Philosophize This!: The Popular, Entertaining Philosophy Podcast from an Unconventional Teacher


Podcasting has treated few fields of human inquiry as well as it has philosophy. You’ll already know that if you’ve subscribed to the philosophy podcasts we’ve featured before, like Philosophy BitesThe History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, and The Partially Examined Life. Perhaps we can chalk this up to what anyone who has taken a course under an astute philosophy professor has felt (see our list of 100 Free Philosophy Courses): the subject simply lends itself better to conveyance through the spoken words of living, breathing people, especially those with an enthusiasm for the subject. And those who’ve dedicated their lives to philosophy, given the field’s famously persistent lack of both financial rewards and concrete answers, tend to have more pure enthusiasm for their subject itself than do many other intellectual professionals. Stephen West, host of the newer Philosophize This! podcast [iTunes – Web – RSS – Libsyn), doesn’t move among intellectual professionals. He never even took a philosophy course himself, with an astute professor or without one. Yet he can teach you about philosophy with greater clarity and engagement than most podcasters can muster even about their favorite television shows.

West begins the series, which has come to eighteen episodes since last June, with a two-part talk on the very origins of philosophy (Ionian and Italian), telling us what, exactly, the so-called “presocratic” thinkers thought about the human race and whether it had developed sufficiently advanced survival mechanics to begin thinking about things at all. He then continues through history and across the globe, explaining the ideas of the best-known philosophers from Socrates to Aristotle (a twoparter) to the Buddha to (most recently) Avicenna, breaking down how they came to those ideas, and connecting them to the broader philosophical experience in their historical context and ours today (which means references to, among other touchstones of modern life, The Walking Dead). And lest you doubt the un-degree’d West’s qualifications, do read his brief autobiography, which tells the story of how he rose from the worst childhood I’ve read about in quite some time, guided during his all-day shifts driving a pallet jack by the great philosophers: “Hume, Kant, Hegel — these men were my fathers. They were the people who made me ask questions and strive to constantly improve myself.” You might place West in the tradition, now somewhat withered, of the robust “blue-collar” thinking man, drawing his needed strength from ideas. But given the way he’s harnessed our era’s technology to become a philosophy teacher to thousands — hundreds of whom have left five-star reviews on iTunes, leading to an astonishing #32 ranking in its Top 100 podcast chart — I’d say he embodies a brand new type of homo philosophicus altogether.

You can listen to the first first episode of Philosophize This! above.

Related Content:

The Partially Examined Life: A Philosophy Podcast

The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps – Peter Adamson’s Podcast Still Going Strong

Philosophy Bites: Podcasting Ideas From Plato to Singularity Since 2007

Download 100 Free Philosophy Courses and Start Living the Examined Life

Take First-Class Philosophy Courses Anywhere with Free Oxford Podcasts

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

by | Permalink | Comments (8) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (8)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Robbie Monsma says:

    I did study philosophy with fancy professors, but I much prefer Stephen’s approach. So glad he is getting this exposure through Open Culture. Stephen would rank as a great teacher and story-teller in any setting. I’m sure Stephen puts many hours into preparing a single 30-minute episode, but it sounds like he’s sharing something exciting with a like-minded friend.

  • puttham says:

    Steve is amazing ! I did my undergrad in Accounting///hated it and then did my masters in English literature…liked it but still did not find my true calling …until I stumbled upon Steve’s podcast! What an exceptional teacher Steve is , with his sweet sense of humor and self-effacing way of conveying material. You are doing an absolute service to humanity by this wonderfully educational podacast Steve. Bless you and your family !

  • paul gregory says:

    Thanks Steve, I’m enjoying your podcasts here in Manchester, UK. Can’t wait until you get to Hulme, Kant, Hegel!

  • Ying says:

    Accessible and useful as a rough teaser to philosophy, for teens. His summary of the denser subjects are at best a rough intro, ungrounded interpretation at its worst. Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy would be better, peer reviewed, And free source for the philosophically curious.

  • Mala says:

    Woah Ying go easy on him. :) For us unwashed masses at least it allows us a peak into the hallowed citadels of academic philosophy – a welcoming door that can move us on the which ever peer reviewed source is considered respectable.

  • JOseph Carlson says:

    Great teacher, great approach at exploring the story of philosophy. I can only imagine how much work he must put into these podcasts. I thank you so much you are a great person.

  • Art says:

    Can you provide some specific examples? I have found his explanations entertaining and enlightening – nobody can cover all aspects of the concepts, so I’m interested in where you think he missed the mark.

  • Elizabeth says:

    This is a great podcast! I just discovered it recently. I have a degree in philosophy from Columbia University and a Masters in Intellectual History from the University of Chicago, and have been a public high school teacher for over 20 years. I also have created and teach a philosophy class at the high school level. Stephen’s podcasts are well organized, interesting, and accurate. He is truly bringing philosophy out of the Ivory Tower to everyone back where it began and where it belongs! You can tell he truly enjoys philosophy and ideas. Philosophy can be a true comfort especially in these divisive, crazy times.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.