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Dear Saad,

How about Munich? But assuming you want to stay in North America the best option is probably Toronto, with Deborah Black and an array of talent in ancient and medieval. Notre Dame is very strong in medieval generally but doesn't have anyone who focuses on Islamic thought since my doctoral advisor David Burrell retired. Really you need to think in terms of individual scholars rather than programs when it comes to this specialization -- you aren't usually going to find more than one person, especially in a Philosophy Dept. So there would also be Richard Taylor at Marquette, Therese-Anne Druart at Catholic U, Jon McGinnis at U Missouri St Louis, etc. At Yale though they have Dimitri Gutas, probably the leading scholar in the field, albeit in Near Eastern Studies and not Philosophy; plus they have Frank Griffel who I believe is in the Religion Dept. And they are strong in Ancient in the Philosophy Dept. At McGill in Montreal there are Rob Wisnovsky and Stephen Menn though he's sometimes in Berlin.

In my opinion the field as a whole is stronger in Europe than in the USA.

I have more to say about this so if you want you can send me an email about it (

Good luck!


JKE 12 October 2012

Hi Peter,

I hate to turn the clock back a bit, but I figure I should ask this before we've completely left the ancients behind for medieval philosophy. So, can you explain the difference (in Plotinus) between the hypostasis Soul and the World Soul as immanent in the sensible world? It's very tempting to conflate these two, but from what I understand Plotinus draws a distinction here. Still, I've always found this obscure.

I agree, that's a difficult issue. It is often unclear what sort of soul Plotinus refers to in any given passage, since he sometimes just talks about "soul" without specifying, and he may mean "all souls" or "hypostasis soul". Basically though, my answer would be that the world soul is specifically the soul that relates to the body of the cosmos, the way that your soul relates to your body. Hypostasis soul, by contrast, is soul considered as such, not as related to any given body -- all individual souls somehow form a unity with the hypostasis soul in much the way that the Forms form a unity in nous, albeit that the soul unity is less intense (because the Forms are always all totally present to one another, whereas a soul fallen into one body is not present to a soul fallen into another body). The obscure part is whether we think of hypostasis soul as being, as it were, "nothing more than" the otality of individual souls, or rather as some higher principle to which these individual souls relate; and I think perhaps he'd say that both of these are true from a certain point of view. Since in Neoplatonism generally the relation between individual souls and hypostasis soul is often considered to be a whole part relation, it might help to think about it in those terms: in a sense the whole is nothing but its parts, in another sense the whole is more than just the sum of its parts.

Does that help?

dida 15 October 2012

hi prof. Adamson,

really enjoying the podcasts! keep up the great work. can't wait for the episodes on the Shaykh al-Ra'is and, i hope, on Muhaqqiq Tusi as well.

Yes, there is already an episode planned which will discuss Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and Tusi and their responses to Avicenna. I'm actually reading Fakhr al-Din in a reading group here in Munich at the moment. That man liked a good collection of arguments.

Oh, and of course Avicenna himself will get several episodes, like 4 or 5. He's a giant.



Ken 17 October 2012

I am very certain that you have gotten this question before so I will apologize now; Could you name for me the people in the pics that are on your blog slideshow? I recognize The School of Athens, Socrates-Plato-Aristotle, Averroes and Avicenna, but I need help on the Christian and I'll say enlightenment philosophers. Also I'm looking forward to the first wave of Christian philosophers (love the Greeks but I am all Greeked out now). I guess I'll state that I am a Kierkegaard fan myself which I guess you will get to in the course of this decade :) Again thanks for your scholarly work.

That's a very well timed comment since we're thinking about overhauling the slide show with new images starting with episode 101. See my latest blog post! For now though here is the info on the slide show pictures that have been there so far, courtesy of the website designer Julian:

(Averroes at the feet of Thomas Aquinas) detail from The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas, fresco by Andrea da Firenze, depicting the saint enthroned between the Doctors of the Old and New Testaments, with personifications of the Virtues, Sciences, and Liberal Arts, c. 1365; in the Spanish Chapel of the church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

detail from  Socrates and his Students Mukhtar al-Hikam wa-Mahasin al-Kalim ('Choice Maxims and Finest Sayings')
by Al-Mubashshir. Syria, beginning of 13th century

 detail from (plato seneca and aristotle) c 1325 by the Master of Taymouth Hours.

detail from The Maestà (Madonna enthroned) with Saints Cosmas and Damian, Saint Mark and Saint John, Saint Lawrence and three Dominicans, Saint Dominic, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Peter Martyr; San Marco, Florence

by Fra Angelico
detail from Frédéric II et Voltaire dans un salon (XVIIIe siècle)
 and of course...
detail from The School of Athens - fresco by Raphael

Ken 24 October 2012

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Thank you for the reply Professor, I think I can match up the descriptions with the pics because those links you post won't allow me to see the pictures but keep re-directing me to Microsoft Outlook sign in.

Another question is if you are able can you say how the lineup for the rest of late Antiquity is going to look like? I know Augustine, Boethius and (maybe) Jerome, as well as Justin Martyr will be touched on but I am cluesless as to who else you will include.

I actually posted a tentative list on the podcast's facebook page. Here it is:


Greek Church Fathers (Clement, Justin, Irenaeus)


The Cappadocians


Maximus the Confessor

Christian Asceticism

Latin Church Fathers (Tertullian, Lactantius, Ambrose)

Then a bunch of Augustine episodes, about 6 or so

Latin Platonism

Plus two interviews on the Greek Fathers and Boethius. So, at least 15 episodes in total.

By the way I'll come back to medieval Byzantine philosophy later on.

Larry Benoit 26 October 2012

Love it. Keep them coming. I love your program and find it extremely valuable.

JKE 30 October 2012

So I work as an English teacher in Japan, and the other day I was in the bathroom and happened to notice as sign reading 'Toire no kami-sama wa miteimasu yo', which means "The toilet god is watching." Seeing this, I couldn't help but think of Proclus, and how the toilet god might fit into his cosmology.

It brings a whole new context to the phrase "cleanliness is next to godliness."

