Political Philosophy

25 - Soul and the City: Plato's Political Philosophy

Posted on 20 March 2011

In his masterpiece the Republic, Plato describes the ideal city and draws a parallel between this city and the just soul, with the three classes of the city mirroring the three parts of the soul. Peter discusses this parallel and the historical context that may have influenced Plato's political thought.

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48 - Constitutional Conventions: Aristotle's Political Philosophy

Posted on 2 October 2011

Peter looks at the ideal arrangement of the state in Aristotle’s Politics, his critique of Plato’s Republic and his views on slavery.

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58 - Reaping the Harvest: Lucretius

Posted on 11 December 2011

Lucretius’ poem On the Nature of Things sets Epicureanism into verse. Peter takes a look at its treatment of the soul, free will and the swerve and human society.

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74 - Tony Long on the Self in Hellenistic Philosophy

Posted on 1 April 2012

Leading Hellenistic philosophy scholar Tony Long talks to Peter about the self, ethics and politics in the Stoics, Epicureans and Skeptics.

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96 - Dominic O'Meara on Neoplatonism

Posted on 30 September 2012

Dominic O'Meara speaks with Peter about political philosophy and mathematics in Neoplatonism.

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113 - Heaven and Earth: Augustine’s City of God

Posted on 27 January 2013

In his City of God Augustine traces the histories and philosophical underpinnings of two “cities,” one devoted to worldly glory, the other to heavenly bliss.

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130 - State of Mind: al-Fārābī on Religion and Politics

Posted on 26 May 2013

Al-Fārābī combines Islam and Greek sources to present the ideal ruler as a philosopher who is also a prophet.

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148 - Fantasy Island: Ibn Bājja and Ibn Ṭufayl

Posted on 2 November 2013

Intellect and alienation in Ibn Bājja and Ibn Ṭufayl, author of the philosophical desert island castaway tale Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān.

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154 - The Philosophy of History: Ibn Khaldūn

Posted on 15 December 2013

The historian Ibn Khaldūn applies the methods of philosophy to understand the rise and fall of political regimes.

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176 - A Man for all Seasons: al-Ṭūsī

Posted on 18 May 2014

Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī’s controversial career sees him adopt and then abandon Ismā'īlism, team up with the Mongols, and offer a staunch defense of Avicenna.

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185 - Follow the Leader: Philosophy under the Safavids

Posted on 20 July 2014

Philosophy in Safavid Iran, and a look back at earlier philosophy among Shiites.

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191 - The Young Ones: Encounters with European Thought

Posted on 28 September 2014

18th and 19th century intellectuals in India and the Ottoman empire, from Shāh Walī Allāhto the Young Turks, continue Islamic traditions and grapple with European science.

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193 - All for One and One for All: Muḥammad 'Abduh and Muḥammad Iqbāl

Posted on 12 October 2014

Muḥammad 'Abdūh and Muḥammad Iqbāl challenge colonialism and the traditional religious scholars of Islam.

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195 - Anke von Kügelgen on Contemporary Islamic Thought

Posted on 26 October 2014

Anke von Kügelgen joins Peter to discuss developments over the last century or so, including attitudes towards past thinkers like Avicenna, Averroes and Ibn Taymiyya.

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218. Two Swords: Early Medieval Political Philosophy

Posted on 5 April 2015

The “Investiture Contest” between church and state and the first major work of medieval political philosophy, John of Salisbury’s Policraticus.

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236. None for Me, Thanks: Franciscan Poverty

Posted on 8 August 2015

Bonaventure and Peter Olivi respond to critics of the Franciscan vow of poverty, in a debate which produced new ideas about economics and rights.

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246. What Pleases the Prince: The Rule of Law

Posted on 31 January 2016

Natural law and political legitimacy in thirteenth century thinkers up to and including Thomas Aquinas.

