In Our Time: Philosophy
From Altruism to Wittgenstein, philosophers, theories and key themes.
History 135 rész
Marcus Aurelius52 perc 135. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who, according to Machiavelli, was the last of the Five Good Emperors. Marcus Aurelius, 121 to 180 AD, has long been known as a model of the philosopher king, a Stoic who, while on military campaigns, compiled ideas on how best to live his life, and how best to rule. These ideas became known as his Meditations, and they have been treasured by many as an insight into the mind of a Roman emperor, and an example of how to avoid the corruption of power in turbulent times. The image above shows part of a bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. With Simon Goldhill Professor of Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield And Catharine Edwards Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson
Mary Astell51 perc 134. rész
The philosopher Mary Astell (1666 – 1731) has been described as “the first English feminist”. Born in Newcastle in relatively poor circumstances in the aftermath of the upheaval of the English Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy, she moved to London as a young woman and became part of an extraordinary circle of intellectual and aristocratic women. In her pioneering publications, she argued that women’s education should be expanded, that men and women’s minds were the same and that no woman should be forced to marry against her will. Perhaps her most famous quotation is: “If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?” Today, she is one of just a handful of female philosophers to be featured in the multi-volume Cambridge History of Political Thought. The image above is from Astell's "Reflections upon Marriage", 3rd edition, 1706, held by the British Library (Shelfmark 8415.bb.27) With: Hannah Dawson Senior Lecturer in the History of Ideas at King’s College London Mark Goldie Professor Emeritus of Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge Teresa Bejan Associate Professor of Political Theory at Oriel College, University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson
Deism48 perc 133. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea that God created the universe and then left it for humans to understand by reason not revelation. Edward Herbert, 1583-1648 (pictured above) held that there were five religious truths: belief in a Supreme Being, the need to worship him, the pursuit of a virtuous life as the best form of worship, repentance, and reward or punishment after death. Others developed these ideas in different ways, yet their opponents in England's established Church collected them under the label of Deists, called Herbert the Father of Deism and attacked them as a movement, and Deist books were burned. Over time, reason and revelation found a new balance in the Church in England, while Voltaire and Thomas Paine explored the ideas further, leading to their re-emergence in the French and American Revolutions. With Richard Serjeantson Fellow and Lecturer in History at Trinity College, Cambridge Katie East Lecturer in History at Newcastle University And Thomas Ahnert Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Edinburgh Producer: Simon Tillotson
Rousseau on Education51 perc 132. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) on the education of children, as set out in his novel or treatise Emile, published in 1762. He held that children are born with natural goodness, which he sought to protect as they developed, allowing each to form their own conclusions from experience, avoiding the domineering influence of others. In particular, he was keen to stop infants forming the view that human relations were based on domination and subordination. Rousseau viewed Emile as his most imporant work, and it became very influential. It was also banned and burned, and Rousseau was attacked for not following these principles with his own children, who he abandoned, and for proposing a subordinate role for women in this scheme. The image above is of Emile playing with a mask on his mother's lap, from a Milanese edition published in 1805. With Richard Whatmore Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History Caroline Warman Professor of French Literature and Thought at Jesus College, Oxford and Denis McManus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton Producer: Simon Tillotson
Bergson and Time51 perc 131. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and his ideas about human experience of time passing and how that differs from a scientific measurement of time, set out in his thesis on 'Time and Free Will' in 1889. He became famous in France and abroad for decades, rivalled only by Einstein and, in the years after the Dreyfus Affair, was the first ever Jewish member of the Académie Française. It's thought his work influenced Proust and Woolf, and the Cubists. He died in 1941 from a cold which, reputedly, he caught while queuing to register as a Jew, refusing the Vichy government's offer of exemption. With Keith Ansell-Pearson Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick Emily Thomas Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Durham University And Mark Sinclair Reader in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton Producer: Simon Tillotson
Authenticity50 perc 130. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests dicuss what it means to be oneself, a question explored by philosophers from Aristotle to the present day, including St Augustine, Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre. In Hamlet, Polonius said 'To thine own self be true', but what is the self, and what does it mean to be true to it, and why should you be true? To Polonius, if you are true to yourself, ‘thou canst not be false to any man’ - but with the rise of the individual, authenticity became a goal in itself, regardless of how that affected others. Is authenticity about creating yourself throughout your life, or fulfilling the potential with which you were born, connecting with your inner child, or something else entirely? What are the risks to society if people value authenticity more than morality - that is, if the two are incompatible? The image above is of Sartre, aged 8 months, perhaps still connected to his inner child. With Sarah Richmond Associate Professor in Philosophy at University College London Denis McManus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton and Irene McMullin Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex Producer: Simon Tillotson
Aristotle's Biology50 perc 129. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable achievement of Aristotle (384-322BC) in the realm of biological investigation, for which he has been called the originator of the scientific study of life. Known mainly as a philosopher and the tutor for Alexander the Great, who reportedly sent him animal specimens from his conquests, Aristotle examined a wide range of life forms while by the Sea of Marmara and then on the island of Lesbos. Some ideas, such as the the spontaneous generation of flies, did not survive later scrutiny, yet his influence was extraordinary and his work was unequalled until the early modern period. The image above is of the egg and embryo of a dogfish, one of the animals Aristotle described accurately as he recorded their development. With Armand Leroi Professor of Evolutionary Development Biology at Imperial College London Myrto Hatzimichali Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge And Sophia Connell Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson
Hope53 perc 128. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophy of hope. To the ancient Greeks, hope was closer to self-deception, one of the evils left in Pandora's box or jar, in Hesiod's story. In Christian tradition, hope became one of the theological virtues, the desire for divine union and the expectation of receiving it, an action of the will rather than the intellect. To Kant, 'what may I hope' was one of the three basic questions which human reason asks, while Nietzsche echoed Hesiod, arguing that leaving hope in the box was a deception by the gods, reflecting human inability to face the demands of existence. Yet even those critical of hope, like Camus, conceded that life was nearly impossible without it. With Beatrice Han-Pile Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex Robert Stern Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield And Judith Wolfe Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of St Andrews Producer: Simon Tillotson
The Fable of the Bees50 perc 127. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) and his critique of the economy as he found it in London, where private vices were condemned without acknowledging their public benefit. In his poem The Grumbling Hive (1705), he presented an allegory in which the economy collapsed once knavish bees turned honest. When republished with a commentary, The Fable of the Bees was seen as a scandalous attack on Christian values and Mandeville was recommended for prosecution for his tendency to corrupt all morals. He kept writing, and his ideas went on to influence David Hume and Adam Smith, as well as Keynes and Hayek. With David Wootton Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York Helen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton And John Callanan Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College London Producer: Simon Tillotson
Montesquieu49 perc 126. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755) whose works on liberty, monarchism, despotism, republicanism and the separation of powers were devoured by intellectuals across Europe and New England in the eighteenth century, transforming political philosophy and influencing the American Constitution. He argued that an individual's liberty needed protection from the arm of power, checking that by another power; where judicial, executive and legislative power were concentrated in the hands of one figure, there could be no personal liberty. With Richard Bourke Professor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary, University of London Rachel Hammersley Senior Lecturer in Intellectual History at Newcastle University And Richard Whatmore Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Tocqueville: Democracy in America50 perc 125. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and his examination of the American democratic system. He wrote De La Démocratie en Amérique in two parts, published in 1835 and 1840, when France was ruled by the July Monarchy of Louis-Philippe. Tocqueville was interested in how aspects of American democracy, in the age of President Andrew Jackson, could be applied to Europe as it moved away from rule by monarchs and aristocrats. His work has been revisited by politicians ever since, particularly in America, with its analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of direct democracy and its warnings of mediocrity and the tyranny of the majority. With Robert Gildea Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford Susan-Mary Grant Professor of American History at Newcastle University and Jeremy Jennings Professor of Political Theory and Head of the School of Politics & Economics at King's College London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Augustine's Confessions47 perc 124. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss St Augustine of Hippo's account of his conversion to Christianity and his life up to that point. Written c397AD, it has many elements of autobiography with his scrutiny of his earlier life, his long relationship with a concubine, his theft of pears as a child, his work as an orator and his embrace of other philosophies and Manichaeism. Significantly for the development of Christianity, he explores the idea of original sin in the context of his own experience. The work is often seen as an argument for his Roman Catholicism, a less powerful force where he was living in North Africa where another form of Christianity was dominant, Donatism. While Augustine retells many episodes from his own life, the greater strength of his Confessions has come to be seen as his examination of his own emotional development, and the growth of his soul. With Kate Cooper Professor of History at the University of London and Head of History at Royal Holloway Morwenna Ludlow Professor of Christian History and Theology at the University of Exeter and Martin Palmer Visiting Professor in Religion, History and Nature at the University of Winchester Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Sun Tzu and The Art of War48 perc 123. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas attributed to Sun Tzu (544-496BC, according to tradition), a legendary figure from the beginning of the Iron Age in China, around the time of Confucius. He may have been the historical figure Sun Wu, a military adviser at the court of King Helu of Wu (who reigned between about 514 and 496 BC), one of the kings in power in the Warring States period of Chinese history (6th - 5th century BC). Sun Tzu was credited as the author of The Art of War, a work on military strategy that soon became influential in China and then Japan both for its guidance on conducting and avoiding war and for its approach to strategy generally. After The Art of War was translated into European languages in C18th, its influence spread to military academies around the world. The image above is of a terracotta warrior from the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor, who unified China after the Warring States period. With Hilde De Weerdt Professor of Chinese History at Leiden University Tim Barrett Professor Emeritus of East Asian History at SOAS, University of London And Imre Galambos Reader in Chinese Studies at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Cicero49 perc 122. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas developed by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43BC) to support and reinvigorate the Roman Republic when, as it transpired, it was in its final years, threatened by civil wars, the rule of Julius Caesar and the triumvirates that followed. As Consul he had suppressed a revolt by Catiline, putting the conspirators to death summarily as he believed the Republic was in danger and that this danger trumped the right to a fair trial, a decision that rebounded on him. While in exile he began works on duty, laws, the orator and the republic. Although left out of the conspiracy to kill Caesar, he later defended that murder in the interests of the Republic, only to be murdered himself soon after. With Melissa Lane The Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University and 2018 Carlyle Lecturer at the University of Oxford Catherine Steel Professor of Classics at the University of Glasgow And Valentina Arena Reader in Roman History at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Kant's Categorical Imperative49 perc 121. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason, looking at the intention behind actions rather than at consequences. He was inspired to find moral laws by natural philosophers such as Newton and Leibniz, who had used reason rather than emotion to analyse the world around them and had identified laws of nature. Kant argued that when someone was doing the right thing, that person was doing what was the universal law for everyone, a formulation that has been influential on moral philosophy ever since and is known as the Categorical Imperative. Arguably even more influential was one of his reformulations, echoed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which he asserted that humanity has a value of an entirely different kind from that placed on commodities. Kant argued that simply existing as a human being was valuable in itself, so that every human owed moral responsibilities to other humans and was owed responsibilities in turn. With Alison Hills Professor of Philosophy at St John's College, Oxford David Oderberg Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading and John Callanan Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College, London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Plato's Republic48 perc 120. rész
Is it always better to be just than unjust? That is the central question of Plato's Republic, discussed here by Melvyn Bragg and guests. Writing in c380BC, Plato applied this question both to the individual and the city-state, considering earlier and current forms of government in Athens and potential forms, in which the ideal city might be ruled by philosophers. The Republic is arguably Plato's best known and greatest work, a dialogue between Socrates and his companions, featuring the allegory of the cave and ideas about immortality of the soul, the value of poetry to society, and democracy's vulnerability to a clever demagogue seeking tyranny. With Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield MM McCabe Professor of Ancient Philosophy Emerita at King's College London and James Warren Fellow of Corpus Christi College and a Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Roger Bacon50 perc 119. rész
The 13th-century English philosopher Roger Bacon is perhaps best known for his major work the Opus Maius. Commissioned by Pope Clement IV, this extensive text covered a multitude of topics from mathematics and optics to religion and moral philosophy. He is also regarded by some as an early pioneer of the modern scientific method. Bacon's erudition was so highly regarded that he came to be known as 'Doctor Mirabilis' or 'wonderful doctor'. However, he is a man shrouded in mystery. Little is known about much of his life and he became the subject of a number of strange legends, including one in which he allegedly constructed a mechanical brazen head that would predict the future. With: Jack Cunningham Academic Coordinator for Theology at Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln Amanda Power Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford Elly Truitt Associate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr College Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Seneca the Younger51 perc 118. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Seneca the Younger, who was one of the first great writers to live his entire life in the world of the new Roman empire, after the fall of the Republic. He was a Stoic philosopher, he wrote blood-soaked tragedies, he was an orator, and he navigated his way through the reigns of Caligula, Claudius and Nero, sometimes exercising power at the highest level and at others spending years in exile. Agrippina the Younger was the one who called for him to tutor Nero, and it is thought Seneca helped curb some of Nero's excesses. He was later revered within the Christian church, partly for what he did and partly for what he was said to have done in forged letters to St Paul. His tragedies, with their ghosts and high body count, influenced Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Hamlet, and Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. The image above is the so-called bust of Seneca, a detail from Four Philosophers by Peter Paul Rubens. With Mary Beard Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge Catharine Edwards Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London and Alessandro Schiesaro Professor of Classics at the University of Manchester Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Hannah Arendt47 perc 117. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt. She developed many of her ideas in response to the rise of totalitarianism in the C20th, partly informed by her own experience as a Jew in Nazi Germany before her escape to France and then America. She wanted to understand how politics had taken such a disastrous turn and, drawing on ideas of Greek philosophers as well as her peers, what might be done to create a better political life. Often unsettling, she wrote of 'the banality of evil' when covering the trial of Eichmann, one of the organisers of the Holocaust. With Lyndsey Stonebridge Professor of Modern Literature and History at the University of East Anglia Frisbee Sheffield Lecturer in Philosophy at Girton College, University of Cambridge and Robert Eaglestone Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality48 perc 116. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morality - A Polemic, which he published in 1887 towards the end of his working life and in which he considered the price humans have paid, and were still paying, to become civilised. In three essays, he argued that having a guilty conscience was the price of living in society with other humans. He suggested that Christian morality, with its consideration for others, grew as an act of revenge by the weak against their masters, 'the blond beasts of prey', as he calls them, and the price for that slaves' revolt was endless self-loathing. These and other ideas were picked up by later thinkers, perhaps most significantly by Sigmund Freud who further explored the tensions between civilisation and the individual. With Stephen Mulhall Professor of Philosophy and a Fellow and Tutor at New College, University of Oxford Fiona Hughes Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex And Keith Ansell-Pearson Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Zeno's Paradoxes46 perc 115. rész
In a programme first broadcast in 2016, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zeno of Elea, a pre-Socratic philosopher from c490-430 BC whose paradoxes were described by Bertrand Russell as "immeasurably subtle and profound." The best known argue against motion, such as that of an arrow in flight which is at a series of different points but moving at none of them, or that of Achilles who, despite being the faster runner, will never catch up with a tortoise with a head start. Aristotle and Aquinas engaged with these, as did Russell, yet it is still debatable whether Zeno's Paradoxes have been resolved. With Marcus du Sautoy Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford Barbara Sattler Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews and James Warren Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson
Sovereignty47 perc 114. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the idea of Sovereignty, the authority of a state to govern itself and the relationship between the sovereign and the people. These ideas of external and internal sovereignty were imagined in various ways in ancient Greece and Rome, and given a name in 16th Century France by the philosopher and jurist Jean Bodin in his Six Books of the Commonwealth, where he said (in an early English translation) 'Maiestie or Soveraigntie is the most high, absolute, and perpetuall power over the citisens and subiects in a Commonweale: which the Latins cal Maiestatem, the Greeks akra exousia, kurion arche, and kurion politeuma; the Italians Segnoria, and the Hebrewes tomech shévet, that is to say, The greatest power to command.' Shakespeare also explored the concept through Richard II and the king's two bodies, Hobbes developed it in the 17th Century, and the idea of popular sovereignty was tested in the Revolutionary era in America and France. With Melissa Lane Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University Richard Bourke Professor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary University of London and Tim Stanton Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of York Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Muses45 perc 113. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Muses and their role in Greek mythology, when they were goddesses of poetry, song, music and dance: what the Greeks called mousike, 'the art of the Muses' from which we derive our word 'music.' While the number of Muses, their origin and their roles varied in different accounts and at different times, they were consistently linked with the nature of artistic inspiration. This raised a question for philosophers then and since: was a creative person an empty vessel into which the Muses poured their gifts, at their will, or could that person do something to make inspiration flow? With Paul Cartledge Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of Sheffield And Penelope Murray Founder member and retired Senior Lecturer, Department of Classics, University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson Image: 'Apollo and the Muses (Parnassus)', 1631-1632. Oil on canvas. Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665).