By the way Heraclitus would approve, since he once supposedly remarked, in a similar context, "there are gods even here."

Joshua 31 October 2012

Hi Peter,
I have been enjoying this podcasts, and these were not something unexperienced for me.
Could you please give me a simple explanation of Platonism, Neoplatonism, and Aristotelianism?
Of course, I have read at least, something, both about and from these and have my own opinion, but I would be glad, if you would simply explain to me these.
I look forward to receiving the best answer from you.

Peter Adamson 31 October 2012

In reply to by Joshua

Hi Joshua,

Wow, that's not a small question! I guess that for 'what is Neoplatonism?' I have to refer you to the opening episode on late antiquity, this one. I doubt it could say it more briefly than this! The questions "what is Platonism" and "what is Aristotelianism" are perhaps easier: simply the traditions that come from these two thinkers, albeit that these two traditions intertwine. I don't really believe that there is just one set of positions that is "Platonism" or "Aristotelianism," it's more a matter of evolving reactions to those two thinkers. Sorry, that's not very helpful I know!

Thanks for listening,


Joshua 1 November 2012

Hi Peter,
I would like to ask of you as a professional:
I read a lot, okay! So, I read one of works of Diogenes Laertes, and I would like to know:
Can I use him as a professional of the history of philosophy?

Peter Adamson 1 November 2012

In reply to by Joshua

Well, he is definitely an important source -- among other things he preserves otherwise lost texts like letters of Epicurus. But he is not really a philosopher in his own right and much of what he tells us is obviously legendary or historically unfounded anecdote. Nonetheless, quite entertaining!

Glenn Russell 1 November 2012

Hi Peter,

As far as we know, Epicurus did not formulate a separate aesthetic theory of beauty. My take is the reason he didn't is the entire lifestyle he proposed is itself beautiful. Do you have any reflections here? I do wish we had some of those books Epicurus wrote that Diogenes Laertius lists, particularly Of Love, Of Music and Symposium.

Thank you,


That's an interesting question. I think beauty would be an interesting and difficult case for him, because if he accepts that beauty has intrinsic value he will have to explain how that value can be understood in terms of pleasure -- which might be difficult, perhaps especially if you're a materialist. He has a tendency to reduce all pleasures to physical pleasures, so he really owes us an account of the pleasure and/or value offered by beauty. Off the top of my head though, I agree that he doesn't address this in the extant material. If he did he might develop an aesthetic theory along the custom-not-nature lines we find in his political thought? More fruitful might be Lucretius, but even there what I can think of is more the aesthetic qualities of his poem, rather than a discussion of aesthetics within the poem (I may be forgetting something though). From the "honey on the rim of the cup" passage you get the impression that the beauty of his own poem is just supposed to help get the core philosophical message across.



Joshua 1 November 2012

Hi Peter,
Which 'platonic dialogue(s)' you consider to be the principal?
And also, when reading 'platonic dialogue(s)' I found some dialogues that are considered doubtful.
I) Why?
II) Are they really?

Glenn Russell 1 November 2012

In reply to by Joshua

Hi Joshua,

I’m sure Peter will have a more complete reply, but I wanted to comment on your question. My Plato teacher said the 25+ dialogues in the Bollingen Series publication will be more than enough to keep any student of Plato busy. He recommended the first dialogue to study being Phaedrus, followed by Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Gorgias, Republic and Symposium. An understanding of these Platonic dialogues, he noted, will provide a firm foundation for approaching the others.

Hope this helps.


Joshua 3 November 2012

In reply to by Glenn Russell

Hi Glenn,
I am very thank full for your answer.
I get, you are a student of philosophy.
I am getting 13 in December of 16, 2012.
Thanks again,

Peter Adamson 1 November 2012

In reply to by Joshua

Well, if I had to name my favorite dialogue it would probably be the Theaetetus but probably the Republic would usually be named as his greatest work, and I suspect he may also have seen it that way. After all it is much longer than almost all the other dialogues and is the one that covers pretty much all areas of philosophy in great depth. 

You're right that there is dispute over a number of dialogues ascribed to Plato, in fact a number are pretty much universally held to be inauthentic. There are a few that are uncertain, though, like First Alcibiades, and also some of the letters ascribed to him (including the notorious 7th letter as I discuss in the episode on Plato's life and works). If you look at the table of contents of, say, the Hackett Complete Plato you'll see they have marked some dialogues as inauthentic and others as doubtful, and that listing pretty much captures the present scholarly consensus I'd say.

However all the famous dialogues, e.g. the ones listed by this helpful comment from Glenn, are authentic.

paul 2 November 2012

Hello Peter, I have been listening intently. I use it as I drive to and from work where I take 000 calls. It means I can still believe that reason still exists. One of the main things I treasure is a guide on pronunciation. I struggled with the name Anaxagoras for a while. As I have enjoyed the pod-casts and look forward to them each Sunday I do not want to make a big deal of it but question 14 in the quiz is a bit jumbled. Thanks for everything and please keep going.

Peter Adamson 2 November 2012

In reply to by paul

Hi there -- Thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying the podcast! But you might want to take the pronunciation with a grain of salt, I alternate a bit between "Americanizing" the ancient names and trying to do them properly, depending on what I think people will find easier to understand. (So for a name like Anaxagoras the Greek prounciation would be rather different.) Besides pronunciation of ancient Greek is (a) a bit shrouded in mystery anyway and (b) not something I'm a big expert on. Still, better than nothing I hope!


Joshua 3 November 2012

Hi Peter,
I want to know how can I get your book for free? You know, I am not sure that I filled it 100%.
Is there any other way, I can get the book for FREE!
I became more interested in it, when I heard that it is based on your program.
I know, you are still working on it. But, please let me know if you can do it for FREE.

Peter Adamson 4 November 2012

In reply to by Joshua

Hi again Joshua,

Well, to be honest it will be a while before it is out; and I hope it won't be very expensive. I will probably get a few copies to give away but if I do, I'm afraid there are already a lot of people I'd owe them to, like my editing assistants and so on. But I'm glad you're interested in reading it! Of course I'll announce it here, on Twitter and Facebook when it does come out.