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11. Carry a Big Stick: Ancient Indian Political Thought

Posted on 7 February 2016

Two figures from the Mauryan dynasty, Kauṭilya and the king Aśoka, set out contrasting ideas about the ideal political rule.

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247. Onward, Christian Soldiers: Just War Theory

Posted on 14 February 2016

Aquinas follows medieval legal thinkers in defining the conditions under which war may be justified, and proposes his famous doctrine of double effect.

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265. Time of the Signs: the Fourteenth Century

Posted on 19 November 2016

An introduction to philosophy in the 14th century, focusing on two big ideas: nominalism and voluntarism.

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269. Our Power is Real: the Clash of Church and State

Posted on 15 January 2017

Giles of Rome and Dante on the rival claims of the church and secular rulers.

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270. Render unto Caesar: Marsilius of Padua

Posted on 29 January 2017

In Defender of the Peace, Marsilius of Padua develops new theories of representative government, rights, and ownership.

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271. Do As You’re Told: Ockham on Ethics and Political Philosophy

Posted on 12 February 2017

William of Ockham on freedom of action and freedom of thought.

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286. On the Money: Medieval Economic Theory

Posted on 7 October 2017

Changing ideas about money, just price, and usury, up to the time of Buridan, Oresme, and Gregory of Rimaini.

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295. The Most Christian Doctor: Jean Gerson

Posted on 11 February 2018

Jean Gerson’s role in the political disputes of his day, the spread of lay devotion and affective mysticism, and the debate over the Romance of the Rose initiated by Christine de Pizan.

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296. Morning Star of the Reformation: John Wyclif

Posted on 25 February 2018

John Wyclif refutes nominalism and inspires the Lollard movement, which anticipated Reformation thought with its critique of the church.

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300a. The Relevance of Ancient Philosophy Today

Posted on 22 April 2018

Three guests to celebrate 300 episodes! Rachel Barney, Christof Rapp, and Mark Kalderon join Peter to discuss the importance of ancient philosophy for today's philosophers.

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3. Fertile Ground: Philosophy in Ancient Mesopotamia

Posted on 29 April 2018

Do the cuneiform writings of Babylonian culture show that it had its own philosophy?

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5. Father Knows Best: Moral and Political Philosophy in the Instructions

Posted on 26 May 2018

Ethical reflection in ancient Egyptian grave inscriptions and in works of moral advice, such as the Maxims of Ptahhotep and the Instructions named for Amenemope, Ani, and Merikare.

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307. Consul of the Philosophers: Michael Psellos

Posted on 9 September 2018

Michael Psellos and his attitude towards pagan philosophy and the political life.

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11. Teodros Kiros on Ethiopian Philosophy

Posted on 16 September 2018

Teodros Kiros discusses his work in political philosophy and the history of Ethiopian philosophical thought.

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308. Dominic O'Meara on Michael Psellos

Posted on 23 September 2018

Dominic O'Meara speaks to Peter about Michael Psellos, focusing especially on his political philosophy.

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13. Renewing the Faith: the Sokoto Caliphate

Posted on 14 October 2018

Uthman Dan Fodio and his family were scholars, poets, and warriors whose jihad in 19th century Nigeria created the Sokoto Caliphate.

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310. Purple Prose: Byzantine Political Philosophy

Posted on 21 October 2018

Byzantine political thought from the time of Justinian down to the Palaiologos dynasty wrestles with the nature and scope of imperial power.

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312. Past Masters: Byzantine Historiography

Posted on 17 November 2018

The larger meaning of history in the chronicles written by Michael Psellos, Michael Attaleiates, Anna Komnene, and Niketas Choniates.

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316. Just Measures: Law, Money, and War in Byzantium

Posted on 13 January 2019

Legal and economic thought in Byzantium: the sources of the law’s authority, the relation of church and civil law, just price, and just war.

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20. I Am Because We Are: Communalism in African Ethics and Politics

Posted on 20 January 2019

Emphasis on the value of community as a major theme in African philosophy.

