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In reply to by Andrej

Peter Adamson on 3 November 2013


Well, I only have the scripts which will be appearing as books in due course. So if you wait for those they will be much better than njust an outline or notes. For dates and names you can check out the "timeline" pages here on this website - there are separate ones for classical antiquity, late antiquity, and now Islamic world. This is a complete list of every thinker I mention in the podcasts, with links to the relevant episodes.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Andrej on 3 November 2013

Thanks for your quick reply!

Thanks for your quick reply! I'm not sure if I can't wait; I have to listen to your podcasts nevertheless :) I'm glad your going to publish out your stuff. So, do you first write your scripts and then read them? I'm also planning to do some podcasts related to religion so I'm wondering which approach you personally find the best

David Jones on 6 November 2013

Problem with podcast metadata in IOS7

Peter, I've been a keen and appreciative listener from the beginning but I've finally been obliged to start using Apple's dedicated podcast app following an operating system update. There's a problem with the metadata of your podcasts, I think, that's causing an issue for me and perhaps for anyone else using an iPod Touch or iPhone.

Your podcast episodes, while numbered ok, all recently have a date of the 1st Jan 2001 associated with them. That's preventing the Apple app from downloading the most recent, or sorting downloaded episodes in the correct order.

It'll be a simple thing for whoever produces the files to check and change in the future (ID3 tags are the problem I believe) and it'll make life much easier for me. And everyone else of course.


In reply to by David Jones

Peter Adamson on 7 November 2013


Hi there,

Yes, I'm aware of this problem and have actually just been in touch with Apple about it. It seems to be a problem specific to the platforms you mention - even normal iTunes recognizes the date assigned to each file on the RSS feed and orders them correctly. The point about the ID3 tags is interesting, I will look into that and see if there is something I can change about the file that is set automatically to Jan 1, 2001. (By the way Apple's advice was not useful -- they just said to fix the date in the RSS feed, which of course is not correct. I guess they don't know how their own apps work. So if anyone else has a tip that would be great.)


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Pete Bataleck on 12 November 2013

ID3 tags


Your podcasts have ID3 tags version 2.2 which has these tags (quoting from the spec):

TYE - The 'Year' frame is a numeric string with a year of the recording.
This frames is always four characters long (until the year 10000).

TDA - The 'Date' frame is a numeric string in the DDMM format containing
the date for the recording. This field is always four characters long.

TIM - The 'Time' frame is a numeric string in the HHMM format containing
the time for the recording. This field is always four characters long.

TRD - The 'Recording dates' frame is a intended to be used as complement to
the "TYE", "TDA" and "TIM" frames. E.g. "4th-7th June, 12th June" in
combination with the "TYE" frame.

None of these has ever been set in your podcasts.

A date of the 1st Jan 2001 is basically a zero - most systems store dates as seconds from 1st Jan 1970 but Apple uses 2001 as the base in some places. (iTunes first appeared in Jan 2001.)

It may be that setting one or more of these tags works around what looks like a bug in the podcast app - I have no idea but I doubt it.

Incidentally the same problem is reported but not resolved here:

In reply to by Pete Bataleck

Peter Adamson on 12 November 2013

ID3 tags

Thanks, that's super-helpful! Can you recommend some software that would allow me to see and modify these tags? I know that iTunes can't do it, and I downloaded something called EasyTag which didn't seem to have the ability to change these on the files. Or is there an easier way?



In reply to by Peter Adamson

Pete Bataleck on 12 November 2013

ID3 tags


What platform are you using, Linux,Windows or Mac ? If the answer is Linux, then eyeD3 or id3v2 will work; for the other OSes I'll check.


In reply to by Pete Bataleck

Peter Adamson on 12 November 2013


Mac I'm afraid - makes many things easier, but some things harder. Thanks again for the help!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Pete Bataleck on 13 November 2013

editing tags

I did a bit of digging around.

Tagr seems quite popular : - it's Mac only, which may be a good thing, but does mean that I can't run it.

kid3 from runs everywhere. I tried it on Linux and it sets some ID3 tags, but not version 2.2 (it converts to automatically to v2.3).

I can't find anything that will set ID3 v2.2 tags. This may not be a problem. I checked some other podcasts:

History of the Crusades uses ID3 v2.3 and has the year set to 2013
History of Byzantium uses v2.3 and does not have the year set
Revolutions uses v2.2 and has the year set to 2013

Assuming these podcasts work OK with iTunes, this suggests that using v2.3 tags is fine and you can ignore my earlier comments about v2.2 tag fields.

You could try editing a podcast with one of the above apps, set the year and save it. That will convert the tags.

Will this fix the problem? No idea. (One scenario where it would: prior to iOS7, using v2.2 tags without a year would default to current date,with iOS7 no year would be zero i.e. 1st Jan 2001.)

In reply to by Pete Bataleck

Peter Adamson on 13 November 2013


Thanks, very kind of you to help with this! I downloaded both Tagr and Kid3, and in both cases used them to look at the most recent podcast. Both showed that the file was _already_ tagged as year 2013 (I got the same result with EasyTag). I also checked a much older episode and it was also tagged with the right year (2010). But you said you looked at one of the files and saw that the year was not set, didn't you? So that's rather odd.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Pete Bataleck on 13 November 2013



I just downloaded (from the website, not iTunes) episode 149 and ran kid3.

It showed tags version 2.2, with the date blank.

I've been assuming that it's the same file on the website and on iTunes; if that's not true then I've been wasting your time :-(

Not sure what to suggest now.

imran abbas on 12 November 2013

pure delight

Dear Peter
I have been following your pod cast for few months now and it has been a pure delight. Philosophy has always been a passion of mine but never had the time to study it properly living a very demanding profession. Your pod cast is fuelling that passion again and on top of that you have just reached my favourite topic in philosophy i-e the ghazali/ ibn Rushd debate! I hope you do spend more time on that and give us more insight on who is right and why. I also wish that you extend the same debate to include st thomas Aquinas.
thanks for all your hard work. It is very much appreciated by many like me.

In reply to by imran abbas

Peter Adamson on 12 November 2013

The Tahafut debate

Hi Imran,

Thanks, glad you are enjoying the podcasts! I will actually mention Aquinas' criticisms of Averroes' views on intellect in episode 151 but mostly you'll have to wait until I get to him, which will take more than a year still I'm afraid. Lots of philosophy from the Islamic world and earlier Latin medieval philosophy to get through first...

Thanks for listening,


Dr. Dan Guerra on 17 November 2013

Your Amazing Project

Dr Adamson,
I want to congratulate you on this excellent series. It is the most comprehensive philosophy podcast I have heard and you do it with great clarity, sophistication and appropriately laced humor.
I really enjoyed the pre-Socratics (my favourite so far!) and the Plato/Aristotle sections were amazing.The Neo-Platonists are some of my all time most sought after thinkers and you did a great service to them as well. The Church Fathers and now your extensive Arabic/Muslim world material is also outstanding!
My only concern is that you will burn out or lose interest/funding for what I expect to be years of intellectual reward. For example, I cant wait until you reach Kant... Seriously, I.K. is such an enormous intellect and unfortunately, even with some great online podcasts and University-based courses involving his work; he is still in such dis-favour among so many people I talk to. I'm a scientist (biochemist) so that may tell you something about the dirth of the "love of wisdom" in my field. I occasionally try to remind my colleagues that we all have a PhD and after all, we should be equally schooled in philosophy and as "doctors" in our chosen disciplines. The best I get from them is eye rolling. Really quite disturbing if it weren't also ironically amusing. Anyway, please keep going...Kant, and later Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard and Brentano and Jaspers and Heidegger and ...well you get the picture.
Bravo History of Philosophy W/O any Gaps!

In reply to by Dr. Dan Guerra

Peter Adamson on 17 November 2013

Keeping goin

Dear Dr Guerra,

Thanks very much! Running out of funding won't be an issue because to be honest podcasting is pretty cheap. So it's more the time investment that is a long-term challenge but I certainly don't have any plans to stop. Kant will definitely be a big figure to tackle when I get that far (and by the way you may be encouraged to know that among philosophers he's rated in the top handful, so not in disfavor at all).



Gordon Tsang on 22 November 2013

Regarding the current absurd title of this podcast

Dear Professor Adamson

By all respect, and not to be sounding hostile or rude, I find it extremely peculiar and somewhat irritating when you are still issisting calling your podcast "Philosophy Without Gap", whether or not Chinese or Indian philosophy are going to be included.

As I have already said ,if you claims to be doing "History of Philosophy With No Gaps" while excluding Chinese and Indian philosophy, logically it is same as suggesting these philosophies (who happen to not follow the tradition of the "Greek") are not philosophy.

This is quite a "multicultural" point of view I must admit, and if that is really what this website genuinely believe, then I can only wish you can be more explicit about it. Of course my stance remains the same, either find some Chinese and Indian philosophy specialist to do the podcast for the website, (hello, SOAS is right next door to the Senate House Library?), or just remove the "With No Gaps" from the title.

Of course as I said I am not trying to stir up any issues, or I am particularly offended (anymore then what an English might feel if he/she find the entry "English" missing from Wikipedia's "List of human language"). I am simply demonstrating the meaning and attitude that one can logically deduce regarding this podcast, by reading its title and a set of post by yours. What I am not assuring is you genuinely have this attitude. Yet I believe it is always better for this podcast's sake to at least give a impression of it being "open-minded", especially if this is the attitude that philosophy is "supposed" to have. Otherwise this podcast will only be seen as one of many example of academic hypocrisy.

In reply to by Gordon Tsang

Peter Adamson on 24 November 2013

Indian and Chinese

HI Gordon,

Right, I agree and my plan is to include them - I have some plans on this but don't want to announce anything until I am sure about how it will work. Basically my approach is the one you suggest, namely to get help from some qualified expert(s). Albeit that SOAS is not "next door" to me, because I'm in Munich now.

Incidentally the point of "without any gaps" would not be lost even if I didn't cover Indian and Chinese; the idea of that slogan is not "let's look at all philosophy that has ever existed anywhere at any time" but "let's look at the philosophy I am covering without jumping from major figure to major figure." In other words the slogan refers to the goal of telling a continuous story, not the goal of telling a comprehensive story (as I explained in the first episode). The problem to my mind would be more the title "History of Philosophy" than the gaps slogan, since that title does suggest comprehensiveness. You're right that if in the end I didn't cover Indian and Chinese it would be better to call it "History of Western Philosophy," though as I've said before I don't like that expression.

