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 two-parter) 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.

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Comments (8)
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  • 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.

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