Simone de Beauvoir46 perc 112. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Simone de Beauvoir. "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," she wrote in her best known and most influential work, The Second Sex, her exploration of what it means to be a woman in a world defined by men. Published in 1949, it was an immediate success with the thousands of women who bought it. Many male critics felt men came out of it rather badly. Beauvoir was born in 1908 to a high bourgeois family and it was perhaps her good fortune that her father lost his money when she was a girl. With no dowry, she pursued her education in Paris to get work and in a key exam to allow her to teach philosophy, came second only to Jean Paul Sartre. He was retaking. They became lovers and, for the rest of their lives together, intellectual sparring partners. Sartre concentrated on existentialist philosophy; Beauvoir explored that, and existentialist ethics, plus the novel and, increasingly in the decades up to her death in 1986, the situation of women in the world. With Christina Howells Professor of French and Fellow of Wadham College at the University of Oxford Margaret Atack Professor of French at the University of Leeds And Ursula Tidd Professor of Modern French Literature and Thought at the University of Manchester Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Utilitarianism43 perc 111. rész
A moral theory that emphasises ends over means, Utilitarianism holds that a good act is one that increases pleasure in the world and decreases pain. The tradition flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, and has antecedents in ancient philosophy. According to Bentham, happiness is the means for assessing the utility of an act, declaring "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." Mill and others went on to refine and challenge Bentham's views and to defend them from critics such as Thomas Carlyle, who termed Utilitarianism a "doctrine worthy only of swine." With Melissa Lane The Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University Janet Radcliffe Richards Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Oxford and Brad Hooker A Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Al-Ghazali44 perc 110. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Al-Ghazali, a major philosopher and theologian of the late 11th century. Born in Persia, he was one of the most prominent intellectuals of his age, working in such centres of learning as Baghdad, Damascus and Jerusalem. He is now seen as a key figure in the development of Islamic thought, not just refining the theology of Islam but also building on the existing philosophical tradition inherited from the ancient Greeks. With: Peter Adamson Professor of Late Ancient and Arabic Philosophy at the LMU in Munich Carole Hillenbrand Professor of Islamic History at Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities Robert Gleave Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Exeter Producer: Victoria Brignell.
The Wealth of Nations46 perc 109. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Adam Smith's celebrated economic treatise The Wealth of Nations. Smith was one of Scotland's greatest thinkers, a moral philosopher and pioneer of economic theory whose 1776 masterpiece has come to define classical economics. Based on his careful consideration of the transformation wrought on the British economy by the Industrial Revolution, and how it contrasted with marketplaces elsewhere in the world, the book outlined a theory of wealth and how it is accumulated that has arguably had more influence on economic theory than any other. With: Richard Whatmore Professor of Modern History and Director of the Institute of Intellectual History at the University of St Andrews Donald Winch Emeritus Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Sussex Helen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton Producer: Thomas Morris.
Phenomenology46 perc 108. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss phenomenology, a style of philosophy developed by the German thinker Edmund Husserl in the first decades of the 20th century. Husserl's initial insights underwent a radical transformation in the work of his student Martin Heidegger, and played a key role in the development of French philosophy at the hands of writers like Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Phenomenology has been a remarkably adaptable approach to philosophy. It has given its proponents a platform to expose and critique the basic assumptions of past philosophy, and to talk about everything from the foundations of geometry to the difference between fear and anxiety. It has also been instrumental in getting philosophy out of the seminar room and making it relevant to the lives people actually lead. GUESTS Simon Glendinning, Professor of European Philosophy in the European Institute at the London School of Economics Joanna Hodge, Professor of Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University Stephen Mulhall, Professor of Philosophy and Tutor at New College at the University of Oxford Producer: Luke Mulhall.
Truth42 perc 107. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of truth. Pontius Pilate famously asked: what is truth? In the twentieth century, the nature of truth became a subject of particular interest to philosophers, but they preferred to ask a slightly different question: what does it mean to say of any particular statement that it is true? What is the difference between these two questions, and how useful is the second of them? With: Simon Blackburn Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and Professor of Philosophy at the New College of the Humanities Jennifer Hornsby Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London Crispin Wright Regius Professor of Logic at the University of Aberdeen, and Professor of Philosophy at New York University Producer: Victoria Brignell and Luke Mulhall.
Zen45 perc 106. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zen. It's often thought of as a form of Buddhism that emphasises the practice of meditation over any particular set of beliefs. In fact Zen belongs to a particular intellectual tradition within Buddhism that took root in China in the 6th century AD. It spread to Japan in the early Middle Ages, where Zen practitioners set up religious institutions like temples, monasteries and universities that remain important today. GUESTS Tim Barrett, Emeritus Professor in the Department of the Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London Lucia Dolce, Numata Reader in Japanese Buddhism at SOAS, University of London Eric Greene, Lecturer in East Asian Religions at the University of Bristol Producer: Luke Mulhall.
The Philosophy of Solitude47 perc 105. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of solitude. The state of being alone can arise for many different reasons: imprisonment, exile or personal choice. It can be prompted by religious belief, personal necessity or a philosophical need for solitary contemplation. Many thinkers have dealt with the subject, from Plato and Aristotle to Hannah Arendt. It's a philosophical tradition that takes in medieval religious mystics, the work of Montaigne and Adam Smith, and the great American poets of solitude Thoreau and Emerson. With: Melissa Lane Professor of Politics at Princeton University Simon Blackburn Professor of Philosophy at the New College of the Humanities and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge John Haldane Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews Producer: Thomas Morris.
Weber's The Protestant Ethic50 perc 104. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Max Weber's book the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Published in 1905, Weber's essay proposed that Protestantism had been a significant factor in the emergence of capitalism, making an explicit connection between religious ideas and economic systems. Weber suggested that Calvinism, with its emphasis on personal asceticism and the merits of hard work, had created an ethic which had enabled the success of capitalism in Protestant countries. Weber's essay has come in for some criticism since he published the work, but is still seen as one of the seminal texts of twentieth-century sociology. With: Peter Ghosh Fellow in History at St Anne's College, Oxford Sam Whimster Honorary Professor in Sociology at the University of New South Wales Linda Woodhead Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Bishop Berkeley47 perc 103. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of George Berkeley, an Anglican bishop who was one of the most important philosophers of the eighteenth century. Bishop Berkeley believed that objects only truly exist in the mind of somebody who perceives them - an idea he called immaterialism. His interests and writing ranged widely, from the science of optics to religion and the medicinal benefits of tar water. His work on the nature of perception was a spur to many later thinkers, including David Hume and Immanuel Kant. The clarity of Berkeley's writing, and his ability to pose a profound problem in an easily understood form, has made him one of the most admired early modern thinkers. With: Peter Millican Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford Tom Stoneham Professor of Philosophy at the University of York Michela Massimi Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Plato's Symposium42 perc 102. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Plato's Symposium, one of the Greek philosopher's most celebrated works. Written in the 4th century BC, it is a dialogue set at a dinner party attended by a number of prominent ancient Athenians, including the philosopher Socrates and the playwright Aristophanes. Each of the guests speaks of Eros, or erotic love. This fictional discussion of the nature of love, how and why it arises and what it means to be in love, has had a significant influence on later thinkers, and is the origin of the modern notion of Platonic love. With: Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield Richard Hunter Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge Frisbee Sheffield Director of Studies in Philosophy at Christ's College, University of Cambridge. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Ordinary Language Philosophy41 perc 101. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Ordinary Language Philosophy, a school of thought which emerged in Oxford in the years following World War II. With its roots in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ordinary Language Philosophy is concerned with the meanings of words as used in everyday speech. Its adherents believed that many philosophical problems were created by the misuse of words, and that if such 'ordinary language' were correctly analysed, such problems would disappear. Philosophers associated with the school include some of the most distinguished British thinkers of the twentieth century, such as Gilbert Ryle and JL Austin. With: Stephen Mulhall Professor of Philosophy at New College, Oxford Ray Monk Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton Julia Tanney Reader in Philosophy of Mind at the University of Kent Producer: Thomas Morris.
Pascal41 perc 100. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests begin a new series of the programme with a discussion of the French polymath Blaise Pascal. Born in 1623, Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, inventing one of the first mechanical calculators and making important discoveries about fluids and vacuums while still a young man. In his thirties he experienced a religious conversion, after which he devoted most of his attention to philosophy and theology. Although he died in his late thirties, Pascal left a formidable legacy as a scientist and pioneer of probability theory, and as one of seventeenth century Europe's greatest writers. With: David Wootton Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York Michael Moriarty Drapers Professor of French at the University of Cambridge Michela Massimi Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Epicureanism42 perc 99. rész
Angie Hobbs, David Sedley and James Warren join Melvyn Bragg to discuss Epicureanism, the system of philosophy based on the teachings of Epicurus and founded in Athens in the fourth century BC. Epicurus outlined a comprehensive philosophical system based on the idea that everything in the Universe is constructed from two phenomena: atoms and void. At the centre of his philosophy is the idea that the goal of human life is pleasure, by which he meant not luxury but the avoidance of pain. His followers were suspicious of marriage and politics but placed great emphasis on friendship. Epicureanism became influential in the Roman world, particularly through Lucretius's great poem De Rerum Natura, which was rediscovered and widely admired in the Renaissance. With: Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield David Sedley Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge James Warren Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Producer: Thomas Morris.
Bertrand Russell42 perc 98. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Born in 1872 into an aristocratic family, Russell is widely regarded as one of the founders of Analytic philosophy, which is today the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world. In his important book The Principles of Mathematics, he sought to reduce mathematics to logic. Its revolutionary ideas include Russell's Paradox, a problem which inspired Ludwig Wittgenstein to pursue philosophy. Russell's most significant and famous idea, the theory of descriptions, had profound consequences for the discipline. In addition to his academic work, Russell played an active role in many social and political campaigns. He supported women's suffrage, was imprisoned for his pacifism during World War I and was a founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He wrote a number of books aimed at the general public, including The History of Western Philosophy which became enormously popular, and in 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Russell's many appearances on the BBC also helped to promote the public understanding of ideas. With: AC Grayling Master of the New College of the Humanities and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford Mike Beaney Professor of Philosophy at the University of York Hilary Greaves Lecturer in Philosophy and Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Simone Weil42 perc 97. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the French philosopher and social activist Simone Weil. Born in Paris in 1909 into a wealthy, agnostic Jewish family, Weil was a precocious child and attended the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, achieving the top marks in her class (Simone de Beauvoir came second). Weil rejected her comfortable background and chose to work in fields and factories to experience the life of the working classes at first hand. She was acutely sensitive to human suffering and devoted her life to helping those less fortunate than herself. Despite her belief in pacifism she volunteered on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War and later joined the French Resistance movement in England. Her philosophy was both complex and intense. She argued that the presence of evil and suffering in the world was evidence of God's love and that Man has no right to ask anything of God or of anyone whom they love. Love which expects reward was not love at all in Weil's eyes. Weil died of TB in Kent at the age of only 34. Her strict lifestyle and self-denial may have contributed to her early death. T.S Eliot said "she was not just a woman of genius, but was a genius akin to that of a saint"; Albert Camus believed she was "the only great spirit of our time." With: Beatrice Han-Pile Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex Stephen Plant Runcie Fellow and Dean of Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge David Levy Teaching Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Ontological Argument42 perc 96. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ontological Argument. In the eleventh century St Anselm of Canterbury proposed that it was possible to prove the existence of God using reason alone. His argument was ridiculed by some of his contemporaries, but was analysed and improved by later thinkers including Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz. Other philosophers have been less kind, with the Enlightenment thinker David Hume offering one possible refutation. But the debate continued, fuelled by interventions from such heavyweights as Immanuel Kant and Kurt Gödel; and it remains one of the most discussed problems in philosophy. With: John Haldane Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews Peter Millican Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford Clare Carlisle Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at King's College London Producer: Thomas Morris.