Anyway this is all rather beside the point since my plan is indeed to include these other traditions. Incidentally one might also think of doing African philosophy, and maybe there are some other traditions that need to be considered too before one has really done the _whole_ history of philosophy.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Tom Roche on 25 November 2013

audio SEP

Thanks to Gordon Tsang for asking a question I've been meaning to ask for awhile. When I first started listening, I thought "without any gaps" was a reference to "god in the gaps," but obviously there has been much theology on the show since then.

Peter Adamson on Sun, 11/24/2013 - 11:34: "my plan is indeed to include these other traditions."

Unless you expect to hop on Kurzweil's singularity, I recommend you open this project to collaborators who specialize in those other traditions. (And, for that matter, to folks working in your own domains--which, I might add, are astonishingly broad--if only to avoid "truck factor of one," as the coders say.) Become more like an audio SEP: continue to generate content in your areas of expertise, and edit/curate content outside.

In reply to by Tom Roche

Josh Lee on 25 November 2013

I think we should all be

I think we should all be extremely grateful and impressed if Professor Adamson manages a history of Western philosophy without any gaps. I strongly disagree that Professor Adamson needs to start working more as an editor than an author. Part of what is fun about this podcast is the particular style that Professor Adamson brings to it. I guarantee you that the average philosophy professor isn't going to spend the time necessary to bring the hooks and entertainment value that Professor Adamson does. When I want the SEP, rather than a fun listen, I can read the SEP.

In reply to by Josh Lee

Josh Lee on 25 November 2013

No Audio SEP

Sorry but I think saying this is an audio SEP seriously undervalues the particular voice that Professor Adamson brings to this. If you want an audio SEP, I highly recommend this app, which I do use to listen to the SEP when I'm in a heavy-work mood:

In reply to by Josh Lee

Gordon Tsang on 25 November 2013

History of philosophy

First of all I must applause such friendly and helpful response from Professor Adamson. Looking back I do find my original comment a bit too hostile hence I will like to apologise.

At the same time I welcome the plans of introducing philosophies from different area. I strongly disagree Jose Lee's notion that turning this podcast into a audio-SEP will means it will be "boring", nor I believe by finding more guest speakers to do other culture's philosophy will infer having a more SEP approach

First of all, this podcast has many guest speakers dealing with different issues in Greek and Arabian philosophies, I do not see how that will differ from guest speakers doing oother philsophies. At the same time having a philsophically and historically trained "editor" engaging in a discussion with other philosophers in fields that he does not specialized in, can provide many alternative view point on a old subject. (for example, just look at Robert Wardy's analysis on 17th century effort in translating Aristotlelian logic into Chinese....)

In reply to by Gordon Tsang

Peter Adamson on 25 November 2013


Thanks for the input everyone! The problem about lacking expertise is actually not unique to these other traditions though they are especially daunting. The limits of my present expertise will be reached when I get to the end of Latin medieval. However I agree that the project, if it is to keep going, needs to keep a unified authorship and voice - rather than just switching to nothing but interviews for instance. So basically I am planning to learn a lot. (I may also need to slow down though, like by having new episodes appear once every other week.) Having said that, the model I'm considering for Indian philosophy is indeed to get a collaborator to help me with the relevant parts, who would then be the co-author of the book version. If that works out well I would try to cover Chinese philosophy in the same way later on. But as I say I will announce the plan officially once I am more sure how and when it will launch.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Tom Roche on 25 November 2013

Peter Adamson on Mon,

Peter Adamson on Mon, 11/25/2013 - 08:46: "basically I am planning to learn a lot."

好運與您的中國學研究 !-)

In reply to by Josh Lee

Tom Roche on 25 November 2013

audio SEP

Josh Lee on Mon, 11/25/2013 - 00:42: "I guarantee you that the average philosophy professor isn't going to spend the time necessary to bring the hooks and entertainment value that Professor Adamson does."

... and I'll bet you $20 right now Professor Adamson presently lacks the chops to do China *and* India *and* Africa *and* [your currently-neglected philosophical homeland here] to the standard to which he's done (and no doubt will continue to do) the Western tradition.

And *another* Jackson says that, barring some serious singularity-style augmentation, Adamson ain't gonna get those chops in the lifespan he can reasonably currently expect. This is one reason why reasonable people collaborate (in addition to the truck-factor consideration): reasonable people understand that collaboration can allow the group to create works greater than the sum of the separate individuals. And (contra Allen) reasonable people hope to become immortal only through their work. (And their students, though I dunno who Adamson is supervising.)

Josh Lee on Mon, 11/25/2013 - 00:42: "When I want the SEP, rather than a fun listen, I can read the SEP."

Hopefully with more care than that you lavished on the comment to which you just responded :-)

In reply to by Tom Roche

Josh Lee on 27 November 2013

We don't disagree about the

We don't disagree about the facts, we disagree about the value/meaning to assign to those facts. I think losing unified authorship would be worse than focusing on Western philosophy. You think leaving out other philosophical traditions would be worse than losing unified authorship. I think of this as Peter Adamson's podcast. You think of it as an audio encyclopedia. We just disagree about these things.

In reply to by Josh Lee

Tom Roche on 29 November 2013


Josh Lee on Wed, 11/27/2013 - 17:08: "We don't disagree about the facts"

Actually, we *do*, since you claim that

"You think of it as an audio encyclopedia."

... which is not only false, but is easily shown to be false:

Tom Roche on Mon, 11/25/2013 - 00:17: "Unless you [i.e., Dr Adamson] expect to hop on Kurzweil's singularity, I recommend you open this project to collaborators who specialize in those other traditions. (And, for that matter, to folks working in your own domains--which, I might add, are astonishingly broad--if only to avoid "truck factor of one," as the coders say.) Become more like an audio SEP: continue to generate content in your areas of expertise, and edit/curate content outside."

Clearly, I referred to the SEP only with regard to division of labor ... but finding that requires reading with care.

Fortunately, this is a skill one can develop in a good intro-to-philosophy class. The downside of philosophy qua career is that competition for jobs is pretty brutal. The upside for consumers is that one can get instruction from quite competent philosophers at pretty much any post-secondary institution (including what are called "community colleges" in the US) pretty much anywhere.

In reply to by Tom Roche

Josh Lee on 29 November 2013

I find you a very amusing

I find you a very amusing character.

Tom Roche on 25 November 2013

Quiz 1/the 100th Episode Quiz

Almost forgot to ask my original question: are the answers to Quiz 1/the 100th Episode Quiz available? Somehow I completely missed that: I'm on the RSS feed (no iTunes for me, I'm on linux), so I usually access the website only to right-click the MP3 link.

Dr. Dan Guerra on 25 November 2013

non sequitor

Landing on a free podcast that traces the western philosophical tradition as thoroughly as HOP is like happening upon a pristine glacial lake after a long hike in the Rockies. It is simply sublime.
But beyond its content and depth, Peter Adamson brings humor and warmth to each episode that goes beyond the standard textbook treatment of such wonderful philosophical works.
It is not the prerogative of a student to direct his professor in the lecture topics. Furthermore, if you don't like to learn about western philosophy then don't download the podcast. No matter what it is called, the important issue is whether you find value in the podcast.
Personally, I don't care to hear more about Eastern philosophy every time I learn about things, philosophical. I have read a lot of the Eastern tradition and have listened to many lectures and podcasts on the major realms of Eastern thought. In HOP, I find such a thorough analysis of the Western school tremendously interesting and intellectually engaging. There are numerous podcasts, open courseware offerings and audio books on all aspects of philosophy. Frankly, I think HOP is superior to most of these. HOP is excellent as it is. I am a scientist so I am being educated when I listen to HOP. I continue to read extensively outside of my discipline and have consumed many volumes of original philosophical texts and the secondary literature. A hobby of mine. I am grateful for Peter Adamson's excellent effort and look forward to his steady progression through this amazing corpus of philosophy. Bravo to HOP just as it is and wherever Peter Adamson decides to take us in the future.

Kurt Wenner on 29 November 2013

My Compliments!

Thank you very much for your podcast. I spend huge numbers of hours in my studio working on projects and your podcast has helped me get through at least one of them.

I would like to recommend your podcast on my Facebook page and later on my blog. I really look forward to what you will say about Renaissance neoplatonists and even Descartes, who I do not even like.

In reply to by Kurt Wenner

Peter Adamson on 29 November 2013


Thanks very much! So now I have a new challenge, which is to make you like Descartes. Fortunately I have a while until I get to him so I can hone my skills in the meantime.

Tom Roche on 29 November 2013

Islamic political philosophy

I was listening to Robert Gleave on Ali (as in, caliph 4)…

thinking "dude *really* needed a copy of 'The Prince'!" Which made me wonder if anyone in the "early Islamic world" was doing that kind of practical/descriptive hands-on (pun intended :-) political philosophy before, say, ibn Khaldūn. As in, *not* "al-Fārābī on Religion and Politics," which, unless I'm misremembering, seemed about as useful as The Republic. Anybody doing (somewhat) less normative, (substantially) more positive work, like the earlier Chinese ("cast of thousands" including Confucius, Legalists, Mencius, Mozi, Daoists), Indians (e.g., Chanakya), or Greeks (e.g., Thucydides, Aristotle's lost constitutional survey)?

In reply to by Tom Roche

Peter Adamson on 29 November 2013

Mirrors for princes

I would say yes, but only sort of. The most relevant texts are works in the "mirrors for princes" tradition, already written in Persian, which not unlike Machiavelli give advice, some of which is quite practical, to rulers. There is a similar sub-genre on advice on being a courtier (boon companion, secretary, vizier etc). The reason I say "sort of" is that these texts are typically not quite considered part of the philosophical canon, because unlike Machiavelli they aren't thought to imply a more general attitude towards, say, political legitimacy or the place of moral concerns in political action. To be honest I couldn't say for sure how fair that rather dismissive attutude is, it's not something I've worked on a lot. Though this tradition does have an influence on the ethical works I discussed in episode 134.

