154 episodes

From Altruism to Wittgenstein, philosophers, theories and key themes.

In Our Time: Philosophy BBC Radio 4

    • History
    • 4.7 • 11 Ratings

From Altruism to Wittgenstein, philosophers, theories and key themes.



    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea that some kind of consciousness is present not just in our human brains but throughout the universe, right down to cells or even electrons. This is panpsychism and its proponents argue it offers a compelling alternative to those who say we are nothing but matter, like machines, and to those who say we are both matter and something else we might call soul. It is a third way. Critics argue panpsychism is implausible, an example of how not to approach this problem, yet interest has been growing widely in recent decades partly for the idea itself and partly in the broader context of understanding how consciousness arises.
    Tim Crane
    Professor of Philosophy and Pro-Rector at the Central European University
    Director of Research, FWF Cluster of Excellence, Knowledge in Crisis
    Joanna Leidenhag,
    Associate Professor in Theology and Philosophy at the University of Leeds
    Philip Goff
    Professor of Philosophy at Durham University
    Producer: Simon Tillotson
    Reading list:
    Anthony Freeman (ed.), Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism? (Imprint Academic, 2006), especially 'Realistic Monism' by Galen Strawson
    Philip Goff, Galileo's Error: Foundations for A New Science of Consciousness (Pantheon, 2019)
    Philip Goff, Why? The Purpose of the Universe (Oxford University Press, 2023)
    David Ray Griffin, Unsnarling the World-Knot: Consciousness, Freedom and the Mind-Body Problem (Wipf & Stock, 2008)
    Joanna Leidenhag, Minding Creation: Theological Panpsychism and the Doctrine of Creation (Bloomsbury, 2021)
    Joanna Leidenhag, ‘Panpsychism and God’ (Philosophy Compass Vol 17, Is 12, e12889)
    Hedda Hassel Mørch, Non-physicalist Theories of Consciousness (Cambridge University Press, 2024)
    Thomas Nagel, Mortal Questions (Cambridge University Press, 2012), especially the chapter 'Panpsychism'
    David Skrbina, Panpsychism in the West (MIT Press, 2007)

    James van Cleve, 'Mind-Dust or Magic? Panpsychism versus Emergence' (Philosophical Perspectives Vol. 4, Action Theory and Philosophy of Mind, Ridgeview Publishing Company, 1990)

    • 53 min


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Nicolas de Condorcet (1743-94), known as the Last of the Philosophes, the intellectuals in the French Enlightenment who sought to apply their learning to solving the problems of their world. He became a passionate believer in the progress of society, an advocate for equal rights for women and the abolition of the slave trade and for representative government. The French Revolution gave him a chance to advance those ideas and, while the Terror brought his life to an end, his wife Sophie de Grouchy 91764-1822) ensured his influence into the next century and beyond.
    Rachel Hammersley
    Professor of Intellectual History at Newcastle University
    Richard Whatmore
    Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History
    Tom Hopkins
    Senior Teaching Associate in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Selwyn College
    Producer: Simon Tillotson
    Reading list:
    Keith Michael Baker, Condorcet: From Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics (University of Chicago Press, 1974)
    Keith Michael Baker, ‘On Condorcet’s Sketch’ (Daedalus, summer 2004)
    Lorraine Daston, ‘Condorcet and the Meaning of Enlightenment’ (Proceedings of the British Academy, 2009)
    Dan Edelstein, The Enlightenment: A Genealogy (Chicago University Press, 2010)
    Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler (eds), The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2006), especially ‘Ideology and the Origins of Social Science’ by Robert Wokler
    Gary Kates, The Cercle Social, the Girondins, and the French Revolution (Princeton University Press, 1985)
    Steven Lukes and Nadia Urbinati (eds.), Condorcet: Political Writings (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
    Kathleen McCrudden Illert, A Republic of Sympathy: Sophie de Grouchy's Politics and Philosophy, 1785-1815 (Cambridge University Press, 2024)
    Iain McLean and Fiona Hewitt (eds.), Condorcet: Foundations of Social Choice and Political Theory (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 1994)
    Emma Rothschild, Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet and the Enlightenment, (Harvard University Press, 2001)
    Richard Whatmore, The End of Enlightenment (Allen Lane, 2023)
    David Williams, Condorcet and Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 2004)

    • 50 min
    The Theory of the Leisure Class

    The Theory of the Leisure Class

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most influential work of Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). In 1899, during America’s Gilded Age, Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class as a reminder that all that glisters is not gold. He picked on traits of the waning landed class of Americans and showed how the new moneyed class was adopting these in ways that led to greater waste throughout society. He called these conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption and he developed a critique of a system that favoured profits for owners without regard to social good. The Theory of the Leisure Class was a best seller and funded Veblen for the rest of his life, and his ideas influenced the New Deal of the 1930s. Since then, an item that becomes more desirable as it becomes more expensive is known as a Veblen good.
    Matthew Watson
    Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick
    Bill Waller
    Professor of Economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York
    Mary Wrenn
    Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of the West of England
    Producer: Simon Tillotson
    Reading list:
    Charles Camic, Veblen: The Making of an Economist who Unmade Economics (Harvard University Press, 2021)
    John P. Diggins, Thorstein Veblen: Theorist of the Leisure Class (Princeton University Press, 1999)
    John P. Diggins, The Bard of Savagery: Thorstein Veblen and Modern Social Theory (Seabury Press, 1978)
    John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (Penguin, 1999)

    Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (Penguin, 2000), particularly the chapter ‘The Savage Society of Thorstein Veblen’
    Ken McCormick, Veblen in Plain English: A Complete Introduction to Thorstein Veblen’s Economics (Cambria Press, 2006)
    Sidney Plotkin and Rick Tilman, The Political Ideas of Thorstein Veblen (Yale University Press, 2012)
    Juliet B. Schor, The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need (William Morrow & Company, 1999)
    Juliet B. Schor, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2005)
    Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (first published 1899; Oxford University Press, 2009)
    Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of Business Enterprise (first published 1904; Legare Street Press, 2022)
    Thorstein Veblen, The Higher Learning in America (first published 2018; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015)
    Thorstein Veblen, Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times: The Case of America (first published 1923; Routledge, 2017)
    Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous Consumption (Penguin, 2005)
    Thorstein Veblen, The Complete Works (Musaicum Books, 2017)
    Charles J. Whalen (ed.), Institutional Economics: Perspective and Methods in Pursuit of a Better World (Routledge, 2021)

    • 55 min
    Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

    Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aristotle's ideas on what happiness means and how to live a good life. Aristotle (384-322BC) explored these almost two and a half thousand years ago in what became known as his Nicomachean Ethics. His audience then were the elite in Athens as, he argued, if they knew how to live their lives well then they could better rule the lives of others. While circumstances and values have changed across the centuries, Aristotle's approach to answering those questions has fascinated philosophers ever since and continues to do so.
    Angie Hobbs
    Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield
    Roger Crisp
    Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Professor of Moral Philosophy and Tutor in Philosophy at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford
    Sophia Connell
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London
    Producer: Simon Tillotson
    Reading list:
    J.L. Ackrill, Aristotle the Philosopher (Oxford University Press, 1981)
    Aristotle (ed. and trans. Roger Crisp), Nicomachean Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
    Aristotle (trans. Terence Irwin), Nicomachean Ethics (Hackett Publishing Co., 2019)

    Aristotle (trans. H. Rackham), Nicomachean Ethics: Loeb Classical Library (William Heinemann Ltd, 1962)
    Jonathan Barnes, Aristotle: Past Masters series (Oxford University Press, 1982)
    Gerard J. Hughes, Routledge Guidebook to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Routledge, 2013)
    Richard Kraut (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005)
    Michael Pakaluk, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
    A. Rorty (ed.), Essays on Aristotle's Ethics (University of California Press, 1981)
    Nancy Sherman, The Fabric of Character: Aristotle's Theory of Virtue (Clarendon Press, 1989)
    J.O. Urmson, Aristotle’s Ethics (John Wiley & Sons, 1988)

    • 52 min
    Elizabeth Anscombe

    Elizabeth Anscombe

    In 1956 Oxford University awarded an honorary degree to the former US president Harry S. Truman for his role in ending the Second World War. One philosopher, Elizabeth Anscombe (1919 – 2001), objected strongly.
    She argued that although dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have ended the fighting, it amounted to the murder of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. It was therefore an irredeemably immoral act. And there was something fundamentally wrong with a moral philosophy that didn’t see that.
    This was the starting point for a body of work that changed the terms in which philosophers discussed moral and ethical questions in the second half of the twentieth century.
    A leading student of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Anscombe combined his insights with rejuvenated interpretations of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas that made these ancient figures speak to modern issues and concerns. Anscombe was also instrumental in making action, and the question of what it means to intend to do something, a leading area of philosophical work.
    Rachael Wiseman, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Liverpool
    Constantine Sandis, Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire, and Director of Lex Academic
    Roger Teichmann, Lecturer in Philosophy at St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford
    Producer: Luke Mulhall

    • 54 min
    Solon the Lawgiver

    Solon the Lawgiver

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Solon, who was elected archon or chief magistrate of Athens in 594 BC: some see him as the father of Athenian democracy.
    In the first years of the 6th century BC, the city state of Athens was in crisis. The lower orders of society were ravaged by debt, to the point where some were being forced into slavery. An oppressive law code mandated the death penalty for everything from murder to petty theft. There was a real danger that the city could fall into either tyranny or civil war.
    Solon instituted a programme of reforms that transformed Athens’ political and legal systems, its society and economy, so that later generations referred to him as Solon the Lawgiver.
    Melissa Lane
    Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University
    Hans van Wees
    Grote Professor of Ancient History at University College London

    William Allan
    Professor of Greek and McConnell Laing Tutorial Fellow in Greek and Latin Languages and Literature at University College, University of Oxford
    Producer Luke Mulhall

    • 51 min

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4.7 out of 5
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