Get to Know Socrates, Camus, Kierkegaard & Other Great Philosophers with the BBC’s Intelligent Radio Show, In Our Time

When writer, politi­cian, and BBC radio and tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ty Melvyn Bragg began his long-run­ning radio pro­gram In Our Time, which brings aca­d­e­mics togeth­er to dis­cuss phi­los­o­phy, his­to­ry, sci­ence, reli­gion, and cul­ture, he didn’t think the show would last very long: “Six months,” he told The Scots­man in 2009, “but I’ll have a go.” Now, sev­en­teen years after the show began in 1998, In Our Time is going strong, with mil­lions of lis­ten­ers from around the world who tune in on the radio, or down­load the In Our Time pod­cast. Though it’s easy to despair when faced with the onslaught of mass media devot­ed to triv­i­al­i­ty and sen­sa­tion­al­ism, Bragg has shown there’s still a siz­able audi­ence that cares about thought­ful engage­ment with mat­ters of import, and in par­tic­u­lar that cares about phi­los­o­phy.

Though the sub­ject takes a beat­ing these days, espe­cial­ly in unfa­vor­able com­par­isons to the hard sci­ences, the con­cerns artic­u­lat­ed by philoso­phers over the cen­turies still inform our views of ethics, lan­guage, pol­i­tics, and human exis­tence writ large. In Our Time’s phi­los­o­phy pro­grams fol­low the same for­mat as the show’s oth­er top­ics—in Bragg’s words, he gets “three absolute­ly top-class aca­d­e­mics to dis­cuss one sub­ject and explore as deeply as time allow[s].” In this case, the “sub­ject,” is often a prop­er name, like Simone Weil, David Hume, Albert Camus, Simone de Beau­voir or Socrates.

The show just as often tack­les philo­soph­i­cal move­ments like Skep­ti­cism, Neo­pla­ton­ism, or The Frank­furt School, that aren’t asso­ci­at­ed with only one thinker; like­wise, Bragg and his guests have devot­ed their dis­cus­sions to long­stand­ing philo­soph­i­cal prob­lems, like the exis­tence of Free Will, and his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ments, like the Con­ti­nen­tal-Ana­lyt­ic Split in West­ern phi­los­o­phy.

Though there is cer­tain­ly no short­age of high qual­i­ty resources for peo­ple who wish to learn more about philosophy—such as the many free cours­es, pod­casts, and lec­tures we’ve fea­tured on this site—few are as imme­di­ate­ly acces­si­ble as In Our Time’s phi­los­o­phy dis­cus­sions. Bragg describes his prepa­ra­tion for each show as “swotting”—or cram­ming. He’s not an expert, but he’s knowl­edge­able enough to ask per­ti­nent ques­tions of his guests, who then go on to edu­cate him, and the lis­ten­ers, for the almost hour-long con­ver­sa­tion. Hear how well the approach works in the In Our Time phi­los­o­phy pro­grams fea­tured here. At the top, Bragg dis­cuss­es the phi­los­o­phy and activism of Bertrand Rus­sell with aca­d­e­m­ic philoso­phers A.C. Grayling, Mike Beaney, and Hilary Greaves. Below that, he talks Kierkegaard with Jonathan Ree, Clare Carlisle, and John Lip­pitt. Just above, hear Bragg dis­cuss Jean-Paul Sartre with Jonathan Rée, Bene­dict O’Dono­hoe, and Christi­na How­ells. Final­ly, below, hear his con­ver­sa­tion on Karl Marx with Antho­ny Grayling, Fran­cis Wheen, and Sted­man Jones.

These four exam­ples are but a small sam­pling of the many com­pelling In Our Time phi­los­o­phy dis­cus­sions. Explore, stream, and down­load dozens more at the BBC Radio 4 site or hear them on Youtube and iTunes here. And if any these con­ver­sa­tions whet your appetite for more, then head over to our expan­sive archive of Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es, and Free Phi­los­o­phy eBooks.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Learn The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy in 197 Pod­casts (With More to Come)

Down­load 100 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

Take First-Class Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es Any­where with Free Oxford Pod­casts

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps Pod­cast, Now at 239 Episodes, Expands into East­ern Phi­los­o­phy

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

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

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 (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.