Philosophy podcasts of note

Posted on January 4th, 2011 by

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the car these past weeks, which means I’ve caught up on my podcast listening. I’ve heard a few casts that might spark the interests of students of philosophy.

First, the granddaddy of philosophy podcasts, Philosophy Bites, recently produced an interview with Martha Nussbaum, on a topic near and dear to the hearts of the denizens of Gustavus: why study the Humanities? Nussbaum’s answer is both lofty and practical. The podcast will take about 20 minutes of your time. (For an extremely local answer to that question, be sure to check out the lectures delivered in February of 2010, at the “Liberal Arts and Counting” symposium, hosted by the Hansen Peterson Chair in the Humanities. Copies of the lectures are available in paper.)

Second, the always-fascinating Radiolab podcast produced a fascinating hour-long program on the topic of goodness, which hosts called “The Good Show.” In the words of the show’s website, “In this episode, a question that haunted Charles Darwin: if natural selection boils down to survival of the fittest, how do you explain why one creature might stick its neck out for another?” Is there goodness in nature? Are animals ever “altruistic?” Do humans ever act “truly” selflessly? From a philosophical perspective, the hour begs more questions than it answers, but it presents fascinating stories that range from interviews with persons who have won prizes for acts of heroism, to accounts of amoebas that “sacrifice” themselves so that other amoebas can go on to flourish, to the famous Christmas Truce that happened on the western front during WWII. Like I said, lots of question begging…which means the program is ripe for philosophical investigation. Dig away!

Finally, the WBUR radio program “On Point” produced an interesting hour on the topic of William James. The program originally aired on January 3, but you can hear a rebroadcast here. The program featured interviews with James scholar Robert Richardson, who is editor of a new book of James essays, The Heart of William James. On Point news analyst Jack Beatty also contributed to the discussion with host Tom Ashbrook.  The program doesn’t break new philosophical ground, but it’s quite heartening to see an hour of radio devoted to pragmatism right in the middle of the day. That would not have happened thirty years ago.


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