Kurt Wenner on 1 December 2013

Tagore Sadhana

I was reading through some of the comments and was amazed to hear that you had the eventual plan to cover Eastern thought. You are really ambitious! After I ran through your podcasts, I looked for new material on Plotinas and found a site called "The Ideal in the West". I prefer your presentation and appreciate the depth and richness of your scholarship, but the other site was interesting for its attempt to connect Platonic philosophy with a wider transcendentalist western tradition. This, (as well as the fact that I had some philisophical indigestion after listening to Saint Augustine's " "City of God"), made me homesick for Eastern philosophy.

I found that Peter Yearsley has recorded the whole of Tagore's "Sadhana" on Librivox, (Previously every chapter had its own reader, which was disappointing). I was wondering if you think there is any single work in all of the Western European philosophical tradition outside of the "Phaedro" that has the eloquence, depth and beauty of Tagore's "Sadhana"?

For your convenience I have uploaded a link to the files here:

The files are in the public domain and can be downloaded directly from Librivox as well, but this might be a bit faster. Just a last question- I would consider this a work of philosophy, it has only a few premises taken from the Bahagavad Gita and draws its conclusions in a reasoned manner, treating many of the ethical and perceptual issues discussed by ancient philosophers in a manner that is refined and logical. Would you agree with this?

Thanks for your efforts,

Kurt Wenner

In reply to by Kurt Wenner

Peter Adamson on 2 December 2013

Indian philosophy

I have to admit I don't know the Tagore text but in general there is no doubt that there are plenty of Indian texts that are "philosophical," on pretty much any definition of that term. So, with arguments, distinctions, technical terminology - all the hallmarks of philosophical literature, and on familiar topics like skepticism, atomism, monism etc etc. That's why I want to learn more about this tradition and give it the coverage it deserves, if I can.

Just one side comment: although I share your admiration for the Phaedo I was surprised to see you exalt it above all other philosophical texts in the European tradition like that - one doesn't even need to go outside the works of Plato's middle career to find a contender for an equally great, if not greater, work namely the Republic.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

kurt wenner on 2 December 2013


Hi Peter,

Thanks for your response, but it only makes me more certain that you will love Tagore's "Sadhana". Plato's "Repubic" is a hugely problematic work for me. As a work of art I find it significantly inferior to many other dialogues. This is because the dialectic is preserved only as decoration, the listener is reduced to a "yes man". Certainly this shortens the process and allows Plato to expound a huge variety of ideas that would perhaps be painful to listen to in a true dialectic; but this is not my major complaint. Plato's criticism of the arts is what puzzles me most.

To me the greatest puzzle of antiquity is how little use the philosophers made of the arts. Plato uses the word "mimesis" to describe the works of Phidias. It would seem impossible that in such a "small town" as Athens there would be no discussion between philosphers and artists. Yet, the idealization of the human form and its use in architecture in ancient Greece exactly parallels the "ideal forms" of Plato's philosophy. Plato attributes these coincidences to "inspiration" and writes off any artistic claim to knowledge. I cannot accept this.

But Plato's real "faux pas" in "The Republic" was to banish the poets. This has to have raised the hair on the necks of two thousand years of intellectuals. Aside from the general creepiness of the concept, there is a huge significance which has not been explored to the best of my knowledge. Compare Tagore's use of the "Bhagavad Gita" in his discourse on beauty to Plato's description of Homer. Tagore has made good use of the Gita to create a crystal-clear analogy of divine love. Plato only sees horror in myth. To me, the remarkable legacy of Greek myth was orphaned by the fact that ancient philosophers were unable to utilize their rich cultural legacy and confused themselves with a literal interpretation of the material. Maybe they needed an antique version of Robert Graves or Joseph Campbell.

More seriously, I think that the disconnect between the arts and sciences has its seed right here. It gives Aristotle his foothold toward considering the particular as causal rather than the whole. The rest of western philosophy becomes a "commentary on Plato" in part because this disconnect is never again bridged.

I hope you take advantage of the download link- it is only good for a week or two. I love your podcasts, and would be thrilled to hear your response to Tagore. In any case it is ear-candy compared to the other texts you need to study to do your serious work.


Kurt Wenner

In reply to by kurt wenner

Peter Adamson on 3 December 2013

Plato on the poets

Thanks, I did download the file! I will take a look when I get a chance.

Re. Plato have you listened to episode 33 on Plato and myth? Because there I suggest that his dismissal of poetry etc is a lot more complicated than it seems. I tend to think that Plato was not so much arguing against the use of literature or the aesthetic in philosophy, but to the contrary setting himself up as a rival and critic of previous literary figures. In other words, he wanted to offer everything that is good about poetry but in a way that is informed by understanding, rather than by a faulty understanding of the world, of the gods, etc.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

kurt wenner on 3 December 2013

Tagore- Plato

I agree with you about Plato's intentions, but it seems to me that in contrast with Tagore he does not actually make much use of the Greek mythological heritage, only warns the audience about misusing it. Socrates seems as often to weave a new fable as quote the existing ones, perhaps that was one cause for his legal troubles- it does appear in the complaint.

Of course I love Plato, and the approach to philosophy is in tune with the Tagore work as well. What stands out is the difference in their relationship to their cultural history.

Enjoy the audio!


In reply to by kurt wenner

Peter Adamson on 3 December 2013

Plato's use of the poets

Actually Plato is doing a lot more with the poets than you might think; a whole book was recently published on (often implicit) allusions to Hesiod in his dialogues. Remember that Homer and Hesiod for the Greeks were like the Bible in medieval Europe - it was nearly impossible to write without calling them to mind.

Still, I take the point that engaging positively with the literary past can be more attractive and I have read enough about Indian philosophy to know that this is a real feature of that tradition.

Thanks for the comments and the text!


Tom Roche on 3 December 2013


Toward your declared end of "ungapping" Chinese and Indian philosophy, I thought I'd propose one or two shows you could do

* without a lot of detail, sort of a "10000 meter view of history of philosophy"
* to sketch your intentions regarding these domains
* to illuminate one (or maybe two) historical question(s), ...

... Namely, what influences, if any, are exchanged between Islamic philosophy (on the one hand) and Chinese and Indian philosophy (on the other hands)? And if there's not much, why not? Why I ask:

I remembered your line about "my father was a man of Balkh" when listening to…

which briefly discusses the Battle of Talas. Spatially, Talas is not all that far from Balkh (OK, it's ~1000 km, but we're talking *Central Asia*) and temporally the battle is not that far from Ibn Sīnā's birth (OK, over 2 centuries, but this is pre-modern time). Plus we know (unless I'm missing something) that

* the Silk Road was happening for millenia before, and at least a half millenium after, these events
* the spatiotemporal reach of Ibn Sīnā's writing was waaay greater than the distances above--like, to Renaissance Europe
* contemporary Chinese and Indian societies were also learned, philosophical, and technological
* Indian philosophy has a major influence on China (via Buddhism, via Central Asia), so obviously distance is not an insurmountable factor

Yet my impression is

* Islamic philosophy influences India only much later, via the Mughals
* Indian technology (notably, arithmetic) has some influence on the Muslim world, but not so much Indian philosophy
* Chinese technology (notably, paper) has a major influence on Islamic philosophy, but not so much Chinese philosophy
* Islamic philosophy has almost no effect on Chinese philosophy

Am I missing something? If not, why is there so much Islam/Europe philosophical exchange, but so little Islam/China and Islam/India philosophical exchange? Given there's so much happening in philosophically in Central Asia, and the Muslim philosophers are "known good" at absorbing useful work from pagans?

So that's kind of a big topic or two :-) but, like I said, think of this as something you could do an interview show or two on relatively soon, and use to as an intent marker (aka, teaser :-) until you're ready to, ummm, "do China and India."

In reply to by Tom Roche

Peter Adamson on 3 December 2013

Philosophy in Asia

That's an excellent question about Chinese and Indian philosophy and their interaction with Islamic philosophy. I know there is actually Sufism in China eventually, plus as you say there is Indian scientific influence on the Islamic world (astronomy and astrology as well as mathematics). I think it's worth noting that when al-Biruni, who is a contemporary of Avicenna, writes his "India" he is clearly thinking that India is a totally foreign culture to which he has gained unusual access. That suggests to me that there just wasn't enough cultural interchange in the decisive formative centuries of Islamic culture for Indian (or Chinese) thought to have extensive impact, even if there are references here and there. The obvious explanation would be language barriers: the Muslim conquests simply didn't get into India, and so Arabic was not spread there. However this is probably too simple and there is definitely some cultural interchange; check out for instance this project on Islam and Tibet that was done in London.

By the way I plan to devote an episode to Islamic philosophy in the Mughal period in any case.

As for the question of how to cover it I would be reluctant to do a minimal version, like you suggest - it would be a lot easier but almost counterproductive or dismissive (European philosophy gets hundreds of episodes, Indian gets 2). So to me that is a backup plan to be pursued only if doing it properly doesn't work out.

Paul on 7 December 2013

Full History of a Time

When I heard you mention that you were working with other history bloggers on a project I immediately hoped it involved a presentation/discussion type program where historians/experts of various disciplines would each present a cross-section look at a period of time followed by a discussion of how philosophy, science, religion, economics, politics, etc. of a certain period interacted to form the broad concept of history. Our students are so used to walking from a math class to a history class to science when in real life history is formed by the interaction of everything. Do you think this kind of radio or TV show or podcast would work? Even if you used a SKYPE audio conference to produce a demo it would be fun to see what resulted.

Anyway, perhaps you could interest your other history bloggers to try it out. Even if it never happens I would be interested in hearing how you feel philosopher of a given period affected the times in which they lived. Or do philosophers have to die and hope their words are preserved and read centuries in the future? Is there a current day philosopher influencing us and what our history will be.

Ken on 17 December 2013


I must happily complain, Professor Adamson, that you have caused me to want to know more, which has thrown my planned reading list for philosophy off.