Joshua 4 November 2012

Hi Peter,
If you were to name the 10 most brilliant philosophers ever, who would you name?
Here is my account:
7)Immanuel Kant
8)David Hume
9)St. Augustine of Hippo
10)Thomas Aquinas
What do you think?
This is for all. So, please, all of you COMMENT!
Thanks again

Just wanted to commend the inclusion of Avicenna -- I would certainly put him in the top 10, maybe top 5. But then I'm biased.

By the way before someone interjects that naming the top 10 philosophers is a rather absurd project, I would say: sure it is, but it's also fun.

Nick 11 November 2012

Hallo Peter,

First of all, thank you for creating this unique collection of philosophy podcasts.
Secondly a word of thanks as well to Will (uni)Lever and his will for making your efforts possible.

Like many listeners, I enjoy your style of presentation which is very erudite, funny and accomplished.
You, your colleagues and Hiawatha are now my frequent travelling companions, as I commute weekdays with the train between Burgenland and Vienna (Austria not Ohio).
I also enjoy listening to your contributions on the BBC’s “In Our Time” programmes, and my question arises from an IOT episode about the Cynics. There it was mentioned that Jesus of Nazareth and his followers might well have been more than just superficially influenced by the Greek Cynics. The debate inevitably became heated and I think that Angie Hobbs cleverly cooled the argument down by saying that “the jury was out on this point” ( the point being that Jesus or some of his adherents were in fact “bona fide” Cynics themselves).
I would have been interested to hear how you might had tackled this thorny topic (excuse pun), but unfortunately you were not on the panel that day.

Once again many thanks and we all urge you to carry on with this 13th Herculean labour.

Best Regards


p.s. cleaning the Giraffe stables was, I think, task #2.

Dear Nick,

Sorry to be slow responding to this -- I wanted to check which episode it is where I mention the possibility of reading Jesus as a Cynic. I think it comes up briefly in my interview (a few episodes down the line still) with George Boys-Stones. In any case, it's certainly an intriguing but probably unanswerable question. More tractable might be the question of whether the Gospels themselves and especially St Paul may have been influenced by Hellenic philosophical traditions. Here it's worth reflecting that Philo, who is a near contemporary of Christ himself, is already bringing Hellenistic philosophy into the Jewish tradition. That doesn't prove anything of course but it is suggestive. I have read a bit on this and what I've seen tends to confirm the suspicion that Paul was influenced by philosophical literature but I'm no Biblical scholar, and mostly I wanted to steer clear of this kind of question as being above my pay grade.

Thanks for listening!


Sebastian 11 November 2012

Dear Peter

I just wanted to express my appreciation over your podcast. Thank you for creating an enjoyable tour de force of the subject for all us philosophical audiophiles out there! I love the continuity of history of ideas you present and just generally admire your humour and open-mindedness.

Thank you!


hello 14 November 2012

when will you be talking about boethius?

Peter Adamson 14 November 2012

In reply to by hello

If all goes according to plan, episode 116. He's the last figure I will cover in the season on ancient Christian thought and there will also be an interview about him with John Marenbon.

Alex P 15 November 2012

I've recently dived into the podcast, and I've enjoyed it immensely! I've just began graduate school in Greek and Latin, but I don't have a strong philosophy background (my undergraduate degree was Computer Science). I have always enjoyed philosophy though, and the podcast has been both a delight and a way to make up for lost time!

Keep up the excellent work!

Thanks very much! Good luck with the classical studies degree, I hope the podcast supplements what you are doing to some extent.

paul 22 November 2012

Hello Peter, There is a bit of a problem with the podcast. I got into the swing of things and worried my kids when as a convinced atomist I told them I would have been happier without them. Within weeks as an equally convinced Socratic and Platonist I found people would avoid me in the supermarket. The episode on Aristotle cured me of this. However, the kids rejected the idea of natural slaves and pointed out the need for me to keep working. They also soon put a stop to the week I took a turn for the worse with the Cyrenaics. I prefer not to go into the week as a Cynic. I found happiness for a few weeks as an Epicurean until I discovered that I was a Stoic. Within weeks you shattered my belief in virtue by informing me that I was merely dogmatic. I will admit to being a little puzzled by the Neo-Platonists. The family dog still has nightmares after the Proclus episode. However, the garden gnomes are still similing after Iamblichus. Anyway, may the Lord be with you until the next episode.

Thanks for everything, Paul.

Thanks for this very entertaining message! (I particularly liked "I prefer not to go into the week as a Cynic"). I should perhaps warn you that in the upcoming episodes the Church Fathers will be encouraging you to give all your possessions away and live in a desert. Please keep your .mp3 player though, or whatever you use to listen to the podcast -- Jerome brought his books to the desert so I think you can justify this.

Thanks for listening!


Ken 24 November 2012

Okay so I hope this question does not grate on you but could you guide us on the new pictures on your homepage? I recognize a few (was especially excited to see "The Melancholy Dane" Soren Kierkegaard up their) but not many of them. Thank you for what you are doing, I am enjoying the ancient Christians so far and look forward to the Muslim philosophers as well.

Right, I was thinking someone might ask! So now in order we've got:

1. David's "Death of Socrates"

2.The Strozzi Altarpiece, with among others Thomas Aquinas

3. Boethius being instructed by Lady Philosophy

4. Socrates and his Students from 13th c manuscript (this and the next one have been kept from the old slide show)

5. Averroes (in the entire image he's pictured at the feet of Thomas Aquinas), fresco in Santa Maria Novella, Florence

6. Image of Dante's circle of the philosophers in Paradiso (Aquinas gets in again!)

7. Giorgione's "Three Philosophers"

8. Fresco with philosophers of the Italian Renaissance, including Ficino and Pico

9. Hans Holbein the Younger's marginal drawing in Erasmus "Praise of Folly" (I love this one)

10. Montage of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau

11. Emil Doerstling, "Kant and Friends at Table"

12. Montage of Kierkegaard, Hegel and Nietzsche

13. Photo of Sartre and de Beauvior with special cigar smoking friend

He will. It's called the history of philosophy without ANY gaps for a reason. We're waiting for people much more interesting than Kierkegaard, though. I mean figures like Avicenna and Leibniz. I can't wait until he gets to the medieval Islamic philosophers! :) Forget Kierkegaard, who needs him.