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22. Women Have No Tribe: Gender in African Tradition

Posted on 17 February 2019

What archeology, ethnography, and philosophical interpretation tell us about the diverse and often ambiguous roles of men and women in traditional African societies.

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23. Nkiru Nzegwu on Gender in African Tradition

Posted on 3 March 2019

An interview with Nkiru Nzegwu on matriarchy, sexuality, and gender fluidity in Africa (with a quick chat at the end about her work on African art).

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24. Professionally Speaking: The Reaction Against Ethnophilosophy

Posted on 17 March 2019

Paulin Hountondji (pictured) and other African philosophers criticize ethnophilosophy and advocate a universalist approach.

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321. Judith Herrin on Byzantium and Islam

Posted on 24 March 2019

Historian Judith Herrin joins us to talk about competition and mutual influence between Islam and Byzantium.

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26. Kai Kresse on the Anthropology of Philosophy

Posted on 14 April 2019

An interview with Kai Kresse (pictured here with Ustadh Mahmoud Mau) who discusses his efforts to do "anthropology of philosophy" on the Swahili Coast.

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325. Platonic Love: Gemistos Plethon

Posted on 19 May 2019

Was Gemistos Plethon, the last great thinker of the Byzantine tradition, a secret pagan or just a Christian with an unusual enthusiasm for Platonism?

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31. Justin Smith on Amo and Race in Early Modern Philosophy

Posted on 23 June 2019

Justin E.H. Smith joins us to discuss Anton Wilhelm Amo against the background of ideas about race in early modern philosophy, including Leibniz.

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329. Greeks Bearing Gifts: Byzantine Scholars in Italy

Posted on 14 July 2019

Bessarion and George Trapenzuntius, rival scholars from the Greek east who helped inspire the Italian Renaissance.

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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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34. New England Patriot: Lemuel Haynes

Posted on 1 September 2019

Preacher and Revolutionary War soldier Lemuel Haynes argues that the principles of the American Revolution demand the abolition of slavery.

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35. Letters from the Heart: Ignatius Sancho and Benjamin Banneker

Posted on 15 September 2019

Ignatius Sancho and Benjamin Banneker make their mark on the history of Africana thought through letters that reflect on the power of sentiment.

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36. Sons of Africa: Quobna Ottobah Cugoano and Olaudah Equiano

Posted on 28 September 2019

Quobna Ottobah Cugoano and Olaudah Equiano advance the goals of the abolitionist movement through a groundbreaking political treatise and an influential autobiography.

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37. Liberty, Equality, Humanity: The Haitian Revolution

Posted on 13 October 2019

In an age of revolutions and revolutionary ideas, the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804 stands out as the most radical of them all.

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38. My Haitian Pen: Baron de Vastey

Posted on 27 October 2019

The Baron de Vastey unveils the horror of colonialism as a system and defends the monarchy of King Christophe in the tense early years of Haiti’s independence.

Note: this episode repeats some of Vastey's vivid descriptions of violence against slaves, so please think twice before listening to it around kids for example.

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39. Doris Garraway on the Haitian Revolution

Posted on 10 November 2019

An interview with Doris Garraway on the background, intellectual basis, and legacy of the Haitian Revolution.

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336. We Built This City: Christine de Pizan

Posted on 17 November 2019

Christine de Pizan's political philosophy, epistemology, and the refutation of misogyny in her "City of Ladies".

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40. American Africans: Early Black Institutions in the US

Posted on 24 November 2019

Building black institutions in early American history, with Prince Hall and the Masons in Boston, and Richard Allen and the Methodists in Philadelphia.

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41. Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Colonization Controversy

Posted on 8 December 2019

Questions of political autonomy and group identity in the emigration movement led by Paul Cuffe, Daniel Coker, John Russwurm and others.

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42. James Sidbury on African Identity

Posted on 22 December 2019

An interview with James Sidbury about the emergence of a self-conscious African identity in the diaspora.