I had decided that the only book on Islamic philosophy I would read would be the Decisive Treatise and the companion book you contributed to. Now I find I will have to track down, Ibn Arabi, Ibn Khaldun, and most expensively, Avicenna's The Metaphysics. I am thankful that you have introduced me from this often neglected part of Western philosophy, but now I will have to re-adjust my reading schedule and save money for those insanely expensive BYU translations.

In reply to by Ken

Peter Adamson on 17 December 2013


I'm sorry that the podcast is turning out to be expensive. If it makes you feel any better I seriously doubt you will wind up spending as much on books covering Islamic philosophy as I have!

But seriously, I'm so glad that you are finding it worthwhile and especially that it is sending you back to the original texts - as I always say that is the ultimate success for the whole project. If you live in striking distance of a university library you could probably find some of these to take out and read for free, by the way.

Thanks for listening!


Nick Trakakis on 2 January 2014

History of philosophy without gaps?

Dear Peter,

I thoroughly enjoy your podcasts, but I have been meaning to alert you to a major gap in your history, at least as it appears up till now: Byzantine Philosophy. This is a period in philosophy that is often passed over in silence, but hopefully a project such as yours will rectify this lacuna.

Best wishes,
Nick Trakakis

In reply to by Nick Trakakis

Peter Adamson on 3 January 2014

Byzantine philosophy

Hi Nick,

Not to worry, that is very much on the agenda. Actually I explained in the first episode on Islamic philosophy (episode 120) that I need to cover medieval philosophy in the Islamic, Latin Christian and Greek Christian worlds which means dividing the narrative into three to cover the traditions in parallel. I'm doing them in that order so I will not get to Byzantine thought for a while; but I will give it at least 10 episodes or so, I think. In that episode I give some reasons for doing Byzantine last out of the three traditions, but really I could have done them in any order.



In reply to by Peter Adamson

Nick Trakakis on 3 January 2014

Byzantine Philosophy

Thank you Peter, that's wonderful.

In reply to by Nick Trakakis

Peter Adamson on 3 January 2014

Byzantine philosophy

Hi again,

I should have added: if you (or anyone else) has suggestions on what to cover, in terms of themes or figures, that would be helpful. It's not an area I know well though I do have a rough idea of what I need to discuss.



In reply to by Peter Adamson

Nick Trakakis on 6 January 2014

Byzantine Philosophy

A good place to start is the Byzantine Philosophy article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which covers the major figures in section 1.3.

Tim on 7 January 2014

A Few Questions

Dear Professor Adamson,

First, I'd like to say that I'm very glad to hear of your plans to cover Chinese and Indian philosophy, and I wish you good luck in your research thereof. Second, I would like to ask you some questions regarding both the podcast itself and some of the philosophies you have covered.

I noticed that you've spent considerably less time on each of the later philosophers than on Plato and Aristotle. Is this because you view their importance to the history of philosophy to be that much greater than the other philosophers you've covered, or is it simply that a strong base in Plato and Aristotle allows later philosophers to be covered much more quickly? Some combination? Something else?

I also have a question regarding philosophy in the Islamic world. Have any Islamic philosophers ever employed the concept of God being the source of morality to tackle the issue of the failure of human language to describe him? I feel that this would be a useful way to explain the descriptions of God found in the Koran. If God decided that it would be best to include these inherently inaccurate descriptions of himself in the text, then that would both explain and justify their use. This could possibly be for the reason of making Islam more appealing, to influence the behavior of its adherents, or for some reason inscrutable to us mere humans.

I apologize if these issues have already been covered in the podcast. I have been listening religiously for the past several weeks, so many of the ideas you have covered have become mixed around in my mind.


Tim Noonan

In reply to by Tim

Peter Adamson on 8 January 2014

A few answers

Hi there,

The reason for the blanket coverage of Plato and Aristotle is pretty much what you say: a combination of very important and fundamental for everything that comes after (perhaps especially Aristotle). I guess I also was thinking in terms of building an audience back then, and assuming people would be interested in those two and get hooked, then sticking around for the likes of Plotinus and more minor figures. Maybe another reason is just autobiographical: I have taught both of them quite a lot in my day job! I doubt any thinker will get that many episodes in the future though someone like Aquinas or Kant might get up towards 10 including interviews (and already Plotinus had 5, Augustine 7).

Your point about Islam is interesting - so the idea is that God would reveal potentially misleading things about Himself (e.g. suggesting He has a body) to make sure people respond to the message? I think that is effectively what Farabi and especially Averroes think is going on in the Koran, and Maimonides as we'll see shortly has a similar approach to the Hebrew Bible.



In reply to by Peter Adamson

Tim on 9 January 2014

A Few Sentences

Thank you for your reply,

I definitely look forward to Aquinas and Kant if they are important enough to warrant so many episodes. With regards to Islam, that is precisely what I am getting at, with the specific justification for God doing this being his status as the source for and creator of morality. I'm looking forward to Maimonides, as I'm now up to date with the podcast (it only took my whole winter break!)

Thanks again,


Mario Shammas on 8 January 2014

Skeptics on Mathematics

Dear Professor,

I love your podcast! A question though, do we have any sources which tell us what the skeptics thought of mathematics and the certainty it provides? After all wasn't that why the Pythagoreans and Plato loved geometry? And also, do we know what the stoics thought of mathematics (or were they always more concerned with what is material)?

Thank you!

In reply to by Mario Shammas

Peter Adamson on 8 January 2014

Skeptics and Stoics on mathematics

Hello there,

Yes, we have Sextus Empiricus' 'Against the Professors' which has sections on mathematical topics. That's volume 4 of the Loeb Greek-English edition of Sextus. I think that would be the main place to look for skeptical ideas about math. He criticizes the proofs of geometers for instance.

As for the Stoics, I don't think they talk a lot about this but they need to take a view on the metaphysical status of mathematical objects, like geometrical figures. Long and Sedley (p.264) point out that the Stoics don't really distinguish between pure and empirical science. They mention, I think rightly, that among the Stoics it was really only Posidonius who had any particular knowledge of mathematics.


Zach Raph on 8 January 2014

How did you get into History of Philosophy?

Dear Professor Adamson,
I am a second year undergrad student at Carleton College in Minnesota. I am fascinated by the questions, problems and topics of the history of philosophy, and I was curious how you personally became part of the field? Did you study a great deal of history throughout your undergrad years and grad years or was your focus primarily in philosophy? Did you spend a lot of time studying languages, you seem to be fluent to some degree in at least Arabic, Latin, Greek and possibly German? Any thoughts or experiences you want to share would be greatly appreciated.

In reply to by Zach Raph

Peter Adamson on 9 January 2014

Getting into philosophy

Hi Zach,

Believe it or not I once came to give a paper at Carleton! A friend of mine was teaching there when I was a grad student so I made a visit. Nice school.

Anyway the short answer is that I went to Williams College whose philosophy dept. was pretty historically oriented, and got interested in medieval philosophy partially via interest in ancient, partially via interest in medieval literature (especially Dante, my first intellectual love). I already started on Latin when I was an undergraduate and picked up Greek and Arabic during my doctoral studies at Notre Dame. I can also read some other languages but I would claim to be fluent only in (American!) English and German.

I do have a general observation here for people wanting to get into the field which is that, if you want to work on history of philosophy (unless it is Locke and Hume, etc) you really need to master languages as early as possible. The younger you are the easier it is. In my field of ancient and Arabic philosophy it's always a challenge to find people who have a solid training in both the language and the philosophy side - pretty much everyone is stronger in one and trying to catch up on the other. I am unusual in the Arabic philosophy business in that I was trained as a philosopher and learned some Arabic along the way; most scholars in the field are Arabists who learned some philosophy along the way.

Enjoy the Minnesota winter! I hear it's cold there.


Rafael Calsaverini on 9 January 2014

Music used so far on the podcast

Hi Peter,

first of all, thanks for sharing this knowledge with the community at large. It's amazing to have access to a specialist perspective over this matters outside of academia.

I'd like to ask you if you could share what is the music used as intro for the episodes on andalusian philosophy. (If you could tell also what are the other songs used in previous episodes it would be nice too).

Thanks a lot for all the effort you put on this project. I imagine it's not an easy task, but I bet there's a lot of people very thankful for it.

In reply to by Rafael Calsaverini

Peter Adamson on 12 January 2014


For the current music look at the first comment I left on the first Andalusia episode, and likewise for the first "Formative Period" episode. The ancient music clips were from Stefan Hagel's ancient music website, that is him performing on reconstructions of ancient instruments!

Berel Dov Lerner on 12 January 2014

proper names

Hello Peter - I would just like to make a technical suggestion. When you introduce a new thinker (or geographical location)please try to mention their name frequently. I don't think I'm the only listener who finds it easier to remembers the flow of ideas described in the podcasts than the associated proper names.

In reply to by Berel Dov Lerner

Peter Adamson on 12 January 2014


Hi there,

Actually I already try to do that, at least more than I would in normal writing - instead of saying "he" I try to use the name more. Of course for a lot of episodes the name of the philosopher is in the title anyway. But I'll make an effort to do it more in the episodes covering a range of figures. (I know that in the Islamic world things can be confusing, for instance with the Jewish thinkers we're covering at the moment it seems like they all have Moses, Solomon, or Ezra in their names!)

Thanks for the feedback,


Tom Roche on 12 January 2014

"modern turn" in Islamic-world philosophy of science?

Those of us more steeped in the European tradition believe (hopefully with justification :-) there was an early modern turn in philosophy of science. IIUC the standard story (which I may not--I study environmental modeling, not philosophy), the "first stage" is a long, slow (largely pre-modern) increase in emphasis on empirical/inductive knowledge, extending from Aristotle (and Philoponus' criticism thereof) and Galen, continuing with people like al-Haytham, ibn-Sina/Avicenna, Roger Bacon. Then--in Europe--there's a faster "second stage" (roughly 1450-1650) featuring an increasing recognition of the pragmatic power of mathematicization (e.g., Galileo), and of the newly-available instruments (Galileo again), and of the relative sterility of existence/essence discourse, deduction, etc. Eventually you get folks like Francis Bacon synthesizing and selling the lot, uptake by learned societies, and the (western) Europeans are "off to the races." (Stage 3 being scientific revolution, Industrial Revolution, world domination, etc.)