Just one note, Peter Adamson. Promise that you won't cover Derrida. He doesn't count as a philosopher any more than Ayn Rand does, though perhaps even less. Derrida is nothing but a con-man.

Peter Adamson 27 November 2012

In reply to by Tacogaard

Yes, I'd certainly plan to cover SK (actually he gets a mention in week's episode, as it happens...). I really like him, in fact. But he is a long way off, never mind Derrida! I'm glad that you're looking forward to Avicenna and the other Islamic philosophers, since they're right around the corner.


I also like Kierkegaard. He's not one of my favorite philosophers, but I don't dislike him. Derrida, though, is the Ayn Rand of philosophy. Please don't give him credit by giving him an episode on your wonderful podcast!

Peter Adamson 27 November 2012

In reply to by Tacogaard

Isn't Ayn Rand already the Ayn Rand of philosophy? But seriously: I have to admit that I tried reading some Derrida when I was a student and couldn't make much of it. But I think I would probably give him another try if and when I get that far. Without any gaps and all that.

Ken 3 December 2012

In reply to by Peter Adamson

I got a slight laugh out of the disparaging remarks of Kierkegaard over the Islamic philosophers given Kierkegaard's philosophy of truth/subjectivity, I smirked a little. I don't know much on them but in the name of fairness or maturity I will not put down another philosopher to raise up the guy or group that I like. Besides his merits are such that I don't have to compare him to prove his credentials (unless the philosopher is Hegel of course).

Joshua 27 November 2012

Hi Peter,
Could you give me names of schools, colleges, universities et cetera, of philosophy in Toronto?

Christo Stoev 5 December 2012

Peter, respect for you.

What you are doing here is very hard to do - covering this range of deep thinkers with lightness and cleverness, without simplifying or vulgarizing to the level of common sense.
I also admire the interaction of content's seriousness and the intellectual cheerfulness of your approach.

Greetings from Bulgaria!


Peter Adamson 8 December 2012

In reply to by Christo Stoev

Dear Hristo,

Thanks very much! That's encouraging. And nice to know that the podcast has at least one fan in Bulgaria.



The Commentator 6 December 2012

Dear Peter Adamson,

Will you do 50 episodes on Avicenna?

Thank you.

Peter Adamson 8 December 2012

In reply to by The Commentator

Well, not 50, but maybe 5!

Glenn Russell 8 December 2012

Hi Peter,

"But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the work that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves."

I saw that painting from the medieval period on your home page, the one where the woman wearing the fancy hat is pointing up to a European looking god surrounded by European looking angels. Did the insights and wisdom of Xenophanes simply vanish during this period?


Nicely taken point. Of course medieval philosophers are a lot closer to Xenophanes' idea of god than the pictorial representations from their own period. They often try to strike a balance between endorsing more "physical" descriptions of God (as something like a man, or even as a lion, stone, etc) with insisting that God is immaterial, infinite, and so on. That is already becoming clear in the current run of episodes on Christian antiquity, especially in Ps-Dionysius. I guess the question for them is whether the more "vulgar" approach (as they would see it) in paintings in churches and so on would have a legitimate function, e.g. for educating non-philosophers. And they often say that it does; whether you can have both without some kind of elitism is an interesting question. But medieval philosophers often seem to be pretty relaxed about being (intellectually) elitist!


Freddie 9 December 2012

A couple of weeks ago, Raymond Geuss mentioned Thucydides as his favourite philosopher because " no-one else thinks he is a philosopher". I know that you have already mentioned the historian on the podcast when covering The Republic and I suppose the content would appeal to Geuss's emphasis of history and realist politics, but I was wondering if there was any other philosophical material in Thucydides?
Love the podcast, thank you

Peter Adamson 9 December 2012

In reply to by Freddie

Yes, I was a bit surprised by that one. I guess I would think of him as an historian who says philosophically interesting things, the way that (say) Jane Austen or James Joyce are novelists who say philosophically interesting things. Admittedly the notion of "history" was not yet established as we understand it in Thucydides' day and I can imagine someone arguing that he is comparable to Plato who wrote dialogues (consider Thucydides' "Melian Dialogue" which I discussed in the podcast). Still I think the main fish he wants to fry is a lesson about Athenian aggression rather than a philosophical message. But I'm no expert on him.

Cool, thanks! Couple of mistakes actually, "In the Age of Averroes" is already out and I am also (in fact primarily) at the LMU in Munich now, not only at King's.

NitaBillS 10 December 2012

I am enjoying your podcast immensely and have learned much.

I have been impressed that you have been able to cover so much with so much depth.

Thank you for not being condescending or outright insulting as many other philosophy podcasts are to anyone the podcaster disagrees with.

// signed //


I never knew how much giraffes factor in to western philosophy!

Thanks, I'm glad you are enjoying the podcast! I would actually welcome it if more people wrote in with criticisms, not only because Socrates would say that this is good for me, but also to help in revising the scripts for the book versions. (I am just working through the old Aristotle scripts now in fact.

Thanks again!


Gizawi 15 December 2012

Hello Prof. Adamson,

I hate to ask a "Will you cover so-and-so" question, but Ibn Arabi and Ibn Taymiyyah are the most misunderstood figures in Islamic thought. The label of philosopher does not fit on either of them comfortably, much more so than any other figure who influenced Islamic Philosophical thought. When it comes to these two figures they are either loved or hated passionately. One feels that few commentators properly read them before taking sides (A point Shah Wali Allah makes about Ibn Arabi).

