In Our Time: Neoplatonism

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If you just can't wait for Neoplatonism, then tune in to the BBC Radio 4 show "In Our Time" Thursday, April 19. I will be on, discussing Neoplatonism with Angie Hobbs and Anne Sheppard. I'll post a link when it is online. (Unless it's a complete disaster.)

Mark Konzerowsky on 20 April 2012

I'm wondering if you, as a

I'm wondering if you, as a professional academic, have noticed a sizable recent upswing in interest concerning Neoplatonism, not only among philosophers and historians, but among the general public as well? As a (skeptical)layman who is very interested in the history and roots of Christianity, I find myself drawn to the study of Neoplatonic thought. Platonism really does seem to be the "building blocks" of so much of what later became the Christian faith, while Neoplatonism, in particular, offers a fascinating insight into "what might have been". There must be many other reasons why I'm noticing a larger demand for information about this particular school. I just wonder if there's any solid data behind this, in your part of the world?

In reply to by Mark Konzerowsky

Peter Adamson on 20 April 2012

I would certainly say there's

I would certainly say there's been an increase of interest in professional philosophers, not so much just in the past few years but building over decades. Things like Richard Sorabji's Commentators Project have brought the texts to a broader audience and there are good introductions and stuff available so I think it is definitely trickling down, as it were, to the world outside the academy. Actually one of the goals of my podcast is to bring this still relatively less well-known topic to a broader audience; I think that although there is a fair amount of enthusiasm about Neoplatonism it tends to be thought of in somewhat misleading ways, e.g. the idea that it is all about mysticism, or has nothing to say about the physical world.

Hugh E.Boylan on 23 April 2012

I usually listen to this

I usually listen to this programme to help me fall asleep if I wake up in the middle of the night. Alas, this particular podcast kept me awake, since I was totally distracted by your manner of speaking. That is, you seem to express every sentence as if it were a question. Your voice goes up in tone as you (silently) query whether your listener already knows this nugget of information.
I offer that critique in order to help you as a teacher, since I am sure anyone over a certain age would be similarly distracted.

As for the programme itself, it was, as you feared, a bit of a disaster. You all knew how absurd Plato's notion of Ideal Forms is and yet you were forced to spend forty plus minutes discussing this absurdity as if it did indeed point to something "real".

You could just as well have been talking about Genesis and Creationism. In the end, no one knows.

In reply to by Hugh E.Boylan

David on 23 April 2012

Hi Hugh,I am guessing if you

Hi Hugh,

I am guessing if you put this program on to make you sleep you must not have any interest in what it has to say and if Peter kept you up you must have wanted to know what he had to say on this subject. Philosophy is asking questions and the program has to assume the people listening to it do not have an indepth knowledge of the subject. I myself did enjoy the program and have listened to it two or three times. My advice to you is to start at the beginning of this podcast series (but not while driving) to actually see what knowledge and understanding of this subject Peter has and conveys in an interesting and enjoyable manner.



Philosophy fan

In reply to by David

Peter Adamson on 23 April 2012

Thanks David, that's very

Thanks David, that's very kind. I do think Hugh's advice about not ending every sentence as if it were a question? is very good. It seems to be an Americanism I can't shake, at least not in the less-than-relaxing situation of being interviewed on live radio. Seems to go away when I read scripts for the podcast, fortunately!


In reply to by Hugh E.Boylan

Westbrook Ames on 22 June 2012

I also found the rising

I also found the rising inflection to be a tad off putting. As an American, I obviously had no problem with the professor's American accent; and indeed, he is clearly brilliant and otherwise extremely articulate and eloquent; and, it must be stressed, he is performing an incredibly valuable service to the world with his scholarship, online efforts, etc.

You suggested it was like silently being asked whether you are aware of such and such tidbit of knowledge. To me, I find that the rising inflection makes me wonder whether or not the Inflector is somewhat unsure of what he or she is saying. (I sometimes find this habit in some first-year law students I teach, who, while "stating the case", are waiting for me to bark at them if they say something incorrect -- thus, they append a "question mark" at the end as if to immunize themselves ). Lack of confidence is presumably not the case with the professor; but to me, at least, that distraction rains on an otherwise magnificent parade of profound knowledge and learning.

In reply to by Westbrook Ames

Peter Adamson on 22 June 2012

Thanks for the kind words

Thanks for the kind words about the profound etc etc! To be honest, I not only find the rising inflection irritating when I hear other people do it, but also find it annoying when I hear myself recorded doing it. So, it's not intentional. Thankfully the podcast itself is usually free of it I think (in the interview episodes I'm usually asking questions, so it's ok in that case!). I'll try to make a concerted effort to avoid it in interviews where I'm doing the talking, though. I was actually interviewed for "Elucidations" a few weeks back and tried to avoid it. We'll see how that went.

Ollie Killingback on 24 April 2012

I too often listen to the

I too often listen to the podcast in bed - not to help me sleep but because there I will be relaxed, uninterrupted and able to give it maximum attention. I admit I have dropped off in the past, but not that often and it's annoying when I do.

As for Peter's speaking voice and style - I find it clear and easy to listen to. Yes, sometimes there is a rising inflection at the end of a sentence. I've noticed the same habit more with Australians than Americans. But so what? It may sound odd to English ears, but the English speaker of the language is no longer the world norm. We English have no claim to authority on the spoken versions of the language in the Americas, Africa, or the Antipodes, let alone the vast number of nations where English is the second language.

In reply to by Ollie Killingback

Hugh Boylan on 25 April 2012

This misses the point. It is

This misses the point. It is not at all a question of "whose spoken version of English is this that or the other?" I was drawing attention to a habit, a personal habit, which many N American students have (nothing to do with accents or capacity to speak). It may not distract you, but I find myself listening to the rising tone and not to the content of the are "waiting for it". So, you become diverted by "form" from the "content".

An analogy would be anyone on TV who has some sort of tic or unusual form of clothing or whatever. Mountains of research exist to show that we are a highly visual species, and that we absorb most of our information via the eye. This may be regrettable in many ways, but there you are.
And on radio, a verbal tic can achieve the same level of distraction.

In reply to by Ollie Killingback

Tom Roche on 17 June 2012

@Ollie Killingback: "I find

@Ollie Killingback: "I find [Peter's speaking voice and style] clear and easy to listen to."

Agreed, but one must assert that the gold standard for vocal styling in this space is Nigel Warburton. If Adamson could deliver his colloquial content with that plummy Pommy thing, he'd be the Olympic Ass-Kicking Team ... wrt philosophy podcasting, anyway :-)

In reply to by Tom Roche

Peter Adamson on 17 June 2012

He's actually from New

He's actually from New Jersey, it's all done with special effects in post-production.

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