Scepticism42 perc 95. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Scepticism, the idea that it may be impossible to know anything with complete certainty. Scepticism was first outlined by ancient Greek philosophers: Socrates is reported to have said that the only thing he knew for certain was that he knew nothing. Later, Scepticism was taught at the Academy founded by Plato, and learnt by students who included the Roman statesman Cicero. The central ideas of Scepticism were taken up by later philosophers and came to the fore during the Renaissance, when thinkers including Rene Descartes and Michel de Montaigne took up its challenge. A central plank of the philosophical system of David Hume, Scepticism had a powerful influence on the religious and scientific debates of the Enlightenment. With: Peter Millican Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford Melissa Lane Professor of Politics at Princeton University Jill Kraye Professor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute, University of London. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Al-Kindi41 perc 94. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Arab philosopher al-Kindi. Born in the early ninth century, al-Kindi was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and supervised the translation of many works by Aristotle and others into Arabic. The author of more than 250 works, he wrote on many different subjects, from optics to mathematics, music and astrology. He was the first significant thinker to argue that philosophy and Islam had much to offer each other and need not be kept apart. Today al-Kindi is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic world. With: Hugh Kennedy Professor of Arabic at SOAS, University of London James Montgomery Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic Elect at the University of Cambridge Amira Bennison Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Neoplatonism41 perc 93. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Neoplatonism, the school of thought founded in the 3rd century AD by the philosopher Plotinus. Born in Egypt, Plotinus was brought up in the Platonic tradition, studying and reinterpreting the works of the Greek thinker Plato. After he moved to Rome Plotinus became the most influential member of a group of thinkers dedicated to Platonic scholarship. The Neoplatonists - a term only coined in the nineteenth century - brought a new religious sensibility to bear on Plato's thought. They outlined a complex cosmology which linked the human with the divine, headed by a mysterious power which they called the One. Neoplatonism shaped early Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious scholarship, and remained a dominant force in European thought until the Renaissance. With:Angie HobbsAssociate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of WarwickPeter AdamsonProfessor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College LondonAnne SheppardProfessor of Ancient Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Thomas Morris.
Moses Mendelssohn42 perc 92. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of the eighteenth-century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. A prominent figure at the court of Frederick the Great, Mendelssohn was one of the most significant thinkers of his age. He came from a humble, but culturally rich background and his obvious intelligence was recognised from a young age and nurtured by the local rabbi where he lived in the town of Dessau in Prussia. Moses's learning earned him the sobriquet of the 'German Socrates' and he is considered to be one of the principal architects of the Haskala, the Jewish Enlightenment, and widely regarded as having helped bring Judaism into the mainstream of European culture. Mendelssohn is perhaps best remembered today for his efforts to bring Jewish and German culture closer together and for his plea for religious toleration.With:Christopher ClarkProfessor of Modern European History at the University of CambridgeAbigail GreenTutor and Fellow in History at the University of OxfordAdam SutcliffeSenior Lecturer in European History at King's College, London Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Heraclitus41 perc 91. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Writing in the 5th century BC, Heraclitus believed that everything is constantly changing or, as he put it, in flux. He expressed this thought in a famous epigram: "No man ever steps into the same river twice." Heraclitus is often considered an enigmatic thinker, and much of his work is complex and puzzling. He was critical of the poets Homer and Hesiod, whom he considered to be ignorant, and accused the mathematician Pythagoras (who may have been his contemporary) of making things up. Heraclitus despaired of men's folly, and in his work constantly strove to encourage people to consider matters from alternative perspectives. Donkeys prefer rubbish to gold, he observed, pointing out that the same thing can have different meanings to different people.Unlike most of his contemporaries he was not associated with a particular school or disciplinary approach, although he did have his followers. At times a rationalist, at others a mystic, Heraclitus is an intriguing figure who influenced major later philosophers and movements such as Plato and the Stoics.With:Angie HobbsAssociate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of WarwickPeter AdamsonProfessor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College LondonJames WarrenSenior Lecturer in Classics and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, University of CambridgeProducer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Continental-Analytic Split42 perc 90. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Continental-Analytic split in Western philosophy. Around the beginning of the last century, philosophy began to go down two separate paths, as thinkers from Continental Europe explored the legacy of figures including Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger, while those educated in the English-speaking world tended to look to more analytically-inclined philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege. But the divide between these two schools of thought is not clear cut, and many philosophers even question whether the term 'Continental' is accurate or useful.The Analytic school favours a logical, scientific approach, in contrast to the Continental emphasis on the importance of time and place. But what are the origins of this split and is it possible that contemporary philosophers can bridge the gap between the two? With:Stephen MulhallProfessor of Philosophy at New College, University of OxfordBeatrice Han-PileProfessor of Philosophy at the University of EssexHans Johann-Glock Professor of Philosophy at the University of ZurichProducer: Natalia Fernandez.
David Hume42 perc 89. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the philosopher David Hume. A key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, Hume was an empiricist who believed that humans can only have knowledge of things they have themselves experienced. Hume made a number of significant contributions to philosophy. He saw human nature as a manifestation of the natural world, rather than something above and beyond it. He gave a sceptical account of religion, which caused many to suspect him of atheism. He was also the author of a bestselling History of England. His works, beginning in 1740 with A Treatise of Human Nature, have influenced thinkers from Adam Smith to Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin, and today he is regarded by some scholars as the most important philosopher ever to write in English.With:Peter MillicanProfessor of Philosophy at the University of OxfordHelen BeebeeProfessor of Philosophy at the University of BirminghamJames HarrisSenior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Thomas Morris.
Malthusianism42 perc 88. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Malthusianism.In the eighteenth century, as expanding agriculture and industry resulted in a rapid increase in the European population, a number of writers began to consider the implications of this rise in numbers. Some argued it was a positive development, since a larger population meant more workers and thus more wealth. Others maintained that it placed an intolerable strain on natural resources.In 1798 a young Anglican priest, the Reverend Thomas Malthus, published An Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus argued that the population was increasing exponentially, and that food production could not keep pace; eventually a crisis would ensue. He suggested that famine, disease and wars acted as a natural corrective to overpopulation, and also suggested a number of ways in which humans could regulate their own numbers. The work caused a furore and fuelled a public debate about the size and sustainability of the British population which raged for generations. It was a profoundly influential work: Charles Darwin credited Malthus with having inspired his Theory of Natural Selection.With:Karen O'BrienPro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at the University of BirminghamMark PhilpLecturer in Politics at the University of OxfordEmma GriffinSenior Lecturer in History at the University of East Anglia Producer: Thomas Morris.
Cogito Ergo Sum42 perc 87. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the most famous statements in philosophy: "Cogito ergo sum".In his Discourse on the Method, published in 1637, the French polymath Rene Descartes wrote a sentence which remains familiar today even to many people who have never heard of him. "I think", he wrote, "therefore I exist". Although the statement was made in French, it has become better known in its Latin translation; and philosophers ever since have referred to it as the Cogito Argument.In his first Meditation, published ten years after the Discourse, Descartes went even further. He asserted the need to demolish everything completely and start right again from the foundations, arguing, for instance, that information from the senses cannot be trusted. The only thing he could be sure of was this: because he was thinking, he must exist. This simple idea continues to stir up enormous interest and has attracted comment from thinkers from Hobbes to Nietzsche and Sartre. With:Susan JamesProfessor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of LondonJohn CottinghamProfessor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Reading and Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, University of LondonStephen MulhallProfessor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Free Will42 perc 86. rész
In the 500th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophical idea of free will.Free will - the extent to which we are free to choose our own actions - is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by almost every great thinker of the last two thousand years. In a universe apparently governed by physical laws, is it possible for individuals to be responsible for their own actions? Or are our lives simply proceeding along preordained paths? Determinism - the doctrine that every event is the inevitable consequence of what goes before - seems to suggest so.Many intellectuals have concluded that free will is logically impossible. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza regarded it as a delusion. Albert Einstein wrote: "Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free agents but are as causally bound as the stars in their motion." But in the Enlightenment, philosophers including David Hume found ways in which free will and determinism could be reconciled. Recent scientific developments mean that this debate remains as lively today as it was in the ancient world.With: Simon BlackburnBertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of CambridgeHelen BeebeeProfessor of Philosophy at the University of BirminghamGalen StrawsonProfessor of Philosophy at the University of ReadingProducer: Thomas Morris.
Maimonides42 perc 85. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of Maimonides.Widely regarded as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the medieval period, Maimonides was also a physician and rabbinical authority. Also known as Rambam, his writings include a 14-volume work on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, which is still widely used today, and the Guide for the Perplexed, a central work of medieval philosophy. Although undoubtedly a titan of Jewish intellectual history, Maimonides was also profoundly influenced by the Islamic world. He exerted a strong influence on later Islamic philosophy, as well as on thinkers ranging from Thomas Aquinas to Leibniz and Newton.With:John HaldaneProfessor of Philosophy at the University of St AndrewsSarah StroumsaAlice and Jack Ormut Professor of Arabic Studies and currently Rector at the Hebrew University of JerusalemPeter AdamsonProfessor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Aristotle's Poetics42 perc 84. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Aristotle's Poetics. The Poetics is, as far as we know, the first ever work of literary theory. Written in the 4th century BC, it is the work of a scholar who was also a biologist, and treats literary works with the detached analytical eye of a scientist. Aristotle examines drama and epic poetry, and how they achieve their effects; he analyses tragedy and the ways in which it plays on our emotions. Many of the ideas he articulates, such as catharsis, have remained in our critical vocabulary ever since. The book also contains an impassioned defence of poetry, which had been attacked by other thinkers, including Aristotle's own teacher Plato.Translated by medieval Arab scholars, the Poetics was rediscovered in Europe during the Renaissance and became a playwriting manual for many dramatists of the era. Today it remains a standard text for would-be Hollywood screenwriters.With:Angie HobbsAssociate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of WarwickNick LoweReader in Classical Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonStephen HalliwellProfessor of Greek at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Thomas Morris.
Daoism42 perc 83. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daoism. An ancient Chinese tradition of philosophy and religious belief, Daoism first appeared more than two thousand years ago. For centuries it was the most popular religion in China; in the West its religious aspects are not as well known as its practices, which include meditation and Feng Shui, and for its most celebrated text, the Daodejing.The central aim in Daoism is to follow the 'Dao', a word which roughly translates as 'The Way'. Daoists believe in following life in its natural flow, what they refer to as an 'effortless action'. This transcendence can be linked to Buddhism, the Indian religion that came to China in the 2nd century BC and influenced Daoism - an exchange which went both ways. Daoism is closely related to, but has also at times conflicted with, the religion of the Chinese Imperial court, Confucianism. The spirit world is of great significance in Daoism, and its hierarchy and power often take precedence over events and people in real life. But how did this ancient and complex religion come to be so influential?With:Tim Barrett Professor of East Asian History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of LondonMartin PalmerDirector of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and CultureHilde De WeerdtFellow and Tutor in Chinese History at Pembroke College, University of Oxford Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Logic42 perc 82. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of logic. Logic, the study of reasoning and argument, first became a serious area of study in the 4th century BC through the work of Aristotle. He created a formal logical system, based on a type of argument called a syllogism, which remained in use for over two thousand years. In the nineteenth century the German philosopher and mathematician Gottlob Frege revolutionised logic, turning it into a discipline much like mathematics and capable of dealing with expressing and analysing nuanced arguments. His discoveries influenced the greatest mathematicians and philosophers of the twentieth century and considerably aided the development of the electronic computer. Today logic is a subtle system with applications in fields as diverse as mathematics, philosophy, linguistics and artificial intelligence.With:A.C. GraylingProfessor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of LondonPeter MillicanGilbert Ryle Fellow in Philosophy at Hertford College at the University of OxfordRosanna KeefeSenior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Edmund Burke42 perc 81. rész
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the eighteenth-century philosopher, politician and writer Edmund Burke.Born in Dublin, Burke began his career in London as a journalist and made his name with two works of philosophy before entering Parliament. There he quickly established a reputation as one of the most formidable orators of an age which also included Pitt the Younger.When unrest began in America in the 1760s, Burke was quick to defend the American colonists in their uprising. But it was his response to another revolution which ensured he would be remembered by posterity. In 1790 he published Reflections on the Revolution in France, a work of great literary verve which attacked the revolutionaries and predicted disaster for their project. The book prompted Thomas Paine to write his masterpiece Rights of Man, and Mary Wollstonecraft was among the others to take part in the ensuing pamphlet war. Burke's influence shaped our parliamentary democracy and attitude to Empire, and lingers today.With:Karen O'BrienProfessor of English at the University of WarwickRichard BourkeSenior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary, University of LondonJohn KeaneProfessor of Politics at the University of SydneyProducer: Thomas Morris.
William James's 'The Varieties of Religious Experience'42 perc 80. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss 'The Varieties of Religious Experience' by William James. The American novelist Henry James famously made London his home and himself more English than the English. In contrast, his psychologist brother, William, was deeply immersed in his American heritage. But in 1901, William came to Britain too. He had been invited to deliver a series of prestigious public lectures in Edinburgh. In them, he attempted a daringly original intellectual project. For the first time, here was a close-up examination of religion not as a body of beliefs, but as an intimate personal experience. When the lectures were printed, as 'The Varieties of Religious Experience', they were an instant success.They laid the ground for a whole new area of study - the psychology of religion - and influenced figures from the psychiatrist Carl Jung to the novelist Aldous Huxley. To date, James's book has been reprinted thirty-six times and has been hailed as one of the best non-fiction books of the twentieth century.With:Jonathan ReeFreelance philosopherJohn HaldaneProfessor of Philosophy at the University of St AndrewsGwen Griffith-DicksonEmeritus Professor of Divinity at Gresham College and Director of the Lokahi FoundationProducer: Natasha Emerson.