The reason I feel like I need to ask for Ibn Arabi is that he is not a Hellenising thinker in any way, yet he had a strong influence on Islamic Philosophy after him. Ibn Taymiyyah does what Ghazali did: he fought Philosophy while taking on a lot of interesting philosophical positions doing it. I remember reading that you will cover Ghazali, but the reason I feel I have to ask about Ibn Taymiyyah is because his "followers" today are (to put it nicely) philosophically crude. Many do not really understand his points for rejecting philosophy, they just know that he did and that is more than enough for them which is a detriment to his thought. Are his objections to philosophy rigorous enough to warrant an episode?

Hi there - In my projected list I do have an episode planned on Ibn Arabi and the impact of philosophy on sufism, and vice-versa. Ibn Taymiyya really should get an episode too I think, if only for his critique of philosophy. Thanks for this suggestion, I was surprised to see I hadn't put him in the list yet!


Joshua 15 December 2012

Hi Peter,
I am reading and listening to philosophy. I love it, but I do not understand: what is the difference between Neo-platonism and Stoicism. I understand what Stoicism means and likewise Neo-platonism, but I don't see a real difference.

Peter Adamson 15 December 2012

In reply to by Joshua

Well it's true that they have a lot in common - the Neoplatonists borrow ideas from the Stoics about ethics, providence and freedom, for instance. However they are fundamentally different because the Stoics are materialists, i.e. they think only physical things exist. The Neoplatonists have the reverse view: for them physical objects are barely real and true being and causes are immaterial (soul, the Forms/Intellect, and ultimately the One). So that would be the main difference.

Joshua 20 December 2012

Hi Peter,
I am really enjoying podcast, but are you going to talk about St.Jerome?
If you are going to that is nice. But if you have forgotten I remind you.
Love the podcast,

Peter Adamson 20 December 2012

In reply to by Joshua

You bet! There's a whole episode coming up (2 weeks from now) on the Latin Church Fathers. So that covers Jerome, Lactantius, Tertullian and Ambrose. I guess that will actually be the last episode of 2012.

Glenn Russell 23 December 2012

I have listened to all of Peter’s podcasts over the past two months, quite a number multiple times. I have also read the questions and comments appertaining to each episode. It has struck me that the top four hot philosophical topics eliciting questions and comments are:

• What is the nature of happiness?
• What gives the most pleasure?
• The problem of evil
• The reality of death

These four certainly are among my personal favorite subjects to engage in philosophical dialogue. Does anybody have any additional favorites or reflections on these four?


Omar Ali-de-Unzaga 26 December 2012

Dear Peter,

I heard one of your recent podcasts where you mention Simeon Stylites. It brought to mind Buñuel's hilarious short movie that I saw when I was an undergraduate. You get to go into Simeon's mind! (this is the original version with no subtitles, but I'm sure they can be found somewhere…)

Happy Christmas!


Peter Adamson 27 December 2012

In reply to by Omar Ali-de-Unzaga

Hi Omar -- Nice to see you here! This is really cool, I didn't know about this. I found a subtitled one here.



Beard of Glory 27 December 2012

Just curious, at what episode do you think you will be starting the Islamic period? (al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Averroes, Avicenna, etc.)

Peter Adamson 27 December 2012

In reply to by Beard of Glory

It will begin about 10 episodes from now, round about 119 or 120 I think. So, early March! A lot of Augustine to get through first, plus Boethius.

Kim Birley 27 December 2012

Dear Peter, I would just like to add my voice to the chorus of thanks and congratulations you are deservedly receiving. As a teacher myself, I particularly admire your skill at expaining complex concepts succinctly and clearly without the need to 'talk down'. Your use of humour and links to modern examples is so well-judged and skilful, and leads to a rapid and complete engagement with the subject.

As a modern Epicurean I very much appreciated your giving Epicurus 'a fair suck of the sauce bottle' (as we say here in Australia!) by devoting several progammes to him; he certainly deserves more attention than he usually gets, especially when compared to that silly fellow, Plato!

Thanks again, Kim.

Thank you very much, Glenn, I know of two other websites about Epicurus but not this one - it looks most interesting.
Thanks again,

Dear Kim,

Thanks very much for the encouragement! I will henceforth try to work the phrase "fair suck of the sauce bottle" into my daily conversation... maybe even into a podcast script. I really ought to chastize you for being rude about Plato but you are so enthusiastic about Epicurus that I can't bring myself to do so.

By the way there's a joke about Australia (not at the Australians' expense) coming up in Sunday's episode on the Latin Fathers, so there's something for you to look forward to perhaps.



Thanks for the reply. As I'm sure you know, as an Epicurean it's pretty much my DUTY to be rude about Plato - though as I consider he sent European philosophy up a disastrous blind alley I don't find it at all difficult. Mind you, another hero of mine, the Emperor Julian, would passionately disagree with me on that!

joshua 28 December 2012

Hi Peter,
Will you talk about Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam?
I will be glad if you will.
Thanks (as always)

Hi Joshua,

Oh, most definitely. But not for a while, he comes after I do all the medieval stuff!


Joshua 29 December 2012

Hi Peter,
I am sure you are going to talk about Thomas Aquinas. So, I am not going to ask you, but, could you make more than one podcast on St. Thomas. I am reading Summa Contra Gentiles (Gentes; as it is sometimes called), and am interested what are you going to say on Thomism, NeoAristotelianism, Aristotelian-Catholicism, etc.
Could you please summon someone to give you an interview about him. ANd please, don't forget to talk how to go about reading him.

Peter Adamson 29 December 2012

In reply to by Joshua

Hi Joshua,

You're sure planning ahead! But as it happens so am I. As with Augustine I have quite a few episodes planned, I think for Aquinas I'd thought of 6 or 7, one of which is an interview with Scott MacDonald of Cornell University. We already recorded it, though I won't need it for more than a year yet.

And yes, I'd certainly plan on discussing how one needs to read his (various) works and the different intentions of those works.



Brett 29 December 2012

After 3 months of exclusive listening to your podcast on my regular commute, I have finally caught up with your most recent podcast, and I am now presented with a GAP (gasp!) to fill between your weekly posts.

Do you recommend any other podcasts or audiobooks to eager listeners? Don't worry - yours will always be #1.

