacation at the Jersey shore recently and spent many hours walking up and down the boardwalk listening to installments...what a pleasure!  Looking forward to many more episodes...I've some catching up to do!

Victor Mariategui on 21 July 2011


Prof. Adamson,

I would just like to add my sincere thanks for your outstanding series of podcasts.  I was visitng Mel Thompson's web site and followed a link he provided to your site.  Like finding buried treasure!!!!!!

I find philosophy simply fascinating and have read various books on the subject and although they were thought provoking and interesting I found many "gaps" in their presentation.

I had to smile when I read in a previous comment about how your soothing voice puts the writer to sleep.  I have to admit that at times I do the same thing. 

Once again, thank you for providing us all with this outstanding series and of course for filling in those "gaps."

Listening from the mountains of Spain,


joe f. on 29 June 2011

Great series

Prof. Adamson:

     Just wanted to thank you and your crew for the podcasts.  I'm taking a distance-education Great Books-based program, so I find myself reading a lot of philosophy.  There's a survey course on what they call the Great Conversation and the Great Ideas (and other Great Things), but after that all you get is short biographical notes and lots of time with the works themselves.  And since I'm focusing on rhetoric (thus far), I don't even necessarily read the whole work. I get a chapter here, an act there and lots of dialogues, Aristotle and Augustine.  I've done extra on the side to get more context, but your podcasts have provided a dimension -- the dimension, really -- that I was missing.  I'm only up to 17 so far because I play them twice each, once on the way to work and once on the way home.  I also find them very valuable just because they help me focus on life and bigger, more interesting issues than what I deal with during the day. I used to race around the curves in my Mini and listen to hard rock, now I race around the curves and listen to the History of Philosophy.  There can be no higher praise than knocking rock 'n' roll off my radio.  Thanks again.  joe f.

Cate on 23 June 2011


Hi Peter,

Thanks so much for these podcasts, they're brilliant. I did the intercalated philosophy bsc at kings a couple of years ago and this is a great way to keep a bit of philosophy going and fill in the many 'gaps'.

It's also the perfect way to end a busy day, I look forward to curling up and dozing off to a podcast each night, ( though I only get a couple of minutes at a time as they send me straight to sleep ( relaxing and interesting, not boring-perfect cure for insomnia)

So i really hope you keep them going, if you do a full history of philosophy I'll learn everything i want to know and at my speed can look forward to a couple of years of good sleeps!


In reply to by Cate

Peter Adamson on 25 June 2011

Cure for insomnia

Thanks! I can't help noticing that the previous comment mentions listening to the podcast while driving, and this one mentions it as an aid for going to sleep. Let's hope that these two uses don't overlap.

Anonymous on 20 June 2011

You have made the drive enjoyable


I came to your podcast after listening to you on the Philosopher's Zone and I love it.

I have the good fortune of driving 2 hours a day through the countryside to work, and your podcast has made the trek even more enjoyable. There is an amazing synergy between the rolling hills of rural Australia and a discussion on Greek philosophy.