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339. I’d Like to Thank the Academy: Florentine Platonism

Posted on 29 December 2019

The blossoming of Renaissance Platonism under the Medici, who supported the scholarship of Poliziano, Ficino, and Pico della Mirandola.

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43. Kill or Be Killed: David Walker’s Appeal

Posted on 5 January 2020

David Walker defends violent resistance in his incendiary and influential Appeal.

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45. Unnatural Causes: Hosea Easton’s Treatise

Posted on 2 February 2020

Hosea Easton’s Treatise provides an overlooked but fascinating theory of race and racism.

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46. Melvin Rogers on Early 19th Century Political Thought

Posted on 16 February 2020

Melvin Rogers joins us to discuss David Walker, Maria Stewart, and Hosea Easton.

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47. Written by Himself: the Life of Frederick Douglass

Posted on 1 March 2020

Frederick Douglass' journey from slave to leading figure of 19th century American thought.

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48. Happy Holidays: Two Speeches by Frederick Douglass

Posted on 15 March 2020

In two speeches marking holidays, Frederick Douglass champions the idea of world citizenship, the power of appeals to conscience to bring change, and the role of violence.

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49. Let Your Motto Be Resistance: Henry Highland Garnet

Posted on 29 March 2020

Henry Highland Garnet encourages, or actually demands, that enslaved Americans throw off their chains and debates Douglass over how best to resist slavery.

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50. Nation Within a Nation: Martin Delany

Posted on 12 April 2020

He is called a “father of black nationalism,” but Martin Delany also promoted integration in American society. Can the apparent tension be resolved?

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347. Bonfire of the Vanities: Savonarola

Posted on 19 April 2020

The prophetic preacher Girolamo Savonarola attacks pagan philosophy and puts forward his own political ideas, before coming to an untimely end.

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348. The Sweet Restraints of Liberty: Republicanism and Civic Humanism

Posted on 3 May 2020

Did “civic humanism” really make republicanism a newly dominant political theory in the Italian Renaissance?

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52. Great White North: Emigration to Canada

Posted on 10 May 2020

Mary Ann Shadd and Samuel Ringgold Ward reflect on what Canada can offer African Americans, differing on the problem of racism.

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349. No More Mr Nice Guy: Machiavelli

Posted on 17 May 2020

Machiavelli’s seminal work of political advice, The Prince, tells the ruler how to be strong like a lion and cunning like a fox.

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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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350. The Sentence: Machiavelli on Republicanism

Posted on 31 May 2020

Peter celebrates reaching 350 episodes by explaining a single sentence in Machiavelli's "Discourses."

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54. Wilson Moses on the Roots of Black Nationalism

Posted on 7 June 2020

Wilson Moses speaks to us about his research into early black nationalism, with reference to Crummell, Douglass, and others.

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351. Quentin Skinner on Machiavelli

Posted on 14 June 2020

Leading Machiavelli scholar Quentin Skinner joins Peter to discuss morality, history, and religion in the Prince and the Discourses.

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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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352. The Teacher of Our Actions: Renaissance Historiography

Posted on 28 June 2020

Bruni, Poggio, Machiavelli, and Guicciardini explore political ideas and historical method in works on Roman and Italian history.

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56. African Personality: Edward Blyden

Posted on 5 July 2020

Edward Blyden gains appreciation for Islam in West Africa and gradually moves from political nationalism to cultural nationalism.

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353. The Good Place: Utopias in the Italian Renaissance

Posted on 12 July 2020

Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun and other utopian works of the Italian Renaissance describe perfect cities as an ideal for real life politics.

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57. Race First, Then Party: T. Thomas Fortune

Posted on 19 July 2020

T. Thomas Fortune uses newspaper editorials to put forth a theory of civil rights and sets out a plan of political action for protecting them.