As one who had never before studied anything philosophical (or historical, for that matter!), your podcast has opened a fascinating world to me and I am ever so grateful.

Best regards,

Firin mah lazor 30 December 2012

In reply to by Brett

Another podcast worth listening to is THE PARTIALLY EXAMINED LIFE.

Peter Adamson 30 December 2012

In reply to by Brett

Hi -- I'm very glad you enjoy the podcast so much, of course! I would second the vote for Philosophy Bites. I have heard good things about The Examined Life too. Apart from that I would add that Elucidations is very good, probably a bit more advanced in terms of topic and level than some other philosophy podcasts. Beyond philosophy-specific podcasts I would definitely recommend BBC Radio 4's "In Our Time" (which actually has covered many philosophers -- all old episodes are archived on iTunes) and for the history of the period I've been covering, "The History of Rome" podcast which is now being carried on in an excellent new series called "The History of Byzantium."


David Tanner 31 December 2012

In reply to by Brett

It's not really the same kind of experience as HoPWAG or the other podcasts listed (it's actually a series of videotaped lectures presented as either video or audio episodes) but Peter Millican's General Philosophy lectures from Oxford are amazing. You can find them on iTunes University or here

I should also mention he covers Early Modern philosophers such as Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Hume.


Glenn Russell 30 December 2012

Hi Peter,

Will you be touching on medieval aesthetics?


I would imagine so, though I hadn't thought about this specifically. (Though I would certainly need to do the theory of transcendentals which would include beauty.) You might have noticed that in the run-up to episode 100 I had an interview with Anne Sheppard on Greek Aesthetics, and maybe an interview on this subject for the medieval period would also make sense. Did you have any specific texts/authors in mind though? I'm even more open to suggestions here than usually since the medieval episodes are only very roughly sketched out in my prospective "table of contents."


Thanks, Peter. Yes, I found your interview with Anne Sheppard on Ancient Aesthetics most interesting and insightful. So, yes, I would certainly vote for an interview with Anne Sheppard on Medieval Aesthetics. In terms of a book you might want to take a look at, I would recommend a collection of short essays entitled Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, The essay with the same title as the book has references to Aquinas, Boethus, Augustine, Bonnaventura and Eckhart and is a concise and clear expose of what art meant during the Medieval period and how objects of art related to the prevailing philosophy and culture. Hope this helps.


Joshua 30 December 2012

Hi Peter,
Just want to thank you for this. I think this is needed for this society.
This site was introduced to me by my uncle who found you. I had been interested before, so I was gladly ready to start the podcast. I really like it. Now I am reading St. Thomas and I can't wait before you get there, and on other great philosophical figures.

Firin mah lazor 30 December 2012

How long do you think it will take you to get to William of Ockham?

Peter Adamson 30 December 2012

In reply to by Firin mah lazor

Well, if you're asking because you have a term paper on him due soon, then I will be too late to help. But seriously: I'll first do all of Islamic and Jewish medieval, which is several dozen episodes; then Latin medieval. But Ockham is fairly late in the Latin tradition. So I reckon he is still more than a year away; perhaps spring 2014? Hope you find the intervening stuff interesting too though!

paul 31 December 2012

Why do some people post comments that imply they want to rush through the episodes to get to someone they have heard about? Hopefully it is not because the present episodes are about early Christians. The last episode highlighting the need to advance your personal salvation through care of others contrasted very well with the Epicurians and others in earlier episodes. Much of the enjoyment with the site is comming across thinkers that you are not aware of and going away and reading them. Please let us savour the trip and not look towards reaching the familiar and safe. It was also good to hear Australia star in a philosophic discussion.{As it should}

Thanks, I'm glad you are enjoying the current episodes and also the slow approach generally. I imagine that people are asking about future topics not out of impatience but because they want to make sure I don't miss anything out! (Which is very useful actually, it helps me plan ahead. My fear is that I'll leave out something that I really should have included and realize only afterward, a mistake that would be impossible to fix without straying from the chronological order.)

Anyway I agree that the early Christian stuff has been very worthwhile, or at least I have learned a lot by doing the research for the episodes.

Jonathan Ziegler 1 January 2013

Professor Adamson,

I first heard you on the Averroes episode of ABC Radio National's Philosopher's Zone and have been listening to your podcasts when I could ever since.

Unfortunately, I didn't begin listening to the series methodically, so I plan to go back and start over from the beginning. Using RSS would be super convenient, but your RSS feed seems only to offer the most recent 10 episodes. I hope there is a way to make available all of the podcasts through RSS so that I can pay more attention without any gaps.


Jonathan Ziegler
Knoxville, Tennessee

Hi there -- Glad you like the podcast! I'm not sure what the problem might be because all the RSS feeds I know about cover the whole series. If you go to this link you will get access to all the episodes (and of course you can get them off this website too either streamed or by downloading the .mp3 files individually, but that might be a bit of a pain). iTunes also has all the episodes.



Joshua 3 January 2013

If you were to choose the greatest of the men who illustrated what Stoicism was, What would you say?
This is for everyone!!!!
1 Zeno of Cittum
2 Cleanthes
3 Chrysippus of Soli
4 Zeno of Tarsus
5 Cicero
6 Seneca the Younger
7 Panaetius of Rhodes
8 Posidonius of Apamea
9 Musonius Rufus
10 Epictetus

Hi Joshua,

Well, I think you've missed out Diogenes of Babylon and one could think about early modern exponents of Stoicism too (Lipsius?). Also, what about Marcus Aurelius! I would probably remove Cicero from your list, since he was not a Stoic though he is an invaluable source of information about Stoicism.


Hi Joshua,

For me, since we are talking philosophy here, the greatest is the wisest. And the wisest Stoic philosopher was Seneca, who had the wisdom to frequently quote Epicurus and incorporate Epicureanism into his philosophical writings. Second place goes to Marcus Aurelius who also leaned on the Epicurean view of death in his Meditations.

Joshua 9 January 2013

Hi Peter,
I know you will say a few words about Albertus Magnus in St Thomas Aquinas' biography, but my request is, could you please make at least 1 Episode about Albertus Magnus?