William Hazlitt41 perc 79. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of William Hazlitt. Hazlitt is best known for his essays, which ranged in subject matter from Shakespeare, through his first meeting with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to a boxing match. What is less well-known, however, is that he began his writing life as a philosopher, before deliberately abandoning the field for journalism. Nonetheless, his early reasoning about the power of the imagination to take human beings beyond narrow self-interest, as encapsulated in his 'Essay on the Principles of Human Action', shines through his more popular work.Hazlitt is a figure full of contradictions - a republican who revered Napoleon, and a radical who admired the conservative philosopher Edmund Burke. His reputation suffered terribly from his book 'Liber Amoris', a self-revealing memoir of his infatuation with his landlady's daughter. But in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, his importance was acknowledged by writers like Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson and Ford Madox Ford. In the 180 years since his death, his stature as perhaps the finest essayist in the language has grown and grown. With:Jonathan BateProfessor of English Literature at the University of Warwick Anthony GraylingProfessor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of LondonUttara NatarajanSenior Lecturer in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths College, University of LondonProducer: Phil Tinline.
Ibn Khaldun42 perc 78. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests Robert Hoyland, Robert Irwin and Hugh Kennedy discuss the life and ideas of the 14th-century Arab philosopher of history Ibn Khaldun.Ibn Khaldun was a North African statesman who retreated into the desert in 1375. He emerged having written one of the most important ever studies of the workings of history.Khaldun was born in Tunis in 1332. He received a supremely good education, but at 16 lost many of his family to the Black Death. His adult life was similarly characterised by sharp turns of fortune. He built a career as a political operator in cities from Fez to Granada. But he often fared badly in court intrigues, was imprisoned and failed to prevent the murder of a fellow statesman. In 1375, he withdrew into the Sahara to work out why the Muslim world had degenerated into division and decline. Four years later, he had completed not only a history of North African politics but also, in the book's long introduction, one of the great studies of history. Drawing on both regional history and personal experience, he set out a bleak analysis of the rise and fall of dynasties. He argued that group solidarity was vital to success in power. Within five generations, though, this always decayed. Tired urban dynasties inevitably became vulnerable to overthrow by rural insurgents.Later in life, Ibn Khaldun worked as a judge in Egypt, and in 1401 he met the terrifying Mongol conqueror Tamburlaine, whose triumphs, Ibn Khaldun felt, bore out his pessimistic theories.Over the last three centuries Ibn Khaldun has been rediscovered as a profoundly prescient political scientist, philosopher of history and forerunner of sociology - one of the great thinkers of the Muslim world.Robert Hoyland is Professor of Islamic History at the University of Oxford; Robert Irwin is Senior Research Associate of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London; Hugh Kennedy is Professor of Arabic in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
The Frankfurt School42 perc 77. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests Raymond Geuss, Esther Leslie and Jonathan RÃ©e discuss the Frankfurt School.This group of influential left-wing German thinkers set out, in the wake of Germany's defeat in the First World War, to investigate why their country had not had a revolution, despite the apparently revolutionary conditions that spread through Germany in the wake of the 1918 Armistice. To find out why the German workers had not flocked to the Red Flag, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin and others came together around an Institute set up at Frankfurt University and began to focus their critical attention not on the economy, but on culture, asking how it affected people's political outlook and activities. But then, with the rise of the Nazis, they found themselves fleeing to 1940s California. There, their disenchantment with American popular culture combined with their experiences of the turmoil of the interwar years to produce their distinctive, pessimistic worldview. With the defeat of Nazism, they returned to Germany to try to make sense of the route their native country had taken into darkness. In the 1960s, the Frankfurt School's argument - that most of culture helps to keep its audience compliant with capitalism - had an explosive impact. Arguably, it remains influential today.Raymond Geuss is a professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge; Esther Leslie is Professor in Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck College, University of London; Jonathan RÃ©e is a freelance historian and philosopher, currently Visiting Professor at Roehampton University and at the Royal College of Art.
Mary Wollstonecraft41 perc 76. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests John Mullan, Karen O'Brien and Barbara Taylor discuss the life and ideas of the pioneering British Enlightenment thinker Mary Wollstonecraft.Mary Wollstonecraft was born in 1759 into a middle-class family whose status steadily sank as her inept, brutal, drunken father frittered away the family fortune. She did what she could to protect her mother from his aggression; meanwhile, her brother was slated to inherit much of the remaining fortune, while she was to receive nothing.From this unpromising but radicalising start, Wollstonecraft's career took a dizzying trajectory through a bleak period as a governess to becoming a writer, launching a polemical broadside against the political star of the day, witnessing the bloodshed of the French Revolution up close, rescuing her lover's stolen ship in Scandanavia, then marrying one of the leading philosophers of the day, William Godwin, and with him having a daughter who - though she never lived to see her grow up - would go on to write Frankenstein.But most importantly, in 1792, she published her great work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which marks her out as one of the great thinkers of the British Enlightenment, with a much stronger, more lasting influence than Godwin. The Vindication was an attempt to apply the Enlightenment logic of rights and reason to the lives of women. Yet it was not a manifesto for the extension of the vote or the reform of divorce law, but a work of political philosophy. And surprisingly, as recent scholarship has highlighted, it was infused with Rational Dissenting Christianity, which Wollstonecraft had absorbed during her time as a struggling teacher and writer in north London.John Mullan is Professor of English at University College, London; Karen O'Brien is Professor of English at the University of Warwick; Barbara Taylor is Professor of Modern History in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of East London.
Pythagoras41 perc 75. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests Serafina Cuomo, John O'Connor and Ian Stewart discuss the ideas and influence of the Greek mathematician Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans.The Ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras is probably best known for the theorem concerning right-angled triangles that bears his name. However, it is not certain that he actually developed this idea; indeed, some scholars have questioned not only his true intellectual achievements, but whether he ever existed. We do know that a group of people who said they were followers of his - the Pythagoreans - emerged around the fifth century BC. Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss what we do and don't know about this legendary figure and his followers, and explore the ideas associated with them. Some Pythagoreans, such as Philolaus and Archytas, were major mathematical figures in their own right. The central Pythagorean idea was that number had the capacity to explain the truths of the world. This was as much a mystical belief as a mathematical one, encompassing numerological notions about the 'character' of specific numbers. Moreover, the Pythagoreans lived in accordance with a bizarre code which dictated everything from what they could eat to how they should wash. Nonetheless, Pythagorean ideas, centred on their theory of number, have had a profound impact on Western science and philosophy, from Plato through astronomers like Copernicus to the present day.Serafina Cuomo is Reader in Roman History at Birkbeck College, University of London; John O'Connor is Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Saint Andrews; Ian Stewart is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick.
Schopenhauer42 perc 74. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests AC Grayling, Beatrice Han-Pile and Christopher Janaway discuss the dark, pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer.As a radical young thinker in Germany in the early 19th century, Schopenhauer railed against the dominant ideas of the day. He dismissed the pre-eminent German philosopher Georg Hegel as a pompous charlatan, and turned instead to the Enlightenment thinking of Immanuel Kant for inspiration. Schopenhauer's central idea was that everything in the world was driven by the Will - broadly, the ceaseless desire to live. But this, he argued, left us swinging pointlessly between suffering and boredom. The only escape from the tyranny of the Will was to be found in art, and particularly in music. Schopenhauer was influenced by Eastern philosophy, and in turn his own work had an impact well beyond the philosophical tradition in the West, helping to shape the work of artists and writers from Richard Wagner to Marcel Proust, and Albert Camus to Sigmund Freud.AC Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Beatrice Han-Pile is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex; Christopher Janaway is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton.
St Thomas Aquinas42 perc 73. rész
Melvyn Bragg discusses the life, works and enduring influence of the medieval philosopher and theologian St Thomas Aquinas with Martin Palmer, John Haldane and Annabel Brett. St Thomas Aquinas' ideas remain at the heart of the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church today and inform philosophical debates on human rights, natural law and what constitutes a 'just war'.Martin Palmer is Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture; John Haldane is Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews; Annabel Brett is Lecturer in History at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
Logical Positivism42 perc 72. rész
Melvyn Bragg discusses Logical Positivism, the eye-wateringly radical early 20th century philosophical movement. The Logical Positivists argued that much previous philosophy was built on very shaky foundations, and they wanted to go right back to the drawing board. They insisted that philosophy - and science - had to be much more rigorous before it started making grand claims about the world. The movement began with the Vienna Circle, a group of philosophically-trained scientists and scientifically-trained philosophers, who met on Thursdays, in 'Red Vienna', in the years after the First World War. They were trying to remould philosophy in a world turned upside down not just by war, but by major advances in science. Their hero was not Descartes or Hegel but Albert Einstein. The group's new doctrine rejected great swathes of earlier philosophy, from meditations on the existence of God to declarations on the nature of History, as utterly meaningless. When the Nazis took power, they fled to England and America, where their ideas put down new roots, and went on to have a profound impact.Melvyn is joined by Barry Smith, Professor of Philosophy at the University of London; Nancy Cartwright, Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics; and Thomas Uebel, Professor of Philosophy at Manchester University.
Baconian Science42 perc 71. rész
Patricia Fara, Stephen Pumfrey and Rhodri Lewis join Melvyn Bragg to discuss the Jacobean lawyer, political fixer and alleged founder of modern science Francis Bacon.In the introduction to Thomas Spratt's History of the Royal Society, there is a poem about man called Francis Bacon which declares 'Bacon, like Moses, led us forth at last, The barren wilderness he past, Did on the very border stand Of the blest promis'd land, And from the mountain's top of his exalted wit, Saw it himself, and shew'd us it'.Francis Bacon was a lawyer and political schemer who climbed the greasy pole of Jacobean politics and then fell down it again. But he is most famous for developing an idea of how science should be done - a method that he hoped would slough off the husk of ancient thinking and usher in a new age. It is called Baconian Method and it has influenced and inspired scientists from Bacon's own time to the present day.
The School of Athens42 perc 70. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The School of Athens – the fresco painted by the Italian Renaissance painter, Raphael, for Pope Julius II’s private library in the Vatican. The fresco depicts some of the most famous philosophers of ancient times, including Aristotle and Plato, engaged in discussion amidst the splendour of a classical Renaissance chamber. It is considered to be one of the greatest images in Western art not only because of Raphael’s skill as a painter, but also his ability to have created an enduring image that continues to inspire philosophical debate today. Raphael captured something essential about the philosophies of these two men, but he also revealed much about his own time. That such a pagan pair could be found beside a Pope in private tells of the complexity of intellectual life at the time when classical learning was reborn in what we now call the Renaissance.With Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Valery Rees, Renaissance scholar and senior member of the Language Department at the School of Economic Science; Jill Kraye, Professor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute at the University of London
Thoreau and the American Idyll42 perc 69. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 19th century American writer and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. Anti-slavery activist and passionate environmentalist, Thoreau was above all a champion of self-reliance and individualism. He was also a champion of the simple life, a lover of nature and an enemy of the modern who lived alone in a log cabin in the woods away from society. In his seminal work, Walden, published in 1854, he wrote: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” Thoreau has become emblematic of one version of American values and his work has been an inspiration to politicians and writers alike, from Martin Luther King to Gandhi, Yeats and Tolstoy. Yet in many ways Thoreau remains a mystery, a man of contradictions who advocated self-sufficiency but was happy to let his mother do his washing and cook his meals.With Kathleen Burk, Professor of American History at University College London; Tim Morris, Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Dundee; Stephen Fender, Honorary Professor in English Literature at University College London.
The Consolations of Philosophy42 perc 68. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the consolation of Philosophy. In the 6th century AD, a successful and intelligent Roman politician called Boethius found himself unjustly accused of treason. Trapped in his prison cell, awaiting a brutal execution, he found solace in philosophical ideas - about the true nature of reality, about injustice and evil and the meaning of living a moral life. His thoughts did not save him from death, but his ideas lived on because he wrote them into a book. He called it The Consolation of Philosophy. The Consolation of Philosophy was read widely and a sense of consolation is woven into many philosophical ideas, but what for Boethius were the consolations of philosophy, what are they more generally and should philosophy lead us to consolation or lead us from it?With AC Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Melissa Lane, Senior University Lecturer in History at the University of Cambridge and Roger Scruton, Research Professor at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences.
Aristotle's Politics42 perc 67. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most important works of political philosophy ever written - Aristotle’s ‘Politics’. Looking out across the city states of 4th century Greece Aristotle asked what made a society good and developed a language of ‘oligarchies’, ‘democracies’ and ‘monarchies’ that we still use today. Having witnessed his home town of Stagira destroyed by Philip of Macedon, Aristotle tried to establish a way of preserving a good society in dangerous times. How should it be governed and who should be allowed to live in it? Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Aquinas and Niccolo Machiavelli, to name but a few, have all asked the same questions and come up with wildly differing answers.Aristotle’s conclusions range across the role of wealth and the law, across men, women and slaves, education and leisure. They are far reaching, influential and, at times, deeply unpalatable. But they are also answers to questions that have not and will not go away. With Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Paul Cartledge, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge and Annabel Brett, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Cambridge.
Godel's Incompleteness Theorems42 perc 66. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss an iconic piece of 20th century maths - Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. In 1900, in Paris, the International Congress of Mathematicians gathered in a mood of hope and fear. The edifice of maths was grand and ornate but its foundations, called axioms, had been shaken. They were deemed to be inconsistent and possibly paradoxical. At the conference, a young man called David Hilbert set out a plan to rebuild the foundations of maths – to make them consistent, all encompassing and without any hint of a paradox. Hilbert was one of the greatest mathematicians that ever lived, but his plan failed spectacularly because of Kurt Gödel. Gödel proved that there were some problems in maths that were impossible to solve, that the bright clear plain of mathematics was in fact a labyrinth filled with potential paradox. In doing so Gödel changed the way we understand what mathematics is and the implications of his work in physics and philosophy take us to the very edge of what we can know.With Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at Wadham College, University of Oxford; John Barrow, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge and Gresham Professor of Geometry and Philip Welch, Professor of Mathematical Logic at the University of Bristol.