You've definitely covered some Islamic-world contributions to the first stage. I'm wondering, is there anything like an endogenous second stage in the Islamic world? or do they only "get there" in reaction to the third stage? (As seen in, e.g., Meiji Japan: "we're getting our butts kicked! time to suss out this science stuff.") If the former, is this something you'll get to? Or is this line of questioning fundamentally wrong-headed, and I'm missing something prior/major?

In reply to by Tom Roche

Peter Adamson on 12 January 2014

Later developments in the Islamic world

Hi there,

Well, I'm devoting a whole series of podcasts (like the ones on Andalusia) to developments in the later Eastern tradition. I am still reading up on it, and writing the first few episodes. So, to some extent my answer is "watch this space." My impression however is that there are major shifts and developments but nothing quite like the stages you describe happening in Europe. Basically you don't get a shift towards empiricism, that seems to me to be the biggest difference in terms of philosophy's relevance to science or vice-versa. You do, interestingly, get a shift towards skepticism; also there is plenty of science, e.g. the activities at the Maragha astronomical observatory which I'll be mentioning a few times. And there is something that is reminiscent of the Renaissance around the time of the Persian Safavid empire, where they go back to the Greeks (or rather the old Arabic translations). But no Baconian revolution, so to speak.


clueless on 16 January 2014

matter and form?

Hi, I am so confused whenever you talk about matter and form, or genus and species. Where are the first episodes where you explain what these terms mean in philosophy and explain the arguments for the distinction between matter and form?

In reply to by clueless

clueless on 17 January 2014

matter and form?

(or will I have to wait until Aquinas to understand?)

In reply to by clueless

Peter Adamson on 17 January 2014

Matter and form

Hi there,

It comes up for the first time in Aristotle, in episodes 38 and 39 especially. But let me know if those don't clarify it for you. (The basic idea is that you can analyze any physical object into the stuff it is made of -- like flesh and bone for an animal -- and form,which is the principle of determination that makes the stuff the way it is. This could be simply a shape, like a circular form in a circle made of metal, or something more complicated like the form of an animal which is actually its soul.)


In reply to by Peter Adamson

clueless on 20 January 2014

Ok I'll listen to those. Is

Ok I'll listen to those. Is that where you talk about what genus and species mean in Aristotelianism (I have no idea what Aquinas means when he's talking about that)?

In reply to by clueless

Tom Roche on 20 January 2014

sense and non-

@clueless:"I have no idea what Aquinas means"

The history of theology is mostly populated by writers who failed to anticipate Wittgenstein's p7 (see… ) So when perplexed by a given text, consider the option that *it* just does not make sense :-) That's not always correct, but it's always possible, and is unfortunately not false often enough to be non-negligible.

Fortunately the case of Aristotle on genus and species is rather more straightforward, and the analogy to Linnaean classification helps. A genus is a definable set of things, a species is a subset of the genus, and a differentia is what (you guessed) differentiates species among the genus. The canonical example is that humans (species) are an animal (genus) that can reason (differentia).

In reply to by Tom Roche

clueless on 20 January 2014

Your example makes things a

Your example makes things a bit more clear. Can you give some more?

In reply to by clueless

JKE on 24 January 2014

Consider also the genus

Consider also the genus [polygon], with the differentia [three-sidedness] which gives us the species [triangle].

In reply to by JKE

clueless on 24 January 2014

So, for example, a boy

So, for example, a boy (species) is an offspring (genus) that is male (differentia). And a banquet (species) is a meal (genus) that is very large (differentia). Conversely, a snack (species) is a meal (genus) that is very small (differentia).

JKE on 24 January 2014

Republic VII

Hi, I know there's a ton of good secondary literature on Plato's Republic, but can anyone recommend a book length study on Republic book VII?

Tom Roche on 28 January 2014

perplexed about Spinoza

In episode 160 you say that Maimonides was the greatest Jewish philosopher with the possible exception of Spinoza. This puzzles, since (IIUC) Spinoza was expelled from the Amsterdam shul for having repudiated Judaism, then from Amsterdam for being an atheist. (Some quibble with the latter charge, but, let's face it, if God is everything then God is nothing. And if God is a ham sandwich, kashrut is toast :-)

Perhaps you were using "Jewish" to denote ethnicity rather than religion? But then does not Portuguese (his mother tongue) have more claim on him? As an atheist of Azorean descent, I say, unhand Spinoza !-)

In reply to by Tom Roche

Peter Adamson on 28 January 2014


Yes, I would certainly agree that Spinoza is not a "Jewish philosopher" in the same sense as Maimonides. The caveat was just intended to anticipate that if I said Maimonides is the greatest Jewish philosopher, people would object "hey, what about Spinoza!" I take it you wouldn't have made this objection!

That leaves open the question of whether it makes sense to call Spinoza a "Jewish philosopher" at all; I am not much of a Spinoza expert (yet!) but my inclination is to think that it isn't really our place as historians to say that figure X did or did not count as a representative of a certain religion. Usually it's better to avoid locutions like this entirely, which is why I hardly ever use the phrase "Islamic philosopher/philosophy," but it seemed safe to call Maimonides a Jewish philosopher - if anyone is one, it's him - and unavoidable to talk about "Jewish philosophy" in this current series of episodes.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Tom Roche on 29 January 2014

figuring X

Peter Adamson on Tue, 01/28/2014 - 21:37: "it isn't really our place as historians to say that figure X did or did not count as a representative of a certain religion[,] but it seemed safe to call Maimonides a Jewish philosopher."

With apologies to al-Ghazali, that would be "The Incoherence of a Philosopher" ?-)

In reply to by Tom Roche

Peter Adamson on 29 January 2014


Uh, right. Usually I don't say two contradictory things quite that closely together. What I meant is that in cases, as with Spinoza, where some people want to say that they are not really Jewish (Christian/Muslim/theist) at all even though they would have self-identified as such, I am reluctant to pass such a judgment since it tends to imply we are able to see into their souls, and that we are authorities on who does and doesn't count as Jewish etc. Whereas no one would deny that Maimonides was a deeply pious Jew. Does that make sense?

In reply to by Peter Adamson

The Author Sel… on 29 January 2014

self-identification and its discontents

Peter Adamson on Wed, 01/29/2014 - 17:45 (rearranged): "Maimonides was a deeply pious Jew." I concur that, as an empirical claim, that seems fairly safe. (With the caveat that "at the end of every neck is a black box," aka Roche's theory of mind :-) By contrast,

"[Spinoza] would have self-identified as [Jewish.]"

seems quite dubious on several levels. I'll grant that I don't know the relevant literature at all well, but my impression are that (1) Spinoza *did not* self-identify as Jewish, esp after the cherem. In fact, my impression is that (2) many Spinozists believe the cherem was so ferocious precisely because of the unfriendliness of his prior criticism of Judaism. Am I missing something? Note also that I continue to back-pocket claim (3) that, whatever his self-identification, one needs an exceptionally expansive definition of Judaism to accomodate Spinoza's stated views.

Cody Sitton on 2 February 2014

Your experience with languages

Prof. Adamson, I'm an engineer student, but have a dirty pleasure; I read philosophy whenever I'm not doing homework (or sometimes when I need to be doing homework) for my college courses. My comment today is about your experiences with reading philosophy texts in their original language: I have this deep desire to be able to read text in their original language one day.
I'm currently learning French in my spare time and hope to add German, Latin, and Ancient Greek to my arsenal as time allows. Do you have any tips or possibly some advice in taking the proper steps to actually accomplish this goal?
I actually just bought P.J. Proudhon's "What is Porperty?" in its original French print and was going to attempt a loose translation to get my feet wet. Do you see this as a good step in the right direction or should I back up and approach it from another angle?

In reply to by Cody Sitton

Peter Adamson on 6 February 2014


Well, there's no doubt this is one of the biggest challenges facing anyone who wants to get seriously into the history of philosophy. Irritatingly many of the great historical works are not in English! The way I picked up my languages was by and large to do a standard introductory course, 1 or 2 years' worth, and then start reading philosophical texts. Especially with really difficult languages like ancient Greek or Arabic at first you have to work through a translation. One thing I would not necessarily recommend is self-teaching the basics - I did that with several of the languages I know, and I think I would have been better served to have a good teacher for the fundamentals. But the key thing there is to find a course/teacher that will go at the right speed for you, not too fast and not too slow. Switching thereafter to (or adding alongside normal language classes) reading philosophical texts in the original makes sense because it is often a pretty specialized vocabulary. Good luck, I hope you master all those languages in due course!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Cody Sitton on 8 February 2014

in response

Thank you very much. I will take this advice and pursue the philosophical canon one language at a time.

Hassan Mirza on 14 February 2014

Hello Professor Adamson. I am

Hello Professor Adamson. I am very new to this page and just an amature who is interested in politics and philosophy. By profession I am an engineer. I must say that I was blown away by the huge number of lectures provided on philosophy by this website. It's really a remarkable job. I can spend some years by listening to all of the lectures. Keep up the good work. :)

The total number of lectures are devided in three parts; Classical Later Antiquity and Islamic World. My question is that how many parts are still to come after the Islamic World part and what will be their names?

And before the classical era was there not any other era when philosophers were present and philosophy was studied and taught by learned men of their age? Or was this field not that much developed before the classical era? Sorry for asking such a basic question.

In reply to by Hassan Mirza

Peter Adamson on 14 February 2014

What's to come

Hi there,

Glad you like the series! The major sections to come are Medieval Philosophy (i.e. in Latin Christendom) and Byzantine philosophy, then Renaissance and then... well, we'll have to see how I decide to carve it up. Possibly I will split it up by century (so 17th century would be one "miniseries") or by region ("German philosophy"), once I am in the era we usually call Modern Philosophy. I hope to include Indian Philosophy before long, and who knows, maybe Chinese.

Re. your question as to what comes before the Greeks, that's a good question and in fact, if I were doing the whole series over I might start with an episode on that topic. Obviously there is Egyptian and Babylonian culture before we get to the Greeks, and they at least were doing science and mathematics. So there is a background for the Presocratics in that sense. However I've never seen anything that convinced me that there is what we would think of as philosophy before the Presocratics, insofar as one can distinguish philosophy from science/maths in that early period (which we really can't).