Peter Adamson 9 January 2013

In reply to by Joshua

Oh yes, definitely. I have a grad student who was trying to convince me I should have more than one on him actually, but I think it will probably be just the one episode. Sometime in 2014 though, I suspect...

Antonio Sánchez 9 January 2013

Hello Professor Adamson,
Since I have found this webpage I am absolutely delighted with it. My sincere congratulations. But, I have a question: are there transcripts of the podcasts? It would be very interesting to study them more carefully.
Best regards
Antonio Sánchez

No, I have never put up transcripts, originally because I was worried about encouraging plagiarism but now I have a better reason which is that they'll appear as a series of books. The first volume is just about ready to go off to the publisher!



Riccardo 17 January 2013

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Hi Peter,
your podcasts are really awesome and done very professionally.
Re: the first volume going to the publisher, have you got any details (ISBN, expected publishing date, sellers, publisher etc.) - as I would love to buy it!
If you do not have any details yet, are you going to show these details in your website ?

Many thanks and Regards

Hi - thanks very much! Glad you are interested in the book version. If all goes according to plan it will be published by Oxford University Press and should come out later this year. This first volume will go up through episode 51. I am just about done preparing it for press. But that means I don't have any other info about it yet, of course I'll announce it here when it is coming out though (on the blog).


Hiram 22 January 2013

Enjoyed your videos on Epicurus. Great to see that there is discussion and educational material out there on his tradition. I administer a forum for Epicureans here: (there are many other sources, like and

Hope to see more ... Cheers,


Ken 24 January 2013

First I want to say thank you for your work in making these episodes and I look forward every Sunday to hearing each new episode. I do hope that you at least continue up until the 1950s-1960s.

At the moment I am reading William Barrett's Irrational Man and am about to start up Kierkegaard's "The Sickness unto Death" (I have already read Fear and Trembling) and I am mid-way through "The Brothers Karamazov". I was wondering, Professor Adamson, what you think existential philosophy can tell or help us with in this current world. Or at least how it has helped you.

Again thank you for your time.

Thanks for the comments! I should firstly say that existentialism is pretty far from my area of philosophy. However I do have a remaining love of Kierkegaard from when I was a student. I've always thought that if one were going to be a Christian, his account of what that would mean (a "leap into the absurd") would be a very powerful way of thinking about it. I think as far as existentialism more generally goes, a lot of people underestimate it because of the image of it basically boiling down to sitting around in cafes, smoking and being depressed. Actually it is integrated into very complex and technical issues about perception and free will, for instance. Still I think at a more general or perhaps "popular" level the existentilaist idea that one has to devise a meaning for one's own life is very powerful and important for the contemporary age, still. It's not a coincidence that Sartre, Camus et al seem to connect more with a broad audience than other philosophers roughly around the same time, like say the logical positivists or even Heidegger (though both have their adherents of course!).

Denis 27 January 2013

I would like to inquire about the evolution of meta-ethical nihilism. To be more precise, I would be very grateful if you could suggest the earliest philosophers who maintained that moral statements do not possess objective truth values or rejected the notion of normative ethics at all.

Wow, that's a tough one. Maybe other people can think of a good answer as far as the historical question goes; my initial reaction is that this is a very recent development in philosophy. Perhaps one could argue that the ancient skeptics were some kind of ethical nihilists or anti-realists, but that would be simply a specific case of their across-the-board skepticism. (Of course Pyrrhonian skeptics would suspend judgement about moral claims, not make anti-realist claims, but for anti-realism one could perhaps think of the New Academy or even Protagoras.) Of course Hume raises a variety of skeptical worries, about morality and other things, but his final view wouldn't be well described as anti-realism I don't think.

Here is an article online you might find useful though it doesn't get into the historical question much: Moral Anti-realism on the Stanford Encyclopedia (note the related links at the bottom of the page).


I would agree with Peter that non-normative ethics and the rejection of objective morals is a modern phenomena. I place its development with the creation of Russian populism, especially Nikolai Mikailovsky. His subjecive ethics gave rise to a belief that political action knew no moral bounds if performed out of the love of humanity. In effect this supported terrorism. The idea develops from Jacobinism. Dostoyevsky took this position apart in 'Crime and Punishment'. Nietzsche and early Lukacs reinterpreted Dostoyevsky's position into their subjective moral critique. Be aware that such positions lead to any enormity and is in essence elitist as Dosyovevsky {No existentialist} was aware.

Joe Sen 4 February 2013

I enjoy the podcast most when there are two people talking.

Saad B. 9 February 2013

Hey there Peter,

So since your in the business of creating podcasts about the history of philosophy without gaps, is there any prospect of you writing a history of philosophy without gaps book? I still feel like that most history of philosophy books are truncated when it comes to medieval philosophy, especially Arabic philosophy. Sure, there's Russell's classic and Anthony Kenny's new history of philosophy, and others, but I stil feel like not many do justice to the Arabic philosophical tradition. Maybe scholars just don't think Arabic philosophy is an integral part of the Western canon.

Hi there -- The answer is an emphatic yes! I've got the first volume of a series of books based on these podcasts just about ready to send to press. Vol.1 will cover ancient philosophy up through Aristotle, vol.2 basically what I've done since then (hellenistic, late ancient including Christians). And then vol.3 will be philosophy in the Islamic world, which we're just about to get to in the podcast. These will appear with Oxford University Press, and of course I'll announce here when they start coming out.


Sounds great Peter! Also, can you tell us a little about the formatting? I mean will they be based on the podcast in the sense of being a series of interviews?


No, actually the reverse -- they will be based only on the scripted episodes, which will be revised to make them more book-like though, for the most part, you could more or less read along with the podcast. I didn't think it would be fair to come back to the guests after the fact and ask to publish what they said, since it's one thing to speak off the cuff and another to think of oneself as committing one's words to print. So the interview episodes will be podcast only.



Joe Sen 10 February 2013

I'm very much looking forward to learning about Islamic philosophy. I would like especially to hear about Ibn Arabi.