The Translation Movement42 perc 65. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the greatest intellectual projects in history - the mass translation of Greek ideas into Arabic from the 9th century onwards.One night in Baghdad, the 9th century Caliph Al-Mamun was visited by a dream. The philosopher Aristotle appeared to him, saying that the reason of the Greeks and the revelation of Islam were not opposed. On waking, the Caliph demanded that all of Aristotle’s works be translated into Arabic. And they were. And it wasn’t just Aristotle. Over the next 200 years Greek philosophy, medicine, engineering and maths were all poured and sometimes squeezed into Arabic. Centred on Baghdad, this translation movement introduced the Islamic world to the philosophy of Aristotle, the geometry of Euclid and the Medicine of Galen. It caused an intellectual ferment that demanded the creation of new words to explain new concepts and house new arguments. Over 600 years before the European renaissance the intellectual legacy of Greece was woven into the tapestry of Arabic thought and it was only through the Arabic versions that Europe go its hands on many Greek ideas. With Peter Adamson, Reader in Philosophy at King’s College London; Amira Bennison, Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge; and Peter Pormann, Wellcome Trust Assistant Professor in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick
Miracles42 perc 64. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the parting of the Red Sea, the feeding of the five thousand and the general subject of miracles. Miracles have been part of human culture for thousands of years. From St Augustine in the 4th century through the medieval cult of saints to David Hume in the 18th, miracles have captured the imaginations of believers and sceptics alike. The way they have been celebrated, interpreted, dissected and refuted is a whole history of arguments between philosophy, science and religion. They have also been used by the corrupt and the powerful to gain their perverse ends. Miracles have been derided and proved to be fraudulent and yet, for many, the miraculous maintain a grip on our imagination, our language and our belief to this day. With Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture;Janet Soskice, Reader in Philosophical Theology at Cambridge University; Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Materialism42 perc 63. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Materialism in Philosophy – the idea that matter and the interactions between matter account for all that exists and all that happens. We trace the descent of materialism from the ancient Greek philosophers Democritus and Epicurus, to its powerful and controversial flowering in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries as an attack on religion. It’s provocative stuff even today and certainly was in 1770 when Baron D’Holbach published his book The System of Nature. He wrote: "If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned or disfigured them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves them, and that custom, respect and tyranny support them."Materialism was considered so dangerous that every copy of the Baron’s book was condemned to be burnt. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, materialism dominates much of our understanding of the world today. Associated with science and atheism, Materialism has influenced many forms of contemporary human thought from the process of history to the diagnosis of disease and boasts a cast list of devotees including Pierre Gassandi, Thomas Hobbes, the Marquis de Sade and Karl Marx. But what does materialism really mean, how has it developed over time and can we still have free will if we are living in a materialist world? With Anthony Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Caroline Warman, Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford; Anthony O’Hear, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Buckingham
Kierkegaard42 perc 62. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rich and radical ideas of Soren Kierkegaard, often called the father of Existentialism.In 1840 a young Danish girl called Regine Olsen got engaged to her sweetheart – a modish and clever young man called Søren Kierkegaard. The two were deeply in love but soon the husband to be began to have doubts. He worried that he couldn’t make Regine happy and stay true to himself and his dreams of philosophy. It was a terrible dilemma, but Kierkegaard broke off the engagement – a decision from which neither he nor his fiancée fully recovered. This unhappy episode has become emblematic of the life and thought of Søren Kierkegaard - a philosopher who confronted the painful choices in life and who understood the darker modes of human existence. Yet Kierkegaard is much more than the gloomy Dane of reputation. A thinker of wit and elegance, his ability to live with paradox and his desire to think about individuals as free have given him great purchase in the modern world and he is known as the father of Existentialism.With Jonathan Rée, Visiting Professor at Roehampton University and the Royal College of Art; Clare Carlisle, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Liverpool; John Lippitt, Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Hertfordshire.
The Social Contract41 perc 61. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Social Contract and ask a foundational question of political philosophy – by what authority does a government govern? “Man was born free and he is everywhere in chains”. So begins Jean Jacques Rousseau’s great work on the Social Contract. Rousseau was trying to understand why a man would give up his natural freedoms and bind himself to the rule of a prince or a government. But the idea of the social contract - that political authority is held through a contract with those to be ruled - began before Rousseau with the work of John Locke, Hugo Grotius and even Plato. We explore how an idea that burgeoned among the 17th century upheavals of the English civil war and then withered in the face of modern capitalist society still influences our attitude to government today. With Melissa Lane, Senior University Lecturer in History at Cambridge University; Susan James, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Karen O’Brien, Professor of English Literature at the University of Warwick.
Camus42 perc 60. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Algerian-French writer and Existentialist philosopher Albert Camus. Shortly after the new year of 1960, a powerful sports car crashed in the French town of Villeblevin in Burgundy, killing two of its occupants. One was the publisher Michel Gallimard; the other was the writer Albert Camus. In Camus’ pocket was an unused train ticket and in the boot of the car his unfinished autobiography The First Man. Camus was 46. Born in Algeria in 1913, Camus became a working class hero and icon of the French Resistance. His friendship with Sartre has been well documented, as has their falling out; and although Camus has been dubbed both an Absurdist and Existentialist philosopher, he denied he was even a philosopher at all, preferring to think of himself as a writer who expressed the realities of human existence. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, Camus’ legacy is a rich one, as an author of plays, novels and essays, and as a political thinker who desperately sought a peaceful solution to the War for Independence in his native Algeria. With Peter Dunwoodie, Professor of French Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London; David Walker, Professor of French at the University of Sheffield; Christina Howells, Professor of French at Wadham College, University of Oxford.
Avicenna41 perc 59. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Persian Islamic philosopher, Avicenna. In the city of Hamadan in Iran, right in the centre, there is a vast mausoleum dedicated to an Iranian national hero. Built in 1952, exactly 915 years after his death, it’s a great conical tower with twelve supporting columns. It’s dedicated not to a warrior or a king but to a philosopher and physician. His name is Ali Al Husayn Ibn-Sina, but he is also known as Avicenna and he is arguably the most important philosopher in the history of Islam. In a colourful career Avicenna proved the existence of god, amalgamated all known medical knowledge into one big book and established a mind body dualism 600 years before Descartes and still found time to overindulge in wine and sex. With Peter Adamson, Reader in Philosophy at King's College London; Amira Bennison, Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge; Nader El-Bizri, Affiliated Lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.
Guilt42 perc 58. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss morality by taking a long hard look at the idea of guilt. The 18th century politician and philosopher Edmund Burke was once moved to comment: “Guilt was never a rational thing; it distorts all the faculties of the human mind, it perverts them, it leaves a man no longer in the free use of his reason, it puts him into confusion.”Guilt is a legal category but also a psychological state and a moral idea. Over the centuries theologians, philosophers and psychologists have tried to determine how it relates to morality, reason and the workings of the mind? The answers seem to cut deeply into our understanding of what it is to be human.With Stephen Mulhall, Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at New College, Oxford; Miranda Fricker, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London; Oliver Davies, Professor of Christian Doctrine at King’s College London
Socrates42 perc 57. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Greek philosopher Socrates, acknowledged as one of the founders of Western philosophy. Born in 469 BC into the golden age of the city of Athens, he has profoundly influenced philosophy ever since. In fact, his impact is so profound that all the thinkers who went before are simply known as pre-Socratic.In person Socrates was deliberately irritating, he was funny and he was rude; he didn’t like democracy very much and spent quite a lot of time in shoe shops. He claimed he was on a mission from God to educate his fellow Athenians but has left us nothing in his own hand because he refused to write anything down. With Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Warwick University; David Sedley, Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Cambridge University; Paul Millett, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge.
Common Sense Philosophy42 perc 56. rész
Melvyn Bragg looks at an unexpected philosophical subject - the philosophy of common sense. In the first century BC the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero claimed “There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it”. Indeed, in the history of Western thought, philosophers have rarely been credited with having much common sense. In the 17th century Francis Bacon made a similar point when he wrote “Philosophers make imaginary laws for imaginary commonwealths, and their discourses are as the stars, which give little light because they are so high”. Samuel Johnson picked up the theme with characteristic pugnacity in 1751 declaring that “the public would suffer less present inconvenience from the banishment of philosophers than from the extinction of any common trade.” Philosophers, it seems, are as distinct from the common man as philosophy is from common sense.But as Samuel Johnson scribbled his pithy knockdown in the Rambler magazine, the greatest philosophers in Britain were locked in a dispute about the very thing he denied them: Common Sense. It was a dispute about the nature of knowledge and the individuality of man, from which we derive the idea of common sense today. The chief antagonists were a minister of the Scottish Church, Thomas Reid, and the bon-viveur darling of the Edinburg chattering classes, David Hume. It's a journey that also takes in Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, John Locke and some of the most profound questions about human knowledge we are capable of asking.With A C Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London; Melissa Lane, Senior University Lecturer in History at Cambridge University; Alexander Broadie, Professor of Logic and Rhetoric at the University of Glasgow.
Ockham's Razor42 perc 55. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophical ideas of William Ockham including Ockham's Razor. In the small village of Ockham, near Woking in Surrey, stands a church. Made of grey stone, it has a pitched roof and an unassuming church tower but parts of it date back to the 13th century. This means they would have been standing when the village witnessed the birth of one of the greatest philosophers in Medieval Europe. His name was William and he became known as William of Ockham.William of Ockham’s ideas on human freedom and the nature of reality influenced Thomas Hobbes and helped fuel the Reformation. During a turbulent career he managed to offend the Chancellor of Oxford University, disagree with his own ecclesiastical order and get excommunicated by the Pope. He also declared that the authority of rulers derives from the people they govern and was one of the first people so to do. Ockham’s razor is the idea that philosophical arguments should be kept as simple as possible, something that Ockham himself practised severely on the theories of his predecessors. But why is William of Ockham significant in the history of philosophy, how did his turbulent life fit within the political dramas of his time and to what extent do we see his ideas in the work of later thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes and even Martin Luther?With Sir Anthony Kenny, philosopher and former Master of Balliol College, Oxford; Marilyn Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University; Richard Cross, Professor of Medieval Theology at Oriel College, Oxford
Spinoza28 perc 54. rész
Melvyn Bragg discusses the Dutch Jewish Philosopher Spinoza. For the radical thinkers of the Enlightenment, he was the first man to have lived and died as a true atheist. For others, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he provides perhaps the most profound conception of God to be found in Western philosophy. He was bold enough to defy the thinking of his time, yet too modest to accept the fame of public office and he died, along with Socrates and Seneca, one of the three great deaths in philosophy. Baruch Spinoza can claim influence on both the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century and great minds of the 19th, notably Hegel, and his ideas were so radical that they could only be fully published after his death. But what were the ideas that caused such controversy in Spinoza’s lifetime, how did they influence the generations after, and can Spinoza really be seen as the first philosopher of the rational Enlightenment?With Jonathan Rée, historian and philosopher and Visiting Professor at Roehampton University; Sarah Hutton, Professor of English at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth; John Cottingham, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading.
Popper42 perc 53. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, Karl Popper whose ideas about science and politics robustly challenged the accepted ideas of the day. He strongly resisted the prevailing empiricist consensus that scientists' theories could be proved true.Popper wrote: “The more we learn about the world and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance”. He believed that even when a scientific principle had been successfully and repeatedly tested, it was not necessarily true. Instead it had simply not proved false, yet! This became known as the theory of falsification.He called for a clear demarcation between good science, in which theories are constantly challenged, and what he called “pseudo sciences” which couldn't be tested. His debunking of such ideologies led some to describe him as the “murderer of Freud and Marx”. He went on to apply his ideas to politics, advocating an Open Society. His ideas influenced a wide range of politicians, from those close to Margaret Thatcher, to thinkers in the Eastern Communist bloc and South America.So how did Karl Popper change our approach to the philosophy of science? How have scientists and philosophers made use of his ideas? And how are his theories viewed today? Are we any closer to proving scientific principles are “true”?With John Worrall, Professor of Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics; Anthony O'Hear, Weston Professor of Philosophy at Buckingham University; Nancy Cartwright, Professor of Philosophy at the LSE and the University of California
Anarchism42 perc 52. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Anarchism and why its political ideas became synonymous with chaos and disorder. Pierre Joseph Proudhon famously declared “property is theft”. And perhaps more surprisingly that “Anarchy is order”. Speaking in 1840, he was the first self-proclaimed anarchist. Anarchy comes from the Greek word “anarchos”, meaning “without rulers”, and the movement draws on the ideas of philosophers like William Godwin and John Locke. It is also prominent in Taoism, Buddhism and other religions. In Christianity, for example, St Paul said there is no authority except God. The anarchist rejection of a ruling class inspired communist thinkers too. Peter Kropotkin, a Russian prince and leading anarcho-communist, led this rousing cry in 1897: “Either the State for ever, crushing individual and local life... Or the destruction of States and new life starting again.. on the principles of the lively initiative of the individual and groups and that of free agreement. The choice lies with you!” In the Spanish Civil War, anarchists embarked on the largest experiment to date in organising society along anarchist principles. Although it ultimately failed, it was not without successes along the way.So why has anarchism become synonymous with chaos and disorder? What factors came together to make the 19th century and early 20th century the high point for its ideas? How has its philosophy influenced other movements from The Diggers and Ranters to communism, feminism and eco-warriors?With John Keane, Professor of Politics at Westminster University; Ruth Kinna, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Loughborough University; Peter Marshall, philosopher and historian.
Altruism42 perc 51. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss altruism. The term altruism was coined by the 19th century sociologist Auguste Comte and is derived from the Latin “alteri” or "the others”. It describes an unselfish attention to the needs of others. Comte declared that man had a moral duty to “serve humanity, whose we are entirely.” The idea of altruism is central to the main religions: Jesus declared “you shall love your neighbour as yourself” and Mohammed said “none of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself”. Buddhism too advocates “seeking for others the happiness one desires for oneself.”Philosophers throughout time have debated whether such benevolence towards others is rooted in our natural inclinations or is a virtue we must impose on our nature through duty, religious or otherwise. Then in 1859 Darwin’s ideas about competition and natural selection exploded onto the scene. His theories outlined in the Origin of Species painted a world “red in tooth and claw” as every organism struggles for ascendancy.So how does this square with altruism? If both mankind and the natural world are selfishly seeking to promote their own survival and advancement, how can we explain being kind to others, sometimes at our own expense? How have philosophical ideas about altruism responded to evolutionary theory? And paradoxically, is it possible that altruism can, in fact, be selfish?With Miranda Fricker, Senior Lecturer in the School of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London; Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University; John Dupré, Professor of Philosophy of Science at Exeter University and director of Egenis, the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society.