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Hassan Mirza on 15 February 2014

Thanks for your reply. I have

Thanks for your reply. I have noticed that there are some traces of Jewish philosophy in the Islamic World section, but there is no separate section for Jewish philosophy, why is this so? Should there not be a Jewsih philosophy section in the Later Antiquity period as well before the Ancient Christianity period?

Bible (and also Quran) talks about prophets of God, many of which came before the Greek period, so maybe they also talked about the things which can be considered philosophy before Presocratics period, or no? I mean is their any proof available to the modern man of their existance and the words which they spoke? If so then maybe some philosophy originated out of their works as well.

In the last sentence you said that philosophy, maths and science were not distinguishable from each other in the period before Presocratics, it means that philosophy played a big part in the early period in the development of science/mathematics and vice versa. I remember that few years back the famous British scientist Stephan Hawkings said that in modern age philosophy is dead; I think it was very arrogant of him to say this, philosophy has contributed so much in development of modern science and the world still needs philosophers and philosophy. :)

In reply to by Hassan Mirza

Peter Adamson on 15 February 2014


I'm just in the midst of devoting episodes to Jewish philosophy. As you'll hear in those episodes (also the introductory ones, 120 and 146) I think the story of medieval Jewish philosophy is best treated within a comprehensive look at philosophy in the Islamic world. Which also includes philosophy by Christians by the way!

In late antiquity, I did do one episode on Philo of Alexandria (79), and in episode 124 I look back at late ancient Judaism as well.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Hassan Mirza on 16 February 2014

Thanks for your kind reply

Thanks for your kind reply again. If you do episodes about the history of Philosophy in India then also include the works of Muslim philosophers of India, I know that history of Muslim presense in India is only around a thousand years old and a substantial part of philosophy of India will be comprised of the works of other ancient pholosphers. It would be very interesting to know whether any kind of exchange of ideas and philosophies took place between Muslims of central asia, Persia and Afghanistan (who invaded India and later settled over there) with the local Hindu and Buddhist philosphers and what were there attitudes towards each other's thinking, just like what happened in Spain where Jewish and Muslim thinkers exchanged ideas with each other and influenced each other's works.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Chike Jeffers on 2 May 2014

On the question of philosophy in Ancient Egypt

Perhaps it won't convince you, but this seems like a fine opportunity to plug my article, "Embodying Justice in Ancient Egypt: The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant as a Classic of Political Philosophy," published in the May 2013 issue of the British Journal for the History of Philosophy.

Also, I speak in this blog post about a topic I hope to pursue in a future article on Ancient Egyptian philosophy:

In reply to by Chike Jeffers

Peter Adamson on 2 May 2014

Before the Greeks

Actually, since writing the comment above I have come to think that I should in fact have done an episode, or two, on the Egyptians and Babylonians, right at the start. I listen to this other podcast on Egyptian History and the host has covered some texts that are clearly philosophically interesting - mirror for princes kind of stuff. So if I had it to do over again I would have done more on the pre-pre-Socratics, if you will. Oh well!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Chike Jeffers on 2 May 2014


I believe your "mirror for princes" reference is likely a reference to the genre of instructions, discussed in my BJHP article. My hope is that the article will help encourage present day philosophers, especially those interested in moral and political philosophy, to take a look at ancient Egyptian literature. For me, it comes naturally as part of my general interest in African thought, but one need not have that particular investment to find ancient Egyptian literature fascinating.

Sarah F on 19 February 2014


Dear Prof.Admanson,

I am a high school freshman in america who has been eagerly listening to your podcasts for several months now. I am very interested in philosophy however I am not able to take it in school nor have anyone willing to help me learn about it. I really want to participate in a philosophical discussion or just attend a lecture. Are there any people or institutions you can think of that I could participate in?


In reply to by Sarah F

Peter Adamson on 19 February 2014

Philosophy discussions

Hi there,

Well I guess it depends what city you live in. If there is a university nearby there may well be a philosophy society attached to it, or talks you could attend. On the other hand of course you have plenty of time so there's no hurry! It's good to be young. Glad that you like the podcasts.

One other thought: you could always start up a philosophy club at your high school (would look good on your university applications later on...).


Ben on 20 February 2014


You probably get this a lot, but I just wanted to add to the likely large collection of notes of appreciation to you for sharing this podcast, and for what I just discovered is your active participation in the comments section with people. I can't imagine how you manage all of this while being a Professor at the same time - seems amazing. Anyway, great job, it makes my commute to work so much better, and seems to help with life in general.

In reply to by Ben

Peter Adamson on 21 February 2014


Yes, podcasts were practically invented for commuting, weren't they? Thanks for writing in, I am really glad you like the podcasts.

Paul Carpenter on 22 February 2014

Thank you

Good on the History of Philosophy podcast! This is what should be done with the computer. This is what should be done with podcasting.

Jeremy Hultin on 5 March 2014

Software and editing?

Thank you so much for your terrific lectures. I've learned a ton, both in terms of content, and in those rare instances where you've treated figures I know fairly well myself, I've still found myself thinking, "Oh, what a clever way to present that aspect of so-and-so's thought."

I'm now at a university that wants faculty to put more and more lectures on-line, so I wondered if I could ask a mundane question: what application do you use to record and edit your podcasts? Do you use the same app for the "studio" podcasts and for the interviews?


In reply to by Jeremy Hultin

Peter Adamson on 5 March 2014


Dear Jeremy,

Thanks, glad you enjoy the podcasts! I use Audacity to record and we have mostly used that for editing too though now we are switching over to Cubase. Audacity is free to download and is really fine for such simple recording. For the interviews the editing is the same but I record it directly on a portable mic, a handy little device called a Zoom H4N which I like a lot. You can also plug a second mic into it if need be.



jayotis on 9 March 2014


I notice that you are a graduate of Williams College. I want to suggest an update of James A Garfield's definition of an ideal college: Let's make it, "Peter Adamson at one end of a blog and the student at the other."

In reply to by jayotis

Peter Adamson on 9 March 2014

Ideal college

Wow, thanks! You're far too kind. That glow you can see on the horizon is me blushing.

Williams was a wonderful experience by the way and instilled in me my love of history of philosophy. (I actually planned to be a literature major but discovered history of philosophy along the way.)


Scott Nash on 9 March 2014

Podcast not working

Hi. Sorry for using comments for this, but I've not heard a single of my favorite podcast since the new year. I appear to be subscribed is iTunes and I use the apple podcast app. It's there, but nothing ever downloads. Ever. This only happens on this podcast. I do have the newer one linked (with the new logo) but... nothing. Did something change around the new year? Anybody else have this issue? I can't beat it and am about to throw up my hands and give up. Any help would be hugely appreciated. Thanks.

In reply to by Scott Nash

Peter Adamson on 9 March 2014

iTunes problem

Yes, I know about this problem. All you need to do is hit "add old episodes" and they will pop up. The problem seems to be that iTunes (not on a computer but on mobile devices with the "Podcast" app) doesn't recognize the new episodes as new, because of a mismatch between the way my RSS feed records the date and the format that this app expects. Unfortunately I don't know how to solve this without changing the whole RSS feed which would probably cause more havoc than it would solve. Any of the other ways of listening to the podcast should work fine though - it has been appearing every Sunday as usual. And as I say I think if you hit "add old episodes" you'll see them all anyway.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Tom Roche on 10 March 2014

Apples of dischord

Peter Adamson: "iTunes [chokes on] a mismatch between the way my RSS feed records the date and the format that this [iOS] app expects."

"That is so Apple," chuckles this linux user :-)

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Scott Nash on 19 March 2014


That did it. Download old worked. They were all out of order, so I may have introduced my own "gaps" but it seems to work. I'll know for sure if the newer ones appear as I hit download old. Thanks for the word.

In reply to by Scott Nash

Peter Adamson on 12 March 2014

more on iTunes

By the way you might also need to scroll down through the old episodes, on some devices they also seem to be listed out of order! But they are there and you can add them manually.

Sonam on 19 March 2014

Best Informative Podcast!

This podcast is a great introduction to philosophy as I wanted to learn about ancient philosophers is a timeline and you do an excellent job of summarizing their ideas. I am glad that this podcast exists. Thank you!

Penny on 21 March 2014

Podcast catch-up anxiety


Just finished listening to the episode on Crescas (which was great). But there is a terrible moment starting to loom. The time when the seemingly infinite supply of philosophy that has been a very special part of my life over the past few months will not be there anymore. I decided to try to slow down in the last few days to ease myself into the new regime - a type of asymptote, I guess - but I have not been too successful. I can't resist the next episode.

Neverthess I Iook forward the sweep of wonderful philosophy to come and to the thought that there is probably something special too in experiencing it in real time - well, podcast real time.

Thanks enormously for your podcast. I marvel at what you have taken on and achieved so far. I knew a little ancient philosophy (as well as some more modern stuff) through my own reading, but the Islamic world was real eye opener for me. That has been very special.

I work as a climate change scientist, and you have also helped me to realise the one of the problems I have been tackling lately has a strong philosophical angle (scientific knowledge of the future is a curious beast). I hope to find time to pursue some thoughts of mine that I wouldn't have had without your podcast.

Congratulations again for an amazing achievement.



In reply to by Penny

Peter Adamson on 21 March 2014

Catching up

Hi Penny,

Wow, thanks very much! I actually know how you feel, I am almost caught up with a couple of podcasts I listen to (one is the History of the Crusades) and will lose the comforting knowledge that there is plenty more to listen to whenever I want. I guess in theory one could circle back and revisit some episodes, but you could also try some of the other podcasts I've recommended on this site (like under the Links heading above). In any case I will try to keep cracking on once per week so you don't have to wait too long for each new one!

Thanks for listening,


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Penny on 24 March 2014


Thanks for mentioning History of the Crusades. I have now started that. And Sharyn is from my part of the world too!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Nigel Warner on 26 March 2014

Catch up anxiety

I was experiencing catch up anxiety also. But then I just went back to the start. And as I have a terrible memory, it was almost as interesting the 2nd time round. And I think I'm on the 3rd time round, now but with that terrible memory, I can't be sure. No matter. It is such a pleasure.