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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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60. Though Late, It Is Liberty: Abolitionism in Brazil

Posted on 4 October 2020

Abolitionists Luiz Gama and Joaquim Nabuco, and the great novelist Machado de Assis, react to the injustices of slaveholding in Brazil.

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62. American Barbarism: Ida B. Wells

Posted on 1 November 2020

Ida B. Wells, her tireless crusade against lynching, and her analysis of the underlying purpose of racial violence

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63. Brittney Cooper on Black Women Activists

Posted on 15 November 2020

Brittney Cooper on activists connected to the National Association of Colored Women, including Fannie Barrier Williams, Mary Church Terrell, and Ida B. Wells.

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64. God is a Negro: Henry McNeal Turner

Posted on 29 November 2020

A late 19th-century churchman tries to explain how slavery fit into God’s plan and decide whether the future for African Americans lies in Africa or America.

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65. Separate Fingers, One Hand: Booker T. Washington

Posted on 13 December 2020

Was Booker T. Washington’s “accommodationist” approach to race relations a failure to stand up to injustice or a cunning strategy for incremental change?

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68. The Problem of the Color Line: Introducing the Twentieth Century

Posted on 24 January 2021

By exploring the work and activities of W.E.B. Du Bois around the turn of the twentieth century, we introduce some of the themes of our coverage of that century.

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69. The Best We Have: The American Negro Academy

Posted on 7 February 2021

The ANA unites leading African American scholars of the early 20th century, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, William Ferris, Archibald Grimké, and Kelly Miller (pictured).

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70. Tommy Curry on the Early 20th Century

Posted on 21 February 2021

We chat with Tommy Curry about African-American thought between the turn of the century and the Harlem Renaissance.

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71. In Blyden’s Wake: West African Intellectuals of the Early Twentieth Century

Posted on 7 March 2021

West African intellectuals like J.E. Casely-Hayford (pictured) and Mojola Agbebi build upon Edward Blyden’s ideas at the dawn of the twentieth century.

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72. In A Class of Their Own: Early African American Socialism

Posted on 21 March 2021

Around the time of World War One, Hubert Harrison (pictured), A. Philip Randolph, and other black socialists argue that racial oppression is caused by capitalism.

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73. Vanessa Wills on Africana Marxism

Posted on 4 April 2021

Vanessa Wills speaks  to us about Marx and his Africana legacy, with a special focus on black women Marxists.

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74. Black Star: Marcus Garvey

Posted on 18 April 2021

Marcus Garvey leads a powerful movement, inspires racial pride, and feuds with other thinkers like Du Bois.

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75. Now I Have a Rival: the Two Amy Garveys

Posted on 2 May 2021

Marcus Garvey’s two wives, Amy Ashwood Garvey and Amy Jacques Garvey (pictured), establish themselves as activists in their own right and provide feminist voices within the Pan-African movement.

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76. Michael Dawson on Garvey and Black Nationalism

Posted on 16 May 2021

An interview with Michael Dawson, who explains Marcus Garvey's black nationalism and how this and other political ideologies, like socialism and liberalism, have fared from the time of Garvey down to the present day.

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80. Scholarly Contributions: African American Professional Philosophers

Posted on 11 July 2021

From the latter half of the nineteenth century to the 1970s, African Americans only rarely obtain jobs as philosophy professors but bring distinctive perspectives to the profession.

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379. Lyndal Roper on Luther

Posted on 12 September 2021

How radical was Luther? We find out from Lyndal Roper, who also discusses Luther and the Peasants' War, sexuality, anti-semitism, and the visual arts.

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83. Songs of the People: Paul Robeson and the Negro Spiritual

Posted on 19 September 2021

The career of the multi-talented activist and performer Paul Robeson, and the place of the Negro spiritual in the Harlem Renaissance.

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84. Live Long and Protest: W.E.B. Du Bois, 1920-1963

Posted on 3 October 2021

Du Bois moves to the left, and revisits and refines older positions during the latter half of his very long life.