Averroes42 perc 50. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosopher Averroes who worked to reconcile the theology of Islam with the rationality of Aristotle achieving fame and infamy in equal measure In The Divine Comedy Dante subjected all the sinners in Christendom to a series of grisly punishments, from being buried alive to being frozen in ice. The deeper you go the more brutal and bizarre the punishments get, but the uppermost level of Hell is populated not with the mildest of Christian sinners, but with non-Christian writers and philosophers. It was the highest compliment Dante could pay to pagan thinkers in a Christian cosmos and in Canto Four he names them all. Aristotle is there with Socrates and Plato, Galen, Zeno and Seneca, but Dante ends the list with neither a Greek nor a Roman but 'with him who made that commentary vast, Averroes'. Averroes was a 12th century Islamic scholar who devoted his life to defending philosophy against the precepts of faith. He was feted by Caliphs but also had his books burnt and suffered exile. Averroes is an intellectual titan, both in his own right and as a transmitter of ideas between ancient Greece and Modern Europe. His commentary on Aristotle was so influential that St Thomas Aquinas referred to him with profound respect as 'The Commentator'. But why did an Islamic philosopher achieve such esteem in the mind of a Christian Saint, how did Averroes seek to reconcile Greek philosophy with Islamic theology and can he really be said to have sown the seeds of the Renaissance in Europe? With Amira Bennison, Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge; Peter Adamson, Reader in Philosophy at King's College London; Sir Anthony Kenny, philosopher and former Master of Balliol College, Oxford.
Mill42 perc 49. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great nineteenth century political philosopher John Stuart Mill. He believed that, 'The true philosophy is the marriage of poetry and logic'. He was one of the first thinkers to argue that a social theory must engage with ideas of culture and the internal life. He used Wordsworth to inform his social theory, he was a proto feminist and his treatise On Liberty is one of the sacred texts of liberalism. J S Mill believed that action was the natural articulation of thought. He battled throughout his life for social reform and individual freedom and was hugely influential in the extension of the vote. Few modern discussions on race, birth control, the state and human rights have not been influenced by Mill's theories. How did Mill's utilitarian background shape his political ideas? Why did he think Romantic literature was significant to the rational structure of society? On what grounds did he argue for women's equality? And how did his notions of the individual become central to modern social theory? With A C Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London; Janet Radcliffe Richards, Reader in Bioethics at University College London; Alan Ryan, Professor of Politics at Oxford University.
Friendship41 perc 48. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the concept of friendship. In Greek and Roman times, friendship was thought of as being an essential constituent of both a good society and a good life; a good society because it lay at the heart of participative civic democracy; a good life because it nurtured wisdom and happiness. It is this period which gives us the texts on friendship which, to this day, are arguably the most important of their kind. Amongst their authors is Aristotle, who engaged in one of the great philosophical discussions on the subject. For Aristotle, friendship could fall into three categories: it could be based on utility, pleasure or goodness. In its latter state, Aristotle described it as being 'a single soul dwelling in two bodies'. So how did the Ancients establish the parameters of the true nature of friendship in the literature and philosophy that followed? How have different forms of friendship helped or hindered creativity and intellectual pursuit? What has been the apparent relationship between friendship and power? And what of the darker aspects of friendship - jealousy, envy and exploitation? With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Mark Vernon, Visiting Lecturer in Philosophy at Syracuse University and London Metropolitan University; John Mullan, Professor of English at University College London.
Relativism28 perc 47. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss relativism, a philosophy of shifting sands. "Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own 'ego'." Pope Benedict XVI, in a speech given in June 2005, showed that the issue of relativism is as contentious today as it was in Ancient Greece, when Plato took on the relativist stance of Protagoras and the sophists. Relativism is a school of philosophical thought which holds to the idea that there are no absolute truths. Instead, truth is situated within different frameworks of understanding that are governed by our history, culture and critical perspective. Why has relativism so radically divided scholars and moral custodians over the centuries? How have its supporters answered to criticisms that it is inherently unethical? And if there are universal standards such as human rights, how do relativists defend culturally specific practices such as honour killings or female infanticide? With Barry Smith, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Jonathan Rée, freelance philosopher who holds visiting professorships at the Royal College of Art and Roehampton University; Kathleen Lennon, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hull.
The Oath42 perc 46. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the importance of the oath in ancient Greece and Rome, The importance of oaths in the Classical world cannot be overstated. Kings, citizens, soldiers, litigants all swore oaths, inviting divine retribution if they proved false to their word. Oaths cemented peace treaties, they obliged the Athenian citizenry to protect their democracy, they guaranteed the loyalty of the Roman army to its Emperor and they underpinned the legal systems of Athens and Rome. And in Homer's epic poem, The Iliad, it is a broken oath to settle the dispute between Menelaus and Paris that leads the Greeks to storm Troy in pursuit of Helen. But how did the Classical world come to understand the oath? Why did oaths come to occupy such a central place in the political, social and legal life of the Athenian State? And what role did oath-making play in the expanding Roman Empire? With Alan Sommerstein , Professor of Greek at the University of Nottingham;Paul Cartledge , Professor of Greek History at the University of Cambridge; Mary Beard , Professor in Classics at the University of Cambridge
Hobbes28 perc 45. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great 17th century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes who argued: "During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man". For Hobbes, the difference between order and disorder was stark. In the state of nature, ungoverned man lived life in "continual fear, and danger of violent death". The only way out of this "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" existence, he said, was to relinquish all your freedom and submit yourself to one all powerful absolute sovereign. Hobbes' proposal, contained in his controversial and now classic text, Leviathan, was written just as England was readjusting to life after the Civil War and the rule of Oliver Cromwell. In fact, in his long life Hobbes’ allegiance switched from Charles I to Cromwell and back to Charles II. But how did the son of a poor clergyman end up as the most radical thinker of his day? Why did so many of Hobbes' ideas run counter to the prevailing fondness for constitutionalism with a limited monarchy? And why is he regarded by so many political philosophers as an important theorist when so few find his ideas convincing? With Quentin Skinner, Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge; David Wootton, Professor of History at the University of York; Annabel Brett, Senior Lecturer in Political Thought and Intellectual History at Cambridge University.
Pragmatism42 perc 44. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the American philosophy of pragmatism. A pragmatist "turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad apriori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action and towards power". A quote from William James' 1907 treatise Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking. William James, along with John Dewey and Charles Sanders Peirce, was the founder of an American philosophical movement which flowered during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century and the first twenty years of the 20th century. It purported that knowledge is only meaningful when coupled with action. Nothing is true or false - it either works or it doesn't. It was a philosophy which was deeply embedded in the reality of life, concerned firstly with the individual's direct experience of the world he inhabited. In essence, practical application was all. But how did Pragmatism harness the huge scientific leap forward that had come with Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution? And how did this dynamic new philosophy challenge the doubts expressed by the Sceptics about the nature and extent of knowledge? Did Pragmatism influence the economic and political ascendancy of America in the early 20th century? And did it also pave the way for the contemporary preoccupation with post-modernism? With A C Grayling, Professor of Applied Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London and a Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford; Julian Baggini, editor of The Philosophers' Magazine; Miranda Fricker, Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London.
Cynicism28 perc 43. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cynics, the performance artists of philosophy. Eating live octopus with fresh lupins, performing intimate acts in public places and shouting at passers by from inside a barrel is behaviour not normally associated with philosophy. But the Cynics were different. They were determined to expose the meaninglessness of civilised life by action as well as by word. They slept rough, ate simply and gave their lectures in the market place. Perhaps surprisingly, their ideas and attitudes were immensely popular in the ancient world. But how coherent was cynicism as a philosophy? What was its influence on literature and politics and is there any truth to the contention that Jesus himself was influenced by the Cynics? With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Warwick; Miriam Griffin, Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford; John Moles, Professor of Latin, University of Newcastle.
Marx42 perc 42. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Karl Marx. "Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains", "Religion is the opium of the people", and "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". That should be enough for most of you to work out whom Radio 4 listeners have voted as their favourite philosopher: the winner of the In Our Time Greatest Philosopher Vote, chosen from 20 philosophers nominated by listeners and carried through on an electoral tidal wave of 28% of our 'first-past-the-post' vote is the communist theoretician, Karl Marx.So, when you strip away the Marxist-Leninism, the Soviet era and later Marxist theory, who was Karl Marx? Where does he stand in the history of philosophy? He wrote in his Theses on Feuerbach, "Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point, however, is to change it" - which begs the question, is he really a philosopher at all?With Anthony Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Francis Wheen, journalist and author of a biography of Karl Marx; Gareth Stedman Jones, Professor of Political Science at Cambridge University.
Beauty28 perc 41. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss beauty and its qualities."Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."That was John Keats' emphatic finale to his Ode on a Grecian Urn. It seems to express Plato's theory of aesthetics, his idea that an apprehension of beauty is an apprehension of perfection and that all things in our shadowy realm are botched representations of perfect 'forms' that exist elsewhere. Beauty is goodness and, for Plato, the ultimate of all the forms is 'The Good'.But does beauty really have a moral quality? And is it inherent in things, or in the mind of the observer? How much influence have Plato's ideas had on the history of aesthetics and what has been said to counter or develop them?With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Susan James, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Julian Baggini, Editor of The Philosophers' Magazine.
Abelard and Heloise41 perc 40. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the story of Abelard and Heloise, a tale of literature and philosophy, theology and scandal, and above all love in the high Middle Ages. They were two of the greatest minds of their time and Abelard, a famous priest and teacher, wrote of how their affair began in his biography, Historia Calamitatum, “Her studies allowed us to withdraw in private, as love desired, and then with our books open before us, more words of love than of reading passed between us, and more kissing than teaching. My hands strayed oftener to her bosom than to the pages; love drew our eyes to look on each other more than reading kept them on our texts”. Years later, when she was an Abbess at the head of her own convent, Heloise wrote to Abelard: “Even during the celebration of Mass, when our prayers should be purer, lewd visions of those pleasures take such a hold upon my unhappy soul that my thoughts are on their wantonness instead of on prayers”. With Anthony Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Henrietta Leyser, Medieval Historian and Fellow of St Peter’s College, Oxford; Michael Clanchy, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the Institute of Historical Research.
Stoicism28 perc 39. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Stoicism, the third great philosophy of the Ancient World. It was founded by Zeno in the fourth century BC and flourished in Greece and then in Rome. Its ideals of inner solitude, forbearance in adversity and the acceptance of fate won many brilliant adherents and made it the dominant philosophy across the whole of the Ancient World. The ex-slave Epictetus said "Man is troubled not by events, but by the meaning he gives them". Seneca, the politician, declared that "Life without the courage for death is slavery". The stoic thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor, provided a rallying point for empire builders into the modern age.Stoicism influenced the Christian church, had a big effect on Shakespeare and Renaissance drama and may even have given the British their 'stiff upper lip', but it's a philosophy that was almost forgotten in the 20th century. Does it still have a legacy for us today?With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Warwick; Jonathan Rée, philosopher and historian; David Sedley, Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy, University of Cambridge.
The Mind/Body Problem42 perc 38. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the mind/body problem in philosophy. At the start of René Descartes' Sixth Meditation he writes: "there is a great difference between mind and body, inasmuch as body is by nature always divisible, and mind is entirely indivisible. For when I consider the mind, or myself in so far as I am merely a thinking thing, I am unable to distinguish many parts within myself; I understand myself to be something quite single and complete. Although the whole mind seems to be united to the whole body, I recognize that if a foot or an arm or any other part of the body is cut off nothing has thereby been taken away from the mind".This thinking is the basis of what's known as 'Cartesian dualism', Descartes' attempt to address one of the central questions in philosophy, the mind/body problem: is the mind part of the body, or the body part of the mind? If they are distinct, then how do they interact? And which of the two is in charge?With Anthony Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London; Julian Baggini, editor of The Philosophers' Magazine; Sue James, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London.
Machiavelli and the Italian City States42 perc 37. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. In The Prince, Machiavelli's great manual of power, he wrote, "since men love as they themselves determine but fear as their ruler determines, a wise prince must rely upon what he and not others can control". He also advised, "One must be a fox in order to recognise traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. Those who simply act like lions are stupid. So it follows that a prudent ruler cannot, and must not, honour his word when it places him at a disadvantage".What times was Machiavelli living through to take such a brutal perspective on power? How did he gain the experience to provide this advice to rulers? And was he really the amoral, or even evil figure that so many have liked to paint him?With Quentin Skinner, Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge; Evelyn Welch, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London; Lisa Jardine, Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at Queen Mary, University of London.
Jung28 perc 36. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the extraordinary mind of the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. In 1907 Sigmund Freud met a young man and fell into a conversation that is reputed to have lasted for 13 hours. That man was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. Freud is celebrated as the great pioneer of the 20th century mind, but the idea that personality types can be 'introverted' or 'extroverted', that certain archetypal images and stories repeat themselves constantly across the collective history of mankind, and that personal individuation is the goal of life, all belong to Jung: "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart... Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens", he declared. And he also said "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you".Who was Jung? What is the essence and influence of his thought? And how did he become such a controversial and, for many, such a beguiling figure?With Brett Kahr, Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Psychotherapy and Mental Health at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London and a practising Freudian; Ronald Hayman, writer and biographer of Jung; Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology at the University of Essex and a Jungian analyst in clinical practice.
Rhetoric42 perc 35. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses rhetoric. Gorgias, the great sophist philosopher and master of rhetoric said, "Speech is a powerful lord that with the smallest and most invisible body accomplished most godlike works. It can banish fear and remove grief, and instil pleasure and enhance pity. Divine sweetness transmitted through words is inductive of pleasure and reductive of pain". But for Plato it was a vice, and those like Gorgias who taught rhetoric were teaching the skills of lying in return for money and were a great danger. He warned "this device - be it which it may, art or mere artless empirical knack - must not, if we can help it, strike root in our society".But strike root it did, and there is a rich tradition of philosophers and theologians who have attempted to make sense of it.How did the art of rhetoric develop? What part has it played in philosophy and literature? And does it still deserve the health warning applied so unambiguously by Plato?With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Thomas Healy, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London; Ceri Sullivan, Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Wales, Bangor.