Jim Schumacher 17 February 2013

I am very excited about the upcoming podcasts on Arabic philosophy. When I was in college my medieval philosophy courses did not recognize its existence.

I would like to see a separate podcast on the Theology of Aristotle, its peculiarities compared to its source and how Arabic philosophy turned out differently because of it.

Funny you should mention that, I just wrote the script on the Greek-Arabic translation movement and the last section discusses exactly what you say here (differences between the Arabic Plotinus and the original). And we'll be seeing in due course what further impact it had...



Aida A 18 February 2013

Hello everyone,

I would like to see some recommendations of the books which encompass the development of science and scientific thought from the beginnings of civilizations until now, which includes the golden age of Islamic civilization and its place in the history of science and human thought.

Books should be readable for people who are not deeply involved in philosophy but are interested in science, and philosophy and logic related to science. :)


For Islamic medicine I highly recommend you start with Peter E. Pormann and Emilie Savage-Smith's "Medieval Islamic Medicine". I found it to be pretty accesable. It mainly covers the legacy of Hellenic medicine but does touch on non-Hellenic medical practices from within and outside the Medieval Islamic world. It also covers medical culture, institutions, religious dynamics between physicians of different faiths, and much more. In the end of the book there is a comprehensive list of medical texts by physicians written during the period the book covers (I don't remember if it lists books translated into Arabic, but I think it does).

Hope that helps. It is an excellent book.

Yes, most definitely! Pormann is a close collaborator of mine actually and will be appearing on the podcast, I interviewed him about medicine in the Islamic world. He also has a series of 6 podcasts he did on the same subject: here's the link.

Hello Peter,

1. Is there some schedule of podcasts? I want to know what's the number of the first episode about Islamic philosophers so i can calculate the day :)?

2. What do you think is the term "Arabic" philosophy/philosophers the best, if you use that term for philosophy during medieval Islamic period? Do you think it might be a wrong term?

Hi there,

1. The first episode on this will be number 120 (so it will go up March 17, I think).

2. I actually nowadays prefer the phrase "Philosophy in the Islamic world" and have a long explanation for that which takes up a fair chunk of episode 120! So you'll hear my rationale then. (Basically it is that I include Christian and Jewish thinkers in the story, and using "Arabic" is awkward because of the texts that aren't in Arabic but in Hebrew and Persian and occasionally still Syriac.)



In that case "philosophers of the Islamic World" is better than "Islamic philosophers". Thanks for communicating with folks. That's a good way to expand knowledge and views. :)


I came to the point of some more free time, and i listened to the podcast of Mr. Pormann. I found it informative, i like his pretty much neutral tone (he sounds like and objective scientist), but i don't feel so much satisfied about the duration of the whole podcast, and maybe because of that, i feel like it's just scratching the surface. Do you?! And maybe the book offers some more. But in any case i appreciate the podcast. So it can be the beginning. Peter I am waiting to hear about science from you too. :)

Best regards,

jim keogh 21 February 2013

Hi i listened to a few of your pod casts and like them very much.. i am not a well educated man so i'm just trying to grasps certain concepts that you have covered.. one is how can something come from nothing so how can all that is in the material world have come from the void or nothingness .. thank you ..... Jim

Hi Jim,

That is indeed a tough question! In fact Parmenides and most other classical Greek philosophers (including Aristotle) thought that this simply cannot happen. The idea of bringing something out of nothing is especially associated with God as a Creator and we see it come into the history of philosophy in late antiquity, really, in the Church Fathers. Even there, it's usually stressed that God's creation of things from nothing is unique, in the sense that God is the only cause that can make it happen. So we might conclude from this that, at least in the history of philosophy, it was usually assumed that something's coming to be from nothing is akin to (or is) a miracle.

Whether contemporary physics now is willing to contemplate things coming to be from nothing, I'm not sure; perhaps some of our physicist listeners would like to comment on that.


Joe Sen 24 February 2013

Thank you so much for the podcasts. It's a great gift to hear them. We don't even have to pay any money to do so.

Dionysios 26 February 2013

I see that Islamic or Arabic philosophy is up next. I hope you do not make the same mistake that a lot of historians of philosophy make and forget to include philosophically interesting Byzantine thinkers. You have included Dionysios Areopagite, Maximum, Philoponus so far; but, you must also include Psellus, Gemistus, Gregoras, Metochites and Pachymeres. Modern scholarship is increasingly paying attention to these thinkers.

Far from it, I'm planning a season on them too. As I"ll be explaining in the first Islamic world episode, I am dividing the medieval period into three sections, basically (though not quite) by language: Arabic, Latin, Greek. I am doing Byzantine thought last of the three so it'll be a while, but I will get there!


Ian Babb 2 March 2013


I wanted to thank you for your excellent podcast. As a layperson trying to fill in some of the many gaps in my knowledge, I’ve found your podcasts to be clear, thought provoking, entertaining and very informative. You’ve inspired me to read some Plato, so thank you for that as well.

I hope that your sponsors will continue to support this worthy project; I can attest that it’s an effective public engagement tool, and I imagine that it would provide much-needed contextualization for students in a variety of disciplines.

Best regards and keep up the good work,
Ian Babb

Rick 12 March 2013

In reply to by Ian Babb

Well said, Ian, I totally concur and I wish to add my thanks to Peter. Thank you so much.

Rob Loftis 3 March 2013

Hi Peter!

Can you recommend any good resources (preferably audio) to provide historical and social context for your year of medieval Islamic philosophy podcasts?

I've been listening to the Yale Open Courses on Greek history ( and the early middle ages (, and it has helped me put the gapless history of philosophy in context so far. I'd like to continue this pattern, preferably with other stuff that fits the hour or two of listening time I have every week.


Well, there are some relevant episodes of the In Our Time program from Radio 4. For instance this episode on the Arab Conquests (should be available on iTunes on their archive). Also a 6 episode series on medicine in the Islamic world by my collaborator Peter Pormann. But I don't know (and would love to hear!) of a series of podcasts dedicated to Islamic history that is worth listening to.