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Please leave any general comments here, or if your comment relates to a particular podcast, please post it on the relevant podcast page. You can also leave comments on Peter's blog.

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Felix 14 February 2011

Peter,

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!)

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.

Felix 22 February 2011

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

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).
 

Anonymous 28 February 2011

Peter,

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.

Andre 1 March 2011

Peter,

 

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?  

Thanks

Peter Adamson 1 March 2011

In reply to by Andre

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!

Peter,

 

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

Natalia Doran 2 March 2011

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.

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.

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.

Rob Loftis 4 March 2011

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

Rob

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.

Bryan Keniry 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).

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?

Nick Fallows 23 March 2011

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

Anonymous 30 March 2011

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? 

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.

Anonymous 19 April 2011

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?

Thanks 

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.

Peter Halliday 23 April 2011

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.

Peter Adamson 23 April 2011

In reply to by Peter Halliday

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!).

Felix 7 May 2011

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.

Thanks

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: http://www.thephilosophyshop.co.uk/

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.

Shoo Rayner 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. www.youtube.com/users/shooraynerdrawing

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 www.shoorayner.com

Peter Adamson 13 May 2011

In reply to by Shoo Rayner

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.)

Peter

MIke K 13 May 2011

Peter,

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?

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.

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.

P. J. O'Brien 18 May 2011

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.

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.

Peter

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.

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?

Felix 23 May 2011

I recently found this podcast / audio book of The Republic: http://www.learnoutloud.com/Catalog/Philosophy/Political-Philosophy/Pla…

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 :-)

http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=163670583644929&topic=702

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...

Peter

Sybantcho 2 June 2011

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!

Saibancho

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!

Peter

Joni 5 June 2011

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
ParagraphsBooks.com

Felix 5 June 2011

In reply to by Joni

Joni,

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.

Thanks

 

A few things I have found useful are:

Audio book of The Republic http://bit.ly/kGCFBP

Yale lectures on Socrates and Plato's Apology, Crito & Republic http://bit.ly/iPowIl

Simon Blackburn's short book on The Republic http://amzn.to/loIRNI

There also seems to be a fair bit of Plato in this Yale lecture series on Death which I haven't yet watched  http://bit.ly/hp3Scy

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.

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.

Derik 9 June 2011

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.

Derik

Hi Derik,

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

http://www.londoninternational.ac.uk/prospective_students/undergraduate…

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.

Details of philosophy modules available from the Open University are here: http://bit.ly/jfuOof

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.

James Miller 14 June 2011

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.

 

James

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!

best,

Peter

Anonymous 20 June 2011

Peter,

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.

Cate 22 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!

Cate

Peter Adamson 25 June 2011

In reply to by Cate

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.
 

joe f. 29 June 2011

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.

Victor Mariategui 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,

Vic~

Harlon 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!

Peter Adamson 22 July 2011

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.

Peter Adamson 23 July 2011

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

Anonymous 7 August 2011

Hey, love your podcast! Very informative.

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

- Kenneth, Norway

Peter Adamson 8 August 2011

In reply to by Anonymous

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:

http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/agm/

Best,

Peter

Louise 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.

Louise

Dan 28 August 2011

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

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

Monte 29 August 2011

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,

Monte

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

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!

Peter

Bernard. 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,

Bernard.

Peter Adamson 24 September 2011

In reply to by Bernard.

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,

Peter

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.

Inés 5 October 2011

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!

Inés

Shiloh 6 October 2011

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!

Shiloh

Peter Adamson 6 October 2011

In reply to by Shiloh

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).

Peter

Felix 16 October 2011

Went to this fabulous event yesterday: http://philosophytown.co.uk/events

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!

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!

Peter

Randall Teal 16 October 2011

 

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

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,

Peter

Stacey Goguen 19 October 2011

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 (http://beingawomaninphilosophy.wordpress.com/) 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". 

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,

Peter

Stacey Goguen 19 October 2011

In reply to by Peter Adamson

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. 

Peter Adamson 21 October 2011

In reply to by Stacey Goguen

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.

Debora 21 October 2011

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

Debora

Peter Adamson 27 October 2011

In reply to by Debora

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,

Peter

David 23 October 2011

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

David

Peter Adamson 23 October 2011

In reply to by David

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).

Thanks,

Peter

Peter Burns 24 October 2011

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.

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).

"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?

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.

Best,

Peter

David 10 November 2011

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.

David

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

Anonymous 14 November 2011

You are doing a great thing.

Thank you!

Andrew Taggart 16 November 2011

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

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 ...

Kevin 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.

Peter Adamson 6 December 2011

In reply to by Kevin

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!

Peter

Kevin 6 December 2011

In reply to by Peter Adamson

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

Felix 9 December 2011

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Peter,

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!

Peter Adamson 9 December 2011

In reply to by Felix

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.

Peter

CarolA 6 December 2011

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!  

Peterr Burns 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.

Peter Adamson 7 December 2011

In reply to by Peterr Burns

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.

David 8 December 2011

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).

David

Peter Adamson 8 December 2011

In reply to by David

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.

Thanks,

Peter

Don 29 December 2011

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

Don

PS. Could I ask who is your favourite.

 

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!

Peter

ML 1 January 2012

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

Abhinav Arneja 3 January 2012

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,

Abhinav

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,

Peter

David 3 January 2012

Hi

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.

David

Peter Adamson 5 January 2012

In reply to by David

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!

Rosario 6 January 2012

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¡

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).

Peter

Brad Beach 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.

Thanks

Brad

Peter Adamson 17 January 2012

In reply to by Brad Beach

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).

Peter

James 16 February 2012

In reply to by Brad Beach

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.

 

James

Monad 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?

Peter Adamson 17 January 2012

In reply to by Monad

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!

Peter

Andrew 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,

Andrew

Peter Adamson 17 January 2012

In reply to by Andrew

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,

Peter

keith 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. 

David 22 January 2012

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.
Regards

David

Peter Adamson 24 January 2012

In reply to by David

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.

Thanks,

Peter

S.D. 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? 

Peter Adamson 29 January 2012

In reply to by S.D.

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!

Peter

Felix 29 January 2012

In reply to by Peter Adamson

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!

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

Peter Adamson 9 April 2012

In reply to by Felix

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.

Edwin 28 March 2014

In reply to by Peter Adamson

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.

Bahman 7 February 2012

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,

Bahman

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.

Thanks!

Peter

Taco 7 February 2012

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

David 10 February 2012

Hi Peter,

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

 

Looking foroward to Sundays Episode.

 

David

David 11 February 2012

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!)
David

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!

Peter

Cristina 15 February 2012

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!

 

Cristina

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!

Peter

Cristina 6 March 2012

In reply to by Peter Adamson

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

Cristina

Ulli 22 February 2012

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  :) ]

Ulli

Peter Adamson 23 February 2012

In reply to by Ulli

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!

Peter

Mark 23 February 2012

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.

Mark 

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.

Peter

Adam 29 February 2012

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!

Adam

Peter Adamson 29 February 2012

In reply to by Adam

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,

Peter

Adam 2 March 2012

In reply to by Peter Adamson

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

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

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.

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