The Han Synthesis27 perc 34. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Han Synthesis philosophies of China. In The Analects the Chinese sage Confucius says of statecraft: "He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn to it".Confucianism had been all but outlawed under the Chin Emperor, but in 206 BC the Han dynasty came to power and held sway for over 400 years. They brought Confucian thought to the heart of government, his favourite books became set texts for the world's first civil service exam and in a grand intellectual project 'The Great Tao' was combined with 'The Five Phases' and with the Yin and the Yang.Who were the Han? How did they bring these strands of thought together into the great founding moment of Chinese culture? And what drove them to their extraordinary intellectual task?With Christopher Cullen, Director of the Needham Research Institute; Carol Michaelson, Assistant Keeper of Chinese Art in the Department of Asia at the British Museum; Roel Sterckx, Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Cambridge.
Sartre42 perc 33. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Jean-Paul Sartre, the French novelist, playwright, and philosopher who became the king of intellectual Paris and a focus of post war politics and morals. Sartre's own life was coloured by jazz, affairs, Simone de Beauvoir and the intellectual camaraderie of Left Bank cafes. He maintained an extraordinary output of plays, novels, biographies, and philosophical treatises as well as membership of the communist party and a role in many political controversies. He produced some wonderful statements: "my heart is on the left, like everyone else's", and "a human person is what he is not, not what he is", and, most famously "we are condemned to be free". Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how Sartre's novels and plays express his ideas and what light Sartre's life brings to bear on his philosophy and his philosphy on his life. With Jonathan Rée, philosopher and historia; Benedict O'Donohoe, Principal Lecturer in French at the University of the West of England and Secretary of the UK Society for Sartrean Studies; Christina Howells, Professor of French at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Wadham College.
Politeness28 perc 32. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea of Politeness. A new idea that stalked the land at the start of the eighteenth century in Britain, Politeness soon acquired a philosophy, a literature and even a society devoted to its thrall. It may seem to represent the very opposite now, but at that time, when Queen Anne was on the throne and The Spectator was in the coffee houses, politeness was part of a radical social revolution.How did the idea of politeness challenge the accepted norms of behaviour? How did a notion of how to behave affect the great wealth of eighteenth century culture? With Amanda Vickery, Reader in History at Royal Holloway, University of London; David Wootton, Professor of History at the University of York; John Mullan, Senior Lecturer in English at University College London.
Empiricism28 perc 31. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Empiricism, England’s greatest contribution to philosophy. At the end of the seventeenth century the philosopher John Locke wrote in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding: “All ideas come from sensation or reflection. Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas:- How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from EXPERIENCE.”It was a body of ideas that for Voltaire, and for Kant after him, defined the English attitude to thought; a straight talking pragmatic philosophy that was hand in glove with a practical people.How was the philosophy of empiricism developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries? And what effect did this emphasis on experience have on culture and literature in Britain?With Judith Hawley, Senior Lecturer in English at Royal Holloway, University of London; Murray Pittock, Professor of Scottish and Romantic Literature at the University of Manchester; Jonathan Rée, philosopher and author of Philosophy and its Past.
Heroism42 perc 30. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what defines a hero and what place they had in classical society. On the fields of Troy a fallen soldier pleaded with Achilles, the great hero of the Greeks, to spare his life. According to Homer, Achilles replied, “Do you not see what a man I am, how huge, how splendid.And born of a great father and the mother who bore me immortal?Yet even I have also my death and strong destiny, And there shall be a dawn or an afternoon or a noontime,When some man in the fighting will take the life from me alsoEither with a spear cast or an arrow flown from the bow string”.With that, he killed him. Heroes have special attributes, but not necessarily humility or compassion. How did the Greeks define their heroes? What place did the hero have in classical society and what do modern ideas of heroism owe to the heroes of the golden age?With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick and author of Plato and the Hero: Courage, Manliness and the Impersonal Good; Anthony Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek History at the University of Cambridge.
Wittgenstein42 perc 29. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, work and legacy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. There is little doubt that he was a towering figure of the twentieth century; on his return to Cambridge in 1929 Maynard Keynes wrote, “Well, God has arrived. I met him on the 5:15 train”.Wittgenstein is credited with being the greatest philosopher of the modern age, a thinker who left not one but two philosophies for his descendents to argue over: The early Wittgenstein said, “the limits of my mind mean the limits of my world”; the later Wittgenstein replied, “If God looked into our minds he would not have been able to see there whom we were speaking of”. Language was at the heart of both. Wittgenstein stated that his purpose was to finally free humanity from the pointless and neurotic philosophical questing that plagues us all. As he put it, “To show the fly the way out of the fly bottle”.How did he think language could solve all the problems of philosophy? How have his ideas influenced contemporary culture? And could his thought ever achieve the release for us that he hoped it would?With Ray Monk, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton and author of Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius; Barry Smith, Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London; Marie McGinn, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of York.
Duty28 perc 28. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the concept of duty. George Bernard Shaw wrote in his play Caesar and Cleopatra, “When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty”. But for Horatio Nelson and so many others, duty has provided a purpose for life, and a reason to die – “Thank God I have done my duty” were his final words.The idea that others have a claim over our actions has been at the heart of the history of civilised society, but duty is an unfashionable or difficult notion now - perhaps because it seems to impose an outside authority over self interest. The idea of duty has duped people into doing terrible things and inspired them to wonderful achievements, and it is an idea that has excited philosophers from the time people first came together to live in large groups. But has duty always meant doing what’s best for others rather than oneself? And how did it become such a powerful idea that people readily gave their lives for it? With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Annabel Brett, Fellow of Gonville and Caius and Lecturer in History at the University of Cambridge; Anthony Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London.
Bohemianism42 perc 27. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 19th century Parisian philosophy of life lived for art. In 1848 the young Parisian Henri Murger wrote of his bohemian friends: Their daily existence is a work of genius…they know how to practise abstinence with all the virtue of an anchorite, but if a slice of fortune falls into their hands you will see them at once mounted on the most ruinous fancies, loving the youngest and prettiest, drinking the oldest and best, and never finding sufficient windows to throw their money out of. Then, when their last crown is dead and buried...they go poaching on all the callings that have any connection with art, hunting from morn till night that wild beast called a five franc piece. Bohemianism meant a life lived for art, it meant sexual liberation and freedom from social constraint, but it also meant dodging the landlord and burning your poems to stay warm. How did the garret-philosophy of the Parisian Latin Quarter take over the drawing rooms of Bloomsbury and Chelsea, and why did a French war with necessity emerge as a British life-style as art? With Hermione Lee, Goldsmiths' Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford and biographer of Virginia Woolf; Virginia Nicholson, author of Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939; Graham Robb, writer and biographer of Balzac, Victor Hugo and Rimbaud.
The Art of War42 perc 26. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and philosophy of warfare. The British historian Edward Gibbon wrote: “Every age, however destitute of science or virtue, sufficiently abounds with acts of blood and military renown.” War, it seems, is one of mankind’s most constant companions, one that has blighted the lives and troubled the minds of men and women from antiquity onwards. Plato envisaged a society without war, but found it had no arts, no culture and no political system. In our own time the United Nations struggles but often fails to prevent the outbreak of conflict. But how has war been understood throughout the ages? Who has it served and how has it been justified? Is war inherent to human beings or could society be organised to the exclusion of all conflict?With Sir Michael Howard, Emeritus Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford; Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Jeremy Black, Professor of History at the University of Exeter.
Originality41 perc 25. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests explore the creative force of originality. How far is it to do with origins, how far with the combination of the discoveries of others, which were themselves based on the thoughts of others, into an ever-receding and replicating past? Is invention original? Is original important? Is tradition more interesting and the reworking of what is traditional of greater value than the search for idiosyncrasy? And did our notion of the original genius come as much out of a commercial imperative for individual copyright in the eighteenth century, as a romantic view of human nature which came in, perhaps not co-incidentally, at the same time? In 1800, in his preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth wrote "Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished". But did the notion of originality begin with the Romantics in the 18th century, or has society always valued originality? Should we consider Shakespeare an innovator or a plagiarist?To what extent is originality about perception rather than conception and is originality a concept without meaning today?With John Deathridge, King Edward Professor of Music at King’s College London; Jonathan Rée, philosopher and author of Philosophical Tales; Professor Catherine Belsey, Chair of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University
Redemption28 perc 24. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss redemption. In St Paul's letter to the Galatians, he wrote: "Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery". This conception of Redemption as freedom from bondage is crucial for Judeo-Christian thought. In Christianity, the liberation is from original sin, a transformation from the Fall to salvation - not just for mankind but for individual human beings. The content of that journey is moral, gaining redemption by becoming better.So why is the idea of transformation so appealing to human beings? To what extent were Christian views of Redemption borrowed from Judaism? How did philosophers such as Marx reinterpret the concept of Redemption and can redemption retain its value in a world without God? Does its continuing power signify a deep psychological need in humankind?With Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford; Janet Soskice, Reader in Modern Theology and Philosophical Theology at Cambridge University; Stephen Mulhall, Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Oxford University.
The Enlightenment in Scotland27 perc 23. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century. In 1696 the Edinburgh student, Thomas Aitkenhead, claimed theology was "a rhapsody of feigned and ill invented nonsense". He was hanged for his trouble - just one victim of a repressive religious society called the Scottish Kirk. Yet within 60 years Scotland was transformed by the ideas sweeping the continent in what we call the Enlightenment. This Scottish Enlightenment emerged on a broad front. From philosophy to farming it championed empiricism, questioned religion and debated reason. It was crowned by the philosophical brilliance of David Hume and by Adam Smith – the father of modern economics. But what led to this ‘Scottish Miracle’, was it an indigenous phenomenon or did it depend on influence from abroad? It profoundly influenced the American revolutionaries and the British Empire, but what legacy does it have for Scotland today?With Professor Tom Devine, Director of the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen; Karen O’Brien, Reader in English and American Literature at the University of Warwick; Alexander Broadie, Professor of Logic and Rhetoric at the University of Glasgow.
Freedom28 perc 22. rész
Melvyn Bragg considers what it is to be free and how freedom became such a powerful value. Freedom has been a subject of enquiry for philosophers, theologians and politicians who have attempted to define the conditions required for humans to be free, not just in their minds but in the wider world. Some have argued that man is naturally free and no laws should confine his liberty. Others have countered that laws are the only way to preserve freedom; they protect us from the slavery of the abyss. The very idea of freedom is riddled with constraints, limitations and qualifications, yet it is seen by many as the most basic of human rights and for some as a principle worth fighting and dying for. With John Keane, Professor of Politics, University of Westminster; Bernard Williams, Professor of Philosophy, University of California; Annabel Brett, Lecturer in History, University of Cambridge.
The Soul28 perc 21. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Soul. In his poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ WB Yeats wrote:An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unlessSoul clap its hands and sing, and louder singFor every tatter in its mortal dress. For Plato it was the immortal seat of reason, for Aristotle it could be found in plants and animals and was the essence of every being - but it died when the body died. For some it is the fount of creativity, for others the spark of God in man. What is the soul made of and where does it live? Is it the key to our individuality as humans? And when we die will our souls find paradise or purgatory, rebirth, resurrection or simply annihilation? With Richard Sorabji, Gresham Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College; Ruth Padel, poet and author; Martin Palmer, Theologian and Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture.
The Examined Life42 perc 20. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss self-examination. Socrates, the Greek philosopher of the 4th century BC, famously declared that "The unexamined life is not worth living." His drive towards rigorous self-enquiry and his uncompromising questioning of assumptions laid firm foundations for the history of Western Philosophy. But these qualities did not make him popular in ancient Athens: Socrates was deemed to be a dangerous subversive for his crime, as he described it, of "asking questions and searching into myself and other men". In 399 BC Socrates was sentenced to death on the charge of being "an evil-doer and a curious person". Two thousand years later, the novelist George Eliot was moved to reply to Socrates that "The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the life too closely examined may not be lived at all". For Eliot too much self-scrutiny could lead to paralysis rather than clarity. What did Socrates mean by his injunction? How have our preoccupations about how to live altered since the birth of ancient Greek philosophy? And where does philosophy rank in our quest for self-knowledge alongside science, the arts and religion? With Dr Anthony Grayling, Reader in Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London; Janet Radcliffe Richards, Philosopher of Science and Reader in Bioethics, University College, London; Julian Baggini, Editor, The Philosopher’s Magazine and co-editor of New British Philosophy: The Interviews.
Virtue42 perc 19. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of virtue. When Socrates asked the question ‘How should man live?’ Plato and Aristotle answered that man should live a life of virtue. Plato claimed there were four great virtues - Temperance, Justice, Prudence and Courage and the Christian Church added three more - Faith, Hope and Love. But where does the motivation for virtue come from? Do we need rules to tell us how to behave or can we rely on our feelings of compassion and empathy towards other human beings? Shakespeare’s Iago says “Virtue! A fig! ‘tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens to the which our wills are gardeners. ” So is virtue a character trait possessed by some but not others? Is it derived from reason? Or does it flow from the innate sympathies of the human heart? For the last two thousand years philosophers have grappled with these ideas, but now in the twenty first century a modern reappraisal of virtue is taking the argument back to basics with Aristotle. With Galen Strawson, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading; Miranda Fricker, Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London; Roger Crisp, Uehiro Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St Anne's College, Oxford.
Happiness28 perc 18. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss whether 'happiness' means living a life of pleasure, or of virtue. It is an old question, and the Roman poet Horace attempted to answer it when he wrote; 'Not the owner of many possessions will you be right to call happy: he more rightly deserves the name of happy who knows how to use the gods's gifts wisely and to put up with rough poverty, and who fears dishonour more than death'. It seems a noble sentiment but for the Greek Sophist Thrasymachus this sort of attitude was the epitome of moral weakness: For him poverty was miserable, and happiness flowed from wealth and power over men, an idea so persuasive that Plato wrote The Republic in response to its challenge. What have our philosophers made of the compulsion to be happy? And how much does this ancient debate still define what it means to be happy today? Are we entitled to health, wealth and the pursuit of pleasure or is true contentment something else entirely? With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University; Anthony Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London.