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381. More Lutheran than Luther: Philip Melanchthon

Posted on 10 October 2021

Luther’s close ally Melanchthon uses his knowledge of ancient philosophy and rhetoric in the service of the Reformation.

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85. Liam Kofi Bright on Du Bois' Philosophy of Science

Posted on 17 October 2021

Guest Liam Kofi Bright discusses Du Bois' ideal of value-free science and the place of science within his wider thought.

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382. No Lord but God: the Peasants’ War and Radical Reformation

Posted on 24 October 2021

Faced with massive political upheaval and the rise of the Anabaptists, Luther argues for a socially conservative version of the Reformation.

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86. French Connection: The Negritude Movement

Posted on 31 October 2021

Our first look at the emergence of the Negritude movement in Paris in the 1930s, with a focus on the early leadership of the Nardal sisters and Leon Damas.

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87. Call It Intuition: Leopold Senghor

Posted on 14 November 2021

Leopold Senghor compares different ways of knowing while developing his theory of Negritude and combining the roles of poet and politician.

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88. The Surreal Deal: Aimé and Suzanne Césaire

Posted on 28 November 2021

Negritude thinkers Aimé and Suzanne Césaire embrace surrealism and reflect on the relationships between poetry, knowledge, and identity.

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90. Move Fast and Break Things: C.L.R. James

Posted on 26 December 2021

The Trinidadian historian and cultural critic C.L.R. James applies Marxist analysis to the Haitian Revolution, American cinema, and Shakespeare.

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91. Massa Day Done: Oliver Cox and Eric Williams

Posted on 9 January 2022

Two Trinidadian political thinkers: sociologist Oliver Cox analyzes the nature of racial prejudice, and historian Eric Williams connects capitalism to slavery.

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92. Half the World: Claudia Jones

Posted on 23 January 2022

Claudia Jones argues that Communism provides the remedy for racism and imperialism.

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93. Carole Boyce Davies on Claudia Jones

Posted on 6 February 2022

Interview guest Carole Boyce Davies joins us to talk about the radical ideas of Claudia Jones.

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390. Born to Be Contrary: Toleration in the Netherlands

Posted on 13 February 2022

Amidst religious conflict in the Netherlands, Dirck Coornhert pleads for religious toleration and freedom of expression.

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391. Everything is Mine and Nothing: Lipsius and the Revival of Stoicism

Posted on 27 February 2022

Justus Lipsius draws on Seneca and other Stoics to counsel peace of mind in the face of political chaos, but also writes a work on how such chaos can be avoided.

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97. American Dream: Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted on 3 April 2022

The story of Martin Luther King Jr. up to 1963, focusing on the development of his philosophy of nonviolence.

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98. Meena Krishnamurthy on Martin Luther King Jr

Posted on 17 April 2022

An interview about the role of the emotions, including anger and feelings of dignity, in the non-violent protest campaign of King.

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99. American Nightmare: Malcolm X

Posted on 1 May 2022

The life and career of Malcolm X up to 1963, with a focus on his separatist black nationalism and his critique of non-violent protest.

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101. Crossing Paths: the Last Years of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr

Posted on 29 May 2022

After 1963, the views of Malcolm X and MLK came closer together, on topics including internationalism, political engagement, and economics.

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102. From Cuba with Love: Juan Rene Betancourt

Posted on 12 June 2022

The Cuban activist and author Juan Rene Betancourt urges racial solidarity and reckons with the revolution under Castro and the island’s turn towards Communism.

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103. A Federal Case: Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo

Posted on 26 June 2022

Two Nigerian activists lead the struggle for independence, and clash over the competing values of national unity and ethnic diversity.

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104. In Unity Lies Strength: Kwame Nkrumah

Posted on 10 July 2022

The first leader of independent Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, writes against neocolonialism and in favor of socialism and Pan-Africanism.

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