Tom Roche on 25 March 2014

gap vs fringe

While this week's episode (168) was interesting, I gotta wonder ...

If you're gonna do the history of world philosophy (including China and India, not just Europe and the Islamic world) "without any gaps," by yourself, shouldn't you be thinking about the opportunity cost of spending time on topics that, IMHO, seem quite marginal philosophically, like the Kabbalah, Iamblichus, every world culture's version of alchemy, usw?

In reply to by Tom Roche

Peter Adamson on 26 March 2014

Gap vs fringe

I think about that a lot as you might imagine. My feeling is that I am in no particular hurry, and that the really distinctive thing about this series is precisely its completeness, part of that being my willingness to look at some more "marginal" things. I take your point though, in the sense that it is one thing to look at minor or obscure philosophers and another thing to look at material that arguably isn't philosophical at all - Iamblichus wouldn't really fall into that category but Kabbalah might. Still I feel we will understand the history of philosophy better by looking at the cultural reactions it provoked, plus things like Sufism and Kabbalah exert influence on uncontroversially philosophical texts. Science falls into the same category, which is why I have looked at medicine, astronomy, etc. I might add that from the initial numbers I'm seeing, people have been very interested in the Kabbalah episode; to some extent I am just taking the opportunity to show the relevance of philosophy to other things that people are interested in.

Khachig Joukhajian on 3 April 2014


Hello Peter,

Could you please add a separate link or links to the music in all the podcasts so far? Perhaps they can go in the links page. And thanks for beings so awesome and moderately humorous!

In reply to by Khachig Joukhajian

Peter Adamson on 3 April 2014


Hi there,

"Moderately" amusing, eh? I guess I'll take that as a compliment!

But seriously, that's a good idea. I have added it to the Links page above.



In reply to by Peter Adamson

Khachig Joukhajian on 5 April 2014


haha I was just kidding. Your humor is actually very clever.

Thank you for adding the link!

Robert Ward on 6 April 2014

The future and the overlapping past

Hi Peter,

My main question is about the future. Do you have a tentative list of philosophers you intend to cover as we go forward, particularly the more obscure ones, so that an inquisitive sort like myself might be able to investigate them a little beforehand?

Secondly, I happen to notice that we have already advanced in time well beyond the life of Aquinas and with Abravanel we are very close to the fall of Granada. Does this mean we are close to a transition to the European philosophers and will we be going back in time to capture those we've passed?

In reply to by Robert Ward

Peter Adamson on 7 April 2014

The future

Well, I do keep a list of (possible) future episodes which gets increasingly sketchy as it goes. I hardly have anything in the way of plans for post-medieval since that is more than a year off. On Facebook and the blog here on this site I always post a list of upcoming episodes when I'm about to get to a new "chapter" (e.g. I posted this for the later Eastern traditions in the Islamic world, which launches next Sunday).

I am indeed going to follow through the story of the Islamic world well past the medieval period - in fact all the way to the 20th century - and then circle back to the Carolingian period to pick up the story of philosophy in Latin medieval Christendom. That should happen round about episode 190.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Tom Roche on 7 April 2014

... and the past

@Peter Adamson on Mon, 04/07/2014 - 07:06: "and then circle back to the Carolingian period[.]"

But wait! there's the *really big* circleback for Vedic philosophy (which was happening sometime before the Guptas), and the *really, really big* circleback for Master Kong (who died just before Socrates was born). Live long, Master Adamson !-)

john on 7 April 2014

Why not cover Paul and Jesus?

I'm not at all a Christian or a believer, but why haven't you covered the philosophy of the New Testament itself? It seems weird that you spend half a dozen episodes on Augustine and not a single episode on Paul or Jesus? There is definitely philosophy happening in the New Testament -- don't you think it would be valuable to put them in the context of the times? (comparing Jesus and the Cynics, for example)

In reply to by john

Peter Adamson on 7 April 2014

New Testament

Yes, I thought about that - Jesus is sometimes described as a "philosopher". But I felt that tackling the Bible (either Hebrew or NT) or the Koran really exceeds the bounds of (a) my competence and (b) the thematic scope of the podcast, which is really supposed to be the history of philosophy and things that are arguably not what we would understand by philosophy, but clearly closely intertwined with it, like science or mysticism.

Of course I wind up talking a lot about it indirectly anyway, in discussing the reactions of philosophers to revealed texts. For instance you might have seen I did a recent episode on reactions to the Book of Job and themes from the NT will come up to some extent when we get to medieval Christian philosophy.

Dorna on 9 April 2014

Does truth always matter?


I've recently discovered the podcasts and just caught up, it's been very enjoyable (and educational, I'm an engineer, unfortunately they don't teach this stuff in technical schools).

About Strauss's point on reading between the lines (which I didn't know about until you mentioned it a few episodes ago), I'm glad you said something, because I found it to be missing in some of the past episodes (especially the persian side of the islamic world, which is where I was raised). Although nowadays in the free world it's hard to imagine that someone would say something s/he doesn't mean, when there is a real threat it becomes a fact of life. For example, right now there are iranian religious thinkers that insist they believe in the political rule by a religious leader (velayate faghih), but people don't believe them, even if they write books about it (the rule is, if you are not a mullah you have to pretend to be even more religious to survive). 500 years later if the podcast is still going you will ignore that very important aspect of their ideology (I'm hoping we'll fix the mortality issue sometime soon). Or a more obnoxious example, you would call a philosopher from North Korea a believer in Kim Jong-Il's divineness :)

My point is, it's not a small thing. It's a huge thing, and the more violent a regime, the more important and widespread it is, and the contemporaries also know about it. Plato had it easy imo, it seems like politicians didn't know the importance of censorship before he made the case for it (yes, I'm bitter about that).

And finally, does it matter to the history of philosophy what these people actually thought (or admitting that we may not know what they really thought), or are we only talking about how philosophy evolved? Either way, I feel bad for them for being misunderstood, and not on random topics, but perhaps the very ideas that were forced upon them.


In reply to by Dorna

Peter Adamson on 9 April 2014

Saying what you mean

Thanks for this very interesting comment. My feeling, as I guess I said in that episode on Maimonides, is that if anything we can be surprised at how rarely censorship or the threat thereof has played a role in the history of philosophy - at least, as far as we can tell. It's pretty hard to detect self-censorship. Then again political influence doesn't need to show up only as a (tacit or explicit) threat against freedom of thought. I think I've probably said pretty often that philosophers wrote with their audience in mind and, frequently, that audience would have been a politically powerful one. That doesn't need to mean they said things they didn't think, but they pitched what they were saying to the interests and concerns of the patrons. Since patronage relations are pervasive throughout the whole history of philosophy that is almost always at least potentially an issue. Then again, the philosophers themselves were almost always upper-class types and their concerns, interests and worldviews may well have coincided with those of their patrons for the most part.

The last question you raise is of course at bottom one about why we are even interested in the history of philosophy: is it a matter oof following through the narrative to see what happens, or understanding what these men (and increasingly often, women) really thought? Some would say that we can't get past the text to their thoughts, so the latter is an unattainable objective anyway. But I don't think that. To me the first task (the narrative) requires trying to think your way into the point of view of each philosopher, which is why I talk so much about what philosophical and non-philosophical issues (patronage relations for instance!) may have influenced the thinkers to write as they did. In this respect I am, I suppose, old-fashioned: I think that most of the time, reading a text carefully will be a good way to understand the author's actual intentions, doctrines, concerns, etc.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Dorna on 9 April 2014

Where did the non-believers go?

I see, so the reason there are no non-believers in this period is the selection bias? As one of you guests recently said, there is only so many ways to think about a topic, and the materialist vision of the world seems to be absent in these areas/times. So it could be either that non-religious people didn't go for philosophy, or they did but they censored themselves. Richard Dawkins would immediately get killed if he expressed himself, so we can't say non-religious ideas really ceased to exist at that time.

Again, taking Iran's government as a model, seculars generally avoid studying social sciences, because of the implications. But also, if you started out as a believer but came to conclusions that aren't acceptable by the rulers, you'd have to self-censor. Abu Ali Sina's God for example turned out to be more like a formula imo.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to the new episodes, and thanks very much for clarifying my dilemma! I think I'll go with the "we don't know what they really thought and it doesn't matter" option, I personally have written too many religious essays growing up (I was born an atheist) to take them at their word.

Jeremy on 10 April 2014

new to me

Hi, I've recently come across your podcast in looking for something to help me get a grasp on philosophy in general. Through some of my other interests, I've started hearing a lot of new terms and wanted to learn more about their significance. I started at Episode 1 a couple of weeks ago and I'm into the 'Aristotle' episodes now, and I've really enjoyed getting to know more about this topic and these great philosophers I've only ever just heard about. I'm also looking forward to your book coming out and hope to purchase it as way to support you and 'pay' for the free History of Philosophy lessons I've been getting through the show.


In reply to by Jeremy

Peter Adamson on 11 April 2014


Great, I'm glad you are enjoying it! And I'm glad that the book will sell at least one copy.

In reply to by Ken

Peter Adamson on 17 April 2014


Wow, that one is almost disturbing, isn't it? Reminds me most of existentialism though it also has a trace of skepticism in it (like the idea that we might be living in someone else's dream.)

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Ken on 18 April 2014


Thank you Dr. Adamson. I thought it was existentialism, but I wanted your professional analysis first.

Tupelo Honey on 19 April 2014

Ibn Ezra

Are you guys gonna do Ibn Ezra at any point? I haven't been able to find an episode on him yet. His method of interpreting scripture, in contrast with Maimonides', may prove rewarding when the time comes to cover Spinoza (especially if you guys want to talk about the theological thesis of the Tractatus).

Love your stuff!

In reply to by Tom Roche

Peter Adamson on 19 April 2014

Ibn Ezra

Thanks, you beat me to it there. I have to admit though that the coverage of Moses Ibn Ezra (who I believe is meant here) is rather sketchy, I mostly just bring him in as an associate of Hallevi. So you are right to pull me up on that; perhaps it would be an idea to mention him again when I am talking about Maimonides' interpretive strategy, when I revise for the book version.