Confucius28 perc 17. rész
Melvyn Bragg examines the philosophy of Confucius. In the 5th century BC a wise man called Kung Fu Tzu said, 'study the past if you would divine the future'. This powerful maxim helped form the body of ideas, which more than Buddhism, more than Daoism, more even than Communism has defined what it is to be Chinese. It is a philosophy that we call Confucianism, and as well as asserting the importance of learning from the past it embodies a respect for heirachy, ritual and parents.But who was Confucius, what were his ideas and how did they succeed in becoming the bedrock for a civilisation? With Frances Wood, Curator of the Chinese section of the British Library, Tim Barrett Professor of East Asian History at SOAS, the School of African and Oriental Studies at London University, and Dr Tao Tao Liu, Tutorial Fellow in Oriental Studies at Wadham College, Oxford University.
Democracy28 perc 16. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins of democracy. In the Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln called it “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”, but the word democracy appears nowhere in the American Constitution; the French Revolution was fought for Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité and the most that Churchill claimed for it was that it was “the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” The Athenian city state famously practised participatory democracy, but neither Plato nor Socrates approved, the Romans turned their back on the idea of ‘mob rule’ and it is not until the nineteenth century that it becomes even moderately respectable to call oneself a democrat.So how did democracy rise to become the most cherished form of government in the world? In this programme we hope to trace the history of an idea across the cultures and centuries of Europe and the Middle East. And at a time when ideals of democracy are being thrown into stark relief by world events, we hope to gain a greater understanding of where democratic ideals have come from.With Melissa Lane, University Lecturer in the History of Political Thought; David Wootton, Professor of Intellectual History at Queen Mary College, London; Tim Winter, Assistant Muslim Chaplain at Cambridge University where he is Lecturer in Islamic Studies.
Existentialism27 perc 15. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss existentialism. Imagine being back inside the bustling cafes on the Left Bank of Paris in the 1930s, cigarette smoke, strong coffee and the buzz of continental voices philosophising about human responsibility and freedom. This kind of talk gave utterance to Existentialism. A twentieth century philosophy of everyday life concerned with the individual, and his or her place within the world. In novels, plays and philosophy, Existentialists try to work out the nature of our existence. As Roquentin says in Sartre’s novel ‘Nausea’, “To exist is simply to be there; what exists appears, lets itself be encountered, but you can never deduce it”.But where did these ideas come from? What do they really mean? And how have they impacted on our lives? With Dr A. C. Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Christina Howells, Professor of French at the University of Oxford, fellow of Wadham College; Simon Critchley, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex and author of A Companion to Continental Philosophy.
Evil28 perc 14. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the concept of evil. When Nietzsche killed off God he had it in for evil as well: In Beyond Good and Evil, he constructed an argument against what he called the “herd morality” of Christianity, and he complained "everything that elevates an individual above the herd and intimidates the neighbour is henceforth called evil." Nietzsche claimed that it was a dangerous idea that distorted human nature, ‘evil’ was invented by the church and was a completely alien concept to the noble philosophers of the ancient world. Was he right, did Christianity really invent the idea of evil? And has the idea meant anything more than excessively bad? With Jones Erwin, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Limerick; Stephen Mulhall, Tutor in Philosophy at New College, Oxford University; Margaret Atkins, Lecturer in Theology at Trinity and All Saints College, University of Leeds.
The Philosophy of Love28 perc 13. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophy of love. In Plato’s Symposium a character called Aristophanes tells a story about Love. He says that once, near the beginning of time, there were three types of human, one male, one female and one that was part man and part woman. Each human type had four hands and four feet and one head with two faces, and what they lacked in beauty they made up for in power and bravery - they even dared to attack the Gods. Zeus, as usual, lost his patience and resolved to split these creatures in half to diminish their strength and increase their numbers. His plan was that there would be more people to offer sacrifices but they’d be too weak to bother the Gods. However, with the split he inadvertently created us - lonely creatures forever searching for our other halves. Aristophanes explained to Socrates, “human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is what we call love”. This is one version of love that still seems to have strange echoes in the culture of today, but how has the Western understanding of the Philosophy of Love developed since Plato? Has it always been about finding our ‘other half’? With Professor Roger Scruton, author of many books including Sexual Desire; Angie Hobbes, lecturer in philosophy at Warwick University; Thomas Docherty, Professor of English at the University of Kent.
Humanism28 perc 12. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Humanism. On the 3rd January 106 BC Marcus Tullius Cicero, lawyer, politician, Roman philosopher and the founding father of Humanism was born. His academy, the Studia Humanitas taught ‘the art of living well and blessedly through learning and instruction in the fine arts’, his version of ‘humanitas’ put man not God at the centre of the world.Centuries later, Cicero’s teachings had been metamorphosed into ‘Classical Humanism’, a faith in the soft arts of the Greek world. But how did Cicero’s ideas become Renaissance ideals? How did a small Greek curriculum later become a world philosophy? The human centred creed is credited with giving us human rights and democracy but has also been blamed for the most unspeakable horrors of the modern age. Have his ideas been distorted through the centuries for political ends? And why do some contemporary thinkers think the Humanist tradition is responsible for Elitism, Sexism and even Nazism? With Tony Davies, Professor and Head of the Department of English, University of Birmingham and author of Humanism; Lisa Jardine, Professor of Renaissance Studies, Queen Mary College, University of London and Honorary Fellow of Kings College Cambridge; Simon Goldhill, Reader in Greek Literature and Culture at Kings College Cambridge.
Nihilism28 perc 11. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Nihilism. The nineteenth-century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote, “There can be no doubt that morality will gradually perish: this is the great spectacle in a hundred acts reserved for the next two centuries in Europe”. And, with chilling predictions like these, ‘Nihilism’ was born. The hard view that morals are pointless, loyalty is a weakness and ‘truths’ are illusory, has excited, confused and appalled western thinkers ever since. But what happened to Nietzsche’s revolutionary ideas about truth, morality and a life without meaning? Existentialism can claim lineage to Nietzsche, as can Post Modernism, but then so can Nazism. With so many interpretations, and claims of ownership from the left and the right, has anything positive come out of the great philosopher of ‘nothing’?With Rob Hopkins, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Birmingham; Professor Raymond Tallis, Doctor and Philosopher; Professor Catherine Belsey, University of Cardiff.
Laws of Nature28 perc 10. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Laws of Nature. Since ancient times philosophers and physicists have tried to discover simple underlying principles that control the Universe: In the 6th Century BC Thales declared “Everything is water”, centuries later Aristotle claimed that all of creation was forged from four elements, Newton more successfully laid down the Law of Universal Gravitation and as we speak, contemporary scientists are struggling to complete the task of ‘String Theory’ - the quest to find a single over-arching equation that unites all of physics, and can perhaps explain the organisation of everything in existence.But are the Laws of Physics really ‘facts of life’? Is what is true in physics, true in all areas of existence? Is it even true in other areas of physics?With Mark Buchanan, physicist and author of Ubiquity; Professor Frank Close, theoretical physicist and author of Lucifer’s Legacy: The Meaning of Asymmetry; Nancy Cartwright, Professor of Philosophy, LSE.
Economic Rights27 perc 9. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss economic rights. Is democracy the truest conduit of capitalism, or do the forces that make us rich run counter to the democratic institutions that safeguard our rights? The economist Milton Friedman once said, “If freedom weren’t so economically efficient it wouldn’t stand a chance”. If that was ever true, is it still the case as we enter the era of the globalised economy? What is the relationship between democracy and capitalism? Is it possible for a country to get rich and stay rich without a liberal constitution and what is the prospect of the ever looming spectre of ‘globalised capital’ infringing human rights?With Professor Amartya Sen, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Science; Will Hutton, former Editor of The Observer, Director of The Industrial Society and author of The State We’re In.
Consciousness27 perc 8. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the problems of consciousness, one of the greatest mysteries facing science and philosophy today. The frustrations, the stubborn facts and the curiosities of today’s thinkers, philosophers, physicists and psychologists, demonstrate the elusiveness, and the utter impenetrability of consciousness. Can we explain our perception of colour, smell or what it is like to be in love in purely physical terms? Can memory, conviction and reason be explained primarily in terms of neural firing sequences in the brain? Three centuries ago Descartes famously believed that the problem was best solved by being ignored. Was he right? Could it be that the human mind is just not built to understand its own basis?With Ted Honderich, philosopher and former Grote Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University College, London; Sir Roger Penrose eminent physicist, mathematician and author of The Large, The Small, and the Human Mind.
Progress28 perc 7. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss progress. As man has grown in years and knowledge, has he also progressed in terms of happiness and a true understanding of the human condition? It was the Enlightenment which gave birth to the idea of the possibility of progress. The biblical account of time which had held sway until the eighteenth century was replaced by a conceit which put Man, not God, at the centre of the story of progress. But do we still believe in that story? Have we reached the end of history and the culmination of man’s evolution? Was the Argentinean writer Jorge Louis Borges right when he said “We have stopped believing in progress. What progress that is!”. Can our moral progress keep up with our material progress, be sober in a technologically inebriated world, be in any way more than a fig leaf covering the untameable old Adam whose tragedy - more Greek than Christian - has made and marred this century? Is there such a thing at all as moral progress, or have Darwin and Freud between them cut it out of the conceit of homo sapiens? With Anthony O’Hear, Professor of Philosophy, University of Bradford; Adam Phillips, psychoanalyst and author of Darwin’s Worms.
The Individual28 perc 6. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the concept of the individual. The Renaissance gave birth to the concept of the individual. Shakespeare defined this individual in language which accepted the primacy of the male gender: “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a God!” According to Michel Foucault, French philosopher, polar opposite of Shakespeare and backed as he thought by Marx and Freud, our century killed the individual off. But has it? Was the individual born a mere six hundred years ago and has the century tolled its bell? And what is the individual?With Richard Wollheim, Professor of Philosophy, University of California in Berkeley; Jonathan Dollimore, Professor of English, York University.
Utopia28 perc 5. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the concept of Utopia. Both the idea of, and the longing for a perfect society have been in our imagination for centuries, even millennia. Utopian dreams have driven fantasy, Fascism and fine feeling.Utopias, by definition, do not exist. The literal meaning of the Greek is “nowhere”. And yet, we are still enthralled by its allure. Why do some of us still believe in it - after the devastation wreaked this century by the utopian ideals that gave rise to Fascism and Communism? And what do utopias in fiction tell about the present - and even future?With Dr Anthony Grayling, human rights campaigner, lecturer in philosophy at Birkbeck College, London and Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford; John Carey, distinguished critic, journalist, broadcaster, Merton Professor of English, Oxford University and editor of, The Faber Book of Utopias.
Just War28 perc 4. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea of a just war. There were theories about a justified or noble war before the birth of Christ, but it was his reported teachings and a powerful influence, particularly on the Emperor Constantine, which set the standard which had to be kept or bluntly modified. “I say unto you, love your own image,” Matthew writes, “bless them that curse you, be good to them that hate you and persecute you”. In the fifth century, the mighty St Augustus prised the Christian church away from Christ’s reported teachings and the idea of a Just War took root to be formalised and given power by St Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, and by other Christian commentators even up to this day. But after a century, our century, of almost unimaginably violent conflict, does the term a Just War have any meaning at all? The historian AJP Taylor wrote that "the medieval pursuit of the just war is a pursuit as elusive as the Holy Grail. For it is almost universally true that in war each side thinks itself in the right, and there is no arbiter except victory to decide between them". So is the Christian idea of the Just War simply a way of justifying aggression or is it a moral position to take?With Professor John Keane, Professor of Politics, University of Westminster and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy; Dr Niall Ferguson, Fellow and Tutor in Modern History, Jesus College, Oxford and author of The Pity of War.
Good and Evil28 perc 3. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss whether religion can still be seen as a way of interpreting and judging good and evil in modern western civilisation and examines what the discoveries of Darwin and our knowledge of the true physiological nature and history of man has done for us in terms understanding our concepts of good and evil. As we entered the 20th century Nietzsche announced that God is dead. Was his hatred of Christianity a natural consequence of his belief in the unlimited possibility of mankind’s self creation? If we have enough basic self confidence in our own selves, do we need God?Leszek Kolakowski and Galen Strawson map the current terrain of morality as perceived through philosophy, politics and Darwin and Christ.With Leszek Kolakowski, author and Professor of Philosophy, Oxford University; Galen Strawson, author and Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy, Jesus College, Oxford.
Feminism28 perc 2. rész
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most important events of the 20th century - the rise of Feminism and the subsequent empowerment of women. What have been the most important and lasting changes for women in the last 100 years and what is there still left to achieve? Are the biological differences between men and women insuperable? Is the feminist movement therefore set on a course it is inevitably bound to lose? Is the ideology of feminism in other words, working against our natural inclinations?If a man were to say “men are by nature more competitive, ambitious, status-conscious, dedicated, single-minded and persevering than women” then you could be forgiven for calling him anti-diluvian, blinkered and worse. But this is the express view of Dr Helena Cronin from the London School of Economics - a philosopher who has concentrated on Darwinian theory which she claims has never seriously been applied to humans. Joining her is Dr Germaine Greer whose book The Female Eunuch is credited with changing the lives of a generation of women. With Dr Helena Cronin, Co-director of the Centre for the Philosophy of the Natural and Social Sciences, London School of Economics; Dr Germaine Greer, Professor of English and Comparative Studies, Warwick University.
Cultural Rights in the 20th Century28 perc 1. rész
On the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations in New York, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the current status of that original declaration. Is it possible for any sort of rights to be ‘universal’? What are the implications of the ideas enshrined in that declaration - has the emphasis changed - and if so what are such rights? New thinking in this area has focused on ‘cultural rights’ but do these work alongside human rights, or do they supplant them? Has the advent of globalisation had an impact on human rights, and if so, how? At the end of the 20th century, can we look back to any progress in this area, and, if we look forward, do we see the oncoming train, or the light at the end of the human rights tunnel? With Professor Homi Bhabha, Professor in English Literature and Art, Chicago University and Visiting Professor of the Humanities, University College, London; Profesor John Gray, Professor of European Thought, London School of Economics in January 1998.