Language

14 - Making the Weaker Argument the Stronger: the Sophists

Posted on 16 January 2011

In this episode, Peter Adamson discusses the sophists, teachers of rhetoric in ancient Athens, looking especially at the contributions of Protagoras and Gorgias.

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29 - What's in a Name? Plato's Cratylus

Posted on 16 April 2011

Peter discusses Plato's contribution to the philosophy of language, the Cratylus, a dialogue which uncovers a theory of Heraclitean flux hidden within ancient Greek.

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35 - The Philosopher's Toolkit: Aristotle's Logical Works

Posted on 29 May 2011

Peter discusses Aristotle’s pioneering work in logic, and looks at related issues like the ten categories and the famous “sea battle” argument for determinism.

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84 - Silver Tongues in Golden Mouths: Rhetoric and Ancient Philosophy

Posted on 10 June 2012

Peter looks at the interaction between rhetoric and philosophy in the Roman Empire, discussing authors like Quintilian, Lucian and Themistius.

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105 - Naming the Nameless: the Pseudo-Dionysius

Posted on 2 December 2012

Neoplatonism is fused with Christianity by the pseudonymus author known as Dionysius. Peter looks at his Divine Names, a monument to God’s transcendence.

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111 - Papa Don't Teach: Augustine on Language

Posted on 13 January 2013

In On the Teacher and On Christian Doctrine, Augustine argues that language cannot produce knowledge and explains how to interpret Scriptural language.

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128 - Aristotelian Society: the Baghdad School

Posted on 12 May 2013

A group of mostly Christian philosophers transpose the practices of antique Aristotelian philosophy to 10th century Baghdad.

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160 - The Great Eagle: Maimonides

Posted on 26 January 2014

The great Jewish thinker and legal scholar Maimonides, and the philosophical ideas in his Mishneh Torah and Guide for the Perplexed.

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211. Learn Everything: the Victorines

Posted on 14 February 2015

Hugh of Saint Victor and other scholars of the same abbey combine secular learning with spirituality.

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231. Origin of Species: Roger Bacon

Posted on 4 July 2015

Roger Bacon extols the power of science based on experience and uses a general theory of "species" to explain light and vision.

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8. Case Worker: Panini's Grammar

Posted on 26 December 2015

The pioneering Sanskrit grammar of Pāṇini and its implications for philosophy of language.

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253. Let Me Count the Ways: Speculative Grammar

Posted on 8 May 2016

The modistae explore the links between language, the mind, and reality.

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20. Master of Ceremonies: Jaimini’s Mimamsa-Sutra

Posted on 12 June 2016

In the Mīmāṃsā school’s founding text, Jaimini systematizes Vedic ritual and explores its theoretical basis.

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21. Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Mimamsa on Knowledge and Language

Posted on 26 June 2016

The Mīmāṃsā school put their faith in sense experience, and argue that the Veda, and hence language itself, had no beginning.

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22. Elisa Freschi on Mimamsa

Posted on 9 July 2016

Mīmāṃsā expert Elisa Freschi speaks to Peter about philosophical issues arising from the interpretation of the Veda.

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25. Communication Breakdown: Bhartrihari on Language

Posted on 17 September 2016

The grammarian Bhartṛhari argues that the study of language is the path to liberation, because the undivided reality underlying language is brahman.

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273. What Do You Think? Ockham on Mental Language

Posted on 12 March 2017

How the language of thought relates to spoken and written language, according to William of Ockham.

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277. Trivial Pursuits: Fourteenth Century Logic

Posted on 7 May 2017

The scholastics discuss the ambiguity of terms, the nature of logical inference, and logical paradoxes, and play the game of “obligations.”

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42. In Good Taste: The Aesthetics of Rasa

Posted on 14 May 2017

Bharata’s Nāṭya-Śāstra and later works from Kashmir explore the idea of rasa, an emotional response to drama, music, and poetry.

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282. Portrait of the Artist: John Buridan

Posted on 16 July 2017

The hipster’s choice for favorite scholastic, John Buridan, sets out a nominalist theory of knowledge and language, and explains the workings of free will.