Thaddeus on 21 April 2014

An appreciation, with questions

Hey Dr. Adamson, long time listener first time caller etc. just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of people thanking you for this podcast as it's helped me reinvigorate my love for philosophy and its history. It's hard to find stuff out there that's not only passionate and entertaining but which also comes from a deep wellspring of personal knowledge and research. Most importantly, the willingness exhibited here to dig in many different corners of the history of thought with excitement and sympathy, to engage earnestly and without condescension in proto-scientific theories, obscure cosmologies, and early Islamic philosophy of law makes me really excited, as is your continued push back against people who broadly dismiss entire eras of thought (such as Neo-Platonism and Islamic philosophy after al-Ghazali)and I can only hope this helps inspire others out there in the podcasting world to take a similar approach.

To keep this from just being a love-fest there are a couple of questions that have come up from following your podcast:
1. How many languages can you speak/read? As someone struggling through German right now it's fairly impressive that you seem to at least have working knowledge of 2 or 3 languages other than English!

2. If I read your sketch for upcoming episodes in this series correctly there's going to be a single episode on 20th century philosophy from the middle east. Is there really such a paucity of recent work there that it only deserves a single episode?

Thanks again

In reply to by Thaddeus

Peter Adamson on 21 April 2014

Thanks, with answers

I was quite enjoying the love-fest, but those are good questions. I can only speak one language apart from English, namely German. But I can read Greek, Latin, Arabic, French, Italian and (leftover from high school) a bit of Spanish. Actually that is kind of the bare minimum to do serious work on Arabic philosophy - I really should also know Hebrew and Persian, and also Syriac would be good.

Re. your second question there will also be an interview episode on the 20th century so it will be two, not one. Also I am doing an episode on women and Islam which may include some 20th c. figures. But you're right of course that that isn't enough to really cover it. Part of the problem is that to get into it really deeply we would need to have said much more about European philosophy, since Marxism and other European movements influence thinkers of the Islamic world; what I am hoping to do is really just touch on this by way of giving some key example figures, and also convey some sense of how the historical tradition I've covered in previous episodes have lived on. To do more than that, I think, would derail us for a long time, and I want to get back to the Latin medieval tradition. Still I think these podcasts on the later Eastern tradition (and then the book version later) will be the most detailed overview of philosophy in the Islamic world in terms of coverage of "post-classical" stuff.

Thanks again for your kind comments!


Allysa on 22 April 2014


Dr. Adamson,

I really wanted to thank you for these podcasts. Getting my BA in philosophy, my Ancient Philosophy professor made listening to your podcasts a requirement for our homework assignments. I am ever grateful she did. Not only did it give us other interpretations of ancient texts to hear, but it also gave me a great resource to use in later classes as refreshers, or in help writing papers. I hope to continue my quest through academia and eventually receive my Ph.D in philosophy. I hope to teach as well, and if in that many years, your website is still up and running, I will follow in my professor's footsteps and encourage my students to listen to you.

In reply to by Allysa

Peter Adamson on 22 April 2014


Hi there,

Thanks, that's very nice to hear! If you don't mind, I am curious if you could tell me who your philosophy instructor was? I should get in touch to thank her for using the podcast as a resource and find out well it worked.


In reply to by Peter Adamson

Allysa on 27 April 2014

Sure, my professor was Dr.

Sure, my professor was Dr. Danielle Layne she's an ancient scholar who specializes in Platonic and neo-platonic philosophy.

In reply to by Allysa

Peter Adamson on 27 April 2014


...and excellent taste in podcasts. Thanks! I will write to thank her, too.

Daniel on 27 April 2014


There are no seeders for 15-33, and your tech support email form link is a 404.
Otherwise, Thanks for the series! I do wish that each episode were a bit longer, but this is so monumental a task I am impressed that you are going into even this much detail... I could go on and on about what I like, but your time is better spent preparing for the next episode. This is going to keep you busy for a long time.

In reply to by Daniel

Peter Adamson on 28 April 2014


Hi - the technical things should be fixed, thanks for the note. Glad you like the series! Actually I sometimes wish each episode were longer too, it is often difficult to squeeze everything in. But I figure that 20-25 minutes is a good length for a podcast so I try to keep it around that if I can.

Pendix Teves on 30 April 2014


This is such a great project and an overwhelming undertaking. Thank you for taking the time to do this! Cheers!

Neu comment on 11 May 2014


Dear Peter
I listen to all your podcasts and I learn a lot - specially about the Arabic philosophers. I did not know about them and about their topics - a new world for me.
thanks a lot for your podcast!

paul on 16 May 2014

Let us be fair

Hello Peter,
First of all let me be fair. I have gained much from the pod casts. My life is the richer for it but, unfortunately, several bookcases later my bookcases are groaning. However, after the atrocious behaviour of the Sudanese Government and Boko Haram I listened again to some of the earlier pod casts and heard Aristotle criticised for support of slavery and Christian fathers for unfortunate positions on the equality of women in the church. I have not heard similar criticisms in the Islamic episodes. There was a warning that Ash'arism maybe distasteful. However, is it not a failure of all Islamic philosophy that it has not managed to overcome slavery, the subjection of women, religious violence and murder in the name of Islam? I cannot listen to the more recent episodes without thinking why such a rich intellectual project should have been so ineffectual. I think this has to be recognised.

In reply to by paul

jayotis on 16 May 2014

islamic thought...

I'm sure Peter can offer better comments on the relevance of Islamic thought, but this is what comes to my mind. A great deal of how Greek philosophy come into thee Christian West is after being processed by thinkers such as Avicenna. And in his case this includes Indian and Persian influences. We read Aristotle and Plato today differently than we might have without the sojourn of their texts in the Islamic world. Beyond that, the relation between the ideas of a civilization and the behavior of its heirs is quite another matter, and one worthy of exploration.

In reply to by jayotis

Tom Roche on 16 May 2014

Indian and Persian influences

@jayotis "Avicenna ... includes Indian and Persian influences."

Ditto on deferring to Dr Adamson regarding this, but ...

I'm not remembering any significant (non-mathematical or -medical) Indian or (pre-Islamic) Persian influences on Avicenna or any other Islamic thinker on which HoPWaG has presented. I find this somewhat surprising: I personally tend to suspect more eastern/non-Greek influence, esp on the "Eastern Traditions." But while IIRC there have been Islamic thinkers who have *claimed* influences that were {non-Greek, more eastern, more ancient} (notably, and podcast-recently, Suhrawardī--and IIRC Adamson seemed pretty skeptical in that case), I'm not recalling much evidence of actual influence presented (aside from, e.g., zero and some materia medica). Esp WRT ibn Sīnā: his influences seem to have been pretty much all Greek or Abrahamic/Islamic. Am I missing something?

In reply to by Tom Roche

Peter Adamson on 16 May 2014

India and Persia

Maybe it depends a bit on what we mean by "Persian" but we need to bear in mind that Avicenna just WAS Persian. So asking whether there was Persian influence on him is a bit odd. I guess that what we are really talking about is influence from pre-Islamic Persian culture, like Zoroastrianism. That does turn up sometimes, like in kalam catalogues of types of heresy, or dualist tendencies in people like the first Razi or Suhrawardi. And Suhrwardi explicitly mentions Persian and Indian sages as inspirations for him, though you're right that I think this is fundamentally window dressing (just like when he mentions Greek sources with whom he in fact has almost nothing in common). 

Incidentally later there will be an episode on the Mughal period, i.e. philosophy in Islamic-controlled India.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Tom Roche on 16 May 2014

@Tom Roche: "I'm not

@Tom Roche: "I'm not remembering any significant (non-mathematical or -medical) Indian or (pre-Islamic) Persian influences on Avicenna"

@Peter Adamson: "I guess that what we are really talking about is influence from pre-Islamic Persian culture,"

... which is why I explicitly said "pre-Islamic" :-)

In reply to by Tom Roche

jayotis on 16 May 2014

eastern influences on avicenna....

I have to yield to you on that Tom Roache. I have only an impression from background reading, not any solid sources. And I may even be guilty of wishful thinking. And as I think about it, such influences (if they exist at all) may be more likely cultural than textual.

In reply to by paul

Peter Adamson on 16 May 2014


Hope there is still room for the Classical Philosophy book version of the podcasts on your groaning shelves!

You are raising a big, and sensitive, issue there. I am obviously only talking about philosophy, not Islamic history or culture in general, so I don't think that I necessarily need for instance to touch on the roots of Islamic extremism; albeit that I will probably say something quick later on about Wahhabism. But for what it's worth, I think philosophy and science have had a huge impact on Muslim societies; but it would be too much to expect that this impact would rule out extremism, or prevent slavery or subjugation of women, just as many centuries of philosophy in Christian cultures didn't prevent the same things happening in those cultures. Most philosophers throughout history have, let's face it, been enthusiastic about subjugating women, and most of them have probably been pro-slavery too. Protests against these aspects of society, whether in Europe, China, the Islamic world etc have really been a feature of recent centuries. I will indeed talk about reform movements in Islam and the debates about these issues, but in later episodes when I am getting to the 18-20th centuries or so. By the way I'm also planning an episode specifically on women in Islam so that is something I do plan to cover (of course, focusing on the aspects of this huge issue that are relevant to philosophy). So stay tuned!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

paul on 30 May 2014

No, not the extremist argument.

I have delayed responding as I did not want to cause any offence. I owe much to this series of podcast and am grateful. However, I listened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who asked the same question as I did. Why is it that with all the advances in science and philosophy along with the riches from conquest did we not see the formation of an Islamic religion not based on violence? Even in your last pod-cast we can see the interplay between Islamic philosophy and Christian thought. It is not correct to see forces like Boko Haram as extreme. I would rather see them as part Ibn Khaldun's reformist movement to bring back Islam to its origins. I do not think it relevant to refer to past positions of Christianity or Judaism as unenlightened. Rather, like Islam these religions share the Hellenic heritage and the Hebrew culture. The interaction of the Hellenic and Hebrew cultures within the interplay between Christianity and Judaism may have been violent at times but it was vital for the creation of the modern world. I have listened to the previous pod casts again and I am struggling to see what influence these interesting philosophers within the Islamic world have had on Islam to make it relevant to the modern world. I would hate to think that they are of antiquarian interest only. It is a topic that has to be acknowledged.