136 episodes

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

In Our Time: Philosophy BBC

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

    Kant's Copernican Revolution

    Kant's Copernican Revolution

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the insight into our relationship with the world that Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) shared in his book The Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. It was as revolutionary, in his view, as when the Polish astronomer Copernicus realised that Earth revolves around the Sun rather than the Sun around Earth. Kant's was an insight into how we understand the world around us, arguing that we can never know the world as it is, but only through the structures of our minds which shape that understanding. This idea, that the world depends on us even though we do not create it, has been one of Kant’s greatest contributions to philosophy and influences debates to this day.

    The image above is a portrait of Immanuel Kant by Friedrich Wilhelm Springer

    With

    Fiona Hughes
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

    Anil Gomes
    Associate Professor and Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, Oxford

    And

    John Callanan
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 53 min
    Marcus Aurelius

    Marcus Aurelius

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who, according to Machiavelli, was the last of the Five Good Emperors. Marcus Aurelius, 121 to 180 AD, has long been known as a model of the philosopher king, a Stoic who, while on military campaigns, compiled ideas on how best to live his life, and how best to rule. These ideas became known as his Meditations, and they have been treasured by many as an insight into the mind of a Roman emperor, and an example of how to avoid the corruption of power in turbulent times.

    The image above shows part of a bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

    With

    Simon Goldhill
    Professor of Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge

    Angie Hobbs
    Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

    And

    Catharine Edwards
    Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    Mary Astell

    Mary Astell

    The philosopher Mary Astell (1666 – 1731) has been described as “the first English feminist”. Born in Newcastle in relatively poor circumstances in the aftermath of the upheaval of the English Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy, she moved to London as a young woman and became part of an extraordinary circle of intellectual and aristocratic women. In her pioneering publications, she argued that women’s education should be expanded, that men and women’s minds were the same and that no woman should be forced to marry against her will. Perhaps her most famous quotation is: “If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?” Today, she is one of just a handful of female philosophers to be featured in the multi-volume Cambridge History of Political Thought.

    The image above is from Astell's "Reflections upon Marriage", 3rd edition, 1706, held by the British Library (Shelfmark 8415.bb.27)

    With:

    Hannah Dawson
    Senior Lecturer in the History of Ideas at King’s College London

    Mark Goldie
    Professor Emeritus of Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge

    Teresa Bejan
    Associate Professor of Political Theory at Oriel College, University of Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Deism

    Deism

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea that God created the universe and then left it for humans to understand by reason not revelation. Edward Herbert, 1583-1648 (pictured above) held that there were five religious truths: belief in a Supreme Being, the need to worship him, the pursuit of a virtuous life as the best form of worship, repentance, and reward or punishment after death. Others developed these ideas in different ways, yet their opponents in England's established Church collected them under the label of Deists, called Herbert the Father of Deism and attacked them as a movement, and Deist books were burned. Over time, reason and revelation found a new balance in the Church in England, while Voltaire and Thomas Paine explored the ideas further, leading to their re-emergence in the French and American Revolutions.

    With

    Richard Serjeantson
    Fellow and Lecturer in History at Trinity College, Cambridge

    Katie East
    Lecturer in History at Newcastle University

    And

    Thomas Ahnert
    Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Edinburgh

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min
    Rousseau on Education

    Rousseau on Education

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) on the education of children, as set out in his novel or treatise Emile, published in 1762. He held that children are born with natural goodness, which he sought to protect as they developed, allowing each to form their own conclusions from experience, avoiding the domineering influence of others. In particular, he was keen to stop infants forming the view that human relations were based on domination and subordination. Rousseau viewed Emile as his most imporant work, and it became very influential. It was also banned and burned, and Rousseau was attacked for not following these principles with his own children, who he abandoned, and for proposing a subordinate role for women in this scheme.

    The image above is of Emile playing with a mask on his mother's lap, from a Milanese edition published in 1805.

    With

    Richard Whatmore
    Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History

    Caroline Warman
    Professor of French Literature and Thought at Jesus College, Oxford

    and

    Denis McManus
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Bergson and Time

    Bergson and Time

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and his ideas about human experience of time passing and how that differs from a scientific measurement of time, set out in his thesis on 'Time and Free Will' in 1889. He became famous in France and abroad for decades, rivalled only by Einstein and, in the years after the Dreyfus Affair, was the first ever Jewish member of the Académie Française. It's thought his work influenced Proust and Woolf, and the Cubists. He died in 1941 from a cold which, reputedly, he caught while queuing to register as a Jew, refusing the Vichy government's offer of exemption.

    With

    Keith Ansell-Pearson
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick

    Emily Thomas
    Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Durham University

    And

    Mark Sinclair
    Reader in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min

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