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52. Under Construction: Dignāga on Perception and Language

Posted on 29 October 2017

The great Buddhist thinker Dignāga argues that general concepts and language are mere constructions superimposed on perception.

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289. A Wing and a Prayer: Angels in Medieval Philosophy

Posted on 19 November 2017

Be surprised by how many philosophical problems arise in connection with angels (how many can dance on the head of a pin is not one of them).

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57. Learn by Doing: Tantra

Posted on 7 January 2018

Philosophy is put into practice in Kashmir Śaivite Tantra and Buddhist Tantra.

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311. The Elements of Style: Rhetoric in Byzantium

Posted on 4 November 2018

Psellos and other experts in rhetoric explore how this art of persuasion relates to philosophy.

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15. Heard it Through the Grapevine: Oral Philosophy in Africa

Posted on 11 November 2018

An introduction to the “ethnophilosophy” approach inaugurated by Placide Tempels, its promises and potential pitfalls.

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27. Beyond the Reaction: The Continuing Relevance of Precolonial Traditions

Posted on 28 April 2019

As the twentieth century draws to a close, the critique of ethnophilosophy gives way to approaches that continue to privilege the study of precolonial traditions, including the approach promoted by Kwasi Wiredu (pictured). 

Note: we dedicate this episode to the memory of Kwame Gyekye, who passed away earlier this month.

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330. Republic of Letters: Italian Humanism

Posted on 28 July 2019

Coluccio Salutati and Leonardo Bruni combine eloquence with philosophy, taking as their model the refined language and republican ideals found in Cicero.

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331. Literary Criticism: Lorenzo Valla

Posted on 8 September 2019

Lorenzo Valla launches a furious attack on scholastic philosophy, favoring the resources of classical Latin.

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332. Jill Kraye on Humanism

Posted on 22 September 2019

Jill Kraye returns to the podcast to discuss the nature of humanism, its relation to scholasticism, and its legacy.

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344. The Count of Concord: Pico della Mirandola

Posted on 8 March 2020

Pico della Mirandola argues for the harmony of the ancient authorities, draws on Jewish mysticism, and questions the value of humanist rhetoric.

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53. Pilgrim’s Progress: Alexander Crummell

Posted on 24 May 2020

From his time in Liberia to his later concentration on the reform of African American culture, Alexander Crummell identifies progressive “civilization” as a means of liberation.

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55. Planting the Seeds: James Africanus Beale Horton

Posted on 21 June 2020

Africanus Horton looks toward a future of self-government for West Africa beyond slavery and colonialism.

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355. Town and Gown: Italian Universities

Posted on 13 September 2020

The blurry line dividing humanism and scholastic university culture in the Italian Renaissance.

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59. Frowning at Froudacious Fabrications: J.J. Thomas and F.A. Durham

Posted on 20 September 2020

John Jacob Thomas argues for self-government in the English colonies of the Caribbean but his fellow Trinidadian Frederick Alexander Durham recommends repatriation to Africa instead.

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373. Lords of Language: Northern Humanism

Posted on 23 May 2021

Rudolph Agricola, Juan Luis Vives and other humanist scholars spread the study of classical antiquity across Europe and mock the technicalities of scholastic philosophy.

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383. Slowly But Surely: Huldrych Zwingli

Posted on 7 November 2021

The Swiss theologian Zwingli launches the Reformation in Switzerland, but clashes with Luther and more radical Protestants.

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397. Do As the Romans Did: French Humanism

Posted on 22 May 2022

We begin to look at philosophy in Renaissance France, beginning with humanists like Budé and the use of classical philosophy by poets du Bellay and Ronsard.

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399. Seriously Funny: Rabelais

Posted on 19 June 2022

In his outrageous novel about the giants Pantagruel and Gargantua, Rabelais engages with scholasticism, humanism, medicine, the reformation, and the querelle des femmes.

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401. Word Perfect: Logic and Language in Renaissance France

Posted on 17 July 2022

Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and Julius Caesar Scaliger fuse Aristotelianism with humanism to address problems in logic and literary aesthetics.

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105. Meeting the Gaze: Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks

Posted on 24 July 2022

Frantz Fanon combines psychoanalysis and existential phenomenology to diagnose neuroses deriving from the colonial condition.

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